Have the flames been fanned or has Ablaze hit the fan?

This is from the official annual report on the Fan into Flames funds found at www.fanintoflamelcms.org Resolution 1-09 adopted at the 2007 Synod convention required “a detailed annual report…to be published throughout the Synod.”  The report is only 6 pages with large margins.  Rather than a little blurb in mice type on page 23 of the February Lutheran Witness saying where the report could be found, the whole report could have been published. But then the faithful Lutherans supporting Ablaze! would witness where their money is really going.


“Development expenses for the campaign through June 30, 2008 total $10,043,041.”  “Cash in hand totaled $14,885,950.”  (They had pledges amounting to almost 32 million, but two birds in the bush aren’t worth one in hand.) $5,276,659 was paid to the professional fund raisers. (This means for every dollar actually paid to preach the Gospel, Ablaze paid about .28 cents to a company that raises the money to preach it.) $1,105,370 was for “Campaign operational expenses (case booklets, postage, travel, administrative support).” $2,537,332 was for “LCMS World Mission (staffing, travel, phone).”$1,123,680 was for “LCMS Foundation (gift processing, reporting, database maintenance, research.)”


In sum, for every dollar given to preach the Gospel, .67 cents has gone to expenses.  The top ten worst charities in America according to www.charitynnavigator.org have expenses above 77% so there is some comfort there, but it is cold when connected to something purporting to be Ablaze.   By the way, the report says $1,155,641 of the money for expenses was loaned by LCMS, Inc. to Fan into Flames.  Presumably this is the money Rev. Matt Harrison says in his paper titled “It’s Time” was bowered from LCMS – World Relief.


The goal is to raise 100 million by 2010.  If you don’t subtract expenses and do count birds in bushes as being in hand, you have 32 million.  That means in the next year 68 million needs to be raised. Think this possible?  LCMS history would argue against it.


In 1965 Synod had the special appeal called “Ebenezer.”  The goal was 40 million.  The finally tally actually collected was about 14.5 million.  In 1972 the Synod had an appeal for its 125th anniversary.  The goal was 28 million.  There was much celebration when it looked by the pledges that this goal would actually be surpassed.  The pledged amounts were for over 30 million! How much was actually collected?  8.75 million (Heritage in Motion, 199).  “Forward in Remembrance” was a 1979 campaign.  It had a goal of 40 million.  More than 75 million was pledged, and amazingly 68 million was actually received (ibid. 233, fn. 61).  Heritage in Motion, a LCMS published history of itself says, “Perhaps somewhat as a result of that success, the Synod resolved to do it again, and again” (199).  “Alive in Christ” was a 1983 fund raising campaign with a goal of 60 million.  Pledges of 50 million were reported to the 1986 convention.   Actual receipts were about 36 million (ibid. 234, fn. 61).


The official report concludes: “The Holy Spirit has truly blessed Fan into Flame and those who have been moved to support this church wide campaign.” I conclude that rather than the flames being fanned the Ablaze has hit the fan.  And we thought “Blazing Saddles” was funny.

About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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