Mission Training Center has a new director! Meet Rev. Jonathan Priest – A former NOW District pastor who recently relocated to San Francisco. Priest will take the reins for MTC starting Jan. 1, 2023.
“I’m excited to enter into this joint partnership between three districts and Concordia University Irvine to help church members focus their passion for mission and develop their gifts,” Priest said. “I believe MTC is the perfect program and platform for our whole church body to strengthen our Synod’s missional ‘backbone’ – that is members. We have rightly invested through our universities and seminaries to train up ‘officers’; by that I mean pastors, teachers, DCEs, DCOs, and deaconesses. And we do a great job! On the other hand, there is a poem by Kipling that says, ‘the backbone of the army is the enlisted man.’ MTC should be the go-to platform and program for our Synod to invest in the men and women of our congregations.”
MTC is a robust lay leadership training platform that helps develop women and men for mission with online opportunities. Courses cover a range of topics (see the list here). MTC is a partnership between the West Coast LCMS Districts (CNH, NOW, PSD) through an M.O.U with Concordia University Irvine (CUI). It is housed at the PSD office, which is on the CUI campus – but Priest lives near San Francisco, and Sonja Baumeister, the program coordinator, lives in Wisconsin. The reality is that MTC cannot exist without the collaborative effort of these partners.
“The process of working with the other two West Coast district mission executives to identify the next MTC director was collaborative and strengthening to our common goals,” said NOW District Director of Ministry Leadership Dust Kunkel, who was part of the selection team. “We are in a unique situation on the West Coast, and we needed to find just the right director who understands the needs of our ministries on the ground.”
Priest knows there are some big tasks ahead of him, but he is energized by the opportunity. In his past congregations in Brooklyn, New York and Seattle, Washington, he saw the value of lifting leaders up and encouraging them to develop their gifts. And this is exactly the kind of training MTC offers.
“My enthusiasm probably comes across as a little over the top, but the most joyful times in my ministry were when we added someone to the bench of leaders in our congregation,” he said. “That happened because members were able to recognize their gifts, develop them into skills through training, and focus them on specific projects for witness, fellowship, and service to one another and to all as they were able. So being named director is a gift to me personally because I get to help congregations grow through training to share the Gospel. I pray that my own experience and skillset that has been developed by God over the last 20+ years will be a gift to them as well.”
Kunkel is excited to see what the future of MTC, with Priest at the helm, looks like.
“They say, ‘a rising tide lifts all boats,’ and I believe that is exactly what Mission Training Center exists to do. Over the last few decades, we have seen numerous leaders grow through MTC and then go on to become ordained pastors in the LCMS. I can’t wait to see how Jonathan helps MTC take the next steps in ‘just in time’ delivery of training for all our leaders on the ground,” he said. “I can’t wait to see how Jonathan takes MTC – and our partnership across the three districts on the West Coast – into 2023 and beyond!”
Keep watching nowlcms.org for even more on MTC – and its new director – in the coming months.