Q&A with ONM Executive Director Rev. Robert Zagore

The Rev. Robert Zagore began serving as executive director of the LCMS Office of National Mission in May 2018.

In May 2018, the Rev. Robert Zagore, most recently of Traverse City, Mich., began serving as executive director of the LCMS Office of National Mission (ONM). In this role, he oversees the Synod’s programs and resources available to congregations, districts, schools and Recognized Service Organizations within the United States. With a year under his belt, Zagore talks about the state of national mission and the Synod’s new Making Disciples for Life initiative.

How did your previous experiences equip you for this position?

A: I was a parish pastor for 27 years, have a degree in accounting and worked as a business consultant after graduating from college. I also have the experience of becoming a Lutheran as an adult. All of these have given me insights. But it’s the daily application of the Gospel to the lives of people that has had the biggest impact on me as a pastor.

What are the biggest challenges facing national mission?

A: Our biggest challenges are the church’s biggest challenges. Our congregations and schools are under great financial and resource pressures. These impact the well-being and job satisfaction of our church workers. Internal studies have shown that many people who have “left” the LCMS still feel committed to our doctrine and practice, but they’ve moved to an area where we don’t have a strong presence. We need to get them back. … At every level, we need to fix the factional spirit that threatens the church (in every age), and focus on our joint mission as we love one another and apply the Gospel to one another.

What about the biggest opportunities?

A: We are doing well in evangelism. The LCMS has more adult converts (as a percentage of membership) than any truly Christian denomination. The Holy Spirit is at work among us. People from every nation are coming into our neighborhoods. Americans are expressing despair, anxiety and great spiritual longing at record levels. We have Christ and His pure, eternal Gospel to share.

Tell me about the new Making Disciples for Life initiative.

A: LCMS President Matthew Harrison gave the ONM the task of creating resources to help congregations reach out to the lost, retain and strengthen the baptized (from the cradle to the grave), provide leadership resources, strengthen Lutheran families, and plant new churches. Making Disciples for Life is a big project that will put field-tested, theologically solid resources at the fingertips of God’s people 24 hours a day through the internet as well as through people you can write to or call. It will provide grants for church planting and host regional events. … What’s more, this initiative is designed to grow when we work together as a Synod.

Finally, what do you hope to achieve through your work?

A: I want to bring the Gospel to those who are beaten down by the devil, the world and their sinful flesh. Every church worker I know struggles with feeling beaten up by their shortcomings and the size of the task. Eternity is at stake! At the end of my service, I would love people to say of the ONM, “They had my back. They loved me, worked alongside me and would never let me forget I’m a dearly loved child of the resurrection.”

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Megan K. Mertz

Managing editor of Lutherans Engage the World and chief copy editor for LCMS Communications.

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