St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “Megadeth bassist studying for Lutheran ordination at Concordia” (posted by Pr. Charles Henrickson)

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has a story in the January 19 edition (written by reporter Tim Townsend) about David Ellefson, a student in the Specific Ministry Pastor (SMP) program of Concordia Seminary-St. Louis. I’ll post some excerpts below, but go to the site to read the whole article, “Megadeth bassist studying for Lutheran ordination at Concordia,” and to see more photos and comments. CH

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David Ellefson was an honest-to-God founding member of the legendary thrash metal band Megadeth.

And Ellefson’s studies at Concordia illustrate why distance learning seminary programs are increasingly popular nationwide as the convenience of Internet education brings new candidates to divinity schools who don’t have to uproot their lives to attend. . . .

Ellefson grew up in the church. Each Sunday, his family drove from their farm in southwest Minnesota to Our Savior’s Lutheran Church. . . .

Just a few years after his confirmation at Our Savior’s, in the summer of 1983, Ellefson moved to Los Angeles. Within a week of arriving, he had formed a band and named it Megadeth. . . .

But by the time Ellefson was 25, the rock star lifestyle had caught up to him. In a 12-step recovery program, he was reintroduced to his faith and embraced it. He moved to Arizona, married and had children. He also began church shopping, eventually landing at Shepherd of the Desert Lutheran Church, a Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod congregation in Scottsdale. . . .

The Rev. Jon Bjorgaard , pastor of Shepherd of the Desert, asked Ellefson to start a contemporary worship service. Ellefson began to use lyrics from the Old Testament as a springboard for songwriting, penning praise music — worship songs with a soft-rock hook. . . .

Combining his musical abilities and his faith led Ellefson to a deeper exploration of Christianity, he said. And it led him to start a new music ministry within the walls of Shepherd of the Desert.

He called it MEGA Life. . . .

And last year, Bjorgaard asked Ellefson and MEGA Life director Jeremy DaPena to enroll in Concordia’s Specific Ministry Program. . . .

After two years at Concordia, Ellefson will be eligible for ordination, something he hopes will happen.

“People take you more seriously when you’ve gone through the proper training to be able to help them,” he said. . . .

– – – – – – – –

Those are some excerpts from the story. Now for my brief comment. I thank God that the Lord has led David back to the church and that he wants to serve the Lord as a pastor. This is a noble task. And I agree with David’s comment, “People take you more seriously when you’ve gone through the proper training to be able to help them.” But that is why I think David would do even better to go “Megasem” and do the full M.Div. residential program. It’s even better training for being able to help people with the Word of God. The fishermen left their boats to enroll full-time in Jesus’ seminary, and I still think that’s the best way to go. In any case, I wish David the best!


St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “Megadeth bassist studying for Lutheran ordination at Concordia” (posted by Pr. Charles Henrickson) — 96 Comments

  1. Charles Henrickson :
    First, on the style of music: I listened to pop music (e.g., Beatles, CCR, Al Green) mostly from from about 1964 to 1975 (ages 11-22), which was before the “heavy metal” genre became popular. When it did, I had no interest in it, either musically or thematically. I have never heard a “Megadeth” song. If some of their stuff had drug/satanic themes. e.g.,–I don’t know, but that’s my impression of the genre–I hope Ellefson has a way of not glorifying that.

    Band leader Dave Mustaine is also a Christian and there are certain songs they will no longer perform because of their content. Megadeth has always been considered more “intellectual” for lack of a better word in both their lyrical themes as well as musical composition.

    The late Randy Rhoads who played with Ozzy Osbourne in the early 1980’s was also a Lutheran, just goes to prove we are almost everywhere……

  2. Good intentions and solid dedication do not a pastor make.

    @Robb #37
    Your words give quite enough evidence that something is lacking in the SMP program. Have you looked at the criticisms? Some of them have to do with actual care for you and the people you will eventually serve (God-willing if you receive a call). Can you look past your hurt feelings to see that many are concerned that you will not be as well prepared as others, and that it will hurt you and the ministry the Lord gives you, as well as the sheep He sends you to serve? Perhaps the criticisms come from men who have been trained at a higher level and have served for many years and actually care for you and those whom you will serve?

    By the way, nice playing of the Pharisee card! See this for explanation:

  3. Let’s examine SMP Robb’s comment above (#37). It is quite revealing about the lack of training that SMP students receive.

    Robb says:

    “I am appalled at all of you attitude about this. Yes, it IS awesome that he has been brought back by the Spirit of God to the church”

    Here Robb sets up a straw man. No one is concerned that Ellefson is now a confessing Christian. That is not the point. The point is that Ellefson’s admission to the SMP program highlights its many weaknesses. Robb demonstrates that he has not carefully read this post and the comments added to it. He does not understand the issue. Also, even though Robb is a fourth year “seminarian” he uses adjectives like a Valley Girl, i.e. “awesome.” I guess I am not surprised that someone who is impressed that a Megadeth member is now in the SMP program would use the word “awesome” to describe it.

    Robb continues:

    “I also think it is amazing that he is answering the Spirit’s call to the ministry. However as a 4th year SMP student, I am once again reminded that you will never see me as God sees me when it comes to the ministry.”

    Here Robb says something simultaneously right on and really scary. He says that he will never be seen by “us” as a proper pastor. He is correct. We will never see him like the traditional, residential pastors because he and his SMP peers are not the same as the traditional, residential students. By the time he graduates he will have had half the instruction that the traditional, residential pastor receives. That is huge. What is scary is that he ridicules me and others who rightly point out the harm of a two-tiered ministry because we do not see him as God sees him. That is one of the most shallow and enthusiastic theological arguments that I have ever heard. By what standard is God seeing/judging him? Could I ever have access to this divine sight that Robb claims to know and see? There is no such standard in Scripture. I and the other critics of the SMP program judge the program from a Scriptural standard and not some so called ability to see and know what God sees. The only Scriptural standard for the office is knowledge of the word and the ability to teach it and not some sort of Pentecostal, emotional argument that God knows that Robb is aptly trained for the pastorate.

    Robb continues:

    “Yes the disciples did answer the call to full time, HANDS ON ministry … They were not sitting in rooms debating the meaning of the Word, no they were living it out as ordinary men called to the extraordinary ministry with THEE Word Himself …. In fact, they spent their entire lives living out and growing in the Word. Some of you never return to grow in knowledge, while others of us can’t get enough.”

    Robb is just about to graduate from the SMP program and he pits “hands on ministry” against sitting in a room and learning the Word. Robb is expressing the theology and philosophy of American pragmatism which teaches that if it works it is true. This is not surprising because the SMP program is based on the faulty notion that we must get men out into the ministry at all costs even if it means we cut their training in half. This error in judgment by our Synod is also an outgrowth of the dangerous pragmatic philosophy that actually undermines a theological system built on the efficacy of truth revealed in Scripture and replaces it with a spirituality that is based on what works. This is of course why churches are replacing the 2,000 year old liturgy based on Scripture with a 30 year old contemporary worship because it “works.” Robb demonstrates that he is a disciple of this very dangerous teaching that at its very foundation is contrary to the Christian faith.

    I do agree with Rob that too much of the Symposia majored in minutia as I stated in my post yesterday but what he does not understand is that the Symposia is an academic conference and is not a carbon copy of what goes on in the classroom. I also agree with Robb that study ought to go on every day of the pastor’s life. I strongly disagree with Robb on his assessment of devotion to the word by me and other readers of this site and actually find it quite arrogant, rude and offensive. He accuses us of not being devoted to the Word like he is. If this is what his pragmatic, hands on approach to discipleship has taught him then I want none of it. I and most of the pastors who read this site study the Scriptures each week in their original languages. Sadly, because Robb is soon to graduate from a half-baked, pragmatic version of the seminary, he is not able to study the Scriptures in the original languages but he feels empowered for some reason to accuse others of not being as committed to the Word as he is.

    Robb continues:

    “You should all be ashamed of yourselves for the Pharisitical perspective towards the SMP program. The SMP program isn’t perfect, there’s room for it to be improved, but this is NOT helping those of us that have dedicated and sacrificed to humbly serve our Lord Jesus in the ministry. I am truly disappointed in the movement afoot to discredit the SMP program and with the way some of you continue to look down upon and treat us SMP students.”

    Here Rob does a couple of disturbing things once again illustrating how poorly trained he is in the Scriptures even though he is just about to graduate from the SMP “seminary.” He calls us Pharisees. The Pharisees were self-righteous hypocrites. We are not self-righteous hypocrites. Robb may think we are self-righteous but that is not the case. We are judging the SMP program on its lack of merits. There is a lot of fine teaching and learning that goes on in the program but it is foolish for us in our synod to set up two tracks to ordination – one that requires only half the effort that the other does. That is not self-righteous. That is calling a thing what it is. We are not hypocritical. We practice what we preach and what we are – four year, in residence trained pastors knowing how tough this vocation is and how four years in residence is barely enough training to make us competent. It scares the heck out of us to think that there are men entering the pulpit with only half the training that we have because we ourselves mount the pulpit each week with fear and trepidation as we go to battle with Satan and his minions who attack us ruthlessly as we seek to faithfully preach the word.

    There is an even more disturbing notion in Robb’s comment. He, a fourth year SMP student, about to graduate and serve the synod as a fully ordained pastor says that we should be ashamed of ourselves for criticizing SMP pastors because they are “dedicated, sacrificial, and humble.” Those are fine traits but they are not what fundamentally makes a pastor. What makes a pastor is being able to rightly divide the Word of truth and being apt to teach it. Robb’s defense of the SMP program is based on a faulty reasoning of emotion as Mrs. Hume points out above. Robb’s comment is prima facia evidence of the lack of sound reasoning in the SMP students and that they are products of an insufficient program that according to Robb’s own testimony, is built around emotion, commitment, and heart. These are good things but are not a sufficient nor a Scriptural basis for the ordination of a pastor.

  4. @Pastor Tim Rossow #55

    Pr. Rossow, I hope I am not overstating this, but your arguments are a bit overstated. However, I wish to respond to Robb (and others) that I become very concerned when I see SMP candidates refer to themselves as “Pastor so-and so.” As I understand it, that term cannot be used until they are ordained.

    What concerns me even more is “Preaching”, consisting of a series on Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life, among other things (all Law, no Gospel). I get worried when I see a sermon which describes worship as something we can do for God. I become nervous when I watch an entire sermon and the Gospel is given only as information, and the congregation is told that they have work to do, but never hear the forgiveness of sins. I get angry when the congregation is told they have to accept Jesus. If I hadn’t seen this with my own eyes, and heard it with my own ears via the internet, I wouldn’t have believed it. But it is so.

    If Robb and other defenders of SMP had merely sat in Chapel during the symposia, and not attended a single other presentation, they would have received profound instruction in genuine Lutheran preaching and proper worship. Dr. Quill said more in five minutes (at most) than 40 weeks of Purpose Driven Life, and Dr. Gieschen eloquently proclaimed Christ Crucified, never once telling us “what to do.” If SMP sermons and worship can even approach those standards, I would like to see some of them.

    As Dr. Gard stated in his original 2007 critique of the SMP proposal (“Will There Still Be a Lutheran Ministry”), “What is at stake here is not the theological institution such as the one I serve. Nor is it the ‘professionalism’ of a theologically trained ministerium. What is at stake here are the people of God….It is about the sheep for whom Christ has died and risen.”

    I don’t go to an SPN (Specific Physician Nephrologist) for my kidneys, nor to a SAL (Specific Attorney Lawyer) to draw up my will. From what I have seen of the SMP so far, I’d be very uneasy sitting in the pew.


  5. @Pastor Tim Rossow #55

    Thank you Pr. Rossow for your response to “Robb.” I think your comments are spot on.

    If “Robb” should like to be taken seriously here, in the future, he might consider playing the “pharisee card” while not hiding behind anonymity.

  6. I don’t agree with one foot in the ministry while the other foot remains in Megadeath, however, I know of LCMS pastors who are also practicing attorneys. I mean, seriously, what’s the difference? OK, not so seriously. 🙂
    The lifestyles of heavy metal rocker and minister are too different from each other and for that reason makes for a poor witness. “By their fruits you will know them.” I don’t think the fruit produced by his secular profession is that of one who is faithful to the calling of minister.
    Incidentally, anytime I hear someone refer to what the disciples went through as ‘Jesus’ seminary’ as in the end of the above article, I cringe. Are we elevating sem profs to the level of Christ or lowering Christ to the level of sem profs? I’m pretty sure that neither is the intention of the writer, however, the statement could be construde by some as pompous rather than pious.
    Concerning the SMP thing, quite frankly, Johannes, I’ve seen some of the pastors the traditional path through the sems have turned out and I do feel, at times, very uneasy sitting in the pews. Of course, this is the exception and not the rule and imperfection and sin runs rampant in every classification of churchworker. The Synod states clearly that “each SMP is supervised by an experienced LCMS pastor during and after his program of study and faces restrictions concerning service in the pastoral ministry.” While I’m not sure exactly how much supervision there is and what the ‘restrictions’ are, I feel synod should have come up with a different classification for the SMP other than ‘ordained’ as it muddys the water and likely creates confusion among the flock. SMP’s should not have the same type of Call if they are not equally trained.
    By the way, Pastor Rossow, valley jargon is found in the Holy Scriptures. Paul writes in 1Corinthians 12:31 “And now I will show you the most excellent way.” Of course, you have to have the “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” translation. Sorry, couldn’t resist.

  7. @Jim Pierce #57

    I usually agree with your posts, but I beg to differ with you this time. First, I think Pr. Rossow’s comments are unnecessarily “in your face” or “in Robb’s face,”–or overstated, as Johannes says. Pr. Rossow does, however, raise some valid points.

    Second, Robb has every right to anonymity. To make anonymity the issue has a slightly ad hominem ring. Like me, Robb may have legitimate reasons for remaining anonymous. After getting soundly trashed on ALPB for my anonymous posts, I simply resigned. Their loss, I figure.



  8. I have grave reservations about the way, in many cases, SMP is being used. There may be extreme circumstances where SMP may be appropriate (e.g. tiny congregations in isolated geographical areas), but more and more stories are surfacing that SMP is not being used in this way. I can understand why the SMP program is tempting for many men–cost, convenience etc. My prayer is that those who are enrolled in SMP, or may consider enrolling, would think first about the needs of Christ’s sheep. Pastoral care and rightly dividing the Scriptures are very delicate matters. A four year residential program should be viewed as a bare minimum by students and churches, before one is given the authority to care for Christ’s sheep. I would be very uncomfortable to receive the care of a doctor, PA or nurse who I knew only had half the minimum training. I don’t think I would use the services of an accountant, architect or airline pilot who had half the minimum training. Of course it is illegal to cut short the training of the professions listed above for obvious reasons. Therefore shouldn’t students and churches take pastoral training as seriously as they would take medical or flight training? I have often been afraid when formulating sermons or administering pastoral care for Christ’s sheep. I went through the residential program and it was tremendous, but I am also conscious that it was only the start of my training and not the end. Christ’s sheep deserve the best care possible and every pastor, student and congregation should take pastoral formation seriously and avoid, if at all possible, short cutting it. I pray that my comments will be read as one who is concerned for the Christ’s sheep, the congregations of our beloved Synod, as well as current and future students of the various pastoral formation programs. I want the best for all.

  9. How the original intention of the SMP program has been abandoned by CSL. The program was sold to synod as a program for men who couldn’t afford (for financial or other reasons) to relocate for four years to a seminary. We heard a lot about men who couldn’t uproot their families, small rural parishes, ethnic minorities and congregations that had no pastors.

    I don’t recall hearing anything about men who didn’t want to interrupt their touring schedule with a rock band.

    I’m glad another man will be studying for the ministry, but CSL has jumped the shark with this one.


  10. @Robb #37

    I am a little concerned by your continuation of the “us/them” separation you put forth in your argument. How can “we” ever see “you” the same if you continue to highlight the distinction between “us” and “you”?

    But then again, how can the synod see SMP ministers the same as seminary trained pastors when the program was proposed as a less-than-optimal-but-better-than-nothing stop-gap substitute for training in very particular, emergency contexts?

    @Robb #50 :
    Go, baptize, teach ….

    Here is an example of why deeper training (that is more readily available in a residential program but not always received) is valuable. Mt 28:19-20 contains only one imperative – the word you skipped: disciple. “As you are going” describes when the discipling takes place (i.e. always), and “baptizing/teaching” describe how. It is not “go AND disciple AND baptize AND teach.”

  11. @Win #59

    For clarification, I am not necessarily against the use of pseudonyms. However, should a person want their complaints taken and dealt with seriously, offering a name is an excellent idea. Not only does it show that the person is willing to publicly stand by their complaint, but it also gives opportunity for reconciliation.

    As far as comments “being in your face,” I believe “Robb” (whoever he or she is) was quite over the top with the “in your face” comments. I believe Pr. Rossow’s comments do not rise to the level of “Robb’s” and that they are an appropriate response to an anonymous poster playing the “pharisee card” amongst other tactics.


    Jim Pierce

  12. @Robb #50

    I am surprised that you wanted to assume the role of defender of the SMP program and engage in a debate with the people here. Why bother? You are only an innocent student, and not an administrator with the power to modify any programs. You and Mr. Ellefson will eventually graduate and will be placed in a position as planned. NothiIllinois the LCMS will change regardless who should win the debate on this website.

    Pastor Rossow, et. al:

    Rather than argue with seminary students, I would prefer to see Pastor Rossow and his team dialog with powerful Synod officials for modifications to the SMP program. The voices of Synod officials are noticeably absent from this website. Awaken the sleepy officials in their cozy offices and take up your cause with them!

  13. I suggest a reading of Resolution 5-01B of the 2007 Convention, (2007 Proceedings, pp 132-138). This will give you a full flavor of what the delegates thought they had passed (by a substantial majority, 908-287). It should also be noted that passage of this resolution entailed substantive changes to the By-laws. One of the last “resolves” was that the Specific Ministry Pastor Committee submit a progress report to the Synod at least nine months prior to the 2010 Convention. After spending the better part an hour searching the LCMS website for the 2007 Proceedings, and for the Specific Ministry Pastor COmmittee report to the synod, I gave up. Maybe somebody can help me out. I found the LCMS website particularly unhelpful and not very user-friendly. The alleged report that this alleged committee allegedly submitted seems to be lost.

  14. @DCEPhil #58
    You said, “Concerning the SMP thing, quite frankly, Johannes, I’ve seen some of the pastors the traditional path through the sems have turned out and I do feel, at times, very uneasy sitting in the pews.”

    Yeah–me too.

  15. Me again; you may recall I’m taking the SMP courses, but will be ordained in April under the old DELTO rules. I complete my studies at CSL in Feb ’12. I just completed my certification interview and have been “recommended” for certification. I am expecting a call to a very small, struggling to get by, congregation.

    I write not to defend the program simply to provide insights from my very limited perspective.

    First. When God impressed upon me that I was to become a pastor I fully intended to pursue the residential program. I was going to resign my job, move my family, and hunker down for 4 years of hard work. This was what I wanted. I prayed that God would give me the strength and opportunity to do this, however, I was ultimately convicted that remaining at my present job until I could retire might be more useful to the church. With my retirement benefits, namely medical, I am able to serve a congregation that cannot afford the full benefits package. In fact, the church I will serve is in exactly this situation. If they couldn’t call me, they would continue to rely on retired pastors or they would shut their doors.

    I noted, when completing my SET this fall, that my greatest weakness/area needing improvement, was education. As many here have noted, the SMP program cannot offer the same quantity of classes. Each of us know this. In my case, my first post-SMP class will be biblical Greek. (Our SMP instructors have tried to impress upon us the importance of learning Hebrew/Greek.) During my certification interview I was told the biggest difference between SMP/Residential is that they have more book knowledge, while we have more field experience, so it was important for me to continue my education as I am able. (Not necessarily an easy task while engaged in ministry.)

    With regards to preaching, which many of you have commented on. Over my four years in the program I have been required to have my sermons reviewed by my mentor prior to stepping into the pulpit. Each was evaluated on proper exegesis of the text, presentation of the homiletical idea, and rightly dividing law and gospel. I am immensely grateful for my pastor-mentor for all that he has taught me over these years above and beyond what was taught in class.

    The biggest advantage of the SMP program is the ability to go from classroom to application and back. I constantly dialogue with my instructors via phone, email, class, my mentor, and my peers with whom I compare notes/experiences. Comparing experiences with what’s being taught has helped me immensely – it’s my preferred style of learning. Yet, I know there is much I still need/want to learn.

    Am I ready for ministry? Have I achieved the “minimum” level of knowledge needed to be an ordained servant of the Word? The seminary, my instructors, and my mentor seem to think so. I, like Luther, know that without God’s help I “would easily wreck it all.” But since God has called me to the task, I must call upon Him; devote my mouth and my heart to Him, and continue to learn and ponder diligently His Word, and teach His people.

    So as you continue your discussion of the merits of the SMP program I simply ask that you bear me, and those like me, in mind.

  16. As a 4th year CSL student (residential) I am hesitant to comment on this board. Before I begin, let me state that I am against the SMP program in its current condition, and feel that it is unlikely that it will ever become a truly viable parallel path of training pastors. I also wish to apologize in advance to anyone who might feel this is an inappropriate place for me to comment due to my status as a student or if this post has already been dealt with in another topic or thread.

    In reading the comments above, I believe that two main avenues of “critique” can be leveled against the SMP program. The first that has been stated is scope of the use of this program by my institution. (e.g. Our esteemed Mega-death bassist). The second is the quality of the education. I have not seen this critique leveled in this article, though it may have been. As stated by the above poster, SMP program graduates are not trained in the original languages and therefore have (in my opinion) a huge hole in their theological training which touches everything from exegesis and hermeneutics to homiletics and pastoral care. I applaud the faculty at both seminaries for drilling into these students the need for them to learn the languages.

    My reason for posting is not solely to point out these critiques but to see if any one who is posting here, aside from the SMP program students, has seen the materials which are being produced for and used by these students. If you have seen them, what are your thoughts in how they compare between the materials that are utilized currently by our seminaries or were in place previously. Thanks for your time.

  17. Keep in mind that the intention of the SMP program was to correct all of the abuses of the Licensed Deacon program without ever addressing the issue itself. It should not be surprising to see some of the same misuses resurface in the SMP. The selling point for the Licensed Deacon program was the so-called “extraordinary circumstance” in which a congregation did not have a called pastor.

  18. #65: “what the delegates thought they had passed (by a substantial majority, 908-287).”

    They were misled into thinking they had to do something (ANYTHING!) or (SNAP! SNAP! SNAP!) souls would land in hell and it would be YOUR FAULT for not voting for SMPP.

    #68: “The biggest advantage of the SMP program is the ability to go from classroom to application and back.”

    I’m not so sure this is an advantage for the people. Imagine a doctor in his first year of training going from classroom to application and back. Of course, in his case we are talking life and death, but aren’t we dealing with eternal life and death as pastors?

    #69: “I also wish to apologize in advance to anyone who might feel this is an inappropriate place for me to comment due to my status as a student or if this post has already been dealt with in another topic or thread.”

    No apology necessary. Welcome to the dialogue! (I personally have not seen the material.)

  19. Matt, you’re missing much of the fun-filled tradition of being Lutheran!

    English: The Papal Belvedere by Lucas Cranach the Elder in the 1545 publication of Luther’s Depiction of the Papacy. It features a papal bull complete with fire and brimstone, fresh from the hand of Pope Paul III meeting German peasants with farts, fresh from their “belvedere”. This is a depiction of typical German behaviour. [Belvedere refers to a building in the Vatican, but also means “beautiful view”.]

    Roughly read(with sure mistakes-please make it correct): “PAPA LOQVITVR. Sententiae nostrae etiam iniustae metuendae sunt. Responsio. Maledetta Aspice nudatas gens furiosa nates. Ecco qui Papa el mio belvedere. ”
    Complete translation (roughly–the Latin is unclear and mixed with Italian): The Pope speaks: Our sentences are to be feared, even if unjust. Response: Be damned! Behold, o furious race, our bared buttocks.
    Here, Pope, is my ‘belvedere’

  20. I’ve never seen anywhere in our confessions or even scripture where higher education is what makes you a pastor. Seminary does not “make” pastors. It attempts to train pastors but Walther, Luther, and the disciples were huge on the church raising a leader and ordaining a pastor for their context and congregation. Simply by laying hands on them, praying for them, and seeing that they were men the Holy Spirit had called to ministry. Sorry to say it pastors, but seminary does not ordain you…the church does. SMP, even CSL and Fort Wayne are merely formalities so people can be “ok” on paper. Biblically, we don’t need any of the programs. If you think you’ll be ready to be a pastor because you took Greek…you are grossly mistaken. Greek doesn’t make you a pastor…knowing the Book of Concord does not make you a pastor…wearing a collar does not make you a pastor; the divine call of the Holy Spirit, and the confirmation of a calling church body is what makes you a pastor.

  21. @Matt #74

    No where is Scripture for higher education? How about this derivative?

    Paul was cimmissioned by Jesus on the road to Damascus. Shortly after he hooked up with the other apostles. Maybe he was learning by getting some other first hand aoocunts. For a time he travelled with Aquila and Prisilla. I would think that they were learning at the feet of the “rabbi” Paul. Speculation, but not so much, as Paul eventually left them in Ephesus, likely to be leaders in the community. So Apollos arrives in Ephesus, and Aquila and Pricilla take him in to explain God’s way more accurately.

    I don’t think I would be so quick to discount educational formation in the making of a pastor.

  22. Oh I think your right Jason. I would call that mentorship though, which the SMP program is actually intentionally incorporating. You walk with a pastor for 4 years in the context of a church ministry much like Paul and…well…most all the early church leaders. I agree…mentorship is invaluable. It’s why I think SMP is effective. Apprenticeship is also a very fast growing model to recruit leaders in any organization. There are many churches that have stopped calling from the system all together because they find the apprenticeship model so effective and dare I say…Biblical?

  23. Pastor Tim Rossow :Here Rob does a couple of disturbing things once again illustrating how poorly trained he is in the Scriptures even though he is just about to graduate from the SMP “seminary.” P>

    It sounds like one can get more theological training than SMPP seminarians by reading the Issues, Etc. Journal.

  24. @Rev. McCall #2
    Wow, brother, loosen the collar a little. So God did not send this brother to the same
    Lutheran high school you went to. Praise the Lord, he has gifted for ministry someone who will reach those whom you can’t.

  25. @#74 Matt.
    “Sorry to say it pastors, but seminary does not ordain you…the church does. SMP, even CSL and Fort Wayne are merely formalities so people can be “ok” on paper.”

    On whose behalf does the seminary train pastors? The churches! Specifically because the churches (congregations) recognize that they cannot teach a pastor even most of what he needs or should know. They are not mere formality’s either. A man’s desire to be a pastor and a congregations desire to have a pastor is not all there is to it. Is it not important to teach said future pastor? To make sure he understands the Office, the Scriptures, the Sacraments, the languages in which the Bible is written, the Confessions, etc.? The seminary, on behalf of the church, teaches and examines men to make sure that they are fit to correctly and faithfully teach, preach, and administer the sacraments. I’m failing to see how that is in anyway a bad thing or just a mere formality or somehow not the churches duty to see to it that it is done.

  26. When the SMP passed, I could already see the intended purpose of the program, IMHO. Many more liberal districts did not like the graduates they were getting from the seminaries, especially Ft. Wayne. (too conservative) Over the years I’ve noticed that the districts have more input,(control) over what kind of men from its districts could qualify to attend the sem, but they wanted more control. SMP gave it to them. Now, under their supervision, they can have a much bigger hand in training and certifying graduates, and they can eliminate men who will not cowtow to them or are “too conservative.”

  27. @Rev. Loren Zell #83
    Has anyone noticed that many of the ongoing problems in the LCMS can be traced back to the districts. The willful destruction of confessional Lutheran Campus ministries, the unwavering support for the SMP program, and the promotion of the Willow Creek Association can be attributed to the districts.

    The LCMS is a sick organization. Sadly, since I believe in confessional Lutheranism, there is nowhere for me to go. The WELS definition of fellowship is too strange for me, while the NALC and the LCMC are (still) too liberal. I guess I am stuck.

    Will someone please reign in the power of the LCMS districts. I thought that the only job of the districts was to place pastors. How could this mission creep have happened. What can be done to fix it? I suspect that no matter what the LCMS as a church decides, the districts will be there with an opposing program to commit sabotage.

  28. @Matt #74

    What is the alternative? Having an easy degree in “Religious Studies” from an unknown, overpriced, crappy liberal arts college is enough to qualify you as a “preacher” for a non-denominational shopping mall church. Such a pastor preaches sermons based on feelings.
    I would prefer a pastor who has a masters degree. Such a person is a scholar and a theologian. I would rather hear a sermon from him.

    Please leave the anti-intellectualism with the Evangelicals, where it belongs.

  29. @Wallenstein #84
    You said, “Will someone please reign in the power of the LCMS districts. I thought that the only job of the districts was to place pastors. How could this mission creep have happened.”

    Without getting into the “power of the LCMS districts” question, it’s important to note that the Synod’s constitution is the districts’ constitution (with a couple of exceptions, I believe). If you check the Handbook, p. 13, Article III of the Synod’s Constitution, “Objectives”, you’ll see that the primary objective of Synod is “Conserve and promote the unity of the true faith,” and work toward fellowship with other Christian church bodies, and “provide a united defense against schism, sectarianism, and heresy.” The unity of the faith was to be conserved and promoted by visitation, a job which got too big for the President, and so the Districts were formed, for that very purpose: visitation. That is still the primary objective (and purpose) of the synod–therefore, the Districts.

    This raises all kinds of question about what the districts are up to these days. So, we should get back to our districts’ Boards of Directors and DPs, and make some waves, don’t you think?

  30. Carl Vehse :@Wallenstein #84 : “Will someone please reign in the power of the LCMS districts… What can be done to fix it?”
    Speak softly and carry a big Bylaw 2.15 stick!

    Yes, but that will only get things entangled in ByLaw 1.10, Dispute Resolution, pp 42-56, a labyrinth of procedural hocus-pocus and obfuscation. If one tries to invoke 2.15, my guess is that two synodical conventions will have come and gone before the dispute in question is resolved.

  31. @Win #88 ,

    You are correct that employing Bylaw 2.15 would open up a DRP “labyrinth of procedural hocus-pocus and obfuscation” leading nowhere soon. (Motions to replace the DRP should be initiated at the next synodical convention.)

    However there are some additional features of Bylaw 2.15 and other sections it references, which may be useful, recognizing, of course, that the CCM has the authority (and has used it in the past) to opine a bylaw interpretation analogous to declaring the sun rises in the west.

    A errant and unrepentant DP could be placed on suspended status, relieving him of his district office duties during the DRP, however long that takes, and making him ineligible to seek re-election or another call. There is also the restricted status which his ecclesiastical supervisor could be place on such a DP. The restricted status lasts only up to a year, and a DP on restricted status would still be able to perform his duties in his current position of service as DP.

    But if the restricted status were applied within a year before a district convention, the DP would not be able to run for the position of service in a separate term of DP, nor accept a call to a church or on a faculty or executive office in Synod during that time.

    Incidentally, according to the bylaws, if the SP is also a pastor of a church in some district, that district president, as his ecclesiastical supervisor, has the authority to invoke a suspended status on the SP. What would happen if both were to suspend each other would be an interesting scenario.

  32. @Matt #74

    Brother Matt,

    I think you need to read some more on what Luther and Walther were “huge on.”

    A hint for you: They were both highly educated men who spent much of their life as professors. If anything they both sought to expand formal education of theologians and pastors.

  33. Concerning is the article makes it obvious that the LCMS is already lacking in direction through poor teaching/training of its pastors as there are pastors (and the church itself) that have no issue with the internet pastor concept and no issue with pastors living a idolatry/ infidelity/unfaithful life (‘he has learned to keep his faith and his on stage persona separate’ and some people want to morph things together into one but i have a hand in both worlds’).

    i personally see this issue illuminated identical to allowing openly gay pastor to serve.

    Poor training of its pastors will only lead to further deterioration of the church.

    The only way/first step to become a pastor is best described in Matthew; Matthew 4:22
    Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

    Many of the Pastors do not recognize the liturgy for what it is, what has always been. Divine service/liturgy has nothing to do with contemporary worship. I see this as pagan /secular world corrupting the liturgy/divine service. And ill trained pastors will only perpetuate the lie/deceit.

  34. I’ve seen the gamut of trained pastors from the shoddy insurance salesman who decided he wanted to start a church. A two year bible college man who didn’t know the difference between Arminianism and Calvinism to a Bible college professor who pastored a church.

    Then, I met an LCMS pastor who bypassed all these other men hands down in his ability to show in each bible translation what was the best parsing of a verse or passage and back it up in the Greek or Hebrew. There was no question I had that he couldn’t answer, mostly on the spot and very few times did he have to go back to a book to see, and when he did it was to give a more thorough answer.

    Education is what gives a man the building blocks to build his exeperience on. Experience is not a substitute for the grounding education confers. You don’t take a basic Algebra class and jump over to Diff Eq. expecting to pick up the missing parts between the pages. It all builds on what was presented and learned before. Not recognizing the significance of having a solid background in theology and languages leaves you wide open to assimilating wrong doctrine.

    The other huge difference is when a man is in residence, he is under more “observation” than in a distance learning situation, by both his peers and his instructors. If he is unsuitable for the incredibly self-sacrifing work of the ministry, it’s more likely to be caught before he has made it out the doors of the institution.

    Speaking of a self-sacrificing vocation, by its nature this calling is one of the most put yourself last vocations you can have with little financial or material rewards for your long hours. If a man is not willing to sacrifice pretty much all for it, is he really invested? Those that uproot family and income to attend a residential program exhibit that kind of selfless serving that exemplifies what it means to be a pastor.

    I have no doubts the men who choose the SMP program are dedicated, honest, caring, spiritual men. But those qualities don’t make a pastor. A pastor has to be trained to the level a university professor is in his field. They must be more knowledgeable than those they seek to lead and teach. They are taking on the spiritual lives and well being of their congregations and must have the tools on hand to do so with the leading of the Spirit.

    I’ve seen too many train wrecks in different churches (protestant, evangelical) when good men were led by the Spirit (they thought) into doctrinal and practice suicide. Those men were almost all fruits of a 2 year or easy 4 year program that spent more time on building churches than education on the basics.

    There is too much heterodox and worse teaching out there that is not just quietly trying to get in our doors, it’s coming at us from all sides. To know the subtle differences that are contained in these teachings and practices requires the skill of a surgeon to identify the cancer, cut it out and help the patient heal. The only way we can protect ourselves is to have a shepherd who has a keen eye and is on the lookout for his flock. One that is well formed in not only practice and doctrine but how it all evolved from the hands of God to Adam to today.

    I would never go to a surgeon who attended a community college and got his degree from an on-line university. I want a surgeon who has gone to medical school, put in the long hours, been tried by fire as a resident and has the special character and gifts that make it all work together. My pastor needs the same training, only in an area that is of eternal significance, my soul.

  35. Hmmmm,

    This sounds like the coffee bar in the church debate, to Megadeth or not Megadeth, to have SMP or not have SMP. We have all these question because we forget what the church is and what is the Pastoral ministry.

    What would best benefit us concerning this issue? I believe it would be to have discussions and a final resolve, instead of changing our resolve from decade to decade to fit our whims, feelings and emotions, “this I believe and confess.”

    Discussion on the following.

    First so we stay on tack on what is important Art. IV AC. If you get this wrong everything else will be wrong.

    2nd Art. V AC and XIV AC

    3rd Art. VII AC and VIII AC. (Note AC VIII explains why we will have conflicts over doctrine till Jesus returns and should not back away from “doctrinal fights” so that we can all just get along.)

    I have also asked my self the question, do I respect SMP pastors? Even though I have not met any? The answer is “no.” The whole program reminds me of 2 Timothy 4:3 & 4.

    Well that is enough of my rambling thoughts on this issue.


    (1) Hold accountable the seminary president and professors — or whoever is responsible for letting it get this far.

    (2) Discourage people from supporting the seminary financially.

    It is NOT a matter of protesting this single instance or trying to force some action in this once occasion. It is a matter of dealing with the cultus which permits and promotes such things to happen. Megadeth makes the news. The milieu behind it all is much more under the radar but potentially even more disastrous.

    (3) Pray, knowing that all things work together for good . . .

  37. Let us remember that in the eyes of stuffy Pharasaical types, both Christ and Luther were radicals and we’ve been fine since then, except for ELCA.

    God bless Vicar Ellefson! I am Lutheran-MS and lifelong Megadeth fan 4 life!!! CHRIST BE PRAISED!!!

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