I recently returned from Madagascar where I, Professor John Pless, Rev. Bryan Wolfmueller, and Rev. Evan Goeglein, taught a group of Malagasy pastors the theology of Dr. Martin Luther. I was privileged to teach them Luther’s theology of preaching. While we were there, we had the opportunity to have meals with the pastors, coffee with the pastors, and other times outside of the lectures to discuss theology and church practice. One of the most discussed topics was the pastoral vocation. While here in the LCMS, most pastors have one church to tend to, and some men have as many as 4. I myself am the senior pastor at a church where there is also an associate pastor. In Madagascar, the average pastor shepherds no less than 10 congregations. After hearing that there is such a pastoral shortage, we asked if they would ever consider licensed lay deacons or some other program to get more pastors quicker, such as we have in the LCMS. They answered with a confident and comforting, NO, because the preaching of the gospel is too important to hasten the education of the pastor. Only the pastor should consecrate the elements and distribute the sacraments they said.
How fat and lazy we are in the LCMS. We don’t work the devil to death in our study of God’s word, nor in the preaching of the Gospel. In the Large Catechism, Luther said, “Let them constantly read and teach, learn and meditate and ponder. Let them never stop until they have proved by experience and are certain that they have taught the devil to death and have become more learned than God Himself and all His saints” (Preface to the Large Catechism 20). Do we follow this exhortation of Dr. Luther? Of course not. Those who support the agenda of lay deacons or the fast track pastorate do not support this in that they do not see pastoral education as a top priority. They falsely place the LCMS in a state of emergency in order that ill equipped men may be the stewards of the mysteries of God. Until each pastor is tending to 10 flocks, and there are no pastors left, do we really need to act like the sky is falling here in the LCMS? The confessional group is not any better. Instead of tearing apart the Scriptures and the Confessions and letting God do the work of converting the heart, we take it upon ourselves to pass resolutions that would prevent further false practice in our Church body. We place our fear, love, and trust in the Whereas and Be it Resolved, instead of in the forgiveness of our sin purchased at Calvary and distributed in the means of grace. Preach you the Word and let the Holy Spirit worry about the weeds. Not that we should allow false practice in our Church, but we should do nothing more or less than proclaim the clear words of Sacred Scripture.
The main point is this. No pastor in the LCMS is tending to 10 congregations. So lets cut out the act and get with the program. let us hear the faithful proclamation of Holy Scripture that says that the pastor is the one who stands in the stead of Christ, forgiving and retaining sins. What does this mean? If means that he should know what the Scriptures say in order that he may be reading in season and out of season. It means that, as we confess in articles 14 of the Augsburg Confession, the pastor should be rightly examined, called and ordained, in order that he may publicly preach, teach, and administer the sacraments. Let those who are faithful to Holy Scripture and the Confessions continue to be steadfast in the one true faith and never stop preaching the truth, even while the chicken little’s chant that the sky is falling and we’re the last hope of holding it up. Preach you the Word, stop being so fat and lazy. Preach you the Word and take heart, Christ does the work for you, Amen.