Mythbusters at work again; The Pastor Shortage, by Pr Loren Zell

May 17th, 2010 Post by

Here is a reader submission of an analysis of the continued statements that we will have a pastoral shortage in the next few years.


For years, members of the LCMS have heard that the synod is facing a shortage of pastors. Out of love and concern for other Christians, many men have entered our synod’s Seminaries so that other Christians would not face life without a pastor for their church. However, over the years this shortage has never occurred. In fact, a careful examination of published statistics and demographic trends reveals that the synod will almost certainly not face any shortage, baring some unforeseen catastrophic event for many years to come.

First lets look at what’s been going on the last 20 years. The 2009 LCMS Lutheran annual reports that in 1987 there were 6,269 congregations. As of 2007 that number dropped by 111 to 6,158. The membership of the synod has dropped from 2,707,134 to 2,383,084 a drop of about 13.5%. At the same time, the number of pastors on the clergy roster has increased from 8,463 to 9,164, an increase of over 8%. Considering these trends, it’s pretty hard to conclude that the synod is facing a shortage of pastors.

Our Synodical leadership has asserted recently that, that although there is no current shortage, our congregations still might be facing a shortage because of the large number of pastors approaching retirement age, and the expected growth because of the Ablaze goal of starting 2000 new ministries/congregations. It would be hard to argue that our synod’s congregations and pastors are now much more effective than 30 years ago, especially since today, evangelism efforts in the present bear less fruit than they did 30 years ago. Synod’s congregations baptized 55,948 children in 1977, but only 27,913 in 2007. There were 50,819 youth and 26,329 adults confirmed in 1977 but only 20,673 junior confirmations and 13,869 adults confirmed in 2007. Synodical officials estimate that the average age of a LCMS member is about 56, 18 years older than the average age in the general population, and the average size of a LCMS congregation has shrunk from 326 to 303 confirmed members. With these kind of trends, it’s easy to see that demand for pastors could decrease further.

Other factors are having a negative effect on demand for pastors. Several years ago, the Concordia Retirement Plan began to allow pastors to start collecting their pensions, but also to remain in their calls. This and other factors mean that more pastors over the age of 65 are continuing to serve congregations. This, in part explains why more congregations can remain vacant so long. Retired pastors can fill pulpits and save the congregation money as the congregation can save some or all of the cost of paying into Concordia Health Plan and Concordia Retirement Plan. Some of these retired pastors may even be willing to serve for a reduced salary, saving congregations additional money.

The other factor that has a negative impact on demand for pastors is the frequent use of DCE’s, DCO’s, Deaconesses and other synodically trained staff filling positions that in previous years might have been filled by pastors. Congregations can save money calling these individuals since their pay scale is not as high.

No one should be fooled into thinking that there exists a large number of congregations that simply cannot find a pastor to fill their pulpit. Our clergy roster stood at 9,164 as of 2007, but only 5,258 were actually serving in pastoral ministry. 753 were serving in District and Synodical positions. That means there were over 3,000 men either retired or classified as Candidates. Many of these men are still willing to serve in a full or part time capacity, and many do. Some vacant congregations have been and will continue to be vacant. They are simply too small to afford to call their own pastor, and so their pulpit is being filled by a full time pastor who serves a neighboring congregation. The 2009 Lutheran annual reports that there are 122 congregations with 0 members and 668 have less than 50. That is more than 10% of all the congregations in the LCMS.

Until some of these circumstances change, men considering entering one of our synod’s seminaries should seriously consider that they may spend four years and a considerable amount of effort and money to prepare for a call that might never come. As far as this author knows, this has not happened in the past twenty years but our Synod is facing circumstances it has never faced before.

The LCMS has become just another mainline denomination suffering continued shrinkage on a yearly basis. This trend seems unlikely to change in the near future. Our synodical leadership tells us that this is not our grandfathers church and they are right in many ways. Our grandfathers church grew. Maybe some reevaluation is in order?.


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  1. fisharmor
    May 17th, 2010 at 15:28 | #1

    Indeed, if growth is the goal, then some reevaluation is definitely in order.
    I’m fond of pointing out that for every 3000 seat megachurch in my vicinity, there are eight or ten Roman Catholic churches that only seat 800, but has to have six times as many services every week in order to accommodate everyone.
    The math is simply not on the side of Church Growth.

    But I can’t help but notice, also, that there might be something else involved with keeping retirees as pastors. It’s not just cheaper: there’s also less boat-rocking, as older pastors are generally more willing to go along to get along, in my experience. The last thing an over-the-hill congregation would tolerate is some twenty-something coming in and telling them that the way they’ve done things for the last thirty years is in error.

  2. Monte Meyer
    May 17th, 2010 at 16:24 | #2

    Two things – from my experience/observation, retired pastors are filling the parishes of very small and/or dying congregations. That, first off – might cause us to ask some questions.

    Two – You said “Our grandfathers church grew. Maybe some reevaluation is in order?.” Yes – I agree whole-heartedly. In your opinion and the opinion of most on this forum so called “church-growth” has not worked. That may be so – at least in the LCMS, that’s for sure. How can we step up and re-capture our grandfather’s “mission heart”?

    Thanks for posting this…

  3. David Hartung
    May 17th, 2010 at 16:44 | #3

    The last time I actually sat down and put together the numbers, there were about 1100 vacant congregations in our synod. Approximately 800 of these congregations were non-calling. At that time, there were only about 300 men in candidate status. This year, as usual, we have men graduating from both seminaries with no call, and we have more ordained men than ever before. At the same time that we have a shrinking membership, we have the largest number of ordained men ever, serving in non-pastoral positions.

    There is most certainly a problem, but that problem is not going to be resolved by people taking pot shots at the Synod leadership and at those who are following a non-traditional path to parish ministry.

    The simple fact is that very often the decision of who to call, and what category (Deacon, SMP Vicar, Candidate or “from the field”) boils down to money. Like it or not, our society requires money to survive, and often an SMP vicar, or Deacon can afford to serve for less than a traditionally trained pastor can, especially one who is still paying off education debt and trying to raise a family.

    Is the choice to call a deacon or SMP vicar ideal? No, but often that is the best deal that can be afforded by the congregation.

  4. Rev. Roger Sterle
    May 17th, 2010 at 16:53 | #4

    For years some of us have been asking our Seminaries why they keep pushing the pastoral shortage, which they are still doing, despite the number of men who did not receive calls the first time around this year and maybe even other years.

    It is unfortunate that when pastors speak of this it is not really heard all that well. So maybe if more of the laity would ask the hard questions of both semniaries as well as the headquarters–then maybe we would get some better answers.

    I have seen for years that there has not been a pastoral shortage and probably won’t be for many more years. fan into flames, in my humble opinion, has flamed out and we won’t reach the goal of 2000 new congregations. It would be a hard goal to reach even if we were a united synod–which we are not. We will still spend the 13 million cost for the ablaze program because that was in the contract. So, one could easily expect the synod inc to push for a longer period of time in which to gather funds to enable the goal to actually be reached.

    Why no one at synod inc has understood their own recording system for gathering numbers and growth, I don’t know. Maybe it has all along not been about real growth but only imaginary growth.

  5. Roger Gallup
    May 17th, 2010 at 18:51 | #5

    In the year 2000 the Higher Education executive told everyone that half of the pastors would retire in the next 15 years. Upon hearing this President Barry gathered together a group of people to examine the situation. I was asked to be part of that group and we were given the same dire predictions. The group eventually became the “What-A-Way” campaign under President Kieschnick. We are now two thirds of the way through the dire prediction of loosing half of the pastors in the LCMS. As the writer has pointed out we are far from a shortage. We are actually in gridlock. There are too few calls available for pastors to move around which in many cases would be good for them and the congregations they serve. At the same time we are making it easier for more men to become pastors. It appears we have gone from the pastoral shortage to the pastoral glut.

  6. Anonymous
    May 17th, 2010 at 19:47 | #6

    On the video on the Ft. Wayne website created the day before the call service, it is mentioned that additional calls were in hand now, and they predicted more to come in within days so that more men would be placed soon; yet no news of additional men being placed has been broadcast. Have more of these men awaiting calls been placed since the call service? Were these merely empty words to appease the donors? It has been said that the men at Ft. Wayne who were not placed, with one or two exceptions, were those who said they were uncomfortable doing contemporary worship. Are the DPs attempting to avoid placing these men not comfortable doing contemporary worship?

    How will the LCMS react in convention to hearing that this many men did not receive calls? I can only imagine the is going to hurt Kieschnick’s relection bid.

  7. William Kope
    May 17th, 2010 at 20:43 | #7

    Monte Meyer @#2
    Who really does church growth? Is it man or the Holy Spirit?

    David Hartung @#3
    Why give a congregation something less then a fully trained and ordained Pastor. Have none of these congregations heard of Pastors serving multiple congregations? This just seems to be a way of not facing reality and AC Vll. SMP, DCE’s and deacons are not acceptable by AC Vll. The synod should not be making these candidates pay for seminary training anyway. That is the main reason the synod was formed, to train Pastors.

  8. boogie
    May 17th, 2010 at 20:53 | #8

    Thanks for this post and its stats. As someone considering sem, this is very timely. On one hand, if it is God’s will that I administer Word and Sacrament in His stead, He already knows the parish where He will place me. Whatever happens in July, God’s Church WILL endure. On the other hand, will there be room in the LCMS in 4-5 years for a middle-aged confessional and liturgical pastoral candidate (whose family greatly and lovingly sacrificed for him to attend sem)? Prayers from my brothers and sisters in Christ here at BJS are appreciated as we wrestle with this difficult decision.

    As far as the number of uncalled at CTSFW, I have heard as high as 24 late last week, but can’t confirm this. I have also heard (like the post above) that a few were technically called, but were awaiting delayed “paperwork.” Again, I can’t confirm this (and these aren’t “Thus Saith the Lord” statements). Perhaps someone from Fort Wayne can give us some accurate info. Let us keep these men and their families in our prayers.

  9. PHW
    May 17th, 2010 at 21:30 | #9

    So…should one still consider applying to Sem in the next 5 years or should I stop wasting my time preparing and pursue another avenue?

  10. Monte Meyer
    May 17th, 2010 at 22:13 | #10

    It would probably be OK if the Ft Wayne Seminary looked at itself and asked “why is this happening”. Sure – there is a lot of blame to be placed on many fronts – but I think it’s also healthy for the sem to ask the hard question of “why us”.

  11. Rev. Roger Sterle
    May 17th, 2010 at 22:19 | #11

    @David Hartung #3
    From the COP minutes of November 2009–the latest that I have received:
    3.01 VACANCY REPORT – with 35 of 35 Districts reporting, 258 were calling a sole pastor, 41 were calling a senior pastor and 47 were calling assistant or associate pastors. A total of 346 pastors are needed to fill these vacancies. In addition, there are 353 permanent non-calling congregations and 189 temporary non-calling congregations for a total of 542 non-calling vacancies and a grand total of 888.

  12. Todd Wilken
    May 17th, 2010 at 22:31 | #12

    Here’s today’s interview with SID Pres. Herb Mueller and Prof. Larry Harvala of the Ft. Wayne Seminary on the shortage of Calls.

    TW

  13. Helen
    May 18th, 2010 at 08:15 | #13

    @Anonymous #6
    Are the DPs attempting to avoid placing these men not comfortable doing contemporary worship?

    Bingo!
    They’ve been trying to discourage men who would turn into confessional pastors for a long time. I heard it more than 10 years ago at the Concordia level.
    PoliticsFirst wasn’t invented in 2001.

    I read once that the ‘Seminex inclined’ (for want of a better abbrev.) said they would come back and take over. And I was told, by someone who should know, that they were greatly aided by a lax colloquy process for the ones who came back from “exile”.
    Everybody seems to think that CSL suddenly went liberal in 1973. Truth would probably be that they were teaching bad doctrine and sending it into the parishes for a much longer time. We pewsitters have not been well served by silence on that.

    “BIG” churches are not hiring the men needed to serve their people.
    Rev. Larry White once said at a Brenham Free Conference, “We have 1500 members. I serve 500; the associate (then past retirement age, now deceased) serves 500 and 500 have to look after themselves.” I called him on it, because my daughter was one of those, “looking after herself.”
    (For that matter, most of them were and probably are yet.) Nobody “serves” 500 people more than a walk-by communion.

    Some of those “non viable” smaller congregations got that way by being too close to a “wannabe mega” which wasn’t fussy about where the people came from. I’ve seen it in one case, and heard about it from a CC in another.

    “Church growth” has not been about serving the pewsitter!

    IMHO, we wouldn’t have a “pastor shortage” if we didn’t have so many “short cut” men under one label or another eating a pastor’s bread, but much more amenable to DP’s.
    18 million wasted on consultants would have been better spent on seminaries.
    End of Rant!

    I got to go to work, so I can help Augustana Ministerium help a couple of CRM’s!

  14. May 18th, 2010 at 11:07 | #14

    Someone above asked:
    How can we step up and re-capture our grandfather’s “mission heart”?
    +++++++++++++++++++++++

    It isn’t our grandfather’s “mission heart” that we want to recapture, but that we reflect God the Father’s apostolic mission. Let’s take it out of the subjective realm. Get the praise bands and drum sets out of the chancel and get out of God’s way. Let the Divine Service be the Divine Service. Preach repentance and forgiveness of sins, pointing the way to Holy Baptism. We think we can walk by sight and experience when it comes to mission or evangelism – that is a deception. Contemporary Worship/Church Growth is laziness. It indulges the old adam when preaching repentance should be putting the old Adam to death (1 Cor. 2:14).

  15. Confessional but not Phariasaical
    May 18th, 2010 at 11:48 | #15

    Both seminaries have some issues to address. But there IS a reason by Ft. Wayne candidates are less attractive; there is a stereotype associated with the men that graduate from there. And, in my obviously limited experience (how could I possibly know every man that ever graduated from there?), it is a valid stereotype. (In other words, there is “some” truth to it)
    We need to train pastors to be THEOLOGICAL; Ft. Wayne does that. But we also need to train pastors to LOVE, in a tender shepherd kind of way- not Bobby Knight disciplinarian way. Ft. Wayne doesn’t seem to be doing that; either that or the men who are attracted to Ft. Wayne are not the tender, peace-seeking kind of under-shepherds.
    There is an old axiom, which may have limited application here, but it is worth mentioning, nonetheless: people won’t care about what you know until they know that you care.

    On the flip side, StL pastors seem to care alot about people… but too often they sacrifice Scriptural truths and Confessional beliefs in their pursuit of “loving people”. In my opinion, that is more of a “self-love” because they aren’t doing what’s best for the people but rather what is most comfortable or easy for them. Sadly, the laity of our Synod are so ignorant (in general) that they don’t recognize the fact that they aren’t being nourished or shepherded as they should be. But, at least they’re “happy”.

    There is plenty of blame to go around. It starts with parents who care little for training their children to know the Bible and the Confessions, either through their own discipling or through sending them to Lutheran schools. Having taught Bible classes for both youth and adults, it is appalling at how ignorant LCMS members are of the Bible and our Confessions. Without out that, all they know is whether or not they “feel” happy. If our church is going to be relevant, we have to get back to doing what we do best: boldly proclaiming all of God’s Word… and loving people with the Shepherd’s heart.

  16. Loren Zell
    May 18th, 2010 at 12:06 | #16

    My final comment was based on my experience serving 3 “dying” congregations in my ministry since my graduation. My first call was to a vacant church as a delayed vicar. Later I was told I was their final effort to save the church before they decided to close. They were not even sure if they could pay my salary for the vicarage year. That church grew to the point when I left that they had grown from 30 ave. church attendance to 60 and they had $20,000 in the bank. I promise you it wasn’t my personality. It was the Holy Spirit, the Gospel and the sacraments. We taught the Bible and the theology of the Bible. That church is still there today.

    My present congregation is another one that others have considered dying. In a shrinking town with a changing demographic, we have managed to stay open and have even been able to keep attendance about where we were 7 years ago. Same remedy; The Gospel, the Sacraments, The Bible, Biblical Theology and obviously the work of Holy Spirit. There is no doubt in my mind that the same can happen in many “dying” churches and maybe even to a whole synod that shrinks by 50,000 every year.

  17. May 18th, 2010 at 12:22 | #17

    Confessional but not Pharisaical said, “Ft. Wayne doesn’t seem to be doing that; either that or the men who are attracted to Ft. Wayne are not the tender, peace-seeking kind of under-shepherds.” Prove it. Those comments are very Pharisaical – as if you are above the fray.

    Frankly, I could point you to a lot of St. Louis grads who are what you are saying about Fort Wayne grads. Such comments only further the awful stereotype and do not deal constructively with the facts. Your “Bobby Knight” comment is not helpful at all. We could sit here all day with anecdotal references on either side and it would not accomplish one thing. The problem is not whether the fellow is nice or not, but whether he will suffer for the confession or not. It is a theology of glory vs. a theology of the cross problem mainly.

    Another unmentioned problem here is that PLI has not helped us either. “Leadership” in the way that they speak of it simply isn’t biblical. Indulging a consumer mindset in our parishes just doesn’t help and it doesn’t further the gospel. Pastors need to be spiritual fathers as Luther describes them in the fourth commandment in the Large Catechism.

  18. May 18th, 2010 at 14:16 | #18

    As a recent Sem grad, I think a little anecdotal perspective may be helpful. As it is anecdotal, I do not presume that what I say was everyone’s experience.

    When I graduated Concordia University Wisconsin with a B.S. in Computer Science going into the ministry was pretty far from my mind. I had a good job (eventually) after graduating and my philosophy was that one need not go into “church work” to be a real Christian (you can see here Dr. Veith’s influence through the Cranach Institute and a sense of vocation). I was content to be a computer guy that helped out in various capacities at my church as a layman. One summer however, a couple women asked me on separate occasions if I had ever considered going into the ministry. At first my response was that I enjoyed my job (and its pay) and was content to stay. But after I heard the same question from two different people, I started thinking about it, asking my pastor (endless) questions, and eventually decided to apply to Concordia Seminary. In this process there was never a discussion of a pastor shortage. In fact the phrase “pastor shortage” was one I never heard until after I had started classes (mainly from those outside the Seminary). The reason why I decided to go to Seminary was not necessarily that there was a shortage, but because I wanted to make (if it was the Lord’s will) my vocation centered around that which I was most passionate about: my Savior Jesus Christ.

    So that brings me to today. I’m at a little congregation that could only afford a guy fresh from the Seminary and blessed to be able to serve them with the gifts our Lord wishes to give them. I also am in a certain part of the state where there are few LCMS congregations and see a great potential for starting new congregations in some of the small towns in SE Minnesota, NE Iowa, and SW Wisconsin (students have visited from Decorah, IA, an hour away and expressed a desire to have an LCMS church in their town). I’m convinced that a group of congregations could pull together so that a Sem grad could make a go at it, starting a congregation in this area. I’m sure there are many other areas around the country that the same could be said. Will any of these churches become a mega church? Nope… and that’s quite ok. This area isn’t in need for any more gimmicks… we have that already… what there is a need for is the pure preaching of the Gospel and the right administration of the Sacraments. Which is the very reason why I went to the Seminary in the first place: people need Jesus, and if He will have me as His servant, and if He will have any of these men still waiting for a call, then may it be so.

  19. johannes
    May 18th, 2010 at 15:09 | #19

    @Pr. John A. Frahm #14

    There you go again–Word and Sacrament, repentance, all those old stereotypical warmed-over nostrums to solve the lack of growth. It’s up to us, us, us to grow the church–Jesus told us to get out and make NEW dsiciples. It’s about what works. After a few mis-fires, it should be obvious that Transforming Churches has the growth issue down to a science. You need accountable pastors, directed by a board whose members understand leadership and tithing, and stuff like that. You make the pastor the CEO and tell him to get those staff members cracking, or they’ll be out on their respective ears. And if he doesn’t produce, you need to can him too. It may add a bit to the the pastor surplus, but in time, he, and other failed pastors like him will see the light and get the TCN vision and passion. Then things will start to happen. Knock off the repentance stuff, and get with the program–get that kick-backside spirit, take charge and do the TCN two-step.

    Johannes (tongue firmly planted in cheek)

  20. edentulouslayman
    May 18th, 2010 at 15:48 | #20

    The recent call process our congregation went through was very interesting indeed. We ended up with two lists of candidates. During the evaluation time, a member asked if we would be looking to St. Louis or Ft.W for seminary grads? We asked why he said that the last three guys in this circuit who came out of Ft.W. were removed from their congregations! At least one who was defrocked for misconduct. Not saying that these things do not happen to St. L grads, but in our circuit the thing speaks for itself. Needless to say the congregation would only consider St. L. grads. I asked the circuit counselor about this and he said, yes that is true. He lovingly encouraged us to let the spirit guide us, which we did.

  21. helen
    May 18th, 2010 at 16:12 | #21

    @Confessional but not Phariasaical #15
    But there IS a reason by Ft. Wayne candidates are less attractive; there is a stereotype associated with the men that graduate from there.

    “There is a stereotype…” carefully cultivated by CSL grads. It would appear so here, and the appearance is not helpful.

    There are good men, and less helpful men, graduated out of both seminaries. My “limited experience” happens to be with more good men from the Fort.

    It would be more constructive if you all were not knocking each other with gossip here!

  22. Monte Meyer
    May 18th, 2010 at 16:20 | #22

    So John, if I can summarize – it’s all the fault of PLI and church growthers that Ft Wayne isn’t getting calls?

    Again – I understand the frustration – but I am a graduate of Ft. Wayne – I love the place – but I also recognize there are some issues/stereotypes they need to address to give the graduates a fair shot.

    Number one would be – don’t teach that candidates shouldn’t submit to an interview to perspective congregations. I know that is going on – and it isn’t helpful – especially in multi-staff situations where they are calling for associates/assistants.

    I have a former elder at my last church at Fort Wayne who is waiting for a call. He is a very capable man who will make a fine pastor. I am not just trying to rip my old seminary…

  23. Rick
    May 18th, 2010 at 18:24 | #23

    How can we encourage congregations to seek pastors to meet their staffing needs–not DCEs and DCOs where people are being asked to do that which they should not be asked to do without the training that a pastor has had at seminary.

    When a female DCE is asked to teach the Pastor’s Bible Study in his place, and exercise authority over a mixed group of men and women, it only further erodes the LCMS and the Biblical teaching of the roles of men and women, and on top of it you have people trying to answer questions of the Bible, trying to sound like the authority that they are not. Have they looked at the text in the original languages? Do they understand systematics? DO they know how one doctrine relates to another?

    I’m hoping to write something that says more than that yopu often “get what you pay for.” Having two or more pastors does not needlessly duplicate gifts in a church staff: some pastors have strengths in some areas while other pastors have strengths in other areas. And what is the goal of the congregation? Leading the lost to Christ is a noble task, but who is going to build up the body of believers with the Word? It takes more than dumbied down story-time sermons and a regiment of “praise songs.” Without Law and Gospel sermons, and hymns which focus on Christ through the lessons of the day, and the liturgy composed of Holy Scripture itself, people are going to either degenerate by settling for a cotton-candy diet, or they will go elsewhere. We need good pastors in the congregation to feed God’s sheep. Don’t fall for substitutes. God’s sheep should have the beneficial diet He intends for them.

  24. Rev. Keith Reeder
    May 18th, 2010 at 20:46 | #24

    @Confessional but not Phariasaical #15

    Dear “Confessional”:

    You say that in your limited experience, there is some truth to the Fort Wayne stereotype that graduates are disciplinarian rather than tender and peace-seeking, and you imply that it is because they are taught this way. Do you actually have first-hand experience with grads from both sems? Your description of the stereotype is almost word for word what the Northwest District pre-sem interview committee told me. I went to Fort Wayne anyway and saw for myself that it is dead wrong. Both sems produce good pastors. Both also allow some bad apples to get through. I am sorry if you know someone from the Fort who acted like Bobby Knight. There is no excuse for that. He wasn’t taught to act that way by his professors.

    For everyone else: I really am curious to know how long this kind of talk has been going on. I have a hard time believing it’s just St. Louis grads cooking this up, and it’s completely beneath the faculty. Is there some kind of Seminex connection? Does it go back as far as Springfield? Perhaps recruiters? Pre-sem advisors at the Concordias?

  25. boogie
    May 18th, 2010 at 21:38 | #25

    Confessional and liturgical guys are becoming harder to place…period. If the candidate refuses CW/open Communion (as I would) and requests a certain geographical area, he is harder to place. Nonetheless, God will place these guys.

  26. Confessional…
    May 19th, 2010 at 00:07 | #26

    @Rev. Keith Reeder #24
    Yes… I have plenty of first hand experience, with both. I have dear friends and colleagues that I respect and love who are Ft. Wayne grads… and I know, firsthand, of a number of STL grads who seem much more interested in being rock stars than pastors. There are “problem pastors” coming out of both seminaries- which is to be expected. I am simply pointing out that there are stereotypes about both and, more often than not, the graduates seem to fit the stereotype. Given the choice between the 2 stereotypes, many churches would rather have the ignorant lover rather than the intelligent overseer.
    When I was considering the ministry, 20 years ago or so, my pastor back then gave me this “advice”: “You can learn alot at both seminaries, but you should know that if you go to Ft. Wayne, you are less likely to get a call.”
    This is not a new story. I have no doubt that Ft. Wayne has a lot to offer- AND I’m confident that it does a great job in teaching the doctrines of the Church. But there appear to be concerns about Ft. Wayne pastors on the part of many LCMS churches. Unless they are willing to confront those concerns and do a little self-examination, they shouldn’t really expect things to change. Of course, they can sit back and tell themselves that they are right and that everyone else has the problem… but that’s not really going to help their graduates who are now flipping burgers, will it?

  27. Anonymous
    May 19th, 2010 at 00:21 | #27

    Todd Wilken :Here’s today’s interview with SID Pres. Herb Mueller and Prof. Larry Harvala of the Ft. Wayne Seminary on the shortage of Calls.
    TW

    They are dreaming when they say their will be a massive shortage of calls in four years, and that they are encouraging recruitment to find as many pastors as they can because of the dire situation developing.

  28. rontheranchhand
    May 19th, 2010 at 07:16 | #28

    The synod needs to have a president and district presidents (bishops?) that insure that the Confessions are followed in practice as well as in preaching. Having open communion and the like needs to stop. Will some congregations leave? Maybe. It is possible we need to shrink before we can grow.

    That brings up another question. How do we grow? There IS only one way – through the preaching of the Word and the action of the Holy Spirit. We also need to have our communities in mind as our ‘mission’ and catechize our communities. How? We have lots of smart people in our synod to figure that out. How about TV commercials in the vein of VOX from a few years ago. I looked into it, quite a few 30 second spots on the local cable TV channel where only a few hundred dollars.

    I just finished listening to Rev. Harrison on CD from when he was at a conference in Minneapolis a few weeks ago. This man is amazing. His ideas are amazing. Yet they are nothing more than ‘dare to be Lutheran’. This man needs to be elected to the presidential office.

  29. Confessional but not Phariasaical
    May 19th, 2010 at 09:14 | #29

    @rontheranchhand #28
    Yes, we need to be faithful to Scripture (and the Confessions, which are the doctrinal content of the Scriptures); yes we need to have stronger leaders at EVERY level, including the local parishes. But I would add one thing to your list of “how we grow”: LOVE THE PEOPLE! We are not professors! We are under-shepherds! Yes, loving parents discipline their children… but they ALSO love them unselfishly and tenderly. If more pastors were doing that, in addition to being faithful to the Word and their Calling, churches wouldn’t be shrinking. Being Confessional is great… but without love, its just a “clanging gong”.

    I came to a congregation that “believed” in open communion… until I taught them why the Synod practices close(d) communion. When they understood that the motivation was love for God’s people and a desire to be faithful to the Scriptures, they embraced close(d) communion. But it took time and care to get them to that point… AND a belief that I loved them, not that I was just “in charge” and they had to do what I said.

    Love, brothers, love! (It IS possible, you know, to be loving AND Confessional)

  30. Rev. Steven W Bohler
    May 19th, 2010 at 09:19 | #30

    “Confessional” writes: “I am simply pointing out that there are stereotypes about both and, more often than not, the graduates seem to fit the stereotype.”

    Really? Using your own words/descriptions do you really think that more often than not FW grads are unloving dictators concerned only about pure doctrine? Or that more often than not SL grads are rock-star wannabe’s who so want to be liked that they will sacrifice doctrine to get affection? With friends like you, I am not sure the seminaries can survive!

  31. GaiusKurius
    May 19th, 2010 at 09:48 | #31

    The old stereotype was that Springfield was the practical seminary and St. Louis was the theological seminary. Now it almost seem that stereotype has done a 180 degree shift.

  32. Rev. Keith Reeder
    May 19th, 2010 at 10:16 | #32

    @Confessional but not Phariasaical #29

    “Confessional” writes: “Love, brothers, love! (It IS possible, you know, to be loving AND Confessional).”

    Who ever said that these are mutually exclusive? On the contrary, you can’t love your people as a shepherd without teaching them the truth. I fear that part of the disconnect here is that that we don’t even agree on the definition of love. The “LOVE YOUR PEOPLE!” mentality apparently views love the way the pop culture does: fond feelings and seeking mutual happiness. Biblical love is nothing of the sort. To be sure, pastors should always be courteous, polite, and not lacking in social graces–thus, no Bobby Knights! But the number one qualification for stewards of the mysteries is that they be able to teach. Pastors much preach in season AND out of season. They promise in their ordination vows to rebuke and admonish, and I can tell you from experience that sinners don’t like to be rebuked or admonished. They think it is unloving because they don’t enjoy it. But pastors who do this are truly loving. They are saving souls! Christians should see the love their pastors have for them by their faithfulness to God’s saving Word.

    FWIW, I DO have tender feelings for my parishioners. But it is not on account of these that they know I love them.

  33. Rev. Roger D. Sterle
    May 19th, 2010 at 11:09 | #33

    @Rev. Matthew Lorfeld #18
    Matthew,

    Why not contact Rev. Timothy Parker in Westgate if you are not already familiar with him. He and several guys from the Westgate circuit go up to Decorah for weekend worships. It would be good to see what the group all together would be able to do.

  34. Rev. Roger D. Sterle
    May 19th, 2010 at 11:28 | #34

    @Confessional… #26
    Coming from Springfield, I have a thought about the men coming from Ft. Wayne and St. Louis. Years ago I had a DP who stated that he would not allow men from Ft. Wayne into his district because all they do is cause trouble–date? 1980! And yet in that very district the men causing the most problems were men who went to a seminary shortly after becoming Christian and it showed in how they preached and taught. These men were from both seminaries. I am also sure that it is not that st. Louis guys are taught so differently nor that the men from Ft. Wayne are seemingly more strict. I think that we have to remember that Satan would like nothing better than for us to continue to pit one seminary against the other, one set of graduates against another set. Satan would like us to continue, constantly, to fight this straw giant! I have met from both sems men who have gone immediately into church growth and contemporary worship styles despite my knowing some of their teachers first hand and that they would not teach thus. I have known men from both seminaries who have upon graduation stated rather openingly that they could now teach as THEY saw fit and in the way THEY thought best. For some that was directly opposite, not of what they had learned from either seminary, but directly in contradiction to what Scripture states and what is stated in our Confessions.

    We will never solve this opposing force thinking. It would be so much better, in my humble opinion, in our church body if all our pastors took seriously their ordination vows given to God before the assembled congregation–period. Yet so many, it seems, want to teach the latest fad–the latest self help theology and not the whole counsel of God. “Six Divine Steps to be a Better…..” “20 Ways to increase your…..” I have read and heard so many sermons across this vast church body that had no text, spoke of no sin, did not talk about forgiveness, see no need for any kind of confession of absolution. One time the pastor’s absolution [while acceptable for some was not for me] was simple: ‘you know you are sinners, now go and don’t sin anymore.’

  35. May 19th, 2010 at 11:31 | #35

    Roger,
    I believe one of the pastors in my circuit has had a brief conversation or two with him last fall… then advent and lent came and I got into a building project… so not much more has been discussed. I’m hoping to get a chance to travel down there again and have a face to face meeting. If it weren’t for the Westgate circuit guys travelling to Decorah for the students Luther college would be devoid of anything identifiably Lutheran. This has for myself and others in my circuit been something we would want to do with the Iowa East guys.

  36. Emily
    May 19th, 2010 at 20:08 | #36

    Our congregation just completed the call process and we called from the field. We didn’t differeniate between FW and STL graduates although a couple from our church was quite concerned as they had experience with 3 different FW pastors in the past and said they would firmly “vote no” if the graduate was from FW.

    This couple was also heavily involved with a mission congregation our church started nearly a decade ago. The congr. was making some real traction and they called from the sem. A candidate came and visited. This candidate was excited about the opportunity, as was the congregation; it seemed like a perfect fit. At the last minute the candidate was sent somewhere else. It was clear from day 1 that the pastor they received did not have the personality or interest in a mission congregation and it folded within the year.

    There was no explanation as to why the switch ocurred, but it certainly gives me pause in calling from the seminary. You get who is sent, period. (Even if you and the candidate agree that there is a fit, it could change.) The seminary leaders as well as the COP have to realize that one bad experience like that, can sour all consideration to call from the sem. For every 10 candidates out there, 9 may be great, but if you get that one . . . . and when you cede all decision-making to the COP and Seminaries, its a big risk.

    I wish I didn’t feel that way, but I saw it first hand. Not a risk I’d want to take at the congregation I attend.

  37. May 19th, 2010 at 23:39 | #37

    FWIW, placement is pretty much in the hands of the COP acting as the board of placements. The Seminaries make their recommendations, but the decision is in the hands of the COP. There is a lot of shuffling, swapping and deal making going on… at least from anecdotal accounts that I’ve heard from those who have been in the room. I still think a dartboard or hat might be a better way to go.

  38. May 21st, 2010 at 08:36 | #38

    Whether we like it or not, whether it is fair or unfair, there is a stigma attached to Fort Wayne seminary graduates. That stigma has trickled down to congregations. Anecdotal evidence in this thread proves it so. Southern Illinois District President Herb Mueller downplayed the stigma on Issues, Etc. earlier this week, but admitted that there is a stigma in some circles of synod. He also admitted the stigma is not as strong as it once was.

    I don’t know if I can agree with President Mueller. If the stigma is not as strong as it once was, why are 20-some-odd men from Ft. Wayne without a Call? One was placed this week (Thanks be to the Lord of the living harvest!) but many must wait.

    How do we rid ourselves of bias for one seminary over another? A first step is to admit pastors are sinners too; pastors who graduate from St. Louis, Ft. Wayne, and even our Canadian seminaries. Another step is to live as Christians in the way of repentance and forgiveness. Another step is for congregations to encourage pastors to use their vacation time and continuing education time to refresh their learning and to refresh their bodies and souls.

  39. Confessional but not Phariasaical
    May 21st, 2010 at 12:10 | #39

    @Rev. David M. Juhl #38
    Well said. As I mentioned much earlier, my experience is limited by time & space; I only know who I know- not everyone who has ever graduated from either seminary.

    For those who are not familiar with the kind of anecdotal stories that are out there, let me share a couple:
    1) A small country congregation adopted contemporary worship and grew. (Obviously we could discuss the merits of CW as a “growth” tool, but that’s not important here) Their pastor got a Call “to the big leagues” (a larger church with more resources). One of the questions that the congregation asked pastors they were considering calling was whether or not they would conduct a contemporary liturgy. The pastor they eventually called was one who said he was fine with CW. As soon as he was installed, he pulled out the red hymnals and said, “THIS is how we are going to worship from now on!” When asked why he said he was willing to do CW, he told the congregation, “I lied because you needed me here to save you from false worship.” Within a year, the congregation closed. CLOSED! Guess where that pastor went to seminary?

    2) I have personally spoken to Ft. Wayne pastors who have said that they feel good about the shrinking size of their congregations because it means they are doing their job to separate the wheat from the chaff.

    I could go on but I don’t want to make it seem like I believe these few experiences ARE reflections of all Ft. Wayne graduates. Clearly they are not. I have also known many who are loving, faithful Christians. And I have known my share of StL pastors who care WAY more about being popular… or taking the easiest path possible… than about shepherding their flocks. The stereo-type for StL seminary is deserved, too, I think.

    My point is not that either needs to be attacked but that the Sems (plural!) need to really look at the perceptions people have and examine themselves to see if they really are doing the best they can to provide the Church with as good of candidates for placement as possible. As long as either one continues to pretend like its some evil conspiracy of the other rather than perceptions grounded in realities… we’re not going to get anywhere with this.

    Generally speaking: St. Louis guys need to do their jobs as under-shepherds and care more about being faithful to their callings and to the Word than to be friends (popular) with their flocks. And if they use CW, they need to use the freedom they have to create the most Scripturally accurate, spiritually edifying service they can- not just one that makes people feel good and is fun to do. And Ft. Wayne guys need to remember the way in which Christ dealt with sinners: firmly, yes- but also gently, lovingly, patiently and UNSELFISHLY. We don’t love our sheep in order to accomplish a goal… or because we have to. We love them because they are His… and He has entrusted them to us. They ought to be precious to us- just as they are to Him.

    I want to add this: I am sorry if I have offended anyone. I have strong feelings about both seminaries and what I perceive as the weaknesses of each. I have seen much hurt caused, unintentionally, by both “kinds” of stereo-types. I believe that the vast majority of my brothers serve because of a steadfast love for God and His people. But that doesn’t mean that any of us have all the answers and couldn’t stand to improve on our weaknessess.

    I also want to commend Ft. Wayne seminary for being faithful to the Confessions and teaching their graduates to be the same. Without their strong determination that we remain LUTHERAN, we certainly wouldn’t be the Synod we are today. And if we continue to drift away from what makes us Lutheran (something the StL pastors are generally more willing to do) then we will cease to be the church that I love. I am a proud member (and pastor) of the LCMS, because I know that we are guided by- and followers of- Scripture, alone. We are all servants of the One, True Shepherd. May He continue to serve as our role-model as to how we should love and instruct one another.

  40. John Clark
    May 21st, 2010 at 15:57 | #40

    And then there are those – the majority – who graduate, go out into the world to lovingly proclaim Christ’s redemption clearly, and who attract little if any attention to themselves.

    Here’s an example (cut and paste this into your browser if it won’t open automatically):

    http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/news/stories.nsf/religion/story/133D99DAB6A4961D86257727007FA254?OpenDocument

    It becomes so easy to put the spotlight on the pastors who aren’t doing it right (i.e. the way we think they should be doing it) than it is to lift up the ones who carry out their calling and vocation as God intends. We want the seminaries to change because of a few bad apples, while ignoring the fact that the majority of graduates are evidence in favor of the job they are doing today.

    Why don’t we read or hear more about the pastors who are doing it right?

  41. jim_claybourn
    May 24th, 2010 at 18:47 | #41

    John Clark :
    And then there are those – the majority – who graduate, go out into the world to lovingly proclaim Christ’s redemption clearly, and who attract little if any attention to themselves.
    Here’s an example (cut and paste this into your browser if it won’t open automatically):
    http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/news/stories.nsf/religion/story/133D99DAB6A4961D86257727007FA254?OpenDocument
    It becomes so easy to put the spotlight on the pastors who aren’t doing it right (i.e. the way we think they should be doing it) than it is to lift up the ones who carry out their calling and vocation as God intends. We want the seminaries to change because of a few bad apples, while ignoring the fact that the majority of graduates are evidence in favor of the job they are doing today.
    Why don’t we read or hear more about the pastors who are doing it right?

    Isn’t this the church that was referenced in a thread a while back? They have simultaneous liturgical and “Powerhouse” services at different ends of the building on some Sundays?

    The Pr has just been called there – wonder what his thoughts are on splitting up the congregation for a “homemade” CW service. Is that a “loving” or “doctrinal” way to worship?

  42. Larry Young
    August 6th, 2011 at 13:27 | #42

    I’d never dis Bach. Fact is, I love his music, but the LCMS and the Lutheran church need to move on musically before it’s too late. I left the LCMS over this issue about 3 years ago because I have teenage children who couldn’t stand the music and the lack of attention to the needs and wants of the Youth of the church. To quote my old LCMS pastor (Elmer Lisch) “If they don’t like the way we do things here, they can go somewhere else”. — So, you know what, they DID, and they STILL DO! You want a wake up call???? LOSE THE ORGAN, play music during worship that’s been written in the last 30 years! — and I don’t mean “Pass it On”!

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