Avoiding Unnecesary Conflict in Congregations

March 30th, 2011 Post by

Whenever a new pastor arrives at a parish, there is built-in change that just comes with the change in man.  Then there are the changes that happen because the man doesn’t know all of the traditions of the congregation that he serves.  There are also the deliberate changes that a pastor may attempt as well (hopefully after much patient instruction, although that is not always the case). The first type of change is unavoidable, the second is avoidable.  The third type of change requires some patience, teaching, and trust between pastor and congregation.

Pastors in the LCMS carry two sets of documentation.  The first is the Self Evaluation Tool or SET.  This tool is a collection of the pastor’s responses to a number of theological issues, including “hot-button” issues of our day.  The second document is the Personal Information Form or PIF.  This form deals with more personal information regarding the pastor.  Both of these forms help congregations when they choose to call a pastor.

What I am suggesting in this article is that each congregation have a document called something like “Congregational Tradition Inventory” which lists all sorts of traditions that are used at a given congregation.  This form could be given to new pastors or vacancy pastors to help avoid those changes that can be avoided.  This could help reduce unnecessary conflicts within a congregation as well.

The Congregational Tradition Inventory could include the more formal things (Communion Sundays, Divine Service Information, Lectionary used, stuff like you see on the LutheranLiturgy website and so forth) and also a lot of the things which are not so formal (pastor including those with birthdays in the prayer of the church, an Easter breakfast, Fall Harvest festival, Children’s Christmas Eve service, and so forth).  This could include a ton of valuable information for any pastor who is going to serve in that place.

This would not have to be anything formal in Synodical respects (unlike the SET and PIF), but instead could be a congregational document to be shared alongside the Constitution and Bylaws when a call is accepted.  It could also be updated easily by a Board of Elders when any tradition changes in the congregation.  The point is that this is a flexible tool that could have as much/as little information from the congregation as they wish and be very helpful for both congregation and pastor.

Think of it, congregations, your new pastor doesn’t forget those traditions and cause small offenses here and there through his first years.

Think of it, pastors, you would know what is normal and customary in the congregation you serve without having to investigate too much.

 






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  1. Concerned Seminarian
    March 30th, 2011 at 14:06 | #1

    I have heard 2 (somewhat complimentary) ideas on how/when a pastor makes changes at a congregation.

    My dad looks at it sort of like a marriage:
    First, there are certain changes which the pastor makes on accepting the call: “I will accept this call, but I would like to be able to rearrange the furniture in my office to suit my taste.”

    Second, there are some changes which can be made during the “honeymoon” period (first year or so): “I would like it if we could move all the communionware onto the altar instead of leaving the individual cups of the altar.”

    Third, there are some changes which you don’t make for years or decades, or which you make gradually: Monthly to weekly communion.

    Dr. Utech, my Introduction to Pastoral Ministry prof, describes it like playing poker:
    When a pastor takes a call, he has a certain number of chips in his “pot” based on various circumstances (ministry experience, which seminary, degrees, family, previous pastor situation, etc.).
    The pastor can add chips to his pot by performing various ministry activities (shut-in visits, preaching, Bible studies, etc.).
    Any change is a gamble using the chips he has built up, so the pastor has to be careful not to gamble too many of his chips on a relatively unimportant change. If he loses too many chips, he may never be able to have a successful ministry at that parish because the people won’t trust him.
    The thing to keep in mind is “patience and tact” with anything you do in ministry.

  2. mames
    March 30th, 2011 at 14:26 | #2

    Expressed here are the “helps” of a true Pastoral heart. I am convinced that a true pastoral heart is the key to all newly called and the congregations they serve. We have however in our synod a new kind of “Heir (spl?) Pastor”. One who comes into a congregation with a CG agenda and no amount of guidance can help these men. They direct and manage to excess leaving the Pastoral duties to others. Forced or manipulation laden processes are used to mold the parish into the form they want even at the risk of considerable loses. The sad thing is that I have seen Pastors who are so “other focused” that they have built up a pool of trust so deep that their members place great trust in them and give them great latitude in practice and change. We lay people are obligated and privileged to serve and support such a gift from God as these men. We can never take for granted the presence of a Pastor who is faithful to Word and Sacrament and to shepherding the flock God has entrusted him with. SOoo it is our duty to reach out to them often and aid them in any way we can. Bombard them with little touches of Gods love as well as their wives and children. Great Pastors are made only with the help of the flock.

  3. Rev. Mike Mathey
    March 30th, 2011 at 18:48 | #3

    I think that this idea has merit, but I also wouldn’t mind seeing some type of documentation from a church that gives the pastor some objective assessment of what has been happening there. (i.e. conflict) Many congregations are so focused on getting a pastor to accept the call that they extend, that they end up being, shall we say, less than honest with the candidate. A little more honesty from the congregational leadership could avoid a lot of conflict as well.

  4. Richard Lewer
    March 30th, 2011 at 19:41 | #4

    It seems that often the congregation does not realize that certain things are traditions until the pastor does something different. The congregation assumes that everyone does it that way. They probably could not make a list of their traditions that might be different.

    What the congregation wants to know first is that their pastor loves them. His “chips” are his proof of love for them. If they feel that he loves them, they will deal differently with what he does than if they feel he does not care.

  5. Rev Michael Schmidt
    March 30th, 2011 at 20:49 | #5

    excellent point Richard, many people in a congregation are unaware of what qualifies as a specific tradition to that congregation that should be made known to the pastor. I am not sure that it is nesecarily that they think that the entire Synod does things the same way, but more that these traditions are largely overlooked, or taken for granted, until they are missing.
    I think one downfall with this idea of a form listing traditions is that it could make these traditions into Law as opposed to just traditions. If the congregation writes out their traditions, than the idea of anyone changing those traditions will be viewed as completely out of the question from day one. In some cases it is good for a congregation to lose some traditions that are less important than others; in addition to the pastor also experiencing new traditions as opposed to the ones he is used to.

  6. A different concerned seminarian
    March 30th, 2011 at 22:28 | #6

    In defense of the term “Herr Pastor,” it’s just a German honorific, like saying “Herr Professor” or “Herr Doktor.” I understand what I think is meant by it and what Mames means by it, but it’s misused in the LCMS often to dismiss how our fathers went about shepherding. It also, I think, flattens out our history, as if in German we were nasty and authoritarian and now we’re easygoing and open to the ideas of others. This causes us to forget that someone like Wyneken’s “Herr Pastor” moments included unilaterally donating funds (including his own) to the poor, and it also allows us to think that if we today say something with a sincere smile, we can’t possibly be authoritarian or domineering.

  7. Rev. Roger D. Sterle
    March 31st, 2011 at 06:52 | #7

    I was once at a parish that had the “tradition” of singing a particular hymn on Easter Sunday. My first year there I did not use this hymn and was given a lecture by a member shortly after worship. However, the chair of the congregation asked him, before I could, if he had informed me that the hymn was one they had used many times in the past on Easter Sunday. When the answer was a ‘no’ he was told that then I could not have known! Both pastor and congregation need to explore these points. I do that when I come to a congregation–I ask about how they have done things in the past and I usually do this at the first voters meeting. Pleasantly enough, I am usually told they are willing to do what I am comfortable with.

    Secondly, I ask the members to give me a list of their favorite hymns from the hymnal. I will then use those hymns immediately. Hymns the congregation finds hard to sing, I will either not use again or will take the time on Sundays to teach the hymn.

    Paul Brink wrote a book some years back called “Avoiding Pastoral Pitfalls,” one which all new pastors need to read before leaving the seminary. It is based upon his life’s journey as a pastor. The young men on this site would be well informed to read the book.

  8. Rev. Roger D. Sterle
    March 31st, 2011 at 06:55 | #8

    @Rev. Roger D. Sterle #7
    The book’s actual title is “Overcoming Pastoral Pitfalls.” And the author is Kurt the father of Paul. Here is a link: http://www.cph.org/p-328-overcoming-pastoral-pitfalls.aspx?SearchTerm=avoiding%20pastoral%20pitfalls

  9. Jason
    March 31st, 2011 at 08:20 | #9

    @Rev. Roger D. Sterle #8

    Thanks! I actually have that book on my shelf. Maybe if I go to sem soon… But thanks for the recommendation. Of course, I should also make time to reread The Hammer of God…

  10. Richard Lewer
    March 31st, 2011 at 09:38 | #10

    Are such things taught at the seminary? They seem to be basic to a productive ministry. I don’t recall much about that when I went. Maybe they are considered just common sense, but that would be a mistake. Might be one of the reasons that the time in the first parish is often short – learning by making mistakes.

  11. Concerned Seminarian
    March 31st, 2011 at 10:46 | #11

    @Richard Lewer #10

    Actually, the class I mentioned in my previous post (first year, first quarter after completing languages) devotes a couple weeks to learning to use “Patience and Tact” in any ministry situation, particularly during your first few years at a new church. I actually think those may be 2 of Dr. Utech’s favorite words!

    Jason, Hammer of God is definitely a good book to read; it’s required reading for 2 of the first-quarter classes!

  12. revaggie
    March 31st, 2011 at 10:57 | #12

    @mames #2
    I have seen your scenario play out from the other side of the aisle so to speak. A pastor going into a congregation that was rather liturgically loose and insists on going full out chanting, chasubles, asking people at the altar rail the status of their confirmation, with no establishment of trust, no catechesis, and an attitude of its my way or the highway. My point it isn’t necessarily a characteristic of a specific agenda as it is a characteristic of an impatient and/or inexperienced pastor.

    In regards to the OP, I would love to see congregations assemble such a document, because a lot of unnecessary offense could be avoided. I remember vividly being chewed out by an elder on my vicarage because I came in and was trying to change the traditions of the congregation. My offense, I had them stand during the Hymn of the Day. Nobody had told me they sit for the Hymn of the Day and all the churches I had been in as laity and a sem student had stood for that particular hymn. I never in a million years would have thought to ask a question about which songs do they stand for or sit.

  13. Rev. Roger D. Sterle
    March 31st, 2011 at 11:25 | #13

    @Richard Lewer #10
    I received most of it from Pastoral Theology reading Fritz’s book on the same. Springfield, 1976 was when it was required reading. Sadly, that book is no longer used if my understanding if correct.

  14. helen
    March 31st, 2011 at 12:44 | #14

    Pastors sometimes get chewed out for following the rubrics in TLH or LSB, if someone in the congregation says “WNDITWB”. Other members may have been in places where they did do it that way before and liked it, but that makes no difference to the complainer if he thinks he’s the one whose comfort counts.

    I sometimes wonder why anyone wants to be a Pastor! (Sigh)

  15. Timmy
    March 31st, 2011 at 19:46 | #15

    Actually, why not include something like this when a call is made? Or at least when the call is accepted so the new pastor can get to know the congregation a bit better. Older congregations can hold to traditions more closely and can be more reluctant to change, so if the new pastor has chance to be better aquainted from the beginning the better it will go.

  16. mames
    March 31st, 2011 at 21:27 | #16

    @A different concerned seminarian #6
    Well said, I used it for its connotation rather than its true definition.

  17. mames
    March 31st, 2011 at 21:29 | #17

    In short not truly Pastoral, right?

    @revaggie #12

  18. David Rosenkoetter
    April 1st, 2011 at 03:00 | #18

    @Richard Lewer #4
    Good points. Perhaps, seminarians who have received their first call and newly placed vicars can make use of their upcoming congregation’s website. Having moved around the country quite frequently, I as a layman have found the web to be a valuable tool in getting a glimpse of congregational life as I have sought out Confessional congregations to attend. Okay, I admit it. Because of my heretofore frequent moves, I have found enjoyment surfing congregational website, bookmarking the different Lutheran resources and links they provide, and listening to a wide range of sermons on them.

    As for approaching his called vocation, a new pastor called straight from the sem needs not to go into a new location with a blank slate as to a congregation’s day to day livelihood.

  19. PPPadre
    April 1st, 2011 at 08:56 | #19

    Excellent idea!

    When I was finishing up and the Seminary, it was right at the time when interviewing candidates was transitioning from verboten to tolerated practice (on its way to its apparent current status of accepted practice). Congregations could interview candidates, but then expressed preference for a particular slate of candidates through their DPs rather than issuing a directed call. Our Director of Placement said, “Men, these congregations need to realize that these interviews are a two way street. If you are interviewed by a congregation and something comes up that makes you think this is not a good fit for you and your family, tell me. We will make sure you don’t get placed there. Two can play at this game.”

    There are already equivalent documents for pastors/parishes to the PIF. The supplemental documentation to the Diploma of Vocation gives objective particulars (congregational size, staffing, demographics of the community, etc.). Why not a SET as well?

    To address Richard’s concern fromComment #4, the congregational version of the SET wouldn’t be a blank piece of paper on which they were asked to write “what do you do differently than other congregations?” The SET for pastors consists of a battery of three dozen questions regarding particular topics – many of which could be repeated on the SET.

    For those who are not familiar with the SET, which most laity would not unless you’ve been on a call committee, here are the questions (I’ve put in bold questions that I think could easily be placed directly or with slight modification on a congregational version):

    1. Describe your understanding of the church and its mission, especially regarding outreach to the lost.

    2. Describe your understanding of the Office of the Public Ministry.

    3. What is your understanding of the role of the pastor as it relates to the role of the laity as members of the universal priesthood of all believers?

    4. Describe your commitment to the doctrine and practice of the Synod.

    5. Describe your pastoral approach and practice.

    6. Describe your personal spiritual disciplines, prayer and devotional life.

    7. What do you consider to be your strengths in ministry?

    8. Describe the areas of your ministry needing improvement and what you are doing to improve them.

    9. Describe your preferred practice regarding use of The Lutheran Hymnal, Lutheran Worship, Lutheran Service Book, other hymnals and songbooks.

    10. Describe your preferred practice regarding alternate forms of worship (Creative Worship, writing own liturgies, etc.).

    11. Describe your preferred practice regarding children’s sermons in the worship service.

    12. Describe your preferred practice regarding pastoral services (weddings, funerals, visitations, etc.) to non-members, non-Lutherans, or the unchurched.

    13. How do you view the charismatic renewal movement?

    14. How do you feel about working in a multi-staff ministry (pastor-pastor, pastor-DCE, pastor-school staff)?

    15. How do you view the ministry of the Lutheran school?

    16. Describe any strong preference you have toward a certain type of ministry.

    17. Describe your preferred Communion practice in view of Resolution 3-08 (Indianapolis, 1986) [quotes pertinent resolved regarding the practice of close communion].

    18. Describe your preferred practice regarding the priority of the Lord’s Supper in public worship, including its frequency.

    19. Describe your preferred practice regarding the use of common or individual cups for communion.

    20. Describe your preferred practice regarding first communion: before or after confirmation.

    21. Describe your preferred practice regarding the use of lay people (men, women, youth) to assist in worship, including as acolytes and lectors.

    22. Describe your preferred practice regarding women’s suffrage in view of Resolution 2-17 (Denver 1969) and as reaffirmed in Resolution 3-05 (St. Louis, 1995).

    23. Describe your preferred practice regarding the service of women in the church in view of Resolution 3-08A (St. Louis, 2004).

    24. Describe your preferred practice regarding the church’s involvement in human care ministries in the community.

    25. Describe your preferred practice regarding inter-Lutheran relationships and inter-Christian relationships.

    26. Describe the community or extra-congregational activities in which you have participated.

    27. Enumerate skills you have acquired (Clinical Pastoral Education, sign language, substance abuse, counseling, etc.) and other continuing education courses you have taken.

    28. What plans do you have for future continuing education and/or special skill building?

    29. What hobbies or activities do you pursue outside your regular work of ministry?

    30. How do you safeguard quality time to be with your family?

    31. Do you presently own your own home? How do you feel about home ownership for you and your family?

    32. Do you have any strong feelings or needs relative to the size of community in which you live?

    33. Do you have any strong feelings about the size of the parish where you serve?

    34. Describe any special health or personal needs which you or your family have which would enter into your consideration of a Call.

    35. Describe your preferred practice toward an interview by a calling congregation before a Call is issued.

    36. Is there anything else that you would like to share that might be pertinent to a calling congregation (e.g. intention to home school your children, special resources which would be needed, etc.?

    Of course, this all depends on the congregation answering truthfully and not saying what they think they want a potential pastor to hear. I was in a situation similar to what Pastor Sterle describes in comment #7, except I had asked the question, “What hymns do you prefer/like to sing?” The reply was “whatever you want to sing, Pastor. We pretty much know them all.” As it turns out, they only knew about 125 of the 660 hymns in TLH, but I was familiar with about 450 of them. You do the math: 2/3 of the hymns I selected each Sunday were unknown to the congregation. But nobody said anything for a couple of months because the Circuit Counselor had told them, “he’s a new, young pastor. He won’t always do things exactly the same way Pastor [their previous pastor of 35-years] did it. That doesn’t make it wrong, it just makes it different.”

    I dearly love that Circuit Counselor for preparing the congregation for the fact that a 27 year old Seminary candidate would not be a perfect clone of a 60 year veteran of the pastoral ministry who had served that congregation for 35 years. Looking back in hindsight, however, I do wish that he would have taught them the difference between informing (“Pastor, this is different than the way we’ve done it before. Can you go a little slower and explain why you are choosing to do it this way so we can get more comfortable?”) and demanding (“Pastor, this is different than the way we’ve done it before. Do it the right (that is to say, the old) way! Don’t they teach you anything at the Seminary anymore?”). Instead of the vocal submission of informing, he taught them to submit in silence (even when asked directly about something) – which doesn’t lend itself as well to catechesis and pastoral practice.

  20. helen
    April 1st, 2011 at 09:59 | #20

    @A different concerned seminarian #6
    In defense of the term “Herr Pastor,” it’s just a German honorific, like saying “Herr Professor” or “Herr Doktor.”

    Quite true, but I have heard amateurs in German translate it as “Lord” which it hasn’t meant, at least applied to people. That’s alright, as long as they don’t expect undue deference to their person… (deference to the Office, yes).

    @PPPadre #19
    Thanks for the “20 Questions”… plus a few!

  21. Eric Schlade
    April 1st, 2011 at 15:02 | #21

    Conflict is inevitable, combat (enemies) are optional. Just like interviews have gone (are going) from tolerated to accepted, soliciting more and more information from the congregations to try and better match what we/you/they think is a more suitable call is a bad practice.

    Move the congregations back to a better understanding of the Divine Call. Continue in proper training of our ministers and our flocks.

  22. PPPadre
    April 1st, 2011 at 21:59 | #22

    @Eric Schlade #21
    As much as I am an information junkie, I have often wondered if we wouldn’t be better off with Urim and Thummim when it comes to determining the candidate for a call. It certainly would highlight that this is God’s choice, not ours.

    A few years ago, Will Smith was asked about the longevity of his marriage (such longevity is quite rare in Hollywood). “It is amazing the solutions you can find when divorce is NOT an option,” he said. If pastors and parishes better understood that this is a Divine Call and not a hire/fire (in other words, divorce is not an option), I think many situations would be a lot better – pastors would be more apt to listen to how their parishioners hear in order to better teach them, and parishioners would be more apt to keep trying to grasp just what it is that pastor is trying to proclaim to them. We have to, because we are in this relationship for the long haul.

  23. David Hartung
    April 2nd, 2011 at 09:37 | #23

    @PPPadre #22

    Hallelujah! Someone sees this issue the way that I do!

    Folks, as some of you know, I am an SMP vicar, serving in every Sunday Word and Sacrament ministry. I say this so that some of you may have some idea where I am coming from.

    I have long been troubled by the fact that some congregations seem to be unable to keep a pastor. I am equally troubled by what seems to be a “starter congregation” mindset among our seminary graduates. I began in parish ministry in a very small congregation, who over the 50+ years of their life, seemed to average about two years to a pastor. They would call a candidate from the seminary, and two or so years later, that pastor would have taken a call to a larger congregation. Then they would go back and call another candidate from the Sem, who would do the same thing all over again. If memory serves, their vacancies generally ran anywhere from 9 months to a year. From what I had been told by the few folks who had been there for many years, it was during the vacancies that members would drift away to other churches. These churches were always larger and (since we were the only Lutheran church in town) non-Lutheran.

    I truly wish that both pastor and congregation would see the relationship as long term. I have a real hard time wrapping my mind around the idea that God intends for these churches to have to call new pastors every few years. My prayer is that God will use me right where I am, until it is time for me to retire, and I am hoping that time is a good 20 years down the road.

  24. helen
    April 4th, 2011 at 13:43 | #24

    @David Hartung #23
    My prayer is that God will use me right where I am, until it is time for me to retire, and I am hoping that time is a good 20 years down the road.

    Are you still in the congregation you began in?

  25. David Hartung
    April 4th, 2011 at 14:28 | #25

    @helen #24

    Miss Helen,
    I am not, and the circumstances of my move contribute to what I said in comment 23.

  26. helen
    April 5th, 2011 at 10:57 | #26

    @David Hartung #25

    Sorry! I expected a “yes”.

    Somewhere I got the impression that the reason for short route ministers was to enable them to be trained in the congregation they would stay in, indefinitely, (presumably because they couldn’t be spared to go to seminary).

    [Of course, the person who gave me that idea jumped ship as soon as he finished the course so I was probably sold a bill of goods.]

  27. Irische lutherische Rover
    April 7th, 2011 at 00:20 | #27

    My 2 cents:

    Some congregations are so static in their reckoning that they believe that the way “Pastor Metzelder” distributed the Holy Communion is the *Only* way to do it (ie the railing vs. “the pilgrim”) style. But when Pastor O’Hara comes to town, fresh out of the seminary, and he wants to do communion, gasp, weekly, then world war III begins. (Plus, he is Irish, gasps even more abound)…..

    My humor is my way of saying that congregations may have traditions, but most are adiaphora when tested against the historic confessions of the Christian faith and the writings in the Book of Concord. I am sure God isn’t going to get all Sodom and Gomorrah on a pastor for not having the organist play the same Advent hymns that have been played since Mrs Kertz first met Mr Kertz at the USO Christmas dance, circa 1943.

    So, the best option, as stated by the aforementioned responses, is to have some sort of written or verbal acknowledgment of both parties expectations. Perhaps the traditions, if they are so important, should be included in the call documents? The new pastor needs to be sensitive of his congregation; but if his new congregation’s hold on past traditions border on the idolatrous, then re-examination by both parties is needed.

    Shouldn’t we be more interested in the fact that most congregants haven’t read their catechism since confirmation? what about bible literacy? What about the lost souls living across the street?

  28. Jason
    April 7th, 2011 at 08:04 | #28

    Irische lutherische Rover :My 2 cents:
    Shouldn’t we be more interested in the fact that most congregants haven’t read their catechism since confirmation? what about bible literacy? What about the lost souls living across the street?

    Or have even read their catechism IN confirmation these days…. I have seen a few of these other programs that you follow THEIR book, do servant events, find creative ways to teach, but just do not even pretend to use the Small Catechism as a source. So sad…

  29. David Hartung
    April 7th, 2011 at 10:11 | #29

    helen :
    @David Hartung #25
    Sorry! I expected a “yes”.
    Somewhere I got the impression that the reason for short route ministers was to enable them to be trained in the congregation they would stay in, indefinitely, (presumably because they couldn’t be spared to go to seminary).
    [Of course, the person who gave me that idea jumped ship as soon as he finished the course so I was probably sold a bill of goods.]

    Miss Helen,
    The first SMP pastors have only been ordained within the past 6 months or so, and they still have about a year and a half before they finish the program. You may be thinking of the old DELTO program.

  30. helen
    April 9th, 2011 at 14:14 | #30

    By saying “short route” I meant to cover all the ‘less than seminary residence’ programs.
    Being supposedly “essential” to one congregation was an excuse, if not a reason. But if the short cut program is just “getting by cheap” and is meant to foist the less educated man on any of our congregations , it doesn’t have an excuse or a reason, IMHO.
    Sorry, having “put one seminarian through” Fort Wayne, I believe that’s the way to go.

  31. David Hartung
    April 9th, 2011 at 14:47 | #31

    helen :
    By saying “short route” I meant to cover all the ‘less than seminary residence’ programs.
    Being supposedly “essential” to one congregation was an excuse, if not a reason. But if the short cut program is just “getting by cheap” and is meant to foist the less educated man on any of our congregations , it doesn’t have an excuse or a reason, IMHO.
    Sorry, having “put one seminarian through” Fort Wayne, I believe that’s the way to go.

    “Foist”?
    I think it is time for me to leave this conversation. I have tried to conduct myself in a civil and open manner. To see my classmates, all of whom work very hard at their studies, parish work, and (for most) hold a full time job, referred to in such a manner is more than a little bit upsetting.

  32. helen
    April 10th, 2011 at 07:28 | #32

    @David Hartung #31
    I think it is time for me to leave this conversation…

    Don’t bother to go, David. I am probably a “minority report”, even here.

    The LCMS seminaries have been respected around the world for 150 years. I don’t suppose it would occur to you that you and your friends are being used to undermine those seminaries or to wonder why.

    Not that you are the only means of attack…. Or that you represent the first occasion.

  33. Irische lutherische Rover
    April 10th, 2011 at 20:03 | #33

    I wish the LCMS would refine how they find men to become pastors.

    I was curious about applying for seminary, so I looked at an application. One question asked basically: “Describe your role in the LCMS church in the last 10 years.” So, the assumption is that one has to be active for 10 years in the LCMS in order to be considered a candidate? What at about the biker dude that had a gift for ministry but has only been in an LCMS church for 4 years? Do his 7 years of previous lay speaking in a Methodist church count or are the Methodist not on par with LCMS Lutherans? Was he not “called” because the new Rome, St Louis, didn’t say so?

    I personally am discouraged due to the whole process. The harvest is ready but the workers are few. So some may have to become worker priests. So what? The bible says we have to earn our food or we don’t eat. Paul paid his way by making tents and laboring day and night so he wouldn’t be a burden on those he visited. Some days I just want to turn my back on God due to the lack of guidance I get from my pastor and district. Some days I just feel like an useless idiot.

    I am pretty sure Luther would be upset at how things roll nowadays.

  34. Pastor Joshua Scheer
    April 10th, 2011 at 23:30 | #34

    @Irische lutherische Rover #33
    You made an assumption that is not correct. I knew many men training to be pastors that had less than 10 years of experience in an LCMS congregation. Some of them are now pastors. The danger of less years is of course mentioned by Paul as he warns against selecting a “recent convert” to be a pastor (overseer). That is what the seminary is trying to be on guard for, which is for the benefit of both the congregations that will be served and the man himself (who may need some more years of being ministered to before serving).

    Yes, methodists are not Lutherans, and being in a Methodist church for many years can actually affect your theology greatly (in a harmful way). These things are all necessary things to be discussed and examined for the good of the souls which a man hopes someday to serve.

    I would ask that if you are interested in becoming a pastor, contact the seminary and talk with them. There is nothing that can replace resident seminary instruction. Your attitude toward the worker priest concept is good, but you should also remember the passages in the Scriptures which tell of a worker being worth his wages, giving those spiritual fathers a double portion and so forth. Paul’s tentmaking was his personal sacrifice (not expected of him, but he willingly did it). Some men are willing to make the same sacrifice. Some are forced to make it. As far as your “called” language goes, the inner call to the ministry (feeling or whatever people like to put it) is not always accurate to the Lord’s will. That is why we have public calls that come from congregations, which publicly confirm the Lord’s Divine Call of a man to serve as a pastor. Face it, we can’t trust our feelings (I know many women who have felt called to be pastors, contrary to the clear words of Scripture).

    As for your pastor, go and see him and express you concerns about his guidance. Ask him about getting more guidance from your district. I know the seminaries are more than willing to give guidance on this issue.

    It is good to feel like a useless idiot – helps us realize that God does His best in our weakness.

    Luther would be as disgusted today as he was in his own day at the condition of the churches (read the introduction to the Small Catechism for more on that).

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