New Cartoon from Pr. Blazek – It’s Rough Out There for Some Young Pastors

This is a special mid-quarterly cartoon. We normally only post the cartoons from the Steadfast Qarterly but this time thought we would provide you a mid-quarter treat.

Click on the cartoon for a larger size; use your browser’s BACK button to return. You can view Pastor Blazek’s other cartoons by clicking here  or simply click on the Blazek button in the Brothers’ Cafe.

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.


New Cartoon from Pr. Blazek – It’s Rough Out There for Some Young Pastors — 34 Comments

  1. I know you know this Helen but it does not hurt to say it. “Cartoon” in this case refers to the media and not to the emotion that it elicits.


  2. I know it, TR.

    Yes, Weslie. And it is “contradictory”!
    We brag about having an educated clergy,
    but heaven forbid they should try to have an educated laity!

  3. Pastor Blazek has dared to mention the elephant in the living room. Do you supposed that our SP and DP’s would/could/might come to the defense of these men instead of letting, and at times being complicit, when congregations run them off/kick them out/starve them out? The elected officials speak well of them in general, but it’s in the nitty-gritty of a congregational vote to unjustly remove a pastor that words really mean something. I’d like to hear of jsut one DP who has disciplined a congregation for unjustly removing a pastor. Is there such an instance? And then, does that bespeak of the general trend or is it an exception?

  4. Based on previous cartoons by Rev. Blazek, captions tend to have additional meanings or the drawn characters often appear to represent specific people.

    With that in mind, note the “Bright!”, “Zealous!”, and then the question mark for “Idealistic?”

    One also wonders which seminary is being illustrated, and who the caricature of the bearded seminary professor is.

    Note in the upper cartoon that the professor and the graduating seminarians are all wearing clerical collars. And particularly note that one seminarian is wearing the clerical collar with the white neckband, which was invented in 1894 by an Anglican priest, Rev. Dr. Donald McLeod. The professor and two of the seminarians are wearing clerical collars with the Roman-style tab-collars. Does this signify something?

    The person on the upper left is labeled “Hopeful confessional membership of LCMS,” which, would presumably indicate LCMS congregations or LCMS ordained individual (individual laity are not members of the LCMS).

    In the lower cartoon, there is a comment, “Many new pastors’ ministries end within five years of graduation.”

    I did a quick google for information on pastoral attrition rates; there’s much ‘net discussion, but little hard or documented data. From a 2006 Church of the Nazarene summary: “The annual attrition rate of new ministers in the Church of the Nazarene is relatively constant at around 3% during the first 15 years of ministry.”

    From The crisis of younger clergy (Lovett H. Weems, Abingdon Press, 2008, p. 7), commenting on a study by Barbara Wheller at the Center for the Study of Theological Education of Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City:

    “The overall finding on attrition among all denominations is that it tends to be about 1 percent a year for the first 10 years, a rate much lower than many had assumed and not significantly different from other professional school graduates. Wheeler reports that United Methodist attrition rates are slower in the first 5 years (2 percent leave ministry and 4 percent leave parish ministry, compared with 5 percent for both categories across all denominations).”

    It’s not clear whether the attrition rate includes the involuntary attrition pictured in the cartoon. And is this attrition figure accurate for the LCMS?

    And one other thought – Does this cartoon represent a specific case?

  5. Carl Vehse: while your observations are interesting, I think you’re over analyzing.

    And then you even failed to mention the key words of the cartoon: “These new pastors aren’t willing to do it our way.”

    As a retired pastor I can say that it is hard – very hard – to teach and change practices when folk want their practices to continue regardless of the orthodoxy or lack thereof. I’ve been there and know whereof I speak. More power to the young pastors who try – and God bless those who support them in the congregation.

  6. Let’s talk about the preparation piece.
    While it is impossible for the seminaries to prepare young seminarians for everything they will encounter in their calls to congregations, I believe the Synod’s new SMP programs for “distance learning” does pastoral candidates a real disservice.
    They do not benefit from the interaction with seminary professors and classmates, and their training and preparation may be deficient.

    Anyone who has studied speech communication knows that face-to-face communication is the richest, as it includes body language and voice intonation. SMP candidates that take online courses may encounter communication barriers to their learning as a result of not having this interaction with professors and classmates. I do not feel that SMP seminarians receive the same level of preparation as their on-campus counterparts. Their “certification” does not hold the same weight as a result.

    Rather than supporting our seminaries theologically, educationally, and financially–the Synod appears to be more concerned about diverting funds to Ablaze! missions, and depriving seminarians of needed financial aid and resources in the process.

    How is that helping to better prepare seminarians to be future pastors, so that they do not leave?

    And why do Synodical officials spread rumors of closing the seminaries altogether? That should never even be an option.

  7. Hey, Heartbroken – where are your priorities? What’s more import to maintain: the Purple Palace or one of the Seminaries? Or whose salary is more vital for the well being of the church: a bureaucrat or a Seminary professor?

    Get real, man!

  8. Re: SMP. Have you looked into the actual requirements for SMP training. It’s pretty extensive and not just a walk in the park. There are very strict requirements that need to be met including the regular admission requirements, prerequisites needed before beginning and almost as many hours of classwork as for an MDiv and a TWO year vicarage rather than just one. I don’t think it’s as easy or slipshod as some make it out to be.

  9. Elnathan the younger: “Carl Vehse: while your observations are interesting, I think you’re over analyzing.”

    The March 5th cartoon seems to have a lot to analyze. Perhaps this one does, too.

    “And then you even failed to mention the key words of the cartoon: “These new pastors aren’t willing to do it our way.”

    My earlier comments were not meant to be a complete analysis.

    “As a retired pastor I can say that it is hard – very hard – to teach and change practices when folk want their practices to continue regardless of the orthodoxy or lack thereof.”

    Those practices which the folks want to continue regardless of the orthodoxy or lack thereof, even if it means throwing out a new pastor, were in essentially all cases set up, encouraged, or maintained by some previous pastor(s). But the CC and DP should have seen such heteropraxis back then and worked to correct it or remove the errant pastor and congregation from the synod roster. So your earlier comment is certainly valid and I’d also add that I’d like to hear of just one DP who suspended or removed a pastor and congregation from the roster for failure to maintain confessional Lutheran (and Missouri Synod) practices.

  10. Heartbroken,

    You make some good points. I would add that those in the SMP program do not get the benefit of daily chapel services in which they are nourished in the faith as they participate in liturgical worship and hear a variety of Lutheran theologians faithfully proclaiming the Word of God.

    Bob E.

    I am interested in learning more about the curriculum of SMP. Are SMP candidates required to take Greek and Hebrew? How much course work is dedicated to the New Testament, Old Testament, Church history and the Lutheran Confessions?

  11. Carl (#7)
    “I did a quick google for information on pastoral attrition rates; there’s much ‘net discussion, but little hard or documented data.”

    An internal study done by the LCMS just prior to my entrance into the seminary about 15 years ago found that most pastors stayed in their first parish an average of 5 years. I don’t know if that is what the comment refers to or if it is leaving the pastoral ministry altogether.

    I heard recently (but do not have hard data to back it up) that this timespan is down to 18 months! Since I’m well into my 11th year at my first parish, I don’t understand it. It hasn’t been a picnic, but it is where God has placed me.

    –The PPPadre

  12. Elnathan,

    My priorities are those that should be the same of every Christian.

    I believe in “incessant doctrinal purification” because God’s Word should not be perverted in any way.

    Oh, and I have this crazy Biblical notion that pastors that preach the pure unadulterated Word of God are worthy of DOUBLE honor.
    “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the Word and doctrine. For the Scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn; and the laborer is worthy of his reward.” 1 Tim. 5:17-18.

    Therefore, it is my duty, and the duty of every Christian to protect, defend, and support the pastors that do preach the pure Word of God, rather than “chewing them up and spitting them out”.
    [This can be found in the Table of Duties in the Small Catechism.]

  13. Bob E. #11,

    You obviously have NOT looked into the requirements of the SMP program.

    1. They are not required to have a 4 year degree to get into the program as M. Div students are.

    2. They take less than half of the Bible courses that M Div guys take.

    3. They have no residence time on campus.

    4. They have no Greek.

    5. They have no Hebrew.

    6. They get ordained after 2 years and have only 3 courses on the Bible by that point in thier training.

    7. They have no courses in person.

    8. All courses are done over the internet.

    9. Etc.

    How would you like to have your body operated on once, maybe twice in your lifetime by an M. D. who never set foot in a classroom? The body is only temporal.

    How would you like to have your soul operated on every week, 52 weeks a year by an S. M. P. who never set foot in a classroom. The soul is eternal.


  14. We might be mixing apples and oranges by comparing SMP and a 4-year sem MDiv. I’m not supporting SMP by any means, but I believe the folks that put this beast together were trying to drive a stake through the heart of the anti-scriptural (though increasingly ubiquitous) “lay-minister” programs hatched by anti-clerical DPs.
    The scriptures require the office, so it is non-negotiable. The MDiv (while I very much support it) is an institutional requirement.
    BTW, my second year out of sem Confessional Pastor is doing exceptionally well in our Schwärmer infested salt water district. The congregation is firmly behind him, and he is “repristinating” at a pretty good clip.
    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

  15. This does get me thinking though (sometimes a dangerous thing.)
    Let’s compare our Corporate Synodical structure, and the Bishops Luther railed against in the 16th century. Luther’s point was that, although the Bishops were probably pretty well educated, they basically wanted to act like princes, living off their ecclesial revenues while farming out the cure of souls to ignorant priests w/ little or no formal training.
    What have we got in LC-MS inc today? Ordained SP, DPs and numerous staffers w/ MDivs or better out of the pulpit, and a “clergy shortage” driving the use of SMP grads and worse in the pulpit. (With a week on my hands that comparison would make a nice paper.)
    Let’s leverage the web in a different way. Instead of using it to half-train men to do the work of parish pastors, let’s use the information highway to enable serving parish pastors to run and administer the Synod. Any job that is too big for a parish pastor could be split up between two, or done by a man w/ an assistant pastor under him. We could also go back to putting sem profs into local pulpits.
    Pax Christi+,
    Matt Mills

  16. We are a stiff-necked people.

    As an LCMS layman, I repent of the way we’ve treated our pastors. I’m not without blame in this.

    When our pastors speak in their office, when they (ever so gently) ask us to examine our worship traditions and communion practice in light of scripture and the Lutheran Confessions, then they are speaking prophetically, as Christ has called them to do; even if the guy is only 25!

    To abuse the messenger is to abuse the One who sends the message. The owner of the vineyard is not amused.

  17. Yes, I have looked into it firsthand. SMP isn’t always done over the Internet. They can take the courses at the sem if they are close enough. Also they spend two seminars on campus during their coursework. That may be more than many DELTO candidates are there. Many of the other shortcomings are true and I agree the program is not ideal. I’m not endorsing this as the end all or even the best alternative. So don’t get all testy on me now. I’m just an overworked servant in need of some gentle correction at times. Sorry I struck a nerve.

  18. In 2001 less then two dozen pastors and congregations filed a formal complaint against Benke for his YS heresy. Where were the other confessional pastors in the Synod? Did they not think the syncretism serious enough to put their name to a written complaint? The Purple Palace should have been hit with a tsunami of formal complaints from confessional pastors and congregations (as well as such congregations later voting to sever all ties to the LLL for being such gutless cowards in the firing of Rev. Schultz).

    Over the past eight years pastors and DPs continue to put out liberal heterodox garbage, such as recently noted on Steadfast Lutheran with PRAY 2009 and reclaim! from pastors hawking faith healing and theophostic prayers. No synodical members have filed formal complaints against these clowns to have their keisters booted out of the Synod.

    The Lutheran Witless and The Distorter continues to be a propaganda machines for the incumbent.

    Congregations see these events and all that is being done and what a perverted synodical structure is being hyped at district conventions (Has any delegate stood up and said the Blue Ribbon panel recommendation is a crock?!?). They see the efforts to make “shake and bake” pastors with little or no seminary campus training.

    Is it any wonder that some congregations think they too can dismiss a pastor and disregard of the Lutheran Confessions and the Synod’s constitution and bylaws and do whatever they feel like at the moment for a political or CGM agenda?

  19. I can name 5 pastors who were wrongly forced out of a call in the past 5 years.

    Heck, I can name 2 in the past few months. Neither had committed a gross immoral act, taught false doctrine, nor a gross dereliction of duties. They repented of very minor things like missing an appointment or getting angry with someone. Instead of repentance on the congregation’s part they used the minor issues over which the pastor repented as a reason to “vote him out.” Why is it the congregations don’t have to behave as Christians? That is, forgiving one another and reconciling.

    The real issue in these two cases were “worship style” and it snowballed into a power struggle for prideful congregation members.

  20. >>The Lutheran Witless and The Distorter

    Do we think we will accomplish anything by name-calling?

  21. I can name six in the past 18 months, all personal acquaintances. Most have been fellow attendees at CTS CE courses. (A friend, who survived an attempt, named several more victims.)

    (It may not be PC to know me, but…) The reason for lack of DP support may be having been a part of the confessional group.

    As Matthew points out, the district will be in there with CG/CW. I don’t know what you do about congregations who think that’s OK! (The members who don’t think it’s OK do their sympathizing like Nicodemus, by night.)

  22. Kaleb-That’s not name calling that is satirical usage (and quite common usage at that)

  23. >>The Lutheran Witless and The Distorter
    Do we think we will accomplish anything by name-calling?

    I don’t know about “we”, Kaleb, but I was using the terms as descriptives.

    A few years ago, I wrote to the Lutheran Witless about an article that, within the first dozen sentences, contained a dozen factual mistakes or misleading statements. I later talked to the author and he admitted he was not familiar with that topic (then why did he write about it?!?), but the LW editor would not allow the errors to be corrected in print. Since then I don’t bother to write them pointing out other erroneous, misleading, or spin-doctored statements.

    Caveat lector.

  24. It is difficult to discussing the topic of “It’s Rough Out There for Some Young Pastors,” in an informative way, expecially when people note “I can name 5 pastors” (in the last 5 yrs) or “I can name 2 in the past few months, or “I can name six in the past 18 months”…

    The difficulties (in addition to the desire to avoid names) include whether reference to these 13 pastors overlap; the age of the pastor – whether he was young (under 35?); whether he had less than 5 years as pastor or was a long-time (> 15 yrs) pastor; whether the pastor was a second-career pastor; whether the congregation he served was his first call; how long had the pastor been at the congregation before they removed him; whether the congregation had removed any pastor(s) in the past; whether the congregation had a long-serving pastor immediately before the new pastor was called; how long was the vacancy before the new pastor came; was he the sole, senior or associate pastor; whether the DP or his assistant was actively involved in the congregation’s calling process of the pastor; whether the congregation was a large church or a small church; urban, suburban, or rural; growing in numbers or declining; primarily older members or an age mixture; whether the church was founded over 80 years ago or within 20 years ago or in between; whether the church had a parochial school or not; whether the congregation owned or had only a small mortgage on its property; whether the congregation was involved at the time in an active building or expansion program; whether there had been a disruptive event in the congregation or community (e.g., member squabbles, factory layoffs, competing new church in the community, shift in member cultural composition, etc.).

    Specific to the actual removal of the pastor, any discussion needs to include the actual reasons given (whether they are valid is another issue) and not paraphrasing of what someone told another person about what they had heard someone else say they had read. Also what has been the involvement of the Circuit Counselor and DP before and after the removal? And, as previously commented, has the CC or DP helped the pastor in being called by another congregation, or have they helped the congregation call another pastor?

  25. I am completely sympathetic with the intent behind the phrases like “The Lutheran Witless” and “The Distorter” (though I’m not personally informed enough to be in unqualified agreement). But having said that, seeing that kind of language on this site concerns me a bit.

    First, I don’t agree that it counts as satirical usage. Satire is an artistic genre; its effective use requires a platform where artistic license and humor are expected. Satire is hard enough for some people to recognize within that limited context; step outside of that context, and many readers are guaranteed to get a completely wrong idea of what’s going on.

    In addition, I don’t believe such phrases can be effective as descriptives, and they are likely to backfire. If you are speaking to people who agree with you, it serves no purpose except to stir up emotions. If you are speaking to people who are uninformed or do not agree with you, then like it or not, the phrases really do come across as name-calling. They do not promote discussion; they are fighting words.

  26. Kaleb,
    If a magazine editor will not correct a dozen errors or misstatements of fact when they are called to his attention, the magazine can hardly be described as erudite or scholarly.

    What would you suggest to convey to the reader that believing all you read might not be a good idea?

  27. As much as we pity the pastors who are victims, the laity are genuinely confused. They see other congregations do what they want to see done at theirs–and these other congregations are in good standing in their district and synod. They see the congregation as “their church” to do what they think needs to be done. They see their call to the pastor as their “hiring” and therefore the pastor as their employee. No wonder they think they can get rid of him!

    Does this cast any new light? I’m afraid not, but I see it as a call to restore the proper view of the ministry. Senkbeil and Yahnke are doing a yeoman’s job working toward that through Doxology. If you would like to help some of those young pastors, support Doxology It happens slowly, one congregation at a time, but it’s still a start. Some of those young pastors on the ropes have already been helped through it. More will be helped as more laity discover what the ministry is all about.

  28. This most excellent cartoon should also be a good example why the BRTFSSG proposal of having congregations have a say in a pastor’s certicification is unwise and downright silly. This action wars against the office of the Holy Ministry.


  29. Helen, sorry I’m so late answering this. I’m pretty sure my answer won’t be popular anyway.

    It is my belief that anyone who genuinely believes they communicate anything useful through name-calling, has fallen prey to the quick-fix mentality. I know that’s harsh, but that’s how I see it.

    Whether these publications deserve respect or not, they are indeed respected. Given this state of affairs, you simply cannot change people’s minds by a little bit of clever wording. It will require a great deal hard work both educating people and providing credible alternatives.

    When I say credible, I mean true investigative journalism. Someone needs to do this. Right now, the only alternative we have to the synod’s official news sources, are people giving commentary on the rumors they hear or the websites they see. Oftentimes it is little more than gossip. This does not help our cause.

  30. I’m aware of one situation (told to me by the pastor’s son), where an LCMS pastor was pushed to resign by having his tires slashed twice, his children treated extreamely unfairly in the parochial school (he finely sent them to public school), and being given continual death threaths over the phone.

    Crazy stuff going on out there…

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