Challenging Article on Seminary Enrollment by Rev. Heath Curtis

Are there too many pastors? Should a seminary student have a back up plan for employment when he registers his enrollment? Is the practice of “lay ministry” bringing harm to the office of the ministry. These and other questions are addressed by Rev. Heath Curtis in a post on Gottesdienst Online. He has kindly invited BJS to consider posting a link to it. Without hesitation we encourage you to check it out by clicking here.


Comments

Challenging Article on Seminary Enrollment by Rev. Heath Curtis — 75 Comments

  1. After some thought and discussion with others, I have to disagree that the pastoral shortage is a myth. There may be a lot of pastors out there. However, a lot of us would agree that not all these pastors are faithful to Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions. We do need more faithful pastors.

    Concerning economics, my dad (who studies economics) suggests that the recent downturn in calls may be due to a recent downturn in giving (and therefore less congregational money to support a pastor), which, coupled with SMP, would lead to reduced calls. As the economy recovers, giving should recover at least partially as well.

    The clincher I think, though, is Matthew 9:37-38. Whatever the SMP program may be doing to calls and pastors, I don’t think that text is out of date.

    Of course, if I’ve misinterpreted this passage or any of the above evidence, I would be happy to receive correction.

  2. @tolonaro #11
    Are we that different from the situation of Loehe sending pastors to frontier America?

    It’s a little different, don’t you think? Loehe sent German Pastors to areas of America being settled by German immigrants. English was decades away from becoming necessary in those settlements. At one point, it was the second language in the one room public schools on the prairie, and there was serious talk of the Midwest being permamently German/English, in that order. [WW I intervened, I think.]

    To be useful in Africa, you might need French or a dozen dialects, which is not to say we shouldn’t be doing more over there. They want teachers of Bible and Lutheran doctrine. Some congregations lend their Pastors to Africa or Asia for short intensive courses, usually three weeks to a month, where they work with interpreters to cram in a seminary quarter’s work on a subject. I salute those Pastors and those congregations!
    [BTW, some who are doing it would be grouped among the “smaller, poorer congregations” by anyone looking on. All I can say is, “Blessed are the “poor” for they are rich toward God!]

    One or more circuits might pool their resources to provide a man with continuing support. Presently, some of us throw crumbs to LHF, to Pr. Mays’ organization, or to the project for Haiti, individually if we can’t persuade a congregation to help.

  3. @Nathan #51
    However, a lot of us would agree that not all these pastors are faithful to Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions.

    Nathan,
    If you can figure out how to get those faithful Pastors into pulpits, in the face of the indoctrination toward “entertainment” that is still going on, and the seeming preference of the DP’s for untrained men who won’t challenge them theologically when they invite “Pastor Ruth” over from the Pentacostals to talk to the “youth workers”.
    I will cheer you on!
    So will a lot of faithful confessional CRM/CSA’s here (and all over synod, I’m told).

  4. For those who haven’t gone back to Gottesdienst:
    Pastor Curtis is gathering some good comments over there, too.

    You might want to jump to the top and take another look.
    [“Check it out by clicking here” will get you there.]

  5. What I see sadly is a lack of proper support of the Seminaries and specifically it’s students by both the Synod but especially the laity. Can you imagine what a blessing it would be if every member of the LCMS increased their giving by just 1% in order to support these men?

    Whatever the intent, DELTO and SMP have become an “easy button” route to the ministry and I think we are poorer for it.

  6. Also, I really hate to see men like Nathan become discouraged before they even enter the Sem! Revfisk makes a valid point, but I hope and pray that we aren’t losing faithful men because they are afraid that after such an investment of education, time, & treasure they won’t be needed.

  7. @ Pastor Scheer (post #48)

    You wrote:

    “When the school exists to support the school, it has lost its foundation.”

    I counter:

    “When the seminary exists to support the seminary, it has lost its foundation.”

    University Professors busy themselves with the day to day practicalities of teaching and research. Other university employees (janitors, maintenance workers, cafeteria workers, etc.) work in small ways to assist the professors indirectly towards that end. University administrators care about maintaining high enrollment numbers and in increasing student retention and graduation rates.

    All of their concerns are geared towards the present well-being of students AND NOT the future well-being of those students. NOT ONE employee at a four year college or university is concerned with what happens to students after they graduate. (Sure, prominent and successful almumi function as nice targets for donations back to the university, but….) Higher Education is a business. Why should the seminary, as an educational institution, be any different in this regard.

    Is (Higher) Education an investment, or is it consumption?

    Is a seminary degree an investment, or is it consumption?

  8. @helen #53
    Yeah things are bleak, but the gates of hell, much less methobapticostalism, will not prevail against the Church. Against the synod? Possibly. Church? Of course not.

    I would think that if we want to get faithful pastors back in the pulpits, we have to catechize the next generation so that when they become laymen, they’ll know what a faithful pastor is and not try to run them out of the congregation. That, of course, is no easy task, and after sitting through two National Youth Gatherings, I can tell you that youth education in the synod isn’t exactly top-notch. When I have kids I’m going to teach them the six chief parts over and over again. I’m just a college student at this point, so the most I can do right now (I think) is start a Confessions reading group at this Baptist college here and pray that it catches on.

    Still, if God got His Church through the trials of every false teacher from Arius to Zwingli, He’ll help us get past the trials of rogue DPs and “Pastor Ruth”. We just need to pray and work faithfully.

  9. I entered the sem over 20 years ago for a multiple of reasons, one of which was the looming “shortage”, which, of course, never occured. I have studied the issue since then and have come to the conclusion that there is no shortage and there will be no shortage for a number of reasons.

    a. Many pastors are working past 65 and according to a survey, close to 90% are planning to work in the ministry past that age.

    b. Positions that years ago might have been filled with an assistant pastor graduating from the sem are today being filled by DCE’s DCO’s alternate route pastors and now the new SMP graduates.

    c. Increasing cost of health care makes vacancy pastors, retired pastors, interim pastors and bi-vocational pastors attractive substitutes to a small and medium size congregations with financial challenges.

    d. the average size of an LCMS congregation has dropped from 430 to 380 in the past 20 years.

    e. the total number of men on the clergy roster has increased by over 700 men in the last 20 years.

    f. the number of pastors serving as pastors, missionaries and teachers has decreased about 900 in the past 20 years.

    g. And finally, the average age of an LCMS member is over 55. The WWII generation is quickly disappearing and the baby boomers will also begin to die out at increasing rates. The way I see it, the LCMS will continue to shrink at a rapid rate and could easily shrink by 1/2 of the size it is today in 30 years. The latest LCMS annual statistical report shows that we are currently baptizing less than half the number of children we were just 20 years ago. Adult converts are also about 1/2 of what it was 20 years ago.

    My advice to a young man who wants to be a pastor is
    1. Don’t enter the sem with any debt, and keep debt to a minimum.
    2. Get some sort of job skill and experience before you enter the sem. You may need it. You might have to accept a bi-vocational call, or get no call at all. Its also very possible that you may have to return to secular employment. In fact, 1/3 of my graduating class from 1994 is already out of the pastoral ministry.

  10. @Todd Wilken #20

    Dear Todd,

    Your reply to my comment #20 gave me pause. I have been thinking over the weekend whether or not you might be right and I am wrong. I am always willing to change my mind on the basis of good argumentation. And you are one of the best debaters in our synod, so you really got me thinking.

    You are right that good intentions cannot make an essentially bad idea good. If an idea is bad in its particulars or non-essential attributes, then it can be reformed. But if the essence of the idea is bad, then no reform of it can make it good. So that leads to the question whether the Specific Ministry Pastor (SMP) program is ESSENTIALLY good or bad.

    Is SMP a violation of Augsburg Confession XIV? Not as our Lutheran fathers understood AC XIV. Kurt Marquart in his Confessional Lutheran Dogmatics book “The Church” (available at http://www.logia.org), pp. 145-150 discusses the issue of the legitimate call (“rite vocatus”) with relevant quotes from Luther, Chemnitz, Gerhard, Walther, and Sasse. The issue for these Lutherans was not whether the call process followed canon law, but whether or not the proper authorities were involved. Chemnitz says that “both presbyters [i.e., pastors] and people [i.e., laymen] are partners” in choosing and calling a pastor (“Examen” 2:709 and “Enchiridion” 34). SMP does not address that issue or violate it.

    Is SMP a violation of the LCMS official doctrine of the ministry, as found in the 1851 theses “Church and Ministry” and in the book by Walther of that name? YES. Is SMP a violation of the Treatise on the Power and the Primacy of the Pope? YES.

    Part of my thinking about this issue led me to re-read both the bylaws (2.13.1) and the original resolution (2007 5-01B, LCMS Convention Proceedings, July 14-19, 2007, pp. 133-138). Then I saw something I had not noticed before. That is in Bylaw 2.13.1. Regarding the SMP, it says “He shall serve under the supervision of his district president and another pastor who is not a specific ministry pastor.” It says nothing about the supervision of the calling congregation, although just adding that would not help.

    The whole idea, the ESSENTIAL IDEA, of SMP is (as I realize now) that he is UNDER the DIRECT SUPERVISION of a district president and another “fully-qualified” pastor (whom I am calling the “General Manager Pastor”). That means that the district president and the “General Manager Pastor” have absolute power to hire and fire and evaluate the SMP. The congregation has no say in the matter. The SMP reports to the DP and the GMP. No one else really matters.

    The first significant error is that this violates the EQUALITY OF PASTORS explained in the Treatise (see especially the Scriptural foundation, Tr 7-11, Tappert 320-321). The second significant error is that it DEMOTES THE SMP TO AN AUXILIARY OFFICE in our theology (Thesis VIII in “Church and Ministry”). The third significant error is that the CONGREGATION IS DENIED OVERSIGHT OVER THE SMP (Thesis X in “Church and Ministry”). The fourth significant error is that the SMP EXERCISES THE PUBLIC OFFICE IN THE NAME OF THE GMP AND DP and not in the name of the congregation (Thesis VII in “Church and Ministry”).

    This changes the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod in a significant way. It sets up a heirarchy that is antithetical to our history and our culture. It sets up a heirarchy that is found in Roman Catholicism and in Episcopalianism. From a Lutheran standpoint, it is an “episcopalian” error, which has also infected the ELCA through its fellowship with the Episcopalian church.

    Who is in favor of this? It is obvious from the data in my comment #14 that it is the big mega-churches in the LCMS. They are the ones using it right out of the starting gate. These are the pastors and lay leaders who control the “Jesus First” organization. And it is obvious that at least a few District President worked with the former Synodical President to get it through the convention, with the ESSENTIAL IDEAS intact.

    Why do the pastors of these big mega-churches want this? Why can they not call associate and assistant pastors, where there is a need for Word and Sacrament ministry? It is because most of these big mega-church pastors have the biggest egos this side of the Hudson River, and they cannot stand anyone having status in their flock that is close to theirs. It is all about status and power and egos. That is what the term “supervision” is all about here.

    Having thought through all the angles on this, I am not against Distance Learning that is administered by the seminaries. I am not against finding ways to have small rural parishes served by local men with stability, instead of the parade of young pastors that usually happens. I am not against finding ways to help our ethnic minorities get pastors more economically and more locally.

    What I am against, and our laymen should be against, is having PASTORS WHO ARE NOT ACCOUNTABLE TO LAYMEN IN CONGREGATIONS and PASTORS HAVING EXCLUSIVE AUTHORITY OVER OTHER PASTORS. This is bad. Very bad. It stems from the work of the Council of Presidents years ago on the concept of “Episkope.” Synodical Vice-President John Wohlrabe did a fine paper analyzing the errors of those Episkope ideas years ago. Apparently nobody listened to him in the circles where SMP was hatched.

    By the way, I have been accused of being against District Presidents. That is not true. I am not against the DP office as it existed in LCMS history and even as it exists now. District Presidents serve a vital function in our church, and when serving properly, lead it in God-pleasing order and the protection of congregations and church-workers. I am against, in principle, those individual District Presidents who use their office for self-aggrandizement, whether that is excessive salary, perks, excessive staff, and/or additional powers and privileges than what is necessary for the proper function of their office. I am against, in principle, those individual Pastors who use their office for the same.

    Pastors, you need to feel sorry for the SMPs who have been sold a false bill of goods. I don’t know the solution for regularizing those who are already rostered this way.

    You convinced me, Todd. I agree with you that SMP as a concept should be dumped, since the essential idea was episcopal supervision. The synod should return to a modified form of the DELTO program, whose graduates will have full and equal status as REAL PASTORS, both in their relationship to other pastors and to their congregations.

    Thanks for your comments and criticism, Todd!

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  11. Martin R. Noland :

    Frankly, the issue is not “cheap” SMP pastors–I daresay several of those brand new guys are drawing at least *my* level of salary–look at the demographics of where they are–Carmel IN; Birmingham, MI; Webster Groves, MO; Roselle, IL… Those are areas with some serious bucks. The issue isn’t money. I fear that the issue is turning out to be precisely what I feared in ’07–an ability to do an end-around past the seminaries, and (to my chagrin, since I was the one that made the accepted-as-friendly amendment to the resolution to prepare this SMP process at the ’04 convention to include the seminary faculties in the whole shebang) still have the public stamp of approval of the seminaries on all this, and these less-than-well-trained guys (no offense to any of the individuals intended). For 20 years and more, some corners of our synod have wished the seminaries (either or both) would just go away, because they turn out “theologians” not “pastors” (by which they mean, successful church marketers).

  12. Rev. Noland,

    I have come to deeply appreciate your ability to think about things theological in a very critical way, and to explain theological issues to use simpletons in words we can understand. Thank you for bringing to light what, to me, are very serious abuses of the SMP concept.

    If you’ll permit me to be so bold as to add to your last post. You mentioned the egos of large, mega-church pastors, and then speak about their inability to tolerate anyone else who may have status or power. I see another demon at play. Many of these pastors – not all, but many – hold great disdain for what is taught (or, rather, what is not taught) at either seminary. I have heard several mega church pastors speak with great arrogance about how they survived the boot camp of seminary so they could lead a congregation with their (the man’s) vision of how things should be taught, done and evaluated. SMP allows them to establish the local megachurch as a mini-seminary, where doctrine and practice can be taught the way the mega-church pastor thinks they should be taught.

    Control is a good word to use. SMP allows the local ministry staff to control the future and direction of the congregation by indoctrinating the SMP candidate into a particular theological and doctrinal ethos – one not taught (or not fully taught) at either seminary. Power is a good word to use. The local congregation has no accountability to the larger Synod for what is being taught or how the SMP candidate is being formed apart from meeting fairly loose criteria set for SMP by Synod in Convention and the seminary faculties. Ego is a good word to use because the local instructor/supervisor General Manager pastor is allowed to create a “Mini-Me”, and fire him if the candidate does not measure up to his standard for a charismatic, vision-focused, future-minded spiritual leader.

    SMP is a bad idea, and I personally doubt it can be reformed now that the horse has left the barn. The stats about who is making use of SMP speak volumes.

    The other abuse that I see taking place is when small, struggling congregations abuse a pastor who is retirement eligible by offering to pay his health care insurance, but leaving him to live on his retirement income. It sounds like a win-win, but it’s really abuse. Many congregations are living off the good graces of faithful pastors who cannot and will not say ‘no’ when asked to serve, even though they deserve as much as the rest of us an opportunity to live out our sunset days responsible to no one in particular save themselves and possibly a spouse.

    The model Rev. Curtis proposes, of limiting enrollment to the number being projected four or five years out, can only succeed if Synod mandates and enforces a set retirement age. So long as retirement-eligible pastors continue to serve where a vacancy exists – and allow those congregations to abuse them by failing to adequately compensate them – an accurate projection of future demand cannot be made. Alternatively, if a congregation chooses to compensate a retired pastor for his health care only, the Synod should mandate that they pay the equivalent of the median district salary into a district- or Synod-managed debt relief fund for young pastors whose congregations are paying a substandard wage.

    There is more about his article that I could comment about, including a terrible Catch-22 that exists, but I’ll let it end here.

  13. @#4 Kitty #45
    2 comments. 1. Yes. Have more children. Teach our people that having more than one or two really is a *good* thing. Your response was a straw man argument. Yes, procreation is a *key* element in the decline of the LCMS’s numbers over the last 40 years. How many families are there in *your* congregation (children officially residing at home) where there are 1 or 2 kids? How many where there are 3-5? How many where there are 6 or more? I suspect, though I haven’t done a scientific study, to be sure, that the rate of “retention” of the children in active membership in LCMS congregations is no higher in the case of the 1 or 2 kid families than in the larger ones, and perhaps is even lower.

    2. Regarding the issue of non-Lutheran kids in our Lutheran schools–lots can be said there. I’m generally with you on this. Having been a teacher for 8 years before the sem, I have some experience in this. 1st place I served was in an area with *lots* of Lutheran schools, in the Midwest. My school, however, was something like 60%-70% non-member, of which the vast majority were non-Lutheran. It was funny to me to hear folks from the coastal areas talk about how “We have to do things different here, (ie, water down the doctrine) because our schools aren’t like yours–mostly member kids.”

    The last place I taught was Luth. High East in Cleveland, the “black” school–85% non-Lutheran kids from *all* kinds of backgrounds–storefront non-denom, AME, Pentecostal, RC (yes, black RC kids) (and the “Lutheran” 15% *included* ELCA kids when that stat was calculated). My first year, we had some 180 students enrolled and over 100 different congregations/churches of all confessions represented among them. We had an ongoing conversation within our faculty of just what it meant to be a *Lutheran* high school. As one of the 2 main religion teachers, I remember once saying at a faculty meeting that my goal was that every kid that walked into my classroom would walk out more Lutheran, and, God-willing a few of them might actually publicly confess the Faith of the Small Catechism and join a Lutheran church. I was a bit surprised that that was taken as at least somewhat of a controversial thing to say.

    One of the difficulties in treating Lutheran schools as a mission –which I do support, actually–is that in many cases, it’s not clear to any involved what it means to be a *Lutheran* school.

  14. Pastor Wilken was kind enough to point me to the work of Dr. Naomichi Masaki of Concordia Theological Seminary-Ft. Wayne, “Augsburg Confession XIV: Does It Answer Current Questions on the Holy Ministry?.” I was glad to see that someone with the capability had done the heavy lifting of going through AC XIV thoroughly. There is enough substance there to bear re-reading and re-reading again. There are many with whom that kind of material can settle the issue. Propagate it, and other such material, as Pastor Wilken did with me.

    There are some, however, who will not read something like that, or who will faint along the way of reading it. Within this group are people who could be, and perhaps already would even like to be, your allies to establish AC XIV as a reigning article. How to enlist them? And not just an opportunistic enlistment. But how to do the right thing by the right method.

    So I have been looking for another tack, so that the work can proceed along simultaneous, twin tracks. As I was thinking about this, for other reasons I listened to the White Horse Inn interview of Mollie Hemingway about the, what to call it, thing that happened that took Issues, Etc. off the air. Ms. Hemmingway mentioned that the pew rose up in the 70s and essentially put out of the seminaries the Neo-Orthodox, or Existential, or High Critical (whatever is the accurate term) professors who in essence denied the doctrine of Scripture. I was in the ALC, not in the LC-MS, so, although I had heard that the pew did something like that, I was never sure until now. Would that the pew of the ALC had done the same.

    How might the pew be enlisted? For the pew, it needs to be done straight off the text of Scripture.

    I think it can be done if we start with, for example, Eph 4:11-12. The saints are not without a ministry. They have a general ministry. They carry it out in vocation. I represent Christ when I work in a shop and fix distressed people’s flat tires. They carry it out in the Church. They hear memory work of confirmation students. But there are five specialized ministries that Christ himself gave: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers (or maybe that’s pastor-teachers). The fact that these five specialized ministries, so designated by Christ himself, exist in no way abolishes or deminishes the general minstry of the saints. But the ministry of the saints cannot pretend to be any of these specialized ministries. A pastor is a gift of Christ to the Church.

    If we can begin with some reverence for the Word, some reverence for Christ, and some due appreciation of special gifting, and combine these with additional relevant scriptures, perhaps we can make AC XIV vigorously plain to the pew.

  15. Marty,

    I’m glad you were convinced that SMP is a bad idea. Although I didn’t convince you; your own careful study and thinking did.

    As for DPs, if all of them had your knowledge and commitment to the Confessions, we wouldn’t adopt bad ideas so easily.

    TW

  16. @Martin R. Noland #60
    It is because most of these big mega-church pastors have the biggest egos this side of the Hudson River,…

    LOL! Not including the other side of the Hudson omits one outsize ego, don’t you think? Sometimes it isn’t the size of the church….

  17. @helen #66

    Dear Helen,

    Maybe I should not have made that comment without explanation, but I didn’t want to go off topic. Now I guess I will have to go off topic.

    I was not speaking about any particular individual–seriously, I was not. I was trying to help people understand a phenomena through hyperbole, based on a known phenomenon called the “New York Attitude” (check that phrase out on Google). Billy Joel had a song about the “New York State of Mind” that was based on this. Let me explain. . .

    New Yorkers know that they live in what is by far the most populous city in the USA (twice as many people as the next largest). It is a world unto itself by virtue of its size, density and diversity of population, economic activity, and cultural life. It has the largest concentration of people, income, finance, industry, and transportation of any urban area in the USA. All these are simple facts. Look them up in any almanac (which is probably published in New York).

    New Yorkers think that they, as a people, are inferior to no one on this planet . . . except for Bostoners and New Englanders. Citizens of Boston and New England have some claim against New Yorkers due to their history, their cultural icons (Harvard, Yale, Brown, Dartmouth, the prep schools, various authors, artists, and intellectuals), and the fact that THE revolution started in Boston.

    New Yorkers know that as soon as they stand up to brag about something, their more genteel cousins from New England will quietly, but surely, find something superior in New England. So the cultural divide for New Yorkers and New Englanders together is the Hudson River. Starting with New Jersey, the rest of us live in “Middle America.” We were the “settlers” who have just “settled for less,” in the mind of New Yorkers.

    Now before you get upset about this, just remember that the al-Queda pilots did not attack the office buildings in downtown Peoria. They attacked where they could do the most damage in one strike: Pentagon, White House (the plane that went down in PA), and Wall Street. If Islamic radicals believe that New York is the center of the western-capitalist world, then it must be.

    So now, how this applies to Lutheran mega-churches: The pastors of these churches direct what are by far the most populous Lutheran churches in the USA. They are worlds unto themselves by virtue of their size, economic activity, and cultural life. They have the largest concentrations of people, income, finance, and industry of any LCMS churches in the USA. All these are simple facts.

    Not all of the pastors of these churches fall into the temptation of “outsize egos” (your term) to match their church’s size, but many do. It is a spiritual temptation that can cause problems for them, their familes, their congregations, and for the rest of us when they use their size to try to get their own way. It is as serious a spiritual temptation as the “outsize egos” of many of the academic theologians at Concordia Seminary in the 1950s-1970s, which caused nothing but grief for all of us.

    By the way, I am not a New Yorker or New Englander, but I lived there long enough to understand this part of the USA.

    I suggest that further discussion on Specific Ministry Pastors continue on more recent posts. See the most recent one posted by Todd Wilken yesterday (Feb 22, 2011).

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  18. There is way too much infighting within the LCMS to experience joy. Hang out at most Lutheran blogs, watch the politics in action, and get discouraged. Do you want to become an LCMS pastor and become embroiled in that mess. Growing denominations (and non-denominations) don’t have the kind of rabid sectarianism that is tearing the LCMS apart.

    If Hermann Sasse were alive today, he would most certainly reject the Church Growth Movement and the corresponding ABLAZE! program within the LCMS. How is there joy in being a confessional Lutheran when the LCMS is actively promoting a theology foreign to the Lutheran confessions. Do you want to become an LCMS pastor so you can learn Church Growth Movement theology at the seminary.

    What is the likelihood of the Koinonia Project addressing these issues.

  19. @Martin R. Noland #67
    By the way, I am not a New Yorker or New Englander, but I lived there long enough to understand this part of the USA.

    Having spent 14 years in “Joizy”, I should have understood your remark and kept my 🙂 to myself. Sorry, Pr. Noland!
    [Some people born in Newark, BTW, think that people are still in danger of being scalped in Ohio and points west. (Zane Grey did write about it!) Their notion of the “civilized” US extends to Pennsylvania, because they know the Poconos.] ;(

  20. @helen #69

    Dear Helen,

    No harm done and no offense taken! 🙂 I just didn’t want anyone to think that my comments were personal in nature. If you lived in Jersey, you do understand my remark, I think.

    Thanks for your comments and insights at BJS!

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  21. @James #68
    “Growing denominations (and non-denominations) don’t have the kind of rabid sectarianism that is tearing the LCMS apart.”
    There are two types of growth, the LCMS is not growing numerically, but there is growth in the knowledge of the truth (confessionalism is on the rise). The denominations don’t have the infighting because they don’t have a set standard of belief. They are usually Gospel reductionists (can’t we all just believe in Jesus?).

    “How is there joy in being a confessional Lutheran when the LCMS is actively promoting a theology foreign to the Lutheran confessions.”
    Luther found his joy in the midst of the struggle. Taking our joy from our situation in this world would reflect a theology of glory. Not to say that we can’t have joy from certain situations, but we just need to know that it is not lasting joy. We take our lasting joy from what Christ has done for us. So even in the midst of a horrible day there is joy. There is joy under the cross, because we know who placed that cross upon us, and what He has promised to us. You want joy – look to Jesus.

    It is an exciting time to be Lutheran.

  22. As to paying for pastors serving small congregations, can we consider the model used in the SELK (Germany) and, I believe, in the WELS here in the US? If I remember correctly, they pay their pastors out of a common fund to which all congregations contribute according to their ability / membership.

    So, it doesn’t matter if you serve a very small congregation, you’ll still be paid as much as your pastor brother in a larger congregation, with the same amount of experience, that is, years of service (and there won’t be “excessive” salaries a the top end of the spectrum).

    I also heard that the WELS is busy starting small congregations all over the rural Midwest. With their payment plan, they can sort of afford it, where we, apparently stuck in the congregational finance business, can only call for layministers and worker priests.

    But maybe I’m all misinformed, and too much on the “egalitarian-state-church track”…

  23. @Pastor Scheer #72

    You wrote:

    “The denominations don’t have the infighting because they don’t have a set standard of belief. They are usually Gospel reductionists (can’t we all just believe in Jesus?).”

    What you write makes sense, and it should be shouted from the housetops! My point is that many church shoppers who would consider the LCMS get a whiff of the ruthless infighting and then run to a methobapticostal non-denominational “Christian” church, where the atmosphere is calm and peaceful.

    @Holger Sontag #73

    This would destroy the “pastor as CEO” concept in the Church Growth Movement. I love it! Has anyone suggested this to Pastor Harrison?

  24. I really appreciate Pr. Curtis’ thinking on many issues; he is a blessing to the synod. After reading the comments, I was wondering if any of you pastors had any thoughts on an issue related to seminary expense and our decline in membership. Do you think the hefty price of seminary has any influence on a seminarian or pastor’s temptation to use forms of birth control/pregnancy prevention? I don’t want to speculate too much as it is the Lord who opens and closes the womb, but I have noticed in looking at the Pres, VPs, and sem prof bios that very few of them have ‘larger’ families. I’m not sure what the situation looks like for pastors across the synod as a whole. In light of Pres. Harrison’s recent admonition for us in the synod to be fruitful and multiply, do you think that the seminaries are having a negative impact in this regard? I’m joining the discussion late, but if any of you have any insights, I’d love to hear them!

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