Great Stuff Found on the Web — SETs and Calls and Stuff

Another excellent post from Pastor Peters over on Pastoral Meanderings:

The Pastor’s SET (Self-Evaluation Tool) is supposed to be a way that Pastors describe their theology and practice and uses both short and longer answers to questions as well as other typical tools to define themselves. There are those who would figure that I am about the most rigid Pastor in Synod when it comes to worship “style” and yet the two congregations I have served were no where near Lutheran practice and identity when I came there. In one the Synod assigned me as candidate and I stayed nearly 13 years. In the other, I arrived nearly 19 years ago and am still here. Both congregations moved from a more non-specific worship “style” (one with a non-Lutheran Gospel song book in the pews instead of a Lutheran hymnal) to a rich and vibrant liturgical service and both were restored to the hymnal of our Synod (first TLH, then LW, then LSB). Both moved from a twice a month or so Sacrament to a weekly Eucharist. I chant, wear full eucharistic vestments, introduced the chalice, purchased an organ, etc. — in both places. In both places the congregations grew in numbers (more than doubling, or, in the later case tripling in size). We expanded both buildings, started preschools, began food pantries, and made a name in the community where before we were rather invisible. In both congregations support for missions (particularly Synod and District) went from zero to close to 10% of our income. Both congregations were slowly introduced to Lutheran identity in worship but both have become fully identified with it. The first congregation has resisted many attempts to move them from this liturgical expression of their confessional Lutheran identity.

Do I get many calls? No. Most of the calls I have gotten can be traced to someone who knows me or knew me. Did the answers to the SET help or hurt in this? I do not have a clue. I do know that I have a reputation as an outspoken advocate of liturgical worship and confessional Lutheran identity and practice. In fact, one brother suggested that my blogging might have pretty well killed any prospects for another call (as if there were any for a man less than a decade to the customary retirement age). So I know that there are tradeoffs. I am not rigid but am perceived to be. I did not force a congregation to go anywhere or do anything. I told them up front who I was, what I believed, and that if I accepted the call, this is the direction I would be leading. I asked them what they thought of it. Most did not have a clue what to think. But I have been there for their crises, stood at their bedsides, knelt with them in prayer, baptized and confirmed their children, married family members, buried their loved ones, listened to them pour out their hearts, heard their confessions, and tried for work for their good (and not my own personal preference) along the way and they have learned to trust me — even though my vision of Lutheranism was foreign to theirs and to their past experience. Both congregations and, even I, flourished during our time together.

What is most damaging is when any Pastor has a clear personal agenda, imposes personal preference, and demands things before earning the trust of his people. I have seen damage done by confessional guys who come in with a me or the highway sort of attitude and I have seen the same damage done by those who come from the very opposite perspective but expressing the same attitude. In general, people want to trust and love their shepherds and, unless their past experience or their Pastor gives them reason why they should not, they will generally follow them anywhere (as long as they believe that their Pastor is working for their good). Unfortunately, some DPs and some people reading SETs and some people listening to rumor do not ever give some Pastors a chance.

Pastor Peters
Pastoral Meanderings

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord,, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

More of his work can be found at


Great Stuff Found on the Web — SETs and Calls and Stuff — 4 Comments

  1. Your two congregations grew and became more Lutheran in practice. They even grew in their practice of stewardship toward synod. What more could Synod want!?
    And yet the first one has had to fight to remain Lutheran.

    Something is very wrong with this picture.

    [Not that I’m unacquainted with it!]

  2. @helen #2

    Miss Helen, has this not been the nature of the Church since its founding? Were not much of Paul’s writings for the purpose of correcting one problem or another? Why should the 21st Century Lutheran Church be any different?

  3. @David Hartung #3

    Yes, David, even Paul was correcting problems in the early church!

    But I do not see much “correcting” being done, and I do see confessional congregations being undermined [or threatened with sale of their church buildings], for the “sin” of being faithful Lutherans, by all accounts.

    MN South would do better for the church if it sold its office building in lovely suburban Burnsville (where I understand it is) and moved back to the unused office space near ULC, (where I understand the district used to be.)
    [It’s a better neighborhood now.] 😉

    If the space is not big enough, perhaps the bureaucracy in MNSo is too big?

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