“Styles” of Ministry

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God (1 Corinthians 2:1-5 ESV).

Saint Paul came to Corinth to speak the Word of Truth to those who claimed they had “wisdom.” But what if the “wise” Corinthians told Paul to go elsewhere because his “style” of ministry clashed with their notion of what is a Christian congregation? What if the Corinthians preferred a Hymenaeus of Ephesus who would tell them what they wanted to hear in an erudite fashion rather than Paul’s plainspoken speech?

Granted this comparison is a stretch, but we see something like this in The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod today. There seems to be a notion of various “styles” of ministry among different congregations.

For example: a predominantly white, affluent, suburban congregation would rather call a pastor who can fit his preaching and teaching with the lifestyle of the calling congregation. The pastor is expected to be keen on how white, affluent, suburban Lutherans want to worship. He should write sermons with illustrations easily understood by his target demographic.

On the other hand: a less affluent, older-skewing, rural congregation would rather call a pastor who is a “Word and Sacrament” guy. He is liturgical, sacramental, and prefers hymns on the organ or piano over a praise band. He’s a Word and Sacrament guy that won’t fit anywhere else but away from the city and the suburbs.

Then there’s the pastor who is willing to fit any mold forced upon him by any congregation. He is truly “all things to all men” in order that he might save some. “What do you need me to be,” he asks. He can be anything to anyone, while at the same time being nothing. All that matters is that he is liked.

Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 2 should not be read as a particular “style” of ministry. Paul does not fit any mold. He preaches Christ crucified. He finds his identity in the cross. Paul lets the Word do the talking. He gets out of the way in order that Christ is proclaimed the Way.

There’s lessons to be learned here for both pastors and laymen. Pastors: Be who you are trained to be. Do not give way to “styles” of ministry. You are trained to be a Lutheran pastor. Please be one for the sake of the Church. Preach the Gospel. Administer the Sacraments. In turn, be fed as you feed others. Laymen: Don’t try to “shoehorn” your pastor into someone you wish he was. The Church is not about success. The Church is about crucifixion and resurrection. We die to sin and rise in Christ. Bury success in the tomb, in order that a new creation may rise in its place.

It is in the way of Corinthian “wisdom” to perpetuate the myth of “styles” of ministry. There is one Office of Preaching that gives the Gospel and the Sacraments. Let’s not make the Preaching Office into a changeable mode of operation. Let’s remember why Christ instituted the Ministry: for the forgiveness of sins. Let’s remember our Lutheran identity, that is, our catholic identity in the conservation reformation. That’s the “style” that never goes out of vogue.

About Pastor David Juhl

The Reverend David Michael Juhl was born June 1, 1972 in Du Quoin, IL. He was born from above by water and the Holy Spirit on June 18, 1972 at Bethel Lutheran Church, Du Quoin, IL. He was confirmed on March 23, 1986 at Bethel congregation. He attended Du Quoin public schools, graduating from Du Quoin High School in 1990. He attended John A. Logan Junior College, Carterville, IL, and Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL, graduating with the Bachelor of Arts in Radio and Television in 1994. Before attending seminary, Pastor Juhl was a radio disc jockey, working for WDQN Radio in Du Quoin, IL and volunteering at WSIU/WUSI/WVSI Radio in Carbondale, IL while a student at SIU. Pastor Juhl is a 2002 graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN. He served his vicarage at Faith Lutheran Church, Tullahoma, TN. His first charge after graduation was Trinity Lutheran Church, Iuka, IL, where he was ordained and installed on July 7, 2002. He served Trinity until March 4, 2007, when he accepted the Divine Call to serve Our Savior Lutheran Church, Momence, IL. Pastor Juhl is married to the former Rebecca Warmuth since October 3, 2003. They have one daughter, Catherine, born September 3, 2004, and two sons, Matthew, born October 11, 2008, and Christopher, born August 12, 2010.


“Styles” of Ministry — 33 Comments

  1. Great post!
    I made the grievous error of trying to morph myself into the pastor that my congregation wanted me to be. It was a huge mistake–one that I’m paying dearly for now that I’ve realized where I went wrong.

  2. 1 Peter 5:2-4 offers the best advice for a pastor:
    Be shepherds of God’s flock….it is God’s people not yours.
    Serve willingly….trust that this is where God wants you.
    Not greedy for money….do ministry for God not paycheck
    Serve eagerly….give ministry your best effort
    Do not be domineering…..be a humble servant of God
    Be an example to the people….reflect Christ in word and deed

    It does not matter if your parish is rural, urban, or suburban.
    Your call is to serve the Lord and be the shepherd of the souls
    entrusted to your care by Him. Proclaim Jesus Christ as the
    Way, the Truth, and the Life.

  3. Great post, Pr. Juhl! A great deal of what our synod suffers from can be addressed in some of these key passages in 1 and 2 Corinthians.

    I also think from 2 Corinthians 4:1-7, this is a key passage for the LCMS today, especially in places where there are several LCMS churches in driving distance:

    4 Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. 3 But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. 5 For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.

    Our practice conveys our underlying theology. “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man.” Style is usually not just style. There are various personalities of pastors in the office, but that’s God’s choosing to manifest His glory in our weakness. The Lord’s Gospel isn’t about the pastor’s personality quirks or foibles or his strength’s for that matter. The Lord hides His glory in order to reveal it for our salvation. The modern emphasis on leadership and such is exactly that, a modern emphasis. When Scripture speaks of the shepherd leading it is chiefly in leading the flock to the green pastures and still waters of the Word and Sacraments.

    When St. Paul speaks of being “all things to all people,” this isn’t really talking about engineering the liturgy to fit fads, tastes, and to indulge culture or worse, the old Adam. It is talking about addressing the preaching of the Word to the situation of the people, not liturgical tinkering or making the church a parody of the local culture. The Church is its own culture.

  4. It is not that you morph yourself into being what they want, as this post reads, your style will change to “get the job done”, to “preach Christ crucified.” Yes, find your own identity and do it. I think Pastor Juhl is saying, “don’t be a bull head”, study your people and give them what they need, the cross, the Word, etc.

  5. This is a difficult task. In content there should be as great a uniformity in our preaching as there is in the bible. One Christ, crucified and risen, bestowing on His people the gifts of His grace in Word and Sacrament. Yet, there must also be an appreciation of your congregation and how they hear based on the world they live in. I preach in silicon valley and my preaching illustrations and style reflect that and may, in fact, be found difficult by a more agriculturally based audience in farm land. The message must remain biblical and confessional, but the manner in which it is delivered must meet the people where they are. Even Paul did this.

  6. Oh yes, this is a great and difficult task, but that is what is being lost in many pastors of today, they need to “get to know” their people, so they can then “deliver the Message.” We are pastors, called to our chunk of the kingdom; it is an excuse when pastors fail to get to know their people and their needs.” And as Lutheran pastors, we should follow our historical leaders, they brought the Gospel, the Service, etc. to the people in their words, their needs.

  7. And then you get to the placement process at the seminary where they ask you all about your “style” so that they can place you in the right type of “ministry”. You find out there are churches interviewing candidates but only ones who will do contemporary worship. Then you fill out your SET and are asked what type of worship style you are comfortable with and prefer. And it goes on and on and on. I’m not sure we can ever undo all the “style” we’ve brought into the church.

  8. From a layman’s perspective, ministry “style” is reflective of a particular pastor’s spiritual strengths and preferences and his need/desire to use that strength in the congregational setting. Sometimes this style meshes with the congregation’s strengths and sometimes it does not.

    At my own congregation the pastoral and lay leadership has made a conscientious effort to function in a manner that is not solely based on the ministerial strengths of the pastor. This has been done to assure that the congregation does not become pastor-focused. We work to uphold the pastoral office, regardless of who fills that office at any particular time. This is in recognition of the fact that the pastor is a temporary shepherd, who is here one day and may be gone the next.

    Certainly some pastors might balk at the idea that laymen would view them as a “ship passing in the night.” But I have seen the negative impact one puffed-up pastor can have on a congregation and the wreckage left behind when he finally moved on.

    Believe me, it is possible for a pastor to correctly preach the Gospel, properly administer the sacraments and still leave a congregation in shambles.

    Years ago I was against the idea of interviewing candidates for a call. That was before we suffered through a couple of bad pastoral experiences. Since then we have always conducted telephone interviews with pastors under consideration for a call in order to make certain that what is set forth in their informational documents conforms to their own statements.

  9. @Rev. Kurt Hering #8

    How about respect, friendship and encouragement to “get the job done” and “preach Christ crucified”?  

    Mutual disrespect and discouragement among quite a few clergy is what dismays us clueless laymen.

  10. What folks are hirelings? The pastors that cannot and refuse to respect one another?

  11. @John Rixe #10
    “How about respect, friendship and encouragement to “get the job done” and “preach Christ crucified”?
    Mutual disrespect and discouragement among quite a few clergy is what dismays us clueless laymen.”

    You presume to reprimand and correct pastors, then claim to be a clueless layman. You cannot have it both ways.

  12. J. A. O. Preus II: You men, whether you are Senior College or seminary, are going to be entering a kind of new church that in many, many ways is different from what it has been. I think this is due partly to conditions and situations within the Missouri Synod itself, and also due to the situation within the Church. … You’re going out into a church and into a society which is going to expect you to be interested in evangelism; in proclaiming; in telling the old, old story. And into a church that expects you to be a rather traditional and conventional theologian. And this would true whether you were in the Missouri Synod, or the LCA, or the Methodist, or the Baptist. The day of the revolutionary, the day of the cook, the day of the nut is pretty well over. Now it may return, but it’s pretty well over at the present time.

    Whether you’re talking about minorities or whether you’re talking overseas work or the church at home back in Arapahoe, Nebraska, you are talking about a church that is very interested in missions, evangelism–just plain strait church work–and good theology and biblical teaching and biblical preaching.

    I think that one of the chief tasks that you as future pastors are going to have in the next decade will be to try to restore the confidence that lay people want to have and should have in their pastors. This is not a small thing. And there’s only one way you’re going to do it. You’re not going to do it by phony baloney. You’re going to do it by legalism or saying, “You’ve got to love me”–that kind of approach. You’re going to do it by faithful preaching of the Word and faithful carrying out of the duties of your office. The lay people have got a pretty good idea of what a pastor is supposed to be doing. … People are looking at pastors. And pastors are going to be expected to perform.

    [The lay people] are dying to do things. And when you get out into the ministry give them something to do. Particularly hold before them the challenge of missions. I get very distressed going to anniversaries as I do about 30 Sundays a year–hundredth anniversaries, two hundredth anniversaries. The older they get the better they get. And it bothers to see how many of them are buying cushioned pews in honor of their centennial. And it’s very symbolic. Just simply tell them, “If the hemorrhoids are that bad bring a cushion or a life saver type thing.” But get that church doing something for missions. Get that church doing something for people in the community, and in the other parts of the country.

    No matter how you look at, all kinds of interesting and exciting things are happening in many parts of the world. And I do hope that as you men enter into the ministry you’ll catch the spirit. You’re entering the ministry at a really wonderful and exciting time and some really fabulous, fantastic things can happen even by us poor mortals with our clay feet–and some of us are clay all the way to top of our heads–and yet the Lord can use us and the Lord is using us.

    “Synod President Speaks to Faculty and Students”
    Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana
    December 10, 1976

  13. From the main post: “Then there’s the pastor who is willing to fit any mold forced upon him by any congregation. He is truly ‘all things to all men’ in order that he might save some. ”

    That brings to mind this Bible passage:
    “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.” 1 Corinthians 9:22

    But the post concludes, “All that matters is that he is liked.” If the reason for accommodating congregational preferences is to “save some,” then it seems to me that being liked is truly not all that matters to such a pastor.

  14. “Styles of Ministry?”

    C’mon, already! Don’t you remember that we’re all ministers? That’s where the action is–that’s what makes the church the church. And look at how wonderfully that concept has succeeded.

    I rest my case.

  15. @Rev. David M. Juhl #14
    “Frankly, laymen ought not be surprised at the lack of cordiality among pastors of our synod, even among like-minded pastors.”

    Yes, Pastor Juhl, there is a long history of sharp disagreements among like-minded pastors:

    “But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord.” (Acts 15:38-40)

  16. @John Rixe #19
    Pharisees were not repentant. The sinners were. An unrepentant false teacher is not to be respected, we are commanded to mark and avoid him.

  17. Laymen have trouble noticing all these unrepentant false teachers. Who are they?

    Jesus only welcomed repentant sinners?

  18. What I would like to know from those commenting who advocate marking and avoiding unrepentant false teachers is what *you* are doing to mark and avoid false teachers? Have you begun the process of filing false doctrine charges against these teachers? Have you begun the process of taking your congregation out of fellowship with the Missouri Synod, Wisconsin Synod, etc.? Are you doing something to alleviate the problem where you serve?

    If you answer “no” to these questions, then please stop making passive aggressive comments concerning the state of our (or your) fellowship until you are doing something about it.

    Now, back to the OP. What say you all to the notion that I have heard about “styles” of ministry or “styles” of pastors? Does this hold water in Holy Scripture? The Book of Concord? Your thoughts, please.

  19. I think we should be a bit more honest — it’s not just about styles of ministry or styles of pastors… as though these styles are just like fashion trends, to be changed at a whim. It’s a bit deeper than that — it’s not a “shall I wear a red shirt or a blue shirt today – what’s in fashion”. This is about projecting an identity. This is about style like the person who wears the spiked leather collar is about “style” – there is a statement being made by the fashion.

    Different styles denote different cliques that are often opposed to each other. The preppies dress different than the punks than the metal crowd than the stoners. And they want to be marked as different.

    So… the question becomes, if you affect a style, if your congregation says, “This is the image we want to project, the style we want to affect” — what is your point? Sadly… I’d wager often the point is “We are more _________” than our neighbor…. Rich, rebellious, free, casual, independent, respectful — all self focused and not focused on Christ.

    We are like high schoolers… maybe on a good day.

  20. @Pastor David Juhl #22
    If we define “style” as simply how we “do” Word and Sacrament, then no, there should not be different “styles” of ministry and we should stop such nonsensical talk within synod. Look at the two big examples in the New Testament, Paul and Peter. Who would have pegged that Paul, a Jew amongst Jews, would be the missionary to the Gentiles? Or that Peter would minister primarily to the Jews? Yet when they understood their mission as simply to proclaim Christ and Him crucified it didn’t matter who they were sent to, the mission and the Gospel proclaimed remained the same. Perhaps pastors should take that into account as well. It certainly makes many of our desires for a certain “style” of ministry seem selfish.

  21. @Pastor David Juhl #22
    Actually, I have. Romans 16:17 and Titus 3:10 is not passive aggressive, it is a command. The synods will not follow through in cleaning their membership rosters: either they ignore errorists and persecute the righteous, or they are sectarian by marking and avoiding those who preach/teach purely and rightly administer the sacraments. Thank God the synod is not where the marks of the church are found, or there would be no place to take my family to be fed.

    And even if I had “done” nothing so far, there is nothing “passive aggressive” about speaking the truth.

    @John Rixe #21
    Mr. Rixe,
    Seriously…are you really going to try to redefine the debate? The pharisees heard Jesus and rejected him. The ‘sinners’ heard the voice of their Shepherd and repented. Jesus comes to save sinners. This does not at all suggest we can just smile and nod at false teachers.

    If layman are having trouble identifying unrepentant false teachers, start studying pure doctrine in earnest. Adopt a Barean-like spirit. Test the spirits. Be about your Father’s business learning theology. Otherwise, just feel free to sit back and mumble hymns that people don’t bother to understand.

  22. Hmmm, I think Pastor Juhl is summing things up this way:

    01) Yes, we should always find the errors and (best we can) call them out, yet we (my note) should not neglect the flock to pursue the errors in towns not ours. Yes, heresy must be confronted, no doubt.

    02) Yet pictures are worth a thousand words, and I think Pastor Juhl is spelling it out, “it is not about the style”, “it is what you bring to the table.” Pastors are preachers, teachers, etc., and must do so, no matter wearing an alb, or in a shirt and tie. At the end of it all, they better hear of Christ crucified, the cross, what saves the sinner.

  23. Prof. Wm. G. Houser: Church growth, successful pastors believe in change. You must believe in change. Some people are too rigid. You have to be flexible.

    And if we come in with a rigid mindset on the Word–hey, I am so rigid it’s unbelievable–but, after all, that’s what God intends. We won’t change any of it. No way. Don’t let anybody intimidate you in the Word. And don’t be, as I mentioned yesterday, too, like Satan and have your chip on your shoulder and say, “I’m from Fort Wayne seminary and just try and change me.” You walk in there and you be a Christian and you be a friend, but you let them know that this is what God says and you’re just not about to change it. You’re just not about to change it because you can’t. But in other things–and sometimes this hits us more than others–we can be so bound to it. It’s got to be done this way. It’s got to be done that way. It’s got to be liturgically done this way. I can’t make a change. I won’t make a change. And you are going to turn people off that come into your church. I’m not for revival. But I’ll have to admit some of the most effective sermons I’ve ever preached were in a suit at a funeral home. No altar. No liturgy. Just the Word and their eyes on the casket and their ears on what I was saying. I had learned to streamline. I had learned to modify.

    If you’re acquainted with the State of Washington, I had a young man come over from Bremerton–45 minutes on the ship, you know, the ferry–to my church. Very frank as young people are. He said, “I came here because I heard you’re the only one in this area that still uses Page 5.” I said, “Yeah. And I use Page 15, too, if it’s communion Sunday.” “But,” I said, “don’t walk out. Stick around because you’re going to see something. You’re going to see there are changes and there are many changes, but when you leave you’re going to say they’re Lutheran; they’re still Lutheran; Houser is still Lutheran.” And it worked where I was at. And, again, there’s so many things about that that we don’t take time for now. But flexible programs. Forget about being rigid because change is normal and people expect it. Streamline. Modify.

    Dr. Wm. G. Houser (CTS faculty, 1975-93)
    Church Growth Institute
    “The Church Growth Pastor”
    Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN

  24. @“Wm. G. Houser Quotes” #27
    I tried emailing this to the email you entered for commenting, but it was fake, so I will copy it here:

    Dear Commentor,
    I appreciate your quotes that you are posting on BJS, however I wish you would stick with one “alias” name and then cite in your comment who the quote is from, otherwise other readers will get confused thinking that there are different people putting up such quotes. Could you please use one name for your comments?

    Thank you,
    Rev. Joshua Scheer
    Associate Editor, Steadfast Lutherans

  25. Well done, Pastor Juhl! We use the liturgy every weekend, straight from LSB. It is all about Christ cruficied and nothing else. Not everyone is pleased. Some of the “consumers” want something more use friendly. We remain faithful and keep it about Jesus and His Cross. Thank you.

  26. @R.D. #25
    “If layman are having trouble identifying unrepentant false teachers, start studying pure doctrine in earnest. Adopt a Berean-like spirit. Test the spirits. Be about your Father’s business learning theology.”

    (Worth repeating)

  27. @Robert Weller #5


    The irony of this, however, is that we all “give way” to styles. Yet, I am not sure Christ is concerned with style (traditional vs contemporary — blue jeans vs vestments — praise band vs organ); he’s concerned with our heart and the way we worship God (and lead the church in worshiping God).

    Our function as “pastors” is more than preaching Christ crucified (for Christ is also alive and resurrected), administering the sacraments and leading the congregation in being confessional. It’s also about equipping God’s people to be a priesthood of all believers. The manner in which that molds to one audience or another is less important than the church BEING the church and connecting the unconnected to Christ.

  28. @Jason Bonnicksen #32
    “Yet, I am not sure Christ is concerned with style (traditional vs contemporary — blue jeans vs vestments — praise band vs organ); he’s concerned with our heart and the way we worship God (and lead the church in worshiping God).”

    “Our” heart? That nasty old thing? I’d rather keep the focus in worship on Christ on the cross and what he does for us — and for our nasty hearts.

    And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.
    (Mark 7:20-22)

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