I have a bar ministry* (from Mollie)

Could we discuss the theology included in this Reporter story:

Mark Couser, 26, has been working with the Lutheran Inner-City Network Coalition (LINC) North Texas, in Dallas-Fort Worth, for the past five years, helping to train church planters and other leaders.

He’s “felt the call to pastoral ministry for awhile,” Couser admits, but also feels called to serve in the rapidly growing, ethnically diverse, Dallas-Fort Worth area.   It would be hard for him to leave the ministry — and relationships — he’s been building for five years to attend a traditional residential seminary program, he says.

And now, he doesn’t have to.   As one of the first 29 students admitted to the new Specific Ministry Pastor (SMP) Program at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Couser is elated that he can fulfill both dreams: train for the pastoral ministry and continue his full-time work with LINC.

While he’s excited about finally beginning seminary studies, which will give him a “stronger theological foundation,” Couser says he’s glad he can also stay with LINC, continuing “to be in that [ethnically diverse] field and to plant more churches and to reach the lost, reach the nations” with the Gospel.

The SMP program — endorsed by LCMS convention delegates in July 2007 — prepares a new category of clergy via “distance education,” enabling students to continue their own “specific ministries” as they complete seminary courses at home.

Some 50 SMP students are beginning their studies this fall at both Missouri Synod seminaries.

What does it mean to “feel the call” to ministry? Is a call an objective thing issued by a congregation? Or is it a subjective feeling that is self-determined? And what is this about the “ministry” he’s been building for the last five years? What does that mean?

*Sometimes I like to joke that I have a bar ministry. I like to go to bars. I like to talk to people in bars. I feel called to go to bars. I have frequented bars for years. Sometimes, if I’ve had the right beverages, I talk about religion in bars. I am pretty sure this qualifies as a bar ministry.

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