By Ross Engel –
This week was Call Week at our two seminaries. Both St. Louis and Ft. Wayne placed vicars, deaconess interns, deaconess candidates, and candidates for the Office of the Holy Ministry into congregations. Last night, two of our Ft. Wayne “Bell Ringers,” Greg Bauch and Michael Daniels, received their placement assignments for their first Calls into the Office of the Holy Ministry. What an exciting time for them both! Greg has received a Call to be sole Pastor at Ascension Lutheran Church in Madison, Tennessee. Michael has received his Call to be Associate Pastor at Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tomball, Texas.
Now, much has already been said in the realm of the blogosphere regarding advice to the Candidates for the Office of the Holy Ministry. They range from warm wishes and happy, congratulatory thoughts to the stern, even harsh warnings about clergy killing alligators and wolves disguised as sheep. There is validity to both kinds of posts. But since those kinds of posts already exist, I would like to offer something different. I’d like to offer a challenge to our readers and to brother pastors across the synod.
- Take a look at the placement lists from both seminaries.
(St. Louis Pastors – http://callday.csl.edu/read/placements_by_district.pdf )
(Ft. Wayne Pastors – http://ctsfw.edu/document.doc?id=2484 )
(St. Louis Vicars – http://callday.csl.edu/read/assignments_by_district.pdf )
(Ft. Wayne Vicars – http://www.ctsfw.edu/document.doc?id=2485 )
Look at your state. Look at your District. See which men have been placed into your neck of the woods to serve in our Lord’s church.
- Write a note to the men that have been placed in your Circuit and District.
- In the note, introduce yourself and welcome them.
- Tell them to look for you at their first Winkle (if they’re in your Circuit) or their first District train wreck (I mean conference—you don’t want to scare them right away).
- Offer to chat with them over a cup of coffee or to buy them a round at the conference bar.
- Invite them to your translation group (especially if they’re in your Circuit!), or organize a translation group at the District events and get together when all the older guys go golfing.
- Be willing to help and support them in staying true to the vows they will take when they are installed as a Vicar or ordained and installed into the Pastoral Office.
My reason for offering such a challenge is this:
In seminary, good friends are made. Some become life-long supporters, some of them are just there to help you survive Greek or Hebrew or Homiletics, and some may be just the right balance of entertaining and serious that breaks the normal routine of studying and preparing for the Pastoral Office. Regardless of how many friends one makes throughout seminary, there is a sort of brotherhood in the class and many solid examples of pastoral hearts and churchly men in the professors who shape and mold future pastors.
However, after graduation, everyone goes their separate ways. Most men head off to be associate pastors at their first Call. Perhaps they depart with starry-eyed hopes of being paired with a senior pastor who will challenge them in good ways, help them grow to be a faithful pastor, be a brother to them in ministry, and help uplift them to fulfill their ordination vows and stay faithful to the Word and Confessions of the Church.
But unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen, and fresh young pastors are left looking for support from a variety of places. Sometimes this “help” leads them away from Scripture, away from the Confessions, and away from faithfulness and truth. Pastoral ministry can be a lonely place, even though you are constantly surrounded by people. And the truth is, sometimes those people are just a bit more interested in having their ears or backs scratched than they are in helping their pastor fulfill his ordination vows.
So instead of waiting for a fledgling pastor or searching vicar to find you and learn that you care, find them. Don’t let them get lost as they search for support in the vast wasteland of truth distorting options. Instead, let them see that they are not alone. Let them know that there are people, even brothers out there who are willing to support and encourage them in fulfilling their Call and who are willing to just listen to them as they grow in their Ministry of Word and Sacrament, encouraging and keeping them grounded in the task of the proclamation of the Word and the right administration of the Sacrament.
In the past, you, our readers, have been willing to help buy a seminarian a book and a drink. Let’s not stop there. Let us also consider how we might continue to support the men who will be serving the congregations of our Districts, and not just support them with a pat on the back and an “atta-boy” or two. Rather, support them in a way that draws them ever back to Scripture, back to the Confessions, and back to the precious gifts of Christ that have been entrusted to their care.
The siren song of gimmicks and programs may one day start calling to them, begging that they would forget the way that the Lord actually feeds, nourishes, and grows His church. It will be on that day that we pastors need to have friends and brothers who are ready to lovingly remind us that God accomplishes His purposes for His church with His Holy Word and the precious Sacraments.
And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. 3 I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, 4 and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. – 1 Corinthians 2:1-5
The church rejoices that the Lord of the church continues to send under-shepherds to care for His flock. What a joyous day Call Day is for the bride of Christ!