Thirty. That’s the number of Vicars that went out from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis this year. Thirty men, sent to continue their education by learning in the field. Some of them may not pass or finish, leaving less than thirty men from one of two seminaries to go and serve a congregation in need when they receive their call. This is a serious problem. With two seminaries in the United States, both struggling to churn out enough pastors to fill the growing number of vacancies in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, the alarm bells are starting to ring. There is no question, there is already a pastor shortage in our church body, and it may only get worse in the coming years. Some churches are left to wander without a pastor, without someone called to deliver the goods in Word and Sacrament. This is a concern, and it should be taken seriously.
I get it, being a Pastor isn’t necessarily the most appealing job in the world. The average Pastor won’t shock anyone with their salary, they won’t take all the vacation days allotted to them, they will be criticized frequently, and they must work weekends all after going through eight years of education. It can be frustrating dealing with sinners, and people who are stubborn and have messy lives. There are days when your work feels futile, and that no one cares. You will be tired, pour yourself into a sermon, and receive complaints that it was too long, even though it was only a few minutes longer than your usual. You will be criticized both fairly and unfairly. And no matter what you do someone will be upset. But here is the deal, someone must do it. So, the question must be asked. Who will go for us?
Who will go to the corners of the earth, bringing with them the preached Word and the Sacraments? Who will go to the bedsides of elderly people and read God’s Word into their ears as they draw their dying breath? Who will bring the promises of resurrection to grieving parents in the dead of night as their yard is illuminated by police lights, as they receive news of their child killed in a tragic car accident? Who will go to the ordinary people who are striving to live life faithfully, and need to be reassured of God’s love for them? Who will go to the churches who gather faithfully, desiring to receive God’s gifts but have no shepherd to lead them? They will. The young men who are training to be pastors, the men who have forsaken other careers and have heeded the call to the church, but we need more. More pastors to go for us because without them the flock will scatter.
So, what do we do? How do we begin to solve this bear of a problem? No one knows for certain, and surely people are striving every day to figure it out. But something we can all begin to do is to encourage and inform our young people that ministry in the church whether it is the Office of Pastor, Director of Christian Education, or Lutheran teacher (and all other acronyms) that we need people willing to go and serve the church. I encourage you, dear reader, to encourage someone in your church to go into the ministry. Sometimes, all it takes is one person to plant the seed, and the Holy Spirit will go to work. Too many churches neglect to raise pastors and church workers as part of their ministry. If each church in our synod raised one church worker, the impact would be substantial. Let’s make part of our missions to continue to not only raise people in the faith but lead them to the work of the church and the pastoral office. This is a problem that can no longer be ignored at the parish level because the seminaries need our help, and the Gospel is too important to ignore the issue any longer. To encourage, inform, and pray for the few workers who will be sent into the harvest.
How then can they call on the One in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in the One of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news! Romans 10:14-15