Saturday, November 21, 2015
Shaping pastors for the church they find or the church that should be. . .
Concordia St. Louis (CSL) seems to have adopted either a conscious choice or a default position to prepare pastors to serve the great diversity of parishes within the Synod. It feels as if CSL has listened to the District Presidents and to the parishes and heard the message that both DPs and congregations want pastors who will respect things as they find them. I do not mean to suggest that this constitutes an insistence that nothing be changed. What I do mean is that CSL trains pastors for what they will find when they get to the parish. In the worship of the chapel, for example, there is a broad diversity of music and forms that, while they do not mirror everything you will find in the parish, they do give a nod to the diversity of musical styles and instruments, worship patterns and forms, participants and leaders.
CSL is missional in the way that term is bantered about among us today but it also attempts to be traditional -- seeing the main thing as what works. CSL has not only Bach at the Sem but the Crave Coffeehouse ministry, both decidedly out of the mainstream of the ordinary LCMS parish. It is less that CSL is wedded to an ideology than to doing what needs to be done. If it is praise band, then we will do a praise band. If it is liturgy, then we will do liturgy... etc.
Concordia Fort Wayne (CFW) seems to hold up an ideal and prepares pastors to bring parishes into the fullness of Lutheran identity and life. If DPs and parishes have a problem with CFW pastors, it is because they are intent upon the changes that bring the fullness of Lutheran confessional identity into the parish's worship, teaching, and life. They seem to train pastors toward the goal or outcome rather than how things are on the ground, so to speak. I do not mean to suggest that this is arbitrary or that they insist upon changing everything right away. Rather, I sense that they will move the parish deliberately and intently toward the goal of the fullest and richest Lutheran confessional identity possible. So the worship life at CFW flows from the hymnal, utilizes a rich and diverse musical palate in which the pipe organ is the central instrument, because the hymnal is our book and the expectation is that worship in the parish will be from that hymnal.
CFW is confessional in the way that term is bantered about among us but it is also creative in the use of technology and social media, for example, in the pursuit of this confessional Lutheran mission. CFW hosts an international student body and an international presence in Lutheran bodies from Africa to Russia to the Baltic to South America. You will not find a praise band at CFW but you will find the worship life of the chapel mirrored in far off places from Siberia to Lithuania to Kenya.
I may be off base here but I don't think so. And it brings up a great question. Should we shape pastors to serve the congregation they will find or should we shape them for the parish it should become? I suppose the best answer is yes to both -- yes, we will train pastors to serve in whatever circumstance they find but we will also train them to lead the parish into the fullest expression of confessional Lutheran doctrine and practice possible -- gently, pastorally, but intentionally and authoritatively. If you have to choose, I lean to CFW. Our church body and our parishes benefit most when their pastors have a clear idea of what it means to be Lutheran, what it is that Lutherans confess and teach, and are willing to catechize, teach, and lead the parish toward this goal.
Having served a couple of parishes half a continent apart, the hardest question to answer for many of our people and parishes is the most basic one -- what does it mean to be Lutheran? Liturgy and outreach are falsely accused of being either competitive or in conflict. Where the Divine Service is celebrated richly and fully and consistent with our Lutheran Confessions, people will be equipped for and directed to the mission of the church. Where the Lutheran faith is taught with conviction and confidence, people will be given the tools to witness confidently and boldly in their homes, neighborhoods, workplaces, and communities.