Friday, September 7, 2018

From which the clergy come. . .

The future of the Church does and has always depended more upon the faithfulness of those in the pews than most ever realize.  For just as the faithful who come to the Divine Service each week, pray for the work of the Kingdom and those who lead that work, offer tithes and offerings through which this work is supported, and act as agents of the Lord in home, neighborhood, workplace, and nation, so does this faith fostered in families provide the rich soil that grows future pastors.

When the parish suffers and families are broken, it is reflected in the numbers of men and women who hear the call and are encouraged in their vocation to full-time church work.  This could very well be one of the reasons why vocations to the ministry have fallen and the numbers of second career men has risen.  I say this not at all to disparage those who come to the ministry later in life but remind the families who are right now bringing their children to church that those same children, raised in the faith, are the best pool from which all church workers come -- especially boys who will be pastors.

The pews are the pool from which pastors will come and when laity are not living the faith in the home, this avenue is closed and the sanctity of the church and her future comes under threat.  We need these young men for the pastoral office and women as teachers and deaconesses.  Once we had a thriving school system which provided a ready path for those who would be pastors and other church workers.  The system has changed to be sure but the lack cannot be placed entirely upon the failures of that system of education.  No, indeed, what worked in the past was not a grand educational structure but faithful homes nurturing the faith and bringing their children to worship and Sunday school and catechism classes.  It was faithful moms and dads who by their conversation and example held up the work of the Church as good and noble and worthy.  It was mothers and fathers who quietly encouraged their children to consider a religious vocation. 

As true as this was for others churches, it was no less true for the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.  When I went to pre-sem classes at St. John's College in Winfield, I was unsure whether I was smart enough or talented enough or dedicated enough to become a pastor.  Around me were 50-60 young men heading on the same path and I saw them as boys who could have done anything but chose to become a pastor.  It was an honor to be in their company.  This group was center of the college's identity and life.  I went home with many of them and found their families and congregations holding up the high calling and encouraging them at every turn (even as my own family and parish was doing).  Now I am not so sure that the vocation is esteemed as highly or parents and congregations as willing to encourage and support men in the pursuit of the pastoral office and women as teachers and deaconesses.  That is a big problem.  No educational institution can cover the issues in home and parish that discourage or prevent our sons and daughters from considering church work vocations and pursuing them.

So I would encourage parents to be good examples for their children of those who do not neglect the weekly gathering of God's people around Word and Table.  I would challenge them to speak highly of the office of pastor and not to disparage this office before their children.  I would remind them that they are the primary mentors of their children's faith and life in Christ and that they do this with the support of such things as Sunday school and catechism classes and that these cannot replace the godly role of mom and dad in the home.  I would humbly ask them to encourage their children to give faithful consideration of church work vocations and not to dismiss their interest or to discourage their curiosity.  The pews are the pool from which faithful church workers come, most notably young men who are encouraged to be pastors.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Parents are still the greatest source of encouragement for their
son to study for the ministry. This encouragement by the parents
can come when their son is in 7th or 8th grade. A Lutheran elementary
school education can lead to a Lutheran high school education.

Anonymous said...

It's easy to forget that in Germany becoming a pastor was largely for sons of the landed well off who could afford a university education before enjoing a state salary, while being held in high social esteem. Even pastors during the 1950s could look forward to parlaying their degrees from Princeton into careers leading large, wealthy, growing congregations (and perhaps a synodical political career!). Today the growing churches are gaining members fleeing small and closing congregations. It would not surprise me if we had 3,000 congregations 10 years from now. LCMS elementary schools struggle as people move to far flung wealthy suburbs with equally wealthy public schools. And the younger sons who in the past would have flocked to the ministry have greater mobility and career choices. It takes a special man today to choose to study theology with few others, be sent to a congregation in the middle of nowhere, face indifference in a nation of Evangelicals and "nones", and make an entry level teacher's salary for the rest of his life.

Anonymous said...

The pastoral ministry is not about big salaries in affluent suburban
parishes. Instead, we need men who are committed to Jesus Christ
and are willing to give their lives to sharing the Good News of
Jesus Christ with a humble passion to serve Him.

Carl Vehse said...

Anonymous on September 7, 2018 at 11:23 AM: "It would not surprise me if we had 3,000 congregations 10 years from now."

With approximately 6,000 LCMS congregations, that would correspond to a 6.7 percent annual decrease over the next ten years. From 2001 to 2016 (the latest data) the average +/- 3 Std.Dev. percentage change in the number of LCMS congregations was -0.067% +/- 1.31%.

So, unless the reported congregational numbers drop like a rock after 2024, any change corresponding to Anonymous's unsurprised prediction should be noticeable in the annual LCMS statistics to be reported in a couple of months or in 2019.

Anonymous said...

In 10 years the LCMS might have 4,000 parishes with full-time
pastors and 2,000 parishes with part-time pastors such as
retired pastors or bi-vocational pastors.

Lutheran Lurker said...

Quote:

The pastoral ministry is not about big salaries in affluent suburban
parishes. Instead, we need men who are committed to Jesus Christ
and are willing to give their lives to sharing the Good News of
Jesus Christ with a humble passion to serve Him.

Comment:

So you think that pastors should be willing to work for little or nothing, their families sacrifice, and give their all toward the ministry, in humility, while their people enjoy a better life and live without that kind of sacrifice and enjoy weekends off at the lake or game or whatever and give 2-3% of their income to the Church, when and if they happen to be in church (usually once a month). Sounds like a recipe for a greet pastoral recruitment program.

John J. Flanagan said...

I believe God draws specific men to pastoral ministry, unselfish men who love the Lord and desire to serve Him. If a young man expresses an interest, he should be encouraged and helped along. But I must say, it is often not the family or parents who encourage vocations. It comes from within the man himself. It must. In many cases, the families discourage such a journey. So the individual must want it, and do it with determination. God's work is not for the faint of heart or fearful.

Anonymous said...

If there is a pastor shortage, why not just bring in people from Madagascar, train them in an LCMS seminary, and then send them into the inner cities to revitalize all the dying or near-dead congregations:

https://ilc-online.org/2018/05/28/malagasy-lutherans-to-seek-fellowship-with-the-lcms/


By the way, how are the seminaries focusing on encouraging and training bi-vocational pastors?