I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the situation of pastoral calls in the United States today. For those who do not know, this past week was Call Week at both of our LCMS seminaries. The LCMS Joint Seminary Fund recently put out their little PDF file listing where everyone is going, if you’re interested (with some tragic omissions). It is a time of excitement, anxiety, joy, fear, and about every other emotion you could imagine. Between serving as a student and also serving as an admission counselor for several years at Concordia Theological Seminary, I’ve been to my fair share of call services. They are one big bottle of crazy wrapped up in about two hours (or less, depending on who’s preaching).
But this past week was not a week of happiness at my alma mater. Twenty two men from this year’s class did not receive calls, and I believe eight men at Concordia Seminary. The sort of standard fare reasons for this are fairly predictable. I have heard the following, and I’m sure there are more:
- Economy. Congregations simply can’t afford to call pastors.
- Congregations requesting graduates from a specific seminary.
- A vast left-wing conspiracy against confessional students at both seminaries.
- The SMP programs, DELTO programs, and various alternate route programs are drying up the number of traditional calls in the LCMS.
- The graduates aren’t qualified or don’t have the right personality/disposition to serve in the Holy Ministry.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to these soon-to-be brothers in office that are awaiting calls.
Here are a few things that I pray that we as a synod consider as we try to wrestle with this sadness, especially as we move into the 2010 LCMS Synodical Convention:
Repent. We as a church body must repent for our failure to place these men (and their families, for they do go together). They aren’t martyrs like our forefathers in the early church. But they have desired a noble task (1 Tim. 3:1), and we as a church body have encouraged them in this endeavor. While I suppose there were no guarantees that they would be placed, they have acted in good faith, and so should we.
Explain everything in the kindest way. It is easy and oh so tempting to ascribe motivations to people in power, to students, to congregations, and to just about anyone. There may be culpability here, but it must be based on fact, not innuendo and what really comes down to either gossip or slander.
Search the Scriptures. Our Lord has said: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Luke 10:2 ESV) This is the Word from our Lord. It is true. The need is there. We have a world of hurting sinners in need of the healing balm of the Gospel. If we as a synod cannot place these men, it is more of a sign that we are not aligned with what God wants of His church than anything else. How have we allowed our priorities as a church body to be derailed so that the preaching of the Gospel is not the point?
Pray. This again may be obvious, but it must be said. Pray in thanksgiving to God for His gift of the Holy Ministry of the Gospel. Pray in repentance, that our Lord may forgive our arrogance, our selfishness and our need to make everything fit and be controlled in our own way. Pray that God would provide for these men and their families, as they are now in synodical limbo. And pray that God would do His work of placing these men where they are needed so that His Word may go forth to the joy and salvation of all.
Act. These men and their families (about 30 in all between the two seminaries) have real needs, with debt, families to provide for, and ongoing preparations for God’s work for them. How can we as a synod, as congregations and as individuals care for and serve them while this is sorted out?
What am I missing, friends?
-LL (aka Pr. Todd Peperkorn)
PS Rev. Matthew Harrison also recently had a wonderful sermon offering comfort especially to those who have not received calls. I would urge you to read it and check it out.