Guiding Themes for Pastoral Education
As mentioned in a previous post, the issue of “Church and Ministry” continues to be a topic of conversation and, it seems, confusion. The soon-to-be-arriving issue of the Concordia Journal will include two theological observers that take up the discussion. The essay by Dr. Andy Bartelt references an essay called “Guiding Themes for Pastoral Education,” which were developed by the (now defunct) Board for Pastoral Education of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. These “guidelines” “provide a planning and guiding focus for preparation of pastors for The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.” They are still available on the LCMS website, and have served as a thumbnail summary of the kind of pastor that the faculty of Concordia Seminary is seeking to form for the church.
While all fifteen guidelines are worthy of pondering, a few stand out as particularly important in our post-Christian, post-church, post-Constantinian, post-post-whatever age. Here are a few clips:
The church needs pastors who are grounded in the Holy Scriptures, rooted in the Lutheran confessions, formed by the history of the church, and able to apply the Word of God to the lives of people for their salvation and for his own, to the glory of God.
As called servants of the Word, they must be able to establish helpful interpersonal relationships, be people-oriented and work effectively with them, be forgiving and caring. They must be able to prepare people (through preaching, teaching, worship, and learned practical skills) for their service to God and the church (e.g., Christian Day School, youth, evangelism, stewardship, music, Sunday School, etc.). They must be resourceful leaders to help congregations address the changing contexts of service as a community of faith.
Called to be witnesses to Jesus and His salvific work, pastors must actively engage themselves in outreach and effectively outfit people to tell others about Jesus. Christians are to testify to their faith in Jesus Christ with those who have never heard of Him, have not believed in Him, and are away from the means of grace in His Church.
Pastors need to understand the culture and where it is headed, engaging societal issues theologically. Pastors must be prepared to give a defense to the truths of the Christian faith against competing spiritual claims and movements of world religions and secular beliefs. They must be sensitive to their culture and able effectively to serve peoples with a vast diversity of origins, education, family customs, social structures, and political values. The church needs pastors from different cultures to serve in the pastoral ministry.
The church needs to recognize that pastoral education is an international endeavor. The church’s mission puts pastors and church members in direct contact with world religions and Christian communities different from our own. Pastors and people need to learn to work and converse with these people. Pastoral education needs to provide students understanding and models for conversation and cooperation among Christians and differing traditions.
This guideline seems especially appropriate in the light of recent discussions:
The church wants pastors who are prepared to motivate and stimulate, prepare and engage the baptized in their lives of service and vocation. People want to be led to integrate their faith and life. They want pastors to encourage them, counsel them, mentor them, and teach them to live meaningful lives of service. They want intellectually to explore their faith and theologically to reflect on their service to church and world. They are in the mission field daily, and they want to relate their faith to their daily service in family, church, work, and world.
Now, I can guess what you’re thinking. The seminary is not doing that great a job at forming pastors like this. You won’t find any argument here–but we are constantly striving to serve our students and the church better. And if you are a pastor you are likely thinking that neither you nor the Apostles Peter or Paul nor Jesus himself would match up very well with a list like this. This also is true. But this is why it is not about the person of the pastor, but about the Word. It struck me recently that in the book of Acts, the “church” does not “grow.” Rather, “The word of the Lord grew.” That is, the Gospel goes out to more and more people, it is on more and more lips. The reign of Jesus Christ is extended. Sometimes, because the church and her pastors get things right. More often, even in the book of Acts, even though the church is clueless, torn by conflict, selfish, and complacent. Yet the Word of the Lord continues to grow. Whether we live up to the guidelines or not, it is all about the Word: “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you.” (2 Thess 3).