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).








6 responses to “Guiding Themes for Pastoral Education”

  1. Ben Roberts Avatar
    Ben Roberts

    Well said, Dr. Kloha! I think 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 is in order here. This is not to discount the great formation Concordia Seminary accomplishes. This is to once again bring everything to the foor of the cross, so that the power, the growth, everything, rests on the Word.

    1. Jeff Kloha Avatar
      Jeff Kloha


  2. Mike Burdick Avatar
    Mike Burdick

    Who needs the Guiding Themes For Pastoral Education? They might have simply read, “The seminary will form pastors like I want my parents and my children/grandchildren to have.” Well, maybe that’s the way to *summarize* the guidelines.

    Against this standard, too, I would sometimes find myself falling short. Sometimes?

    You’re right and wrong about that last one. Wrong, only in the sense that it’s the one that seems the least objective, the hardest to teach, and a little more likely to gather people around a pastor than the-Word-of-the-Lord-which-grows-even-when-the-pastor-and-the-congregation-are-less-than-stellar.

    And you’re right about that last one, since the messenger is important because the message is more important.

    Overall, I am very thankful for the job CSL is doing forming future pastors. Really.

    1. Jeff Kloha Avatar
      Jeff Kloha

      Your “summary” is the one that Jeff Gibbs always uses.

      Having been at this for a little while now, I don’t know that anyone can actually “teach someone how to be a pastor,” let alone how to make pastors “who are prepared to motivate and stimulate” (two words that I myself despise, but I didn’t write these “guidelines”). All a sem prof, or a pastor, can do is bring the Word to the students/people, wrestle with it, even (especially) when they don’t like what it says, and let the Spirit work. Maybe some will become “motivators” and “stimulators” (see, it just sounds bad). But we don’t have much control over that, now do we? So all we can do is bring the Word.

      Thanks, Mike.

  3. Roy Olsen Avatar
    Roy Olsen

    Dr. Kloha, I must humbly say that my formation (class of ’05) was influenced by professors who modeled daily what a pastor is. I always felt that each professor’s congregation was his students, handled with care and compassion through Law and Gospel.

    We also must not forget the blessed wisdom from the field work experience pastors and our vicarage supervisors as well as blessed saints who “put up” with seminary students. In my incredible experience at CSL, the Pastoral Education was guided as much by the Word spoken as the Word lived.

    May we never forget, nor play down, the significance of people living the Christ-centered life they are teaching during those formation years, pointing students not to themselves, but to Christ. They were, and continue to be, living witnesses of the Gospel they proclaim.

    There is a small section buried at the end of the Academic Catalog but may be one of the most significant components to “Pastoral Education” and formation: The Faculty.

    1. Jeff Kloha Avatar
      Jeff Kloha

      Thanks, Roy. I wasn’t trying to sound negative or hopeless, just to reflect the realities of what all of us are up against. Maybe its just my old Chicago Cubs pessimism — chances are you’ll blow it, and if it works (once every 105 years, and counting), it must have been because of something other than you (profs or students). That is, the Spirit, working through Word.

      And, yes, field ed and vicarage are huge — more than 1/4 of the seminary experience is actually in congregations, not in classrooms!

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