Thursday, July 7, 2016

Encouragement Along The Path To Pastoral Ministry - Guest blog by Vicar David Spaude

“I want to be a pastor like my Dad.” As a child, these were the words I spoke to myself and to others when they asked me my future plans. It was an ignorant response because I had a minimal idea of what it took to become a pastor. I knew there was college and Seminary to complete and that’s about it. My opinion might have changed had I known the type of training a WELS pastoral candidate needed before stepping into that preaching and teaching role full-time. 

All I knew was I wanted to be like my Dad sharing God’s Word week after week.  Finally, when my eldest brother, Paul, enrolled at Martin Luther College (MLC) I started to understand what that type of study really looked like.  I had known the time frame for becoming a pastor was long, but what I didn’t know was how long it could be.  Paul told me some of his friends attended high schools which have an emphasis on ministry. WELS has two preparatory high schools including Michigan Lutheran Seminary in Saginaw, MI and Luther Preparatory School in Watertown, WI. Add this training to college and Seminary and you have 12 years of ministry training under your belt. It is certainly a long road to the pastoral ministry, if you start in high school. Yet, those are extra valuable years of Christian education from which to benefit.

Paul shared with me his class schedule which included the basics – English, Math, Science, etc. What was really interesting were the Greek and Hebrew classes he had scheduled, too. Not only his foreign language study, but also the education that he would continue at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary after graduating from Martin Luther College interested me. There he would study four different types of theology – Biblical, Historical, Systematic, and Practical theology.

Maybe you’re a young man who’s aspiring to become a pastor or you know a young man who has the gifts to become a pastor; however, the time and intellectual dedication seem a little daunting. Be encouraged or encourage the young man by returning to the fact that sharing the gospel full-time is a privilege. Help them see the truth in your statement by encouraging them to go on mission trips, to shadow a pastor for a few days, or to get involved in leading the youth at church. Encourage them to try Martin Luther College for a year and see how they like it.

I’ve heard people say to young men that they should consider becoming a pastor because they have the gifts and there is a pressing need for pastors these days. Jesus words to his disciples will always stand true, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” If you compare the numbers of Seminary graduates from the Baby Boomer years to now, that number has decreased by about 50%. That means there is an even greater need for pastors these days. Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Let our plea before our Lord be the same as that of the disciples, but let us not use the lack of pastors as a guilt trip to lead young men into the ministry. Rather, know there is a need for pastors and so encourage young men by showing them the great privilege it is to be in the ministry.

In my years at home, my years in college, and still today it is nice to hear that encouragement from my parents that the gospel ministry is a great privilege in which to spend your life. As a result of early encouragement I attended MLC to become a pastor. To be honest with you during my years at MLC I struggled on and off wondering if the ministry was for me. I was looking for experiences that would spark my interest a little more. I found some of those experiences in mini-mission trips and even a summer-long Christian Camp. Now that I’ve completed my first year at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary I’m having the chance to serve St. Mark as a summer vicar. These experiences have greatly encouraged me to enter the holy ministry full-time. I also encourage you to seek opportunities of ministry to see if it’s for you.

- Summer Vicar, David Spaude