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Thursday, December 14, 2006 

The COP And A New Alternate Route To The Pulpit

First, here’s the story from LCMS news;

December 8, 2006 .................... LCMSNews -- No. 82
COP eyes 'harmony and trust,' OKs proposed alternate-route
ORLANDO, Fla. -- The LCMS Council of Presidents (COP) focused on "restoring harmony and trust in the ... Synod for the sake of Christ's mission" at its Nov. 12-14 meeting here. The council also "approved in principle" a proposed alternate-route program leading to ordination in the Synod and reviewed final details for its Feb. 8-10 fiscal conference. The vote on the direction of a working draft laying out the proposed alternate-route program -- currently known as "Pastor-Specific" Ministry -- came after members discussed in detail the proposal and the need for fine-tuning the wording of that proposal. Discussion continued the council's consideration of the proposal at its September meeting, when the proposed alternate-route program was termed "Pastor Supervised."Basically, the concept of the proposed program would include a special curriculum that would take four years to complete. It would be separated into pre-ordination and post-ordination curricula.The concept grew out of the Pastoral Formation Leadership Summit held earlier this year, and is being proposed by the oversight committee for Distance Education Leading to Ordination (DELTO).One of the DELTO representatives -- California-Nevada-Hawaii District President Robert Newton -- told the COP that such a program is needed because of the "huge, huge need [to fill pastoral] vacancies in areas where Christ is not named." Newton said that there is especially "need for training in the language and culture of the unchurched." (Emphasis mine) The DELTO committee, working with the COP and seminary faculties, will continue to fine-tune the Pastor-Specific Ministry proposal, which would need to be adopted by a Synod convention to go into effect. Plans for the COP's fiscal conference unfolded as Synod Fifth Vice President David Buegler recommended that the conference should include each district's president, "an additional person ... with significant understanding of the district's unrestricted budget," and a parish pastor of a "district congregation that is a leading contributor." Buegler is chairman of the Synod's Blue Ribbon Task Force for Funding the Mission, which issued its report earlier this year. "With God-pleasing sharing of mission and ministry challenges," Buegler said, "this fiscal conference should be expected to adjourn with a Synod/district agreement that will strive to do the following:1. Determine the annual total amount of unrestricted dollars to be submitted to the national budget by the 35 districts.2. Decide the fair share of each district toward the fulfillment of the commitment from step number 1.3. Plan ahead three years in advance to aid in district/Synod planning.4. Gradually increase the total amount submitted to a level of at least $25 million by 2017."With a total of about 100 participants, the conference will take place in St. Louis, with costs to be covered by the districts. The COP's look at restoring harmony and trust in the Synod during the November meeting is part of its overall theme of "Leading Together ... for the Sake of Christ's Mission." Two guest speakers -- Rev. Wally Arp and Dr. Wayne Wilke -- addressed harmony and trust in their presentations to the council. Arp, senior pastor of St. Luke Lutheran Church, Oviedo, Fla., told the council in his Bible study that harmony and trust in the church begin with baptism in Christ. "It's God's time machine," Arp said of baptism. "It takes us to Jesus on the cross, and provides a daily remembrance of His death and resurrection." Arp suggested that Christians consider that remembrance when they take their morning showers. As the water falls from the shower head, he said, "think of the day to come as the first day of the rest of your life of faith in Christ." "We have hope because of Who we have hope in," Wilke told the council in his remarks. Wilke, a member of the LCMS Florida-Georgia District staff, is executive director of the Concordia House of Studies. "We are raised again to a new life in our baptism not to achieve the idealized past of our beloved Missouri Synod," Wilke said, "but to claim His promised future of participating in His extension of the Church to the uttermost ends of the world." Wilke reminded the COP that Martin Luther's explanation of the Eighth Commandment "reminds us not only to avoid the negative, but also to practice the positive."Also during the November meeting, the council -- comprised of the 35 district presidents and members of the Synod's praesidium -- elected members to committees and as representatives to a number of other LCMS groups. District presidents reported a total of 814 pastoral vacancies in LCMS congregations. Of those, 371 are in congregations that are not calling men to fill those vacancies, and 443 are in congregations that are calling. The category breakdown for the calling congregations is for 328 sole pastors, 54 senior pastors, and 61 associate or assistant pastors. In addition to meeting with the Synod Board of Directors, the COP also participated in a worship service with Synod mission partners meeting at the same Orlando convention facility.The next meeting of the COP will be held in tandem with its fiscal conference.

So, according to District President Robert Newton we have, outside of the seminary environment, a “need for training in the language and culture of the unchurched.” Does this now mean we consider the seminaries to be training our pastors to be and talk too Christian? Maybe the unchurched need to be, oh I don't know, properly catechized by properly trained pastors. This sounds almost like we're trying to out-Joel Osteen, Joel Osteen. Doesn't it?

I agree with Wilke who reminded the COP that Martin Luther's explanation of the Eighth Commandment "reminds us not only to avoid the negative, but also to practice the positive.” But in this case, where the heck is the positive? Why do we need to emulate the culture of sin to be effective communicators of God’s grace?

I do understand that the men training in this program would be supervised. But let’s be serious here, will they really be just as equipped to take care of the sheep they’ve entrusted with as they would by attending one of the seminaries? Would these same men be able to pass the basic entrance exam to be admitted to one of our seminaries? If we want more pastors, shouldn’t we try funding the seminaries a little better than we are first?

This program reeks of the late sixties, early seventies “tribe apart” mentality used with youth groups to this day. That thinking says "just go off by yourself or with your friends, “find Jesus”, strum your guitar and sing a few stanza’s of This is the Day, and just forget how, historically, the Church has always done things." Remember kids, Christianity started the day you where confirmed.

I heard one district president say that we won’t be able to plant 2000 new churches in his district unless we do things differently. The question I have is; what kind of churches do we want to plant? Do we want churches (or using the language of the culture, big multi functional buildings, daycare centers, or meeting halls where we go to network with the other unchurched) filled to the brim with the unchurched hearing the language of the culture? Isn’t that what the local optimist club is for? I just don’t get it!

But I guess I’m just not putting the best construction on this. Maybe how we train our future pastors is just as outdated as our confessions seem to be when talking about missions. Who knows, maybe a slack jawed yokel like me can be a pastor. Clearly we have lowered the bar for that to be possible.

Note: this is my second try at addressing this story. After rereading the first attempt I determined that it was probably the worst thing I’ve ever posted. It started out with me telling a story about my grandmother saying “Frankie, why don’t you just start your own church? Why bother with all that school. Lots of people just start up their own church and make lots of money doing it.” From there I went into a little bit of why we train our pastors the way we do. While covering many of the same issues addressed above, I thought the piece meandered and tried to cover too may points for such a short post. I know you folks expect better and for that reason I deleted it. I guess I can cover the left over issues in another post.

"need for training in the language and culture of the unchurched." As you point out, this is saying that the pastors we have are too Christian. What hogwash.

How much more training in the language and culture do we need? I grew up in a normal American town, went to a public school, went to a state community college, had plenty of friends and family who did not go to church. Is there something else I need to do? I read the same magazines, books, internet, see the same tv, listen to the same music, watch the same movies as the unchurched. Is there some special news source/media for the unchurched that I just don't know about?

scott adle

I am very sorry to read the original post. You write without first understanding the subject.

First of all, President Newton was referencing the challenge of overcoming cultural obstacles to reach unchurched minority groups such as Vietnamese, Korean, Filipino, Mexican, etc. The West Coast and inner cities see this as a major need in the LCMS. Our seminaries do NOT prepare men to reach across cultural boundaries. DELTO enables men who understand these cultures to get the necessary theological education to minister to these folks.

Unfortunately, there is a growing trend in the LCMS to place tradition over spreading the Gospel. DELTO is a program that enables mature Christian men, who are already serving in a ministry, to become better equipped to fulfill their ministry. These men are supervised by LCMS pastors. DELTO is a forward-looking program that focuses on sharing the Gospel.
However, many pastors in the LCMS have a "if I had to do it, you have to do it" attitude. So, since they went to the seminary, that must be the ONLY way.

If our seminaries are meeting the needs of the LCMS, why have we, as a Synod, removed 400 churches from the "eligible to call" list. I guess those 400, with minimal financial resources, don't need pastors and should just fend for themselves, right? With this kind of mentality, the LCMS will become a fortress that tries to control the Gospel rather than spread the Gospel.

Please pray before you post anymore comments.

Greg Wadel

Greg, thank you very much for your comments, and more importantly, signing your name.

DELTO was not founded for the purpose of cross cultural ministry. It was founded as a shortcut for guys who couldn't for whatever reason, can’t go to a seminary. Our seminaries have cross-cultural ministry emphases, and have trained many men to reach these various groups. Our seminaries do a far better, more thorough and professional job of preparing candidates for the ministries our church needs than DELTO in every area. Could the seminaries do a better job? Sure, there is always room for improvement. But the best possible training to become a pastor, is in one of two seminaries. Even the very best pastor as a supervisor, will not do as good of job as the men who have been placed in charge to teach.

The 400 churches that are not eligible to call are not all cross cultural missions! Hardly any of them are! That has nothing to do with the point. Those congregation either simply don't have the money or have not resolved intractable internal difficulties. Before you post anymore comments perhaps you ought to learn much more about our two seminaries and DELTO. It seems to me that I hold the very thing people accuse me of being critical of in higher regard than you do. That’s just bizarre.

Prayer is effective for many things, but informing those who don’t wish to see the clear truth is not a promised benefit...

Frank, I would also add that although DELTO isn't specifically oriented towards cross-cultural ministry, there is such a program that does. The EIIT program was established, I believe, to raise up and instruct people who know the most about a specific culture--the people from that culture itself.

The seminary (at least St Louis I know does, since I attend) does have a cross cultural module to help seminarians learn about another culture.

But I'm unsure how much training would be needed, or could be done by the seminary. In order to really get to know a culture, I think you'd have to live in that culture for quite a while--years, I'm thinking. Sure, we could learn another language at the sem, but I think that would fall short of what Greg, and the DP in the post, are thinking of.

So where does that leave us? Well, like I said, the LCMS has a program in place to encourage those who know the culture best to become pastors inside that culture. As for regular seminarians, well, who knows where we'll get called to and what cultures will be around us? Like I said, they try and show us part of another culture, but it's very short. Perhaps, instead of forcing various cultures down our throat, they feel that maybe an all around solid theological training will serve us best--and where else could we get that? Then, when we get in the field we become part of the community and can best determine what that community needs, and can work from there. And then we can use LCMS resources to learn about, and supplement, our ministry.

scott adle

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