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Praying to the Lord of the Harvest (Report on Pastoral Formation Summit)

  • July 1, 2017 - 8:54 am
  • lutherancore
Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”  (Matthew 9: 37-38)
Thank you for joining with the board of Lutheran CORE in praying to the Lord of the harvest for a whole new generation of Lutheran pastors who believe that the Bible is the Word of God and who are passionately committed to reaching people for Jesus Christ.
As an expression of our concern, and in response to the concern that we have heard from so many pastors and congregational leaders who wonder where their next orthodox and outreach-oriented pastor will come from, Lutheran CORE held a summit on pastoral formation on June 21.  It was a remarkable event.
It was remarkable because of the pan-Lutheran make-up of the group that were gathered.  Where else and when else have leaders from the ELCA, Missouri Synod, LCMC, and NALC gotten together to share a common concern?
It was remarkable in that it was held at an ELCA college – Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa.  What other ELCA educational institution would be not only willing but eager to host an event planned and held by Lutheran CORE?  Grand View’s hospitality was over the top, and we were all inspired to see the group of young people on campus who were enrolled in the Nexus Institute and to meet and hear from the director, Kyle Fever.  Nexus is a year-long program in which high school juniors and seniors join with others to deepen their understanding of God and the Bible and to explore how they could be builders of innovative and effective ministries.  A link to the website which will tell you more about Nexus can be found here. In a day when so many of the “feeder programs” that used to challenge and motivate young people to enroll in seminary no longer exist, we were excited and very encouraged to meet Dr. Fever and to hear about Nexus.  The board of Lutheran CORE feels a total kinship with the religion faculty at Grand View, Drs. Mark Mattes and Ken Jones, as well as Russell Lackey, senior campus pastor, in their commitment to the authority of the Bible, the Lordship of Jesus, and the Great Commission.
The list of those who were invited to participate in the day includes –
Eugene Bunkowske – chair of the board of the Institute of Lutheran Theology, Brookings, South Dakota – former professor at Concordia University, St. Paul, Minnesota, and Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, Indiana – retired missionary to Africa
Anthony Cook – former director of curriculum design and development at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri – currently director of United States Ministries for Lutheran Hour Ministries
Mark Granquist – associate professor of church history at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota
Ken Jones – professor of philosophy and theology at Grand View University
Russell Lackey – senior campus pastor at Grand View University
Maurice Lee – pastor of NALC mission church that meets on campus of Westmont College, Santa Barbara, California – adjunct professor of theology, North American Lutheran Seminary
Mark Mattes – professor of philosophy and theology, department chair at Grand View University
Julie Smith – dean of students at Saint Paul Lutheran Seminary – LCMC pastor – secretary of the board of trustees of LCMC
Jonathan Sorum – academic dean at the Institute of Lutheran Theology, Brookings, South Dakota
Gene Veith – provost emeritus and professor of literature emeritus at Patrick Henry College, Purcellville, Virginia
Presenters offered valuable insights into such vital issues as the following –
  • The reasons for the recent major decline in seminary enrollment, graduations, and ordinations, and the long-term impact of that decline
  • The challenge provided by the increasing number of Lutheran congregations who cannot afford to pay a pastor full-time, especially in light of the heavy debt load that many students are carrying upon graduation from seminary
  • The reasons for the recent significant increase in the cost of seminary education and alternatives that could make seminary education more affordable
  • The challenge of helping students maintain spiritual passion during seminary training
  •  The effectiveness and value of the “apprenticeship model,” which was used for centuries as the major way to prepare pastors, and the reasons for reintroducing that model today
  •  The need to develop a Biblical worldview, and the need to raise up pastors who can help people develop that same worldview
We were encouraged as we were told about the mission societies in Scandinavia, groups of Christians who believe in the Bible, care for the poor, and are active in mission.  Existing alongside of the state church and its educational institutions and providing an orthodox alternative to the state church, they offer tuition-free training for those who want to prepare for Christian outreach and ministry.
Pastors present were asked, How much time are you spending with the young people in your congregation?  Are you spending at least as much time with them as you spend on the budget?  We were also challenged, If you have a retired pastor as a part of your congregation, have them spend time and energy not just visiting shut-ins, but also building for the future by nurturing the congregation’s relationship with its young people and by encouraging those who have the gifts and might have the calling to consider going to seminary.
We were told to make sure that young people have opportunity to be involved in “real ministry” and ministry of real significance in the life of the congregation, and not just acolyte.  Giving them the chance to deliver part of the sermon was given as an example.
A summary and/or excerpts from most of the presentations can be found on the Lutheran CORE website under Pastoral Formation and on the blog. The board is pursuing other possibilities for disseminating the presentations that were made at the summit. You will also find audio presentations on our new CORE Voices podcast.
We are also working on the following next steps –
A summit after the first of the year where we will gather for conversation a group of people who are putting into practice some of the principles which were discussed at the June 21 meeting.
A gathering later in 2018 which will be open to all, will be inspirational in nature, and which will focus on the theme of Matthew 9: 38 – “Praying to the Lord of the Harvest.”
We are very grateful for all our friends who are praying for this process.  Thank you also to those who have given a special gift to help cover the cost of these events.
The harvest truly is plentiful.  Current trends are going to lead to an extreme shortage of pastors.  An increasing number of churches will no longer be able to call a pastor full-time.  Pastors are graduating from seminary with a crushing debt load.  And the priorities of many seminaries will not be to teach future pastors that the Bible is true, Jesus is God, the resurrection happened, and that it does matter whether people know, believe in, and put their trust in Jesus.
Thank you for joining with us in praying to the Lord of the harvest for the next generation of faithful, orthodox, and missional Lutheran pastors.

Blessings in Christ,

Dennis D. Nelson
President of the Board and Director of Lutheran CORE


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