Letters to the Editor (January)

Enrollment and debt

I read your article in the December issue regarding enrollment at Concordia University System schools.

While it was encouraging to see the overall increase in student growth, I was most disappointed by the comments and even the caption under the picture regarding church-work students.  Twice you referenced recruiting as the answer to the shrinking number of students choosing church-work professions.

I strongly disagree and would hope you would recognize that there may be a much greater issue (at least for those who would like to go into the teaching ministry) that has to do with finances. 

Many students who would like to pursue a future teaching ministry leave school with large student loan debt and jump into a profession that pays far below what the public sector does for the same position.  It seems to me that recruiting might be a little difficult when the realities of school loans and poor pay become a part of the discussion. 

Work on rectifying these issues, and maybe students will look more favorably at a church work profession in the future.

Keith Atkinson

Pastor-shortage concerns

In “Steps proposed …” regarding the projected pastor shortage (December 2007), it is good to note the attention being given to the need.  Yet only passing reference is made to the massive impact that will be felt if we are really serious about starting 2,000 new congregations by 2017 in connection with the Ablaze! movement.  Are some among us assuming this goal will never be met?  Or are we expecting that those congregations will somehow survive and prosper without regular pastoring?  “How shall they hear without a preacher?”

What is most curious of all is that among the “solutions” proposed to address this need, not one mention is made of the training of lay ministers.  We’ve had programs in place in a number of districts for years now to train and use lay ministers.  The DELTO program has been an example.  Last summer’s Synod convention saw the adoption of a resolution revising this process.  I’m afraid it remains to be seen whether the proposed “revision” will actually be an improvement.

In my time of service to God’s people, I have seen a few examples of lay men who clearly had some gift and some calling to shepherd a flock.  I have seen some of them successfully complete a program of pastoral training to the point of ordination.  I have seen others, well accepted by the people they served, give up in discouragement, in some cases because they were treated with less than respect by some pastors around them.  In other cases I fear it may have been because the requirements for continuing were considered to be too much of a burden.  One or another of these, we must admit, should likely not have continued, for lack of the gifts or talents.

But what if our seminary training were tuned to producing men who could shepherd more than one flock, by shepherding individuals with less training but with the gift and calling to assume some level of pastoral leadership in less demanding situations?  After all, when a newly ordained pastor takes office in a congregation of fewer than 100 worshipers, is he really doing more than a good lay minister could do?  Is this really the highest and best use of the fine preparation we are providing in our seminaries? 

Can we perhaps expand upon what is happening in a few areas where, under the supervision of a district president and under the caring hand of a circuit counselor, a cluster of congregations is being served by a fewer number of pastors, together with assistance from able lay leaders?  At the very least, we seem to be headed for more dual, and perhaps even triple, parishes.  Satellite ministries are another consideration. 

Indeed, “How shall they hear …?”

Martin Barlau       
Loveland, Colo.

Martin Barlau is executive director of the Open Arms Institute, an LCMS Recognized Service Organization (RSO) that helps Lutherans plant congregations through child care centers. — Ed.

Jewish evangelism

In response to Suzanne Hall’s letter in the December issue pointing out that Jewish evangelism was omitted at the recent multi-ethnic symposium, I offer the following comments.

There is confusion today about how to approach Jewish people, even though St. Paul makes it crystal clear that Jewish evangelism is a priority (Rom. 1:16) and a biblical mandate (Romans 9-11).

Part of the confusion comes about because the word “Israel” today has several meanings, viz., the patriarch, the Jewish people who are descended from him, the land (Matt. 2:20-21), and the modern democratic state. Some theologians even equate the word “Israel” with “the church,” even though Simeon in his Nunc Dimittis, speaking of Jesus, says: “A light to reveal You to the nations [Gentiles] and the glory of Your people Israel” (Lutheran Service Book, Page 182).

Further confusion results when we “marry” millenialism — rightly condemned as error by the Lutheran Confessions (Augsburg 17) — with certain promises made to Israel the people. The Lutheran Confessions do not address these issues, and there is a need for discussion — especially in our times when Islamic anti-Semitism is on the rise with its accompanying acts of terrorism which affect us all.

Let’s talk!

Rev. Bruce Lieske
Orlando, Fla.

Rev. Bruce Lieske is the founder of Lutherans in Jewish Evangelism, an LCMS RSO.
— Ed.

Please send letters via e-mail to REPORTER@lcms.org or by mail to REPORTER Letters, 1333 S. Kirkwood Road, St. Louis, MO 63122-7295.  Please include your name, postal address, and phone number.  Letters may be edited for length and clarity. — Ed.

Posted Dec. 28, 2007

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