The Rev. Dr. Guido Merkens, a former LCMS vice-president and founding pastor of one of the Synod’s largest congregations, died Jan. 11 in San Antonio. A funeral service for Merkens, 84, was held Jan. 18 at Concordia Lutheran Church in San Antonio.
Merkens founded Concordia, San Antonio, in 1951 — primarily by going door-to-door in the community — and served as its pastor for 42 years. Today the congregation has more than 7,000 baptized members.
The Rev. Bill Tucker, senior pastor of Concordia, San Antonio, told Reporter the congregation “still has many members who came because [Merkens] knocked on their door.”
The only thing Merkens prayed for before he received his first assignment on the seminary’s “call day” was to be sent to a place where he could start a congregation from scratch, Tucker said, “because he had all kinds of ideas about how to do ministry and was anxious to try them. And he was profoundly successful, by God’s grace and the Holy Spirit.”
Over the course of his ministry, Merkens “shared the Gospel with thousands and thousands of people and had an impact on the heart for missions of thousands of pastors,” the pastor said. “His legacy is certainly Concordia Lutheran Church and the amazing ministry that he established with his wife, Barbara, but that legacy extends beyond Concordia to so many other ministries and so many other pastors who learned from him.”
LCMS Texas District President Rev. Ken Hennings recalled attending a Merkens seminar on “Living Lutheran Leadership” when Hennings was a college student. “The seminar had a huge influence on my understanding of ministry and the local congregation, allowing me to connect college and seminary courses to parish ministry,” Hennings told Reporter.
Merkens served as an LCMS vice-president for some 15 years, beginning in 1971, and was reportedly nominated for Synod president several times but declined to accept.
He authored seven books — five on parish principles and procedures, and two sermon collections. He conducted seminars, workshops and rallies in 49 states and 14 foreign countries, speaking to hundreds of thousands of people about his parish principles, plans and procedures.
He also hosted two television shows: “Breakthrough,” for adults, and “TV Sunday School,” for children.
After Merkens “repositioned” — he preferred that word to “retired” — in 1993, he served as a consultant to pastors and congregations, as a conference speaker and as an associate with Pathway Lutheran Ministries.
He received an honorary doctorate from Concordia Theological Seminary, then in Springfield, Ill., in 1975, and the “Distinguished Alumni Award” from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, that same year. He was a 1951 graduate of Concordia Seminary.
Merkens is survived by four children: Karen (Douglas) Ramming and Michelle (Brian) Wood — both of Austin — and Marti Merkens and Guido Merkens Jr. of San Antonio; four grandchildren; and five great-granddaughters.
His wife of 52 years, Barbara, died in 2003.
Memorials may be made to the Concordia Building Fund, c/o Concordia Lutheran Church, 16801 Huebner Road, San Antonio, TX 78258.
To read a story about Merkens in the San Antonio Express-News, click here.
Posted Jan. 13, 2012