It takes the Church to form pastors!
Why is the pastoral office so important? Consider the following…
- The incomprehensible Triune God is the one calling these men to be pastors.
- Pastors speak Christ into the ears of the hearer where the Holy Spirit creates saving faith.
- Pastors proclaim forgiveness of sin and, by the power of God, release God’s people from hell.
- Pastors baptize souls out of hell and into heaven.
- Pastors teach the very words of the Incarnate God that He taught and commanded.
- Pastors handle the body and blood of Christ and feed this life-giving gift to God’s people for life and salvation.
- Pastors are stewards of the mysteries of God (Word and Sacrament). They are taught and formed to handle and steward these divine gifts.
- Pastors are God’s gift to the Church.
- Pastors are entrusted with the powerful keys to the kingdom that locks hell shut and opens the gates of paradise.
- Pastors stand in the place of God, being the living voice of God to God’s people.
- Pastors teach, reprove, rebuke, and exhort God’s people with God’s inspired and inerrant Word.
- Pastors oversee God’s doctrine and give care to eternal souls.
- Pastors are examined, called, and ordained to surgically apply the Word of God to the lives of God’s people.
- Pastors are shaped and formed thoroughly for “the highest office in the land.”
With this understanding, the Church takes great care in shaping and forming men for this high and holy office. The early church taught that Christians are not born; they are made and formed. So also, pastors are not born nor hastily thrust into this chief and crucial office. Pastors are shaped and formed over time by the Church for the Church.
It begins at Baptism. God begins the young man’s journey into the pastoral office by first bringing him into the kingdom of God through water and the Word. This baptism is indeed the forgiveness of sin and eternal life for this young man. It is also his daily life of repentance, sustained in the Word, which finally leads him to receive the Lord’s body and blood.
The Christian Home
Pastoral formation continues in the Christian home. From early on, his father and mother saturate the future pastor in daily prayer, discipline and virtue, the Divine Service, Luther’s Small Catechism, and a godly life.
The Local Congregation
The local congregation is essential in pastoral formation. It is vital that the future pastor is shaped and formed by a pastor faithful to the Word of God and the Lutheran Confessions. A pastor knowledgeable in the history, liturgy, practice, and governance of the Church all plays an important role in the formation of a young man moving in the direction of the holy ministry. A congregation’s prayerful and financial support is also so very important.
The future pastor then moves on to the Lutheran university! The Lutheran University is crucial for the formation of all our church workers. It is equally so for those in pre-seminary studies! Here the young man begins to experience the context of a greater Lutheran church and culture, already well-grounded from childhood (II Timothy 1:5, 3:15). The academics accelerate: Greek and Hebrew, philosophy and doctrine, Lutheran culture and ethos. All this to prepare this young man for the seminary to be a Lutheran pastor.
Now the big and crucial step in pastoral formation takes place – the Seminary! Whether at Ft. Wayne or St. Louis – the seminary is theological and pastoral formation par excellence! At the seminary, pastoral formation takes place in the disciplines of exegesis, dogmatics, church history, and practical studies. Pastoral formation takes place as one is immersed in the rich seminary community. This happens when there is a close association with the professors. Also, when the seminarian is absorbed in the seminary’s rich liturgical life. Also, when there is a communal environment of learning among scholars and peers. Supervised field education and vicarage are also vital components in pastoral formation. All these are vital components in forming shepherds for God’s people in the church and world.
The church invests much time and many resources to move a man from baptism to the pastoral ministry. She makes a great investment in developing a pastor of character and virtue. She desires her pastors to be theologically sound in the Word and Lutheran Confessions. She desires her pastors to be apt to preach and teach. She desires her pastors to readily apply God’s Word to the faith and life of God’s people. While Satan continues to attack, the Church doubles down by protecting and immersing this young man in the Word of God. She also surrounds him in fervent prayer. She invests in his education and gives him rich and varied experiences. All this goes into pastoral formation!
It takes the Church to form pastors. Even after seminary, the Church continues forming and refining this man. The desire is that he continues to mature in the office of the ministry. This maturity shows itself in his pastoral skill in the local congregation. It may also show itself by the pastor becoming a university or seminary professor. The Church may also chose him to be a leader in the Synod. This continued formation includes intentional continuing education. This takes place in PALS, Doxology, advanced degrees, reading, workshops, seminary courses, and the like. The Church desires her pastors to grow in knowledge and wisdom because they are physicians of the soul! The Church supports the pastor in his continued growth in teaching, preaching, theological precision, and pastoral care.
Pray the Lord of the harvest to bring young boys and men into pastoral formation. Identify these men in your family and congregation. Encourage them to be a pastor. Help provide the resources to bring this to fruition.
Indeed! It takes the Church to form pastors!