Join us in welcoming Pastor Stefan Wismar to the District office!
Pastor Wismar began August 1st as the Executive Assistant to the President. He will train alongside current Executive Assistant, Pastor Bob Schulze, for the month of August.
Prior to working at the District office, Pastor Wismar served nine years at Mayer Lutheran High School as the Director of Christian Faith Development. He also served nearly ten years as pastor at Lamb of God Lutheran Church in Slidell, LA.
When asked about what he looks forward to about working with Pastor Schulze, President Woodford said the following:
I’ve known Stefan for nearly a decade and consider him to be a fine colleague and friend. He has a keen mind, great pastoral sensibilities, and a profound ability to teach others in an understandable and interesting way.
Stefan’s diverse ministry background, serving as a sole pastor for nearly a decade in Slidell, LA, and then as a high school campus pastor and theology teacher for nearly another decade at Mayer Lutheran High School, has provided him with a wealth of experience to assist in serving our MN South District. His keen theological mind, balanced by his pastoral heart and apt teaching ability, along with his collegial, common-sense approach to mission and ministry, will be a great blessing to me and the District (Psalm 27).
We invite you to continue reading for an interview to get to know Pastor Wismar as he begins his ministry at the District office.
When and how did you experience a call into the ministry?
I grew up in what I would call a classic LCMS family. While my father and mother were not church workers, many relatives close and distant were. I grew up surrounded by ministry stories—some humorous, some serious, all making for a thoroughly Christian family culture. Every night, we said our prayers and sang some hymns. Holidays with family always included devotions with hymn singing.
In short, I grew up in a family where being a Christian was unashamedly and also humbly the greatest thing. And there the Lord began to work on me through His Word to call me to serve Him as a pastor without any direct encouragement from anyone in the family (there’s a family anecdote that explains this that I don’t have time to go into).
My parents enrolled me in a Lutheran grade school that I attended from kindergarten through eighth grade. My third grade teacher, Mrs. Bleeke, was the first person outside of my family whom I met who made sharing the love of Jesus with others the most natural and best thing. She and her husband served as missionaries in Papua New Guinea for twelve years, and she constantly shared these incredible missionary experiences with her students. She was the first one to give me pause and think: I would like to do that! I mean come on—It would be like being the Christian Indiana Jones. Jesus and incredible adventure all rolled up into one.
However, that thought quickly faded, and as I moved through junior high and high school, I developed other career interests—until my sophomore year. That year, I was asked to serve on the Southern District—LCMS Youth Committee. That experience opened the door to be asked to serve as a Youth Advisor for the planning committee of the National Youth Gathering that would be held in New Orleans in 1992. Both of these experiences put me in a unique place to interact throughout high school and my first few years of college with an incredible array of LCMS pastors, teachers, DCEs, and other servants of the church, all with amazingly creative gifts and loving, servant hearts. Many encouraged me to think about the ministry.
Through their encouragement, I chose to go to Concordia University Wisconsin. I wasn’t quite ready to commit to seminary, but I definitely wanted to serve the Lord as a full-time church worker. I decided to major in Lutheran Secondary Education with the idea that I would teach for a while and then go to seminary if the Lord led me in that direction.
However, by my junior year in college, I realized that in my thoughts and dreams, I was no longer picturing myself in the classroom but rather was preaching or visiting the sick—pastor stuff, not teacher stuff. Then, one night, lying in bed in my dorm room, it dawned on me: If I keep studying in the direction I’m going, I won’t be doing any of those things. So I threw my hands up and said a quick prayer: “Lord, I’ll do it. I’ll go to seminary.” And then I walked into the other room and told my roommate: “I’m going to seminary, and I’m going to become a pastor.” From that point on, I never looked back. I finished my BA in Secondary Education, and two weeks after graduation, I was in St. Louis at Concordia Seminary studying Hebrew.
Throughout my seminary education and in the ministries I have been blessed to serve so far, the Lord has continued to surround me with faithful, friendly, and loving servants of Christ who continue to help me grow in my calling as a pastor. Perhaps this seems a roundabout way of telling the story. Certainly, there is “that moment” in the dorm room when I said, “Yes,” to what I believed was the Lord’s call. But that call had to be tested through the rigors of seminary, affirmed through certification, approved through ordination, and ratified by the extending of a call by a Christian congregation. So I believe “that moment” doesn’t really tell the story.
My calling into the ministry was a lifelong process begun when my Christian parents brought me to the baptismal font. And my calling into the ministry continues to be sustained and renewed by my Savior Jesus Christ who rescued me then in baptism and rescues me now through His Word, through His supper, and through the mutual consolation and conversation of my brothers and sisters in Christ.
Tell us about your family. What do you enjoy in your free time?
With respect to family, let’s just say I have more affinity with St. Paul than St. Peter. In my free time, I enjoy fishing, hunting, boating, and camping. I enjoy the great outdoors. I also enjoy reading, especially biographies. I find the lives of people, great or small, fascinating.
What have been some of the highlights of your ministry up to this point?
During my time as pastor of Lamb of God Lutheran Church in Slidell, LA, I went through Hurricane Katrina with my congregation. While this was a very trying time, it was also incredible to see the body of Christ come together to bring good out of so much destruction.
One example to demonstrate how wide the love of Christ reached out to us when we were in need was two weeks (I think) after the storm. It was Sunday, and after worshiping in our gutted out sanctuary, three gentlemen from Escondido, CA, introduced themselves. They had driven straight through to come and help. They were Lutheran, they had a week, and they weren’t waiting for permission to do good. So they looked us up on the website and figured we could hook them up with people to help.
They were not wrong.
I brought them to a member’s home that had been swamped with eight feet of water and had a big pine tree fall and cut the house in half. When I went by later to check in on them, they were inside mucking out what was left, and there was a group from a Bible Church in Bangor, ME, on the roof. They were loggers and had come down to help clear out trees. They had that tree off the house in 15 minutes.
The visual: At a destroyed home in little Slidell, LA, Christians out of a desire to love their neighbor had shown up from Escondido, CA, and Bangor, ME. From coast to coast—and ultimately everywhere in between—people just showed up and helped us all get back on our feet.
A highlight from my years teaching at Mayer Lutheran High School was the chance to develop a new elective for juniors and seniors called Defending the Faith. It was an apologetics class that helped students not only become more confident in their desire to witness to Christ, but it also helped them with many of the doubts they had or were experiencing. The real highlights to this course came when students would reach out from college and share with me opportunities they had experienced to share their faith—and they attributed it to what they had learned in Defending the Faith. That, of course, is always one of the greatest rewards a teacher can experience.
What do you look forward to about working at the District office?
I had the opportunity to serve on the Southern District—LCMS Youth Committee in high school, and so I guess you could say I have worked with District staff from very early on. They were always a very encouraging and supportive group of church professionals and lay people. When I served as a parish pastor in the same District, the staff were incredibly supportive to congregations and church workers alike, especially in the aftermath of some devastating hurricanes in a short span of time. Their love and support kept a lot of congregations and church workers going—myself and the congregation I served included. I’m excited to have the opportunity to be part of a team that continues in that same spirit of service, care, and support of our MN South District congregations and professional church workers.
What challenges do you anticipate?
“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:31-34 ESV)
What should pastors, commissioned ministers, congregations, and congregation members know about how you approach the ministry?
The following passages from John will help explain how I approach the ministry.
First, the ministry is about revealing Jesus Christ through the Word: “But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31).
Second, Jesus describes the life He brings in many wonderful ways in the Gospel of John, but this one sums it up: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).
Finally, the goal of the ministry is to offer this life to all people by bringing them to meet Jesus Christ through His Word. The role, then, of the minister is a diminishing one. In the words of John the Baptist, “[Christ] must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).
So at the end of the day, my hope would be that those I minister with grow stronger in their relationship with Christ Jesus and that the fruit of that relationship be the abundant life He has promised.
Is there a Scripture passage that you’d like to share to encourage our workers and members?
These words of Jesus, which happen to be my confirmation verses, are a powerful reminder of whose we are and what a powerful blessing that is:
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:27-28)
Welcome, Pastor Wismar!
If you’d like to connect with Pastor Wismar, click here to send him an email.