Sometimes, it’s helpful when a pastor shares his vision for ministry with the congregation he serves.
When I was elected president of our District, I didn’t stop being a pastor; I have been God’s servant ever since I was ordained in 2003. My pastoral vision continues to govern daily work in my new role of leadership within our church body.
Thus, I want to share with Minnesota South District pastors, teachers, other church workers—and especially with all of you, the men and women of our congregations—what I see as central priorities that will shape our work together in our District.
Three focal points mentioned later in this article have defined my pastoral ministry for more than 16 years, and it seems to me that these three could also direct us in our District from top to bottom. And in my mind, I want you to know that you’re at the top.
God works through what happens every day in our everyday lives.
He works in the congregations of our District and our individual lives as we go about our God-given daily vocations, but also especially in the Divine Service when we gather together for worship. There, He pours out His gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation through the preaching of His living Word and administration of His Holy Sacraments. These gifts remain the center of the wheel that moves the church out into the world, breathing life into the mission of the Church.
Put simply, in the Divine Service, each believer is forgiven and freed, renewed and refreshed, discipled and dispersed out into our daily vocations as the collective body of Christ to serve others in His name and share the faith and hope we have in Jesus Christ. In these chaotic and confusing times, it’s good to know that the unchanging mission of the Holy Christian Church “to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins in the name of Christ, to all nations” (Luke 24:47, ESV), continues to lead us forward.
To that end, to have sustained vitality and hope for vibrant mission and ministry in our troubled and exhilarating times, everything we do in our District should be governed by the following three priorities—in this order:
Love the Lord
Love our Lutheran theology
To dive deeper into what this means in the context of the parable of the good Samaritan, please click here. For now, I’ll keep this brief with a short summary to give you a basic idea of what I hope shapes our life and ministry together.
Love the Lord
For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (2 Corinthians 2:2)
Christ Jesus is at the center of our life and mission together. We love because He first loved us. Because of His shed blood, we have life now and to all eternity. His Word governs us. His salvation frees us. His love constrains us.
Like St. Paul, we are determined to know nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. He is the Alpha and Omega.
First, last, and always, Jesus remains both Lord and God.
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. (John 15:12)
Our love for Christ spills over into our love for others. Because He loved the unlovable, we do, too. Rich or poor, citizen or immigrant, of our ethnicity or not, Jesus extends His love to all through us.
We are the hands and feet of Jesus to extend His loving-kindness for every human need in body, soul, or spirit. Collectively, we witness and proclaim the Good News to one and all. By Christ’s living Word, the Holy Spirit calls, gathers, and enlightens souls locked in darkness and the shadow of death.
Love our Lutheran theology
This is that mystery which is rich in divine grace to sinners: wherein by a wonderful exchange our sins are no longer ours but Christ’s, and the righteousness of Christ not Christ’s but ours. (Martin Luther, Werke [Weimar, 1883], 5:608)
Every pastor, congregation, and church worker in our District has pledged to faithfully uphold the teachings of Holy Scripture and our Lutheran Confessions as faithful exhibitions of the doctrine taught in God’s Word. We do this not simply because we know them to be true and right, but because they are full of light and life, directing the Holy Christian Church and her passion for both the lost and found!
Theology is not meant to be mere dry propositional statements of truth, but rather it expresses the drama of God’s Word played out in our lives as confessing Christians. Especially in our time of moral confusion and religious pluralism, when truth is often pitted against love, doctrinal integrity is important.
Things like the doctrines of creation, the incarnation, the atonement, and the Trinity are not theoretical abstractions—that is, things primarily to be thought about. They are meaningful patterns that provide orientation for everyday existence—and hence are things that are primarily to be lived!
Thus, we need to encourage one another to constant faithfulness to the Christ-centered teaching of our biblical and confessional doctrine as Lutherans. Precisely because we love Jesus and love the people for whom He died, we also love our Lutheran theology. It is the solid foundation of our life and mission together for the sake of blood-bought souls in this world and the next.
I believe this threefold approach will provide our District a sustained vitality and profound hope for vibrant mission and effective ministry for our times. We’re all in this together as our common confession and mission.
I pledge you my prayerful support as your president, even as I covet your prayers for me. By ourselves we are nothing. But we are not alone. Our Lord Jesus has called us to serve Him jointly in one fellowship and communion and promised never to leave us nor forsake us.
In Christ, we cannot fail.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)