Gratitude for Our Pastors

by Rev. Jerry Kieschnick

0509presidentlarge.jpgEveryone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved,” St. Paul assures us. And he adds this logical progression: “How, then, can they call on the One they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the One of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” (Rom. 10:13–14).

Over the years, I have been influenced by numerous LCMS pastors, including the one who baptized and confirmed me, my campus pastor at Texas A&M University, and the pastors who supervised my seminary fieldwork in Nokomis, Ill., and my vicarage in Charlotte, N.C. I’ve also been influenced by the pastors in Austin and Houston at whose schools I taught fourth grade before I went to the seminary, as well as by a number of district and Synod presidents.

Each of these pastors had unique strengths, gifts, and abilities. Most were as different from the others as night is from day. Yet somehow our gracious God enabled each of them to use his gifts in ways that brought people to know and believe what you and I do—that “there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12), that of Jesus, who said, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

With the assistance of faculty and staff from our two seminaries, 35 district presidents, five Synod vice presidents, and I took part last month in assigning seminary students and pastoral candidates to congregations for their vicarages and first placements as pastors. This is one of the annual highlights of my ministry.

Young (and not-so-young) men, many of them married and with children, respond each year to the divine calling to serve the Lord of the Church in the pastoral ministry of the LCMS. They come from all walks of life, with varied backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives. In common, though, is a burning desire to represent the one true God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—and, in the words of our Synod’s mission statement, “vigorously to make known the love of Christ by word and deed within our churches, communities, and the world.”

These men, their spouses, and their families make a significant commitment when they go to the seminary. The cost of a four-year seminary education, not including personal living expenses, is about $200,000 per student. Some of these expenses are borne by the student and his family. Some are provided by his congregation, his district, the national Synod, seminary endowments, and generous donors from congregations of our Synod who support the cause of seminary education in the LCMS.

The return on this investment, though, is priceless. While members of congregations may not always totally agree with or appreciate everything their pastor says or does, the relationship between a pastor and parishioners is quite significant.

In addition to preaching and teaching matters of faith and life on the basis of God’s Holy Word, pastors are called to be a part of the lives of people in good times and bad, in happy times and sad. In some cases, a pastor knows things about a person that only a parent or spouse—or no one else—may know. The relationship between a pastor and people brings consolation, comfort, encouragement, affirmation, admonition, and help in time of need.

So, I offer my thanks and appreciation to all who are in any way involved in pastoral formation—the students; their wives, children, parents, and grandparents; seminary professors and staff; home pastors and supervising pastors; seminary boards of regents; development officers; the Council of Presidents; the Synod’s Board of Directors and Board for Pastoral Education; and many others.

As I shake the hand of each seminary graduate who receives a call at our annual seminary placement services, I thank God for the excellent system of pastoral education with which He has blessed us. And I pray that each man whose hand I shake will experience a lifetime of being a blessing to many as he serves, leads, preaches, teaches, encourages, and models the love of Christ among His people.

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