Lives prepared for service: Part 3

We pray for blessings on the future of our synod’s ministerial education system as it continues to train workers for the harvest field.

Matthew A. Crass

Anniversaries of any occasion give us the opportunity to praise God for his abundant blessings of the past. Yet, we don’t live in the past; we live for the future. Our eternal future is secure in the Living One who was dead but now is alive forever and ever (Revelation 1:18). We live to serve our Savior today and for all the tomorrows he will give us, confident that the same grace he gave us in the past will continue in the future.

The Lord has blessed our church body for the past 150 years with a ministerial education system that had its beginnings in Watertown, Wisconsin. For the past 20 years Luther Preparatory School (LPS) continues the long history. A sesquicentennial anniversary gives reason for a celebration of gratitude to our triune God.

THE CHALLENGE: THE HARVEST

The Good Shepherd told his 12 disciples, “The harvest is plentiful” (Matthew 9:37). Perhaps as many as 300 million people inhabited the earth in A.D. 30 when Jesus spoke those words. Today that number has increased more than twentyfold. Two thousand years later the seven billion still need the “one thing needful”—Jesus!

For the past few years and for at least the next seven years Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary (WLS) will be averaging approximately 30 graduates who will present themselves to the church for calls into the pastoral ministry. They will be “replacing” the seminary classes of the late ’70s and early ’80s, which graduated more than 50 young men each year. Those statistics do present a challenge.

The challenge is great; the harvest calls us all. The Lord has blessed us with more open doors in Africa, Southeast Asia, and elsewhere. Requests also have risen for Martin Luther College (MLC) graduates to serve as teachers overseas. More preschools have opened and continue to bloom in congregations across the country. Home Missions planted several new missions in recent years and plans carefully to follow the same course for the coming years. Seven billion souls and the thousands of opportunities before us accentuate even more the urgency of our prayers for more workers in Christ’s harvest field.

THE CHALLENGE: MORE WORKERS

The Good Shepherd said the harvest was plentiful, and he continued, “. . . but the workers are few.” That was true two millennia ago, is true today, and will remain true until the Lord of the harvest returns to take his harvest home. Jesus concluded, “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (v. 38).

The Lord does not choose to feed us in the same miraculous way as he did with the Israelites when he provided manna and quail directly from heaven. He works through people: farmers, manufacturers of machinery, transporters, processors, packagers, grocers, etc.

Neither does the Lord choose to bring people to faith by speaking directly to them as he did with the persecutor of the church, Saul, calling him to be his ambassador. He works through means—his gospel in Word and sacrament. He hasn’t entrusted his life-giving Word to angels, but to human beings. In doing so God has ordained the public ministry. In writing to the Ephesians Paul reminds us that the ascended Christ, “gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers” (4:11). The people of our synod have always placed a high value on the training of their called workers and the blessings those called workers bring to the congregations through their gospel work.

OUR TASK: ENCOURAGING FUTURE WORKERS

The work of the gospel is blessed when parents offer their sons and daughters for consideration and preparation for full-time ministry. A few decades ago a study was done asking young pastors what or who was their greatest encouragement toward ministry. “My mother” was the top answer.

Pastors, teachers, and staff ministers modeling ministry for the young in their care and following it up with an encouraging word to them about someday serving in ministry goes a long way.

“You will be such a fine pastor/teacher.” Simple sentences like that from congregational members to their “sons and daughters” often reach deep into a young person’s heart.

In 1529 Martin Luther said this regarding giving a servant to the full-time ministry of the gospel: “If you bring up a child in such a way that he is able to become a keeper of souls, you do not give a coat or endow a monastery or church; you are indeed doing something greater; you are giving a servant of God who is able to help many souls.”

What type of child, grade school student, or high school student, is Jesus looking for to serve him in the full-time ministry? Many of us have perhaps spoken of young people who have “gifts for ministry.” Such talk can unintentionally limit the pool of candidates for ministry. How do I know what gifts a 12-year-old will have 12 years from now? Could it very well be that Jesus has in mind that this congregation will need the very gifts of this present-day 12-year-old, who at this time in his life doesn’t appear to have any of those gifts?

Let’s also look at Scripture’s examples. Was the non-eloquent, slow of speech Moses gifted? How about skittish Jonah? persecutor Saul? doubting Thomas? spineless Peter? other disciples who would serve in Christ’s harvest field? The Bible has the answer as Paul speaks of ministry: “Not that we are competent in ourselves . . . but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers” (2 Corinthians 3:5,6).

OUR TASK: TRAINING FUTURE WORKERS

Do you know a young boy or girl whom you would like to encourage to be a pastor, teacher, or staff minister? Luther Prep is a blessed place for high school students to begin their preparation. Everything that happens at Luther Prep is done with an eye toward ministry. The current of Luther Prep’s river flows toward MLC and WLS. Historically more than half of Luther Prep’s graduates continue at Martin Luther College for ministry. Certainly parents who send their children to Luther Prep make many sacrifices along the way, but God gives lasting blessings.

LPS isn’t the only source of students. WELS has another synod prep school—Michigan Lutheran Seminary, Saginaw, Mich.—and 24 area Lutheran high schools. Plus there are hundreds of public high schools. We walk and work together to encourage students from every corner of WELS-world to consider working in Christ’s harvest fields.

For a century and a half the synod’s Watertown campus has been enrolling young people willing to consider and be encouraged toward ministry. We pray that will be true for as many more years, decades, or centuries God gives to Luther Prep. We confess with our confessions: “The chief worship of God is to preach the gospel” (Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article XV). Where the gospel is taught and preached, the Holy Spirit will continue to gather his church for time and eternity. With such assurance, we look confidently toward a blessed future.

Matthew Crass, president of Luther Preparatory School, Watertown, Wisconsin, is a member at St. Luke, Watertown, Wisconsin.

This is the final article in a three-part series discussing 150 years of ministerial education on the synod’s Watertown campus.

A sesquicentennial celebration of praise to God will be held at the Luther Prep gymnasium at 3 p.m. CST, Nov. 15. The synod’s four ministerial education school choirs will participate. The event will be livestreamed. Learn more at www.lps.wels.net.

 

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Author: Matthew A. Crass
Volume 102, Number 11
Issue: November 2015

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