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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

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Lives Prepared for Service: Part: 2

Luther Preparatory School, the high school on the Watertown campus, is a normal high school with a special purpose—preparing young people for the public ministry.

Matthew A. Crass

If you are a member of WELS, you own Luther Preparatory School (LPS), along with our other three ministerial education schools—Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary (WLS), Mequon, Wis.; Martin Luther College (MLC), New Ulm, Minn.; and Michigan Lutheran Seminary (MLS), Saginaw, Mich. Approximately 35 percent of Luther Prep’s financial support comes directly from WELS Congregation Mission Offerings. WELS is the only church body that operates such a blessed ministerial education system. Yes, LPS is yours. Whenever you pray for the spread of the gospel, you are not only praying for its reach into your community, throughout our country, and to all foreign lands. You are also praying for LPS.

Why does our church body make such an investment in LPS? The answer to that question remains the same today as it was 150 years ago. At the dedication of this school in September of 1865 Johannes Bading, the second president of the Wisconsin Synod, spoke on behalf of the synod and the board and “praised God for the assured training of preachers of the gospel.” Luther Prep’s seal located at the entry of the chapel trumpets its purpose. God’s Word with Christ crucified at the center of it is the foundation of LPS.

The prep department on the synod’s Watertown campus began in 1865. In 1995 former prep school Martin Luther Preparatory School, Prairie du Chien, Wis., amalgamated with Watertown’s Northwestern Preparatory School to form Luther Preparatory School. For the past 20 years more than 55 percent of LPS graduates have continued their preparation for ministry at Martin Luther College. Over that same period of time more than one-third of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary’s student body has comprised former LPS students.

Students from at least 47 states and more than two dozen foreign countries have enrolled at this synod school. LPS has been blessed to witness its enrollment increase from 333 in 2008 to 450 in 2015.

NORMAL HIGH SCHOOL, BUT DIFFERENT 

LPS is a “normal” high school in that it provides a college prep curriculum for all students and it offers a full array of cocurricular activities—sports, music, drama, forensics, and various clubs.

Yet it differs. Some differences are small. Ninety percent of LPS students live in one of the three dormitories. Some of the students will say, “It’s like having a sleepover with your friends every night.” For the past 150 years the students on this high school campus have enjoyed a two-hour study hall Sunday through Thursday nights. They eat three meals each day with their friends in the cafeteria. All the students take Latin in order to prepare them for future language study, especially as pastors for the Bible’s original languages of Greek and Hebrew. LPS never cancels school for snow days.

Other differences are monumental. Every teacher and dorm staff supervisor has graduated from MLC or WLS. Every class is taught in the light of God’s Word. Religion classes, covering the vast majority of the Old and New Testament along with Christian doctrine, meet daily. LPS recognizes the need and desire for future musicians in our Lutheran congregations and classrooms, so more than 95 percent of the students take piano lessons. The organ program produces the most organ students for MLC and perhaps more organists than any other high school in America.

The Word of God is central in all LPS does. The entire faculty and student body worship together every morning throughout the week. The students gather together in chapel every weekday evening before bedtime to hear the Word again. The 200-plus students who remain on campus for the weekends walk in groups to one of four WELS churches in town.

FUTURE PASTORS AND TEACHERS

LPS does not ask 14-year-old boys and girls to sign up for the preaching or teaching ministry when they enroll. How could it? They are not adults yet. Statistics prove that the majority of 18 year olds—adults!—who enter college change their minds about what vocation they want to enter when they graduate. LPS simply asks its students to understand that they will be prepared for public gospel ministry and to be open to the encouragement toward ministry during their four years at LPS.

In today’s world it is especially abnormal for a young boy to desire the noble calling of pastoral ministry. Yet, this year 25 LPS graduates will be entering MLC for pastoral studies. This is a testimony to God’s grace, and it is by the same grace that LPS fulfills its synod-given purpose.

Everything that happens at LPS is done with an eye toward ministry. LPS offers age-appropriate ministry experiences to its students. All of the seniors take part in the Taste of Ministry program, in which prospective pastor students spend two days with an area WELS pastor and prospective teacher students spend two days in a classroom with an area elementary school teacher. Supported by the Antioch Foundation, Project Timothy is designed to provide mission, ministry, and cross-cultural experiences to LPS students. Approximately 50 students assist with outreach and education programs of mission congregations in St. Lucia, Antigua, California, Virginia, Georgia, Texas, and Canada.

Each year the entire junior class visits Martin Luther College. By the time LPS students graduate, each one will have met at least four times with an MLC recruiter. At the annual Ministry Day an array of missionaries, professors, teachers, pastors, and MLC and WLS students present topical ministry workshops to the entire student body. Sophomores also take an annual trip to the seminary, and seniors in the LPS pastor track visit the seminary in fall for worship, class visitation, and a tour.

Parents encourage their children for ministry. Pastors, teachers, and laypeople across the synod encourage their congregation’s “sons and daughters” for ministry. The LPS faculty is completely committed to the purpose of LPS, as evidenced by their teaching and preaching. Students regularly encourage one another toward ministry. Even more, the Holy Spirit transcends everything Luther Prep does to encourage and prepare high school students for full-time gospel ministry. It is his gentle working through the gospel that continues to open young peoples’ hearts.

The LPS 40-acre park-like campus is safe, well maintained, and beautiful. But it is not as though God has carved out a little slice of real estate in Watertown, Wisconsin, that is immune from the onslaughts of the devil, the world, and the flesh. Where there is sin, grace abounds all the more. A holy, crucified, and risen Savior has won the victory over the enemies. This is what LPS students believe and confess. Someday, Lord willing, many of them will stand in classrooms and pulpits proclaiming that victory.

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

This is the second 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.

SUBMIT YOUR STORY

Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.

SUBSCRIBE TO FORWARD IN CHRIST

Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from  Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.

 

Author: Matthew A. Crass
Volume 102, Number 10
Issue: October 2015

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

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Lives Prepared for Service: Part 1

LPS 150

Training the next generation of full-time church workers in Watertown, Wisconsin, began 150 years ago.

Matthew A. Crass

It was the early 1860s. One can almost imagine some words from a well-intended letter: “Dear President Bading, with our church body being in existence for only a little more than a decade, it does not seem as though we are ready to undertake an endeavor of such magnitude.”

One can almost hear President Bading’s friends speaking to him: “What are you thinking? The members of our fledgling synod are immigrants. They don’t have that kind of money. How can we possibly expect them even to build such a campus let alone pay for the ongoing operation of it? Oh, and you certainly are also well aware of the fact that we are in the midst of the Civil War, right?”

Some might have called him a visionary, while others might have said he was innovative. But Johannes Bading, WELS’ second synod president, preferred to think of himself as a gospel servant. Bading sought support for a plan—to build a campus in Watertown, Wisconsin, to prepare and train the next generation of pastors and teachers for spreading the gospel.

A SMALL BEGINNING

The pastors coming from Germany were few and often unreliable. In his report to the 1862 synod convention, Bading wrote, “We must dig a well in our land, in our synod, from which workers flow to us. . . . Let us make a small beginning, with faith in the Lord’s help.”

Even though Bading’s idea was at times met with apathy, uncertainty, or disagreement, he continued to plod, prepare, plant, and procure gifts. Above all, he proclaimed Christ. He knew that the Spirit would work as he willed through such preaching.

A small beginning was made. And the well was dug.

On Sept. 14, 1865, the campus of ministry in Watertown, Wisconsin, was dedicated. The school was established to serve as a seminary and a college, which would include a prep department. The five-acre campus had only one building known as the Kaffeemuehle because its shape resembled a coffee grinder. Within the Kaffeemuehle, 6 seminary students and 66 prep students (no college students yet because there were very few young men who had a high school education in 1865) ate, attended classes, worshiped, studied, and slept. At the dedication, Bading publicly praised God for the assured training of preachers of the gospel. He said, “The Lord will carry out to a glorious end the work that we have begun.”

 

A SOLID BASE

This profound truth has been made with these rather simple words: “The work of a minister of the gospel is this—to know the Word of God and the soul of the human being he serves. Then connect the two.” Of course, it is the Holy Spirit working through the gospel in Word and sacrament who makes such a connection. That is precisely why the Word of God remains paramount in the work of our WELS pastors, teachers, and staff ministers.

That’s what our forefathers thought and believed in 1865. The ministerial education of the students meant a heavy emphasis on Bible, doctrine, history, English, German, Latin, and even French. In 1524, Martin Luther wrote, “In proportion then as we value the gospel, let us zealously hold to the languages. For it was not without purpose that God caused his Scriptures to be set down in these two languages alone—the Old Testament Hebrew, the New Testament Greek. Now, if God did not despise them but chose them above all others for his word, then we too ought to honor them above all others.” As it is today, the study of Greek and Hebrew was critical to the formation of a gospel servant in 1865, so much so that Greek was taught in the prep department.

Martin Luther continued with his compelling words, “Let us be sure of this. We will not long preserve the gospel without the languages.” Board for Ministerial Education administrator Paul Prange wrote on the occasion of our seminary’s 150th anniversary two years ago, “I am unaware of any other Lutheran seminary that has remained orthodox for 150 years.” God has preserved the gospel among us. This is a testimony to God’s grace and the rich blessings he has given us as a synod in our ministerial education system.

A RICH HISTORY

The seminary graced the Watertown campus until 1870, before moving first to St. Louis, then to Milwaukee, and finally to Wauwatosa. For the past 86 years it has resided in Mequon, Wisconsin.

The college and prep department were modeled, not surprisingly, after the German Gymnasium schools. This included four years of study in the prep department and two in the college. Remnants of 1865 remain today as the high school students on the synod’s Watertown campus, known today as Luther Preparatory School, still use the Latin names from the German Gymnasium to identify their year of study. For example, the sophomores are called Quintaners (from the Latin for “fifth”) because in 1865 they would have looked forward to five more years of education at Watertown.

The college was first known as “Wisconsin University” and then “Northwestern University.” In 1910 the governing board changed its name to Northwestern College. Northwestern College remained the anchor of the Watertown campus for 130 years, until it was amalgamated in 1995 with Dr. Martin Luther College, our synod’s teacher training college in New Ulm, Minnesota. Since then our synod’s single college of ministry bears the name Martin Luther College (MLC).

Last May the Northwestern College Alumni Society held its annual meeting on the Watertown campus for the first time since the amalgamation. Daniel Balge, MLC’s academic dean for the pre-seminary program, addressed the group. In his remarks he related that “the spirit of Northwestern College lives on at MLC.” This continuing spirit is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, who worked in the hearts of young men to offer themselves for the gospel ministry 150 years ago in Watertown, continues to work today in the young men and women at MLC.

BLESSINGS FROM GOD

The prep department has remained on the campus for 150 years and still continues with the same purpose: preparing students for the public ministry of the gospel.

In 1865, the people of our synod dug the well from which countless blessings have flowed from the hand of the Almighty. More than 3,500 pastors have received their training on the Watertown campus. The same is true for several thousand teachers and dedicated laypeople.

Ministerial education in WELS endured some challenging years in the late 1860s. But by 1872 the enrollment had grown to 156 students. The total enrollment of our synod’s four ministerial education schools today numbers approximately 1,500. The well has been dug very deep.

Johannes Bading served as synod president until 1889. He served on the governing board of Northwestern College until shortly before he entered glory in 1913. We still echo his words today: “The Lord will carry out to a glorious end the work which we begin.”

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

This is the first 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.

 

SUBMIT YOUR STORY

Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.

SUBSCRIBE TO FORWARD IN CHRIST

Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from  Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.

 

Author: Matthew A. Crass
Volume 102, Number 9
Issue: September 2015

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2019
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us