Equipping Christian Witnesses effort underway

Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn., is embarking on a two-year synodwide offering called “Equipping Christian Witnesses.”

Martin Luther College (MLC) is our WELS college of ministry. It prepares nearly all of our called workers, training teachers and staff ministers to serve when they graduate and providing college-level training to young men who will enroll at the seminary to prepare to serve as pastors. Our synod is experiencing a great need for more called workers, and that is what this effort intends to help address.

The offering will provide resources to increase recruitment efforts around the synod.

In addition to that, it will address one barrier to enrollment at MLC: the cost of education. Even though MLC strives to keep educational costs down (and is widely considered to be successful in doing that), the prayer is that this offering will assist in recruitment by providing additional resources for student financial aid, reducing the need for students to borrow for their education.

Another goal of this offering is to provide funds that will help the college improve its facilities, particularly student housing and recreation facilities. While certainly not the main motivation for studying for the ministry, campus facilities do play an important role in recruitment.

We pray that God will move the hearts of our congregations and their members to take part in this opportunity to support the important work that MLC is doing on behalf of us all.

To learn more, visit

Serving with you in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder



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MLC online courses bolster local ministry

This fall, Martin Luther College (MLC), New Ulm, Minn., is offering online courses toward its Chaplaincy and Evangelism certificates. These courses are intended for both WELS called workers and lay members who wish to further their knowledge and skill in conducting local ministry.

Class participants can earn certificates in Evangelism and Chaplaincy, indicating they completed the course work. Particularly for chaplaincy work, the certificate from an accredited institution like MLC, better enables members to enter institutions like jails and nursing homes to reach those thirsting for the gospel.

“The courses are designed to deepen a person’s understanding of those they serve and to help them to have a Christ-centered response,” says Dr. John Meyer, director of graduate studies and continuing education at MLC.

Registration and courses are online. The Chaplaincy certificate requires 10 credits, and the Evangelism certificate requires three one-credit courses. Prospective students also can enroll in courses that interest them without pursuing a certificate.

Four three-credit courses toward the Chaplaincy certificate are scheduled this fall. They include: Communicating Forgiveness, Ministering to the Incarcerated and Their Families, Geriatric and Care Facility Ministry, and Grounded on Scripture. One one-credit course for Evangelism, Friendship Evangelism, is being offered as well.

These courses are conducted in partnership with the WELS Commission on Special Ministries (Chaplaincy) and WELS Commission on Evangelism (Evangelism). They were started to utilize the educational foundation of MLC for the training of members for ministry.

“Our mission at Martin Luther College is to train a corps of witnesses for the ministry needs of WELS. These courses fit exactly into our mission. We are assisting called workers and lay leaders in communicating the gospel and sharing the Word of God with people,” says Meyer. “We’re all called to serve in one way or another, and these courses provide a deeper understanding and practical ways to do that.”

This year Martin Luther Elder Care Ministries is providing a full scholarship to any WELS member interested in taking “Geriatric and Care Facility Ministry.” This class will provide both knowledge and skills for congregation members to provide spiritual care for the homebound and institutionalized. Visit to learn more about this opportunity.

To see the full list of available courses and descriptions and to register, visit It is recommended that interested students should enroll by Aug. 5, 2019.



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New President at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary

At the end of this month, Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., will experience a change in leadership. Seminary President Rev. Paul Wendland will be stepping down as president and will move back into the role of full-time classroom professor. Seminary Vice President Rev. Earle Treptow has accepted the call to serve as the seminary president and will officially begin his duties on July 1, 2019.

The role of the seminary president is an important one. It’s been said that “as the seminary goes, so goes the synod.” The seminary is the place where nearly all WELS pastors are trained, so it goes without saying that for the synod to remain faithful to God’s Word, the seminary will need to remain faithful to the doctrines of Scripture. It is the responsibility of the seminary president to ensure that the seminary carries out that responsibility.

The seminary president is also the spokesman for the seminary. Our synod looks to the seminary faculty to provide guidance and input on doctrinal matters. The Conference of Presidents often consults with the seminary faculty when discussing doctrinal issues. It is the role of the seminary president to speak for the faculty when discussions on doctrinal matters take place.

President Wendland first joined the seminary faculty in 2001 after serving in both world and home mission settings, in an established congregation, and as a professor at Northwestern College and Martin Luther College. He has served as seminary president since 2004. We are thankful for the years in which President Wendland has faithfully carried out these important responsibilities and pray for God’s continued blessings on his new role in the classroom.

Prior to coming to the seminary in 2016, President-elect Treptow served as a pastoral recruiter at Martin Luther College, as a pastor in British Columbia and Denver, Colorado, and as the president of the Nebraska District. As Treptow begins his role as seminary president, we can be thankful that God has blessed our seminary in the past and that those blessings will continue under the leadership of President Treptow.

Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder



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Assignments at Martin Luther College and Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary

Last week the synod’s Assignment Committee met in New Ulm, Minn., to assign teacher and staff ministry candidates. The Assignment Committee is comprised of the Conference of Presidents and is assisted by various advisors.

One hundred forty candidates were assigned to the teaching ministry. All candidates who were able to go anywhere were assigned. Many candidates that could be assigned to limited geographical areas (due to marriage or other circumstances) were assigned, and more of those will be assigned in the coming weeks.

Two staff minister candidates who could go anywhere were assigned; two that were limited by geography were not yet assigned but could be assigned in the future if calls become available.

The complete list of assignments can be found at

This week the Assignment Committee moves to Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in Mequon, Wis. There the committee will assign vicars and pastoral candidates. The announcement of those assignments will take place on Thurs., May 23, at 10:00 a.m. The service can be viewed live online at

Our gracious God has provided candidates to serve in the public ministry, and he has moved them to say, “Here am I; send me!” We thank God for these gifts to his church and pray for his blessings on their service.

Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder



Mission and Ministry held at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary

From Feb. 5–7, students at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., participated in Mission & Ministry, an annual three-day event organized by the students.

Under the theme “Work for the Harvest,” this event highlighted the worldwide work of WELS.

Each day featured a worship service, keynote address, and an update from WELS administration. In addition, to give these future pastors a cross-section of experiences they may face in ministry, 24 breakout sessions were offered in specific topics. These sessions included discussions on personal evangelism; cultivating a caring congregation; urban ministry; planting churches in rural areas; 125 years of ministry to the Apaches; and mission opportunities in Africa, Latin America, and Vietnam.

Also, to highlight synodical resources that are available to congregations, WELS organizations set up displays to share information about their work in God’s kingdom.

“Mission and Ministry refocuses us. It takes us away from our daily routine and reminds us why we study every day. The stories presenters share give us a glimpse of what it will be like to work together with them in God’s harvest field,” says senior Andrew Nemmers, one of the event organizers. “Especially in the middle of a long winter, it’s always helpful to have that reminder that there is a light at the end of the long tunnel of training for pastoral ministry.”

For photos of the event, visit the seminary’s Facebook page.

Fearlessly proclaim the gospel

Students heard the voice of experience Jan. 16 at Martin Luther College’s (MLC) 14th annual Evangelism Day. Following the theme “Fearlessly Proclaim the Gospel,” 30 presenters shared their expertise and personal stories, encouraging students to communicate Christ in their personal lives and their public ministries.

Students had positive reactions “I’ve never been more excited to be a minister of the gospel!” says Josh Wordell. Abby Mleziva adds, “It’s encouraging to see all the different ways that God’s Word is being spread and then picturing how we can fit into the body of Christ doing the same work.”

“It was a great reminder of why we’re here,” says Zach Kopplin. “I came out with this zeal for evangelism,” says Aislinn Eddy. “It’s not just about global missions. It’s about evangelism right where you’re at too.”

For the second year, MLC offered four evening presentations to the public: witnessing to Muslims, doing ministry in Spanish, sharing Jesus with little children, and the role of reason in Lutheran apologetics.

New this year is E-Day Action Day, a follow-up to Evangelism Day on April 10. Students will take their learning to the streets as Dave Malnes, a WELS staff minister and the founder of Praise and Proclaim Ministries, leads students and other New Ulm WELS members in an outreach effort. Participants will receive two hours of training before they begin knocking on doors and a debriefing session afterward.

Seminary holds annual symposium

Almost 400 people attended Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary’s annual fall symposium from Sept 17-18 in Mequon, Wis. Pastors from across North America heard three papers presented on “The Pastor as Shepherd-Leader.” By virtue of his divine call, a pastor is both a loving shepherd and servant leader, yet the challenge can be knowing how and where to lead. Three speakers guided pastors and pastoral students through the thorny issues that surround pastoral leadership and offered clear and wise counsel to those who lead the flock of God.

Professor David Scharf, class of 2005, began the symposium with the paper, “St. Paul and Martin Luther: Paradigms of Shepherd-Leaders.” Scharf, a professor at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn., outlined a paradigm for shepherd leadership using “I am Jesus’ Little Lamb.” He shared, “A shepherd-leader first recognizes that he is a sheep. Humility is in order. He is joyfully optimistic. He guides by training and encouraging others for ministry as well as by instructing his people in a gentle way. He loves God and loves people by supplying what people need and is consistent. Finally, a shepherd-leader knows his sheep and calls them by name.”

The second paper, presented by 1999 graduate Rev. Jonathan Schroeder, discussed “Shepherd-Leaders Under the Cross: Facing the Challenges.” Schroeder, pastor at Faith, Sharpsburg, Ga., addressed the hard idea that suffering and bearing the cross is part of life as a Christian. “Understanding what God is really like is imperative for shepherd-leaders who guide God’s people as they face challenges together. To show us what he is really like, God leads his shepherd and his flock to the unlikeliest of places: the cross,” he shared. “God puts his pastors and congregations in situations that test their faith, test their joy in ministry, test their trust in him. But he does those things to strengthen us, to mold us into the servants that he wants. That is what makes our congregational crosses so dear. When the potter puts his hands on you, run to his Word.”

For the final paper, Rev. Jonathan Hein, class of 1997, addressed the future. Hein, coordinator for WELS Congregational Services, presented “The Shepherd-Leader at Work: Moving Forward.” He reminded those in attendance, “God has called you a shepherd leader. To say, ‘I’m not a leader’ is more than self-pity. It is a denial of reality. God speaks; reality results. God has spoken; thus, you are a leader.” He encouraged the pastors to examine their leadership and ministries. “It seems to me that at times there is an unwillingness to examine how we are proclaiming the Word; to ask, ‘Are we proclaiming the Word in ways that makes sense, given our context?’ Sometimes, it seems we are hesitant to simply ask, ‘Is this the best we can do?’” He also reminded them of the freedom to lead with the gifts God has given them, “The LORD did not give Adam instructions on how to do everything. Instead, he made Adam in his likeness—possessing reason undergirded with purity. Likewise, as we provide leadership in his church, he simply does not provide a lot of detailed direction. We might like him to. He chooses not to, so that we might demonstrate our love for him through careful reasoning.”

The archive of the symposium is available at



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WELS ministerial education schools begin another year

The four WELS ministerial education schools opened their years with blessings and good news.

While class sizes remain in the 20s and 30s for the next two years at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., projections based upon planned graduates from Martin Luther College indicate an upward trend toward the mid-30s in the following years. The Lord is answering the need for more workers in his harvest field.

Preliminary undergraduate opening enrollment at Martin Luther College (MLC), New Ulm, Minn., as of mid-August, is 768 compared to 756 last year. (Official enrollment is finalized at the end of August.) About 200 of the undergraduates are preseminary students, 70 of which are freshmen. Total enrollment in the various educational tracks is 547. Eleven students are enrolled in the staff ministry program.

Luther Preparatory School (LPS), Watertown, Wis., opened the school year with a total enrollment of 420, up from 416 last year. Enrollment has been steady over the last five years, significantly larger than the low of 333 ten years ago. Last year LPS sent the largest number of its graduates to MLC to train for the pastoral ministry (38) in its 153-year history. Seventy percent of the class of 2018 has enrolled at Martin Luther College.

Michigan Lutheran Seminary (MLS), Saginaw, Mich., begins the school year under the leadership of its new president, Rev. Mark Luetzow. Opening enrollment is 192, slightly lower than last year’s 195. MLS has 14 international students from five countries (Canada, South Korea, China, Germany, and Mexico). Thirty-three percent of the MLS faculty (including dormitory staff) is new since the end of last school year.

We thank God for these schools and for their students who are preparing to serve the Lord in the public ministry.

Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder



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Changes at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary

Rev. Paul O. Wendland, president at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., has announced that he will transition from the position of president into a purely teaching role at the end of the 2018–19 school year.

“I am grateful to the Lord Jesus for the privilege of serving him as president of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary for the past 15 years, and I look forward, as he wills, to go on serving him by teaching full time. I pray the next year will allow for an orderly transition,” says Wendland.

Wendland has served on the seminary faculty since 2001 and was called to serve as president in 2004. He has served congregations in Mwembezhi, Zambia; Hopkins, Michigan; and Salt Lake City, Utah. From 1994 to 2001 he taught at Northwestern College, Watertown, Wis., and Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn.

“A grateful synod gives thanks to the Lord for Paul Wendland’s leadership as president,” says Rev. Paul Prange, administrator for WELS Ministerial Education. “Please join me in praying for God’s blessing as seminary students continue to benefit from his insight and encouragement as a full-time professor for many years to come.”

A call for nominations to fill the seminary president position will be sent out soon.


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2018 assignments at Martin Luther College

The synod’s Assignment Committee met at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn., last week to assign candidates for the teaching and staff ministry. In total, 136 men and women were called by assignment to their various places of service. In addition, one staff minister candidate was assigned. View the assignment list.

All candidates able to be assigned anywhere were assigned. In addition, several candidates who were limited to a geographical location (usually because of marriage) were also assigned. Since many vacancies remain, many, if not most, of those who were not assigned on Call Day will be assigned in the coming weeks and months.

We are deeply grateful to the Lord of the church for providing these workers for his harvest field. We pray that God will be with them as they carry out the ministries to which God has called them.

The Assignment Committee will meet next week at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary to make assignments for vicars and candidates for the pastoral ministry. Pastor and vicar assignments will be announced on Thurs., May 24, at 10:00 a.m. Tune into the live stream of the service.

Two members of the Assignment Committee will be completing their service as district presidents in June. Rev. John Seifert, Michigan District president, and Rev. Charles Degner, Minnesota District president, have worked faithfully to carry out their important responsibilities as district presidents and as members of the Assignment Committee. We thank them for their service and ask God to bless them and their wives as they look forward to new opportunities to continue their service to God and his church.

Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder

Staff ministers “Continue in Christ” at 2018 conference

From April 26–28, Cross of Christ, Boise, Idaho, hosted the 2018 Staff Ministers Conference.

Each year staff ministers travel from churches, schools, and parasynodicals around the country for a weekend of learning and fellowship. This year’s conference featured the theme “Continue in Christ,” based on the words of Colossians 2:6, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him.” This message was chosen to encourage staff ministers as they commemorate the 25th anniversary of the staff ministry training program at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn., this year.

In addition to the daily devotions and a worship service, four special sessions were held at the conference. Staff Minister Chad White of Holy Word, Austin, Tex., spoke on personal spiritual growth. Rev. Mark Cares of Truth in Love Ministry in Nampa, Idaho, presented on the principles of witnessing. Pastors and staff of Cross of Christ came together to discuss the challenges and joys of team ministry. Lastly, Staff Minister David Hochmuth of St. Andrew, Middleton, Wis., led a Bible study based on the conference theme “Continue in Christ,” where attendees considered how to approach spiritual hardships unique to different stages of life. The conference also hosted forums for four main areas of staff ministry—youth and family ministry, adult discipleship and leadership, evangelism and outreach, and worship and music.

Staff Minister Kristen Koepsell, coordinator of music and elementary education and fellowship at Cross of Christ, believes the time staff ministers spend together at the conference is critical: “Year after year attendees tell the board that the best part of the conference is the encouragement and support they receive from interacting with their fellow called workers. We benefit most simply by listening and talking to each other and sharing the truth of God’s grace.”

To learn more about Martin Luther College’s staff ministry training program, visit Also, watch the March 27, 2018, “Together” video update for an interview with Levi Nagel, staff minister of music and worship at St. John, Milwaukee, Wis.


New president for Michigan Lutheran Seminary

Rev. Mark Luetzow, pastor at Bethel, Bay City, Mich., has accepted the call to serve as the next president of Michigan Lutheran Seminary (MLS), Saginaw, Mich., one of two high schools in the WELS ministerial education system. He will be taking over for Rev. Joel Petermann, who after six years of serving as MLS president, took a call to Zion, Torrance, Calif.

“Pastor Luetzow combines the heart of a parish pastor with a keen understanding of the work of a preparatory school,” says Rev. Paul Prange, administrator for Ministerial Education.

When Luetzow as a young boy decided he wanted to pursue the ministry, his parents supported that path by sending him to Northwestern Preparatory School (now Luther Preparatory School) in Watertown, Wis. Luetzow has had a heart for the mission of the WELS ministerial education schools after his experience at Northwestern Preparatory School. “I’ve always had a deep love for our prep school system, and in some respects I feel like this is a neat way to give back to something that has given so much to us and the WELS members who have supported us,” he says.

He continues, “Michigan Lutheran Seminary has such a rich history, and it’s very much loved by its alumni and the district as a whole. I’m hoping that love for the prep school will continue to grow—and not just in Michigan but in the entire United States so that we can have a bigger reach.”

Luetzow has served as a parish pastor since 2003. He says he loves being a pastor, so it will only be natural for him to encourage others to do what he loves. “One of the things I’m looking forward to at MLS is being an encouraging voice for young men and women to consider full-time ministry for the Lord.”

Prange says, “In area after area, President Luetzow should be able to hit the ground running and advance the MLS mission of preparing high school students for the public ministry of the gospel.”

Luetzow will transition into the role of MLS president following this school year.

Prange says, “The synod gives thanks to God for Joel Petermann’s careful stewardship of the valuable resources at Michigan Lutheran Seminary. The whole Board for Ministerial Education appreciates his dedication to his work.”

Learn more about Michigan Lutheran Seminary at

Seminary students learn about WELS missions and ministry

From Feb. 6–8, presenters with experience in mission work in North America and around the world spoke at Mission and Ministry, an annual three-day event at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., to introduce seminary students to the worldwide work of WELS.

Under the theme “Building on the Rock,” participants heard from world and home missionaries as well as congregational leaders. This provided future pastors a big-picture view of synod work. Because assignments, calls, and ministries will vary, three breakout sessions are offered each day, allowing students to learn more about areas of personal interest. Some of these topics included beginning a mission church, evangelism for the busy pastor, using teens in outreach, compassion ministry, getting involved in the community, Multi-Language Publications, and an update on the new hymnal.

In addition, more than 30 WELS areas of ministry and organizations set up display booths. This allowed students the opportunity to learn more about what synodical resources are available. “Mission and Ministry is important because it connects students training to be pastors with the work that is being done throughout their synod,” says senior Noah Willitz, one of the event organizers.

Not only does Mission and Ministry help students learn more about their synod, the organizers learned personal lessons that will carry into their ministry. “Mission and Ministry is like a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s good to hear presentations and rub shoulders with pastors doing some great evangelism,” says Thomas Gorzalski, another senior and organizer. “It is a good reminder that every church is a mission church. No matter where I am sent in a few months, I know evangelism will be a priority.”

Seminary students are not the only ones who benefited from the event. On Feb. 6, the junior class of pastor-track students at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn., attended presentations, and the entire student body of Bethany Evangelical Theological Seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS) attended sessions on Wednesday and Thursday. In all, almost 200 students, professors, and guests participated.

For photos of the event, visit the seminary’s Facebook page.

New Partnership To Broaden Outreach Efforts


Linda R. Buxa

“We live in a world of rapid change, and this is true also in the area of theological education as the line between home and world missions disappears,” says Bradley Wordell, world mission seminary professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary (WLS), Mequon, Wis.

One of the changes in education comes because of circular immigration. As God brings refugees and immigrants to the United States, congregations reach out to them with support and the gospel. “Then they have the desire to learn more, to share the gospel with other immigrants, and to bring the gospel back to their home countries. They introduce to us candidates for gospel ministry,” says Wordell. This circular immigration gives us a complete partnership in the gospel.

The second group of people who are changing the education landscape are Christians throughout the world who have already gathered together in groups, churches, and communities. They want support, training, and connection to a church body that shares the good news that Jesus has done it all and that the Bible is true.

Until now, the seminary has handled these requests through two programs, the Pastoral Studies Institute of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary (PSI) and the world mission seminary program. The PSI helps non-traditional students through its preseminary and seminary training. PSI director E. Allen Sorum works with local pastors to help provide training for North American-based students. For the world mission seminary program, WLS professors travel throughout the world teaching courses in seminaries that are part of the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference. In 2015–16, 7 members of the seminary faculty administered 10 different courses in 9 countries to more than 100 students as well as 100 pastors and a few members.


PSI director E. Allen Sorum (far left) traveled with Peter Bur, a South Sudanese pastor, to Kenya in 2015 to meet with and train spiritual leaders for South Sudanese refugees as well as pastors in a Kenyan church body looking to establish fellowship.

Today, more than 300 potential students are contacting our church body looking for support and training in their journey toward becoming confessional Lutherans. With the abundance of people reaching out, the scope of requests is beyond that of missionaries to handle while serving their people and is more than the seminary faculty can undertake while maintaining a high level of education on the Mequon campus. To address this God-given opportunity, the Synodical Council approved a position of international recruitment director. Jon Bare, a 2008 graduate of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, began serving in this position in summer 2016.

“The creation of this team connects World Missions, Home Missions, and Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in a new and exciting way,” says Bare. His task is to coordinate with the world mission seminary professor and the PSI director to implement a culturally informed vetting process for individuals as well as church bodies who wish to become part of our church body’s worldwide outreach. This team will administer a curriculum for men in America and abroad who want to serve as pastors in these church bodies. Bare will work closely with Sorum and Wordell to also develop an appropriate assessment of skills and abilities in ministry and negotiate the appropriate degree or certificate that the student would receive upon the completion of his given level of training.

“The three of us each bring our unique gifts, strengths, and experiences to this new team. This partnership will serve to meet the emerging needs for training God’s people at home and around the world,” says Bare. “I am excited to see how God will continue to grow his kingdom and equip new workers.”

Through all these changes, one thing that doesn’t change is the seminary’s mission. “We prepare pastors and we provide continuing education for pastors,” says Paul O. Wendland, seminary president. “At the same time, the ministry is adapting. The Mequon campus is more a base of operations than a single venue for theological and pastoral training. With more than 300 potential students from around the world asking for help, we have an incredible opportunity.”

Opportunities to reach every neighbor and every nation. The time is now.

Linda Buxa is the communications coordinator at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wisconsin.   


Read more about how WELS missionaries are working to spread the gospel in the U.S. and around the world on the WELS Missions blogs.



Author: Linda R. Buxa
Volume 103, Number 9A
Issue: September 2016

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 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 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 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.


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).


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



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 Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.


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 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.


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.


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


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 Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.


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.


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.”



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.


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.


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



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 Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.


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


Faithful for generations

“My heart is full,” said Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary (WLS) president Paul Wendland after the first service in synodical history with choirs from all four ministerial education schools. “It is clear that it takes a synod to make a seminary.”

That sentiment was clearly on the hearts of many in attendance at the two services at WLS, Mequon, Wis., on Sun., Nov. 17, where WELS President Schroeder preached. The boys in the choirs from Michigan Lutheran Seminary, Saginaw, Mich., and Luther Preparatory School, Watertown, Wis., were picturing themselves as students at WLS. The faculty members from those prep schools who were in attendance or watching the services on live online were renewed in their zeal to prepare those boys every day for the ministry of the gospel.

Every young man in the WLS choir came from Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn., and the connections between the choir members from those two schools were clear. After the services, people were taking many pictures of the family members from all four choirs. “I never thought I would get to see my son and my son-in-law in the same concert,” said one mother.

There was a concert aspect to the event, but its structure was a service. Wendland was the presiding minister, and the other three ministerial education presidents were the lectors for the three lessons. Schroeder’s sermon acknowledged the grace of God in blessing our church body with a seminary faithful to the verbally inspired Word of God for 150 years.

It is a rare blessing in the history of the Lutheran Church that the professors at a seminary and the seminary’s graduates remain faithful for that many generations, united in the mission of taking the unconditional gospel of Jesus to the world. May God continue to bless that great heritage.

By Rev. Paul Prange, administrator for Ministerial Education

2015 MLC graduate assignments

The synod’s Assignment Committee met in New Ulm, Minn., last week to assign candidates for the teaching ministry and staff ministry to their places of service. Eighty-six candidates received calls into the teaching ministry. Some of these assignments were one-year assignments for a first or second year; others were previous one-year assignments that were made permanent. The remaining candidates were assigned permanently. No assignments of staff minister candidates were made.

All 2015 graduates from Martin Luther College who are able to serve anywhere were assigned. Some graduates have requested deferment for a year to pursue academic or cross-cultural opportunities. Others with marriage plans (and, therefore, limited in where they can serve) are eligible to be called directly by congregations near where they will be living. Two previous graduates await assignment in the future.

More than 40 requests for teacher assignments were not able to be filled, either because of the lack of candidates or because the training of candidates did not fit the needs of the specific call.

We have great reason to be filled with thanks and joy that God has provided well-trained and dedicated workers for his harvest field. Keep them in your prayers as they begin their service, and pray that God would continue to provide men and women to teach the Savior’s lambs in our schools.

Assignment of vicars and pastors takes place this week at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis. Vicar assignment will be announced on Tuesday evening, and the same will be done for pastoral candidates on Thursday morning.

Serving in Christ,
Rev. Mark Schroeder