Growing up as a son of a Lutheran School teacher/principal and later a Lutheran pastor I had no desire to one day follow in my father’s footsteps. I wanted to try something new, study broadcast journalism, and be a baseball, play-by-play announcer. So I left home to study broadcast journalism… at Concordia University.
You’ve never heard of Concordia’s broadcast journalism program. Neither had I. But there I was starting university and readying myself for a future in sports radio. In the first few months I joined other friends for Bible study every evening. As we talked, studied, and prayed, we also encouraged. And one by one, every few days (and almost as if planned), my friends began to encourage me. “Paul, have you ever thought about being a pastor?” “You should really think about becoming a pastor.” “You would be a really good pastor.” I remembered similar encouragement from my youth leader back home. After much prayer I decided to make the change.
Within the first year I had traded in my radio future for Greek and Hebrew. It was flashy for sure. I lived and breathed flashcards, one in a dead language (Koine Greek) and the other in a language (Hebrew) that never seemed to bring much shalom. What I didn’t realize is that I had been reintroduced to two old friends.
The roots underneath my English translations of the Bible were deeper and vaster than I could have imagined. Still to this day I am overwhelmed by the depth and the richness of our Lord’s Word. Romans 11:33 rings in my mind: “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!”
I am thankful for the pre-seminary training I received at Concordia. It gave me a solid base, especially for Greek and Hebrew, before I started seminary. Looking back I wouldn’t have changed a thing.
My studies at seminary were more than challenging and demanding. I realized that achieving the highest grades was no longer my goal. Understanding the scriptures for my faith and for preaching and teaching became the priority. Also I gained dear friends and brothers in ministry, who still encourage me today.
That being said I think two advisements helped me then and now. First, I won’t make the Scriptures solely an academic pursuit. These sermons, Bible studies, and papers aren’t just for me to preach and to teach with knowledge and bring forgiveness, repentance, and a strengthened faith to the people to whom I ministered. These words, God’s Words, are also for me. This Word kills me and makes me alive. It drowns me daily in the waters of my baptism and repentance and daily raises me again to new life. I wasn’t the most talented, the best speaker, or the best student. Yet somehow the Lord saw fit to equip me for pastoral ministry.
Second, my vocations are first as a child of God, a husband, father, son, and brother. These callings will not be sacrificed on the altar of pastoral ministry. Rather, through God’s mercy they will enhance being a pastor and vice versa.
Now some years later by the grace of God I am what I am: a servant of the Lord and to His people, a man called by the Lord’s church to dispense the mysteries of God. I’m a pastor, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. What a joy it is to preach and teach the Word, visit the sick, comfort the grieving, and reach out to the lonely.
As you consider this humble and holy vocation, know the Lord loves to make something wonderful out of nothing. I am living proof. The church needs you. We need you. For Jesus’ sake consider studying for the pastoral office.
In Christ the best is yet to come!