Monthly Archives: February 2014

Rev. Darren Siegle

My journey into Pastoral Ministry began as a direct result of what my parents did with me when I was 18 days old. They brought me to the baptismal font at Grace Lutheran Church in Edmonton, where the late Pastor George Rode applied the water and the Word of Holy Baptism.

Faith was created within me at that time, to where I can say I never remember a time when I did not believe in God. In fact, as a small boy, learning about this faith, I knew God was at the center of my life.

As I grew older, God sent to my school Christian friends. They were legalistic, and doubted that I would be saved since I didn’t live up to the same standards as they did.
This concerned me. Did I have to embrace a multitude of rules too if I was to be saved? Was my soul in jeopardy?

I thought not, but still, God gave me the desire to want to study the matter. Where? How? For me, the obvious answer was Concordia College (now C.U.C.A.). I am one for whom attending Concordia was very convenient. I loved studying theology, especially learning that Martin Luther’s struggles were not unlike my own.

Initially I wasn’t sure about being a pastor, since I questioned if I was cut out for it. Still, it seemed like a good idea to consider this vocation. I am thankful for the full encouragement of my family that was behind me, whether I became a pastor or not. Doors opening and closing were continuing to lead me to Concordia Lutheran Seminary, just across the street.

At both the college and seminary, professors and fellow students affirmed me in the direction I was going, as were people from my congregation, including Pastor Carl Wolski. After my first and second years, I was employed at Jackfish Lutheran Camp in Roblin, MB. This included a lot of supply preaching for local pastors on vacation. I was married after my 2nd year, and was assigned to be a vicar in Regina. This year caused many theological questions to arise, and I looked forward to my fourth year, when I returned to look more deeply into many matters.

Finally, not yet 26 years of age, I graduated, and was assigned to my first parish, in MB. I continue to love the opportunities that pastoral ministry provides to learn more theology, and teach it, often in very practical ways, in the congregations God has given me the privilege to serve. I love emphasizing how we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, as revealed in Scripture alone.

I also greatly enjoy being with the people of all ages and backgrounds, and sharing their lives. I seek to provide a listening ear. Challenges have arisen too, and for these I am thankful, for in passing through them, there is great growth. I’ve prayed the “Serenity Prayer” often as I, like you, keep seeking God’s direction.

Rev. Thomas Winger

Are You Listening, Jonah?

I have a friend in England who took two degrees in theology, but had no intention of becoming a pastor. Like me, he was a pastor’s kid; like me, he grew up in a distant land where his father served as a missionary pastor. So the ministry was always in front of his eyes, but he never grasped at it. Instead he studied what he loved, taught it to others as a religion teacher—until the Lord finally chased him down and laid on him the yoke of the pastoral office. On the occasion of his ordination I wrote to him that the Lord had finally got His Jonah!

Perhaps that was an exaggeration for him as well as for me, but it’s not far from the truth. Neither of us ran to the other end of the inhabited world to evade God’s call. But I think we saw the pastoral office a bit like that. It was always in front of me, growing up in a parsonage and watching a man at work who was loved by his flock as much as by his children. But I kept it at arm’s length. It gnawed away at me as I learnt to be comfortable in front of people, teaching Sunday School and playing music. People at church told me I’d be a good pastor (how important that encouragement was!). But I had other skills and interests.

In high school it was maths and sciences that excited me. I was in at the ground floor of the computer revolution. One summer I had a student internship in “Silicon Valley North”, working as a programming debugger at an entrepreneurial start-up in Waterloo. I worked on the very first IBM PCs. But those months in a dark basement facing a computer screen all day were stale and dissatisfying. I longed for human contact.

Changing directions, I went off to do a degree in music—but decided to work on my biblical languages on the side. Was I just hedging my bets or did I know that I would become a pastor? I certainly had made a decision to head to seminary and study the Scriptures; but I hadn’t yet decided what I wanted to do with that education. My organ teacher used to ask me why I was studying organ when I was heading for the ministry. Well, I did it because I liked it, and I wasn’t yet sure about being a pastor. I think it wasn’t till my vicarage year that I realised, “I can actually do this; I can actually enjoy this.”

There are men who are far more deserving of the name “Jonah” than I. But I tell this side of my story to make two important points. Firstly, it’s so important to study what you love. I loved music and the Bible. And those two things have never left me. If there’s any single thing that drew me towards the ministry, it’s the love of Bible study, infused by my father and topped up by a few other special pastors. That hasn’t changed—in fact, it’s increased—as I’ve moved from parish ministry into seminary teaching.

The second point is about the way God draws us into His plan. We don’t make the first move. We make false moves, though God finds ways to use them, too. But He eventually He finds us and leads us down the path He’s chosen for us. We rarely know it at the start. And, as I often tell seminary students, you don’t know for sure that you’ve been called into the ministry until hands are laid upon you at your ordination. But along the way God gives you hints. Do you love the Word of God and want to wrestle it to the ground until it blesses you? There is a vocation where you can fulfil that passion as your very life, where you’ll be surrounded by people ready to become as passionate about God’s Word as you are. Come to seminary and find out!

Okay, there’s a third point: listen to what people are telling you. If they say you’d make a good pastor, chances are they’ve seen a spark in you that should be fanned into a flame. We pray God to give us direction, but He doesn’t usually call to us in the night as He once did to Samuel! His answers usually come from the people He places around us. They’re worth listening to.

Pastor Thomas Winger, Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary, St. Catharines, Ontario

Rev. Robert Bugbee

An Unlikely Way

A pastor’s obituary in my hometown paper told a remarkable fact about him.  He had come from a long line of ministers running from father to son – never missing a generation – that could be traced back to the mid 1600’s.  Incredible!  Likewise, some of the finest pastors in our church today grew up in families where Dad, an uncle, grandfather, or some other relative had served in the ministry.  Numerous preachers who have worked in our church were believable enough that the Lord used their positive example to put it into the hearts of someone in a younger generation to follow in their footsteps.

My story couldn’t be more different.  I grew up in a home only nominally Christian at best, though I thank the Lord that He drew my parents to Christ later on.  We didn’t attend worship.  My father and mother did not arrange for me to be baptized until I was nearly six years old.  Nothing much was done to build on that foundation through my young childhood.  All four of us kids, however, were sent to confirmation classes; this was what people did in those days.  For reasons I cannot explain, my involvement in those classes was meaningful enough that I kept going to church on Sundays, even after I was confirmed.  At that time I was the only one from my family to go.  Again, for reasons I cannot recall, I decided already in the fall of my Grade 9 year to study for the ministry.  I remember an older relative lamenting that choice to my mother.  She asked bluntly, “Why would he want to do that when he could be successful?”

Looking back on it now, it was especially strange, because I had no clue in those days what it means to have a Redeemer.  I enrolled in a liberal Lutheran undergraduate college, though I wouldn’t have understood going in what “liberal” meant.  I only know that, before long, I was faced with theological teachers devoted to a destructively critical approach to the Bible and the historic Christian faith.  We were repeatedly told what we could not be sure of, how miraculous things recorded in Scripture never happened the way they are taught in Sunday School, and – in one extreme case – how you couldn’t pin your faith to a “so-called historical event” like Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

It touched off a real faith crisis for me.  I lay awake and agonized over what church and faith were all about.  In His love the Lord nudged me precisely during those troubling days across the path of a faithful Lutheran pastor.  He unpacked for me the wonder of the Gospel:  how God, Who didn’t owe us a dime, let His Son die and take the rap for us, the real crooks and thieves.  I thought this was the most wonderful message I’d ever heard, that from Jesus I have forgiveness, a slate wiped clean!  Nearly forty years have passed since the saving Good News of Christ became everything to me.  I still feel as I did in the late winter of 1974:  It’s the most wonderful message I’ve ever heard.

It also pumped real direction into my hope of becoming a pastor.  I came to realize that my life’s mission wasn’t to preserve the church as an organization, but to tell – strongly, clearly, without let-up! – that Christ died for the sins of the world, to bring people back to God again, and to press into their hands a pardon-letter covering absolutely everything.

As a young adult in those days, I could never have pictured the places where the Lord would later have me live and work, all the marvelous encounters with people He would send my way.  I realize now that He made good use of my unlikely background, too, growing up as I did in a blue-collar family and one unchurched at that!  He shaped me to talk to people in understandable words; kept me from holding people in contempt, even if they were far from Christ and the church; gave me eyes to see that He knows how to use the situations of life to teach so many precious things, even if those situations at first blush don’t seem like they could do any good at all.

Approaching the end of his life, an old English preacher told his son, “If I had a thousand lives, I would give them all, all to the ministry.”  I know that feeling.  God has permitted me to spend my working energies doing some of the most vital things a person could ever do:  To hold out Christ, the Saviour of the world, to people who need Him, just as I do.  As I write these lines, I can only hope He will put it into the hearts of many others to spend their lives this way as pastors and deacons.  And perhaps you who read this little true story would do well to pray to Him to open your own heart very wide … in case this is what He’s also trying to do with you.

 Pastor Robert Bugbee, President
Lutheran Church-Canada