As much as I enjoyed my job as a truck-driver, I somehow knew I would not stay in that field. When we became Lutheran, I began to wonder if maybe the Office of Holy Ministry was the vocation for me. So I began the process and waited for a hurdle too big for us to get over. It never came.
Leaving the home we loved to begin seven years of schooling was very difficult but I’ve never regretted it. Going through Seminary with a wife and children is not easy, but we were always supported and prayed for.
Seminary can be hard, and the Ministry is often difficult but it’s also extremely rewarding. I’m where God called me to be, and don’t regret it at all.
-Rev. Todd Guggenmos (CLS ’13)
Do you know someone of high school age who would make a good Pastor?
Concordia Lutheran Seminary (Edmonton) is hosting a weekend retreat for high school aged students to come and spend a couple of days envisioning what it would be like to train to be a Pastor in Lutheran Church Canada.
The retreat begins on Friday, May 13th in the early evening, and concludes after attending a local worship service on Sunday morning (May 15th).The cost, which includes food and accommodations, is only $50, and CLS has also set aside some funding to help with travel for those who need it.
More information is included with the Registration Form, found here:
Envision Yourself – Registration Form (PDF)
I told her she would be marrying a career soldier; that we’d spend the first 4 years of our marriage in Germany, and she still said yes. But in 18 years, I worked for four different employers in three unrelated jobs. The day someone first said to me, “We need men like you in the Seminary,” I was a journeyman millwright for a corporate pulp/lumber company. I didn’t like working 12s, but the money and benefits were good, and I actually enjoyed doing the work. We built our dream house where I expected to remain until I died. Ministry was never my idea, and I was afraid of how that change would impact us after being settled for 14 years. Yet, I admit my deepest question had nothing to do with my family at all. Of all I learned at the seminary, Christ patiently taught me the difference between “Am I called to be a pastor?” and “Am I worthy to be a pastor?”
-Rev. Dan Barr (CLS ’10)
When I got out of high school I went into the construction trades. Eventually I started my own company and ran it for 18 years in the Calgary area. At the tender age of 42, the Gospel of salvation in Christ convinced me to stop working for myself and to spend the rest of my life serving the Lord. With the total support of my wife Joyce and our 6 teenage children we sold our acreage and our business and moved north to Edmonton to go to seminary. It wasn’t easy going back to school after all those years, but the Lord got us through it financially and academically and I have now been the pastor in Kitimat, BC for 8 years where we have also started a new congregation in the neighboring community of Terrace, BC. Sometimes the obstacles look too large for us but “With God nothing is impossible”.
-Rev. Clint Magnus (CLS ’09)
Paul has been placed as pastor at Zion Lutheran Church, Ellendale, North Dakota, USA. He is featured on the first poster in the LCC seminaries’ new vocational recruitment campaign.
I can’t give an exact moment when I decided I wanted to be a pastor. Many of my brothers who are now pastors or are studying at seminary knew as little boys that they wanted to be pastors. This was not the case with me. In fact, in my youth I often told those who said I should follow in the footsteps of my dad, my five uncles, my grandpa, and many great-grandfathers that I did not think I wanted to be a pastor. Many were surprised I said this and suggested I was breaking—to quote, in part, Hank Williams Jr—“a family tradition.” As much as I love family traditions, I didn’t think this was a good reason to pursue the office of pastor, and my father and mother strongly agreed. As a youth and young man, with the full support of my mother and father, I was determined to be a devout Lutheran layman.
I was raised in a family where theology was often a topic of conversation. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to my father and mother talk about Jesus at the dinner table and at many other venues. As a young child and into adulthood I learned to treasure the faith into which I was baptized and which my Christian parents, by the grace of God, raised me. I would often engage my friends and acquaintances in theological conversations, and at home it certainly wasn’t hard getting into a theological conversation having ten brothers and a sister around. My life certainly wasn’t absent of theological conversation, and I loved it.
I had other interests as well. Since I was a boy I have enjoyed reading and studying history, shooting pool, and playing basketball, and still do. I soon realized, however, that God did not give me the talent to pursue a professional career in pool or basketball. History, however, was something I could do.
As I studied history in undergraduate and graduate school my heart was never completely in it. I liked history, but I found myself more and more concerned with theology. During this time I began to think about all those throughout the years who told me that I’d make a good pastor. Why did I stubbornly dismiss this encouragement? I realized people didn’t tell me to consider the ministry simply because it was a family tradition, but because they saw in me a quality they believed would complement the office of pastor. They wanted faithful pastors to serve them with God’s Word and they believed I would faithfully do this.
Instead of dismissing this encouragement I began to seriously contemplate the pastoral office. I prayed about it and sought the advice of my pastor, father, mother, brothers, and Bethany (my wife). Now, I didn’t have a thunderbolt experience, but I began to really think about the idea of going to seminary. If anything I would be able to study God’s word and talk and hear about my Saviour, which is what I loved to do. One day after getting back from a typical day of classes I blurted out to Bethany what had been on my mind for some time: “I don’t want to be a history professor. I want to be a pastor.” Bethany, not completely surprised by my outburst, told me that I’d make a good pastor, and advised me to apply to seminary.
I decided to apply to Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary, St. Catharines, ON. At the age of twenty-eight I entered seminary having at my side a supportive Lutheran wife and two children (God has blessed us with two more since) with the prayer that God would someday give me a call to be a pastor. I am thankful I made that decision. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at CLTS. I have been taught good Lutheran theology by devoted ministers of the Gospel, and have been able to do what I love: study God’s Word and talk and hear about my Saviour. At times it wasn’t easy and my resolve to be a pastor was tested, but my experience at CLTS has prepared me and given me a greater desire to be a pastor. I like to talk about Jesus who suffered and died for me and all sinners, and so I can’t think of a greater joy or privilege than to have God call me into the office of the holy ministry to serve His dear children with the pure preaching and teaching of the gospel and the right administration of His sacraments, whereby He generously and daily forgives us all our sins for Christ’s sake.
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
As a pastor’s kid there were always people telling me that I should become a pastor when I grow up just like my dad. Because I have a stubborn personality and don’t like people telling me what to do I quickly dismissed the possibility that I could ever be a pastor. I worked hard to convince myself and everyone else who suggested it that being a pastor was not an option for me. I hated public speaking, it terrified me, and so there was no way I could do that job.
But as I went off to the University of Alberta to study to be a teacher the inkling that maybe I should go to seminary never really left me. The farther I got into my degree the more I realized that being a teacher wasn’t for me and that God may be calling me in a different direction.
I was still terrified of the prospect of going to seminary and possibly becoming a pastor, but God worked in wonderful ways to encourage me and guide me to where I am today. While I was in university my wife Leah and I began dating and got married. She was a huge support and encouragement for me as I faced all of these unknowns and big decisions. I also had many family members who were quick to encourage me and give me guidance along the way. God has blessed me in many ways with a wonderfully supportive family.
Most importantly though, I was reminded of our Heavenly Father’s words to Joshua as he assumed leadership over the Israelites after Moses died. The LORD said to Joshua, “have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). Joshua was called to an overwhelming task, leading God’s people into the Promised Land, but God promised to be with him in His Word and to strengthen him. The important thing was what God would do through Joshua, not what Joshua could or could not do.
I took comfort from this knowing that if God was calling me to serve His people as a pastor that He would equip me for this task. I can see many reasons why I am not qualified for this kind of work, but my abilities are not important. Instead the focus is on what God is doing for His people. I am only through two years of seminary, but I have seen many ways that God has given me the ability to do what is required. The task of preaching, which once terrified me, has become one of my greatest joys in this work. On vicarage I now have the joy of serving a wonderful little congregation that continually supports me and encourages me in my growth.
There are many obstacles that appear as one considers going to seminary and the possibility of becoming a pastor. Do I have the skills that are required? Can I afford four more years of schooling? What about my family? And the list goes on and on, but God works through the seminary to meet these needs. Financial assistance from districts and the seminaries helps to lessen the burden of tuition and book costs, the seminary community and families encourage one another through what can be difficult times. But most importantly, God works through the seminaries to equip men to serve in the ministry. Although I did not think that I was up to this task God works in wonderful ways to equip men for this work.
The road to and through seminary is not an easy one, but it is a wonderful blessing to be given the chance to proclaim Christ, His death, and His resurrection to God’s people.
If I had waited for the clouds to part and a thundering voice to command, “Scott, thou shalt attend Seminary!” I would definitely still be humming and hawing about whether God wanted me to pursue being a pastor. I stepped onto the road to ministry when in high school, attempting to pick some direction for the future, I asked myself what I thought my life might look like in 15-20 years. After imagining a beautiful wife (check), perfectly behaved children (still working on it), and a sweet sports car in the garage (no hope), serving as a pastor kept popping up in my mind as the only choice for a career. That was a bit of a surprise to my 18 year old self, as pastoral ministry was nowhere on my radar beforehand, but once it came to mind it seemed to be such a logical and comfortable conclusion that I confidently started walking towards that hazy and distant pulpit. Continue reading