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)
- Paul Preus
- Rev. Al Lewis
- Rev. Clint Magnus
- Rev. Dan Barr
- Rev. Darren Siegle
- Rev. Daryl Solie
- Rev. David Bode
- Rev. David Dressler
- Rev. Dr. Glenn Schaeffer
- Rev. Forrest Stroup
- Rev. Fraser Coltman
- Rev. Harry Ruf
- Rev. Keith Haberstock
- Rev. Laverne Hautz
- Rev. Mark Hennig
- Rev. Mark Ruf
- Rev. Mark Schultz
- Rev. Mark Smith
- Rev. Michael Keith
- Rev. Neil Stern
- Rev. Paul Roggow
- Rev. Rod Buck
- Rev. Scott Gamble
- Rev. Steve Harold
- Rev. Thomas E. J. Prachar
- Rev. Thomas Winger
- Rev. Todd Guggenmos
- Rev. Tom Kruesel
- Rev. William R. A. Ney
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.
From A Saskatchewan Farm Boy to the
Office of The Holy Ministry
(H. E. Ruf, Emeritus)
How did I come to the decision to enter the Holy Ministry? My family was always deeply involved in the activities of our little village church at Stornoway, SK. The church was the centre of the community around which people gathered for worship and social activities. The pastor was the only person in the community whose education had gone beyond High School. He was respected and looked up to, not only as one who led us in worship and instruction in the Word, but his advice was also sought out in many other areas of life.
I was second youngest in a family of five children. In preschool days, my younger sister and I would often play church, where I pretended to be the pastor and she was the congregation. This eventually led my parents to tell me: “When you grow up, you’re going to be a pastor!” It was with this in mind that they enrolled me, together with my younger sister, in the High School of Concordia College, Edmonton, AB.
While at Concordia High School, my plans wavered between becoming a pastor and a parochial school teacher. Dr. Albert Schwerman, our college president, got wind of this, and so he decided to have a little “fatherly” talk with me. I was called into his office and, before I could sit down, he said, “Ruf, I understand you are going to become a pastor!” After speaking to me for half an hour, without letting me get in a word, I left his office saying to myself: “Well, it looks like I’m going to become a pastor!” Dr. Schwerman just had to set my thinking straight!
My years at Concordia College were the most enjoyable years of my schooling. Not only did I meet my future wife, Ruth, there, but the influence of Concordia’s professors and the family relationship in our small student body really led me to want to serve in that kind of atmosphere, and the logical way to do this, as far as I was concerned, was to serve in the Church as a pastor.
Four of us young men graduated from Concordia College in 1955 as prospective pastors. All of us enrolled at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO. What a life-changing experience that was! In high school and college, we thought we knew what studying was all about, but at Seminary we really learned the meaning of studying! However, God gave us the ability to meet the challenges, and, before we knew it, graduation arrived and we received our calls.
Besides the many hours of studying, often into the wee hours of the night, there was one other huge challenge, and that was to meet the costs of seminary training. It was necessary for me to hold down a half-time job at nights to be able to meet expenses. It was not at all uncommon to come home at 2:00 AM and then spend another couple of hours preparing assignments. In retrospect, I’m sure God let things happen in that way in order to prepare me for long hours of hard work in the ministry.
My vicarage was under the supervision of the Rev. Lester Gierach in the Cloverdale/Aldergrove Parish in British Columbia. I received excellent training under him for the parish ministry. He taught me work habits which I kept throughout my ministry. I served in four parishes where I received a wide variety of experiences from which I have many, many fond memories, the greatest of which were seeing how powerfully the Spirit works through the means of grace. The places I served were at: (1) A new mission parish at Williams Lake, Quesnel and One Hundred Mile House, BC; (2) A small town farming community at Moosomin/Broadview, SK; (3) A large city congregation at Grace, Regina, SK; (4) A growing congregation at Port Coquitlam, BC. My last years before retirement were spent as the Mission Exec of the ABC District (2 years) and as ABC District President (12 years).
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.
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
Perhaps because I grew up in a parsonage, I had no intention of ever entering the ministry. Not that I harboured any negative feelings toward the church; the tasks of ministry simply seemed too overwhelming, and the prospect of a somewhat “public” life was unappealing. At the same time, I felt strongly about the responsibility that both the local congregation and the church at large had been given under the Great Commission. Christ had done such great things for me – I had to respond. So, I remained active in my local congregation: teaching, leading various groups, sitting on boards, supporting the congregation’s activities. Slowly, I began to appreciate how the people with whom I worked were motivated by genuine gratitude to God and served to simply give back to Him. They were most “at home” when serving their Lord. Still, I was not ready for a life in public ministry. I was extremely nervous at the thought of leading worship – of preparing SERMONS week after week! I remained uncomfortable with the thought of being the individual that was front and center in many congregational activities. I did not think myself qualified for the office of the ministry. I wanted to live a life that offered service to God, but how?
Growing up in Vancouver, I loved the mountains, the ocean, and all the activities they offered. So I began preparing for a career that would allow me to pursue the stewardship and management of such resources. I entered UBC with the goal of a degree in Resource Management. Those were good years. Still, as I neared the half-way mark of my five-year program, I was unsettled. I truly enjoyed what I was studying, and the people with whom I worked, but our studies and work simply did not “fit” me the way it fit my peers. One day, after I explained this to a close friend, she asked me outright: “Have you ever thought about ministry?” I could not honestly say I had thought it through – prayerfully – and had legitimately dismissed it, so now I had to do just that: think and pray!
One thing led to another as, through conversations with my parents and Christian friends, I began to realize that my concerns with ministry were not centered on the tasks of ministry itself, but on me and my own perception of my personal weaknesses. I began to realize that one of the blessings of ministry, and of Christian life in general, is to be led to know the truth of what St. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 12:10: “…for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses…For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Church work was not about me, but about Christ and the Word being at work – just as is promised.
I contacted Concordia Lutheran Seminary in Edmonton – then a very new institution – and was surprised at how willing the faculty was to help me understand the prerequisites I would have to pick up prior to applying for seminary entrance. I would not have to start from scratch as I feared, but could finish my degree at UBC and gain the courses required through electives and one year of summer sessions. So I became the only person in UBC’s Forestry library who was studying Biblical Hebrew! At least to the best of my knowledge! Seminary was challenging intellectually, financially, and physically. The hours of study were long. But this was now a true vocation – the challenges set before us in class and field work had a purpose. The support of the Edmonton Lutheran community was a real blessing. The seminary community was tight-knit and my field work congregation truly became family over those years. Along with the work, there was a great deal of laughter and fun.
God provided for me, too, in terms of the concerns I had over public speaking and teaching. Through exposure to field work experiences and class work I began to realize that God would provide in these areas as well. I remember reading an article in Leadership Magazine. It was an interview of two individuals considered effective Christian speakers. Both offered valuable insights, but what impacted me the most were these words,
“Before I preach a sermon, I ask myself two questions: Do I believe that what I have to say is Biblically true? Do I believe that these people need to hear it?
If I answer “yes” to these two questions, I tell myself that I’d better say it!”
That’s pretty simple, but in a way, so is our task. Speak the Word and strive to model a life that does not show perfection, but joy in Christ’s forgiveness – a life of service rendered out of gratitude, not compulsion. Amid all the complexities of life in this sin-impacted world, the task of the Church is really quite clear: point to Christ, not to ourselves. I’ve remembered that often over the years, and it has been a blessing to do so. I’ve been taught more and more how reliant we are upon our Lord and how reliable He is. I’ve been privileged to be a part of peoples’ lives in their joys and their sorrows. I’ve been able to laugh with them as we serve the Lord together. It has been an honour and a privilege.
When I was five or six-years-old, our extended family would often gather for meals to celebrate Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc. Being the youngest in the group around that time, I was always asked to pray before our meal. And so I prayed the table prayer taught to me by my mother, a prayer that I still use today. When I was finished, my grandmother would inevitably say, “He’s going to make a fine pastor some day!” I recall that I would frown, and think that I wanted to be a policeman or fireman, or anyone else more interesting than a pastor!
I believe it was then that the seed was planted. That notion of becoming a pastor was nurtured by Christian parents and God-parents who subtly encouraged my Christian growth in faith and life. They gave me the gifts of a Bible and hymnal, and generally put me in situations where a shy boy and youth spoke in front of strangers. When I was in confirmation class, I became friends with my pastor’s son. We ended up running off Sunday’s bulletin, folding it, and inserting it in the members’ mailboxes. Since I was not a “PK” (“preacher’s kid”), that friendship gave me a behind-the-scenes look at life in the parsonage. I discovered that they faced all the same problems that my family did.
My church had a good youth group at that time. My pastor, Rev. Raymond Mantynen, even took us on several field trips to Concordia, Ann Arbor, MI. I think that glimpse of studying theology and other subjects in a Christian environment did a lot to entice me to do the same someday.
As I began to more seriously consider studying for the pastoral ministry. I wasn’t sure if I was “pastor material” because of my shyness, and nervousness speaking before people. I was also concerned that I did not have the financial resources to undertake such a journey of study. My mother confided that if God wanted me to be a pastor, He would provide the money to make it happen. With sacrifices by my parents and good-paying summer jobs that came my way, I was blessed to attend college and seminary debt-free. This was indeed a blessing because I didn’t need a part-time job while at seminary, but could focus my time and effort on my studies.
When I set my sights on being a pastor, my home pastor would occasionally have me read a lesson or two in the Divine Service. One summer I helped him for a few weeks with some door-to-door evangelism.
While attending Concordia, Ann Arbor for two years, and then Concordia Senior College for another two years, I had my Greek and Hebrew language foundations solidly set in place. What a blessing to arrive at seminary with such a good start in the Biblical languages! At the seminary (St. Catharines), my favourite classes were in exegetics and homiletics. I loved to be able to really dig in to the Biblical texts! God was able to take that study, together with my limited creativity, and enable me to produce sermons that I hoped would touch people with the answer they needed for life’s problems.
One of my greatest joys in the ministry is teaching an Adult Instruction class. It is gratifying to engage in discussion with people who are seeking answers to the bigger questions of life now and hereafter. It is quite an experience to witness someone have an “Ah, ha!” moment when it comes to their eternal salvation.
As I continue to serve in whatever capacity my Lord desires of me in His church, I will always remember the phrase “sin and grace—my sin and God’s grace.” Throughout my life and ministry, I have brought Him my sin and have received my Saviour’s free and wonderful grace: His undeserved love shown to me through His cross and empty tomb.
That’s what I’ve tried to tell others throughout my ministry.
I began thinking about the Holy Ministry when I was in Grade 5 and asked by my teacher to write a speech on what I wanted to be when I grew up. After talking it over with my parents who suggested the ministry among several other options, I decided to write the speech on becoming a Lutheran Pastor. I won a competition in my school, and from that point on set my sights on becoming a Pastor. Along the way, especially during my Confirmation Instruction my Pastor, Rev. Phil Fiess, strongly encouraged me to attend Concordia College in Ann Arbor, Michigan and to prepare for the ministry. Other Pastors and Vicars that followed Rev. Fiess also provided lots of encouragement.
Other concerns of a worldly nature, like making money, sought to derail my studies but by God’s grace and blessing I completed my studies and entered the Holy Ministry in 1973.
God gave me a deep burning in my heart for the unchurched…unbelievers… and so I have always been very much “mission-minded”. Life experiences working at Kroehler Furniture Mfg. Co, the Canadian National Railway, cleaning offices, Night Manager at a Restaurant and even working at a Dairy Queen in Stratford, Ontario all helped me to grow in my understanding of people, of human nature and was enabled to see first-hand how the average person in his or her life absolutely needs Jesus Christ, not just a knowledge that there is a God. Attending the Seminary, for me, it was like being in heaven already. The Professors, the students, the learning and the growth in spirituality all made it difficult to leave and go out into the Mission Field…into the world.
At the Seminary God always provided the funds that I needed for school and living expenses, even after Diane and I were married in 1970. The Ontario District provided a scholarship that covered most of the Tuition, Diane worked at a Day Care and I did some part time work doing tune-ups, break jobs, engine rebuilds etc. on faculty and student vehicles.
My greatest fears were that I would not have the scholastic ability to complete the preparation work at the Seminary since it required so much memorization, intellectual ability, time and effort. I also initially worried about having the funds, not wanting to leave the Seminary with debt. But God provided for all of this in amazing ways, even leading individuals to provide small cheques at times when we were broke. We always had enough money for food and rent and for gas to get us to the churches that we were assigned to for Field Work experience and exited the Seminary with no debt.
Although the ministry over 40 years now has been full of huge challenges, Jesus Christ, my Saviour and Lord has provided for all that I needed intellectually, spiritually and materially to do the work required of me and live comfortably. There are no words to describe the joy of watching children come to faith (including my own son and daughter) or be strengthened in their faith through Confirmation Instruction, or to see adults grow in their faith and trust in God through regular Bible study and worship.
But the greatest joys have been on the mission field! There I witnessed God fulfilling His promise that His Word would not return empty but would accomplish that for which He sends it. There on the Mission Field in Russia, Ukraine, Thailand and northern Canada I personally saw with my own eyes literal miracles as God provided all that I needed in order to bring His Gospel to those people and as God provided for people’s greatest need, to know Christ Jesus as their Saviour. No greater joy can be imagined than to see a person, struggling with little or no faith, respond to the Holy Spirit’s urging through the proclamation of the Gospel, with a commitment to love and honour God with his or her life and to trust in Jesus Christ alone for his or her salvation.
I cannot conceive of another occupation that is more fulfilling and spiritually strengthening or more of a blessing than that of the Office of the Holy Ministry despite its many challenges and opposition by the “old evil foe”. I look forward to continue serving Christ and His people until the day God calls me to my heavenly home which Jesus purchased and won for me with His holy precious blood and His innocent suffering and death. There simply is not a more fulfilling calling or rewarding job on earth than that of Pastor/Missionary for Christ.