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.