Monday, September 15, 2008

Confessionals and the LCMS

I don't recommend that people who describe themselves as confessionals stay in the LCMS. The Missouri Synod is a toxic atmosphere, and it's not getting better.

This is especially true for seminarians and those contemplating seminary. We will never see confessional Lutherans in positions of influence again. Confessionals will be permitted in the Synod, but will remain marginalized, isolated individuals. The reality is that confessionals have not been in positions of influence in the Synod as a whole for decades.

So what should guys wanting to become pastors do? There's nothing per se wrong with much of what goes on in LCMS seminaries, especially if the student is astute and picks professors carefully. But LCMS seminary is an investment of at least 4 years of time and energy. I think that confessional Lutherans can do better.

What I'd recommend is finding a pastor who will mentor you. Which means you would move to where such a man is. Join his church. Teach Sunday school. Start small, which means you might be teaching first graders. That's OK. If you can't explain theology to first graders, you don't know it well. Help with the church. Assist the pastor. Go on sick calls. Volunteer.

All of which means you must have a skill to support yourself. Find a portable skill that works for you. Medical skills are good and in demand. There's been a shortage of nurses (RNs) for the past 80 years. You could do worse than earning a nursing degree, and nursing provides time flexibility which you could use when you are in a congregation. IT and computer skills are another area.

I say this because if you're confessional, and you're not LCMS, you'll be bi-vocational. Worse men than you have been bi-vocational. St. Paul, for example. You'll likely be in a small, tight-knit congregation. A small, tight-knit congregation that may -- if you're lucky -- consist of 15 to 20 souls.

Why small? Because most confessionals will not leave the synod. They like the respectability or they want to "turn the synod around" or it's just inertia. So don't imagine that you'll have a large congregation. Maybe you will. But probably you won't.

Being mentored by a faithful pastor will help give you the skills you'd need in a small church. And learning to do the "small" tasks will give you a feel for how to do the jack-of-all-trades quality you'll need in a small church.

Tomorrow: what to study.

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