To Establish a Specific Ministry Pastor Program

Our Synod in convention resolved to establish a Specific Ministry Pastor Program with resolution 5-01b. This is how it was reported through my district. “This program allows for alternate programs to become ordained as a pastor. Members of both seminary faculties were involved in the drafting of this program and the program has the full blessing of both seminaries.” The report went on to say this will enable congregations to ordain youth pastors, music pastors, etc. Apparently, the word “minister” isn’t good enough any longer.

The little report that came to me didn’t cite the raison d’etre usually given: isolated, rural parishes that are too small or poor to afford a pastor. I predict that the majority of these Specific Ministry Pastors won’t be serving in isolated rural parishes but in well-to-do suburban congregations with several pastors already. I think many of these SMP’s will be former Directors of Christian Education and/or extremely charismatic and “gifted” individuals who don’t want to take the time or see the need to spend four years in seminary. How many years have we been told (at least 24) that there may be people who are “gifted” for the pastoral office that can’t spend four years at seminary. Yes, I’m sure we will find many of them. Our small parish has sent 5 to seminary and 1 more is planning to go. If a quicker route were available, two others would have jumped at it. It’s probably a good thing they had nowhere to leap.

In the fields of law and medicine you have this same thing. People want to be involved in medicine or law, but they don’t want to spend the time getting the education. They become nurse practitioners and paralegals not doctors and lawyers in a specific town. But hey, you certainly don’t want half-qualified doctors or lawyers looking after people’s physical health or legal issues, do you?

Notice what a big deal is made of the seminaries approving SMP. This probably went a long way to the 908-287 vote. If the seminaries think it good, it must be. Then again, the seminaries, at least both presidents, have publicly stated that they see nothing inconsistent with Scripture in the Ablaze! program. (More about this later.) For now, it’s time to start talking about the sin of promiscuous ordination.

Seminaries don’t make pastors; pastors make pastors. Paul left Pastor Titus not a seminary in Crete “to appoint [kathistemi = ordain] elders in every city.” Let seminaries certify all they want, let congregations call men to specific ministries in droves, and the men would only be called not ordained. Paul admonishes Pastor Timothy, “Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure.” We have to repent of this idea of laying our hands on whomever the seminaries certify for ordination. Not even a seminary can relieve us of our responsibility to guard sound doctrine. If we place our hands on men whom we don’t know will or can guard the faith, we participate in their sins.

The contemporary church movement, the church growth movement, the emerging church movement… whatever name this seven-headed hydra goes by has succeeded in dumbing-down our worship. Now they are going to do for our ministry what they did for our worship. We are told not to worry because these men will have limited calls to a specific ministry. Parse that last statement and reconcile it with the Confessions understanding of a “regular call” and our own Synod’s historical antipathy towards limited calls. But as the district bureaucrat assures us “the program has the full blessing of both seminaries.” I feel better already.

About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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