Whither the future of the pastorate in the LCMS?
Rev. Harrison, president of the Missouri Synod, here lays out the best possible case for packing up and going to the seminary. In this article, Rev. Harrison responds to many of the points I have raised before. One of the best aspects of Rev. Harrison's character is his optimism and love for the Church of Christ and our little Synod within the Church. If you are considering the seminary, you should read his article and think it over.
It will come as no surprise to readers of this blog that I disagree with Rev. Harrison when it comes to the outlook for the future need of clergy in the Missouri Synod. I do not think we will need to replace "300 retiring pastors each year" - and Rev. Harrison admits in his article that that number is indeed probably too high. And while Rev. Harrison is more sanguine on the prospects for the US economy, I think this is rather a red herring. An economic recovery will not, I think, translate directly into a need for more pastors (although it may translate into many of the part-time calls going full-time, which is not nothing). In his article Rev. Harrison also did not directly address the issues of "lay ministry," rural population collapse, and the birth rate among LCMS membership - all of which must be factored into the equation for our future need (and, of course, the latter two are closely related). I know that President Harrison would like to be doing more to deal with the "lay ministry" problem, and I look forward to seeing what actions end up being taken over the course of his tenure.
Our differing viewpoints no doubt come from our differing experiences (mine by necessity much more limited than his), personalities, and the vantages from which we are viewing the problem. But there are two things that I think we both, the optimist and the pessimist, agree on:
1. If you wish to put yourself forward as a candidate for the ministry of Christ's Church, there is no better way to do it than by attending one of our seminaries in the residential MDiv program.
2. The future is unknown. So while some (pace James) say, "Next year I will go to this or that city and study and be ordained," a wise man will know that he does not know the future, and so before he heads off to CSL or CTS he will have a back up plan to feed and clothe his family just in case the Lord has other plans for him than the ones he has made for himself.