Where Do Pastors Come From?

Note: This guest post is by David Mayer. David is the interim pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Seguin, Texas, and teaches New Testament for Harvest Workers.
Every year there are more pastors retiring. So, where do new pastors come from? Where are the gardens in which future pastoral candidates are grown? Apart from one candidate who I helped nurture and mentor, I admit that I have acted as if pastors “just keep coming,” as if there were an automatic stream of people eagerly filling the ranks left empty by retiring pastors. Is this how congregations think? Is this how pastors join the ranks, always from somewhere else, but never from any place in particular?
In Acts we learn that God shaped the faith of Timothy in a particular congregation, through his mother and grandmother. But what if Timothy’s congregation had not encouraged him? What if they had not commended Timothy to Paul? What if Paul had not been interested in taking the time to mentor Timothy? What if Paul had only wanted well-rounded, experienced workers?
In 10th grade, while sitting in church and listening to the sermon, I heard God distinctly speak into my spirit, “David, this is what I want you to do with your life.” God certainly knows how to pick ill-qualified people! This “call” was undeniable for me and remains so to this day, even though I have tried to argue God out of it from time to time. But the call by itself did not make me a pastor. I needed the encouragement of many, as well as an education and an apprenticeship provided by the church.
The gospel rubber hits the road in congregations. That is where the Word of God is proclaimed and hashed out for everyday living. Generally, that is where God speaks into individuals His purpose and calls them to serve Him. Congregations need to affirm the call of God and encourage, nurture and support future pastors.
My mother grew up in Henry County, Ohio, where so many Lutheran pastoral candidates, missionaries and church workers were raised up that this county became famous in certain circles. One of the reasons was St. Paul Lutheran Church in Napoleon. What was it about St Paul Lutheran Church? Certainly, it was a congregation that was alive in the gospel of Jesus Christ and passionate about mission. The congregation also must have identified promising Timothys. In addition, pastors must have let those inexperienced and timid Timothys have a chance to get their feet wet. Words of encouragement and financial help to attend seminary had to be part of their way of growing pastors.
Where do pastors come from? They come from our congregations. They are our sons and daughters who are untrained but promising disciples whom we identity and encourage. Are we willing to work with inexperienced Timothys and rough-edged Peters as well as Priscillas who are redirected to gospel work? How will you help grow future pastors? You’ll find them in the garden of your own congregation.
Pastor Bryce Formwalt is the Director of Mission Growth for LCMC Texas District and Program Director of Harvest Workers, an online ministry training program (learn more at www.harvestworkers.net). Residing in Georgetown, Pastor Bryce is available to coach congregations on mission. Feel free to contact him with any questions or comments: 512-942-7776 ext. 2 or bryce@lcmctexas.org.