Drop Your Nets And Follow Me
Raising up the next generation of church workers By Rev. Micah Glenn
801 SEMINARY PLACE, ST. LOUIS, MO 63105 | 314-505-7000 | CSL.EDU
Rev. Micah Glenn is the director of Recruitment at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. Glenn earned his Master of Divinity (M.Div.) from Concordia Seminary (2016) and his Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in chemistry from Concordia University Chicago, River Forest, Ill. (2011). Glenn previously served as a domestic missionary to Florissant, Mo., through The Lutheran Church— Missouri Synod (LCMS) Office of National Mission. In that role, he also served as executive director of the Lutheran Hope Center of Ferguson. In 2019, Glenn was called as a regional ministry facilitator to Lutheran Hour Ministries (LHM), where he taught congregational workshops to encourage faith-sharing with non-Christians. In March 2020, he accepted a call as director of Recruitment at Concordia Seminary, a role in which he builds relationships with prospective Seminary students to help them discern vocation and ministry interests. He also is developing a team of student recruitment ambassadors throughout the United States to connect potential students with Concordia Seminary. Glenn has preached and presented about missions at churches around the United States, and he published an article through LHM about his wrestling with science and faith. He presented the talk “Do We Really Need to Talk about Racism?” at the 2019 LCMS Youth Gathering and has spoken about theology and racism on the Seminary’s faculty blog, concordiatheology.org. Glenn serves on the board of directors for Lutheran Foundation of St. Louis. His wife, Dorothy, serves as the deaconess at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Olivette, Mo. Micah and Dorothy have three children: Jonathan, Talitha and David. The family likes to spend their time looking for new hiking trails, discovering playgrounds, fishing, playing cards or board games, and playing video games.
DROP YOUR NETS AND FOLLOW ME Raising up the next generation of church workers By Rev. Micah Glenn, Director of Recruitment, Concordia Seminary
Introduction The church will always need new pastors and other church workers. The purpose of this resource is to help the church consider how all members can be involved in the process of identifying qualified potential ministry candidates. This task concerns the entire church, and on some level, it will take the entire church to accomplish the task. This especially includes pastors who have an intimate knowledge of what goes into pastoral formation and work, but also includes other church workers and laity. To produce this guide, a number of resources were investigated and relied upon: Scripture; The Book of Concord; two books by Dr. C.F.W. Walther: The Church and The Office of The Ministry and The Congregation’s Right to Choose Its Pastor; the Concordia Commentary on Matthew written by Professor Emeritus Dr. Jeffrey Gibbs; and the knowledge and experience of the Enrollment staff at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. This resource looks at: I. How important the calling of the disciples was to Jesus II. How Jesus went about calling the disciples III. Who Jesus called to be His disciples IV. How the church can encourage the next generation of pastors 1
I. It was important to Jesus In Matt. 4:18-22, we see Jesus calling His first disciples. This event is a vital part of the creation of the Body of Christ, the church. You could comfortably say, based on this text, that Simon (called Peter) and his brother, Andrew, were two of the first stones of the church of which Jesus is the foundation, cornerstone and capstone. The timeline of Jesus calling the disciples in the Gospels is remarkable. As Matthew presents his account, he highlights Jesus’ calling of His disciples. It’s the first thing Jesus does after He begins to preach publicly. Jesus was baptized, He was cast out into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit for a 40-day trial, He goes to Capernaum by the Sea of Galilee to preach that the kingdom of Heaven is at hand — and then He calls His disciples. Before the famed Sermon on the Mount, before Jesus heals anyone or calls them out of the grave, and before He chastises the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus calls His disciples. What this tells us is that calling His disciples, who would later become the apostles who would lead the church, is a really important event. Jesus could have easily accomplished His ministry without the disciples. With rare exceptions, He constantly had to stop and teach them, rebuke their lack of faith, and drag them toward His passion, His death and resurrection — the event that He most needed them to witness in order for them to confidently go out into the world to preach the Gospel and bring people into life in Him. He would have been able to perform more miracles, preach to more crowds and just generally do more to prove who He is and the purpose of Him coming in the flesh to more people. Instead, He chose 12 men to spend time at His side every day for the next three years. Clearly, it was important to Jesus that His church have leaders equipped to carry on the mission of preaching the Gospel in every generation until His second advent. While we do not know why this is what Jesus wanted, we do know that it is what He established as the model for the church. In the Old Testament era, God appointed men (prophets and priests) to speak His Word to the people and to the world. Jesus’ model for the church extends the centrality of that proclamation — tasking pastors with the public preaching of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments. So, for us to continue to be the church, as designed by the Lord of the church, it should be as important to us as it was for Jesus to raise up the next generation of pastors. Yes, the church has
to speak to the needs of the current generation. Like Jesus, however, we look to the future and prayerfully discern how to give the church the pastors who, under God’s blessing, will thrive in a world that is constantly against them. The church will always need more pastors, and Jesus still uses the church today to find them and raise them up. We see this demonstrated through Paul in his mission to the Gentiles in the places that he visited. Paul could have arrived in towns, preached the Gospel, baptized new people into faith and Jesus, and left them to their own devices to figure out what they should do moving forward. We can all agree that leaving a ship without a captain creates a dearth of leadership and would most certainly result in chaos. Instead, Paul follows the lead of Jesus, adopts His model for the church and appoints leaders. “This is why I left you (Titus the pastor) in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you” (Titus 1:5 ESV). It would be unfaithful for us to sit back, scratch our heads and wait to see if someone would be willing to become a pastor. Scripture tells us the general qualifications a person needs in order to become a leader of the church, and any man who possesses those qualities has the potential to become a pastor.
II. How does Jesus go about calling the disciples into ministry? The calling of the disciples is an important event, but the scene where the event takes place doesn’t appear to reflect the importance. Jesus seems to be going for a casual walk in the neighborhood, and happens to come across a few guys and asks them to come along and see something new and cool. But, there is something much deeper going on in this scene: Jesus begins to depart from certain traditions as He creates something new. The new thing that Jesus is creating is the church, and the formation of its leaders is a departure from tradition. As far as we can tell, in the first century it was the practice of a student to do his own research and choose a rabbi from whom the student would want to learn. But with Jesus, we see the rabbi choosing the students. We have already pointed out that Jesus prioritized the choosing of the disciples. He does not seem content with just letting them come to Him. Instead, Jesus actively goes and finds His first disciples where they are in the world and invites them to follow Him. In the Old Testament, God chose the prophets in the same way —
by going to the soon-to-be prophets wherever they were in life and calling them into godly service (1 Sam. 3). Imagine that you are managing a construction site. In the middle of your shift, a man without so much as introducing himself, approaches you and says, “Follow me.” Would you obey? Think of this new life to which Jesus is summoning the disciples. He is asking them to rearrange everything around a different center: following Him, so they can become fishers of men. Even the phrase “fishers of men” would not have made it more sensible. This is not a phrase that is found anywhere else in Scripture, and is most likely said first by Jesus at this very moment. It is quite possible that Jesus had somewhat of a reputation by the time we get to this scene in Matthew’s Gospel, but they do not know who He is exactly, which makes His request ridiculous and unreasonable. And yet, the disciples obeyed and followed Jesus, to be formed into men who would speak to the next generation about His ministry that has accomplished the redemption and salvation for everyone who calls on Jesus’ name. While we may not be able to convince people to take up a life of service to the church in the way Jesus did, we should be as bold. We can be like Jesus and find people where they are in life and invite them to follow Jesus into professional ministry. We should look into the crowds of people in our congregations and encourage our brothers in Christ to take up the Office of Public Ministry and our sisters in Christ to become deaconesses. Some may have other interests at the current moment, and that is OK. But one thing for sure is that most will not decide to prepare for a professional life in service of the church if no one asks them. A recent study showed that the majority of people in ministry were personally influenced by a mentor or someone else whom they looked up to and that person encouraged him/her to go into church work. The simple action of asking a person to consider professional ministry makes a major difference, so we the church need to be doing more asking.
III. Whom does Jesus call? It would have been logical if Jesus had gone to the synagogue to find His future disciples since that is where they were educated, especially as described in the texts of the Old Testament. But like many times during His earthly ministry, Jesus departs from what we might think is more sensible and does something else. He goes and finds a group of men who no one else in human existence would have considered to be the choice for the first followers of Jesus and leaders 4
of the church. When it comes to the first disciples whom Jesus calls, Paul’s words in 2 Cor. 12:9 come to mind, words that the Lord himself spoke to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” We do not know much personal information about the disciples before they were called into service by Jesus. What we do know is that at least four of them were fishermen. We see two of those fishermen, Simon Peter and his brother, Andrew, in Matthew 4. We don’t know whether these men were skilled since these verses do not emphasize any special qualifications these men may have had. They were fishermen, but we are not told how large their operation was, or how many hired men worked alongside Zebedee. That is not the point. These verses are not focused on “special qualifications” — they are focused on Jesus and His act of calling these men. Then we have Matthew, a tax collector — one of the most despised people in society. Tax collectors are often listed in tandem with sinners when they are mentioned in the Gospels, and this is who Jesus calls to follow Him. When it comes to ministry, it is not so much about who the person is, but rather who the person is that they follow. At the very least, Matthew’s presence among the apostles shows us that Jesus calls people unexpectedly into service. So, perhaps He can be calling people in your community or congregation, too. If the church were to eliminate sinners from the list of worthy ministry candidates, the list would not exist. This is one of the greatest paradoxes of the church — that sinners are called to lead sinners to the truth of salvation through Jesus. When we consider the next generation of pastors and deaconesses, we should follow the example of Jesus. While candidates do need a bachelor’s degree to enter traditional routes to ministry, they do not have to be biblical scholars when they first begin their theological education. The pastoral Epistles provide the general qualifications that are necessary for a person to enter into church work. To be clear, being perfect and sinless is not the final marker of a pastor or deaconess. Much came together for the disciples after Jesus was raised from the dead. Among those revelations was the realization for the first time how sinful they were and how much they needed Jesus to redeem them. Their first message to the world after Jesus’ ascension was exactly that: repentance and Baptism. And, as they went into the world raising up new believers in Jesus, they called more sinners to lead congregations. The point is that not one of us is perfect and being perfect is not the bar for ministry. There are explicit qualifications given to 5
us in 1 Tim. 3:1-7 that are absolutely necessary for the benefit of the church. But never sinning is not a qualification. In fact, when pastors inevitably sin, they need to confess and receive the same absolution as the rest of the church. There are plenty of men in our pews who meet the qualifications, and we need them to leave whatever net they are holding onto and consider becoming pastors. This “net” could be any number of things: his current profession, fondness for a particular geographical location, fear of responsibility, fear of not knowing exactly what God will have in store if he decides to pursue public ministry, having to relinquish a measure of control in his life — and the list continues. All of these reasons could be important. But this is about prioritization. We all have the ability to say, “Someone else can do it, but I’m not the one.” To some extent, every man in the church who meets the biblical requirements to be a pastor should at least give some thought to the idea of ministerial service. Of course, not all of us are called, but we need to actively identify the men among us who have the potential to be called into public ministry.
IV. How do we encourage the next generations to take part in the ministry of preaching and teaching? As mentioned in the previous section, Paul in his first letter to Timothy writes, “The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.” He then goes on to list a number of qualifications that a man has to meet in order to be an overseer, what we now call pastor. While a pastor is not sinless, he does have to be able to stand in the pulpit every day without people in the pews questioning his character, which could stand in the way of them trusting what he preaches — even if what he says is true. Being a pastor is a noble task because it is often challenging. The times in which a man serves as a pastor can make things more difficult. The world is prone to wars, famine, drought, pandemics, natural disasters and other things that simply make life tough in general. But it doesn’t take a pandemic or a hurricane to make the job difficult. All a person has to do is read what the people did to the prophets of the Old Testament and the apostles in the New Testament. Telling people what they do not want to hear, the truth according to God’s Word, is tough business. There is also this thing that can happen to pastors when they get so focused on caring for the spiritual 6
welfare of the people they serve: They can forget that they and their loved ones need spiritual nourishment as well. Being a pastor, however, is by no means a gloomy business! It is often quite the opposite. Being a pastor gives you a front row seat and hands-on experience to the most joyous occasions in a person’s life: Baptism, first communion, confirmation, graduation, birthdays, weddings and so many more. During the holidays, a pastor’s people will shower him with gifts, cookies and food out of love. And, when people are hurting, struggling with sin, suffering some ailment or even dying, a pastor gets to be there to comfort those people with the only thing that can help — the Gospel. That is the weird paradox of the pulpit and the Office of Public Ministry. On the one hand, a pastor holds people accountable to the same Law that he struggles with every day, but on the other hand, he gets to set them free through the Gospel. Week after week, pastors stand at the back of the sanctuary greeting people as they leave the Divine Service, and on cue there will be at least one person who will say those words of grace and forgiveness were exactly what they needed. And just like that — the pastor has given someone the spiritual food that he or she needs to continue carrying out their vocation as a child of God. By God’s gift, the pastor has empowered brothers and sisters in Christ to live their lives according to the Word that has set them free from the bondage of their sins. Just like that, he has accomplished a noble task. Ask any pastor about the joy that preaching the Gospel brings him. Sure, it is difficult carrying around the burdens of his fellow Christians. If being a pastor was easy, Jesus would not have spent three years hands-on with the disciples; nor would the church today require pastoral candidates to do so much academic and educational field work before ordination. It is a great comfort for pastors to know that as they do their best to learn, preach and teach, Christ is with them, working through them, in them and sometimes, in spite of them. As Jesus sent the disciples into the world, He did so with the promise that He would be with them to the end of the age — a promise that continues today.
V. Conclusion/practical steps Raising up the next generation of church workers, like most things that have value, is not an easy task. But, if the church gives the task the attention it 7
deserves, along with the needed and necessary help of the Holy Spirit, it is possible. There are a few things that the church can do collectively to accomplish this important work. When you look around your congregation, search broadly among your members for people who demonstrate the potential for church work. There may be few who possess all of the qualities, but many can be taught. If you see someone in your congregation whom you think could be a pastor, then you should tell him. This seed of encouragement from a brother or sister in Christ can take root and help that person discern his calling to become the pastor that a congregation will need someday. Once a person has been identified with the potential to be a candidate for pastoral ministry, encourage him with opportunities to do appropriate things around your congregation to explore what it might be like to be a pastor. Create a culture where curiosity for church leadership is valued. And, remember that Concordia Seminary, St. Louis is here to help. There are a number of events throughout the year that offer insight into what takes place during Seminary education, and what pastoral ministry entails in different contexts around the country. Most importantly, remember that Jesus, the Lord of the church, is in control of everything that takes place, and His church has wonderful opportunities for Gospel ministry around every corner. “And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest’” (Matt. 9:35-38 ESV).
Copyright © 2021, Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Mo. Permission granted for personal and congregational use. Any other republication or redistribution requires written permission from Concordia Seminary.
Rev. Micah Glenn is the director of Recruitment at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. Glenn earned his Master of Divinity (M.Div.) from Concordia Seminary (2016) and his Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in chemistry from Concordia University Chicago, River Forest, Ill. (2011). Glenn previously served as a domestic missionary to Florissant, Mo., through The Lutheran Church— Missouri Synod (LCMS) Office of National Mission. In that role, he also served as executive director of the Lutheran Hope Center of Ferguson.In 2019, Glenn was called as a regional ministry facilitator to Lutheran Hour Ministries (LHM), where he taught congregational workshops to encourage faith-sharing with non-Christians. In March 2020, he accepted a call as director of Recruitment at Concordia Seminary, a role in which he builds relationships with prospective Seminary students to help them discern vocation and ministry interests. He also is developing a team of student recruitment ambassadors throughout the United States to connect potential students with Concordia Seminary. Glenn has preached and presented about missions at churches around the United States, and he published an article through LHM about his wrestling with science and faith. He presented the talk “Do We Really Need to Talk about Racism?” at the 2019 LCMS Youth Gathering and has spoken about theology and racism on the Seminary’s faculty blog, concordiatheology.org. Glenn serves on the board of directors for Lutheran Foundation of St. Louis. His wife, Dorothy, serves as the deaconess at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Olivette, Mo. Micah and Dorothy have three children: Jonathan, Talitha and David. The family likes to spend their time looking for new hiking trails, discovering playgrounds, fishing, playing cards or board games, and playing video games.
Drop Your Nets And Follow Me
Raising up the next generation of church workers By Rev. Micah Glenn
801 SEMINARY PLACE, ST. LOUIS, MO 63105 | 314-505-7000 | CSL.EDU