If you were in church on July 19, or watched the Livestream, you’ve already heard the good news that I am accepting your call as senior pastor! I would like to first off thank you for being patient with me as I contemplated your call as well as the calls I had to Eldora, IA and Abilene, KS. The Lord laid before me several different opportunities for ministry and service to His kingdom and all of them were congregations blessed with His gracious presence and with areas of service for which I thought I was well-suited. But at long last I am pleased that our Lord Jesus has directed me to stay and continue ministry among you as your pastor. I pray that God would grant me many more years of fruitful ministry among you!
Whenever a pastor receives a call, it is a sober reminder that there are many sister congregations that do not yet have a pastor. “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,” says Jesus in Matthew 9:37-38. I would entreat you all to join with me in praying for the people of God in Eldora and Abilene as they continue to seek a pastor. As you can imagine, it is difficult to not to have a full-time pastor to feed you with Christ’s Word and Sacraments. Some congregations even go years without one. Let’s continue to pray that the Lord would provide for our fellow Christians.
Zion has been a special congregation to me and my family. I have now served five years here, and many blessings have been given to me over those five years. When Christine and I arrived in Mitchell five years ago, we had been married less than one year. I was not even yet a pastor, still awaiting my ordination day one week later. I was full of ideas and dreams, and fears and doubts too. How much has changed for me in the last five years! Here in Mitchell, our family has grown. We welcomed Adam and Simeon into our family and into the family of God through baptism. But much has changed for me in the ministry too. Here at Zion, I have learned much about being a pastor. I also will never forget this congregation as the congregation that helped teach me to be a pastor, forgiving me for my sins and mistakes and encouraging me and supporting me in times both good and bad. While five years is not a long time, it is enough time I pray to have gained some wisdom in being a faithful shepherd to you.
As I begin my ministry anew to this congregation, I thought it would be good to talk about what we can expect of each other as we contemplate the next steps for the ministry of Zion and await the calling of another church worker. Here’s a few of the things you can expect from me:
- Pastoral care – Some have wondered how pastoral care will look like with just one pastor. While it undoubtedly will look a little different for a time, know that I am still here to provide prayer, counsel, and encouragement for you. I still want to know about your surgeries, illnesses, family crises, celebrations, joys, doubts, and fears. I still want to be there to share the words and promises of God with you and to point you to Christ crucified and risen for you in all things. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me. At this time, we haven’t planned yet for the partial vacancy, but I’m certain pastoral care to our members will not diminish. Many pastors from around our area have reached out offering their support and help should Zion need it.
- Preaching and teaching – Like pastoral care, this may look a little different than it has in the past. Another pastor may have to lead a Bible study or two for a time. Perhaps some of the daily prayer services may be modified. But know that preaching and teaching the Word of God is at the forefront of my mind as I consider my responsibilities. It is my hope and prayer that we will not have to put any Bible studies or classes on hold but can continue this congregation’s strong emphasis on Christian education and catechesis.
- Prayer and a holy life – When Paul gives the qualifications for pastors in 1 Timothy 3, only one of the requirements really has to do with skill and knowledge: ability to teach. The rest of them are qualifications regarding his life. To be a good pastor, I need to live this life of faith with you. That means praying for you diligently. It means living a life of repentance and faith alongside you, asking for your forgiveness and God’s when I sin against you and receiving forgiveness and grace. It means putting my vocations as a husband and a father first and devoting time to my family. If I take time to care for my family, know that it is not because I don’t care about you. Rather, to be a good pastor to you, I need to first care for my own family.
Those are the main things you can expect from me. Hopefully that list isn’t too surprising, because it’s really just a list of what you should expect from any pastor! These are the things I vowed to do when I was ordained as your pastor on July 12, 2015, and by God’s grace, I vow to continue doing them now and always as your pastor.
There are also things I expect of you as members of this congregation. I took this opportunity to draw up a short list:
- Diligent reception of God’s gifts – The most important way you can help me be your pastor is to receive the gifts of Jesus that He gives through the ministry. This means faithful church attendance and reception of the Lord’s Supper, attending to prayer and Scripture reading at home alone and with your family, attendance at Bible study, and the like. I expect these things of you because it is through those gifts that the Lord Jesus forgives you and strengthens your faith. I know with COVID continuing to affect our town, participation in these things may look a little different for a time. But please do everything you can to receive the Lord’s gifts with us. Attend if you are at all able. Watch the Livestream. Check in with me to let you me know how you are doing and what you need. Don’t let the pandemic destroy the presence of the Word of God in your life.
- Prayer – Please pray for me and for the ministry at Zion diligently and faithfully. There are many burdens we bear together. The world around us continues to grow more hostile to the faith, and the devil is actively trying to overthrow the kingdom of Christ. Pray that the Lord would sustain and uphold His church, and pray especially for our congregation, that we would remain faithful to the Lord and His Word.
- Partnership – The ministry of the Word cannot be sustained by the work of the pastor alone. We need your partnership and support in seeing that the ministry of this congregation continues and thrives. We continue to need the help of many faithful volunteers: Sunday school and midweek teachers, outreach, music, altar guild, boards and committees. There are many areas in which to serve. Please offer your gifts in service to the Lord of the church. It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). In thankfulness to the Lord for His gifts to you, consider how you might give of your time and your resources to help further the work of the church.
Finally, I want to thank you for your confidence in me to call me as your next senior pastor and for your prayer and support as we begin the next chapter of this congregation’s rich history! Please join me in praying that the Lord Jesus will bless us with His grace now and in the years to come as we serve Him together!