Yesterday afternoon I had the privilege of participating in the ordination service of Christopher Vossler as a pastor in our Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. This took place in his home congregation of Grace Lutheran Church, Livingston, New Jersey. In a few short weeks, Vossler will be installed as pastor of his first congregation in Mc Farland KS.
Pastor Vossler is excited about his vocation as a pastor in God’s kingdom. Does he fully understand everything about being a pastor? Not on your life! But that’s all right as I believe there is some “on the job” training that will go on for him during the next few years of things that his seminary education could never hope to teach him and that’s a good thing. The important matter is how will he handle those issues that will most certainly spring up in those early days of his ministry? That will truly determine what kind of pastor he will become.
He could be dictatorial and attempt to bully his way through those moments when he is unsure of himself, covering up his fears and doubts. Why let those in the congregation know you might be weak and not have all the answers? Rather, just try to fool them with bravado and a false sense of security.
Or he could cower in fear at those situations and throw up his hands, not knowing at all what to do, confessing that he is unable to lead the congregation and he is not a suitable candidate for a pastor.
But hopefully Pastor Vossler will strive to seek the Lord’s will when he sees his training is incomplete, knowing that his Heavenly Father has the needed answers to every question. Through prayer and the study of God’s Word, by asking the counsel of veteran’s of the cross, and seeking the advice of his laypeople who may have dealt with similar situations, what may at the outset seem to be a stumbling block to a young pastor could very well turn out to be a valuable learning experience for him to enhance his ministry for many years.
Some pastors figure this out. Some do not. It’s easy to tell the difference. Those who keep making the same mistakes again and again never quite seem to get a proper grip on ministry. But those who learn from their mistakes and do not commit them a second time, those are the pastors who really understand that serving as a pastor is a partnership between themselves and God and the people who have called them.
I made a bunch of mistakes my first few years at my first congregation and I was blessed with a very understanding group of people who formed that congregation. They helped me to grow as their pastor and together we worked to serve the Lord. During the service for Pastor Vossler, my mind recalled moments of my early days as a pastor and my thankfulness for God’s graciousness for where He sent me, allowing me to grow from an immature kid right out of the seminary to a little better prepared man because of trust in the Lord.
May Pastor Vossler learn the same lessons during the next few years. He will be a much better man and pastor for them.