Where's He Comin' From
My educational and spiritual journeys are really one and the same. I know that God has placed me upon a path intended for ministry. When I look back upon my life experiences, I see how God has molded me into a DCE and continues to use me as my ministry expands. Like a piece of tapestry, I see the back of my life with the unattached frays and the streams of knotted strings and wonder what is the purpose in God plan for my ministry and life; but God sees the front. He sees the completed tapestry of my life and knows why He has knitted my experiences; and to Him, it is good.
My mother was raised Wisconsin Synod Lutheran and my father was Roman Catholic. When they decided to get married, they discussed what church they would get married in. My mother attended the Catholic Church’s membership class for my father, but found that she was not able to accept the conflicting beliefs. Instead of becoming a member, she signed a document that stated that all children born would be baptized into the Catholic faith. This was required if they were going to be married at my father’s church.
Seven years later, the week before I was to start kindergarten, they were still arguing about baptism. My parents argued about where, when and why – but at 5 and half years old, I still was not baptized. On a trip a few years prior, turbulence on the airplane scared my mother so much that she had my younger sister baptized without my father’s knowledge before taking the return flight home. When he was told, he was angry because now he thought he would be excommunicated from the Catholic Church. He made a new deal with his priests and he agreed to have the girls be Lutheran and the boys be Catholic. Needless to say, my mom would not give in.
I started kindergarten at
I attended Lutheran schools all my life and began attending LCMS schools
in second grade when we moved closer to St. Peter-Immanuel Lutheran Church in
I have always desired to be in church work and as a child looked forward leading classroom devotions. My devotions usually included a skit, several Bible readings, songs and of course a sermon. A 20-minute “service” was not unusual. My dad often made “bulletins” for me on his copy machine. I never realized how unique I was until my daughters expressed little or no desire to be at church in second grade.
I never hid the fact that I wanted to be in church work. My nickname in school was “rabbi” and I
always participated in Christian activities throughout grade school and at
I attended Concordia – Seward on a Music and Leadership Award of Excellence. At college, I was in the pre-sem program for several years and participated as a “Folk Team” leader, as editor of the newspaper Sower, and in the Concordia Singers accapella choir. In my sophomore year, I even developed a four month field experience for the DCE and education programs where I toured with the college-age Ongoing Ambassadors for Christ youth evangelism program. We witnessed about our faith in Jesus door-to-door in 37 states and sang and did skits and puppetry as well. I also participated in doctrinal studies during this time under the direction and mentorship of Rev. Fred Darkow, the founder of OAFC.
The following year I married Kathy Naatz at St.
Upon graduation in 1982, I was given a call to teach at
A year later, I was called back to the
During this time in
Around 1994-95, I again started to sense a yearning to go into full time
church work again. Our faith walk had
become strong and we felt God calling us. I was given a call in 1996 to be the Minister
of Youth and Children at Trinity in
There have been several people who I have considered role models of faith
in my life. Pastor Dennis Pegorsch has been a significant mentor and support
throughout all my life. As the Assistant
Pastor at St. Peter-Immanuel in
While growing up at St. Peter, it was Mr. Stellwagon, our principal and 8th grade teacher, who challenged me academically. His discussions in the classroom about life always made me seek out answers in the Bible. He has since died and I regret never being able to tell him what an impact he had on my life.
In high school, my mother was very mentally and physically abusive. Due to a medical condition, my mother
experienced a type of PMS all the time.
I felt lonely, angry and frustrated a lot. I was a good kid. I never hung out with bad kids, never drank,
smoked or did drugs – yet I was put-down and ostracized at home. I used to hate my mom and even thought about
dying. I praise God for the spiritual
mentorship and caring of Mr. Hilbert Wiedenkeller the
choir director at
After High school it was Pastor Elmer Scheck who became my mentor,
biggest cheerleader and friend. He started
as the Senior Pastor at St. Peter-Immanuel in
There continue to be people who make an impact on me. Over the past 22 years, it has been the compassion of my wife who has made me see Jesus. It has been the joy of my children. Most recently, it has been watching my six-year-old son take an old Lutheran Hymnal, prop it against and old wooden cross, and then pretend that he is the pastor or choir director at his church. When I see how God has blessed me, I cannot see me doing anything else but being in His ministry.
Three years ago I felt a significant yearning to be a pastor and my wife
and I visited the
As for my parents, they are both Lutheran now. They attend weekly a
And as for me, my Tapestry continues be directed by the designer, God. He is the weaver who keeps my tapestry whole and I desire to be used by Him.
Saying Good-bye is always a little strange. It is always uncomfortable.
In an online survey CNN quizzed
almost 5000 people about
”How good they are at leaving?”
11% said "Terrible. I'm always too glad to get out to keep it together."
Almost 40% said "So, so. I've been better at it in some cases than others."
And more than half said
"Excellent. I always leave them
laughing in case
I want to come back."
In the past 3 months, my wife and I made one of the most difficult decisions our family has ever made. We decided to move from a church and community we love—Trinity Wausau, to Hartland. We have made more friends in 6 years at Trinity than we have in all our life. So then why leave? Because when God calls, like Abraham, we listen and we just go.
But now what do I say to my friends? What lasting words could I impress upon them
one last time? I could talk about
memories we've had. Such as National
Youth Gatherings to
When I checked scripture, I found that Paul was a man who often had to say "Goodbye." How did he do it? In 2 Corinthians 13:11-14 we hear Paul saying,
Finally, brothers, good-by. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.
Greet one another with a holy kiss.
All the saints send their greetings.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
Listen to my appeal. Paul wanted his words to remain in their hearts. He went around sharing his faith, presenting his witness, and instructing the new church – in all, he presented his personal Philosophy of Ministry.
Wow, what words have I said over the past 6 years that I would like to have remain in the hearts and thoughts of my leaders?
So I started to think about what phases have I said often over the past years. I came up with several. For instance: "If you like Coke...you must be OK." Or "That is the story of my life." Or one of my favorite phrases is "It's a no brainer!"
In ministry, scripture tells us that the Holy Spirit will give us the word to say. So when I looked deeper, I found that I indeed have things I wanted my ministry staff and the church as a whole to remember. Things I feel the Holy Spirit has called me to share in ministry. I call them Mr. D-isms.
Don't settle for mediocre, God doesn't. Ministry should always try to achieve the best for God and we should our best in everything we do. Bonhafer emphasizes this in his book Life Together when he discusses our roles in the community of Christ. He implies that we are in “constant” worship of God. Even prayer, our closest communication with God s done without ceasing…24/7.
The Old Testament tells us about the requirements for a holy sacrifice to God. We are told that God expects the First or Best offering to him. In the New testament we are told that we are living sacrifices to Him. Our lives are our best offering to Him and He desires our "first" offering not our second best.
God will use whatever we do for His good if it gives glory to Him; but too often we think too small – especially in ministry.
In the book “Built To Last” the author coins a word for how corporations survive significant changes – even in leadership. He says they survive because their employees are propelled forward by “BHAD.” Big Hairy Audacious Goals. Just like business, ministry which has big audacious goals will thrive over a long period of time.
Our God is a God who thinks BHAD. He thinks very big. He shows His greatness in creation, in salvation, in eternity. Revelations tells of the grandeur of His second coming. He could easily have come quietly in the night - but He desires for us to "shout from the mountain tops."
I believe ministry must be a joy not a job. It must be fun. Martin Luther once said, "If there wasn't laughter in Heaven, He didn't want to go there." Our God has blessed us with humor. He doesn't want us to approach ministry as a joke, but He does desire us to have fun in ministry. "The joy of the Lord is our strength."
When we look at scripture we see that our God spoke to His church with a wind which rushed so loudly that thousand were drawn to a room filled with Galileans. There, they witnessed the MTV special effect of flames resting on their heads and men speaking in languages from across the world. And the people were amazed. In the Old Testament, when Moses went up to the mountain for 40 days, God put on another MTV special effects display. Fire and smoke and thunder and lightning flashed from the mountain. And the people were amazed. 27 times in the Gospels, the writers tell us the people were amazed. When we are humbled before the Lord, and...
After He has your attention (We are amazed), then He speaks to our hearts with a whisper." Ministry should still include the epic moments. "Worship should be a 'surround sound' experience. It should move you."
When we look at Him in Godly fear and honor and praise, then He speaks to our hearts with His Holy Spirit. Then He has fellowship and communion with us.
This is the key belief of the Lutheran Christian Confessions.
I am not talking about atheist or agnostics even though they too have said Good bye – rather, I am talking about leaders IN the church. Many of our peers in ministry have said Good bye to God. Too often we try to explain everything. Our world would have us to believe that everything is logical and explainable.
Faith is not a part of the New Age thinking. Satan would have you to believe that only things that are explainable are acceptable to live by. But, God says and does things that are not explainable. Bread and Body? Wine and Blood? Baptism water? Faith itself? They are all unexplainable. The word Sacrament itself is a derivative for the Latin word, Mystery. So I say, if God says it, believe it. Period. If God says He can make the world with a few words. Can He? Then why do we try to explain away His power through the hypothesis of Evolution? If God says it, I believe it and that settles it. While I believe we need to “think outside the box” in our approach – after all, I think that is were God is, we need to stay consistent in our truth if our ministry’s are to survive.
As we teach confirmation, we try very hard to put "head knowledge" about the doctrines of the Christian faith into our youth. We do the same with our teachings at Bibles studies, Life With God, or through sermons on Sunday. But all this is just information. All of this "head knowledge" itself does not save our soul. Salvation is based upon our "heart knowledge." The Kennedy program of evangelism says that we are 13 inches away from going to heaven. Even the Devil knows the Bible by memory, but that does not save Him for He has not received faith in His heart. Faith is based upon fact, but salvation is the emotional receiving of Jesus into our lives. It is a relationship not simply a religion.
"Praise God when we are tested. God must have a lot of confidence in us 'cause He says He will never give us more than we can handle. Our synod is going through significant testing right now. This campus is going through testing now. But I believe testing is a way in which God teaches us to grow. It is His way of giving us advanced education.
Ministry is getting down to the level of the person we are relating to and learning their story. It is doing ministry not just talking about it. St. Francis Assisi once said, “Share the Gospel, and when necessary, use words.” Too often we forget how Jesus did ministry. He met a woman, a Samaritan at the well. He went to eat with tax collectors. He touched lepers.
Well, that is a few of my D’isms – Words which reflect my philosophy of ministry.
And as I enter into my next call and begin teaching, working and ministering in another congregation I can only pray the prayer again that Paul said in 2 Corinthians,
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.