Story Magazine - First Quarter, 2002
Called & Sent to Preach the Gospel
by Sheri Booms, director of publications
For 20 years Professor Emeritus Sheldon Tostengard ingrained in his students the important elements of preaching: biblical preaching, sermon structure and delivery. He did this with straightforward conviction, graciousness, and with an engaging sense of humor.
Five years after retirement, he still hears from former students who say they often think of him while they're writing their sermons.
To honor Tostengard's years of exemplary teaching and the profound affect that he has had on a generation of Luther Seminary graduates, Luther Seminary has established The Sheldon Tostengard Preaching Scholarship. It will provide financial assistance to one or more master of divinity seniors while simultaneously recognizing and encouraging a strong commitment to helpful biblical preaching.
A passion for preaching
Tostengard retired in 1997 due to health concerns, but he continues to use his gifts of preaching and teaching in congregations.
He is passionate about preaching, and sharing the gospel above everything else. "The seminary students' goal of preaching is the gospel. It is the true treasure of the church," he said. "Preaching the gospel is hard, way harder than you think. It's not standing on the corner saying 'Jesus loves you.'"
And it's more than simply offering a "pastoral perspective" on the state of the world, based more on law than gospel, he said. "If you don't preach biblically, you preach your own values and opinions."
"He is known for saying, 'Law sounds like whiny exhortations,'" said Michael Rogness, professor of homiletics, of his former colleague.
Another saying known to many of his students: "A bad sermon is like being nibbled to death by ducks."
"Martin Luther believed the pre-eminent thing a pastor did was preaching, even above the sacraments," said Tostengard.
Rogness described Tostengard's teaching style as "thoroughly Lutheran, with sparkling humor.
"He was really good at giving helpful comments to students without making them sound too bad, and encouraged through humor," said Rogness.
Tostengard's lectures continue to teach and encourage students. Rogness said he took detailed notes of Tostengard's classroom lectures in order to impart the same information to future seminarians.
A shared mission
Tostengard's passion for good preaching is mirrored in Luther Seminary's 2000-2005 strategic plan, which made preaching a priority. "Our vision is to excel in the areas of biblical preaching and worship, and congregational mission and leadership in preparing a new generation of 'missional pastors,'" the plan states. "These pastors will be able to strengthen the lives of congregations and lead them to engage their contexts in witness and service."
In 2001, major gifts consultant Gerry Rafftery contacted the Tostengard family about establishing the preaching scholarship. "As Luther Seminary begins to focus on the creation of a Center for Biblical Preaching, I have had the opportunity to listen to a multitude of pastors give thanks for the influence of Sheldon Tostengard on their preaching style and content," he said. "In thanksgiving for Sheldon's gifts a number of alumni have asked about creating a scholarship in his name to be given as an encouragement for others to continue as helpful, biblical preachers."
Tostengard and his family are honored that the seminary has chosen to create the scholarship in his name and have expressed an interest in taking an active part in the scholarships growth with both current and deferred funds.
Rafftery hopes the amount will grow quickly to the minimum level of $25,000 for an endowed scholarship.
He also hopes Luther Seminary will be able to award the first scholarship this May.
The homiletics faculty will choose the recipient from students of the middler (second-year) class based on merit as one who exhibits promising capability as a helpful biblical preacher.
"The challenge is, we need a dozen [scholarships]," said Rogness, stating that there are many excellent candidates.
You are invited to contribute to the Sheldon Tostengard Preaching Scholarship
Contact Gerry Rafftery at 651-523-1611,
toll-free at 888-358-8437,
via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org,
or by mailing your
2481 Como Avenue,
St. Paul, MN 55108
Both immediate and endowed dollars are welcome.