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Students at commencement

Ministry in Context

What we learn after we know it all

As I write this, there are 350 people (mostly pastors) who are spending three days on campus at Luther Seminary as participants in the Rethinking Stewardship event.

It’s a good event. Chick Lane and the other organizers clearly did a superb job. The various presenters have met or exceeded expectations. The mood of the crowd is engaged and energized. (Not energized by rock-concert-crowd standards, but clearly energized.)

I’m grateful. Stewardship, including financial stewardship, is too often a part of Christian life and leadership that we pastors want to hold at arm's length. We may want to emphasize the breadth of stewardship so strongly that we manage to avoid talking about finances/money altogether. Or we may be driven by budget shortfalls to simply reduce stewardship to a semi-panicked fund drive. Either pitfall diminishes the ministry of a congregation.

The sort of deep, reflective attention to stewardship prevalent at this event is a gift. I trust pastors and lay leaders alike will take some of the learning, some of the theology, some of the courage, some of the savvy, and some of the excitement back to the communities they serve and lead. To the extent that is true, mission and ministry in the name of Jesus will be enhanced.

I have also had a more general sense of reassurance as I have mingled with the group and had conversations with a variety of people. Most of these church leaders graduated from seminary a decade (or two, or three, or four) ago. They have thrived in their ministries. They know stuff. They don’t need remedial work. But precisely because they are skilled and wise, they are here. They know enough to know they might not have learned all there is to learn. So they are here, and the people they serve will benefit—as will the ministries.

Many of you reading this are current students. You might be just waiting for the day when you can be finished with classes and get to work. Okay. But I pray you will never be finished with learning. I pray that someday you will be the “middle-aged pastor” hanging out at Luther for a conference like this one.

Meanwhile, to those going out on internship: Go get ‘em! And to you who are coming back to campus: Welcome back!

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