By Roger Drinnon
He’s more than a superman, having not only super-human strength but also super-spiritual abilities, allowing him to be morally perfect, unwavering and mentally astute. His telepathic mind tells him when someone has been hospitalized, so there’s no need to let him know. His emotions are like steel, and he’s never hurt by criticism. One more thing – he doesn’t require sleep or leisure time.
If a congregation has this unrealistic view of its pastor, it can lead to a pastor being overburdened, highly-stressed and even burnt-out. That’s where one organization aims to help – DOXOLOGY: The Lutheran Center for Spiritual Care and Counsel offers programs to strengthen and refresh pastors so they can better respond to the needs of their congregations and communities. This LCMS Recognized Service Organization (RSO) recently inducted seven of its graduates as fellows into a collegium for research, service and leadership to enrich its program for advanced training in pastoral care.
The inductees are:
- the Rev. Tyler Arnold, senior pastor, Christ Lutheran Church, Platte Woods, Mo.;
- the Rev. Mark Barz, pastor, Crown of Life Lutheran Church, San Antonio, Texas;
- the Rev. David Fleming, senior pastor, Our Savior Lutheran Church, Grand Rapids, Mich.;
- the Rev. Timothy Pauls, pastor, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Boise, Idaho;
- the Rev. Bryan Wolfmueller, senior pastor, Hope Lutheran Church, Aurora, Colo.;
- the Rev. Dr. Lucas Woodford, senior pastor, Zion Lutheran Church, Mayer, Minn.; and
- the Rev. Matthew Wurm, senior pastor, Mount Calvary Lutheran Church, Brookings, S.D.
The inducted fellows already have conducted research as a foundation for myriad specialized-care situations ranging from marriage, to divorce and remarriage, to the care of the suffering and for those with gender-identity problems. In the coming year, each fellow will prepare another research project to be published on DOXOLOGY’s website. The goal of the fellows’ research is to provide additional knowledge and insight on pastoral care as a resource for other pastors.
As graduates of DOXOLOGY, all seven inductees completed, in a year, three advanced study retreats that are designed to strengthen pastors to faithfully shepherd their congregations. The training, mentoring and consultation services at these retreats are grounded in Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions to help pastors become emotionally and spiritually refreshed and better-equipped to provide spiritual care and counseling.
“DOXOLOGY continues to make a significant difference in the hearts and lives of people on both sides of the pew – pastors and laity. Pastors report renewed zeal and confidence for their work as a result of the training they receive in advanced skills for both pastoral care and evangelism,” said the Rev. Dr. Harold Senkbeil, executive director for spiritual care at DOXOLOGY. “Through its research and writing, our new collegium expands the available body of knowledge regarding the application of the ancient cure of souls to the contemporary context. The seven fellows in the collegium also serve to support and expand our current program while laying the groundwork for future leadership.”
“Providing spiritual care is no easy task in a world which is in moral and spiritual freefall,” said Dr. Beverly Yahnke, DOXOLOGY’s executive director for Christian Counsel. She also serves as chair of the Department of Social Sciences and professor of Psychology at Concordia University Wisconsin, Mequon, Wis.
“These days, our faith is acutely out of step with our culture; pastors and their people will be challenged increasingly by a world filled with misbelief, unbelief and despair, if not outright persecution,” said Yahnke. “DOXOLOGY prepares pastors to shepherd souls and to provide God’s gifts faithfully, proclaiming God’s promises with confidence.”
Inductees expressed gratitude for being honored as fellows while also acknowledging the challenges of making time for additional study, research and other responsibilities.
“The serious and insightful training in the care of souls has caused me to be more intentional in my service as a pastor, in my receiving of the Lord’s gifts, and in my calling as husband and father,” said Fleming. “To be inducted in the collegium has been a humbling and rewarding experience. DOXOLOGY has been such a help to me, and I am eager to serve its continuation and growth.”
“Pastors can develop patterns in ministry which create a disconnect between their education and their ministry which in turn leads to frustration with one’s calling or a feeling that one has been poorly trained for the task,” said Pauls. “Once there, the next temptation is either to find a different calling, or to find a different theology for the task. This is so unfortunate. We’re blessed with a deep, vibrant theology that is faithful to the Scriptures, one that enables us to bring God’s consolation to people in the worst of circumstances. The second great blessing of DOXOLOGY is that the training helps recalibrate pastors to make the best use of their theological education in their care of souls.”
Fleming’s research has involved studying the pastoral care of children from broken homes, while Pauls’ research culminated in a paper about pastoral care of souls in times of divorce and remarriage. Topics for the other inductees were just as sobering.
“My work so far has been with the theology of suffering, and the role of the pastor as a ‘partner in tribulation’ (Rev. 1:9),” said Wolfmueller. “The subject of suffering is often handled philosophically or practically, but how do we speak theologically and pastorally to sufferers? There are hundreds of Bible passages about suffering; how do we bring those into our pastoral care?”
Wolfmueller said he hopes the Bible study resulting from his work will provide clarity on the teaching of suffering. He said the collegium’s work represents renewed interest in advancing true and helpful theology.
“I wrote a paper on a pastoral approach to gender identity and the transgendered,” said Wurm. “Our Western society is changing faster than we are able to keep up with, and the number of people who battle with gender dysphoria is on a sharp rise. I would rather research anything other than the dysfunction of the American sexual ethic, but it is necessary to be equipped with a basic understanding of this current issue and how to approach the topic with understanding, compassion and faithfulness to God’s Word and our Lutheran Confessions.”
Wurm said he already has used information from other inductees’ research in his regular pastoral care, and both he and members of his congregation have benefited from their work.
Members of the collegium will serve as chaplains for 2015 DOXOLOGY events and will provide future support and fill leadership roles in the organization. Information on 2015 programs is available at doxology.us and at facebook.com/pages/Doxology/33195341594.
Roger Drinnon is manager of Editorial Services for LCMS Communications.
Posted Nov. 4, 2014