Congregations and New Pastors

There is a great post over at Cyberbrethren (blog by Paul McCain) about how congregations receive a new pastor. It’s been four years since I was ordained and almost a year since I began to serve here in El Paso. So I don’t think I would qualify as a “new pastor,” but I’m pretty sure the advice in this article is useful for all congregations and their pastors. I particularly appreciate the paragraph that encourages members to call on their pastor for pastoral care.

Your pastor is not a mind-reader. He will not simply “know” or “sense” when somebody is sick or hospitalized or needs pastoral care. If you, or a member of your family, need to go to the hospital, do not think your pastor will find out about it simply by hearing about it from somebody else. Please let your pastor know. He wants to be your pastor and bring you the comfort and promises of God’s Word and the Lord’s Supper at those moments when we find ourselves, or our family members, in crisis. Do not hesitate to call your pastor, at any time of day or night, when a loved one dies. He wants to know, right away and to come to your side and support and encourage you at these particularly dark and sad moments when death touches us. Nor is your pastor a miracle-worker, though of course miracles never cease.  But your pastor should not be the “last resort” when your marriage is having problems, or when you face a struggle or problem in your life. You will be greatly blessed by God when you turn to your pastor for the private confession and absolution it is his privilege to provide for you, in keeping with his duties. Go to him sooner, rather than later. Turn to your pastor for spiritual counsel and help when you face issues and challenges that feel overwhelming. He will cherish the opportunity to be your pastor. Let him be pastor to you.

Congregations and New Pastors: A How To Guide

Lutheranism in America

This morning I listened to a segment of the radio show "Issues, etc." with an interview of WELS President Mark Schroeder. The topic was the current state of Lutheranism in America, with special attention to the role of the WELS and LCMS in maintaining confessional Lutheranism today. 

You can listen to the segment by clicking on the link below, or clicking on the player embedded at the bottom of this post.

Singing the Catechism

In 2006, we introduced Concordia Publishing House's new Sunday School curriculum, Growing in Christ, to our congregation in California. We did that for several reasons, but probably the biggest reasons were that it followed the flow of the church year and that it was distinctly Lutheran. One of the ways that the curriculum is distinctly Lutheran is its regular connections to Luther's Small Catechism. As a part of that, I was so pleased to find that on the CDs which accompany the student materials in the lower level there were newly composed tunes for singing the words of the Small Catechism. The first quarter had sections from the first article of the creed. The tunes were catchy and memorable.

The one downside, I thought, was that the translation used for these recordings is just a little different from the catechism translation published by Northwestern Publishing House and generally in use in the WELS. When we are dealing with texts to be memorized, consistency and uniformity is usually a plus. It makes me think of Luther's comments in his preface to the Small Catechism:

In the first place, let the preacher above all be careful to avoid many kinds of or various texts and forms of the Ten Commandments, the Lord's Prayer, the Creed, the Sacraments, etc., but choose one form to which he adheres, and which he inculcates all the time, year after year. For [I give this advice, however, because I know that] young and simple people must be taught by uniform, settled texts and forms, otherwise they easily become confused when the teacher to-day teaches them thus, and in a year some other way, as if he wished to make improvements, and thus all effort and labor [which has been expended in teaching] is lost.

Also our blessed fathers understood this well; for they all used the same form of the Lord's Prayer, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments. Therefore we, too, should [imitate their diligence and be at pains to] teach the young and simple people these parts in such a way as not to change a syllable, or set them forth and repeat them one year differently than in another [no matter how often we teach the Catechism]. From

On the other hand, I realize that our translations must adjust over time so that they might remain understandable and memorable. I know that I learned the words of the catechism slightly differently than I teach them today (but I've re-learned them in the new version). And both are different from the way my parents learned them, and in a completely different language than my grandparents learned them. So while the translation issue is something I'm aware of, I'm not too concerned about it. I have thought that if a student of mine were able to learn the words of the catechism by heart and they happened to use a slightly different wording, I wouldn't make them re-learn it using the official WELS translation. 

790004.jpg So I haven't made much use of these recordings—yet. But I'm now thinking that perhaps I should. In the most recent quarter of Growing in Christ, the section of the catechism on the kids CDs is The Sacrament of the Altar. The CD has been playing in our van's stereo for about 10 weeks now. And Lydia, our three year old, loves to sing along with it and pretty much has the whole section memorized. It's like pulling teeth to get my 7th and 8th graders to memorize these words, but a three year old sings without hesitation, "What is the Sacrament of the Altar? It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ…" She will even sing these words outside of the car, while playing around the house. And if I start singing a phrase, like, "Where is this written?" She will sing, "The holy Evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke and St. Paul write…" (I just tried it and that's exactly what she did.) Even Isaiah, our two year old, will sing along with parts.

And then, just this morning, I was teaching Bible Class on the Lord's Supper and when I started reading a section on Communion from the Small Catechism, I could hear the melody in my head as I read the words. This has even helped me.

So I decided that it would be worth it to purchase the whole collection and to encourage others to do the same. You can purchase the recordings on CD from Concordia, as well as in a printed songbook. Or, you can download the whole thing or piece by piece (much more expensive) in iTunes or on For just $7.99. That's really nothing when I think of how much it is worth to me to have these words of faith imprinted on the minds and hearts of my children.