Almost 400 people attended our annual fall symposium from Sept 17-18 in Mequon, Wis. Pastors from across North America heard three papers presented on the pastor as shepherd-leader. By virtue of his divine call, a pastor is both a loving shepherd and servant leader, yet the challenge can be knowing how and where to lead. Three speakers guided pastors and pastoral students through the thorny issues that surround pastoral leadership and offered clear and wise counsel to those who lead the flock of God.
Professor David Scharf, class of 2005, began the symposium with the paper “St. Paul and Martin Luther: Paradigms of Shepherd Leaders.” Scharf, a professor at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, outlined a paradigm for shepherd leadership using “I am Jesus’ Little Lamb.” He shared, “A shepherd leader first recognizes that he is a sheep. Humility is in order. He is joyfully optimistic. He guides by training and encouraging others for ministry as well as by instructing his people in a gentle way. He loves God and loves people by supplying what people need and is consistent. Finally, a shepherd leader knows his sheep and calls them by name.”
Prof. E. Allen Sorum served as the reactor. “The evangelical tone with which our essayist presents this section is wonderfully comforting and empowering,” he said. “In a winsome way without jargon or buzzwords, Professor Scharf has conveyed his thoughts on key points touching on Paul’s leadership and Luther’s leadership. Paul and Luther received their commitments regarding leadership from Jesus. It seems that there are exactly the right number of phrases in that first stanza of ‘I Am Jesus’ Little Lamb.’ The organization was tight. There was no fluff in the paradigm. Every point was urgent and valuable. Here is a paradigm we can follow and values we can imitate.”
The second paper, presented by 1999 graduate Pastor Jonathan Schroeder, discussed “Shepherd Leaders Under the Cross: Facing the Challenges.” Schroeder, pastor at Faith, Sharpsburg, Georgia, addressed the hard idea that suffering and bearing the cross is part of life as a Christian. “Understanding what God is really like is imperative for shepherd-leaders who guide God’s people as they face challenges together. To show us what he is really like, God leads his shepherd and his flock to the unlikeliest of places: the cross,” he shared. “God puts his pastors and congregations in situations that test their faith, test their joy in ministry, test their trust in him. But he does those things to strengthen us, to mold us into the servants that he wants. That is what makes our congregational crosses so dear. When the potter puts his hands on you, run to his Word.”
Prof. Samuel C. Degner delivered the reaction. “As we meet here today, safe and dry on a pleasant hill in Wisconsin, people in the Carolinas are sloshing through water . . . . You know the question many of them are asking—if not in front of news cameras, then behind closed doors, or at least within their hearts. ‘Why?’,” he shared. “It’s as universal a question as any, heard in hospital rooms and war zones, funeral homes and living rooms around the world. . . . But there is an answer. In his fine essay, Pastor Schroeder leads us to where it is found: in the cross, that of Christ and of the Christian.”
For the final paper, Pastor Jonathan Hein, class of 1997, addressed the future. Hein, the Congregational Services Coordinator for WELS, presented “The Shepherd Leader at Work: Moving Forward.” He reminded those in attendance, “God has called you as a shepherd-leader. To say, ‘I’m not a leader’ is more than self-pity. It is a denial of reality. God speaks; reality results. God has spoken; thus, you are a leader.” He encouraged the pastors to examine their leadership and ministries. “It seems to me that at times there is an unwillingness to examine how we are proclaiming the Word; to ask, ‘Are we proclaiming the Word in ways that makes sense, given our context?’ Sometimes, it seems we are hesitant to simply ask, ‘Is this the best we can do?’” He also reminded them of the freedom to lead with the gifts God has given them, “The LORD did not give Adam instructions on how to do everything. Instead, he made Adam in his likeness—possessing reason undergirded with purity. Likewise, as we provide leadership in his Church, he simply does not provide a lot of detailed direction. We might like him to. He chooses not to, so that we might demonstrate our love for him through careful reasoning.”
Professor Richard Gurgel delivered a reaction. “In his essay, Pastor Hein drew from years of experience from his own life, from his congregation’s ministry, and now from his work with many congregations, to help us do the one (careful listening) without leaving the other undone (careful reasoning),” he shared. “Careful listening. Careful reasoning. It is that simple. It is that hard.”
The archive of the Symposium is available at https://livestream.com/WLSLive.