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The Pastor Ministry — Counsel And Reflections

Readers may recall that a recent issue of the Spokesman (Sept. ’95)) referred to work being done by some of our retired pastors and professors. We noted that when opportunity presents itself, and health and strength allows, they continue to preach the Word in sister congregations.

When these servants were invited to tell of their retirement activities we also asked: “What words of counsel and advice would you like to give to new pastors today?” we asked. At the same time comments were invited on perceptions of changes in the pastoral ministry today compared to years ago. Finally, we said, they might add some personal reflections on the ministry in general.

Take Heed

When the responses came, expression was given above all else to the concern that pastors today remember St. Paul’s counsel to young Timothy: “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine… (1 Tim. 4:16). For example:

* “Pray without ceasing for a larger measure of the Holy Spirit!” * “Remain a defender and student of pure doctrine lest you become a

spreader of spiritual poison.” * “The Lord wants you to be a good husband and father as well as a

good pastor.” * “Thank God we still have young men strong enough spiritually to

enter the Christian ministry to help guide people in the right

Christian beliefs and paths.”

We are sure the respondent who counseled that new pastors “go back to what the ministry was 50 years ago!” meant to underscore the need for undivided dedication and whole-hearted commitment to the Lord’s work. Another warned pastors today about “too much table serving; not giving themselves to God’s Word and prayer.”

With regard to perceived changes in society and family, a couple of our respondents said that compared to years ago, there are more family problems due to the increased divorce rate, remarriage, and children with one parent or step parents. One observed that though “man has remained sinful man since Adam’s fall” yet “at times the gross outbursts of sin and the public acceptance of sin are more readily seen.” And such appears to be the case today: “The restraints of sin are gone to a large degree in our society” compared to years ago. One reason for this, said another, is the “profound media impact on forming opinions.”

One respondent chose to pass along a longer reflection about the grace of God shown our CLC:

* “In retrospect one can only marvel at the way the Spirit endowed

our people with the necessary courage for the action the Word

required of them for the preservation of their confessional

integrity. The pain and frequent humiliation of separation and

reformation was borne courageously, in faith and good hope. Each

hundred communicants undertook (and still do) the support of a

full-time called worker in addition to maintaining church and

school facilities and an ever-expanding program of synodical

mission and educational endeavor. It took courage to forego the

easy money offered for endorsement of some fraternal insurance

businesses. It took courage to face expanding needs at ILC and the

pleas for support in home and foreign missions.

The Spirit supplied the courage we have needed these years to

maintain viability as a church in isolation.

My fervent prayer for our CLC is that God may grant the courage

we need in days to come. The courage it takes to look out and

away. To try for communication with the Lord’s people outside

of our fellowship, especially those who are striving to maintain

confessional integrity coupled with genuine mission zeal. They

may be few, but they are there. We might be of help to them, and

they to us.”

“…At The Foot Of The Cross”

Finally, young pastors, said one, should heed Dr. Norman Madson’s advice: “When preaching, leave your hearers at the foot of the cross.”

Allow some personal reflections. Dr. Norman A. Madson died in 1962 (age 77). That was while this writer was in classes at our CLC’s Immanuel Lutheran Seminary, then conducted out of the church basement at Immanuel Church, Mankato. We Sem students stood as “honor guard” at the funeral bier.

Though I have only a few recollections of Dr. Madson, those I have are personal and poignant. I recall him sitting in the worshiping audience in our Eagle Lake church when I, as a young Sem student, conducted one of my first worship services. What a relief when the service was over — and Dr. Madson thanked me for the sermon! (I even recall the sermon text and theme used that day. I had used it a half-dozen times, and it is still on file: 1 Corinthians 3:18-23, “Wisdom and Foolishness in the Light of God’s Holy Word.”)

Though I came to know Madson only in his waning years, he was a statuesque man. He was that physically. But far more, spiritually. For those old enough to remember the time of controversy in the old Synodical Conference, he remains an example of one who was unwilling to compromise obedience to the Word of his Lord. Long-time leader within the ELS (pastor, president, editor,seminary Dean), Madson severed fellowship relations with that synod in 1959 for conscience reasons.

An article in the Lutheran Spokesman reporting on Madson’s death said: “… Three years ago he left the Evangelical Lutheran Synod when most men excuse themselves by saying they are too old for the rigors of controversy; when they are tempted to sit back and enjoy the homage of the people whom they have served. ‘Be careful for nothing’ (Php. 4:6). This precept guided Dr. Madson throughout his life amid adversity and controversy. Even when he learned he was incurably ill with cancer, he still clung to those words knowing that God’s good and gracious will was being done. Blessed be his memory among us.”

With all that this “teacher of preachers” was by the grace of God, he was above all a preacher himself. And what a preacher! After he had joined the CLC, I recall him delivering two Reformation fesitval sermons. With solid biblical content, as well as flamboyant delivery, he held his hearers’ attention. In my opinion, spell-binding is not too stong a word. For a taste read his books of chapel sermons at Bethany College and Seminary (Evening Bells at Bethany, I & II), and of addresses at graduation exercises at seminaries, at synodical conventions etc. (Preaching to Preachers). In this writer’s opinion — and at least one of our retired pastors would agree — Madson’s books should be required reading for all pastors even today.

In October of the year he was to die, Madson accepted the invitation to preach the sermon for Reformation Fest at Immanuel, Mankato. Due to his deteriorating physical condition (head bandaged and quite weak), he couldn’t mount the pulpit. Instead, still quite strong of voice, he used a loudspeaker out of the sacristy. Though out of sight, still he held the rapt attention of the worshiping assembly, leaving myself and all his hearers, as always “at the foot of the cross.”

In other words, he preached what he taught — the unadulterated Gospel of Christ crucified. No better “pastoral counseling” can be given.

— Pastor Paul Fleischer

Quotable Quotes from PREACHING TO PREACHERS. Copyright 1952, Dr. Norman A. Madson, Dean, Bethany Lutheran Seminary.

A well-tailored and neatly-groomed suit will never cover up an ill-conceived and poorly-delivered sermon.

“Rightly dividing” does not merely mean that you know what the Law and the Gospel are, but that you also know when and how to apply them.

Reasons is never more unreasonable than when it insists on reasoning in things above reason.

You cannot of truth be for true doctrine without being unalterably opposed to false doctrine.

You may be “saving the world for Christ” while forgetting your sacred obligation as a spiritual priest in your own home: but of such a pastor God says that he “is worse than an infidel.”

If there be anything from which we should recoil with holy horror it is the thought of having men in our pulpits, Seelsorgers at the sick-bed, teachers in our seminaries, officials in positions of trust in our church, who know not the Lord.

If no church can claim to have fully and exhaustively comprehended all of the Gospel, where does that leave Paul, who declares to the Ephesian elders that he had “not shunned to declare unto them all the counsel of God”? . . . We must not make Christ out to be a Unionist. His desire and prayer is, that there may be perfect unity, as that which existed between Him and the Father.