“It was he [Jesus] who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” (Ephesians 4:11-12 NIV84)
In the summer of 1996, the Lord sent Paul Schaller to teach at Immanuel Lutheran High School, College, and Seminary. Not long ago, on May 17-18, 2019, the school recognized his retirement at its customary year-end graduation activities.
Having served as a pastor since 1972 at congregations in Hayward, California; Clarkston, Washington; Orofino, Idaho; and Spokane, Washington, moving to the Immanuel campus meant a career change for Professor Schaller, as it does for any of our active pastors who switch to the public teaching ministry. Instead of conducting Bible classes and counseling sessions, or delivering Sunday sermons, he now prepared courses in English, Biblical Greek and Hebrew, and Church History.
Our professors not only teach full time, but also support the school outside the classroom, too. In Professor Schaller’s case, the Lord made extensive use of his musical gifts and athletic interests while he was at Immanuel. During his twenty-three years there, he regularly taught a number of piano students. He also served for some of that time as a band director and a softball coach.
During this year’s Class Day (when student awards are given), the students themselves recognized Professor Schaller’s years of teaching ministry among them with a humorous and loving video presentation depicting him as “The Organist” whose familiar high-fives with students in the hallways were unknowingly turning them all into musical instruments! The school band followed it up with a surprise musical tribute, a medley of songs by George Gershwin, one of his favorite composers.
At the graduation service, Pastor John Hein, chairman of the Board of Regents and himself a former parishioner of Professor Schaller’s, referred to him in front of the assembly as “a team player” and thanked the Lord for the many blessings the school had received through him, especially his kind and thoughtful way with the students, and the many striking chapel addresses he presented over the years. Pastor Hein quoted 2 Corinthians 4:5, “For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake.”
Professor Schaller responded, “I thank the Lord for the many opportunities He’s given me, some of them which I was graced to heed, some of them I missed. The many opportunities to serve Him both in the pastoral and teaching ministries. It’s been the shortest forty-seven years of my life. When I look back, as our speaker indicated earlier, the first thing to notice is mistakes and blunders, and so it means much to me that you remind me to look back and see grace and mercy following me all the days of my life. Thank you.”
Surely Jesus blesses us in all the Christian teachers He so graciously provides. Whether we are still sitting in their classrooms or are now recalling what they said to us in times past, they show us our dear Redeemer, and through them we are gladly led to sing,
Today I was my Savior’s guest, My soul was here so richly blest, The Bread of Life receiving. Oh, may thereby my faith prevail, So that its fruits shall never fail Till my account is given Before the throne in heaven. (TLH 48:3)
David Schaller is pastor of Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sister Lakes, Michigan. He is the son of Professor Emeritus Paul Schaller.