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The Best Training

Are you a young person pondering a career? Have you considered becoming a pastor
or a Christian day school teacher? This twelve-part series is meant to coincide with the work of the
President’s Committee on Partners in the Public Ministry (CPPM). Its aim is to help you think more deeply about the great importance—and many blessings—of the public teaching and preaching ministry.

A young man named Timothy received preparation for the public ministry like none other. Joining Paul early in his journeys, he apprenticed with the most highly educated of the apostles. Timothy observed Paul’s versatile style of preaching and teaching up close and was hand-selected for several important tasks. He was even the recipient of two verbally-inspired epistles.
In that second letter, Paul calls Timothy to faithfulness amidst the pressures he would face as pastor on his own: “You must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of.” (II Timothy 3:14) Yes, Timothy had gained much sitting at the feet of the apostle, but Paul hearkens in essence to what Timothy had learned well before the two met. His protégé’s best training was first received in his mother’s arms: “From childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (II Tim. 3:15)
I have no reservations in speaking highly of our Immanuel Lutheran College and Seminary. The Lord has blessed our fellowship with an excellent theological institution. This statement, though, can be intimidating. It is staggering for a twelve year old to think of learning the Biblical languages, for a teenager to imagine a decade more of school, for a college student to contemplate writing sermons week after week.
But Paul’s counsel indicates the best training for the public ministry doesn’t happen in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. It began years ago, in the plainest scriptural truths learned from infancy on.
The great breadth and depth of doctrine taught in Christian Dogmatics is not so overwhelming when everything “new” you learn can also be found somewhere in the Small Catechism that your parents helped you commit to heart.
Once you learn Hebrew, the orthography that used to seem mystifying now gives rise to the vivid realization of just how those Old Testament passages you memorized for Christmas programs all point to the salvation which Mary’s Baby has earned for sinful mankind.
Pastors do face the pressure of writing a sermon every week, but the theme slowly comes into focus, as you simply recite to yourself that “the Law shows us our sin” and “the Gospel shows us our Savior.”
Pastors need not be overwhelmed with thoughts of how to make worship services into “more-meaningful experiences.” The liturgy you first learned sitting on your mother’s lap—familiar and plain—is the more-than-sufficient adornment for the Word of God, allowing it to resound and shine.
Pastors do receive their members’ toughest questions in life. Christian day school teachers are often called upon to help unravel their students’ problems. But that dreaded pressure of your confirmation examination honed you to give answer to those too—and in the end, it wasn’t nearly as bad as you thought!
In both preparation and practice, the stress of the public ministry is mostly self-imposed. When a young man heeds the comforting counsel that the Lord has already begun equipping you long ago, all that anxiety begins to melt away.
Don’t let thoughts of the public ministry overwhelm you! If you find yourself fascinated with the training you have received thus far, if you feel the pressing need for souls to hear the good news of Christ crucified for our eternal life, these are noble desires indeed. Such curiosity is from God.
Pursue it. Learn more. He promises to direct your steps.
Timothy Daub is pastor of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Hecla, South Dakota.