I have been impacted by a number of ministers over the years. In my early years I didn’t realize the importance of my pastors. Now I realize how much I relied on them to feed me. In youth, my thoughts and questions were shallow and self-serving. As I have aged, my thoughts and questions have deepened and matured. I look back on the men of God who have led me and know immediately which ones gave me the most nourishment. They are the ones who set my heart on fire for the Lord by being both good preachers and good shepherds. As preachers, they shared the Word from the pulpit with enthusiasm and emotion, instilling in me a desire to grow in my faith. As shepherds, they cared for me in my daily life when I needed someone to guide me in my struggles with the cares of this world. I have most loved the pastors who warmed my heart and soul from the pulpit, as well as fed and nourished me one on one.
For most of my life I lived in Wisconsin and always had a pastor to lead me. However, five years ago we moved to Tennessee and found that the nearest WELS congregation was two hours away. Driving that far to church is certainly not conducive to establishing a good relationship with a pastor. But, God is amazing! He opened doors for us, and eventually we found ourselves involved in a small group working to establish a WELS congregation in Chattanooga. After several years and many prayers, our efforts were blessed by God. A new graduate from the seminary was assigned to lead us in establishing a mission church. Prior to this, I had been praying fervently for God to send us a “good shepherd and a good preacher.” I held nothing back from God. I begged for someone who was faithful, humble, outgoing, full of enthusiasm, grounded in the Word, able to preach, and socially adept. And in his wisdom, God has seen fit to send us someone who appears to meet all those requests. In return, it is our goal, as members of the flock, to support him, love him, pray for him, and encourage him.
It is exciting to have a new mission church. It is also exciting to have a new pastor, especially one new to the ministry. We have an advantage in having someone with youthful enthusiasm. We will be able to watch him grow in his ministry and impact both those who are new to faith, and those of us seeking to grow in faith. Our mission congregation is blessed with people of all ages, and our new minister will impact everyone from youth to old age. He has already impacted me as I watch him reach out to make new disciples.
God does not put an age limit on coming to faith or growing in faith. The Word is meant to be sown and nurtured in people of all ages. As members of a congregation, we need to make sure our pastor also is nurtured, so he, too, can grow in faith. Ultimately, we all need to heed the words of the Great Commission and remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 28:20: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Mary Snyder is a member at Living Hope Lutheran Church, Chattanooga, Tenn.