What is Expected of Pastoral Care in the Twenty-first Century Lutheran Church its Measures and its Myths: A Confessional Lutheran Perspective

Date of Award


Document Type

Major Applied Project

Degree Name

Doctor of Ministry (DMin)


Practical Theology

First Advisor

Harold Senkbeil


Ever since the post-modem Christian Church began to look for ways in which to seek ways to bring in the lost and unsaved masses of our population, many church bodies, congregations, and individual missionaries and pastors have attempted to fulfill their role in their post-modem understanding of the Great Commission. Recently, our Church, The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod launched a program that is our most recent attempt to fulfill our proper responsibility in carrying out the Great Commission.

Some implementations suggested in the Ablaze! program for reaching the lost brings the focus on the pastoral ministry and its relationship to the Church into a different light. They point to the erosion of congregation memberships and diminishing numbers from our Synodical roster as proof that the American Lutheran wants something different than the way church used to be.

The Ablaze! program proponents suggest contemporization of the worship style, the settings, the music, and treatment of traditional and liturgical worship. The role of the pastor within his congregation becomes more of a facilitator and administrator who directs the priesthood of all believers for the benefit of growing the church. Some of the mission plants under the direction of such stated suggestions have grown significantly while others have not fared so well, if not disappear.

If traditional-liturgical worship is the implied malady that underlies our unhealthy estate, there is an unexplainable phenomenon that grew out of a congregation in the middle of the "Bible Belt" of mid-Tennessee. A small, 210-member, Lutheran congregation inside of seven years grew from its struggling existence into a 578-member congregation that sponsors two other mission sites. The phenomenon is this: The congregation is a totally traditional-liturgical congregation in practice and doctrine. Its membership grew from catechizing 178 of the local, unchurched population, in addition to those who have moved into the area from other part of the United States. If traditional- liturgical worship and traditional hymnody is the malady of the Lutheran Church, there is something wrong with Heavenly Host Lutheran Church.

This study will examine the expectations of the clergy and laity for what the role of the pastoral ministry must be in the Twenty-first Century Lutheran Congregation. The reason for the study is to define and affirm what exists in the congregations that will allow it to grow and become healthier (both numerically and spiritually), and what factors contribute to its ailment.

When the factor of what contributes to true satisfaction and what detracts members expressed by their dissatisfaction, we will find the combination of internal and external matters that may be used by our beloved Synod or any of its congregational type, regardless of what worship style, music style, or other intangibles that might exist. The value of this study is that it seeks a proper diagnosis of the current erosion of membership rosters, and applied treatment in order to maintain a healthy confessional Church body we can all support in unity and in the love of Christ Jesus, our Chief Cornerstone and Great Physician.

I wish to express my deepest thanks to God and to my dear friend and advisor, Dr. Harold Senkbeil for his many and helpful suggestions. He has been a source of encouragement throughout this project. My thanks to my friend and reader, Professor John Pless for his help in direction for this project and the many resources he offered. My thanks to Dr. Dan Gard for getting this project off the ground and his kind words of encouragement at the very beginning of this project several years ago. My thanks to my wife, Patricia for her patience and stem encouragement over the many hours and interrupted dinners, assisting in handling our focus group sessions, helping calculate the thousands of entries, and for not messing the greater mess of my upstairs office.

My thanks to the Drs. Joe Biernacki, Dr. Bob Hedges, and Dr. Mark Stephens for their prayers and support of the project survey design and observations. The local advisors were most helpful in keeping me on task. Thanks to Barbara Hedges who served as the dissertation proof reader. Also, my thanks goes out to Bonnie Thomas, who has painstakingly worked with the electronic data processing and word processing difficulties I have encountered in this project.

My sincere thanks to the participants in the general survey and the focus group pastors and laity. Without their comments and participation, this project would have been impossible. Also my thanks to Rev David McMinn, my friend and hunting partner, for his contributions to the catechetical sermons and lectures. And, thanks to Vicar Ryan Craemer for his participation in the catechetical sermon studies as well.

Above all, I thank God that he has seen fit to allow this fractured sinner to become a baptized child of God; and thereby allowed to bring His message of love, forgiveness, grace and mercy to the ears of His own dear children. Thy wounds, not mine, 0 Christ, can heal my bruised soul Thy stripes, not mine, contain the balm that makes me whole To whom save Thee, who canst alone for sin atone, Lord shall I flee? (LSB 565)

Rev. Roger Paavola, Doctor of Ministry candidate 2009


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