Preachers and Professional Athletes

Salary

For years I’ve marveled at the stunning salaries of some professional athletes. A Google search produced a list (https://www.forbes.com/athletes/list/#tab:overall) of the ten highest paid. From bottom to top, their annual salary and endorsement income range from a paltry $46 million for an English auto racer to a much more respectable $93 million for a Portuguese soccer player.

To say the least, those numbers are far from salaries of professional church workers, both preachers and teachers. In a former life of oversight of congregations in Texas, I always encouraged church leaders to be generous in the area of compensation, particularly when calling a new pastor and reviewing their current pastor. A laborer is worthy of his hire.

In that regard it’s an understatement to say the preaching profession is not known for commanding outlandish salaries. I’m happy to say that has improved somewhat in recent years. By the way, the only overpaid pastors I ever knew were those simply not doing their job!

Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I stumbled upon an internet announcement last week that a North Carolina pastor had signed a contract to become one of the pastors of a well-known church in Houston. The contract was reportedly $110 million over six years.

According to my math, that would be approximately $18.3 million per year or about $1.5 million per month. My dear Terry’s comment is that that pastor’s wife would most likely not have to worry any more about clipping coupons!

Upon further investigation I found a video from the pastor himself, declaring the announcement untrue, bogus, a falsehood. He says he’ll be remaining at his church in North Carolina and not moving to the church in Houston. Don’t you wonder who started that rumor? I surely do!

Here are my four perspectives on this topic:

  1. Don’t always believe everything you read on the internet, even if it looks legitimate.
  2. There is a point at which compensation becomes way out of proportion to a person’s intrinsic value. That truism is not restricted to professional athletics.
  3. Everyone who follows his or her vocational calling is worthy of reasonable, fair, even generous compensation, in proportion to his or her value to his or her employer.
  4. To whom much is given, of him or her much is required! Luke 12:48

God bless your day!

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Marys & Marthas

pulpitThat’s the title on the cover of the September 2016 edition of The Lutheran Witness, a monthly publication of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Although a number of articles in that periodical are worthy of note, today I focus on the one titled “Women Pastors?”

While time and space do not permit a lengthy review of the article in its entirety, I’ll address briefly the one sentence subtitle of the article: “Christ calls suitable men to teach, while women hear and receive the Gospel with humble joy.” That sentence is rephrased a bit and repeated toward the end of the article: “Men teach and give. Women hear and receive.”

The article deals specifically with the topic of women serving in the pastoral office, which is not permitted in our church. However, the impression might be given that in all circumstances the rubric of men teaching and women merely receiving the Word of God applies to all situations and circumstances. Not so, according to Holy Scripture. A couple examples should suffice.

Luke 2 announces the birth of Jesus and tells also of a prophetess named Anna, an 84 year-old woman who had been a widow for many years. “She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.”

It seems clear from this section of Holy Scripture that Anna not only heard and received the good news of the birth of Christ, she also spoke that good news to many, in the temple.

Another biblical reference has always intrigued me. Acts 2 tells the story of the reception of the Holy Spirit by many who were gathered in Jerusalem for the Festival of Pentecost. After they were filled with the Holy Spirit, they began “to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Some who heard this miraculous speaking accused the speakers of inebriation.

But Peter put that perception to rest by announcing that because it was only 9:00 a.m., it was too early for them to be drunk. I’ll make no further comment on that explanation.

Peter continued: “This [what they saw happening] is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy … even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.'”

It sounds to me like Holy Scripture is saying, at least in these two instances, that women may and should do more than simply “hear and receive the Gospel with humble joy.”

Two Important Opportunities

This Special Edition of Perspectives brings to your attention two important opportunities:

  1. Pastor 360 Summit in San Antonio, Texas – October 11-13, 2016
  2. Reformation Trip with Wendish Territory Option – May 2017

Pastor360 Summit in San Antonio, Texas – October 11-13, 2016

Pastors: Consider how enrolling in the Summit will enhance your life and ministry!

Lay Leaders: Consider encouraging your pastor to attend this important Summit!

Pastor360 was created several years ago by two LCMS pastors and one committed layman. Our coaching staff is comprised of seasoned veteran LCMS pastors with a combined total of more than 160 years of ministry and leadership experience! The objective of Pastor360 is to help pastors make life and ministry better and more effective.

The Summit will focus on numerous topics to accomplish that objective, including:

  • Effective ways to re-energize your ministry and inspire your congregation for mission
  • Effective ways to prepare and deliver sermons that encourage congregational action
  • How to improve physical, emotional, spiritual, and financial health and well being
  • How to avoid and overcome feelings of frustration in tackling ministry challenges
  • How to lead your church with less stress and more balance in your life
  • How to expand leadership qualities and measurable ministry impact

Presenters include Jerry Kieschnick, Bill Tucker, Steve Wagner, Bill Knippa, and Davy Tyburski. Additional presentations from medical and financial professionals, along with Concordia Lutheran Church professional staff, will add value to your life and ministry.

For further information go to Pastor360Summit.com

“In the Footsteps of Martin Luther and the Reformation 2017″– May 9-17, 2017

“Wendish Territory” Pre-Tour Option – May 5-9, 2017

This 500th Anniversary of the Reformation tour is hosted by Lutheran Foundation of Texas, which exists to build God’s kingdom by educating people about the joy of planned giving and facilitating gifts that support Christian ministries. Dr. and Mrs. Jerry Kieschnick will serve as on-site tour hosts.Historic towns on the basic Reformation tour itinerary include Berlin, Wittenberg, Halle, Eisleben, Erfurt, Eisenach, Worms, Heidelberg, and Mainz, returning home from Frankfurt.The Pre-Tour Wendish Territory option includes visits to Dresden, Bautzen, Klitten, Weigersdorf, Hoyerswerda, Schleife, Spreewitz, Raddusch, Cottbus and Lubbenau.

Those who have already visited the Reformation sites and thus are interested only in the Wendish portion of the trip may choose that available option.

For an electronic brochure click here.

If you prefer a printed brochure or have specific questions, send your request, including your name and physical mailing address, via email to GBJK@LFOT.org or via snail mail or phone call to:

Lutheran Foundation of Texas | 7900 East Highway 290 | Austin, TX 78724-2499 | 512.646.4909

Vernon and Betty Gundermann

GundermannsLast Saturday afternoon, June 4, Concordia Lutheran Church in Kirkwood, Missouri, held a special worship service of thanksgiving to God for his servants Vernon and Betty Gundermann. It was my challenging privilege to be the preacher. Sermon title: God’s Gifts. Your Legacy.

It was a privilege because Terry and I were blessed to have Vern for our pastor during our nine years in St. Louis when I served as president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Vern was an excellent pastor in every respect. I also considered him the best preacher in the LCMS.

Sadly, not all of our nine years were filled with joyful activities and experiences. Particularly during some of my most difficult days in office, I had the “privilege” of receiving communications from or attending meetings with people who my dear Terry aptly describes as “joy suckers.” They sucked the joy right out of life and ministry.

At such times, Pastor Gundermann had an uncanny, almost surreal, perhaps even supernatural way of knowing and feeling the struggles we were experiencing. Incredibly, upon returning from such joy sucking experiences, Terry and I were greeted, virtually every time, with a phone message from our pastor, assuring us of his prayers, his love, his support, his encouragement.

In addition to Vern’s wonderful pastoral ministry of encouragement and support, his dear wife Betty became a very important person in the life of my dear wife Terry. Not many folks who live outside a pastor’s home know or understand the unique concerns, stresses, frustrations and worries of a pastor’s wife. Betty possessed a keen sensitivity to what pastors’ wives were likely to experience, including a pastor’s wife whose husband had become a national church president.

In our toughest times, Betty was there for Terry, to encourage her, to cry with her and to laugh with her. Betty was and to this very day still is an indescribably close friend of my dear Terry.

Preaching at last Saturday’s service was a challenge because Vern’s normal activities and abilities have been altered by the effects of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), more commonly called Lou Gehrig’s disease. Knowing what to say and how to say it was tough. Yet through it all Vern maintains a realistic attitude of joy and thanksgiving. I pray the Spirit blessed my words.

In one of his weekly updates, Vern acknowledged that no longer will he be able to say or sing a single word. He also wrote: “Life is good. Life is changing. Life is good. Do keep Betty in your prayers. Every change for me adds a task to her life! She now shaves me, puts on my socks and so much more. And she does it all with a good spirit. Little did we understand [on June 25, 1961] the words of our marriage vows ‘in sickness and in health.’ It is not easy living with one who cannot speak and whose eyesight is quite dim.”

Last week hundreds gathered to thank God for Vern and Betty Gundermann! It was a day to remember! God has given them many gifts! They will leave a legacy!

Houston, Do We Have a Problem?

Houston Skyline 2Although this week’s Perspectives article title “Ebola” was released this morning, I feel the necessity of adding this article on the same day. Unless moved to do otherwise, I intend for this second installment today to take the place of next week’s article. But stay tuned. Who knows?

The first I heard about Houston’s problem was yesterday morning in a number of emails from folks I know and love. They brought to my attention the news that “The city of Houston has issued subpoenas demanding a group of pastors turn over any sermons dealing with homosexuality, gender identity or Annise Parker, the city’s first openly lesbian mayor. And those ministers who fail to comply could be held in contempt of court.” (Source of that quote: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2014/10/14/city-houston-demands-pastors-turn-over-sermons/)

Today I learned that “Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott sent a letter to Mayor Parker asking that she withdraw the subpoenas “immediately.” (Source of that quote: http://pjmedia.com/tatler/2014/10/16/houstons-mayor-backtracks-on-church-subpoenas-tosses-her-own-lawyers-under-the-bus/)

Interestingly, the city’s attorney says: ““I’m just doing my job. I don’t have any issues with these pastors. What I’m doing is defending a lawsuit that was brought against us.” See more on this matter at: http://www.tpnn.com/2014/10/15/pastors-to-mayor-dont-mess-with-texas-pulpits/

Here are my non-legal but hopefully common sense observations and perspectives:

  • Out of context, for sermons written and delivered by Christian pastors in America to be subpoenaed by any governmental authority smells like a violation of the First Amendment of the U. S. Constitution, which guarantees the right to freedom of speech.
  • The context of this particular incident seems to be the response of a city attorney to a lawsuit filed against the city of Houston dealing with homosexuality and other gender identity issues recently addressed by the city’s new non-discrimination ordinance (which sounds absurd) and involves a number of pastors who allegedly used their pulpits and other communication vehicles to speak and lobby against the ordinance and those responsible for its adoption.
  • Putting the best construction on everything, which is very difficult to do in an emotionally charged matter like this one, the city attorney who represents the defendant in this lawsuit would appear to have the right to gather evidence to support the city’s defense during a time of discovery. If that’s the only purpose for the subpoenas, what’s the problem?
  • However, if the intention of the city of Houston is to sensor or take legal action against any pastor or other private citizen for what that citizen writes, preaches or otherwise communicates, that would be quite problematic and undoubtedly unconstitutional.
  • My own personal and ecclesiastical perspective is that I have no problem showing the world everything I write, preach or otherwise communicate. That’s simply because I take great care to be as sure as possible that the things I write are true, accurate, responsible and helpful. If the pastors in Houston follow that same principle, why would they have any problem with providing everything the subpoenas are requesting?
  • Finally, I love the idea that civil authorities would actually care about what a clergyman in the 21st century is preaching! And if I as a preacher am doing the job I’m called to do, those civil authorities would get from my sermons a meaningful dose of the severity of God’s law and judgment, along with an unmistakably clear witness to the precious truth of the love and forgiveness of a gracious God whose Son Jesus paid the price for humanity’s sinfulness by his innocent death and miraculous resurrection.

The apostle Peter says: “Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.” (1 Pet. 3:13-17)

And I say: “Houston, what’s the problem?”

Relationships among Pastors

Credit: potomacag.org

Credit: potomacag.org

Recently a seminary student asked me to address the question: “As a pastor, what is your relationship with other pastors?”

As written, the question is a bit non-specific and unclear. I responded to the student’s request: “Do I understand your question to be what is or what should be your relationship with other pastors, or both?” His response was also non-specific, so here’s how I answered:

Ideally, my relationship with other pastors should be characterized as (in alphabetical order):

  • Collegial and cooperative: As colleagues in the ministry, we work together, not at odds with one another. We might actually be helpful to each other in addressing issues/questions that we have forgotten from seminary or perhaps didn’t even hear or learn about there.
  • Respectful and tolerant: While individual personalities, ideologies and philosophies often lead to differing perspectives on ministry issues, I need to realize that my way is certainly not the only way and, whether I believe it or not, my way may not always be the best way.
  • Selfless and cooperative: For any of many reasons, parishioners may be inclined to leave the church I serve and go to one served by another pastor, who may or may not be a close colleague and friend of mine. When such inclinations are properly motivated, it may be in everyone’s interest for me to swallow my pride and assist in such a move. Special care, concern and cooperation are necessary when authentic reasons for church discipline exist.
  • Sensitive and supportive: All pastors experience times of trial and tribulation, both personally and professionally. Pastoral ministry is not easy these days! Sensitivity and support from fellow pastors, which may not be available from parishioners in an equally meaningful way, often help immensely!
  • Transparent and truthful: Fellow LCMS pastors and I have the same commitment regarding Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions. Yet varying interpretations will arise from time to time regarding specific questions, both in matters that are adiaphorous and also in issues on which different pastors with the same level of commitment simply disagree. Pretending those differences don’t exist is not helpful. Only when pastors speak the truth, in love, will such issues ever be able to be addressed and maybe even, by the grace of God, resolved.

Much more could be said about relationships among pastors. Perhaps these thoughts will prime the pump for future conversation in pastoral circles. Although not addressed only to pastors, St. Paul says it well: “Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.” (2 Cor. 13:11)

A Tribute to Pastors’ Wives

Rings 1In my humble opinion, not nearly enough has been written or said about a woman whose role is almost always voluntary and almost never really understood or adequately appreciated. The role of which I speak is that of pastor’s wife.

Since I’ve been married to a pastor’s wife for more than 47 years, one might expect me to have a fuller understanding of the joys and sorrows, difficulties and blessings, highs and lows my dear bride has experienced during all those years. Yet I’m often either partially or totally oblivious to the roller coaster of emotions Terry has ridden as the wife of a mission developer/pastor/ ecclesiastical supervisor/church leader for 43 of those years. She is not alone in that ride.

The wife of a parish pastor is often scrutinized by people in the congregation her husband serves. She lives with, but doesn’t always talk about, concerns regarding what to wear, what to say, what to do and what people think or say about all that. Most pastors’ wives are sensitive to how what they do reflects positively or negatively upon their dear husband and his ministry. To varying degrees, the same is true also of spouses of other professional people and political leaders.

In the case of a pastor’s wife, those concerns and sensitivities are frequently exacerbated by the fiscal realities catalyzed by her husband’s all-too-often inadequate compensation. Those realities are regularly on her mind. Especially in recent years, pastors’ wives in greater numbers have followed their God-given vocational calling into professions of their own. In many cases the wife’s compensation is greater than her husband’s, which presents a different set of challenges, especially when her husband considers a call to a different congregation.

Accepting a new call requires the pastor’s wife and children to leave behind familiar surroundings and faithful friends, both in and beyond the congregation. It also means that the pastor’s wife may very well be faced with terminating, postponing or reestablishing in a new community what in many cases is a very fulfilling and successful career.

Without ever divulging specifics or identities, Terry has shared with me that she has spent many sleepless nights at pastors’ wives retreats listening, crying and praying with women she had never previously met. Quite often pastors’ wives feel there is no one with whom the burdens they are bearing can be shared freely and confidentially. They appreciate a trusted, supportive listener.

As you have opportunity, say a word of thanks, encouragement and support to a pastor’s wife you know. Pray for her. It will probably mean a whole lot more to her than you could ever imagine.

Much more could be said about these faithful women, who should in many cases legitimately be viewed as heroes of the church. Consider this brief article an inadequate and incomplete but nonetheless sincere expression of appreciation for and heartfelt tribute to pastors’ wives.

May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you always!