About a year or so ago, the pastor of our church (Pastor Weiser), announced that he would be going into semi-retirement this summer. Instead of just retiring like most people his age, he’s taking a half-time job as our missionary in Nigeria. He’ll spend quite a few months out of each year over there helping to train new Nigerian pastors. It’s always been one of his passions and he’s spent a lot of time there over the decades. I’m excited for him, but that leaves us without a Pastor.
I’ve heard a few comments/questions that can generally be summarized to “What happens if you don’t agree with what your new Pastor teaches?” I’m very thankful and happy to say that there is almost no chance that this will happen and I’ll explain why in this post.
Our local church, Calvary Lutheran Church, is part of a bigger group called the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod or WELS for short. The WELS is the central body that oversees all the churches to make sure we all teach exactly the same thing. While the types of church buildings and the styles of the church services might change from one WELS church to another, I can walk into any one of them and know that they are teaching exactly what the Bible says.
So when our Pastor left, we went put out a “call” for a new pastor. I won’t dive into the details of what a call is and why we do it because the WELS website already has a good description of that. I’ll just briefly say that the process is based on the Bible’s teachings and it’s not like a normal job interview. We ended up getting a Pastor who was just graduating from the WELS seminary. This will be his very first congregation.
Getting back to the original question, even though he’s never led a congregation before, I’m confident that he’ll stay true to God’s Word. His schooling included four years at our teacher/pastor training school (Martin Luther College) and then an additional four years at our seminary (Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary.) He’s well-versed in all of the Bible’s theology and he knows the original languages that it was written in (Greek and Hebrew) so that he can always go back to the most original manuscripts when needed.
But hey, everyone is human and we all sin. All of this training and process doesn’t mean that every single pastor is always right on target. Thankfully there are lots of checks and balances in place. First of all, every single person in the church should be actively listening and testing the words that the Pastor preaches. The book of 1 John teaches us to “test the spirits.” We should be comparing everything the Pastor teaches to what the Bible teaches. If they don’t align, we should investigate and question until the issue is resolved. In the worst case, this could be escalated all the way to the synod body which could take action to remove a Pastor from the synod entirely.
This is quite a bit more rigid and strict than many other church bodies, but that is what has kept our group of churches so rock solid on the teachings of the Bible. I’m very thankful that when I move to a new area or go on vacation, I don’t have to search around for a church. I just pull up the WELS directory, find a convenient location and start attending.