Scripture outlines the qualifications of candidates for the public ministry in such passages as I Timothy 3, II Timothy 2:15, and Titus 1. In the interest of maintaining these scriptural principles in the teacher training and staff ministry training programs of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), the Conference of Presidents (COP) has established guidelines for the certification of teachers and staff ministers. Graduates of Martin Luther College (MLC), the WELS College of Ministry, are certified upon graduation and the faculty’s recommendation for assignment into the public ministry. The guidelines for synodical certification apply to those individuals who have not graduated from MLC. These individuals have either received provisional calls or would like to prepare themselves for a call into the public ministry. It is necessary for these individuals to complete a program of synod certification before they can be synodically certified teachers or staff ministers.
A Call to Serve: The Ambition to be a Church Worker
The desire to serve God and our fellowmen through the public ministry is a God-pleasing ambition. Earnest prayer, thoughtful reflection upon one’s gifts, and informed study of the special requirements of a church vocation will help one to know whether this is an attainable goal. It is these wholesome Christian exercises which the following paragraphs are to stimulate and guide in those pondering a career in the teaching or staff ministry.
All honorable callings in which Christians engage are ministries of God. Through their daily work and recreation, through their involvement in the affairs of society and of family, all Christians have the assurance that they are serving God in a vocation blessed by Him. All Christians discriminate between various career options through a Spirit-renewed intellect; they perform their tasks with God-given gifts; and they present their entire bodies to Him as living spiritual sacrifices.
Within the circle of honorable vocations in which Christians may engage, there lies a ministry which is specially commended to the church by God. It offers special honors and privileges while requiring special commitment and responsibility. This vocation entails the preaching, teaching, and modeling of God’s Word for the purpose of gathering and developing mature disciples of Christ. Christians acknowledge the uniqueness and significance of this calling by honoring it with the title “The Holy Ministry.” Another name for this vocation, the public ministry, implies that those who have been entrusted with this holy work are specifically designated and commissioned by the church to act publicly in its name, and by its authority, in whatever task they have been assigned. They are acting under the direction and sponsorship of the church as they engage in God’s ministry of disciple-making.
The church regards its chosen public ministers as Spirit-appointed workers. They are honored as precious gifts of Christ and stewards of God’s Word and Sacraments. In order to acknowledge the Lord’s role in providing His church with workers, and to emphasize that their first responsibility is to the Lord, the church terms the working arrangement it offers to public ministers a divine call rather than a contract. Normally, the church accords to them the immediate privilege of tenure. By this practice the church expresses its unreserved acceptance of the workers the Lord has provided. By this practice the church also expresses its confidence in the commitment of its public ministers to the work into which the Lord has invited them. The church shows further respect for its workers’ divine call by carefully defining the abuses which might demand dismissal and by carefully outlining the procedures by which charges can be brought. In this way, the church seeks to protect and preserve the Lord’s ministry against the hostility of the flesh which still persists in all people.
The church’s earnest concern for warring against the flesh implies, of course, that public ministers will be equally concerned to war against their own flesh. More importantly, the responsibility for spiritual leadership which rests upon church workers demands that those who aspire to the public ministry should be willing to set for themselves special standards of commitment. As the conspicuous and official ambassadors of Christ, their lives should be positive witnesses to both those outside and those inside the church. If the church’s task of discipling is to prosper, its pastors, teachers, and staff ministers must be loving and upright, modest and honest, disciplined and devoted; they must be both advocates and models of joyful, but steadfast, commitment to Christ and His service.
Those who aspire to the public ministry should recognize that they are seeking to enter into the raging center of the battle between Satan and Christ. The church is not yet in heaven. Even in the church’s ministry, one must cope with much evil. Sinful behavior by students, lack of parental concern and understanding, and shameful tensions between fellow workers are just a few examples of the distressful situations called workers encounter. Human inadequacies and follies further frustrate the idealistic church worker. The sheer volume of work expected may be exhausting. History and Scripture warn that church workers bear no lighter cross than those who are not engaged in church work.
For those who are willing to bear its cross, faithful church work has many rewards: the satisfaction of knowing one’s daily tasks have an eternal significance, the joy of helping God’s children to be good disciples and heirs of heaven, the respect of the church’s faithful, and a deepened knowledge of their Lord and His Scriptures. The Lord of the church also gave a special promise to His church in its disciple-making task. He said, “Surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age.” Church workers know that they bear their daily crosses not only in their King’s service but with His sustaining presence.
Men and women who are considering church work as their life’s vocation will profit by reading for devotion and instruction such familiar passages as Titus 1-3; 1 Timothy 3:1-13; 1 Corinthians 3:4 and 9; Acts 15:36-41; Ephesians 4:11ff; and Romans 12:1-8. Under the influence of God’s Word, the will of the flesh to view the divine call casually, opportunistically, or even idealistically will be overcome and will be replaced by prayer and the realistic evaluation of one’s talents and interests over against the tasks and responsibilities of public ministry. Further definition of the challenges of the public ministry will occur through participation in the course of instruction described in the guidelines for certification. Those who aspire to a church vocation are commended to this course of instruction so that their God-pleasing ambition may in fact become a well-tempered God-pleasing resolution marked by steadfast commitment to the Lord and His church, readiness to serve, but also willingness to await His call.
APPLICATION FOR THE WELS TEACHER SYNOD CERTIFICATION PROGRAM
THEOLOGY COURSE CALENDAR
WELS TEACHER SYNOD CERTIFICATION PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE HANDBOOK