In response to a promise to the late Herman Otten, Editor of Christian News, Pastor Tim Klinkenberg, candidate for LCMS President, wrote about his experience as a pastor and his priorities for the LCMS. Pastor Tim’s letter is reprinted below. (With thanks to Pastor Otten for his kind permission, our condolences and prayers go to the entire Otten family as they grieve his passing and celebrate the resurrection promise of Jesus!)
NOTE: The above photo was taken by an airborne drone on April 9, 2019 of approximately 653 K-8 students who attend St. John’s Day School in Orange, CA. The students assembled on the school’s athletic field in the shape of a cross. Every day they hear what that cross means for their salvation in St. John’s church and school ministry led by Pastor Klinkenberg.
Tim’s a Pastor — Here’s a snapshot of a day
“Like many a parish pastor, I have had a full day and Tuesdays are long days for me. It started early in the morning with a Men’s Bible Study where we studied the Gospel reading for Sunday from Luke 20. From there, I did an off-campus chore to help my family. Back to church for a 90-minute staff meeting to coordinate ministry. Worked at my desk. Went on a 12-mile mountain bike ride with a young man in my new member class. Got a haircut for Easter. Had dinner with my wife, followed by a meeting with the Elders. And now, at 9:35 p.m. finishing up my day, not counting phone calls and text messages.
I have heard people say that serving as Synod President is a lot like pastoring a large congregation. Our congregation has a faculty and staff of 125 people, plus 50 or more volunteers on a given day, without whom we could not afford to carry out our ministry, probably more than work at the Synodical headquarters. To be candid, there’s nothing as joyful and frustrating, as filled with challenge and filled with exhilaration as serving in a congregation like St. John’s Orange. My family has been raised here and God has blessed us. Every parish pastor who reads this understands exactly what I’m saying.”
Two Bible Verses Will Guide Pastor Tim As President
People ask what I would do in the off chance I am elected to this position and it really comes down to two things:
- Ephesians 4:15 “Instead, speaking the truth, in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the head, that is Christ.” [Pastors speak the truth in love and have to execute ministry day-by-day.]
- 1 John 1:6-7 “If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin. [We bleed too much energy managing our secrets and seeking to hide our blemishes and faults. Let’s live in the light, communicate in the light and speak to one another in the light.]
How does St. John’s Orange run such a big school?
“Pastor Otten wanted to know how we run such a big school and the answer is only God can bring children to us to learn about Jesus’ love for them in the Bible. It takes hard work and sacrifice. Our administrator works hard to lead our school to be excellent in preparing our students for jobs that perhaps don’t even exist. We deeply desire that they are principled and thoughtful.
Yet, what makes our school special and distinct from the many fine secular independent schools in Orange County is the love of Jesus that fills our relationships, permeates our lessons and leads us to baptize and teach students, parents and even extended family about the Bible.
It means we make tough choices about our values, so we remain distinct from the world, even though it means we receive criticism. Jesus first and best, and the rest falls into line. Make hard choices and have a plan you follow. While it’s not a particularly creative formula, it requires discipline and foresight and abiding in Jesus in painful moments.”
Pastor Tim’s Plan to Get After It
“At one time, I read with interest about the decline of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. I know other church bodies are experiencing the same results. My father, grandfather and uncle were parish pastors and we go back as Lutherans to the 1840’s.
Frankly, I have quit reading the myriads of demographic reports and have instead set forth a plan to get after it. Training our people in the faith is critical. Working in the community is essential. And making the most of every opportunity to share Jesus is what a pastor does.”
Let’s Rally — but not around fear
“For so many churches, there is a fear. Having served as a Vice President in our District, I felt the fear that many congregations have. Sunday Schools shrink and go away. Congregations band together for Confirmation and Vacation Bible School. But the fear that the congregation is on the way out is very real. It’s very painful. The Scriptures say that “perfect love drives out fear.” Perhaps we need to listen very carefully when people begin sentences with this phrase, “I’m afraid that…” or the cousin of this comment, “I’m very concerned about…” At some point, we need to rally, but not around fear and the anger that our ongoing losses have created.”
Four Priorities for the Future
“We need to take heart in the Word and Promise of God and push forward.
- The brilliance of the LCMS at its founding was Lutheran education. Every effort must be made to focus Synodical resources on the expansion of Lutheran schools.
- The Synod resources must focus renewed effort on reaching out to children in Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, Confirmation classes, and youth activities with the Gospel through videos, the internet, and every form of media.
- We must reach out to parents and convince them that the best, safest, most wholesome place on earth to teach their children about Jesus is in LCMS congregations. LCMS means “Children R US.”
- We must make a greater effort at Law and Gospel preaching and teaching when these children and their parents are in our churches.”
Let’s win people for Jesus Christ
“In a generation, I have watched some of our brother pastors become risk averse. They want to make sure that they have every contingency figured out and all the downside managed. They don’t want to take a risk and fail. I would hope that our Synod would be willing to take some measured risks to win people for Jesus Christ. Perhaps, we need to be less like a marksman constantly aiming and be more like a living message that course-corrects on the way to the target. A parish pastor is the pastor of the entire parish, not just his friends and those who support him. The same should hold true for the President of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.
Parish pastors constantly deal with accountability — seldom does a parish pastor, in the best situation, skate and simply do what he wants and come and go as he sees fit. Rather, he builds up his congregation and leaders with trust and truth. And, over the course of time, accountability is handled in love.
Pastor Tim Klinkenberg”
It’s Time for a Change of Leadership
Congregations Matter thanks Pastor Klinkenberg for the hopeful path he outlines for the future of the LCMS.
Pastor Tim Klinkenberg would lead our Synod in a different manner than President Harrison. Tim isn’t trying to rally support giving unconstitutional postcard advice and using fear of the future and threats of Fort Wayne Seminary closing, blaming women for membership declines and making dark demographic forecasts as President Harrison does.
Congregations Matter supports Pastor Klinkenberg’s bold vision of faithfulness to the Word of God, transparency in Synod leadership and administration, a focus on God’s love to conquer our fears, and action to win children and their parents to the hope we have in Jesus.
Pastors Tim Klinkenberg and David Maier are just what we need as a Synod at this time. The “bright future” President Harrison promised the Synod back in 2010 in his election manifesto “It’s Time” has not appeared. Instead:
- the membership decline Harrison decried in the Kieschnick years has only accelerated;
- Synod finances, budget and personnel cuts continue to be a problem;
- the fear of centralization and control that Harrison used to propel himself to the Synod Presidency over Jerry Kieschnick has become Synod’s reality under the Harrison administration;
- President Harrison has no plan and waning support for his leadership and administrative style; and
- the LCMS is 9 years older and is in worse shape than when President Harrison was first elected.
Let’s rally around a hopeful future for the LCMS and elect Pastor David Maier or Pastor Tim Klinkenberg our next Synod President!
Congregations…and our children’s future…matter!