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Another humbling experience

The year was 2007. I had just completed my 18th year as president of one of our synod’s ministerial preparatory schools. I had the privilege of being part of the training of hundreds of young people who would serve as pastors, teachers, staff ministers, and dedicated laypeople in our synod.

That all changed in 2007. I was attending the synod convention at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn. Synod President Karl Gurgel had announced several months earlier that he had decided not to serve another term. The first item of business at the convention was to elect a new synod president.

The election process is somewhat complicated. After prayers for God’s guidance, each delegate is asked to nominate one person for the position. The five individuals who receive the most nominations are placed onto the ballot. Delegates vote for one person until someone receives the majority of the votes. If no one receives a majority, the person receiving the least votes is removed from the ballot, and the voting is repeated.

At that convention, no one received a majority on the first ballot. Or the second. Or the third. On the fourth ballot, two names remained, one of them mine. Much to my surprise and even shock, I was elected and called to serve as synod president.

What a humbling moment that was. What a huge responsibility it would be. I wondered whether I would be able to serve in such a role. Any call from the Lord is one that leads the person called to reflect carefully on both one’s gifts and one’s weaknesses. But in that careful self-examination is the assurance that the work of the ministry does not depend on the person, but on the blessings and strength of a gracious God. Trusting his promises, I accepted that call.

Now, after 16 years as your synod president, God’s people in WELS have again called me to serve in this office. More accurately, God, working through his church, has called another weak, flawed, and sinful clay jar to serve in ministry. I am humbled and thankful as much as I was the first time.

The years as your synod president have been a great blessing to me. You, God’s saints, have expressed your support and love. You have been patient with me when I have made mistakes. I have no doubt that you will continue to do that. And with God’s help, I will strive to be faithful to the calling God has given me and the work you have entrusted to me.

I have also been blessed to see your joyful commitment to our God-given mission. You have supported the work with your prayers, your generous offerings, and your willingness to serve. Our synod is not perfect, but God continues to do amazing things to build his church in spite of our weaknesses and failings.

Paul’s prayer for the Philippians is my prayer: “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:3-6).

Thank you for this undeserved privilege. I ask God to help me be faithful in my service to him and to you. I ask for your continued prayers as we continue to walk together in this amazing work that God has given us to do.

Author: Mark Schroeder
Volume 110, Number 10
Issue: October 2023

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This entry is part 1 of 52 in the series presidents message

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