These National Conference on Lutheran Leadership presenters offer a perspective of what Lutheran leadership means to them, helping each of us reflect on how we can carry out these principles in our lives of faith.
Ryan Kolander, Pastor at Palabra de Vida, Detroit, Mich.
Being a Lutheran leader is a mentality that you don’t exercise leadership to direct people to yourself, but to Jesus. On a mission trip overseas, I observed the pastor of the local congregation serving his community. The culture was decidedly anti-Christian, and yet I saw fire in his eyes to love people no matter what. That was very inspiring for me, and something I remember when leading in a hostile environment.
Charles Westra, President of the South Atlantic District and pastor of Our Savior, Columbia, Tenn.
The Christian leader is a servant leader first and foremost. that does not mean that we are weak, but it does mean that we seek to model the spirit of our Savior in our spheres of operation.
God gave me the privilege to serve Colonel William Drumright, battalion commander of a recon division of Marines. After his funeral, men from his battalion regaled me with stories from combat. The colonel would never ask one of his men to do something that he was not doing. He had a deep commitment to his charges. He assured them that he would never leave them behind. I find parallels in ministry. There is nothing that we would not do to serve. We are not above anything. We have a deep commitment to the souls entrusted to our care and those in our reach who are not connected to Jesus. We don’t have a spirit of timidity. We have the very power of the gospel.
Cindi Holman, National Coordinator for WELS Early Childhood Ministries
As I consider ways that the Lord has provided for me to serve, it’s easy to focus on the gifts, skills, or knowledge that I know I don’t have. That is when I reflect on 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” It is his work, his ministry to his people.
Earlier in my ministry, I was blessed to be a part of a women’s Bible study. Our time around the Word helped us to grow in our faith and our knowledge of what God has done and continues to do. We also grew closer as a group. There were a couple of women in particular for whom I had great respect. They approached life with a strong, faith-filled confidence. As I grew to know them, I realized that the Lord had allowed them to go through incredibly difficult times in their lives. Those challenging times were faith-growing times for them and led them to be the women whom I admired. They were gifts to the church in the ways that they served the congregation and each other out of love for their Savior. They were a reflection of Romans 5:1-4, “Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, hope.”
Chip Woods, Lay leader at Zion, Denver, Colo.
Being a Lutheran leader is really about using the gifts and talents that the Lord has given you to serve others. Something that has always stuck with me are the requirements outlined in 1 Timothy chapter 3 for leaders of the church. It is a noble task to be a church leaders, but the requirements are not easy, and therefore not everyone can be a leader. It starts by strengthening your understanding of God’s Word, having a humble and contrite heart, which increases your faith.
Luis Acosta, Missionary on Latin America missions team
In almost any organization, a leader is driven by the bottom line, namely profit. Being a Lutheran leader is unique since our bottom line is people, precious souls for whom our Savior gave up his life.
My mentor and spiritual father is Pastor Carl Leyrer. His approach to ministry is one that still influences me today: (1) Work hard, (2) Stay humble, (3) Give all glory to God.
Dawn Schulz, Chairwoman of WELS Women’s Ministry
I love David’s story. I love that we know so much of it. And I love that every interaction with him is different. It reflects both the changing seasons of life and our own fickleness. The constant is God. God’s strength, God’s faithfulness, God’s mercy. God’s protection. God’s promises. God’s glory. Coupled with that are David’s words in the psalms. His life in the Bible shows what the life of a leader looks like and then gives words a leader can use to praise, give thanks, repent, rejoice in forgiveness, pray for those we lead, and on and on.
I’ve been blessed with so many great examples of Christian leadership. When I watched my mom get up early and work late and be available for so many people, I learned what hard work is. When I saw my dad’s passion for the millions of people around the world who don’t know Jesus, I learned to love what God loves. When I was given grace, I learned to forgive. When I was comforted by the parents of a friend who passed away, I learned what faith looks like. Whenever I saw someone acting in a way that only could happen because he or she had been changed by the love of Jesus, I learned the person I wanted to be.
E. Allen Sorum, Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary professor
As Lutheran leaders, the tools God has given us to accomplish every task and pursue every vision are the law and gospel, primarily the gospel. As Lutheran leaders, we refuse to allow our congregations to become self-serving clubs. Or, as a pastor in Malawi said in a conversation about outreach, “We cannot just keep preaching into the pot.” That is, of course, the pot of Lutheran we already have collected. What an insufficient stew, right?
As Lutheran leaders, we keep our noses close to the ground so that we know what our people are thinking and needing. What are their questions? What are their hurts? What are their needs? Once we have discovered these through careful listening with our heart, we open the Scriptures to address and heal them so they can be fully engaged by the outreach mission entrusted to our care.
As Lutheran leaders, we are restless. We are not content with a status quo that detracts from the grand mission of saving the world. Jesus sent us just as the Father sent him to do nothing short of saving the world.