It’s been over nine months since we began talking about the Specific Ministry Pastor (SMP) program at Journey and this past week it finally began! The week of September 3-6 was orientation for all new students on-site at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, both those in distance programs like the SMP and others as well as the residential students. Pastor Scott Sommerfeld, my mentor pastor for the program, attended along with me. The week included some intro classes, times of worship and prayer, a servant project in the St. Louis community, and preparation for the start of classes.
There are some fantastic things in store in this journey through the SMP program. While we were at Concordia, we got to hear several presentations from those associated with the SMP program and its development. The one thing that continued to be repeated through the presentations and discussions was the faculty’s respect for the program. There are many aspects of the curriculum and the outcomes of the program that are influencing the traditional seminary program. The courses are designed not just to train men in theology and Christian doctrine, but to use that to reach a new culture with the Gospel. Just by the introductory portions of the first course, I’m excited to deepen my understanding of theology and ministry and its application at Journey of Faith.
The 2013 cohort which I’m now part of is made up of 24 men from all across the country. It’s a diverse group with men at varying stages of life and experience within the church. As we shared our stories with one another the first evening, it was amazing to hear how God is at work in His church in bringing all 24 of us to this point in our service to the Kingdom. I am excited to get to know these men over the next four years as we grow and learn together. The SMP program brings us together once a year for a week in the fall for residential seminars and in the summer for one week intensive classes, in addition to the weekly online classes where we’ll interact with one another and the instructors.
While there were many exciting things happening at the orientation week and many great experiences, there was another aspect that was strongly communicated. In a presentation to all of the new students and in the midst of the excitement of this new stage of life, we were reminded about a sobering reality. This time while we are in seminary training to become pastors for God’s Kingdom will be one of great spiritual danger. The reality of spiritual warfare is something that the faculty take very seriously:
“If we heed what Luther has to say about the role of the devil in the spiritual formation of theologians, we will realize our seminaries are spiritual battlegrounds – contested places – rather than spiritual oases – places of refuge from temptation.” – John Kleinig
Spiritual warfare is a real and present danger. As we continue to progress through the SMP program and grow and develop as a thriving congregation, Satan’s bull’s-eye on our church and myself will grow bolder each day. I ask that you join with me in prayer for God’s protection and blessing on our endeavor and I appreciate your prayers and encouragement throughout this program and beyond.
I’ll be posting about the journey toward becoming a pastor throughout the process. I’m excited to be taking this step, and I’m glad that I get to share it with you!