Treasures in Jars of Clay in the NW District

It was 80 degrees when I got into the plane in Charleston, SC. It was 39 degrees when I got off in Wisconsin. Yet in spite of the cold and the rain, I sincerely enjoyed my visit to the Northern Wisconsin District. I had the privilege of presenting my IWO paper, Treasure in Jars of Clay, to the pastors of that district. The paper examines a concept – the ministerial cause of salvation – that I hadn’t heard discussed much in my ministry. We study and talk about the instrumental cause – the Means of Grace – often. But this paper looked at the synergy that exists between those two. It was a blessing to be write it, and a blessing to discuss it with my brothers.

The discussion seemed to focus on some of the applications, not surprisingly. For example, in one part of the paper I mention that I question the wisdom in always dividing preaching responsibilities 50/50 in a parish with two pastors. I expressed the concern that in some churches, where the homilitical skills are not even, it means members come to hear one preacher in greater numbers than the other. Some wondered if that was a straw man argument. “Does that really happen.” I assured them that on the basis of my brief tenure as chairman of the Commission for Congregational Counseling I have found that, yes, it happens quite frequently actually. I also clarified that I wasn’t suggesting some pastors don’t preach, but simply encouraging all pastors to remember that because there is a psychological aspect to the working of the Word, we want to always be growing in our homiletical skills.

Perhaps the funniest comment I heard was, “Can you please explain what you mean when you say the ministry is not hard?” I could hear about 120 people murmuring their agreeing with the questioner! I explained that I certainly wasn’t saying that the ministry isn’t time-consuming, often heart-wrenching, and full of crosses! I simply meant that sometimes we can over think methodology. Surveys and studies and canvasses – these all have their place. But ultimately, our confidence comes not from thinking “We have found the perfect method for ministry!” Our confidence comes from knowing that we have treasure inside these jars of clay – the life-changing, soul-shaking Gospel.

I thank the members of the Northern Wisconsin District for their invitation, for their lively discussion, and for their hospitality. I truly enjoyed it.

Rev. Jonathan Hein

Jonathan Hein serves at Beautiful Savior Lutheran in Summerville, SC. He serves WELS as the chairman of the Commission on Congregational Counseling and serves his district as the chairman of the South Atlantic District Mission Board.

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