Senior Pastor, Mount Calvary Lutheran in Eagan, Minn., until March 2012; now Senior Pastor, St. Andrew in Eden Prairie, Minn.
I mostly learn about myself—what I do well, what I can improve upon. As a little kid who grew up in a parsonage, I knew people inside and out and was able to see in them the really good and the really bad or indifferent. I knew the goodness and the wonderful nature of the church and the underbelly, so what I’ve learned in 20 years is mostly about myself.
What is an issue that you never imagined yourself dealing with as a pastor?
I think the issue is the number of people who simply are not attending church, even people that years ago would have naturally been inclined to find a new home, start a family, baptize their kids, go to Sunday school, and become involved in the life of the church. There’s a whole subset of people who simply have not engaged for myriad reasons.
What are some of the most interesting or prominent changes you’ve seen in the church in your career or since you went to seminary?
I think an awful lot of changes have happened in seminary training. When I attended 20 years ago, it was simply, “We need to teach you how to teach people the historical context and facts about the Bible.” I think now it is so much more, “What does this mean for our life?” I do think the younger people who do go to church want a direct connection between what scripture says and how it will connect with their lives. That means we have to make our message contemporary and even futuristic.
What are your own spiritual practices? Where/to whom do you turn for guidance and encouragement?
I’m part of a team ministry, and I’m able to hear really good sermons delivered by my colleague. It’s hard to listen when you’re talking, so I’m fed in and through my colleague who preaches the gospel well. For guidance and encouragement, I’m so inspired by the members of the congregation. I’m always greatly fortified by the faith that parishioners have. I go in as a kind of spiritual lifeguard, and they end up humbling me. They encourage me because they live out their faith. It’s like a good teacher who is fed by the students. My biggest supporters are my wife and children. They are my lifeline—other than Jesus, of course.
Is there a particular passage of scripture that frames your call to ministry?
I would say more of a theme or concept, one I learned from one of my many mentors. It is that God is in relationship with you through Jesus. It’s a declaration; it’s not a theory or something that needs to be validated. It’s just “God is,” and you explore how that’s true. You notice it, you name it, and you claim it.
Who at Augsburg inspired or guided you, and how?
The religion professors at Augsburg were helpful to my life of faith because they were “good” and solid Lutherans. I have heard stories of Lutheran colleges that tell students: “What you were taught in Sunday school and Confirmation was wrong.” Thankfully, the professors at Augsburg helped us look deeper into scripture through a Lutheran lens.
What is one thing you wish non-clergy knew about your life/identity/call as a pastor?
The importance of balancing all those three and the holistic nature of that continuum. Being a pastor today is different, thankfully, than when my dad was younger, which was you basically served the church, often at the expense of spending time with family. I have a wife (Joy) and three children: two in hockey and one in soccer who also rides horses.
Also it’s important for members to know that the vast majority of pastors are trying as hard as they can. It’s just a very difficult and challenging job.
What is one of your most memorable services?
We had a healing service a number of years ago for a woman who was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. We had never been asked to have a healing service before. So we constructed a service with the laying on of hands. Not that long after the healing service she went to the doctor and they did tests, and the cancer was gone. When we heard about the lack of cancer, even we were amazed.
What do you think you would be if you were not a pastor?
After this long I can’t imagine what it would be; however, psychology also makes me tick.
When you meet God, what do you hope God says to you?
It would probably be, “Your mom’s over here.” She died much too young, and I would love to see her again.