DR: St. John in Ellisville, Missouri! Along with three other first-year seminarians, I have been assigned to St. John for my field work congregation. As we discussed in a previous post, St. John worships about 2,500 souls per weekend, making it one of the largest congregations nationwide in the 2.5 million-member Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS).
But size is not the ultimate (or even primary) determining factor for whether or not a church is healthy (indeed there are many smaller, healthy churches in the nation who are making a tremendous difference for the Kingdom); rather, Scripturally speaking: zeal for Christ and for reaching the lost, and an unwavering commitment to the Holy Scriptures and Christ's command to "Go, and make disciples of all nations" are some key defining factors...and St. John holds true to that.
St. John has 8--yes, that's right, 8--services throughout the week, including one of them offsite at a local brewery, Schlafly Brewery. The strategy with the Schlafly service is that, by preaching and teaching off campus at a site where an unchurched crowd is more likely to go, we can share Christ's love and message with people who might never step foot on a church campus.
St. John is definitely one of the more "contemporary" Lutheran churches in the St. Louis area, and perhaps in the nation. Yet the church does also provide two traditional services each week for those who prefer hymns and organ music for their worship.
I must admit, the Warehouse service at St. John Ellisville--the most contemporary service they offer--put me out of my comfort zone. But it wasn't (isn't, and won't ever be) about me. It was (is, and forever will be) about Jesus, and about the people in that room who desperately need to know Him. And if that contemporary style is a better spiritual conversation-starter for those lost souls than one with hymns and organ music, then I need to be OK with it. Church isn't about me, and it isn't about serving me and helping me to feel comfortable. After all, "even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve," (Mark 10:45) and "to seek and save what was lost" (Luke 19:10).
St. John in Ellisville also has a preschool and elementary school, which we will visit next week and where we are prayerfully considering enrolling our eldest daughter for preschool.
As our "Field Work Church," St. John will serve as our family's official place of worship for years one, two, and four while we're at the seminary (year three is our internship--or, "vicarage"--year, where we could end up at any church in the nation for one year, before coming back to seminary in St. Louis for our fourth and final year in the Master's of Divinity program). St. John will also be where, for about 8-10 hours per week, I will participate in and support the life of the congregation--not as layman, and not as an ordained pastor--but as a student-worker living in the "gray area" between laity and ordination. That means I might help with everything from serving communion, to teaching a bible study, to participating in outreach events, to attending and observing board meetings, you name it. All the while, I will primarily be working under the direction and supervision of one of their Associate Pastors, Pete Mueller.
We also have several assignments to complete over the course of the time we're at our Field Work churches. These practical assignments include everything from studying and reporting on the demographics of the community and the congregation, to interviewing a cross-section of parishioners, to setting personal and ministry growth goals.
We believe it is God's will for us to be at St. John, and we look forward with a combination of eager anticipation and to-be-expected first-year butterflies, as we await what He has in store.
Thank you so very much for your ongoing love and prayerful support. We could not do this without you, and without God's encouraging work through you.
Love and blessings,
Don, Stacye, and the girls