As the season of LCMS district conventions winds down, we enter into the next season of ordinations and installations of those who have completed their seminary studies and are now going to serve as pastors in congregations scattered across the United States.
But before this happens, there is still time to offer a few final words of advice to these men.
As I conclude my 8th year in western Kansas, and since many of these new pastors will be serving rural congregations, I feel that it is most appropriate that I too offer some words of advice.
I will leave the sentimental and romantic advice to others about studying and visiting and blending in and all that. Instead, I would like to offer a word of advice that you can actually use.
Watch The Simpsons.
Yes, that is correct, the FX Channel is ever so gracious in their willingness to prepare pastors for work in the church by airing marathons of The Simpsons multiple times a week in an effort to prepare men for their service to the church in small town America.
Oh, they didn’t teach you that in Seminary?
I don’t mean watch a few episodes, or just a week long edition; you need to watch them in huge proportions. Because only then, will you see how small towns really work.
A few examples:
Notice how in Springfield, everyone goes to the same church. Rev. Lovejoy is the only pastor of consequence in town. Every child goes to the same school in Springfield, and the teachers, particularly Principal Skinner, have taught generations of children in town. The general store is the Kwikimart, where Apu readily services the needs of the whole town. The police know everyone, and particularly Chief Wiggum, are willing to look the other way on certain crimes. The town, despite having some size, still gathers regularly to discuss matters in town hall, where mob rule is often the norm.
But that is the easy stuff. It actually goes much deeper.
While everyone is generally independent of each other, there is significant back story. Homer, Wiggum, Skinner and Apu, and later Barney, form a barbershop quartet, even producing an album. Yet, the men operate in town separately from each other, and you would otherwise never know this backstory.
Homer and Barney went to high school together, and are best friends, presumably Barney would have been the best man at Homer and Marge’s wedding. Yet now there relationship is somewhat frayed, though they still meet at Moe’s.
The show also has typical stereotypes: Ned Flanders is the pious Christian who always strives to brighten other’s day. Barney is the town drunk. Mr. Burns owns the power plant that generates money for Springfield, yet he is hated by all. Mayor Quimby is an inept politician, but is always re-elected. Dr. Hibberd is the only doctor in town, and can do anything from delivering babies to open heart surgery.
Why should a new pastor watch this show?
Because this is every small town in America. The church is the center of town, yet not everyone lives according to its teachings. There are some of the stereotypical people in every town. Everyone goes to the same school, and participates in the same activities all the time, and sometimes grade differences mean more than others. There are stories in the past that you would never hear of, unless you were there to see it yourself.
Want to know what life is like in a small town? Watch The Simpsons.