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Most long-time members of a church probably know what it’s like to be without a pastor to lead and serve alongside them for a time. Large or small, many congregations experience pastoral vacancies, even for short periods.

It can be a testing time, as lay people take on extra volunteer roles in the provision of worship services and pastoral care, and any staff often have extra duties added to their workload.

Church attendances often decline during a vacancy, too, as can the morale of the faith community, so the pool of willing helpers may seem to run dry. It can even be a cause for grief or despair for those congregations whose calls to prospective pastors are declined again and again, and for those whose financial situation means they can’t afford an ordained minister.

And with an ageing pastorate reflecting the demographics of our LCANZ membership, the level of pastoral vacancies in our churches, schools and aged-care services is on the rise.

But, as the stories we are privileged to share in these pages suggest and, as my own experience of times without a pastor has confirmed, this shift in church worker supply levels is no reason to throw in the towel. I believe that, with Jesus as our chief shepherd and guide, we can be a creative and resilient lot. The LCANZ, its districts and parishes are working together to find different and complementary ways of ‘doing’ ministry.

I am often heartened to hear how God’s people are using their gifts to further his kingdom, whether they are lay or ordained. And I’ve witnessed the way some people can blossom in their service once given the encouragement, opportunity and responsibility.

The expressions we carry as we face this changing landscape come back to trusting God’s core promises. As The Living Bible translates Matthew 28:20: ‘“And be sure of this – that I am with you always, even to the end of the world”.’ And in Psalm 34:10b, we’re reminded that ‘those who seek the Lord lack no good thing’.

God will give us what – and who – we need. Assisted by resources, training and support from our wider church family, he will equip us for his co-mission. Then, when we do have the gift of an ordained pastor serving with us, we can avoid the danger of reverting to sitting back and letting him do everything.

Besides our themed content, as always, your churchwide magazine also includes faith-life resources and news of what’s been happening around the church.

And, as a further bonus for our print subscribers, you’ll find inside Australian Lutheran College’s annual Saints Alive publication. Digital subscribers can access the same content on ALC’s website at

May God bless your reading,

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Bishop Paul’s letter

Rev Paul Smith
Bishop, Lutheran Church of
Australia and New Zealand

God the builder: ‘Jesus said, “I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not prevail”’ (Matthew 16:18b).

We continually ask the Lord to ‘raise workers’ for the harvest. We see more pastors retiring. We see an increasingly short supply of Lutheran people trained to serve as school ministry workers and principals. We see aging congregational communities and the closure of buildings.

God sees people of the church, in work that he has commissioned. It was our Lord Jesus who declared ‘you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth’ (Acts 1:8).

This does not mean that the church ignores matters of concern about church life. We need to be properly preparing women and men for the various ministries of the church. We need to continually work on evangelism as a primary task. We need to encourage one another, including young adults, to offer our gifts in service for the mission that God has given us.

In the ages of the church since the time of the resurrection of our Lord, there have been church bodies that have grown, diminished and concluded. Ephesus is a good example of this. Ephesus received a letter in the New Testament and an historic early church council was held there. You can visit Ephesus today, but it is an archaeological site. We can imagine the grief as the Ephesian Christians faced closure.

The mission of God is much more than the demography of any one church organisation. In New Zealand and Australia, we are seeing church organisations declining in numbers, but this is not the same in other parts of the world. The Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus has more than 10 million members and is increasing in numbers. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in our neighbouring Papua New Guinea also continues to grow and now includes more than 1.8 million members.

What is certain is that our Lord has declared that he will be actively building his church and that the gates of Hades will not prevail against it (Matthew 16). This is a sure promise for our witness and service as people of the worldwide mission of God that is at work in the Lutheran Church in New Zealand and Australia.

This does not mean we should refrain from grieving at the closure of a church building or of a ministry in which we have been involved. We human beings know the pain of loss. If you know of a congregation that is closing or has closed in recent times, please pray for those folk and consider how you might reach out to them in their struggle.

Please also regularly pray for the ever-growing mission of God and for our place as Lutherans in the Lord’s promised building of his church.

Our Lutheran church has established a ministry called New and Renewing Churches which is tasked with asking the important questions about evangelism in the church, and then helping communities actively co-operate and practically plan together, in the mission that our God has given to us.

In Australia in particular, we know that people continue to cherish the witness and service of our Lutheran schools and Lutheran care facilities like our aged-care communities. We must ask what this means for us and for our participation in the mission of God.

The College of Bishops has established the Ministry Future project to help us to be better able to identify issues about ministry and to discover good solutions to those issues.

In the song, ‘Reaching out with open arms’, Australian songwriter Robin Mann has taught us to hopefully sing:

‘Take up Jesus’ cup, drink it to the end;
love, give, start to live; we are Jesus’ friends.
May we care with our actions and our prayers.
We’ve been given so much, people, let’s all share!
Reaching out, reaching out, reaching out with open arms.’

In Christ,

Lord Jesus, we belong to you,
you live in us, we live in you;
we live and work for you –
because we bear your name.

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by Lisa McIntosh

The pulpit is empty come Sunday morning. The manse is unoccupied. (I write figuratively, of course, as pulpits are used far less these days for preaching and some pastors do not live in manse accommodation).

Like dozens of others around the LCANZ, this congregation is without a pastor.

And the pastoral ’vacancy’ rate across our churches, schools and aged-care communities is climbing, with a larger cohort of pastors reaching retirement age together than ever before and fewer people studying for ordained ministry.

Along with falling memberships and decreasing attendance at worship in many parishes, some commentators would suggest our church worker shortage is another symptom of a dying church.

But is that it for our Lutheran family and some other Christian denominations across Australia and New Zealand?

Or is God calling us to open our hearts to see how he ‘is doing a new thing’ (Isaiah 43:19)? Is he hoping we’ll seek his guidance and trust in his provision, as we work for his kingdom with whatever support and skills he gives in each place and for each season?

Could he be coaxing us to lay down our fears, turn our focus outwards and get on with being gospel-sharers among our faith communities and, crucially, in the world around us?

No matter where we are, how small our worship community may be, or how dispirited we may feel about not being able to ‘attract’ or finance a pastor, we are not alone. As the South Australia – Northern Territory District’s Assistant Bishop for Mission, Pastor Stephen Schultz, says, congregations in vacancy may be without a pastor, but they are never without a shepherd.

‘One thing I usually do at pre-call meetings is to ask people how many vacancies there are in the LCANZ currently’, he says. ‘Once they have a stab at guessing, I tell them there are zero vacancies in the LCANZ – at which point they look at me as though I have lost my mind!

‘I then tell them that Jesus is the head of the church, of every congregation, and that he hasn’t retired or accepted a call elsewhere. They may have a pastoral vacancy, but the chief shepherd/pastor of the church is still very much in office and at work among them.’ Capitalising on Jesus’ ever-present and ongoing work among all our faith families, the LCANZ, its districts, parishes and congregations are endeavouring to meet worship and ministry needs in a wider range of ways than before.

As well as increasing support for lay readers and ministry coordinators, these include having more approved lay people licensed for word and sacrament ministry; identifying members to become Specific Ministry Pastors in their local context; and considering shared church worker, administration and lay leadership support and ministries across regions. These benefits can also come within multi-site churches whose locations may be geographically distant but which have common values and mission goals. An example of this is LifeWay Lutheran Church in New South Wales.

Even with these and other ‘strategies’, our pastoral shortage will remain. But perhaps through it, we can pray that God will show us how we can all minister to and care for others.

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Last year the College of Bishops met with district and churchwide leaders to address the LCANZ’s church worker supply shortage. Victorian Bishop Emeritus Greg Pietsch was appointed to oversee the Ministry Future project and report to the 2024 General Synod. To follow is an excerpt of his first progress report for the church.

The Ministry Future project has been established by the LCANZ’s College of Bishops (CoB), with the support of the General Church Board, to consider and develop a coordinated response to the decreasing number of pastors in the church and the changing nature of our communities.

Our ‘Baby Boomer’ pastors are retiring and only a very small number of pastoral ministry students are graduating. This reflects demographic change – fewer of the younger generations are practising the faith and offering themselves for vocational service. As church communities age, they find it difficult to finance a pastor. The Ministry Future project aims to help the church respond to these changes in ways that still let the word of the Lord flourish among us today, for it is the word of God that brings us Christ and all his benefits.

The difficulties facing the church are clear – a large number of pastoral vacancies, long periods in vacancy with frustration over the call process, communities struggling to afford a pastor even in the parish structure, large colleges unable to have a school pastor and more. Yet ministry needs and mission opportunities continue in the Lord’s harvest field. Each district has been responding as best it can, such as drawing on retired pastors and, in some cases, appropriately licensing lay people to undertake what would otherwise be tasks of an ordained pastor.

CoB tasked the Ministry Future project with developing: a regional rather than solely congregation or parish approach to organising pastoral ministry; suitable pathways into general and specialised service – both lay and ordained; and a regular way of ordering the service of lay people involved in word and/or sacrament ministry. This is in addition to the existing preparation and call of Specific Ministry Pastors (SMPs), who have a reduced level of training for particular/specific service by contrast with General Ministry Pastors (GMPs).

The project gathered data on the present situation and shaped broad proposals in response. Further consultation and collaborative response design will continue through 2023, with reporting to the 2024 General Convention.

Data was gathered from each of the LCANZ’s six districts on individual pastoral ministry positions. In all, details of 656 ministry positions across 352 organisations/faith communities, served by 583 individuals, were recorded as at early December 2022. There were 211 GMPs recorded in service, with 62 GMP vacancies – a vacancy rate of 23 per cent, clearly very high and increasing. Nineteen GMPs were serving across the districts other than congregation word and sacrament or schools, mostly in bishop or ministry support positions.

The data gathered reinforces the need and urgency of this project and informs some of the work to be done.


So how does the church respond to this situation and even turn it into a creative opportunity in the Lord’s gospel mission?

One way is to multiply the ministry of pastors by working in teams across communities – so-called regionalisation. Regionalisation envisages a zone or region of congregations and parishes being served with word and sacrament ministry collectively, led by an overseeing GMP with the possibility of other GMPs or SMPs in the team as well. Each worshipping community will continue its own lay leadership and volunteer ministry roles, possibly supplemented by a local SMP or designated lay person with a pastoral leadership role.

Regionalisation also responds to the financial pressures faced by many parishes and the limits of feasible re-alignment and provides the opportunity for collective administration, worship support, ministry sharing and the like.

Local specialist ministries, such as school or aged-care chaplaincy, can be built into the plan, providing GMP oversight of lay ministries there. And new church planting can be parented within the region as well.

LifeWay Church in New South Wales, with the central hub in Epping, is perhaps the fullest expression of regionalisation in the LCANZ, with five locations across Sydney, Western Sydney, Newcastle, and Wollongong, served by a team of five pastors (not all full-time), including two SMPs, a Cambodian pastor, a lay church planter and multiple lay ministry coordinators.

Conversations between neighbouring congregations about closer cooperation are accelerating across the LCANZ, especially when pastoral vacancies occur. These conversations and the journey toward a regional approach are being facilitated by district bishops and mission directors.

While the shape of each region will depend on the local context, the Ministry Future project is working with district mission directors to develop a standard model as a resource.

There will be both challenges and opportunities in moving to a regional ministry approach, keeping in mind that the primary purpose is to let the word of the Lord flourish among us – and to enable this by the ministry of both pastors and lay alike.

Thank God that lay people are responding by taking up ministry service in many ways – service which needs affirmation, training and support. So, another response to our situation is to understand, appreciate and advance the service of lay and ordained alike with education and training to match – pathways into service and for service development.

Australian Lutheran College is actively responding to needs as they are identified, and offering a distributed learning approach, that is, using a combination of online and in-person teaching, so that people can learn in their own local ministry context.

The Ministry Future project hopes to record the diversity of ministry roles and training in an LCANZ ministry framework, so that people can see the opportunities for them and their community. Included in that is comprehensive training and development for much-needed General Ministry Pastors. We also thank God for the lay folk who serve under licence by their district bishop in ways usually reserved for pastors – mostly by conducting holy communion during a vacancy or sometimes in support of a pastor serving multiple distant locations.

The question now is how best to regularise or rearrange licensing – how to order it – for the ongoing life of the church. CoB has asked the Commission on Theology and Inter-Church Relations to contribute to this. Whatever is done needs the blessing of the whole church, to be transparent and supported, with good training and oversight.


This project now moves to collaborative response design, working with leaders across the church, with accountability to CoB and reporting to the 2024 General Convention. We do this with the hope and prayer that the word of the Lord may flourish among us today.

So, please pray for this project as it seeks to support and develop our Lord’s ministry of word and sacrament among his people, and his mission to the world.

Read the full report at
If you would like to provide feedback to Pastor Greg, you are welcome to do so by emailing your contribution to

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by Lisa McIntosh

While David Preston says a long pastoral vacancy is ‘not something to be welcomed’ by a congregation, he knows it can bring the talents and commitment of its members to the fore.

David is the secretary of St Pauls Lutheran Church Wellington in New Zealand, which has been without a permanent ordained shepherd since Pastor Jim Pietsch left there in August 2022. However, as Pastor Jim was on sick leave before his departure, the congregation has essentially been without a pastor for almost a year.

‘During this period the lay members of the congregation have had to step up and cover the provision of services and other duties usually carried out by pastors’, David explains. ‘Fortunately, we have a number of members willing to act as lay worship leaders. A distinctive feature of this period has been the contribution of women as well as men as lay worship leaders, which has been well received by the congregation. We have also had services conducted by some visiting pastors.’ With lay-led worship, David says St Pauls usually splits the service into two main parts – the liturgy and sermon, with one person acting as liturgist, and the other reading the sermon.

For this, he says they have made ‘significant use’ of the LCANZ’s Worship Planning Page of sermons and other worship resources.

David himself is a lay worship leader and, with his wife Alison, hosts the congregation’s home group each Tuesday night and serves as a Sunday school teacher. His role as the secretary also involves dealing with congregational correspondence, minutes of meetings, facilities bookings and a range of other tasks.

Outside of the congregation, David is a member of the LCNZ Financial Advisory Committee and is the Lutheran representative on the NZ interdenominational InterChurch Bureau, dealing with legal and financial issues affecting all churches, such as the new laws and regulations on accounting, auditing, taxation, charities and insurance, and also other issues such as health and safety and abuse in care.

What do they say? ‘If you want something done, ask a busy person …’

However, David says, the effort put in to keep the worship life going at St Pauls is a team one.

‘Ministry work, including lay worship leadership, is spread amongst a number of people’, he says. ‘Several including myself are essentially retired, but others are working part-time or even full-time.’

Two St Pauls members have also been authorised by New Zealand Bishop Mark Whitfield to administer communion during services. ‘We have also been blessed by the continuing contribution of a number of talented musicians’, David adds.

Bishop Mark, who during his service as LCNZ Bishop has been based in Wellington, has also occasionally led worship at St Pauls.

While some LCANZ congregations which don’t have a pastor are no longer looking to call one full-time due to their financial limitations, St Pauls is seeking to call a pastor but so far has found this difficult.

David says given the significant number of vacant parishes across the church, Wellington has employed a multi-faceted strategy for its search. ‘Initially, Bishop Mark put out a request to all LCA pastors for expressions of interest about receiving a call from us. This produced zero response’, David says. ‘The second approach was for Bishop Mark to personally contact several identified pastors and ask them if they were open to a call. Again, there were no positive responses, at least in terms of their current situation. This has left us somewhat unsure about what to do next. However, Bishop Mark is continuing to approach other individuals to see what might be possible. In the interim, we are also actively seeking to obtain the services of locum pastors.’

St Pauls has faced a significant decline in worship attendance in recent times, which David believes is partly due to the ongoing impact of the COVID pandemic. The most recent membership count for the New Zealand capital congregation listed 70 baptised members of whom 68 were confirmed – down from 103 in 2019. Weekly attendance there fluctuates and currently is usually between 30 and 40 people.

‘In Wellington, we have traditionally had a flow-through of people arriving and leaving the city’, David says. ‘Since COVID the movement has been almost entirely outward. This has been made more extreme by local families with children moving out of the city because of the very high housing costs here. This has shrunk the Sunday school to a residual level.’

However, on a positive note, he says a new youth group mainly for teenagers has started up at St Pauls and the congregation’s home group is functioning well with increased attendance.

With fewer people attending the church regularly, David says they are also short on filling some positions, such as the role of chairperson and elders, the latter of which has limited the level of pastoral care. But, again, lay people have been playing their part, he says. ‘To fill part of the gap, a number of members have privately stepped up visiting. And, as we were unable to fill the role of chairperson at our recent AGM, the chairmanship operates on a revolving basis at each of our ministry council meetings.’

Despite their lower numbers at worship, the congregation’s finances are ‘holding up fairly well’, as giving has dropped less than attendance, says David, a former economist who worked in policy advice and management in NZ government departments and the International Monetary Fund. The lack of a pastor at St Pauls also means that the church has been able to rent out its manse, which provides a welcome income stream.

‘A long pastoral vacancy is not something to be welcomed, but it has made a number of members step up in terms of their support for keeping our services and activities going’, David says.

‘I suppose one lesson of this situation is that the Lutheran Church has not in the past done sufficient to equip its members for lay ministry and evangelism outreach. The resources on the LCA website are a big help, but more needs to be done. The greatest challenges are to try and cover as much of the work that a pastor would do and find ways to reach out with the message of Christ to others.’

After all, that’s the most important function of any church – with or without a pastor – sharing the gospel.

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From grief to joy, burnout to blessings – church members serving their congregations in times of pastoral vacancy can go through the full gamut of states and emotions. We spoke to Sabine Haeusler and Adam Morris about the surprising ways God can meet our needs, provided we’re open to his guidance.

When it comes to the pastoral shortage in the LCANZ and the church’s ability to survive and thrive in spite of it, Sabine Haeusler is optimistic – but conditionally so.

‘I’m optimistic as long as we concentrate on our mission – which is getting the gospel out there – then we’ll be doing our job as members of the church and as faithful Christians’, says Sabine, from Outer Eastern Lutheran Church in Melbourne’s outskirts, and the chair of the Victorian District’s Council for Ministry Support. ‘But if we are just looking to support ourselves and our congregations and looking inward, then I’m not confident, I’m not optimistic. We need to concentrate on getting the gospel out and the other things will flow from that.’

When Pastor Tom Peitsch retired in 2020, Sabine, who was then Outer Eastern chairperson, wasn’t sure when or even if the congregation would have another pastor. It was during the first year of COVID and churches were unable to open for worship, let alone consider calling a new pastor.

‘It was a matter of looking at ourselves and asking whether we could actually afford to call another pastor’, Sabine says. ‘And whether that was the sort of call someone would want to accept – to a very small congregation where not much was happening.

‘We were an older congregation with not many families with children. And a lot of those families decided to go somewhere where their children would get more out of it, which was understandable. But we kept going. And when we reopened, it was just small numbers.’

Formerly worshipping at both Immanuel Lilydale and Luther College in Croydon about 10 kilometres to the west, the congregation decided to revert to just one site – Lilydale. Members also started looking at how they were going to survive without a pastor. ‘We’d already started this work when we knew Pastor Tom was retiring’, Sabine says. ‘We worked out how to run the congregation, who would look after pastoral care. So, we were ready for his vacancy. But then COVID hit, and we were locked down. We were able to have Zoom meeting services but having COVID and the vacancy together just really hit us badly.’

After reopening, they had lay readers in place and a staff member to take care of administrative duties and some pastoral care. But when that person resigned, they advertised the position unsuccessfully. It led to a re-think of their priorities.

It also led to an unexpected blessing, as members stepped up to fill the needs. ‘We then got volunteers in to do things – volunteers to organise the services, volunteers to do the weekly newsletter, all those sorts of things’, Sabine says. ‘Pastoral care was seen as a big issue. However, a core group were already attending worship, engaged on rosters and/or attending Bible study, Shedmen or other congregation activities. Pastoral care was already going on simply in what one person identified as their “trust group”. What a blessing!’

But what came next for the congregation in December 2021 was a truly unexpected joy. ‘We’d written to the District inquiring about our alternatives’, Sabine says. ‘Could we employ a pastoral care worker rather than a pastor? Could we have a lay person licensed for word and sacrament ministry? And then comes the blessing that one of our members said he felt called to serve our congregation in that sort of role!’

That member was Ed Blow, who about four years earlier had joined the Lutheran Church through his family contact with Lutheran schools in Melbourne. Originally a Catholic, he had studied for the priesthood about 40 years prior. ‘We were absolutely over the moon to have someone to apply to be licensed and willing to take that role’, Sabine says. ‘The proposal went to church council and then to the congregation to see whether they would be willing to go down that path. And it was met with joy.’

After an approach to District Bishop Lester Priebbenow, Ed completed the requirements and was licensed and installed into word and sacrament ministry in 2022. He is currently part of the LCANZ’s Specific Ministry Pastor (SMP) program and is mentored by Pastor Tom. As well as conducting at least two services each month at Lilydale, Ed also leads worship once a month for the Doncaster-Ivanhoe congregation, which continues an agreement between the two churches that started during Pastor Tom’s tenure.

As Ed is 70, Sabine says Outer Eastern is also preparing for the time when he retires and staying open to how God will lead them into their next season of ministry among their members and mission within their community. ‘On Easter Sunday, OELC celebrated God’s renewal of the congregation as being different from that of the past – from a pastor-centric model to a volunteer lay-led model’, Sabine says. ‘To God be the glory.’

Just beginning a new season of vocation and ministry, church worker Adam Morris knows only too well what being without the leadership of a pastor can do to the morale of a congregation. And he’s experienced the worst and the best effects as both a regular member and a serving lay worker.

Now the Australian Lutheran College (ALC) training support officer and theology and ministry student feels called to further support congregations without an ordained leader by serving as a lay worker at two churches.

‘Vacancies are hard because it always feels like a church goes into caretaker mode’, says Adam, who is a member at Our Saviour Aberfoyle Park in Adelaide’s south. ‘And my journey through that has been to ask, “How do you still keep the church engaged and functioning?” In a time of more and more vacancies, we need to make sure we don’t do less and less, while simply waiting for the time when the next pastor comes.

‘I’m fortunate enough to be able to ask, as a church worker, how do I support the congregation? I’m here with a skill set I’ve gained. But I also want to do that in a way that honours the Lutheran Church.’

Aberfoyle Park’s current year-long vacancy is Adam’s third experience of being at a congregation without a full-time pastor.

His first was at Immanuel Woden Valley in the Australian Capital Territory, where he served as a lay worker for nine years from 2005, in the areas of worship coordination and youth, family and small groups ministry. The two-year pastoral vacancy there was tough. ‘That was a really hard, long vacancy, which as a church worker put me over the edge’, he says. ‘I suffered burnout.’

During Adam’s next lay worker role at St Johns Unley in Adelaide’s inner south, the congregation had a part-time pastor, but its lead pastor position was vacant for 12 months of the three years he served as Congregational Life Adult Education Director there until 2016.

He has since been a Church Worker Support Officer in the LCANZ’s Churchwide Office for five years and has been at ALC since October last year. In both these latter roles, Adam has been able to walk alongside church members dealing with the challenges of pastoral vacancies.

Thankfully, he says, things have changed a lot since his experience in Canberra. ‘The LCA provides a lot more resources to support lay people’, Adam says. ‘There are really good worship resources, there are videos online and lay preacher training and resources. The church leadership now recognises the skill sets of lay readers, for example.’

Since the SMP program began in the LCANZ, the role has been almost exclusively filled by a member of the local worshipping community, who is ordained to serve specifically in that context. What makes Adam’s case unique is that not only has Aberfoyle Park applied for him to be accepted into the SMP program, but Mawson Lakes Community Church congregation in Adelaide’s northern suburbs is considering making a joint application for his admission to the program. In fact, it was Mawson Lakes’ call for expressions of interest in an SMP role there early this year that started Adam’s journey on this path.

He believes the time may be right and that he may be the right person for God to use in this unusual collaboration between two churches located approximately 40 kilometres apart. ‘There’s been a shift and COVID has allowed churches to be more open to sharing resources and more open to doing things differently’, he says. ‘The landscape feels appropriate for this innovative way of not only dealing with the vacancy question but also the way we train and equip appropriate lay people.

‘How do we equip our ministries and continue going? It’s like you are saying to people in vacancy, “We need to take responsibility”.’

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Resources for your time with God

Introduced during a time of COVID-related church closures and restrictions, our devotional pages under the Church@home banner have been very popular with many readers. But spending time with God throughout the week isn’t only a blessing when we can’t get to church on a Sunday. It’s an important boost for our faith every week. Therefore, you’ll continue to find support for your devotional life on these pages – and the LCANZ has plenty of other resources which we’ll highlight for your information, too.

– Lisa


Encouraging those who labour among us by Craig Heidenreich

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you (Hebrews 13:17).

Read Hebrews 13:17–25.

Who would choose to be a leader when, so often, the outcome is ‘groaning’? It’s not easy being a leader – in fact, anyone who seeks leadership (for its own sake) probably needs their head read.

People are so different that almost any decision a leader makes will displease someone. True leadership is not a popularity contest – it is a calling to serve.

The concept of obedience and submission to other humans is less accepted today, but one way we can show a supportive attitude is to affirm our leaders.

So, who are these leaders?

When reading a verse like this, we would usually think of our pastors, as they are obvious, visible leaders, but there are various leadership roles that are important for a congregation to function well. Let’s encourage all our leaders.

One of the spiritual gifts mentioned in Romans 12:8 is the gift of encouragement, and we know that encouragement goes a long way. Our determination to be encouraging also keeps the ‘accuser of the brethren’ at bay (Revelation 12:10).

I was once sitting in a church service (just as a congregation member), and as the meeting ended and announcements were about to happen, I suddenly had a ‘prompting’ to go to the front and publicly thank the pastor for his ministry. It felt a bit risky, but the congregation got my drift and spontaneously joined in affirming the pastor (who was obviously very moved).

He later told me privately, ‘In my years of ministry, no-one has ever affirmed me publicly’.

It’s tough being a leader!

Let’s encourage our leaders so there is less ‘groaning’ and more ‘rejoicing’ among us.

Thank you, Lord, for gifting your body with key leaders who ‘keep watch’ for our welfare. Strengthen them today and bless them in their work. Forgive me, Lord, for times I criticise rather than bless – and show me how I can encourage those around me. Help me to see the moment in every day. Amen.

Sacrificial faith by Libby Krahling

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God (Hebrews 13:16).

Read Hebrews 13:1–16.

Hebrews reminds us that life is like a race.

We have the ‘great cloud of witnesses’ cheering us on from the sidelines, with the Holy Spirit as our coach. Submitting to the Father’s discipline is like training for the race; the more we endure, the more we are strengthened and prepared for greater challenges. We can focus on the ‘finish line’, our eyes fixed on Christ, because we are assured of God’s grace.

As a natural outpouring of Christ-like faith, in this passage we are exhorted to live Godly lives, in which we emulate Jesus’ sacrificial love for us in the way we deal with the world around us. Echoing Jesus’ words in Matthew 25, we are to show hospitality to the stranger and care for those in prison, sacrificing our comfort and possessions for the welfare of others. We should live in accordance with the commandments, keeping our marriage vows and being content with the blessings we have received from God, rather than coveting new partners or more money and possessions. Our sacrifice is letting go of our wants and desires and trusting that God has given us everything we need.

Sometimes, we might be tempted to fill our emptiness with ‘strange teachings’. Hebrews reminds us again to look to the example of faithful people before us, both the heroes of old and those who taught us the faith. Looking at their lives, we can remind ourselves again that ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever’. Good models of faith show us that true faith fixes its eyes on Jesus, trusts that God will provide and is able to withstand all kinds of trials for the ‘greater reward’.

When we consider everything that God has done for us, it is almost overwhelming. He gave his only Son to die for us. He sees all our dirt, all our shame, and still loves us, and calls us to join him in his banqueting hall. What can we do in response?

‘Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.’

Loving Lord, we thank and praise you for your constant love and presence in our lives. Help us to love each other as you have loved us, ready to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of your kingdom. Amen.

To receive the LCA daily devotion each morning in your inbox, go to and select Daily Devotions from the Churchwide list after entering your email address. These can also be printed off from the LCA website at


Week Sunday readings
4–10 JUNE Genesis 6:9–22; 7:24; 8:14–19 Psalm 46 Romans 1:16,17; 3:22b–28 (29–31) Matthew 7:21–29
11–17 JUNE Genesis 12:1–9 Psalm 33:1–12 Romans 4:13–25 Matthew 9:9–13, 18–26
18–24 JUNE Genesis 18:1–15 (21:1–7) Psalm 116:1,2,12–19 Romans 5:1–8 Matthew 9:35–10:8 (9–23)
25 JUN–1 JUL Genesis 21:8–21 Psalm 86:1–10,16,17 Romans 6:1b–11 Matthew 10:24–39
2–8 JULY Genesis 22:1–14 Psalm 13 Romans 6:12–23 Matthew 10:40–42
9–15 JULY Genesis 24:34–38,42–49,


Psalm 45:10–17 Romans 7:15–25a Matthew 11:16–19,25–30
16–22 JULY Genesis 25:19–34 Psalm 119:105–112 Romans 8:1–11 Matthew 13:1–9,18–23
23–29 JULY Genesis 28:10–19a Psalm 139:1–12,23,24 Romans 8:12–25 Matthew 13:24–30,36–43
30 JUL–5 AUG Genesis 29:15–28 Psalm 105:1–11 Romans 8:26–39 Matthew 13:31–33,44–52

For more prayer and devotional resources, including a listing of daily Bible readings for each day of the church year, go to 

Lutheran Tract Mission also provides the readings in a booklet, which can be accessed electronically at or as a printed booklet through the LTM office (phone 08 8360 7222) for a donation of 20c per copy.  


4–10 June: The LCA’s Qld District, which has met for its annual Convention of Synod on 2-4 June

11–17 June: Synod delegates and organisers of the Lutheran Church of NZ’s Convention held on 9-11 June

18–24 June: People displaced by war, persecution or famine on World Refugee Day (20 June)

25 Jun–1 July: Torres Strait Islander peoples, for Coming of the Light, marking the 19th-century adoption of Christianity in island communities (1 July)

2–8 July: Australian First Nations peoples during NAIDOC Week, which Recognises First Nations History and culture

9–15 July: Those who serve on the LCANZ’s commissions on worship, social and bioethical questions, and theology and inter-church relations

16–22 July: All who work to support justice and advocate for victims’ rights on International Justice Day (17 July)

23–29 July: The Lutheran Nurse of the Year for 2023, Sharon Berridge, and all who serve as nurses in a range of settings

30 July–5 August: People who are considering studying at Australian Lutheran College, with the hope of serving the LCANZ in some capacity

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