BY: Vicar Jeff Sutherlin
Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!
My name is Jeff Sutherlin and I am very blessed to be the 13th vicar at Christ’s Greenfield Lutheran Church. However, I am not your “typical” vicar. I originally began attending our wonderful church in 1987, thirty years ago. I have seen Jesus work within our church for a long time. Our church family is very important to me. I have seen amazing changes over the years and I am proud of the history of our church. God always has a plan and He has His hand over our congregation. It has been a blessing to work with many leaders over the years. I have so many enduring friendships. Since I am a non-traditional vicar at age 47, I thought I would better explain the program I am involved in so all of you would better understand the SMP (Specific Minister Program). After reading this, I am praying that more men in our congregation will show interest in this program and will join me in this amazing journey!
The Specific Minister Program (SMP) is a program that has been endorsed by the LCMS (Lutheran Church Missouri Synod) and is actively supported by our church. It is facilitated and taught by Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. It has been designed for men who are seeking the pastoral ministry, but are already in a vocation. Their current vocation does not necessarily have to be in church work. For example, I have been in the real estate industry for almost 20 years. I enjoy my secular job, but God has called me to preach the Gospel, which I passionately would like to do. The program was started primarily because in the LCMS, we currently have up to 30% of our churches that do not have a pastor. For many years, hundreds of men wanted to pursue the pastoral ministry in the LCMS, but they could not pack up their family and move to the seminary due to financial obligations, their career, etc. Therefore, the LCMS decided to create a training program for those like me who wanted to be a pastor but could not do it via the traditional route.
The LCMS designed this program to grow and form more pastors and send them out. The program lasts four years, with a total of 16 courses done online. My class is held every Monday evening for two hours with seven other men in my cohort. Our relationships are deepening even though we mainly interact online. After two years, a man in the SMP program is eligible to be ordained as long as he has met all of the course requirements and passed the certification process through Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. After ordination, the pastor then has two more years of instruction before the program is complete.
In the acronym SMP, the first word is SPECIFIC. This is because men who work within the SMP context typically work in a chosen area of ministry they are passionate about and one that coincides with the needs of the church. During the first several months, I have been undecided on the specific ministry. I want to work within and outside the church and listen to the Lord as He speaks to me as I learn to be a pastor. Currently, I believe God is calling me to work with millennials in the community to share Christ. This is an area I am passionate about and would like to extend the message of Jesus to the younger generation of people who do not know Him. They are our future and they are starving for the gospel of our Lord.
So, you will be seeing me in our services. I have a lot to learn. I am sure that there will be a lot of growth along the way. Pastor Tim and Pastor Jake have been wonderful mentors to me and I am very grateful for the time they spend with me, weekly. They are patient and wise men. Also, I would like to thank everyone that has encouraged me in my decision. I am deeply appreciative of your love and care. May God receive all the glory as we approach this season of Thanksgiving and the birth of our Savior, Jesus!