Sunday, March 3, 2013

A Sneak Peek into the Mind of a Pastor

Written by: Rebekah H. Sack
Edited by: Bethany J. Sack
Have you ever wanted to sit down and have all your questions about life answered? Well, I finally sat down with Pastor Wray A. Offermann, senior pastor of St. Paul's Lutheran Church. He tells the story of his childhood and his becoming a pastor. He addresses issues such as human nature, the spirituality of our nation, and the chaos that erupts without God in it. He answers frequently asked questions about the Lutheran denomination including common topics like heaven, homosexuality and divorce.
God and Childhood
I was born in 1945. My dad was a farmer, and my mom grew up in a rural setting. Both of them were very bright people but had only an 8th grade education. My mom always used to say that she got the highest score on an 8th grade test and certainly could have gone on to high school had they not lived 16 miles away. Her dad felt that she was well prepared for life, so she didn’t go.
Hard work, being a part of our local congregation, and going to church at Holy Cross Lutheran Church every Sunday were the strong values in our family.  Part of our farm today belongs to the state of IL, and it’s under what’s called the “Fults Prairie Nature Preserve.” That was land that I farmed as a kid.
I had a profound sense of God’s amazing world of nature. I watched the predictability of seasons and yet some of the unpredictability of weather patterns. Farmers are extremely weather dependent, which opens their minds to see that we have to depend on God.
Because of our closeness to the world of nature, we understood that we didn’t control all things in life.
By worldly standards, we were not highly successful, but we never lacked for core things in life. We recognized that having material things did not make life rich.
When I went to college for the first time, I had running hot water and a shower every day. We didn’t have indoor plumbing or a thermostat on the wall at home. Simple little things to this day, like when I can get up and put my feet on the carpet in the bedroom feel luxurious.
Religion was very openly discussed. When it was a drought time, we prayed to God for rain. We recognized, almost daily, our dependence on God.
Becoming a Pastor
I was at Southern Illinois University. I was part of a little bible study group. We had a vicar who led our student ministry. I was so captivated by how much fun it was to be around people who loved God and the insight of this vicar.
I was unsettled about where my life was going. There was restlessness in my life. One day, this vicar called me into his office and said, “Wray, you ever thought about going into the ministry?” I said, “Oh, a time or two, but I’ve not given it a serious thought.” He said, “I just think I need to tell you that you really need to think about that.
I finally made a deal with God. I said, “I don’t know if this is what you want me to do, but I am willing to give you opportunity to lead me. If this is not what you want, I’m gonna ask you to put up the stop sign. Put up a road block.”
A road block would be that I’d apply for the school and I wouldn’t get in, or I wouldn’t get my financial backing, or my mom and dad would say “that’s a crazy idea.” The exact opposite happened. That red stop sign never rose.
There were little affirmations from seminary professors. My first sermon, I had to preach to the camera with no notes. This professor said to me, “You have some uncommon gifts. You have one of the most pleasant countenances when you speak that I’ve ever seen.”
I can’t think of one day in the last thirty years when I thought, “I wish I could be doing something else.” I feel honored and so overwhelmingly blessed to be able to do what I do.
God and Country
I was between many topics of discussion in our home. The spread of communism and the fall of Hungary were big things. The division of Germany after World War II was a huge heartache. It caused us to not take freedom for granted.
The possibility of war, even on our soil, was real. The respect for the loss of life, and not taking peace and freedom for granted was very real. My dad would say, “It could happen. We could have bomb craters in our fields. Don’t think it couldn’t happen.”
God hates war. It is the result of anger and bitterness, but God works in the midst of broken nations.  
After World War II, our nation experienced one of the greatest surges of Christian zeal and vigor. Churches grew. America was determined at that point not to lose its spiritual foundations. They recognized the blessing that had been given to us when they saw what could happen in other nations, like Germany, where they lost their spiritual zeal. That allowed a horrible, Godless perspective.
The USA has not totally lost its spiritual zeal, but it troubles me greatly that people in places of power have forgotten the lessons that we had to learn. All of the sudden that level of conversation and awareness of our dependence in God is no longer in place. It sets the table for a Godless spirit to take over. When a godless spirit takes over, horrible things always result.
There is a huge movement in America to try to eradicate God completely. Atheistic minds are hard at work to export their agenda. They aren’t satisfied to say, “I live in a free country, and I don’t have to believe in God if I don’t want to.” They want to put pressure on, and they believe that people who do believe in God are horribly misguided and that religion is the opiate of the people— it’s a crutch that they lean on and it keeps them from seeing reality.
God and Humanity
Science has an attitude that if you have God in your mindset, you’re at a disadvantage. The greatest discoveries came from people who were very in-tune with God and His design and complexities. To be able to say that there is order in our universe of such clarity and complexity and that it all came about by pure chance—it’s terribly intellectually dishonest.
Man has a selfish nature. It keeps people from God. It’s the primary thing. If people can take God out of conscious thought, then there are no rules—or I make up my own. What we don’t understand is that when I make up my own rules, I create an advantage for myself. When God totally withdraws, chaos erupts.
Look at the people who have chosen to disregard God’s rules. How are those homes and families doing today? Everywhere you look where there is no sense of God, life boils down to utter chaos.
I doubted God. You think about the impossible questions— If God really rules, why is there all this evil in the world; why do bad things happen to good people? The one key ingredient that most people miss is that they believe man’s nature is naturally good. Reality is, the nature of human beings is flawed.
If there is ever a reason to believe in God you cannot have an orderly universe without something from the outside. Things never move from chaos to order without outside intervention.
Christian people are still sinners. Christians should know better, but they have the same flawed nature. If your reason for rejecting God is because the people in your life are less than perfect, such as your parents getting a divorce, I would turn it around and say that’s why we all need God.
God has left us with an amazing witness to who He is and what He has done for us in the scriptures. Treasure the Bible. It’s a love letter that God wrote to humanity to help us see His heart and to know what He’s done. He is very much in the game with us today, even though we can’t see Him.
FAQ’s Explained
Q: How do you get to heaven?
You get to heaven in this way: Whoever calls on the name of the Lord Jesus with a humble heart and asks for His forgiveness in life will be saved. The Bible calls it believing. Knowing, honoring, accepting and trusting who Jesus is and what He did for me- He died for my sins—is the only way to heaven. It is the way to heaven, and it is a very simple way to heaven.
Q: If I go to heaven and someone I love isn’t there, will I be upset that that person isn’t there?
The way I reason through this is that we will so honor God for the correctness of His judgment. We will be able to see that He did everything in His power to try to reach that person. If they refused Him, they get what they deserve and we will so rejoice in God’s fairness and justice. When you’re in a class, and say you got a well-deserved A on your test, while someone over here slapped it together the night before and got a C-. You wouldn’t say “awe, that poor kid, I feel so bad for him.” You’d say, “You know what? He got what he deserved.” We will so rejoice in how fair and gracious God is. I’m not even sure that we will be aware of that, but I know we will not feel sadness.
Q: How do we know God created the universe?
Look at the intricacies of our world. The further North you go, the growing season is shorter. Plants have to grow faster and animals have to have their young earlier. The breeding season of elk in the high Rockies comes in September so that elk calves are born earlier. This enables them to survive the following winter. Here, deer’s breeding season is in November, so they’re born in late April. That’s plenty of time that by winter, they’re plenty strong to survive. How could anybody look at all that amazing order and not think, “Something thought that through?” If we were 80 million miles from the sun, we’d burn up. If we were 100 million miles away, we’d freeze up. We’re 90 million miles from the sun, and we go right to the edge of what we can survive. If that wasn’t carefully thought through, we’d all die, but God put us just in the right place.
Q: Is the Bible credible?
The bible is credible because it explains with greater clarity and accuracy the reality of human nature and the universe. It answers questions about how we all intuitively know that there’s something beyond this life. It gives us clear answers of what that is and how to get there.
Q: Why Lutheran?
The Lutheran religion is the right denomination to be a part of, because we have spent a great deal of energy studying the scriptures, trying to understand God’s will, and historically, we have been very devoted to the truth and clarity. The result of that is our theology is very defensible to the point where we understand why Baptists, for example, believe in adult immersion in baptism. If you look historically, you can see how that got started. It got started as a reaction against the Roman Catholic Church. They wanted to separate themselves from the Catholic Church, so they said, “we’re gonna do baptism differently.” It was driven not by a study of the scriptures, because the scriptures don’t direct you there, but from a desire to separate them from the Catholic Church.
Q: Why do Lutherans baptize babies and sprinkle water over their heads?
Lutherans allow the baptism of babies and also the sprinkling of water on the head, because of the concept of the birth analogy in John 3. It explains so many things. When I was born, I didn’t choose to be born, I received life as a gift. When I am born again, it doesn’t rest upon my choosing or my understanding or my figuring it all out—I receive spiritual life as a gift. The power of baptism is not in the amount of water. I always say it’s like if you write a check, whether that check is written on a ten foot long billboard or a scrap of paper, the power is in the promise of the signature. The power of baptism is a promise from God. I have a hard time limiting baptism to adults or educated children. Matthew 28 says you baptize them and teach them. I am totally comfortable with that.
Q: What is “speaking in tongues?”
Speaking in tongues is explained in the Bible as an uttering of sounds and languages that people around you may not understand. In 1 Corinthians 12-14, it is described in great detail. It is the least of the gifts that God gives, but it exists today. My observation is that it is God’s gift to people who really struggle to accept God’s grace; they need not only the promise of the scriptures, but God’s additional sign that this is real. There are many churches today, like Foursquare church, who in their theology, say, “If you’re a true believer, you should speak in tongues,” which is a clear violation of 1 Corinthians 12. God has never given me this gift. The person I love most in all the world has had this gift unexpectedly come to her. At a moment in her life when she just needed that touch of Jesus, He provided it.
Q: Is homosexuality a sin? Are homosexuals born this way? Do they go to hell?
Homosexuality is a sin; we know that. Are they born that way? Sure, to some degree. We know there are people who are born with a propensity to alcoholism. Do we say to the alcoholic, “well that’s just how you were born; drink up?” No. We say, “that’s the area you’re going to have to fight against.” The argument that “maybe I was made that way, therefore I should live that out” is an utterly ludicrous argument. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the pieces don’t fit. Can a person born with the inclination to be gay marry someone and be attracted to a person of the opposite sex? Absolutely. Can a person who is inclined to alcoholism live a sober life? Absolutely.
 I have had vicious attacks in written letters, unsigned, from people in St Paul’s saying, “why don’t you get off the homosexual agenda? God loves everyone and it’s a new day.” Romans 1 and 1 Corinthians 6 are so crisp on homosexuality. It doesn’t mean that anybody that ever had a homosexual relationship is automatically going to hell. But if they adopt this as a lifestyle, yet they know it’s wrong, then they forfeit their salvation.
Q: Is abortion okay? What if the child is the result of rape?
Life begins at conception. Once the egg and sperm combine, the rest is all a matter of development and growth. It is wrong to take a life no matter the time or circumstances of that life. The child is utterly innocent. Why would this newborn life be sacrificed because of the circumstances of the parents? Even if rape was done, horrible as that is, would that justify snuffing out the life of that little child? It is entirely selfish.
Q: What about suicide?
God knows when I’m gonna die. He’s laid that out in His book before I took my first breath. If I say, “God I don’t like your decision, so I’m gonna trump your decision,” I have assassinated God’s leadership in my life and I’m God. Most of the time, suicide is driven by the desire for revenge. Do they go to hell? The fact that they are in the frame of mind to commit suicide says they aren’t trusting God. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
I’ve buried a gal who was driven by anger. She said, “I’m callin’ you to tell you I’m gonna go to the garage.” She went to the garage. Fired up the car. All of the sudden, she realized, “this probably isn’t smart. I don’t want to die tonight.” She decided to go back to the house. Made it to the steps of the house and collapsed. And died. She was in a bad state of mind, but I think she had a change of heart. So, I do not believe that every suicidal person is condemned. I do believe that every suicide is against God’s plan.
Q: When is divorce okay? What if the couple has simply fallen out of love?
Malachi 2 says that divorce is always wrong. What God has joined together, man should not separate. Biblically, the establishment of a marriage was based on recognition of a lifelong commitment that was made binding by sexual intimacy. Jesus says that anyone who divorces his wife except for unfaithfulness commits adultery. If someone has been unfaithful, they have “married” someone else. In this sense, when one is unfaithful, divorce has already happened. The only other exception is found in 1 Corinthians 7. It says that if a believing spouse has an unbelieving partner who wants to leave, then in such a situation, the believing spouse is not bound. If the unbelieving partner agrees to still live with you, you should not divorce him.
Abuse is not one. There comes a time when we can say the destructiveness of this marriage is so great that it’s the lesser of two evils. That’s a very dangerous place to be and you really have to think about that.
You say, “I just don’t love him anymore?” I say, start. I am not always in love with my wife, precious as she is, but I still do loving things for her, even when she’s mad. Even if I’m mad at her, I’ll probably still send her flowers because I made a decision to love her. I have fallen out of love with my wife 100 times, but that also means I’ve fallen in love with her 100 times. The very things that make a loving relationship happen—which are deeds of kindness, gentleness, goodness—if you do those things, the feelings of being in love will return, every time.
Carolyn and I used to do marriage encounter weekends. You’d see couples come in, and they’d be sitting five feet apart on Friday night, grumbling under their breath. We’d have them write to each other in ten different areas over the weekend. By Sunday, they couldn’t keep their hands off each other. Right feelings always follow right decisions.
Q: Is it wrong to drink alcohol? What about doing drugs such as marijuana?
To be high on marijuana—who’s to say where the line is—or to be drunk on whiskey is sinful before God. I would tell my kids, you can’t do drugs because in our land it’s illegal. We are asked by God to live by the laws of the land. We never know who’s gonna become addicted; it can be a slippery slope. There are many scriptural passages which talk about how wine gladdens the heart. It was understood to be a gift from God that can be a joy, but drunkenness is wrong. Would I mount the pulpit and preach against smoking marijuana if it was legal? Probably not. But I would warn about how it can consume people and how it enslaves them.
Q: Are ghosts real? Are they demons?
The bible does not talk about ghosts other than in the book of Samuel where witches tried to conjure up a prophet that had died. Here is my candid Offermann theology, and this is not totally biblically grounded. Most of the time, Satan uses imitations to try to capture your fascination with his world. Are there demons in the world? Yes. I read a book once called Unchained, and it would describe gatherings of people in the clearings of woods. They called down Satan’s presence, and they would claim to actually see Satan in human form. Now, I don’t know if that’s true or not, and I don’t really want to know.
Final Q: When will you retire?
I don’t know how to stop speaking God’s truth to a confused world.


  1. Enlightening, provocative, fresh, easy to read, thrilling... (This is David)

    hi,cool (this is jonathan)

    1. Haha!!! Thanks! T'was the goal!

  2. Hi, this is awesome and I love every second of it. or should I say word of it... (this is Bethany)

    1. Thanks Bethany! I think you're awesome! ha xo