I was born in Minneapolis and baptized into Christ at Ebenezer Lutheran Church. God blessed me with parents who love me and raised me in a Gospel-centered home in LeSueur, MN. After graduation from Hillcrest Academy in Fergus Falls, MN (’75), I received a Bachelor of Science degree from Mankato State University (’79), a Master of Divinity degree from Lutheran Brethren Seminary (’84), and a Doctor of Ministry degree from Bethel Seminary (’03). My wife Kathie and I have four adult children, one son-in-law, and twin grandsons. We live in Moorhead, MN where I have served Triumph Lutheran Brethren Church since 1984.
Faith & Fellowship Magazine published the following interview with Rev. Jeff Seaver
Give an account of how God brought you to assurance of salvation and how the Lord is currently shaping your relationship with him.
God brings me assurance of salvation through the Gospel. I was baptized into Christ as an infant. My parents were members of Ebenezer Lutheran Brethren Church in Minneapolis. Like the Apostle Paul’s spiritual son Timothy, I was raised in a home where from infancy I knew the Scriptures that are able to make one wise for salvation through faith in Jesus (2 Timothy 3:15). In both my parents’ home and in the fellowship of the church I heard the Law and the Gospel. I sang my assurance during childhood—“Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” I live in that simple reality today.
Pastor Ron Hess of First Presbyterian Church in LeSueur, Minnesota had a particular interest in helping kids know and live the Gospel. God used his preaching and witness to bring me assurance of my salvation. Later I was blessed by the thoughtful, warm influence of Ebenezer’s pastor, O.D. Thompson, who made the Gospel so real and personal as he taught me the catechism in confirmation. As a teenager, the struggle that Paul describes so powerfully in Romans became very real. That conflict would often cause me to wrestle with questions of assurance. At that time I was blessed by the influence of Craig Halverson, a seminarian who was the Boys’ Dean at Hillcrest Lutheran Academy. I will always be grateful for the way he ministered the Gospel to me in my struggle.
During college years I was blessed by the pulpit ministry of Pastor Rick Bridston, again at Ebenezer. His passion for the Gospel was used by God to minister assurance to me as I made the transition to Christian adulthood. The intergenerational dynamic of that small church in South Minneapolis was a gift to me. It was there I learned to appreciate the way God meets us at the Lord’s Table. As a pastor today I especially appreciate those occasions when I am able to sit in a congregation and receive communion as I hear the promises of Jesus.
My years in seminary were marked by growth in my understanding of the Gospel as I sat under the teaching of men like Pastor Omar Gjerness and Pastor Don Brue. At seminary I developed friendships with brothers in Christ who are still ready to listen when I “need to talk to a pastor.” I have served with elders at Triumph who have been mentors as well as partners in ministry. Don Ysteboe was especially influential as he taught and lived the Gospel.
God is currently shaping my relationship with him through the power of his Word, whether I read it personally, share it with my wife, Kathie, or look into it with a small group of men that meets weekly. He is shaping my life as I hear the invitation to take up my cross and follow Jesus, and to take Jesus’ yoke upon me and learn from him.
As a leader, with what unique spiritual gifts has God equipped you?
In Ephesians 4, Paul mentions the different roles God uses to give leadership to his church. God has given me the grace to communicate his Word in a manner that he uses to connect with people of different ages and life situations. So it would seem that he has equipped me with the gift of preaching and teaching.
My connection with the congregation from the pulpit may be due to the fact that the Lord has given me a genuine sense of interest and enjoyment in relating to the different generations in the church. Although I’m getting a bit older, I am often able to remember people’s names and situations. That may reflect the grace of God in the pastor/shepherd gifting.
When participating in leadership discussions, I have been affirmed for an ability to find and summarize the heart of the issue, and to articulate possible options in moving forward. This may give a sense of God’s gifts of wisdom and discernment.
In relationships, I tend to be quite patient. I place a high value on consensus and unity. I’m also learning that to be unclear in directing the work of others is not as compassionate as it might seem. Paul’s words in Ephesians 4 about “speaking the truth in love” are words that I’m learning to live out, even when it may seem confrontational.
Share an experience that shaped your view of leadership. How has this prepared you for this role as president of the Church of the Lutheran Brethren?
Ten years ago Triumph congregation sensed that God was calling us to expand the ministry of the Gospel in our community by establishing another campus. The initial prayer meetings in a home led to the current joy of seeing so many from the area we prayed for coming under the preaching of the God’s Word. The experience of seeing our West campus come to reality has been a huge leadership lesson with several different facets.
We learned afresh the blessing of prayer. It is both humbling and inspiring to look back on how God answered the prayers of those who gathered “out west” to seek God’s will in establishing the West campus.
We learned that God gifts his people for different tasks and seasons in kingdom work. God provided experienced church planters, Pastor Vern and Casey Baardson, who poured their lives into leading the outreach team. God also provided key lay leaders and laborers for the task at strategic times.
We learned the joy of giving beyond ourselves. The project theme—“Reach Out and Watch What God Will Do”—was used by God to inspire an unprecedented level of generosity when the time came to construct a facility. People gave to a vision of reaching people through the West Campus, even though most of the donors would continue worshipping at the East Campus.
In the process we have learned to deal with the dynamics of being one congregation with two campuses. At times, this creates questions that challenge relationships and unity. When our focus turns to internal issues, it has been important to learn to direct our attention to the overall mission of Christ and his Church.
The CLB exists to engage in God’s mission for his Church. This involves dependence on him through prayer, clarity in our mission, and respect in dealing with relationships.
How have you encouraged your congregation to be part of the larger mission of the Church of the Lutheran Brethren?
Our most basic engagement at Triumph LBC in the larger mission of the CLB is consistent support of its ministries through our general budget. This has become part of the culture of the church. We see our support of the CLB as integral to our ministry.
Our World Mission Ministry Team continues to keep the Bilala people of Chad, Africa before the congregation. We “adopted” this unreached people group in 2003 and have supported several trips to Chad to engage the church in this vision. Triumph has raised funds to provide water wells and mosquito nets in Bilala villages. We were blessed to host the Holzners on a home assignment. We currently are raising funds to help with the outfitting costs for the Bronsons. We make the Bilala a weekly prayer focus at Triumph. We are praying that God would call another missionary family from our midst to join the Bronsons in bringing the Gospel to the Bilala.
We see the planting of a second campus of our church as consistent with the goals of CLB North American Mission. We remain open to how the Lord might direct Triumph in continuing to reach out to our community and region. We raised funds this past year to support the Fifth Act initiative to plant CLB churches in major cities.
I presently serve on the board of Lutheran Brethren Seminary and as an adjunct professor in the area of congregational leadership.
What is your vision for the Church of the Lutheran Brethren?
My prayer is that we as the CLB would serve God together, with a humble and open awareness that Jesus is Lord of his world-wide Church which includes us. We are blessed to be one part of the living expression of Jesus today. My prayer is that we remain committed to both hearing and responding to God’s Word because we really believe it is his Word.
Jesus is described in John 1:14 as being full of grace and truth. We are his people, his body. These are challenging days to reflect both his grace and his truth as we deal with difficult issues on many fronts. My prayer is that Jesus would be pleased with how we refuse to let go of either grace or truth, even when there is significant pressure to do so.
Jesus commissioned us to make disciples. He showed us how, and promised to be with us as we do it. He poured his life into his disciples who in turn would do the same for those to whom they brought the Gospel—baptizing and teaching, sharing the Word and sharing life. It would be wonderful if “disciples making disciples” would be the culture of our church rather than merely a program of the church.
I support the “Lifting Our Eyes” vision recently released by the CLB. I believe it would honor Jesus to send four more missionary units to unreached peoples, plant five new congregations, and make the seminary more available through online instruction over the next five years.