President Paul Larson
President Paul Larson was raised in the faith at Elim Lutheran Brethren Church in Clearbrook, MN. He has served CLB congregations in MT, CO, CA, and WI in youth ministry, church planting, and as pastor. He is blessed to be husband to Bee; and father to Gabe (Mikelle), Gracia, Nick (Tessa), Karina, and Nate (Julia). On December 23, 2021, he welcomed his first grandchild (Eleanor), and is eagerly awaiting the arrival of a second in early 2022. He has served as CLB President since 2014.
Dr. Ryan Nilsen
Greetings, CLB family! It is the honor of a lifetime to have received this nomination from the Council of Directors to serve you as a candidate for President. I’m a fourth-generation member of this movement. My faith and life have been shaped by the people of the CLB. I’m looking forward to sharing my vision for the CLB in future communications like this, and to hearing your thoughts and dreams for our Church body. I seek to be a servant of the Church and I am excited to be a choice for this role in God’s work. Please pray that, as we consider together where the Lord is leading the CLB, he will guide us in our dialogue now, as well as in our voting this summer.
Q: Give an account of how God brought you to assurance of salvation and how the Lord is currently shaping your relationship with him.
President PAUL LARSON
I was baptized into Christ only a few days old in early October 1962 during the brewing of the Cuban missile crisis. This may seem extraneous ancient history, but it confirms to me a pair of realities that shaped me early, and still are shaping me today. First, this new season of uncertainty our world and Church has been enduring is not all so new. I believe my parents requested Pastor Andy Monsen to travel the ten miles to our rural home that day in great part because of the vulnerable uncertainty of the time. Unsettling circumstances, tense divisiveness, and a fearful precarious future have been faced by every generation. Yet the Church’s hope and her faith in Christ endure till his reappearing. Second, I have always appreciated that my early baptism was the priority of my parents and pastor. It grounded me in faith (literally) then, and grounds me in trust still, to know that the answer to my frail need within and danger without, is a top-down move of God. It is the act and answer solely of his doing, solely of his grace. It has never relied on my qualification or ability or understanding.
God used many seasons and people in shaping my early faith. I was blessed by “catechesis by mom”—a mother who actively discipled me; relatives, role models in the church, teachers, preachers, evangelists, professors, mentors; Bible club/camp/college—each nurturing and summoning me to a greater resting and identity in Christ, and a flexing expression of my gifts and service and voice. My life is still being shaped by relationships, by reading and study, even by this position in which I presently serve. It seems I rise earlier and find more necessity for quietude, meditation, and prayer. Repentance and faith seem less remarkable, and more a blessedly mundane respiration. The Word still slays and resurrects. I believe I am still being shaped to rely on and rest more in the top-down move of God. And, in that respect, I am never more, nor much different, than the infant brought to Christ.
Dr. RYAN NILSEN
I was raised in the faith at Bethany Lutheran Brethren Church in Hartland, CT. My family joined a nearby CLB church plant, Praise Christian Fellowship, when I was 11. I attended a CLB Bible camp at Tuscarora, and during a message I experienced conviction of sin for the first time and received assurance of salvation. Though I grew up believing, it was the first time I understood what it meant that Jesus died for my sins. God birthed a love and gratitude in my heart. Growing up I was discipled and mentored by my pastor. He taught me what it meant to be a disciple of Jesus, how to share my faith, and how we can be assured of salvation: “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:23). This verse is an anchor of hope for me through the kinds of doubt and hardship that we all face.
God continues to shape my relationship with him through my quiet time, through my family as we journey together as disciples, through ministry mentors and friends, and through my church and small group. It has been good for me as a synod employee to keep active in a local congregation. This is where the community of discipleship exists, and God is continually growing and changing me through it.
Q: As a leader, with what unique spiritual gifts has God equipped you?
President PAUL LARSON
I believe I have primary spiritual gifts of leadership, preaching, administration, and shepherding. I have been affirmed that I am a person of vision, wisdom, creativity, industry, and organization. I have a growing fluency and familiarity with the people, congregations, and ministries of the CLB; and have the ability and heart to engage a wide diversity of people, settings, and colleagues. I love the Church more than when I began in ministry, and in my time serving as President my appreciation for our Church body and its leaders has continued to deepen. I consider the CLB as a steward of a great gift, entrusted with a unique marriage of theology and calling—we indeed are a people restful in grace and restless in mission! I believe in the theology and mission of the CLB, every part of it; and I am eager and expectant in our calling to be a disciple-making Church multiplying new believers and congregations.
Dr. RYAN NILSEN
I have learned from those who mentor me that God has given me spiritual gifts that include leadership, teaching, and apostleship.
Leadership: God has designed me to love helping others fulfill their God-given calling by collaborating with other people and bringing different viewpoints to the table. Over the past two years I have built new ministry teams and learning communities that involve over fifty pastors and ministry leaders.
Teaching: I am a lifelong learner. My desire to grow and work with others helps me listen when I’ve made a mistake or need to apologize. I’ve earned a doctorate and I continue to attend training events, as you may have seen me post on social media. I get excited about sharing with others what I am learning. Connecting people with the training, knowledge, and skills they need is energizing for me.
Apostleship: I believe that God has created me to think about the future of his Church and where he is calling us to join him on his mission. Over the past decade I’ve studied the challenges facing the CLB and how God is calling us to start new churches and new ministries, reach new mission fields, and adapt established ministries to serve effectively.
During the first year of the pandemic these giftings worked together as I worked alongside our pastors and congregations to navigate rapidly changing ministry conditions. I’m excited to be a part of leading our Church family through the coming years. I believe that unknown challenges lie ahead for the Church, but God is at work all around us! He is calling us to be a part of his mission to redeem a broken and hurting world.