Faculty Spotlight: Getting to Know Nathan Yoder

Getting to know Nathan Yoder

Nathan Yoder and Eric Riesen

In the spring of 2023, the NALS announced the addition of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (GCTS) to the NALS Network and the addition of the Rev. Dr. Nathan Howard Yoder to its faculty.

Yoder holds a Ph.D. degree in Systematic Theology from the University of Regensburg (Germany). He is the Director of Lutheran Studies at Gordon-Conwell and a full-time teaching theologian for the NALS. He has served as pastor at St. Martin’s Lutheran Church in Maiden, North Carolina for over 13 years, and continues to do so.

Over his 13 years as a pastor, Yoder has taken on the role of an occasional theologian, which is when one addresses the particular theological needs and concerns of the church as the occasion demands. This focus has been most evident in his work on the NALC Commission on Theology and Doctrine and his involvement in Lutheran Theologians for the Church. The task of theology is to serve Christ’s church and its mission; to this end, Yoder envisions his roles as pastor and professor to be intertwined, which in the end—God willing—makes him more effective at both.

Yoder’s journey into theology and pastoral ministry began at an early age. He remembers a distinct moment from his childhood when his father, the Rev. Dr. J. Larry Yoder, a well-respected NALC pastor-theologian in his own right, taught him the meaning of being a baptized child of God while they were getting hotdogs one afternoon. Yoder doesn’t see that event as the once-and-for–all defining moment of his discernment. Rather, he recalls a life-long journey, a string of events and conversations that led to what he calls a “gradual awareness” of his calling.

His role as a pastoral theologian especially equips him to bridge the ever-expanding gap between academia and practical ministry. As he thinks of the future of theological education, Yoder envisions nurturing ministers who are firmly rooted in Christ, driven by the Gospel, grounded in tradition, and equipped to engage in meaningful conversation—a vision that promises to leave an indelible mark on the church and its leaders.

Yoder’s role at GCTS allows him the opportunity to construct this vision alongside his colleagues at the Seminary Center in Ambridge, PA. As part of the NALS team, he also has the opportunity to draw together two institutions—GCTS and the NALS—that are both committed to forming pastors and leaders for the church. He believes this partnership will grow by means of intentional conversation, teamwork, and addressing the church’s evolving needs.

As Yoder helps to form future pastors, he emphasizes the importance of nurturing ministers of Word and Sacrament who are grounded in the means of grace and recognize the importance of the liturgy in faith formation. His goal is to equip our pastors to be Christ Centered, Mission Driven, Traditionally Grounded, and Congregationally Focused.