Pastor's Corner

Pastor Chris Hazzard


Pastor Christopher Hazzard grew up in the town of Wyoming, Delaware. Pastor Hazzard earned a B.A. in International Studies from Concordia College in Bronxville, New York, in 1993, and a M. Div. from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, in 2001. He also completed course-work toward a M.S. in Pastoral Counseling from Iona College in New Rochelle, New York. He served Grace Lutheran Church in Norfolk, Nebraska, as associate pastor, from 2001-2007. From late 2007 until November, 2015, Pastor Hazzard served at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Westfield, MA. From December 2015 until December 2020, he served the congregation at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Minden, NE. He is passionate about God’s mission of proclaiming Jesus the Christ, and about nurturing people in the faith.

He and his wife, Andrea, married in July 1995. They have four children: Caleb, Levi, Maria, and Josiah. Pastor enjoys spending time with his family, walking, reading, music, railroad history, and cooking.

An Aspiring Peacemaker

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 14:27)

Each of us have different gifts and abilities. By temperament I am an INFP, a personality type referred to as a “peacemaker” or a “mediator.” (For more info about my personality, see “16 Personalities: INFP”.) In Galatians, St. Paul clarifies that peace is an aspect of the fruit of the Spirit: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…” (Galatians 5:22-23). My desire is to be an agent of God’s reconciliation, a bridge builder between estranged individuals, estranged groups, and most importantly, between fellow sinners and our Almighty Father who loves us.  This focus is something that was important for the St. Paul:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:17-19).

To improve my skills as a Christian reconciler, I mostly focus continuing education in mediation and reconciliation. I take opportunities for training with Ambassadors of Reconciliation, a Recognized Service Organization of the LC—MS. I also make use of other online training opportunities in the broader area of mediation and conflict resolution, as well as read books and articles about conflict coaching and related disciplines. I narrow my focus of service to the larger church to reconciliation ministry, and decline opportunities for service on boards and committees, and other district and synod offices.

If there is any way I can serve you in trying to restore a broken relationship, please reach out to me.

On a Life Well-Lived

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39). (The Great Commandment)


-A life well-lived focuses on loving God as He comes to us in His Word, and as we respond with our whole lives in praise and devotion.

-A life well-lived focuses on serving fellow human beings in love, treating everyone with dignity and respect, and helping them to thrive.

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).

-A life well-lived shares the good news of Jesus, participating in His mission to seek and save the lost.

A Vision for the Future

Where do I see Christ Lutheran Church five years from now?

We are a vibrant congregation with multiple Bible studies, social groups, and support groups gathering on a regular basis, sharing genuine and sincere Christian fellowship.

We have a global impact as we reach out to our digital neighbors, providing solid and relevant digital experiences to equip the church far and near for service.

We have a music program marked by excellence, with regular diverse musical offerings to supplement the historic liturgical tradition of the church.

We are an emotionally warm congregation, and visitors fast become supported friends.

The young people and families of our community are supported with high-quality educational and developmental programs.

Members and friends of our congregation are connected with service opportunities.

Those who worship regularly reflect the various ages, cultures, and income levels of residents of Lakeland.

Shut-ins are robustly supported in their residences.

Our well-maintained facilities create an inviting atmosphere for visitors and members alike.

We are a hub of community life for the neighbors immediately around the church.

We rest in God’s peace and joy.

The community knows that we are Christians by our love.

Some Thoughts on Meditation

“Be still and know that I am God…” (Psalm 46:10). The discipline of slowing down and resting in God’s Word is a life-giving experience. It can be helpful to start by sitting in a comfortable position away from all distractions. Set a timer for five or ten minutes, breathe slowly and deeply during this time, allowing the thoughts that pop up in your head to drift off like wispy clouds. Return to focusing on your breath. It might be helpful to think of the words “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God” while inhaling, followed by the words “have mercy on me, a sinner” as you exhale. (This is an ancient prayer known as the Jesus prayer.) After a time of this, open your Bible and slowly read five or ten verses slowly and repeatedly. Ask questions of the text, some examples arising from the Psalm text above might be, “How can I be still?”, “What does it mean to be still?”, “What tempts me from being still?”, “What does ‘know’ mean?”, etc. After a predetermined time, say the Lord’s prayer and the Apostles’ Creed, and maybe sing (or read) a hymn. Resting in God’s Word equips us to deal with the struggles of our daily lives, which drive us back to prayer and meditating on God’s Word. God will transform you through His Word as you rest in Him.

The Theology of Worship

“Our Lord speaks and we listen. His Word bestows what it says. Faith that is born from what is heard acknowledges the gifts received with eager thankfulness and praise. Music is drawn into this thankfulness and praise, enlarging and elevating the adoration of our gracious giver God.

Saying back to Him what He has said to us, we repeat what is most true and sure. Most true and sure is His Name, which He put upon us with the water of our Baptism. We are His. This we acknowledge at the beginning of the Divine Service. Where His Name is, there is He. Before Him we acknowledge that we are sinners, and we plead for forgiveness. His forgiveness is given us, and we, freed and forgiven, acclaim Him as our great and gracious God as we apply to ourselves the words He has used to make Himself known to us.

The rhythm of our worship is from Him to us, and then from us back to Him. He gives His gifts, and together we receive and extol them. We build one another up as we speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Our Lord gives us His body to eat and His blood to drink. Finally His blessing moves us out into our calling, where His gifts have their fruition. How best to do this we may learn from His Word and from the way His Word has prompted His worship through the centuries. We are heirs of an astonishingly rich tradition. Each generation receives from those who went before and, in making that tradition of the Divine Service its own, adds what best may serve in its own day the living heritage and something new.”

(from the Rev. Dr. Norman Nagel’s introduction to Lutheran Worship)

How We Worship

Worship is Christ Focused

In worship our focus is on Christ and His finished work for us on the cross.  Our crucified and risen Savior, Jesus Christ, is truly present in Word and Sacrament.  Worship is where God comes to us to offer forgiveness of sins, and where we respond in thanksgiving.  As such, we do not attempt to impose our own cultural and emotional preferences onto it.

Worship Unites us with the Larger Church

We are flexibly liturgical. We generally use the four settings of the Divine Service of found in our denomination’s hymnal, the Lutheran Service Book, for three months at a time, although there might be modifications for holidays and other events.  The church’s liturgy both connects us to those saints who came before us and also unites us with the saints within Christendom throughout the world.   The blessed “sameness” of the liturgy allows our little ones and our elderly alike to learn it by heart, allowing them to worship though they are not able to read or no longer able to see.  The liturgy and appointed readings for each Sunday help to ensure that we continue to see Christ throughout the entirety of God’s Word. 

Recommended Links

LCMS: The official site of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

Florida Georgia District of the LCMS. A great place to learn about regional opportunities, events, and ministry successes occurring in our region.

Concordia Publishing House – A great source of resources to help you grow in faith.

Lutheran Hour Ministries  offers a wealth of resources to equip you to share the faith. I particularly like their online self-paced Bible Studies available at LHM Learn.

Lutherans for Life provides a host of good resources to help us think about the inherent dignity and value of all human life from conception to natural death.

Just and Sinner – Rev. Dr. Jordan Cooper offers solid, in depth teaching designed to help us arrange religious truths in a self-consistent whole. His YouTube channel  is excellent.

Ambassadors of Reconciliation offers a wealth of information designed to help us repair broken relationships, first with God, and then with fellow human beings. A good starting place is their free online course on personal peacemaking.

Lutherans for Racial Justice is an LCMS group that helps us think Biblically about issues of race. I really like the video on their page from the Bible Project.

Orphan Grain Train is a Christian volunteer network that ships donated food, clothing, medical supplies, and other needed items to people in 69 different countries, including the USA.

Lutheran Counseling Services of Florida provides high quality mental health counseling and other psychological services. A true gem that is uniquely available in our area.

Feeding Tampa Bay provides a list of community social service resources available to us for those times we need a hand up.