The Beggars Blog is a network of Lutheran pastors Commenting on the intersection between theology and everything.

Meet the Team @ Sword and Swan

Meet the Team @ Sword and Swan


Brad Malone — Publisher
Brad is Senior Pastor at Lamb of God Lutheran Church in Seattle, Washington. He has served in helping plant a church, start a missional gathering and movement within The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, and served in various leadership roles within the Northwest District of the LCMS. Most of all he enjoys connecting with his neighbors and leading the churches in Seattle toward the future in a city and culture that pushes ministry outside of the norm. Brad is a graduate of Concordia University—Nebraska, holds an MA in International Relations from Webster University and received an MDIV from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. He is the husband of Christy and father to Esther and Iris and enjoys hiking, rowing, and scotch.

John Rasmussen — Managing Editor
John is the Associate Pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in South Windsor, Connecticut. He graduated from Concordia University, Seward with a BA in Spanish, and holds an MDiv from Concordia Seminary St. Louis. He also earned a DMin from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in the area of Applied Apologetics. He blogs regularly at The Beggars Blog on issues of theology, culture, and apologetics. He and his wife, Kelly have three children. He enjoys reading, writing, and running.

Emily Phoenix — Fellow
Emily, an original Midwesterner, serves at Galilee Lutheran Church in Pasadena, Maryland as Director of Discipleship. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Theology and Dir. of Christian Education Certificate from Concordia University— Nebraska in 2008. Emily is an avid writer and blogger, who is passionate about sharing stories and experiences that provide opportunities for interaction, growth and deepening faith in Jesus. She has served in many ways both in the local and national church body, including the National Youth Gathering, NADCE, as a coach for Christ-like servant leadership, as well as various leadership roles in the Southeastern District of the LCMS. Her mission statement is: “I acknowledge I am a fallen sinner, saved by God’s grace alone and my life’s journey is to boldly share the love of Jesus Christ in everything I do and everywhere that God sends me.” Emily resides in Baltimore, MD, with her husband, Jack. You can connect with her at

Julianna Shults — Fellow
Julianna is a DCE who serves as Program Manager for Lutheran Young Adult Corps.  She graduated from Concordia University in Seward Nebraska in 2005 with a BA in Psychology and Director of Christian Education Certification. As a DCE, she has served both Hope Lutheran in Plant City, FL and St. Paul Lutheran in Chicago, IL. In 2013, Julianna received an MA in Social Justice and Community Development from Loyola University’s Institute of Pastoral Studies. She has served as a DCE fieldwork supervisor as well as a coach for KINDLE for recent graduates. She is passionate about sharing the Gospel through service and working with teens and young adults. Julianna is a self-proclaimed nerd, a coffee snot, and an obsessive aunt. 

Ryan Alvey — Fellow
Ryan serves as Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church and School in Wahiawa, Hawaii. He enjoys ministry to all ages and backgrounds. He has worked with revitalization teams and currently serves as mentor pastor for St. Matthews, Kauai and their Vicar, William. Ryan loves making personal connections and providing feedback and support to others engaged in mission. He and wife Juliette have three children, and enjoy life in the islands.

Jane Fryar — Fellow
Jane is passionate about communicating life-changing ideas and equipping other individuals and organizations to do that, as well. She is especially interested in leadership formation, curriculum development, and organizational strategy. She has written dozens of books and curricular materials, including the Today’s Light Devotional Bible. She holds an MAT from Webster University, a doctoral degree in strategic leadership from Regent University in Virginia Beach, VA, and an honorary Doctor of Letters from Concordia, NE, but the title she treasures most is “Baptized Child of God.” She lives in a St. Louis, MO suburb with Tolpel, the wonder dog.

Bruce Hartung — Fellow
Bruce is husband to one, father to two and grandfather to five.  He is Professor Emeritus, Practical Theology, at Concordia Seminary, Saint Louis, where he served as Dean of Ministerial Formation, Director of Continuing Education and Parish Services, Director of the M.Div./Alternate Route programs and Director of Deaconess Studies (not all at the same time) during the 13 years of his service there.  He has served as the LCMS’ first Director of Ministerial Health/Health and Healing Ministries and as its Executive Director of the Commission on Ministerial Growth and Support.  He holds a B.A. from Concordia Senior College, an M.Div. and STM from Concordia Seminary and a Ph.D. from Northwestern University.  Immediately following the completion of his Ph.D., he was a staff counselor and then director of the Pastoral Psychotherapy Institute at Lutheran General Hospital, Park Ridge, Illinois from 1971 to 1983 and the Executive Director of the Onondaga Pastoral Counseling Center, Syracuse, New York, from 1983 to 1991. He was elected the president of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors in 1985 and served a two-year term.  His two books are Holding Up the Prophet’s Hand, 2011, and Building Up the Body of Christ, 2015, both published by Concordia Publishing House.  For over 20 years he authored a monthly column, Pressure Points in the Lutheran Witness Reporter. He enjoys conversations, friendships and connecting to meaningful historical spaces.

Jeff Cloeter — Fellow
Pastor Jeff Cloeter is Senior Pastor of Christ Memorial Lutheran Church in St. Louis, MO.  A native of Minnesota, he has been a pastor in St. Louis since 2005.  His ministry has taken him from camps and youth ministry to church planting.  As a sixth generation Lutheran pastor, he blogs at  He is the author of Loved & Sent and Tales from Kabekona.  He serves on the board of directors for Eagle College Prep Charter Schools and the board for The Lutheran Foundation of St. Louis.  Jeff and his wife Bobbi have four children—Bella, Joshua, Emily, and Jacob.  

Blake Flattley — Fellow
Blake is a singer, songwriter, liturgist, touring musician and the director of CommunionArts, an organization committed to providing training and creative resources to churches and empowering artists to create fulfilling works that enrich their communities. Blake received his BA in Humanities: Music, Director of Parish Music Certificate and Master of Arts in Theology from Concordia University, Irvine. Blake has released music under The Orange Effect, Graffiti Cathedral, and his name, Blake Flattley. Blake enjoys writing, baseball, coffee and a good bourbon. Blake lives with his wife and three daughters in Baltimore, MD.

Gabe Kasper  — Fellow
Gabe is the Pastor at University Lutheran Chapel at the University of Michigan. Prior to his current role, he spent 5 years as a church planter in Austin, TX. His passion for preaching and teaching have led him to speak at camps, churches, youth events, universities, and conferences. He is a graduate of Concordia University Wisconsin, and holds an M.Div. from Concordia Seminary St. Louis. In his spare time, Gabe enjoys soccer, CrossFit, reading books, listening to punk rock, and co-hosting the Pint Glass Preachers Podcast. He and his wife Melissa have 3 great kids. 

Dominic J. Rivkin — Fellow
A seasoned church planter and lifelong student of faith-based organizational development, Rev. Dominic Rivkin has a deep passion for collaborating with God and his Church to realize the full potential of multiplying the mission of Christ to all nations. Dominic currently serves dual roles with LINC, focusing his efforts locally and globally to direct the organization’s mission of equipping and empowering grass roots leaders in cities toward starting new ministries that impact their communities with the Gospel.  His work in the Los Angeles area focuses on leaders in communities as diverse as young people in Hollywood to recent immigrants from Asia and Africa; from emerging leaders in Silicon Beach to underestimated leaders in South LA Dominic and his wife Cassie are active volunteers in their church and city, serving with multiple organizations addressing child welfare, domestic violence, and human trafficking. The couple also enjoys spending time with their two grown daughters, often on the hiking trails and beaches of Southern California. 

Sarah Salzberg  — Fellow
Sarah Salzberg, M. Th, serves as an Old Testament Theology Teacher at Orange Lutheran High School in Orange, CA, but she lives in Los Angeles with her husband Josh and two children, Hosea and Simone; with those weird OT names for kids, you know she’s legit. She earned her Masters in Theology from Concordia University in Irvine, but her pride and joy will always be Concordia Seward where she earned her Bachelor’s. When she’s not teaching teenagers to see Christ in the Old Testament, she loves to serve as a speaker for women’s retreats and youth retreats. 

Timothy Koch  — Fellow
Tim is Pastor at Emanuel Lutheran Church in Milbank, South Dakota. He previously served as the pastor at Concordia and Immanuel Lutheran Churches in Cresbard and Wecota, South Dakota. He has experience working as a copy editor for the Graduate School of Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO, where he also sometimes serves as adjunct professor for Specific Ministry Students in the areas of New Testament Theology and Ecclesiology. Tim is a graduate of Concordia University—Nebraska, has an M.Div and Masters of Sacred Theology (STM) from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. He writes book reviews at The Beggars Blog. He is married to Emily and together they have four children. He enjoys reading, hunting, fishing, and board games. 

Greta Gieseke  — Fellow
Greta is a Spanish teacher at Faith Lutheran Middle and High School in Las Vegas, Nevada. She graduated from Concordia University, Nebraska with a B.S. in Education, and holds a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction. She has been teaching since 2002, and while she loves language and exploring other cultures with her students, her favorite part of teaching is the opportunity to connect with her students, and, more importantly, to connect her students to Christ’s grace and love. Greta enjoys reading mystery novels, traveling, watching old movies, and yelling far too loudly at sporting events.

Travis Scholl – Fellow
Travis is the managing editor of theological publications at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, where, among other things, he edits the award-winning quarterly Concordia Journal. He is the author of a spiritual memoir, Walking the Labyrinth, and his most recent poems and essays have appeared in Fourth Genre, Saint Katherine Review, Sehnsucht, and Assay. He recently completed his PhD in English in the creative writing program at the University of Missouri–Columbia under Scott Cairns.

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