Need Your Input on Use of the Word “Ministry”

(from Pastor Rossow) I thought I would highlight a comment that I posted in answer to an excellent post by Luke (responding to Pastor Simcak’s  insightful article on missionaries).

 

Here is Luke’s post:

Yah, our missionary situation is a problem. Although this is hearsay, it does come from a missionary – but one tells me that when the LCMS reports X number of missionaries being “sent out” in a given year the majority if not all are only being “sent out” for 2 weeks or so to learn a new language. Once they’re done, they come home and are reported in the “missionaries” numbers. I’d call them students. But hey, that’s just me.

With regards to whom can be a missionary, we’ve come to the point in our church where we’re going to need new names for all of these “dumbed down” vocations. The same thing is happening with the Call process and the Ministry. I have started being clear about all of these terms by using upper case and lower case letters. A Call is for a pastor. A call is for everyone else. A Minister is a pastor. A minister is someone in another vocation. And now I guess we’ll need Missionary and missionary too. Just my thoughts though.

Here is my post:

Luke,

I am with you on this. It is so hard to keep people from collapsing distinct things into one thing, e.g. “Minister” and “minister,” “Call” and “call.” I like your tactic of using capital and lower case consistently and precisely to solve the problem.

In our congregation we struggle with the same. For instance, we are having a “ministry” fair this fall, i.e. a collection of booths in the gymnasium highlighting all the different service activities in our parish. When I used that term the other morning in a planning meeting, three of my laymen corrected me (based on my 15 years of catechizing them) by saying “pastor, we need to call it something other than a “ministry” fair since that word ministry ought to be reserved for the giving out of word and sacrament.” I accepted thier rebuke but still it is hard to find a good solution to this problem. We are going to try to be more precise and call it a “volunteer fair” or a “Christian services fair.”

I will keep you posted on any other aproaches that we come up with and would appreciate hearing any other solutions that you come up with. Anybody else out there have some insights into this?

I put my question to Luke to everybody out there – any further insights on this?

 

Pastor Rossow

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.


Comments

Need Your Input on Use of the Word “Ministry” — 8 Comments

  1. When I used that term the other morning in a planning meeting, three of my laymen corrected me (based on my 15 years of catechizing them) by saying “pastor, we need to call it something other than a “ministry” fair since that word ministry ought to be reserved for the giving out of word and sacrament.” I accepted thier rebuke but still it is hard to find a good solution to this problem. We are going to try to be more precise and call it a “volunteer fair” or a “Christian services fair.”

    RESPONSE:
    You should keep the title as: ‘ministry’ fair. True Christians understand what that description means. Volunteer fair, or Christian services fair leaves the meaning wide open to interputation. ‘Ministry’ fair definitely indicates their will be topics that will peak my interest. When I see that headline description, I know that there will be a wide variety of information offered that I would want to know about. LEAVE IT AS:
    ‘Ministry’ fair. Our mission is to educate people, and expand God’s word, and kingdom. (All Pastors & Christians) Too much time and effort from your ‘laymen’ is being spent on things that they should not be in charge of, or have a say so in. Pastor Rossow is God’s leader, leading our church. I understand that comments can be made, but not this one. This is your vocation……if you allow the laymen to change the description, they will try to change everything else that comes along, and I have no interest in going along with that type of movement. Put them in their place. Pastor verses laymen? I don’t think so. Your knowledge, and wisdom is what has helped direct, and move our church in one direction.

  2. Laura,

    You make a very good point that a pastor’s leadership should be respected. I have appreciated your respect through the years.

    The three gentleman I was referrring to were actually showing that same respect. They had been taught by me that there is a proper place to use the word “ministry.” It is best used, as you describe it in your post, as to referring to the adminsitration of God’s word and sacraments. When it gets used too loosely to describe everything in the church it looses its most important meaning.

    I really do thank you for upholding the authority of the office of the ministry (we always have to remember that the pastor’s authority is only the authority of God’s word) and I look forward to seeing you in church tomorrow morning.

    Pastor Rossow

  3. Oh, well now I see this post. Oh well. As I said on the other thread… how about Servants Fair, or some German or Greek word for servants? If it’s about serving in and through the church, then the participants are servants, Servants in Christ.

    Personally, I’d push for the Greek form since I’m not German :p and like many things in my congregation, the German is always the first choice… so I like to rebel a bit.

  4. Pr. Rossow

    I prefer the name “disciple” for that’s who followers of Jesus Christ truly are, whether they are ministers, teachers, prophets, etc. I reserve the name “minister” to called ministers of the Word. All are not ministers, but all believers are disciples.

    Pr. Byrd

  5. Pr. Rossow,
    As you know, minister comes from the Latin, the Greek equivelent is liturgist, so that won’t work either. How about Servant’s Fair? My etemology skills are weak, so I’ll just call it English. Or just use the name of the congregation.

  6. I am for making distinctions. That is the Lutheranism to which I fled when I left postmodern evangelicalism. The pastor has a role. His role should be defined. A word derives its meaning often from years of use in a certain context. The reason we understand the word “ministry” as being applicable to everyone who engages in activity to promote the Gospel is because we have insisted on using it in that context without any distinctions. Using the word “ministry” as relating only to the work of the called ordained minister is to set out on the right track of redefining terms and changing vocabularies. For laity, service, witness, “disciplehood,” if you will, are all decent ways to introduce new vocabulary in order to make that distinction clearer and I’m all for it.

  7. Let’s again spend lots of time and effort “label making.” I also hold the office of pastor in high regard but Ephesians 4 tells us that one of the purposes for pastor/teachers is that they equip the saints for the “work of ministry.”

    I applaud your ministry fair, whatever the title you give it. How wonderful that under your ministry of Word and Sacrament the saints are being led by our God to serve the church and the world.

    May you know the blessing of our Lord Jesus today.

    CB

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