Handout from my presentation today: Tips for pastors and laity on internet usage.

I was asked to post this online, so here it is, a handout of the last third of my presentation today on the Internet, the theology of its usefulness, and its beneficial use for pastors and laity today.

Part 2: The Use of the Internet

Tips for Pastors

In my time as a pastor and writer on the Internet I have developed some personal tips that I would like to share with you today:

  • Never forget your primary callings of husband and father, as well as your vocation as pastor of a flock.
  • Always seek the approval of your congregation before beginning writing online.
  • When writing, write for a generic audience (you may write about specific things, but keep a generic feel to it).
  • You are not your reader’s pastor, when private issues arise from them, be sure to point them back to their God given pastor.
  • Never, no not ever, not even once, should you say or write anything that would hurt your congregation. (note Dr. Fickenscher)  Remember, someone from your parish may be reading.  This means that at time issues may be “hot” to discuss online but you may have to remain silent in order to not harm your congregation or members.
  • Being critical has its place, but we should also commend what is good.
  • Realize your words are public and permanent.
  • Lead by example.  If you offend and there is cause for apology, be the first to do so, remember public offense requires a public apology.
  • Keep track of the amount of time you spend on the internet.  Regularly review your usage and how that impacts your other callings.
  • Feel free to engage other pastors, especially in a time where circuits seem broken, but continue to be a part of those broken circuits – our Lord does wonders with broken things.  When having to suffer through things the internet can provide time and opportunity for virtual mutual conversation and consolation of the brethren.
  • Be discerning on what should be a private conversation versus a public reprimand.
  • If a layman contacts you with concerns about their pastor, point them to the appropriate authorities, the circuit counselor, the elders, DP, etc.
  • Remember the distinction between public and private.  And don’t cause the private to become public.
  • When approached by someone interested in Lutheranism, try to find a local congregation to point them to.

 

Tips for Laity

Here are some of my tips for laity on the Internet.  Please note that if you are writing on the Internet, many of the “tips” for pastors will also apply to you.

  •  Always remember your primary vocations as husbands, fathers, wives, workers, parents, ect.  Make sure your internet use is not detracting from your real life.  Don’t seek your fellowship from online friends.  Realize the gift of the Christians physically being present in your life.
  • Test the spirits to see if they are from God.  Check with the Scriptures and Catechism.  Keep the good throw out the bad.  Find, mark and avoid heretical websites.
  • Keep your pastor in the loop.  Share the things that you are reading with him.
  • Realize whatever is said online is both permanent and public and there is no such things as truly anonymous posting.
  • Use the private nature of the internet in all its best ways.  If you are lacking in knowledge of the Scriptures, Confessions, ect, use it to fill in the gaps.  (example of Bible 101)
  • Realize that people can pretend to be someone that they are not.  Just because someone says that they have the answers does not make it true.
  • There are open mockers of Christ and His teachings.  They will troll, or show up just to derail good discussion.  The Devil is a master of distraction.  Sometimes it’s best to just avoid the heretics.
  • Don’t be afraid to use the Scriptures when engaging others, including pastors.  Pastors can err, too!
  • Share good resources with those around you.  Pay particular attention to catechetical and evangelistic resources that may be useful to share with your neighbor.
  • Be cautious about things that seem new and innovative.
  • Don’t let the internet take away from good works for your neighbor.

 

 

About Pastor Joshua Scheer

Pastor Joshua Scheer is the Senior Pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He is also the Editor-in-chief of Brothers of John the Steadfast. He oversees all of the work done by Steadfast Lutherans. He is a regular host of Concord Matters on KFUO. Pastor Scheer and his lovely wife Holly (who writes and manages the Katie Luther Sisters) have four children and enjoy living in Wyoming.

Comments

Handout from my presentation today: Tips for pastors and laity on internet usage. — 24 Comments

  1. Another good tip to remember:

    Remember the eighth commandment. You cannot hear the tone of the person speaking when reading written words. So do not assume that the tone is angry or hostile. Put the best construction on his words and assume that your brother is speaking to you in love. And when you reply, defend him and speak well of him. Do not immediately jump to breaking the fifth commandment by hating him in your heart. Love him, even if it does not appear as though he has loved you. If something seems unclear, ask him to explain it further. Assume that he is faithful in his confession, not that he is a heretic.

  2. So how does all this actually work when it comes to pastors and laity? Unfortunately I see way to many sites that give pastoral advice instead of directing folks back to their pastor. Is it really the place of the internet for me to ask the pastor about birth control, the creeds, or even the certainty of my forgiveness? If a pastor is unable to truly discern who is asking these things in this modern, anonymous, digital age then would it not be best to not offer advice at all?

  3. @Rev. McCall #2
    Unfortunately I see way too many sites that give pastoral advice instead of directing folks back to their pastor.

    If you are a Lutheran layman, looking at Lutheran web sites, blogs, Q&A’s, etc. the advice given should match your Pastor’s. If it doesn’t, talk to him about it: maybe you are on the wrong site? (Unfortunately, “lutheran” doesn’t always mean Lutheran.)

    Many questions on public sites are not from Lutherans but people who want to know what Lutherans teach (ignoring trolls, which is always a good idea). A Pastor should be able to give orthodox answers.
    If you don’t think he’s doing so, find another source of information.

    Rev. McCall, a Pastor has not been the sole source of information for his laity since about 100 years ago, when he could tell members which books of the Bible they could read and they didn’t read the others. (So I was told; it never happened to me!) 🙂

    If someone comes to you with something they got “from the internet”, find out where and acquaint yourself at least superficially with the source. If it’s non Lutheran, explain why it’s not a good source for sound doctrine for Lutherans. Be ready to suggest 2-3 others that are safe and interesting. [Yes, that means one more thing you have to keep up with! BJS is pretty good about recommending sites and blogs.]

  4. I’m not opposed to anyone going to any blog or internet site. That’s not my specific point. The internet, like any medium, can be a useful source of information. I do think it is a conflict of interest and can be disruptive to a congregation if laity are searching for “second opinions” or any opinion quite frankly from internet pastors. I don’t believe someone on the internet knows the history and background of an individual the way their own personal pastor does. It can easily happen that a young lady in my church could tell me she is pregnant and asks if getting an abortion would be OK. I would tell her “no”. Then she doesn’t like that answer so she asks the pastor online, revealing nothing other than a question such as, “Does God forgive me if I’ve had an abortion?” With no background or info a faithful pastor could answer “Yes” and be correct. Yet now, without knowing it he has given her permission in her mind to kill her child. I’ve also seen other instances of people asking online pastors for assurance for forgiveness, etc. I do not feel that is right. Let’s just remove the internet from the equation for a second. If a member from a Lutheran congregation down the road came to me and asked me any question or asked for assurance of forgiveness, what should I do? I would hope the answer from any pastor would be that I should/would direct them back to their pastor because they are not part of my flock. So why is it different on the internet?
    Also, how does the “pastor” on the internet know what they are giving the person asking? Maybe and even likely the layperson has never approached their own pastor with concerns or problems. Now armed with internet advice they blindside their pastor with their new found accusations or knowledge.
    Now if a site is simply presenting papers or articles that is one thing. But giving advice or answering questions from laypeople who already have a pastor is where I find the line to be crossed. God placed a man specifically into the Office at YOUR church to be YOUR pastor. YOU called him. If you want the advice, assurance of forgiveness, or the counsel of some other pastor I would suggest moving and joining his church. If you have a conflict or question about your pastor the answer is not to seek out another pastor on the internet, but to talk with your circuit counselor or D.P. Pitting pastor against pastor, no matter what the context, is improper and divisive and I’ll even add un-Scriptural.
    1 Peter 5:2- “Tend the flock of God that is your charge…”

  5. My own Pastors occasionally mention that they have read me on one site or another. They have not indicated any insecurity because of my participation and I doubt they feel any. If I need major correction, I expect that I will get it.
    I sometimes quote one of the “advice givers” to them and they cope with that, too. 🙂

    I know a Pastor who fairly regularly preaches that “if we turn in sorrow from our sin, God will forgive it for Jesus’ sake.”

    Do you think someone might translate that to “the sin I am about to commit”?

    Perhaps. But how do you give assurance of forgiveness to the majority who won’t misuse your words, except by saying such things?

  6. Dear Pastor Scheer,

    This is a superb summary of advice and ethical concerns about Internet use by Christians. I highly recommend that you and the BJS editors consider posting it as a permanent item on the right sidebar, and then update it as you (and editors) feel necessary. You could use it to express the “code of ethics” by which the editors intend to work and which they want the commenters to work. When naysayers” arise, you can then point them to this as the high standards that you try to maintain–which is obviously very difficult in modern blogger culture.

    I personally think that all the editors, contributors, Norm Fisher, and Pastor Rossow do an excellent job of trying to maintain these standards. In the last three years I have perused a lot of Christian and Lutheran blogs, and I keep coming back home to BJS. Keep up the great and beneficial work!

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  7. It’s amazing how things all become misconstrued here. No one said anything about insecurity. If anything I think it is sad and maybe even a bit rude that someone at a church would not seek the assurance of forgiveness from their own pastor, but rather would seek it online, but it doesn’t make me insecure. Also, no one doubts that even a pastors words in a sermon can be misconstrued. Is that possibility exasperated or diminished through the impersonal medium of the internet though? Retired pastors from my congregation have read me on here as well. Nothing I say here is anything I have any problem putting out in cyberspace.
    My point is this, “Why do you have a pastor at your church?” Better yet, would you turn to an online pastor rather than your own called pastor for the assurance of forgiveness or to resolve disputes taking place in your congregation? Read any number of LCMS pastor sites and you’ll see lots and lots of people doing just that! That is not OK. If you seek the advice and assurance of forgiveness of other pastors online why not even worship online then by listening to their sermons? They may indeed be better than what you hear Sunday morning! And hey, why not even take communion online like so many were blasting Greg Jackson for on another post here? Is any pastor on any internet site called to be your pastor? If the answer is no then they shouldn’t be acting like it and you shouldn’t be asking them to act like it. Folks need to stop scratching their itchy ears. Again, I repeat, God placed a man into the Office as your pastor at your congregation whom you called. If you cannot or do not want to turn to him for forgiveness or spiritual leadership then why is he there?
    As I stated before, I have no problem with sites that present papers or articles or posts that are designed to encourage thought and discussion. Most everything on here does that. The problem is sites and pastors who try to act like pastors to people they are not called to shepherd.

  8. From a popular LCMS pastor’s website with very minimal searching I give you exhibit A:

    “Our pastor preaches that, “If you don’t think something is sinful and you don’t repent of it then you’re not going to be forgiven.” Is this really true? If yes, how can we ever be sure of our salvation? Can you please explain?

    J

    J,

    First off, I would highly recommend speaking to your pastor about what he said and asking for some clarification.

    The general issue here is that of unrepentance. Jesus is very clear, that the apostles (and thus pastors) are to bind the sins of those who are not repentant (John 20:22-23, Matthew 16:19, Matthew 18:15-20). This is why when we confess our sin we confess not only those sins we know, but also those which we do not know.

    It is because we hear absolution, that we receive the Lord’s Supper, that we can be certain of our salvation. However unrepentance is when one is confronted with their sin and still clings to it. When the clear Word of God speaks and a person responds “well I disagree,” this is simply the response not of faith, but rebellion. In such cases, the Church has an obligation to continue to shed the light of God’s Word on such sin that by the power of the Holy Spirit, the person may repent and receive forgiveness.”

    This online pastor has no business answering this question past his initial line of, “I would highly recommend speaking to your pastor about what he said and asking for some clarification.” Yet he keeps going. He is not this persons pastor, he has no idea the context in which this statement by another pastor was made, and it is fairly clear this question writer hasn’t even asked his own pastor what he meant! Call me whatever you want, but this online pastor had no business answering this question. And this is just one example of many on numerous websites.

  9. @Rev. McCall #8
    Every pastor ought to be able to defnd his teaching no matter who brings question. This is honestly one of the situations where a layman may have to offer correction to his pastor. The sheep judge the shepherd. It may be the most loving thing to do to ask for help in approaching their pastor from others (as long as that pastor remains anonymous). Otherwise we end up with what we have, every pastor a pope, cults of personality and as many beliefs and practices as there are pastors to have them. Ecclesiastical supervision has not kept up, so don’t begrudge laity for seeking help. There is room for abuse on both ends, but that potential for abuse should not disqualify the use.

  10. I’d point out that the pastor who answers the question on Worldview Everlasting does not answer the private question of the query, but instead speaks about “unrepentance” as theology *in general*, and he says so. He gives a very minimal description of basic Lutheran doctrine.

  11. No one said a pastor should not be able to defend his teaching. Is it right that this person never even asked his own pastor what he meant? How do you or anyone else know the context or sermon in which this was said? Are you even called to that church that it is your duty to correct his teaching? You are making a huge assumption that this person asking the question even exhausted talking to any ecclesiastical supervision. It is a cope out to state that ecclesiastical supervision has failed therefore what?, it’s your duty to fill in for a circuit counselor or D.P.? Let’s try to be honest here. A person asked another pastor to specifically explain what his own pastor said in a sermon without even consulting him. The whole premise for this question therefore is wrong. You can give any generic or minimal response you want, but the correct answer is to his specific question, “Go speak to your pastor and ask him.” Period. End of response. He didn’t ask what the minimal Lutheran doctrine said or what an “in general” idea of repentance was. So why give it? I do not begrudge laity seeking knowledge. But his question was not, “What is the Lutheran teaching on repentance?” You can read into his question anyway you want to justify the response given, but the fact is, it isn’t what he asked.

  12. From “Pastoral Theology” edited by Norbert H. Mueller and George Kraus, pg. 56:
    “In order to maintain a Christian, fraternal relationship with his fellow clergy, the wise pastor recognizes that, because his fellow undershepherds of ‘God’s flock that is under your care’ (1 Peter 5:2) also have a responsibility, there are at times when the pastor himself does NOT have responsibility- (1) When dealing with the parishioners of a sister congregation; and (2) when he has resigned from his own parish (e.g. accepted a call elsewhere or to retire). As Fritz points out, a pastor who interferes with the official responsibilities of another pastor is a busybody in other men’s business.”

  13. @Rev. McCall #7
    It’s amazing how things all become misconstrued here. No one said anything about insecurity. If anything I think it is sad and maybe even a bit rude that someone at a church would not seek the assurance of forgiveness from their own pastor, but rather would seek it online, but it doesn’t make me insecure.

    Good! Then kindly do not assume that a comment made about my Pastors is aimed directly at you. I only meant to say that not every Pastor has the same problem with internet discussion.

    From the question you quoted, I would not know whether the person had talked to their own Pastor. Perhaps they got a short answer and wanted more information. Perhaps they are not Lutheran and wanted to see what a Lutheran would say.
    The answer was general, about repentance for forgiveness, and about refusal to repent and its consequences. Was there anything in the answer that you disagree with, beyond its having been said at all?
    As I read it, the on line Pastor was careful to reinforce the writer’s Pastor: If you refuse to admit that you are sinning and repent, you can’t be forgiven.
    If you’ll read carefully you will see that the writer did not get “forgiveness” on line; s/he got an explanation of what forgiveness entails: confession and absolution.

  14. @helen #13
    Touche! I agree that many of the issues found in the example I gave are extremely vague, which in my mind gives all the more reason not to answer, but rather refer the person back to their pastor. That was also just one example and not exhaustive. Teaching in and of itself is part of what a pastor is called to do, therefore even the answer given by this internet blogging pastor certainly falls under that category and as “Pastoral Theology” points out, it really isn’t some other pastor’s job to teach my flock about forgiveness or confession or absolution or anything for that matter. This is my discomfort with many “confessional” pastors floating around out there. They feel it is their proactive duty to teach and correct everyone and anyone (pastors and laity one and all). If you want that kind of responsibility become my circuit counselor or D.P. or even President of Synod. Otherwise stop worrying about what the guy down the street is doing and tend to the flock you have been given. Stop positing yourself as a teacher for other pastor’s congregations when that is not what you are called to do or be. Trust me, I would love it if someone in my congregation came to me and said, “Pastor can you teach a Bible Class on Confession and Absolution?” and that should be the answer these internet pastors give. You want to learn about Confession and Absolution? Go ask your pastor, because he has been placed there to teach you such things. Anyways, I am rambling again. God Bless Helen!

  15. @Martin R. Noland #6
    Thank you for your kind words Dr. Noland.

    @Rev. McCall #11
    Rev. McCall – do you think there may be other reasons for the layperson asking the question? Perhaps the pastor is one with a “thin skin” which would have read any question for clarification to be an attack.

    There is something in the “call” to be a pastor which is for the big “C” Church. This doesn’t mean meddling, but it does mean that one may not bury his head in the sand. Luther for instance at the same time criticized Karlstad for teaching and invading parishes without a call, but at the same time wrote a ballad praising two young martyrs who went and preached to people who were not a part of their call. The difference? The pure Gospel. Similarly, Walther, who is quoted all of the time for telling men to keep to their calls actually started writing Der Lutheraner for the North American Lutherans before there was a Synod or call to be president of it. Did he meddle? No. These men understand that there is something bigger going on.

    In providing information to the laymen, the pastor is not being a self-elected Circuit Visitor or DP, instead he is helping the laity to keep their pastor in check. We are our brother’s keepers.

    Don’t get me wrong, there is a point of meddling, and abuses do happen. These need to be checked.

    @Rev. McCall #12
    So why do you engage anyone on the internet then? Is Helen a member of your congregation? Why aren’t you pointing her back to her pastor? It seems through your comments here that you are trying to teach without the call to do so. I don’t have a problem with it, but wonder what your explanation would be for writing them?

    I will say that the fact that there are laymen out there asking questions of other pastors reflects how sick our Synod is, and that pastors who have laity doing so should look into how they are teaching/preaching and taking care of their flock.

  16. Helen has already clearly indicated that she shares and communicates with her pastor what takes place online. I am assuming she has and is with this as well. I think it is also clear she is not soliciting me in any way for advice or spiritual guidance. In the spirit of your nitpicking and “gotcha” politics, I will cease. Thank you for pointing it out to me.
    A simple question, “Are you called to teach, preach or administer the sacraments to my flock or any other flock?” The answer is no. So no pastor should be doing it. It is one thing if I ask or invite you to teach my congregation, it is another thing to set up a website that actively solicits other pastors members with the desire to “teach” them. If a parishioner has an issue with their pastor or their church who should they talk to? Their pastor, their elders, their circuit counselor, their D.P., maybe even the President if they can get an audience. Where in this equation do you or some other internet site fit in? Nowhere. If heresy or wrong teaching is taking place in a church and you as a parishioner go through all the PROPER channels and it still does not cease, then leave. Find a faithful church and attend there. As another pastor, if you go sticking your nose in another pastor’s business or church you are being a busybody, pure and simple. In real life, if another church member came to you with similar concerns, what should you do? Refer them back to their pastor and then talk to that pastor in private if you feel it is somehow your concern. This anonymous web stuff is just crap.
    You all are dealing in all these hypothetical circumstances here. I don’t care if the pastor is thin skinned, I don’t care if he is thick skinned, asking HIM for clarification and not another pastor is still the right thing to do. Period. If you don’t know what your wife meant when she said something to you, would you ask her for clarification or go to the neighbors wife next door and ask her? To say, “Well my wife might get angry” is a cope out. Otherwise you’re just going to go around conjecturing and speculating which, wait a minute, it exactly what the pastor did in the quote I provided from that website! And your only justification for this is an “Ends justify the means” argument. You say, “Well this is what their pastor should/would be telling them anyway so it’s OK.” Baloney. It is not your place to teach, preach, or administer the sacraments to some other pastors flock. It doesn’t matter if your answer is the same or not. It’s not your place.
    Your example of Luther also holds no water. It is simply an example of Luther praising faithful pastors and chastising poor ones. Where in that example did Luther actively set up a forum in Karlstad’s town where people could come “Ask the pastor”?
    Again, your Walther example is also not similar. I have repeatedly said I have no problem with sites or folks who want to publish papers on topics. That is totally different from (again) actively soliciting other pastors flocks in order to teach them. Also, we’ve always had a real procedure for that very thing to take place (the publishing of papers and articles). It’s called CPH or Concordia Theological Quarterly or Concordia Journal. If you want to teach the masses with your insightful wisdom stop being an armchair theologian, submit it in writing to one of those respected journals or publishers, have it pass doctrinal review, and get it published. Then post it online.
    Finally, find me somewhere where Luther or any other faithful theologian says it is OK to actively set yourself up as a teacher of another mans congregation. I provided you with one that says the opposite.

  17. @Rev. McCall #16
    Rev. McCall,
    I am surprised at your views since you have joined the ACELC, which some would view as interfering in congregations. How do you view conferences where laity attend without their pastor’s knowledge? I guess I am wondering where do you draw the line in regards to public teaching.

    With regards to Luther – have you seen how many letters he wrote to pastors, laity, princes, mayors and such? What gave him the authority? He claims his status as doctor is grounds for his authority, but that would be by human right, not divine. We have no such bounds in the LCMS today. You don’t think his writings actively found themselves in congregations, brought in by laity and caused trouble? Why was Luther’s trouble allowed and others not? The nuns at Nimbschen (including young Katherina Von Bora) came to the knowledge of the truth through such invasions, a pamphlet written by Luther.

    It appears that you favor the old mechanisms (top-down) for doing things, but that fails to realize the new media and what it can do. I would suggest you ask Pr. Fisk for a copy of his presentation this past weekend at the BJS Conference. He will make a better argument for the use of new media than I can.

    In regards to my writing for BJS. The invitation to write came from the organization, it was supported by my elders and congregation, and continues to be so. People choose to come to this site and read it. They have the choice not to. Pastors can use it or not as well. A pastor can either teach his people to not use new media (see how that goes) or he teach them responsible use of it.

    Is your main problem with segments entitled “ask the pastor”? I am just trying to figure it out given you commenting, the content of your commenting, and the membership you hold in the ACELC (which I like).

  18. I should clarify. When I said “your” I meant any pastor or author, not specifically you. I see two issues here that I think you are addressing.
    First, I like new media (obviously I am on the internet!). Again, there is a huge, HUGE difference in my mind between posting a paper on, for example, Confession and Absolution (even if it is outside the old channels of media) and actively soliciting people (members of other congregations or churches) to ask you questions as though you are their pastor placed there to teach them about confession and absolution. Do you see the difference? The former I have no problem with. As I have said, I believe most of the articles on this site fall under that category. (i.e. here is a paper on SMP. Read and decide for yourself) The latter asks that people ask questions of a pastor so that they may be taught. That is something their called, parish pastor should do, not an online one. To put it another way, if I give a conference or publish a book you are free to attend, read, or inwardly digest as you see fit. It is different to set out a booth by the side of the road that says, “Come ask me questions about theology” as though I am their pastors or responsible to teach them such. The difference is plain in your own example of Luther. He wrote a private letter to those folks. He did not come into their town and send out a public notice inviting their congregations to come consult with him concerning all their issues and internal conflicts.
    I have no problem with the stated goals of the ACELC. I am not seeing how you see a conflict there. What I cringe at though is how they are implementing their beliefs at times. For instance, is it really going to reach another pastor in love to speak with him about a concern if you do it publicly on a website (as folks were doing on another posting here)? Or are those sort of things better handled one on one in private or in a winkle?

  19. @Rev. McCall #14
    I agree that many of the issues found in the example I gave are extremely vague, which in my mind gives all the more reason not to answer, but rather refer the person back to their pastor.

    Some pastors don’t have time to listen. My daughter had one who was too busy for his members (but not too busy to travel around the country preaching about his favorite hobby horse). It’s a laudable effort, but not when he’s “preaching to the choir”, and not at the expense of his flock.

    Bottom line: my daughter married, and she is no longer a member of lcms. I am not happy about this. I think it might have been prevented but she was one of the segment told to “look after themselves”.

    Thanks for the blessing, I can always use another one of those!
    (I’m glad you didn’t refer me back to my own Pastors to get it.) 🙂

  20. @Rev. McCall #18
    The differences you state are true, but they require not good and evil labels, but instead greater caution can be used in interaction with parishioners from another parish. I think one or more of the points I make in my handout address that. If not, I know I spent some time on that in my presentation. We are probably closer on this than you may think.
    Luther’s letters didn’t stay private. His pamphlets and woodcuts were never private. I am not sure that WE or other sites with the “Ask the Pastor” segments set up shop and advertise them either, although if they do, it is certainly not with LCMS laity in mind. I think the moment such sites start advertising “Ask your pastor” rather than “ask the pastor” we are all in a lot of trouble. In my presentation I addressed how an “e-circuit” and “e-pastor” cannot and should not replace the real deal. Below is a rough sketch of what I said at the conference:
    The “e-circuit”
    A difficult thing happens when a man ends up in a circuit of pastors that he has very little in common with. The diversity in our Synod has lent to such happenings. The Internet can provide a pastor with easy access to other pastors who agree with him, thereby forming an “e-circuit”. I remember when the BRTFSSG suggested that circuits become more flexible in how they were formed, a key error in that thought was that it allowed for someone to only hear the voices of those he agreed with or wanted to hear. Sometimes, the brother pastor down the road whom disagrees about this or that may have the word which if fit to be spoken to you pastors. And sometimes that pastor’s firm voice and strong hand on your shoulder can do wonders to stir you from something you are headed into. The Internet cannot fill in for real human interaction.
    The “e-pastor”
    The “e-pastor” is a similar phenomena which pertains to laity only seeking out those pastors whom you like and agree with. This denies the pastor whom God has sent to serve you in a real way. The pastor God gave you can never be replaced by someone online. His voice, his hands, his very existence is to make sure that you get the full spectrum of God’s gifts through preaching, absolution, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper. The Internet pastor cannot baptize, he cannot feed people with the Lord’s body and blood.

  21. Does an “Ask the pastor” type section promote and encourage actual interaction with your physical called pastor or does it more so promote the “e-pastor” phenom where people are more likely to forgo the “real deal”? I would argue the latter. Look at any technological advance in the last 20 years. Has computers, e-mail, texting, or cell phones made us better at interaction with real people or has it created a generation that further and further draws inward and socializes only online? Again, I argue the latter is more true.
    So, besides the fact that I don’t believe an internet pastor is called to teach others flocks, there are still way too many other factors that weigh negative rather than positive to this type of interaction.
    Let’s use the example I posted. What is “J”s real name? Where does he live? Who is his pastor? Where does he go to church? Is his pastor already a faithful, confessional pastor? What was the entire context or text of the sermon that gave rise to his question? Did he talk with his own pastor about it? Has he spoken with his elders?
    I could go on and on. The point is that an online pastor has no clue what the answers are to any of these questions. Therefore he should give no answer, no matter how general it may be, nor should he be putting himself out there as one qualified to give such answers in the first place. To do otherwise is to encourage the “e-pastor” mentality.
    The fact that Luther’s letters did not remain private is still a far cry from him deliberately making them public. Luther did not go into a town and set up a “Dear Abby” type “ask the pastor” advice column and then make his pamphlets and woodcarvings based on the questions he got from other peoples parishioners. In fact you don’t even have to do that sort of thing to give good information and that’s my point. You don’t have to risk mucking around in other peoples business to get good theology out there. I’ll use WE as an example because aside from their “ask the pastor” portion I really do like what they do. The video in response to “Jesus vs religion” was awesome. I encouraged our youth to check it out and even gave them the link. But on the flip side, if someone had written to WE and said, “I am a Lutheran and struggling with what the ‘Jesus vs. Religion’ video says, can you explain it?” That’s a whole different animal. I’ve tried to make this distinction before in this post. There is a difference between posting a general paper or video on a topic and actively seeking opportunity to give pastoral advice to another pastors members about such topics. I understand your distinction in saying you feel these can all be properly mitigated and dealt with by using caution. I just disagree. Many things can be accomplished using great caution, but that still doesn’t mean they are good ideas or should be done or aren’t without serious possible consequences and risks.

  22. Much thanks to you Pr. Scheer for your patience and willingness to engage in a discussion with me. Do indeed keep up all your wonderful work and fine articles! God’s Blessings in Christ.
    -Rev. McCall

  23. One concern with this list. You wrote: “If a layman contacts you with concerns about their pastor, point them to the appropriate authorities, the circuit counselor, the elders, DP, etc.”

    How about something like, “If a layman contacts you with concerns about their pastor, make sure they have first discussed their concern directly with their own pastor. Only then should you direct them to whatever authorities may be appropriate: the circuit counselor, the elders, DP, etc.”

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