Building up the Body of Christ (by rebuilding the laity core) — Guest article by Gene White of the CLCC

clcc_logo2 Hopefully the title clarifies a concern of many clergy and laity within Lutheranism over a trend of the last few decades. All those concerned can clearly see the need for reversal of the trend. Allow me to clarify what this title means from my personal interaction with clergy and laity over the past five years serving with CLCC. These observations are not representative of the so-called “missionals” as I have had no interaction with them in this area.

Specifically, what is the problem and how do we proceed with a solution, or more correctly, a number of solutions? The problem must be addressed on the basis of the local congregation, as we shall see; the “symptoms of the problem” are not all the same. One “size” cannot fit all situations. It is important to first identify the symptoms for two very important reasons. 1. To make sure you are trying to fix the problem and not one of the symptoms, and  2. To make sure you have all the symptoms identified in your particular congregation.

Because what is being shared in this topic is gathered from a number of different conversations and observances in a number of different congregations, I cannot claim to have a complete list of all symptoms. For those of you intrigued by this topic it will be up to you to make a list of all the symptoms for your congregation. Here is my representative list to get you started.

  1. We have a good representation of all age groups in our congregation, but it seems only those 50 or older (fill in your own number here) are active in the inter-workings of the congregation, such as serving as ushers, greeters, members of boards, etc. (A lack of a “committed servant” attitude in the majority, or a large number, of your confirmed members.)
  2. Our younger families show up on Sunday morning for services, but they do not attend adult Bible class while their children are in Sunday school. (A form of social behavior where perhaps brunch with other adults is more important than feasting on God’s Word.)
  3. We do not have any younger families in our congregation and the older members are getting physically unable or tired of doing all of the work associated with “doing church.” (A symptom of poor congregational demographics that is associated with a long history of past practices or perhaps culture.)
  4. Our members are so involved with sports, music and other extra-curricular activities with their children that their attendance at services, confirmation, Day School, etc., is often interrupted or precluded by these competing events. (A priority issue between church and secular activities)
  5. Our youth go off to college, military, or a job and then we do not see very much of them again unless it is a major event such a Christmas, Easter, a wedding or funeral. (A type of European syndrome)
  6. Following a marriage or baptism the adults are regular in their attendance for a period of time and then slowly drift away and finally disappear. (I call this a failure of the congregation to develop “brand loyalty” and to offer concrete steps to weave them into the fabric of your church.)
  7. Etc. Fill in your additional specific symptoms here until you have them all listed.

The most important point, so far, is to comprehend how these symptoms actually effect your congregation! These symptoms do affect us here at CLCC in two basic ways. 1. Congregations interested in hosting a seminar do not feel they have the local resources to make it happen or if they do host a seminar the attendance will be poor, consisting basically of the so-called “grey hairs.” (We love you too!) Our expectation is that the attendance at a locally hosted seminar is representative of the demographics of all the Lutheran churches in the area who have been invited and is reflective of the total number of Lutherans who were invited. That expectation is not always met due to the above listed symptoms being in play. I would submit that the same thing happens in your congregation when you look at adult Bible class attendance, Voters’ Assembly participation, and high school age children active in youth groups, Day School, etc.

If you have attended one of our Evangelism, Outreach and Affirmation seminars you may recall the main focus of lesson 1 is to develop the proper Scriptural references for Evangelism and proceed with the proper way to conduct evangelism and outreach. Word and Sacrament are the keys to this understanding. The lesson concludes with a graph that depicts the pathway for new Christians to be absorbed into the fabric of your church by continual education (maturing Christians) and eventually they will have the correct servant attitude to make evangelism and outreach happen, plus the other ministries in your church. It is these maturing Christians that form the vital core of your congregation that is active in your ministries in an Orthodox Lutheran manner. Hence the sub-title of this discussion is appropriate to address “Rebuilding the Laity Core” so the above symptoms go away. When the symptoms disappear we will have confidence that the “problem has been solved.”

One of the essential elements of your internal efforts to address the problem is to introduce the topic of the Doctrine of Vocation into the lives of your people. Without a proper understanding of vocations the laity will not be aware of how many of their personal decisions are actually contributing to the above symptoms. For this we recommend, at a minimum, each catechism class is immediately followed, or perhaps even preceded, with the CLCC Doctrine of Vocation Overview presentation. We provide a standalone presentation lesson for doing this, or perhaps using one of Dr. Gene Veith’s books on vocation as a Bible class study guide would better serve your needs. The important message here is that the synod and its churches have, for the most part, ignored this important teaching over the past decades and we are the worse for it. Thus this important teaching must be reintroduced and put into practice in order to begin to stem the tide and make an effective reversal. At some point you may wish to consider hosting the entire seminar on the Doctrine of Vocation.

In lesson 2 of our Evangelism, Outreach and Affirmation seminar we include many of the “tools” that can be applied to improve your evangelism and outreach efforts. Key to this progress is the need for continued education of the laity in the doctrines of the church and application of practical Christianity. Recalling the oft quoted “Christianity is an education, not an experience” by C. S. Lewis is very much applicable to this area of concern. The concluding graph of this lesson provides a visual explanation of the impact of Christian education on the “brand loyalty” of individuals over time. There is no end to the education stream offered, which gives rise to the need for adult Bible classes to be conducted for the beginning immature Christians plus those at various stages along the path towards maturity. (One class does not fit every one’s personal needs at the same time.) One big mistake would be to have your well educated laity suffer through a beginner’s adult Bible class because there is no alternative except “don’t attend.” Well trained lay teachers are critical to implementing this path. One of the signs in the Parish Hall of a church hosting one of our seminars was this, “Bible study doesn’t end until you meet the author. Signed, God.” We were so taken with this message that we incorporated it into the seminar.

Because CLCC believes the problem addressed in this discussion needs to be dealt with promptly, they are taking the following actions. The general theme of our 2014 and 2015 Regional Conferences will be organized to promote education and discussion of the need to “build up the body of Christ.” These two conferences will be “free conferences” as in open to all who wish to attend, for a small registration fee. Additionally, we are developing a new educational offering which will have specific educational and workshop sessions addressing this need through organizing your congregation to interact with your community. These conferences will be designed for one or more cooperating congregations to host the event, optionally led by a CLCC instructor. The proposed title for this offering is, “How to Serve Our Neighbor in Love and Mercy.”

In conclusion, the efforts taken to reversal of the symptoms noted for your congregation, requires well organized steps and actions taken to resolve them. It is truly a marathon, not a sprint.

Go in peace and serve the Lord, both consistently and continually.

 Gene White, Acting Director of Education,

Confessional Lutherans for Christ’s Commission (CLCC)


Building up the Body of Christ (by rebuilding the laity core) — Guest article by Gene White of the CLCC — 41 Comments

  1. Dear BJS Bloggers,

    Layman Gene White’s analysis of the problem in congregations and offered solutions are right on target. He has developed this from his lifelong experience as a lay officer and volunteer in a number of LCMS congregations–the ones I know about were in San Jose, CA and in Oregon–where Lutherans are rare and can’t be counted on to return to church after a child’s baptism, child’s confirmation, or marriage. I recommend you consider attending one of his seminars, especially those described above, if you can manage it in your schedule and budget. BJS posts his seminars on the their calendar, which can be accessed in the right sidebar.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  2. It’s disheartening that we can’t adapt to our changing social and cultural environment. In the meantime the “community churches” are successfully marching the Christian flag while traditional denominational congregations shrivel. Fortunately Pastor Woolsey’s five/two network is trying to create a modern framework for LCMS outreach. Unfortunately Synod seems to be sitting on the sideline. I also suggest reading Andy Stanley’s book, Deep and Wide. Christianity is leaving the building as society moves online. It’s not our mother’s church anymore. We baby boom seniors need to adapt before it’s too late.

  3. @B Morten #2


    I am in the coveted 18-34 demographic that all the church growth experts are seeking to “reach” and I can tell you that many of us do not want what folks like Andy Stanley are offering. Having spent some time in such churches, let me let you in on their secret: they gather their members from other area churches and from “church kids” who recognize an obligation to go to church and would rather be entertained while they’re there.

    You don’t need to adapt. The church does not need to mimic the culture but, rather, be faithful to it’s confession. We want your mother’s church. Do not sell us out. Do not abandon your confession so that my children have to grow up in a spiritually bankrupt version of the evangelical big box down the road.

    What the LCMS needs is not to copy the methods of the Andy Stanleys of the world but to get preaching the ridiculousness of birth control and the scriptural blessing of children. Our churches have shrunk partially because previous generations have decided to play God and figure out for themselves how many blessings they’ll have, thank you very much. It’s a hard word, but it’s the truth.

    Your younger brother in Christ

  4. I wonder, does this fit in?

    Catechesis: The Quiet Crisis
    William E. Thompson

    “It did not take long for me to realize that the faithful members of
    this study-group did not have Luther’s Catechism as a basis on which to
    stand. They had either forgotten through disuse what they had learned of the
    Catechism or they had simply never been taught the Catechism in the first
    place. I then asked for a show of hands by those members of the class who
    had learned the Catechism before confirmation. To my shock, only two out of
    a group of about twenty-five had been catechized with the Small Catechism.
    The common reference-point which I naively assumed would be there in any
    congregation to which I was called was not there.

    For Luther, the Catechism is a prayer-book, not merely a book of

    I believe that this quest for easy formulae for catechesis is in part the
    result of a vocational crisis among pastors. Catechesis, preaching, the
    liturgy, the sacraments, and personal confession and absolution are no
    longer believed to be the primary means of pastoral care. The life of the
    church outlined in the Catechism has been supplanted by marketing
    schemes, programs, methods of persuasion, and “leadership” which all
    promise success. The church and the ministry are being viewed
    increasingly as social or, even more disturbingly, as political phenomena
    which change as society changes.”

  5. Hi Mark,
    Thank you for mentioning the article by Rev. Thompson. I just finished perusing it and it is right on. I’m really seeing the result of this disinterest in learning the catechism by heart 20+ years after Mr. Thompson wrote about it. The average LCMS church member hardly knows what Luther’s Small Catechism is. I think synodical officials are trying to rectify this ignorance. My husband and I were in Florida for a few weeks this past winter. Right after the sermon the pastor was having the congregation go to page 321 and read parts of the catechism. When we got back to Illinois our own pastor was doing the same thing during the worship service.

    In Christ,

  6. I sympathize with the author. We are definitely on the same side.

    A few thoughts:

    Nick :
    @B Morten #2
    What the LCMS needs is not to copy the methods of the Andy Stanleys of the world but to get preaching the ridiculousness of birth control and the scriptural blessing of children. Our churches have shrunk partially because previous generations have decided to play God and figure out for themselves how many blessings they’ll have, thank you very much. It’s a hard word, but it’s the truth.

    Nick is exactly right.

    For more on this subject, please consult the fine work of Rev. Rolf Preus:

    “The Fruit of the Womb is a Reward”

    Also, I wonder about this:

    “Well trained lay teachers are critical to implementing this path.”

    How does one square this with CA XIV?

  7. “One big mistake would be to have your well educated laity suffer through a beginner’s adult Bible class because there is no alternative except “don’t attend.” Well trained lay teachers are critical to implementing this path.”

    I too wonder about this. What does this mean? What is a “beginner’s adult Bible class?” Why would a “well-educated” layman suffer through such a class? What do “well-trained lay teachers” have to do with this? Why are “lay teachers” doing the teaching? Why not men who are called to teach, preach, and administer the sacraments?

  8. The earlier references to AC Art XIV need to be addressed in the proper context of that article. Briefly, the article was added, once the Lutheran party arrived in Augsburg, to further support Art V, in response to Catholic claims that the Lutherans allowed just about anyone to occupy the pulpit. Thus the context is all about who is in the pulpit, not a general dictum on who is teaching elsewhere in the church. This is “settled history.” This is how I have been taught by Lutheran clergy who know this sort of thing better than I, as well as some independent research I have done on my own. If you can’t accept this context for Art XIV then please don’t read further because you are not going to like that either.

    Now on to who is teaching in the church, like on Sunday morning? First, we need to know that this entire topic is one where there are a wide variety of views within LCMS, as I am sure there are in other denominations. Why wouldn’t there be, sinful man is involved? (Heb. 5:11-14)
    1. According to scripture, clergy should be “apt to teach” in their vocation as preachers and teachers. Can everyone who comes out of the seminary meet this standard? Sadly, no, as empirical evidence has shown.
    2. Should the called pastor be teaching as many Bible classes as possible? Absolutely yes, including mid-week classes.
    3. On Sundays are all Bible classes conducted by the pastor? No, not in general practice across Synod, and obviously the other classes are taught by the laity using materials approved by the pastor. These are lay teachers who are not just warm bodies, they are folks who either have the creation gift to teach or have been trained to teach, plus know their subject material well before they are approved by their pastor and commissioned by their church to teach in specific areas. Does that always happen? No, but it should because it is important to the health of Christ’s church. (Rom. 12:7)

    Now, a bit of condensed history on the topic of Lutheran theologians. Who were the teachers in the early church? Some were lay and some were clergy, keeping in mind those two terms didn’t come into general practice until the 2nd or 3rd century, depending on your sources. Were there lay theologians in the early church? Yes, Tertullian being one good example and that tradition continued in traceable history well past the Lutheran Reformation period. If you want details contact me privately. Did lay theologians introduce errors? Yes, they did, just as clergy theologians introduced errors, with St. Augustine being an example. Back to sinful man again.

    In the Reformation times what was the requirement to teach theology in the University? Answer: having a Doctorate in Theology degree, nothing else was required to join that teaching guild. What is confusing is looking at a personal historys where in the later years of their lives they are better known. It was not uncommon for a lay theologian to become ordained at some point. Martin Chemnitz would be a good example. Adding to that, he was a “self-taught” theologian before he was awarded his Doctorate and started teaching at the University of Wittenberg, then becoming ordained.

    Some of taken issue with my comment “Well trained lay teachers are critical to implementing this path” so let me further explain. Adults come into your congregation from various sources, including brand new Christians, or from another denomination that specializes in distributing pabulum on Sunday mornings. Thus said, regardless of the number of adults in class they will be at various levels of spiritual maturity. (Read Heb. 5:11-14 again)To use a secular education example you don’t take a freshman and put them in a senior’s Chemistry class. If you did, one of two things would happen, they would flunk the course or they would drop out. So, if your adult class is deep into Walther’s Church and Office why would you put a newbie Christian in that class? Is it because it is the only one you have? We are talking about someone who most likely doesn’t even know how to properly use a study Bible, so unless they are especially gifted with intelligence you will most likely find they drop out and go with the Sunday morning brunch crowd, at very best. At worst they would leave to find a place more hospitable. What percentage of your confirmed adults are faithfully in class on Sunday morning? That might be a clue. Also, if your class grows, as it should, you will ultimately have a logistics problem and the class will need to be split. (Unless of course you are deliberately holding to one class) You choose which is the better path, over time, for educating the laity and having as many adults as possible in class on Sunday morning feasting on spiritual food.

  9. @Gene White #9
    Your original comments were about the theologically “advanced” being bored with “beginners” adult Bible class, and that is what I question. For the sake of the “theologically advanced,” you state “well-trained lay teachers are critical…”

    The “theologically advanced” as well as “beginners” need pastors teaching them. That is what they are called to do. If there is some actual special need out there for a layman (I hope we’re talking men, here) to teach adult Bible class, you are right that man would be a Chemnitz-type, possessing such expertise as to be able to properly assist the pastor in this case of necessity. Such a man would indeed be “apt to teach.”

    Your 1. does not prove we should have lay teachers. It only shows that there are some who slip through the cracks at seminary. Your 2 is correct. Your 3 “everybody’s doing it” is a little silly.

    The chemistry class analogy does not at all apply. We’re all “beginners,” get it? Show me a man too advanced for the small catechism and I will show you an arrogant despising of God’s Word.

    Back to AC XIV, is this limited to the altar and pulpit? Is the pastor the undershepherd insofar as the Divine Service is concerned? Or is he responsible for the preaching and teaching of the sheep in his care? Who should be leading them?

  10. @R.D. #12
    The point, in all cases you question, is that all of us are maturing spiritually and are at different theological levels, if we are faithfully attending Bible classes, BOC classes, etc. Yes, I have seen the actual situation regarding the level being taught being too basic for some, so they didn’t attend. I don’t want to argue the point with you, so if you have not seen this happen it is fine with me. On your second point, perhaps we miss-communicated there. The more complex classes should always be taught by the pastor, and the less complex by well trained male lay teachers. Including in this grouping with be male Day School teachers, DCE’s etc., in a perfect world. Nothing automatic here, all based on skills and needs.

    I have never questioned that a pastor is called to teach the laity and if you have enough pastors to teach all of the Bible classes that are needed, good for you.

    Your response to my #1 comment. It was not written to be used as justification for anything, but rather to make the point that a title doesn’t guarantee the results. There are some who don’t hold that view.

    Sorry you think my #3 comment is silly. It is reality, regardless.

    The example of chemistry class is also reality, but I fail to see your relation of that to the Small Catechism. But I do agree with your statement about being arrogant in that regard.

    In going back to Art XIV, again my point was only to not try and make the article cover more than the context of why it was written. The questions you ask are well enough covered in other parts of the confessions.

  11. R.D. You are correct to bring up article XIV. Gene presents a rather limited synopsis of history that distorts AC XIV and it’s context. At the time of AC XIV teaching was done from the pulpit. Go read some of Luther’s sermons if you don’t believe me. There was no Bible class or sundayschool as we think of it. You were taught from the pulpit. If you wanted to learn more you could attend Matins and Vespers and learn more from the pastor and his sermons.. The only laity “teaching” going on was the head of the household teaching his family.

  12. @Rev. McCall #14

    I’ve been reading Pelikan on Bach and the sort of services going on in Leipzig during his time there.
    In the two main churches, he relates, the main services were 4 hours long, beginning at 6.30 or 7 a.m.
    The sermon was no less than an hour, much of the liturgy was given in Latin and German because Luther had cautioned against losing Latin. So Latin students sang parts, while others and hymns were in German for the congregation. (Prayer books were provided for the congregation to read during the longer Latin parts.) Bach’s cantatas were expected to last about 35 minutes, related to the text for the day.

    Now the fun part: there were two additional services, one with a catechetical sermon and some people stayed for all three…

    Interesting book!

  13. @Rev. McCall #14
    I am always ready to learn more on this topic. I realize it is a topic where many hold different views and I have expressed the view that I was taught.

  14. @John Rixe #16
    My understanding of Melancthon is that he did teach a lot in the university and from the pulpit as a guest preacher. He held a doctorate and was an excellent Greek scholar. Professors did preach often in nearby churches, much the same way professors at both our seminaries preach at local churches. Many professors also write books, commentaries, and such similar to how Melancthon wrote many scholarly works. Here are some thing I think we need to explore more.
    1. What was the “teaching” going on in Luther’s time? There was not Bible class in the sense we think of it (i.e. Sunday school hour) As I mentioned and Helen pointed out teaching was part of the actual worship service, done by the pastor.
    2. What “laymen” were teaching? If Melanchton or Chemnitz are the “laymen” we are going to use as our reference I think the better comparison would be to our seminary professors. Find me an example from Luther’s time of a Joe Layman who decides he has the ability to teach and is invited to give the sermon without having any training or a call to do so. Then we would be talking apples to apples.
    Although Chemnitz learned much from his own private studies he was examined, ordained, and called (i.e. a pastor)! Only after ordination did he preach (teach) in the parish. Melancthon, while having undergone all the studies and received his doctorate, was in every sense of the word a pastor. He had a call to be a professor, which included duties of preaching. He simply was never ordained, I believe because he primarily always wanted to be a University professor and not a parish pastor.
    3. The German text of AC XIV says that no one should “publicly teach, preach, or administer the sacraments without a proper (public) call.” The Latin simply states “teach publicly or administer the sacraments” because teaching and preaching were the same thing. The call mentioned in both is the call to Holy Ministry. I’m not sure how we linguistically get around this meaning anything other than “only men properly called are to teach in the church.” Even Chemnitz and Melanchthon had a call (to serve as a professor which included preaching as part of that call).
    I am open to other comments on this as I profess that my knowledge is not as thorough as I would like on the subject of laity teaching in the church. Fire away!

  15. @helen #15
    Yes! And during the week one could attend Matins and Vespers (which Luther loved and retained because they were wonderful teaching services for the laity). There the pastor would walk through books of the Bible or preach on the Ten Commandments and teach more broadly on other parts of Scripture and doctrine. Midweek “Bible study” was actually church!

  16. @Rev. McCall #18

    Thanks for the explanation.  It makes sense.  I think that many pastors interpret AC XIV in the context of the Confutation and Defense which seems to relate only to pastors.  I personally have no informed opinion but certainly agree teachers should be “well-trained.”  Is there anything in the Bible relating to “lay” teachers?  This is all new to me since I’ve never heard of a church that didn’t have lay Bible class teachers under the pastor’s direction.

  17. @John Rixe #20
    My church may be the first for you then! We have no lay Bible class teachers! 🙂
    I’m not sure that there is much, if anything on lay teachers in the Bible. The way I was taught and have read in the Scriptures and Confessions is a simple structure: Children are taught by their parents and parents are taught by the pastor they have called to shepherd them.
    While addressing the priesthood of believers and its relation to the Office of ministry Kurt Marquart says beautifully in his book “The Church and Her Fellowship, Ministry, and Governance” (part of the Confessional Lutheran Dogmatic series from Fort Wayne), “This organic equilibrium is wrecked by the levelling slogan: ‘Everyone a minister.’ In that case the distinction between priesthood and ministry vanishes, and the difference between the ministry of ‘everyone’ and that of ‘some’ becomes, by implication, one of degree, not of kind.”
    He goes on to say that the Confessions use the term ministry to refer only to the Office of Holy Ministry. Thus only those who are called to that office are the only ones who are to publicly teach, preach, and administer the sacraments. He says, “This was well and good so long as it was taken for granted that the term ‘the ministry’ here did not stand generically for all sorts of ‘service,’ but functioned quite specifically as place-holder for the precise sense of the ministry of preaching or teaching the Gospel and administering the sacraments. Then along came the modern Bible translations, and rendered Ephesians 4:12: ‘for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry…’ That ‘repunctuation’ of the text became the rallying cry of the populist/activist program to make ‘everyone a minister.’ Since then discourse about ‘the ministry’ in many Lutheran quarters has fallen into a confusion of tongues, in which ‘pastoral,’ ‘lay,’ ‘ordained,’ ‘commissioned,’ and other such ‘ministries’ swirl about each other without much theological rhyme or reason. Any semblence of order must then be supplied bureaucratically, that is, arbitrarily. The rise of that utter oxymoronic locution, ‘lay-pastor,’ signals the loss of all categories.”
    Marquart is right. There is one ministry, both according to Scripture and the Confessions and that is the Office of Holy Ministry. Only one called into that office is to publicly preach, teach, and administer the sacraments. Marquart’s book, particular the chapter on the priesthood and the ministry, is well worth a read.
    He further says, “Ministers are not of course proprieters of the salvific treasures of the church but are rather stewards of them. Nor have they a monopoly of the faithful teaching, confession, and transmission of the evangelical truth. The ministry’s public proclamation is supported by and in turn supports that ceaseless ‘publishing’ of God’s ‘virtues,’ which is the priestly duty and delight of all who live in and by ‘His wondrous light.’ The ways in which this happens are as manifold as life’s providential opportunities and responsibilities. Every house-father and house-mother is to be a bishop and bishopess ‘that you help us exercise the preaching office in your houses, as we do in the church.'”
    As I said, I believe as Marquart does. Teaching and proclamation is two-fold. The called miniser teaches the flock publicly and in turn the heads of household in that flock privately teach their own households that same truth.
    Sorry this was so long. Hope it helps some!

  18. Rev. McCall,

    Does your church have a Lutheran Day School? What about commissioned, certified teachers (male) from our Concordias? Would they be able to teach a high school Bible class? I really hope my questions aren’t antagonistic, I don’t mean them to be. However, I’ve had many Bible class teachers over the years who were either commissioned teachers or even lay teachers, eg. elders. I am aware that this issue of commissioned teachers in our synod has been controversial over the years.

    In Christ,

  19. There is useful information on this topic that can be cleaned from various sources, so allow me to add a few data points.
    1. In the days of the Reformation the laity, as we would know them, were woefully undereducated. Only the educated ones (University degrees) had the abilities and opportunities to teach, be they clergy or lay.
    2. As I noted originally there is a history of lay teachers teaching theology from the early church on, and not from the pulpit. The oldest being the Catechetical School of Alexandria, attributing its start to the Apostle Mark. Teaching Theology, or a Bible class, does not make one a minister, just as applying a bad-aid does not make one a doctor.
    3. At the time of the Reformation we are talking basically about University professors holding Doctorates in Theology in order to teach theology, clergy or lay.
    4. Teaching from the pulpit during the early days of the Reformation would appear very logical as it was something new and there was no “infrastructure” in place, plus the need was urgent. I think we can all agree this is the starting place.
    5. John Bugenhagen was ordained in Cammin, Pomerania in 1509 at the age of 24 and moved to Wittenberg (1521) to attend the university. Once there he started teaching Bible classes privately to some of his former students from Pomerania, which grew to include others. These popular lectures grew into becoming a published Psalter, a great advance, but historically of low quality in its original form. I don’t have a date when he went from student to being a lecturer at the University, but it wasn’t very long as he was a lecturer when he was called to fill the pulpit at St. Mary’s Church sometime in 1523. Here then is an example of clergy teaching privately, without a proper call, but not teaching from the pulpit. I also don’t believe we have any disagreement on this blog about the pulpit is to be occupied by a rightly call clergy who is apt to teach.
    6. “Even Chemnitz and Melanchthon had a call (to serve as a professor which included preaching as part of that call),” stated by Rev. McCain is a troubling statement to me. Historically, I have never found a reference to a “call” being involved other than for a pulpit, in the Reformation time, or that university professors who were not clergy would preach in pulpits. Actually, doesn’t the “call” come from God and man must then become educated in order to fulfill that call? In the case of theology the “certification” was holding a Doctorate in Theology, which then allowed you to join the teaching guild at the university. Preaching and pastoring, as they say, is a horse of a different color and a different education. Some held both educations. It was apparently a different system than we know today. I am puzzled on how a lay theologian would be allowed to preach without a specific call to a congregation. That would seem to be in conflict with Art XIV, albeit the article had not yet been written. (I have also heard some pastors in our time question the validity of a proper (Divine) call for clergy who don’t have a pulpit. All based on Art XIV of course.)
    7. At the time of the Saxon immigration there is reference to 29, or so, male lay teachers in the company who were to establish schools and the seminary. The lay teachers taught in the seminary too, as there are historical notes that the quality of teaching from both clergy and lay was at times poor. I am going from memory here so the number may not be right and I don’t recall which book I read the remark on quality.
    8. In Matt Harrison’s book At Home in the House of My Fathers you will find a section dealing with Walter’s trip to Germany, seeking support, etc. In that section Walter makes reference to a well-respected layman running a pre-seminary school in Germany and he is encouraging the layman to try and encourage some of the students to come to the US and go to seminary there.
    Again, there is a much to be learned on this topic, (also auxiliary offices), and my fondest wish is someone would do a masters or doctorate thesis on these two topics. I believe there is much to be discovered from the time of the Reformation up to the time of the Saxon immigration, and hopefully set the record straight.

  20. @Diane #22
    Good questions. Here is how I would answer that. First let’s make a distinction between teaching children and teaching adults. This is critical because it is two different groups. Heads of household privately teach those under them (spouse, children, workers, etc.) and pastors are called to publicly teach those heads of household and their families. So Luther explains in the Fourth Commandment that if a head of household is unable to teach his own children he may commission someone else to teach them. He is to hire servants and teachers to do this and they teach with his authority. No one elses. That is within his right and vocation as a father and head of household.
    So I dislike the term “call” for anything other than the Office of Ministry because it screws this all up. The LCMS practice implies that the authority to teach children comes from the Office of Ministry and is an auxilliary office (commissioned, lay, whatever). It implies that the authority to teach is a Biblical one that is delegated through the Pastor rather than through the head of house. I say baloney. The authority to teach children comes from the head of the household. No call is necessary to perform this function nor is the idea of needing a call to teach those still under their parents household found anywhere in Scripture.
    Teaching a Bible class to highschoolers? A couple thoughts pop into my head. Why aren’t the highschoolers in the adult class? Why can’t a parent teach their own child the Small Catechism? Is it really that hard? Why do we even need Bible class and Sunday school on Sunday morning for that matter?

  21. It would seem to me that in this regard much would depend on the attitude toward such “teaching” carried out by laity that is encouraged by the ways in which it is presented, set up, and actually carried out – whether or not it can be said to be an exercise of the “mutual conversation and consolation of the brethren” (as mentioned in the Smalcald Articles) or the impression is given that this is an authoritative instruction akin to that entrusted to the Pastoral (i.e. shepherdly) office of the Church.

    The linguistic distinction between positions on the one hand to which one is “called”, and positions which one merely holds according to the will of God on the other is somewhat complicated by language itself. The word “vocation” which we freely and without questions use with reference to the latter kind of positions, is the Latin word for “call”.
    Similarly, the common German word for a job is Beruf – which directly translated means “call” or “calling” – reflecting the belief that any position one rightfully and legitimately holds for the time is a position to which one is called by God, and in which it is one’s duty and service to God to serve faithfully – which is really the Lutheran teaching of “vocation” (again: meaning “calling”).

  22. @Gene White #23
    I will try to respond point by point. Thanks for your response!
    1. Uneducated or not Luther still rightly sees that every head of household still is tasked as part of his vocation to teach his own family. So clearly education is not a stumbling block of any sort. If you are to teach you are to teach. Period. Lack of education does not change how Luther rightly sees the structure of the church. Pastors teach laity, heads of household teach those under them.
    2. History does not trump Scripture. Baptism was also withheld until the moment just prior to death in a lot of the early church. This does not make it a right or good or even Scriptural practice.
    3. Correct.
    4. Agreed. Now the question is, why did teaching shift from the pulpit to Bible class hour? Because of the Reformed emphasis on “everyone a minister” and the downplaying of the Scriptural and unique calling of the Office of Ministry. Bible class and Sunday school originated in church bodies who have/had a low view on the Office of Ministry and distorted and confused the Office and Ministry and priesthood of all believers as Marquart says.
    5. An ordained pastor at a University teaching his students after hours? I’m not sure why this is wrong. His vocation as a professor tasks him with teaching, just as seminary professors who teach free lectionary at lunch classes would do. I don’t see how this correlates.
    6. I think Jais rightly points out that the word “call” as it was used with regard to Chemitz’ professor position meant “vocation.”
    7. For an important distinction see my answer to Diane in #24. Lay teachers at the seminary sound like the exception rather than the norm. I believe all teachers at the seminary were, as soon as practical and possible, required to be rostered clergy. This is still true today.
    8. I’m not familiar with this account but will try to find it.

    Lay people teaching publicly on behalf of the church seem to be the exception, not the norm. Many of the exceptions noted by you have all been men who have received doctoral degrees in some sort of religious study and taught as part of their vocation as professors. Here is the question: What part of a lay persons vocation gives him/her the authority to publicly teach others in the church without being rightly called to do so?

  23. @Jais H. Tinglund #25
    A true and good distinction. But it becomes such a fine line. When does mutual consolation become teaching? If a lay person simply is part of a group that takes turns reading a pre-printed devotion once a week or they take turns reading verses or Psalms from the Bible or if they pray with one another, that strikes me as mutual consolation. But when one individual lay person stands before others as their “leader” or “teacher” and instructs and answers questions this already implies some type of teaching and authority to teach. And it begs the question, “where did they get this authority to teach?”

  24. Rev. McCall :
    Why aren’t the highschoolers in the adult class?

    A just question indeed. I have no answers – at least not any good ones.

    Rev. McCall :
    Why do we even need Bible class and Sunday school on Sunday morning for that matter?

    Although these can reasonably be considered helpful and beneficial, history does indeed show that they were not always necessary – and as such they can hardly be considered necessary in any absolute sense.

  25. @Rev. McCall #24
    Thank you for your reply. Back in 1963, the Bible class I attended as a newly confirmed 13 year old was called a junior or high school Bible class. It was lead by a male, commissioned teacher of the parochial school. This past winter in Florida we attended an excellent Bible class on the Epiphany season lead by the Director of Music, a woman graduate of Seward, NE. I believe the majority of LCMS congregations have Bible classes and Sunday schools.

    Obviously, this is a controversial topic. A good history on the subject of Lutheran education is ‘The Lutheran Parochial School – Dates, Documents, Events, People’ by Wayne E. Schmidt, published by Concordia Seminary Publications, Monograph Series, 2001.

    In Christ,

  26. @Jais H. Tinglund #28
    They become even less necessary when the head of the house reads from the Bible and Catechism and prays with his family every day. 🙂
    Perhaps this is why Luther tasked the head of the household with carrying out their God-given vocation to teach those entrusted to them instead of setting up a lay-ministry program or creating a Sunday school hour.

  27. @Jais H. Tinglund #25
    Indeed, and I would further add not all classes taught on Sunday’s by lay teachers are in fact teaching chapter and verse from Scripture. An example of what I mean would be teaching comparative religions, etc. Another example would be teaching a class from a noted writer like C. S. Lewis, perhaps the Kingdom of the Cults, or a class on vocation using one of Dr. Gene Vieth’s books.

  28. @Rev. McCall #27
    Thanks for the response, pastor. Your last question is really the heart of the issue, and hence where all the confusion lay, I believe. I wish I knew all of the answers that I have on this issue, but I don’t. My supposition is that sometime during or shortly after the Reformation period the idea of lay teachers came into practice. If it didn’t happened until after 1950, I would certainly agree it is closely tied to the downplaying of the office in our churches today. Was that influence also present in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.

    Yes, it is true, the examples I have used are all well trained professor level people, but that was also pretty much all that taught. Luther’s emphasis on the father of the household being responsible for teaching his children was a ground breaking and necessary event. Unfortunately, that too has gone out of practice in many cases and to that extend, Sunday School has replaced it. Right or wrong, that is pretty much the reality.

    The one thing I have learned from history is that it is basically the non-routine and unusual that does get recorded, but to say only the happenings that are recorded is all that happened would be a stretch.

    To my mind a lay person has no authority to teach publicly in a church unless they have been given the authority to do, not to mention the needed teaching skills and knowledge. It really is a subset of what went on in Wittenberg, only the venue has changed. By being approved by the pastor and subsequently commissioned by the congregation to teach in their church is essentially a legitimate call to serve the Lord (in that vocation/calling). This does not make them ministers or anything of the sort.

    Having said all that I would like to direct our attention back to the topic of this blog, Building up the Body of Christ. I will comment no more on lay teaching.

  29. @Gene White #32
    I can appreciate not wanting to drag out comments on lay teaching further. Might I point out though that you see lay teaching as critical to step 2 of your seminar. Have you considered replacing it with something else? Instead of settling for the “reality” of where we are and simply going with lay teaching as the emphasis why not focus on training and restoring the Biblical and Lutheran practice of the vocation of the head of household?

  30. @Rev. McCall #33
    Very much a worthwhile observation.
    There are way too many programs going around that go in the stead of, and take away from, and lead away from that which should be very basic – much too many how to‘s that end up making all that seem so difficult which used to be our most simple duties – and really still are – except that we don’t notice how basic it all actually is, because we are too intimidated by all the techniques we think we need to have mastered to perfection, or almost perfection, before we can go anywhere near it …

  31. @Rev. McCall #33
    Ummnn, I thought I had commented to you a couple of days ago on your point about leading in to what parents should be doing. We are doing that in this new format of Building up the Body of Christ by teaching Vocation to the parents and children, as well as proper outreach with the Holy Spirit in charge. That is really the main point of this new format.
    Not sure what you meant by “step 2 of your seminar.” We haven”t been talking about seminars, which has a specific meaning to us. Perhaps you meant the Conference. The conference doesn’t emphasis lay teaching either. Perhaps all of this started from the suggesting that a church should offer a wide variety of Bible classes (hence some lay teaching) to keep people interested by not having newbies only having one choice, and that is a more complex classes that they can handle., etc., but I am not going back to revisit that.

  32. Mr. White,
    You argue the point and then say you do not want to argue the point. If you want to be a Lutheran, and you want to be about theology, that approach is crippling to yourself and others. From one layman to another, what Pr. McCall and Pr. Tinglund are saying are not mere matters of opinion but have theological consequences. I certainly am sympathetic to your cause and am glad the clcc exists and I believe others are too. Please consider that we have your best interests in mind.

  33. Thank you for the comment. Let me be clear, I never wanted to argue the point of lay teachers in the first place. I should have written the paragraph differently to avoid that issue entirely, as it detracted from the reason for the blog in the first place. Lay teachers are not going away anytime soon, so I do advocate for pastor oversight and that they are well trained, which in many cases they are not.

    I understand the theological consequences of Pr. McCall and Pr. Tinglund, and they are not alone in their views. I respect that too. There are many fine confessional pastors who do not agree with their point of view on Art. XIV. As I said, my sincere wish is someone would really do an exhaustive research on this point.

    Thank you for the kind words about CLCC, we are glad it exists too. What do you think of this whole idea of building up the body of Christ as we have outlined? We really want some input on the problem we are trying to address and how we propose going about changing the culture in a positive way.

  34. Gene
    I am really looking forward to our upcoming conference in Bloomington because I think it will be a great venue to get some ideas and start to discuss ways to begin to deal with some of them. I don’t think there will be any silver bullets but the excellent speakers we have lined up will provide guidelines for the discussion. I hope a lot of people will be there. Finding some possible places to start to address the situation and ideas for solutions will be great. Yet we know God keeps His church and will keep His church till He returns. Our culture has shifted. Let’s get new ideas on how it affects us.

  35. @Kari #38
    Hi, I am getting cranked for the conference too. Registrations are trickling in at this early date, but I hope it picks up the pace soon.
    We are already working on the PR for the 2015 Conference in N. CAL and the announcement and PR in the form of a bulletin insert will be available on the last day of the 2014 conference.
    One of the things we are trying next year is a summer conference for the whole family!

  36. @Gene White #35
    Just as a point of reference my comment was in reference to the second to last full paragraph of the article: “In lesson 2 of our Evangelism, Outreach and Affirmation seminar we include many of the “tools” that can be applied to improve your evangelism and outreach efforts.”
    And a few sentences later “One big mistake would be to have your well educated laity suffer through a beginner’s adult Bible class because there is no alternative except “don’t attend.” Well trained lay teachers are critical to implementing this path.

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