In the last column I had written (which was a couple months ago) I started talking about recruiting laity–to be exact laity recruiting laity. It must be happening. The number of concerned laity is growing, but slowly. Maybe it’s not that slow, but I think everyone is always wondering: What can be done to muster the laity? In fact, isn’t that the $64,000 question? How do we reach the laity?
I’ve been attending free conferences and presentations for years, and it always seems to be about half clergy and half laity. That’s not bad; at least half are laity. It could be worse and be all clergy. Still, if these conferences are for the laity and we have about 1:1, clergy to laity, we must have some pretty strange looking congregations. If this is truly representative of our congregations, then we have one pastor in the pulpit and one layman in the pew. I don’t think so. Actually, what I think it says is that we’re still not doing very well reaching the laity.
So, what can be done?
First, I think we can thank our synodical leadership. As they boldly and brazenly eliminate programs and people, and in their place, implement others, the laity is waking up. This is true with Issues, Etc. being cancelled. It boosted their interest and appeal among listeners. But growth like this isn’t something we want to plan. Our Lord, in His good time, brings this to us. What else can be done? I know on-line interest has spiked with the Wittenberg Trail and Brothers of John the Steadfast, and countless other blogs written by well-spoken theologians of our church body. But is it getting past being on-line? Or are we staying safe behind our screens and keyboards? We recruit those who are already on-line to other on-line ventures, to get worked up about what is happening to the truth in our synod. But are we venturing out to those who aren’t there yet?
That’s the first step. I have seen some very articulate laity in these on-line discussions. In fact, I have seen these articulate people directing their verbal skills toward people who are foolish enough to try to defend the heterodox direction of our synod. But those people on the other side of the aisle share a similar level of passion and are ready to engage in discussion.
What about those who aren’t? What about those who don’t know what is going on, or don’t even know they should care? They are there. They are in your district. They are in your circuit. They may even be in your congregation. Have you thought about them?
Many of you have faithful pastors. If you want to know what is happening to the truth in our synod, they will tell you. Maybe they make sure it is known, as the apostles made it known when heresy was challenging truth. So, as far as those others in your congregation, your pastor will recruit themâ€”although you could surely help.
But others of you have sought out the “consolation of brethren” (SA III:4) on line, because you have no chance of finding it in your congregation. Your pastor is either afraid to tell you what is happening in the synod, is not interested, or gives his approval. Perhaps you have always known the value of your Lutheran confession or perhaps you discovered or re-discovered Lutheranism through Issues Etc. or some other excellent resource. The problem is, you are alone in your congregation. Have you thought about inviting others to discover what their congregational membership confesses?
That’s what it is all aboutâ€”learning what you already confess. CLCC, Confessional Lutherans for Christ’s Commission, which I represent in this column, is vitally interested in getting people to learn what they already confess. To do this, they take their presentations on the road. The CLCC is fairly young, and so hasn’t been around that much, but they have had conferences and seminars in few places, namely, Western Minnesota, and Oregon. We have some set up to go in Utah and Central Minnesota, and requests for more have come from Wisconsin, Illinois, Virginia, and Maryland. If one of these is in your area, and you are interested in attending, please check http://www.theclcc.org. If you are interested in hosting, please contact them at the same site.
If I may put in one more plug before I sign off, I strongly encourage that exchange of ideas at a local level. If you are in the LCMS and would like to hook up with people in your district for theological discussion, go to http://lutheraninfo.net/. Click on your district and soon you can be talking with other laity in your district who are also interested in the Lutheran faith.
Pastor Rob Jarvis