Laity Reaching Laity, by Pr. Rob Jarvis of the CLCC

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 them—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 about—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 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 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

Posted in CLCC permalink

About Pastor Tim Rossow

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


Laity Reaching Laity, by Pr. Rob Jarvis of the CLCC — 6 Comments

  1. Thanks for writing this article Pastor Jarvis. Once in a while I wake up with a new thought that startles me for a second or two while I put it into context. The last one of these events ties in well with your laity reaching laity point. As you know our very first and second full blown seminar is on Evangelism, Outreach and Assimilation. Laity have a unique role in this effort because that role is to reach people through their vocations, to witness to what Christ has done in their lives.

    Laity reaching laity for doctrinal growth seems to be based on the same principle, personal contact. And so it has been with our seminars that are now scheduled, each one started by someone contacting someone else about hosting one. They didn’t beat a path to our door saying, hey me, we want one over here. It would be nice if that is the way it worked, but so far, it has not. I suspect the personal contact will always be the way progress in Evangelism and in seminars will be done.

    So, every member of CLCC needs to out there asking and suggesting on how the laity get get together for the Lord’s work in learning more about our Confessions and Lutheran history, etc. Check out our website and see what is available.

  2. One of the things to remember when talking or writing for new folks just getting introduced to this stuff or are relatively new to this stuff. Use practice the KIS principle. Keep It Simple. For example when using “technical” terms like “heterodox”. Six months or more ago I didn’t know the meaning of that word. You see, it is not technical to you, because you know what it means. But I will bet that many laity do NOT what that means. Therefore, you are going to have them wondering. If very many words like that get mentioned too early in the conversations we have, we will lose those people. They will give up before they really get started. Rather than using the term “heterodox”, why not say “false teaching” or “untruthful” teaching or better yet, “lies”. That way new laity will understand what you are talking about. As time progresses, we can then introduce these terms and briefly explain what they mean. But keep the meanings very short and laser focused. That way they can remember what you said and be able to make good use of it in conversations that will follow. Don’t feed them too much information at one time. It is better that a person wishes to know more, longs to know more, than it is to overwhelm a person with too much information at once and then they simply give up in utter frustration.

  3. Not necessarily so. Please do not “water down” your comments. Maybe included a definition in the sentence, but, we laity have access to Google and can look up unfamiliar terms, phrases and words the same as any high school, college or Sem student must. Being afraid that the “laity won’t understand” has caused most of the problems we in Synod, Inc. find ourselves in and the reason that groups like BJS have to exist.

  4. Thomas,

    Yes, I did use the word “heterodox,” and was hardly aware of it. Usually I’m careful about choosing my language, making sure I’m not leaving people wondering or even giving up in frustration.

    I think you have a very valid point. Although I’m confident that many (most, if not almost all) who would read these sites would be familiar with these technical terms, being aware we are using them helps us learn to interact with the less catechized (another technical term) laity among us.

    As opposed to some who might imply it, I don’t see that you are suggesting “dumbing it down.” Rather you are simply telling us to be aware of how we talk one on one, so we can avoid technical language in our conversations. If we are going to try to reach people in our congregation with the importance of knowing what they confess, we can’t start off by quoting chapter and verse of the confessions. As we speak to each other on sites like these, we don’t have to quite as careful as each of you will need to be when you start to speak to the fellow laity of your congregations. Even the word “laity” may not be familiar to the poorly catechized.

    Funny that you should say that about feeding too much information at one time. The following was in one of my first drafts, and I don’t know why it fell out.

    “I’m going to leave the discussion now, simply planting that thought in your mind. When I have written about this elsewhere, I have tended to give too much information. The advantage I have found on these blogs is the exchange of ideas that go on after the initial blog is posted.”

    I wonder if I violated my rule and gave too much information after all. I hope not. I would like to think I said only enough to whet people’s appetites to talk more about the laity reaching laity. The responses so far are just what we need to discuss. Keep exploring this so we can be wiser still.

    Pr. Jarvis

  5. Excellent concept but it doesn’t reach many people and that is the reason for slow growth, in my humble opinion.

    We must have at least yearly conferences in all the LCMS districts. Further the districts must be divided in such a way that makes it convenient for laity travel. Example: The CNH district covers a huge area so there must be 3 or 4 conferences within the district. These don’t have to be elaborate affairs but can be a day long conference led by one or two people. It can even be DVD’s from a master conference with just a moderator to answer questions. We must find a way to advertise conferences in all congregations in the general area.

    You cannot expect laymen to respond if you don’t reach them. I would be more than happy to help in any way I can.

    John Thomas

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