Rosemarie does not know it yet but she had a part in starting the Brothers of John the Steadfast. I have not seen her in a few years but she is coming to our parish Confessions Reading Group tonight and I will let her know. The story goes like this.
Rosemarie came to the Divine Service in our congregation several years ago. She had a Christian background but her faith at that point was highly influenced by generic American spirituality, even “evangelical new-agism”. She was intrigued with all that went on in the Divine Service and so she set up an appointment to investigate this mystery and to possibly reorient her beliefs. She was not ready for our catechumenate so we just met for a few times and talked about confessional Lutheranism. She kept hearing me refer to the Lutheran Confessions and wanted to know more about this approach to the faith that struck her as firm and strong and so we started reading the Confessions together.
After a few weeks of that, it dawned on me that most Lutherans do not know the Confessions. I asked Rosemarie if she minded if we invited the congregation to join us and thus our reading group was born. That was seven or eight years ago and ever since, every Tuesday night, we have had anywhere from two to fifteen people gathered for 90 minutes or so to read and discuss the Lutheran Confessions.
Once we opened it up to the congregation we started with the Formula of Concord. Upon finishing that we went back to the beginning and started on the ecumenical creeds. (Our Associate Pastor leads a men’s Bible breakfast every other Saturday where they read and study Luther’s Large Catechism.) We have made it up to Article 20 of the Apology, so it is going to take us over ten years to get through the entire book at the pace we have chosen. That is where we will be when Rosemarie rejoins us tonight. Rosemarie moved away a few years ago but I just got an e-mail from her yesterday saying that she was in the area and would be joining us for the reading group tonight. I look forward to telling her how we are now keeping track of Confessions reading groups all across the country through the Brothers of John the Steadfast.
There are probably three things that led to the formation of John the Steadfast. The effectiveness of our Confessions reading group over the years is one of them. An offhanded comment by a member about the Knights of Columbus and the events of Black Tuesday (the day last spring when Issues, Etc. was cancelled and Pastor Wilken and Jeff Schwarz were fired by the LCMS) were the other two primary causes. I will share more on the last two in future posts but for now I am looking forward to telling Rosemarie how she played a role in the start of the Brothers of John the Steadfast. Since we have been out of communication for a few years, she has no idea that we are now counting existing groups and promoting the start of new Confessions reading groups all around the country. Seeing how salutary the regular reading of the Confessions has been in our congregation was part of the reason why we were moved to start a national group whose main purpose would be to encourage the growth of the laity’s knowledge of the Lutheran Confessions and then to use the sanctification created by such study to help fund the new Lutheran media such as Issues, Etc.
I encourage you to be your congregation’s “Rosemarie.” Call your pastor today and ask him to set aside time with you and others to read the Confessions. Bring your Bible and be sure to look up the numerous Bible references in the Confessions. If you start up a group be sure to let us know about it and we will add it to our Confessions Reading Group Ticker. If your pastor is unwilling to start such a group, start a group on your own. Without a pastor there to guide you there may be some things left unclear, but the whole point of the Confessions is to shed light on the meaning of Scripture. This may be the only non-pastor led small group that is beneficial for the Gospel. It will certainly lead you into the truth of Scripture much more effectively than the “Forty Days of Purpose” fad pushed in so many Ablaze congregations. (Remember the “Forty Days of Purpose?” Isn’t it amazing how quickly these things fade once they lose marketing viability or the short attention span of the “evangelical” world looks for the next fad? The Book of Concord is no fad. Lutheran laity and clergy have been reading it now for nearly 450 years.)
If there is no one else in your congregation interested and you would like to set up a regional group, email us at [email protected] and we will try to hook you up with other Confessional Lutherans in your area. You can also check out our Confessional Growth page for information on how to connect with the online Book of Concord chat group established by Pastor Paul McCain.
Knowing Scripture as it is clearly and accurately taught in the Lutheran Confessions is the way to strengthen and grow the Lord’s church. We at the Brothers of John the Steadfast encourage you to dig deeper into Scripture via the Confessions and we know doing such will make you steadfast and immovable in the truth of our Lord Jesus Christ.