I just got a phone call from a good confessional laymen who checks in periodically and he was concerned that too many posts like the “dog ministry” one would make us come off as whiners. It is a good concern. I assured him that we don’t just sit around and whine on this website. Instead we are vigilant to include lots of educational stuff like confessional quizzes, liturgy notes, weekly Book of Concord readings, etc. I also mentioned that the “dog ministry” post was as much for amusement as it was for serious theological reflection but then I also told him what the real theological concern was. That really hit home with him and he told me “Now I get it. That’s what you should have said!” So here is the real issue with “dog ministry.”
The real issue is the sloppy use theological language in the church today and the slide away from theology in general. Our language is sloppy which is a reflection of our theology being sloppy. Walther, Luther or St. Paul would never use the phrase “dog ministry.” It would have never occurred to them. Here is the way Luther did talk about dogs and the church. I remember Luther referring to a dog in a passage I read in Table Talk where the story was told of a dog who urinated in the grave of a Roman Catholic priest at the committal service and the bishop quipped, “Ah, even the dogs have become Lutheran.”
That’s how Luther talked about dogs. He would never have stooped to level of talking about “dog ministry.” The word “ministry” is best left to refer to the pastoral office because in English we still refer to the pastor as the minister. I know the word generally means “service,” but since that is the case let’s talk about “dog service” and not “dog ministry.” If the book from the 1980’s had been titled “Everyone a Servant” instead of “Everyone a Minister” then it wouldn’t have sold so many copies. Everyone a servant just doesn’t get people excited. But, if you can be a minister, just like your pastor, now that’s really something and at the same time you are helping to bring down that old archaic authoritarian structure of those curmudgeonly “old fart” pastors who are only in it for themselves.
Here is a great comment on the post that captures this point.
I believe that it was the great Lutheran theologian Charles Schultz who pointed out that “god” is “dog” spelled backward.
BTW– My wife has a Leader Dog service dog. The first time she communes at a congregation no one is singing when they approach the Lord’s Table. Her dog very reverently will place his head on the kneeler until the dismissal. He is a service dog not a ministry dog.
Comment by Robert Eickmann â€” January 13, 2009 @ 8:24 p
Good theology requires precise langauge. What this synod needs is fewer dogs in ministry and more “servant dogs” and while we are at it, more theological ministers.