Clarification on “Dog Ministry,” by Pr. Rossow

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 — 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.

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.


Clarification on “Dog Ministry,” by Pr. Rossow — 3 Comments

  1. That was a very good point. Comfort dogs do provide just much comfort and solace to people in different situations, however the term “ministry” has become so general that it has lost any real meaning in many cases.

  2. It’s an outreach program, not a Ministry.

    Remember the LCMS Hot Air Baloon “ministry”?
    Well the baloon wasn’t the only thing to come out of the Synodical office building full of hot air. (personal editorial comment)

    We have talked about this same thing with the “The Fire Truck Ministry”, and in my former church “The Puppet Ministry” (which produces other meanings and visions of some third world). Let’s leave the ministering to the true Ministers of the Gospel. These programs are nice, interesting, and amusing but really don’t fully promote the Gospel. When was the last time you heard, “Hey they have a really cool puppet program at Oemay’s LCMS Church”? If you did are these people still active? I’m not against these programs, but not heped up on them either. It’s nice but IMHO just not the greatest use of funds.


    ps the Oemay comment was for the stooge fans!

  3. I was asked by a representative of Capital Funding Services (somehow owned by us through the Lutheran Church Extension Fund) after a tour of our church “What kind of ministries do you have at St. John’s?” I answered, “Lutheran.” He did not think that was to helpful. The CTCR document on Ministry has made a perfectly good word “officially” ambiguous.

    The transformation and corruption of the term “ministry” was a deliberate, consistent and successful tactic of those who believe that words get their meaning in the minds of the hearer. The Word and words in general have no objective meaning only subjective ones. Since they have no respect for the Word of God it is only logical that their view of the Office of that Word also receive the same disrespect (as well as the sacraments which are dependant on that Word).

    I believe that it is because our society’s acceptance and practice of the subjectivity of language that the entire concept of being “confessional” is a foreign concept.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.