(Pastor Rob Jarvis is involved with the CLCC group. Like BJS they seek to equip laymen to know and support Confessional Lutheranism. CLCC posts are archived on the Regular Columns page of this website.)
For years, we have been subjected to a lot of common sense approaches to reaching out to people who aren’t members of our congregations or those who visit on a Sunday morning. Be friendly. Provide ample parking. Provide good signage so people know where things are. Talk to people who aren’t Christian.
But what about our own? We have been thinking about and trying to reach people who aren’t members of our church, but what about those who are? What can we do to culture relationships with members of our own congregation and help them to understand the importance of knowing and being able to articulate the faith? What can we do to help others understand the faith that is under fire in the LCMS? It’s time for us to think about and develop in our congregations what Luther calls in the Smalcald Articles the “mutual conversation and consolation of brethren.” Although this seems like it should automatically be there in our congregations, we find it rarely is.
To get this, we will need to think of laity reaching out to other laity. Laity may have an advantage a pastor doesn’t. The pastor can speak to individual members, but when encouragement comes from a layman, it’s more likely to be heard. When the pastor makes an approach, the thinking is likely to go something like this: “That’s the pastor’s job; he is supposed to encourage people to know the faith.” On the other hand, when a layman shows interest, then that other might say to himself, “If this concerns him, maybe it should concern me, too.”
So how do you go about this? First, I would suggest you attend to your own prayer life. Through prayer, devotions and your struggles, your faith is being shaped. This can’t be emphasized enough.
Now consider your tone. Chances are, you are very concerned about the synod and it might cause you to react in a less than helpful way. Therefore remember this saying:
Get them to love what you love, before you get them to hate what you hate.
Don’t spring straight into your concerns about the synod, but rather talk about the clarity of Scripture and the benefit of being Lutheran. This is what your pastor is supposed to be doing, even if he hasn’t talked about the current state of the synod.
What you would hope to do is to get fellow members of your congregation to the point where they would be willing to make a little investment of time and energy. Eventually you want to get them to start a confessional reading group. But that’s further down the road. There are some great books you could recommend, and you could direct them to some wonderful websites, but this could be asking too much. Some periodicals are great, but you will want to make sure they will be willing to read them. Each district has a theological discussion chat list for laity, but before you invite someone on one of these, you will need to lay a little groundwork. You could host a CLCC presentation (Confessional Lutherans for Christ’s Commission), but they probably won’t go until they understand its value; the same would go for any presentation hosted by confessional Lutherans.