Letter to the Laity ““ Mutual Conversation and Consolation of the Brethren in these Challenging Times, Part I, by Pr. Rob Jarvis

(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.

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.


Letter to the Laity ““ Mutual Conversation and Consolation of the Brethren in these Challenging Times, Part I, by Pr. Rob Jarvis — 9 Comments

  1. Good post. I have to do this with my in-laws the Methodists, showing them how sola scriptura can give one such a great comfort without the distractions that a vision-seeking pastor can lay on it. Yes, it’s easy to smack on the sinner’s prayer, but it’s more beneficial to show from the Bible how baptism saves us, how we were washed, etc. If what I have said is significantly different from their doctrine, they often ask me about it, and then I can respond to what they think. It’s often better to let the opponent give what he or she thinks first, before you slam what you think he or she thinks.

  2. This really hits home.
    I recently left a LCMS church after 10 years, because of teachings other than Lutheran. From an author’s book and not the THE AUTHOR AND PERFECTOR of our faith book, THE HOLY BIBLE. John Ortberg of all people.

    Transferred to another LCMS church and thrilled to have the hymnal liturgy Law Gospel sermons back in our midst.
    Makes me wonder where were we? But, thanks be to God He took off the blinders.

    With all the recent blessings we were still(God can even use the foolish things of the world…..) handed an Ablaze brochure and also given an empty message about BRTF, and an individuals view of the Convention.

    I became very uneasy, again.

    Instead of going into attack mode I started to pray.

    I joined the Planning Committee to see what direction the church was going and be a part of that. Be more aware and involved. View from the ground up so to speak.

    Our last planning meeting (my second) was addressing church culture.
    I also suggested these CLCC studies for fall Bible Studies.

    I even pulled my Boc out and put it on the table.
    Timing is everything in conversation.

    I have been talking with more and more people in this church, my former church, and even other LCMS churches to people about what we believe, teach, and confess.
    I, also, agree that we need to point out in scripture what is truth and condemn/dispel many things that we hear being said falsely.

    I continue to pray that this is how we, with the help of God, can lovingly show our brother(s) where he/she might be going wrong. God’s will be done.

  3. Thanks Dan and Lifelong Lutheran. You’ve caught the drift of this post. It’s a simple one, but one in my estimation that has been neglected. We can’t afford to do that any longer. Keep up the good work, and if I may suggest, keep expanding.

    Now, this is the problem we see with many of our congregations. The members don’t expect us to talk about these things. They may talk about a decision the congregation may make about the physical plant or its finances, but little about the faith or a congregation’s faithfulness to it.

    Think about this in terms of Ablaze. People are supposed to be talking to others about Jesus and what He has done. How are we to ever expect our laity to talk about matters of the faith to people they work with if they don’t even feel comfortable talking with people who are supposed to believe the same? It’s almost like in church (in the informal settings, that is) we have two things we don’t talk about–politics and religion. If we don’t feel safe talking about religion at church, where can we? And how are we to have the mutual conversation and consolation? Finally, as you are already doing, Lifelong Lutheran, how are we to ever help them realize how important it is that they keep the truth they have been given? We’ve got to get our fellow members talking!

    I have some suggestions that I hope I will be able to include in a later posting. Stay tuned.

  4. Thanks for this. It really helped strengthen my motivation and drive. The larger of my local congregations seems to be focused more on growth and “missional” concerns than faith and doctrine. For a while I’ve been trying to see if I can’t pull some of the stronger congregation members back to the confessional side, but I guess things keep preventing me. This is what I need to hear.

  5. Ariel,

    I’m glad that this has motivated you. I’ve founnd a “consolation of brethren” amongst members of my congregation since I’ve started talking to them. There are actually others that want more hymnal usage just like I do. As more and more of us are able to talk and discuss why we believe what we do together it will help us also to share our faith more boldly to our neighbors out in the world during the rest of the week.
    We need to be able to discuss things comfortably with our fellow believers before we will feel comfortable enough to tell others. Also, if you’re not sure of what you believe, you can be tossed to and fro by the wind. Some people in our congregations are being tossed about through influence from other faiths out there in the world.

  6. Pr. Jarvis,
    Thanks for posting this and especially thanks for taking us in this direction.
    Of greatest concern to me is how many people have left – in the sense that they rarely attend Divine Service – but their names are still on the membership list. I am hopeful that discussing that situation (which I am quite sure exists in many congregations) will bring some thoughts and practices to light that we can all use.

    In an effort to cast light on another part of the problem (really don’t like that word), there are some who really try and work with the ‘delinquent’ members, but without good strong catechises. and constant support from others, the ones who are trying to bring the flock together are experiencing ‘burn-out’ – much like many pastors face – and then their interest in attempting to bring the wayward home begins to wane. Hopefully there is advice on how to cope with that. (H’mmmmm how about forming a group with the acronynm RNA (religous nuts anonymous) it’s late and my mind is not working properly – trying to write late nite humor is rarely effective not meaning to offend anyone.

  7. Thanks Pastor Jarvis. I really enjoyed this post and I’m looking forward to reading Part II. I’m not a very social person and I have a hard enough time talking to people in my own congregation. What advise can you or any of the commenters here offer for how to reach out to the lkaity in other congregations? I wouldn’t even know how to begin.

    WRT talking to members or your own congregation outside of church, or to lapsed members, there’s a book from CPH titled (I think) “Visitations” that our pastor gave to the Elders and Board Members of our congregation that you m ight find helpful. I haven’t read mine very thouroughly yet, but it has a lot of prayer guides and topical discussion materials/devotions for different visiation settings and needs. While it seems to be geared for Pastors and Elder types, I’ve used it in making a couple of visits with peole from my congregation and found it pretty useful in breaking the ice and keeping the visit on topic and confessionally correct.

    Eric Ramer

  8. You don’t need to thank me; I’ve just been eager to bring this to discussion. Instead, I want to thank all of you for your comments, because you have expanded my original idea.

    At first, I saw the purpose of the discussion was simply to get people to step out of their comfort zone, and talk to other laity about what was happening in the synod. Through the dialog on here and on MNNFaithful (our district’s discussion list), however, I have come to see its broader value. I daresay, through internet discussion, people have become better at articulating what they believe and confess. As they get better, they have also become more comfortable and willing to take greater risks. This means taking the conversation not just beyond the internet and among fellow members of their congregations, but also out to inactive members and even non-members.

    When we first started this discussion several months ago, I had political thoughts in mind. You have helped me to see it has a broader impact.

    What is to come with the next installment will be some creative ideas to start those discussions among fellow worshippers–at least I thought they were creative when I saw them suggested. I hope you won’t be disappointed. Actually, I doubt that you will, because through further discussion I’m confident each idea will be improved.

    Either way, unless I’m mistaken, this has been an aspect of our Christian lives that has received very little attention among us confessionals. I’m happy that it is getting the attention it deserves.

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