Core Values for Christians: XIV Order in the Church, by Rev. Alan J. Wollenburg

Pastor Alan Wollenburg writes a series of articles that have been published in his church newsletter. Looking for a way to introduce more of the members of his congregation and people of the community who happen across their parish newsletter on just what the Augsburg Confession is, he decided to write on the different articles of AC under the general theme: “Core Values for Christians”. Here is his articles on Article XIV of the Augsburg Confession.

This article, prepared for the monthly newsletter of his parish, is a continuation in a series of articles on “core values” of the Christian faith. The articles of the Augsburg Confession were those “core values” of which the Lutheran reformers wrote when given the chance to prove that, far from an upstart sect, the “Lutheran” reformers were actually directly in step with the early Christian Church. It behooves Christians in our day and age to learn and to reaffirm these same “core values.” Immediately below is Article XIV of the Augsburg Confession. At the very end of this post is the introduction to Article XIV of AC which is written in Concordia The Lutheran Confessions A Reader’s Edition of the Book of Concord.

The Augsburg Confession
“Chief Articles of Faith”
Article XIV — Order in the Church

Our churches teach that no one should publicly teach in the Church, or administer the Sacraments, without a rightly ordered call. +

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ our Lord:

Another of the “core values” of the reformers is/was that there should be properly prepared pastors to watch over and serve the flock of God. Where a pastor is improperly prepared for his task, he will act more like a CEO or a kind of pope in all matters. It is a safeguard for the individual soul and for the Christian congregation to have a properly trained and properly called pastor! Yes, it is good for him, too, but it is primarily for the good of the individual Christian, the Christian congregation, and the whole Christian Church! Read on, please . . .

ARTICLE XIV: Order in the Church

“But why can’t we just put an ad in one of our Lutheran papers? Then pastors could give us their resume’s, we could interview them, and decide who we are going to hire to be our pastor! It makes sense to me!”

While it is unfortunately true that some of our Lutheran congregations are doing just that, and while at some level it does make perfect sense to secure a new pastor in that way, it also has pitfalls! What if a pastor deceives the calling congregation? What if a pastor tells a congregation that, because he is so good, they are going to have to give him more money than they might give to a ‘lesser quality” pastor? Can you see how some congregations might get “the cream of the crop” while others would imagine that they were getting the “dreg” which collect at the bottom of your coffee cup? Can you imagine, then, how congregations might not value their pastors properly? Can you imagine how pastors might start to compete with one another for “good” positions?

While it is certainly true that some of those attitudes will exist because we are sinners in a fallen world, nevertheless the Christian congregation should do everything in its power to negate such attitudes! Congregations and pastors should seek, in every way, to see to it that the Gospel is properly preached, and that souls receive proper pastoral care.

Immortal Souls and “Church”

The “Church” is the local congregation which God the Holy Spirit has brought together (see Dr. Luther’s explanation to the Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed — If you do not have your Small Catechism handy, you can view this on p. 8 online). The “church” is made up of those souls for whom Christ died who believe in Him and are fed by His Word and Sacraments.

All souls are immortal in that all people will go on forever in either heaven or hell. These souls are not to be taken for granted. These souls are not to be trampled upon. These souls are to be nutured so that they will remain in the true Christian faith and be in heaven forever! (John 20:19-23, John 21:15-17) (For a largely excellent discussion of “church,” view it online)

Properly Trained Ministers and Immortal Souls

So who SHOULD do the public teaching of these immortal souls? The Pastor, obviously! He cannot do all of the private teaching because he does not put your children to bed at night or sit with your family at the breakfast and supper table where your family might have a short devotion. But he is not to abdicate the public teaching of God’s Word for the same reason that not just any Tom, Dick, or Harry is supposed to teach in the school, namely, you want someone there who is going to get the teaching right. If whole generations of children are mistaught in the public schools, then our whole understanding of the role of government and the like gets changed, and our entire nation would suffer. Similarly, if people are mistaught in the Church, they might actually think that salvation depends upon them, their works, their decision(s), etc.; then, if people consistently believe the wrong teaching, souls could go to hell for eternity! Tragic!

The same holds true for the administration of the Sacraments. Many Christians think that just anyone should be permitted to distribute the Sacraments. All they see is the minister handing out Baptism or doling out bread and wine. But this is not something for just anyone to do. It is given to the Office of him who has been called to perform these functions.

The pastor, by virtue of his training, has been instructed in God’s Word and has learned when to deliver the sacraments and when, sometimes, to withhold them. He has been put in the position of feeding Christ’s sheep much as the shepherd had been put in charge of feeding the sheep. The sheep should not learn to take feed from strangers lest a false shepherd come along and, deliberately or accidentally, poison them by feeding them wrongly.

Perhaps the case can be compared to going to your doctor, dentist, or surgeon, or pharmacist. You do not let just anyone examine you because they do not know what, precisely, to look for. You will not permit just anyone who says that he has “read up” on appendectomies to perform your appendectomy. You will not permit just anyone to fill or pull a bad tooth. You do not want just anyone to mix up the prescriptions which are supposed to help and heal your body. It just makes good sense and it is ultimately for your good!

So the reformers made the point that not just anyone should publicly teach in the church or administer the Sacraments without a proper call.

Upstart Churches and Upstart Preachers, and Immortal Souls . . .

One can understand the hanky-panky which could take place where ministers are improperly trained. As an example, it was not a new phenomenon when, in the days of the American tent revivals, “ministers” would realize that there was good money to be made in hosting tent revivals where there would be relatively little accountability for offerings brought to such revivals. We do not hereby call into question the sincerity of all traveling revivalists, but history has shown us that some were insincere. This same tendency arose also in the New Testament church (Acts 8:14ff.).

This pastor has been acquainted with “ministers” who have spoken of dreams which they claim to have had so that they have awakened in the morning to quit their present vocations and have presumed to serve the flock of God. In many cases, they had the barest acquaintance with the Word of God. In many cases, they do not meet the Biblical criteria for being a pastor. In most cases, they knew nothing of the original languages of the Bible. In many cases, they attracted a small group, preached for a while, and then their “church” was dissolved, sending immortal souls adrift in many cases no longer (if they ever were!) being catechized in the holy faith. Most claimed to be “non-denominational” and mistaught those who were under their care, substituting their ideas for the Word of God.

Keeping a Pastor Properly, and Immortal Souls

In the liturgy of the Divine Service most well known in Lutheran circles (TLH p. 15, LSB DS 3), the absolution begins thus: “Upon this your confession, I by virtue of my office as a called and ordained servant of the Word, . . . .” The word “ordained” does not refer so much to the act of ordination as it does to the fact that the pastor has been called in an “ordered/proper way,” that is, he has not participated in attempts to manipulate the process of his call to either the pastoral office or that particular congregation. Therefore, the congregation may be assured that they do not have a “fly by night” pastor but one who has been properly trained and who, they may be reasonably assured, will serve them faithfully because of that proper training.

And the point is . . .

. . . that our Lord Jesus Christ lived His perfect life and suffered His innocent death so that YOU can have the forgiveness of sins and eternal life in heaven. He wants faithful pastors to serve as shepherds over His flock.

Because there were those in the Church at the time of the Reformation who had forgotten the importance of a properly prepared and properly called clergy, the reformers wrote this article as they did. The need remains for Christendom today because God has redeemed you, dear reader, . . .
. . . In Christ,
Pastor Wollenburg

In Concordia The Lutheran Confessions A Reader’s Edition of the Book of Concord, there is this “forward” which is intended to help first time readers of the Augsburg Confession understand the context in which it was written:

“When this article speaks of a rightly ordered call, it refers to the Church’s historic practice of placing personally and theologically qualifeied men into the office of preaching and teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments. This is done by means of a formal, public, and official call from the Church to do so. When this article was presented, it was understaood that a call into the preaching office would be confiormed and formally recognized by means of the apostolic rite of ordination (with prayer and the laying on of hands). (See also Ap XIV; SA III X.) (Source: CONCORDIA The Lutheran Confessions A Reader’s Edition of the Book of Concord. p. 64. © 2005, CPH, St. Louis, MO.)

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord,, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

More of his work can be found at


Core Values for Christians: XIV Order in the Church, by Rev. Alan J. Wollenburg — 17 Comments

  1. One possible problem with the language of “values” is that “value” can be taken as originating subjectively within the individual in terms of his or her attitude toward something – perhaps a matter of taste, culture, or personal expression. I’ve noticed this shift in the dropping of the term “moral” in society in favor of “values” or what is “appropriate.”

    Does a value still exist if there isn’t anybody who values it? If something is principle, fact, or truth, it still exists whether or not someone believes it.

  2. Dear Pr. Frahm — Yes. And you are pointing out the subjectivity of the times then as well as now. Values must be taught. Children are taught the value of brushing their teeth, changing their undies, having the right friends, etc. b/c we know what happens when those things are neglected for too long. God blessed the reformers to write down and confess these values for the good of Christ’s Church then, and for the good of Christ’s Church today. I know you know that. 🙂 Thanks for the comment, good brother!

  3. FROM A FOOTNOTE IN A PAPER BY Dr. John Wohlrabe:

    In the Eggen Case of 1949, significant statements on the status of the Lutheran teacher were presented before the Federal Government. In order to secure for teachers the tax-free housing status that pastors enjoyed, synodical officials presented to the Internal Revenue Service a doctrinal position that was more closely in line with the Wisconsin Synod’s teaching on the ministry than that of the Missouri Synod as set forth in Kirche und Amt. The result was that the Synod adopted nomenclature that would satisfy the government’s requirements for offering clergy tax benefits to teachers and others serving in churchly offices. This new nomenclature did not necessarily reflect long-standing ecclesiastical terminology or the Synod’s doctrinal position with respect to the Office of the Holy Ministry and churchly offices. Those called to the Office of the Holy Ministry, the Preaching or Pastoral Office, were called “Ministers of Religion – Ordained,” while those holding churchly offices were called “Ministers of Religion – Commissioned.” Eventually, this was changed to “Ordained Ministers” and “Commissioned Ministers,” which the Synod uses today, but which still does not accurately reflect either ecclesiastical terminology or our Synod’s doctrinal position.

    For a more in depth analysis, see: John C. Wohlrabe, Jr., “An Historical Analysis of the Doctrine of the Ministry in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod until 1962,” pp. 247-252; or John C. Wohlrabe, Jr., Ministry in Missouri until 1962 (Private Printing, 1992), pp. 43-47.

  4. Yes, Pr. Frahm, the LCMS flat blew it on that one. We caved in to the teachers who wanted ‘minister’ status and thus we confused all kinds of issues. As one member of the parish which I currently serves says, “I know what a ‘minister’ is, and she ain’t it.” This is NOT to trivialize the incredible contributions to the support of the Office of Word and Sacraments in our parishes given by some of our wonderful teachers. But we did mess up when we started messing around with nomenclature regarding ‘the ministry.’

    As an aside, Dr. Wohlrabe is a dear and trusted friend from H.S. Though we graduated Sem at different times, we were close (I think “best” but he might think otherwise) friends in H.S. at good ol’ St. Paul’s College High in Concordia, MO. I give thanks to Christ for rock solid men like him and you and others.

  5. How does the idea of a “lay led” service square with this. A Pastor needs a vacation and with budgets tight, paying $75-$100 a week for a “visiting/guest Pastor” can get expensive; especially when many good Pastors get 3-4 weeks of vacation as well as out of town district committments. Could it be advisable for the Pastor to appoint someone from the Board of Elders to conduct service in his absence? Not for distribution of the Sacrament, just to conduct service, and either deliver a pre-approved “message” written by the Pastor, or by the Elder.

  6. Good question, Steve. I share your concern, and I think that you outline a fairly sound way of dealing with your pastor’s vacation. In my case, I would not ask the elder to write his own sermon but I would prepare one or get one which I could give to him (at the very least the local pastor should approve it because, even on vacation, he is God’s called servant there). I don’t mean that as a big put down of the elder but I think that it’s largely a matter of vocation: I no longer try to fix other people’s cars b/c that is not my vocation; rare is the farmer who will let me drive around one of his big expensive tractors (doggone it) with big expensive equipment b/c he knows that it is not my vocation; and so on . . . .

    What you describe is the exception rather than the rule. Something which has gone awry in too many churches is that the exception has become the norm and there is a confusion of vocations (and too often well meaning pastors have contributed to it).

    Again, I think that how you propose to handle it is not in conflict with the spirit of AC XIV. If you proposed to use that elder (or some other laymen) to fill that pastoral office, that would be in conflict with God’s intended order of things. We are obviously talking about usual circumstances here — but the problem which sometimes happens with unusual circumstances is that people try to turn those unusual circumstances into the usual order of things and then problems arise.

    One would hope that, when pastoral vacancies (or other difficult or unusual circumstances) arise, there would be confessionally grounded circuit counselors and District Presidents who would counsel congregations toward God-pleasing solutions which honor His Word and our Confessions.

  7. Steve’s question was asked and answered already in 1581…but most Lutherans seem to ignore the fact that the Church already established a way to provide for the congregation without violation of AC XIV. Our parish’s Constitution and Handbooks, however, contain the following as a remedy for the slippery slope (at best) of ‘elders’ (which term, in Scripture, refers to pastors) leading the liturgy and ‘reading a sermon’ (which ‘reading’ Luther recommended for pastors, btw). The pertinent section reads:


    Following the 1581 church order for Hoya, Germany, we adopt the office of Küster. A man who occupies this office is prepared to lead the parish (when the Pastor is ill or away) in the recitation of the Catechism (which he shall commit to memory), as well as to lead in congregational singing. He assists the Pastor in Baptisms, burials, and admitting and excluding people from the Lord’s Supper, as well as making sure that the church is clean and prepared for all services. He shall, therefore, neither absent himself from the Lord’s Supper nor set himself against the Pastor, but shall seek to assist him in all things. As this office includes the leading of the parish when the Pastor is not available for the regular Divine Service, a candidate for it should meet the same requirements (minus the extended training and ordination) as one would expect to be found in a candidate for the ordained Office of Deacon (1 Timothy 3:8–13).

    (Please tell me that now we don’t have to discuss Pr. Frahm’s insistence that Luther & Co. were wrong about the ordained Office of Deacon…)

    Wrt the “recitation of the Catechism” mentioned in the above, we have a ‘formal structure’ for that in use here…something that is demonstrably not ‘the liturgy’. No ‘sermon’ is read, although there is provision for an epistle from God’s Called servant to the parish, which will contain more than secular greetings; it is, however, appropriately brief and, appropriately, ‘reads like a letter’. Four hymns and the recitation of the entire Small Catechism take less than an hour.

    I see no reason why parishes should not be encouraged to use this historically-approved solution, rather than what has typically been the case in American Lutheranism, where the pastor was first replaced by a male teacher and, finally, ‘anybody’.


  8. The church has known the use of the term “ordination” to more than the one Christ-instituted office. The church has the freedom to create assisting orders and to put qualified persons under orders to carry out those duties. Such use of the term “ordination” is not in the usus loquendi of more recent Lutherans, even conservatives.

    The church from earliest times has known orthodox ways for the pastor or bishop to be helped without all such persons helping being other pastors.

  9. As I feared, we must endure more “Luther was dumb.”

    Just because the ancient Church did something, that doesn’t make it right.

    Luther, Chemnitz, and so on understood “deacon” to be what you Missourians call an “assistant pastor.”

    But, really, is it necessary to hijack Pr. Wollenburg’s article to repeat something that has already appeared ad nauseum on BJS elsewhere?


  10. Yep. Brilliant. You got me. I’m just another fundy functionalist. Now everybody knows. Oh the humanity.

    (BTW, anybody know where I can get some more copies of Oscar Feucht’s book for my adult Bible Study, or Don Abdon?) PTL, guy.

  11. Thank you Pr. Wollenburg for this treatment of article XIV. I think I need to try a similar approach in my congregation, where anything resembling conformity to the Confessions is sorely absent.

    What do you think we are to make of situations where the “elders” believe their vocation is one of governance over the called pastor, and feel entirely free to preach in his absence, without his input or oversight?

    This is what happened to me this summer when I was going to be gone for a Sunday on vacation. After much discussion, the board of elders concluded that one of them would lead the service and offer “the message,” though they were not sure who would take on the task at that time. Complicating matters, over half of our elders are women. On a separate occasion, one of these female elders was surprised and noticeably put off when I informed her that it would not be appropriate for her to take the pulpit. She said she knew of no justification for my argument.

    You rightly point out that the pastor, rigorously prepared and rightly called, is the right individual to oversee all preaching and teaching in a congregation. He has been trained in the Scriptures and the Confessions. It’s his life and character that has been tested and found as meeting the standards for the office. He is the one who has been called to shepherd, to lead.

    What is then to be made of Sunday school teachers who do not know the Confessions or regard them highly? What of teachers who openly admit to never having studied the Small or Large Catechisms? How about when such teachers are regarded as qualified by the education committee, which alone determines the qualifications for teachers and approves curriculum?

    Is the pastor still the pastor when his leadership is reduced to the non-voting seat of the council and elders, populated by whomever is willing to be elected, with no regard to qualifications? Previous council and elders at my congregation have included (most prior to my tenure, but some continuing now): member who maintained concurrent membership at a UCC church, member who openly expresses disagreement with Christ’s true presence in the Lord’s Supper, member who is now joining an ELCA church since that body is affirming her long-held belief that homosexuals should be welcomed into the church and into the ministry, and the LCMS is not.

    This is what I have to contend with when I say that our communion practice is too open, or that a contemporary song conveys heretical undertones and its regular use should cease, or that a certain person discovered in a public sin should abstain from communion until after consulting with me privately. Matters including the standards for teachers, qualifications and proper role for lay elders, contents of worship services and the use of the Divine Service vs. contemporary forms are all tied up in this as well. I don’t actually have a say – I get to make my case, and the committee votes. I believe it’s apostate, but it doesn’t really seem to matter what the pastor thinks.

    And for whatever it is worth, ought such nominal Lutherans hold nearly exclusive sway over the budget process, the handling of church property, or the selection of worthy outreach efforts? I have noted some on this site who seem to argue that these areas are not distinctly “Word and Sacrament,” and therefore, not necessarily under the pastor’s call – which I have a problem with. If Word and Sacrament is the ministry of the church, shouldn’t everything in the church supply and complement that ministry? How can such cooperation be guaranteed unless the pastor oversees these areas as well?

    Of course, I say oversee in the BIblical sense – not “lording over,” but as a shepherd who leads by example.

  12. Wow, Anonymous. There’s a whole lot of teaching that has to go on there, huh. You are trying. Please keep on trying. American evangelicalism and pragmatism and the whole confusion about vocations has taken its toll on the local congregation and on the souls who reside there. Will your circuit counselor help you? Or your district president? I will most assuredly pray for you and others who are burdened with so much false teaching that one hardly knows where or how to start. Elders who see themselves as watchdogs or as men who serve as “laypastors” (I can’t think of a better term but I think that the term is, deliberately, an oxymoron) simply do not know or understand the office of pastor as they ought.

    You are in a terribly difficult spot. How else can you begin but by teaching, teaching, and more teaching, with the prayer that some will pay attention and be changed. In truth, as you point, a huge issue in many parishes is the wicked attitude which too many laymen (and some clergy? I pray not!) have toward being students of God’s Word and students of the LUtheran confessions.

    God, help us thru Christ our Lord. Amen.

  13. Sad to say, but aren’t they all “policy” of Synod? At least my own congregation is in the same place. Us poor pew sitters haven’t a chance.

  14. Sad to say, but aren’t they all “policy” of Synod? At least my own congregation is in the same place. Us poor pew sitters haven’t a chance.

    And yet, hasn’t the Council of (District) Presidents rendered you (and the whole Church) a wonderful service by refusing to ‘protect’ those ‘renegade Confessional pastors’? By letting them get unjustly removed from/hurried out of their parishes to take low-paying jobs in various lines of work, haven’t they provided you “poor pew sitters” a fine body of bi-vocational theologians to choose from so that you can start new missions?

    Aren’t you “poor pew sitters” who have endured a famine of preaching just what the Lord has provided so that these ‘CRM’ pastors can finally turn to their former congregations, district presidents, and so on, and say, “You intended it for evil, but God intended it for good”?


  15. Hi, Pr. Stefanski – Sorry, I was away from the ‘puter for a day. As you point out, we are truly in trouble if/when we allow so many of these things to stand as permissible when in fact they are not permissible per the confessions or Holy Scripture. Even from a pragmatic standpoint, they are not permissible in that they cause so much confusion to souls that the Church (the local congregation) hardly knows what to do next — but even a cursory study of some of what goes on in churches where these errors are tolerated will surely note the damage to souls which long term tolerations brings about.

    I know what you will reply. Alas, I do not understand how some ecclesiastical supervisors can turn a blind eye or even encourage this stuff. I do remember the days of my youth when I would see my own father, conversing with other pastors, cringing at such misunderstandings.

    May the Lord grant us grace to heed Dr. A.L. Barry’s advise to first “get the message straight.” May God forgive us where we have been afraid to admit to our errors and to turn from them; and then may He lead us to do just that.

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