Life Together – Authority Abuse and Neglect

I presented the following for the congregation I serve during their annual Planning Council.  I think it could be useful for discussion.

Life Together – Authority and Responsibilities

            One of the keys in our Life Together as a congregation is authority.  Authority is a key word for us to understand as a congregation because authority is not power.  Power is taken.  Authority is given.  The use of the word “authority” always keeps in mind the one who gave the authority in the first place.  There is a much different way in which Christians are supposed to behave when we understand that the authority we have in the places that God puts us is from His hand.  Remember that Jesus has all authority in heaven and on the earth (Matthew 28).  He received that authority from God the Father, and He bestows certain parts of that authority to Christians in certain roles.

First of all, many times in the life of a congregation authority is abused or neglected.  Each of these affects the other.  If authority is abused (used improperly by someone given to exercise it; or used by someone not given to exercise it) then it often creates neglect by those who suffer from the abuse (others let the usurper exercise authority rather than confront it and suffer more abuse).  Neglect of authority likewise encourages abuses.  The damage is cyclical and it can really tear into a congregation.

Often this pattern of abuse and neglect happens with the interaction with clergy and laity.  Clergy have been known to “lord it over” congregations and become involved in matters in which they have no authority.  Clergy have also been known to be run under by laity who usurp the authority of the preaching/teaching office and demand a pastor do things that are contrary to Scripture.  Each of these is a horrible sin which causes collateral damage for generations.  Each of these abuses can cause neglect by the other “side”.  For instance, with a lording over clergyman, the laity may simply stop doing as they are supposed to do and submit in all things to the word of the pastor, even though the pastor has no authority over the congregation in such a matter.  With a usurping laity, the pastor may simply become a hireling and neglect the honest care of souls which requires both using the Law and Gospel.  In this case of pastoral neglect of the ministry, the pastor judges things not according to faithfulness but upon pleasing the people (and keeping himself in their good favor).

In every congregation’s life, these situations have occurred.  Sinners misuse authority, it is what they do.  Rebellion against authority comes naturally to the Old Adam, and so that rebellion will reveal itself in both abuse and neglect of authority in the congregation.  The only solution to that is both the Law of God to reveal such sin, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ to cover that sin with the forgiveness that creates New Life.

In that forgiveness is the solution to the problem of authority abuse or neglect.  Forgiveness leads us back into the Word of Truth, the Scriptures.  It is there where we find what God has given to the Church and what God has given to the Pastors (who are also a part of the Church).  Dr. Luther clearly showed this understanding when he wrote the Table of Duties for the Small Catechism.  This set the grounds for “authority” for us as we live out our lives.  Forgiveness frees us from worrying about pleasing God (Jesus has done that already for us) so that we can work hard on serving our neighbor.  Forgiveness cleans the slate of the past for us.  If embraced, it can create a fresh start for congregations which have suffered under authority abuse or neglect.

There are some key points that we need to consider with regards to authority in a forgiven Life Together.  First of all, we need to consider where God has placed us. In Divine Service, are you a preacher or a hearer?  In the congregation, are you clergy or laity?  In the congregation are you a communicant member or baptized member?  Has God placed you into a board or officer position?

That last one is most pertinent for us to consider here at this Planning Council.  God has given authority to the congregation.  He has created the Office of the Ministry within the congregation (Matthew 28; John 20).  To those pastors God has given the authority to publicly administer the keys (to forgive or not forgive) for the good of the souls of the congregation.  This is done through preaching, teaching, absolving, baptizing, communing, and providing spiritual care for members of the congregation.  This is the pastor’s authority.  It is handed over to the pastor through issuing a Divine Call, which is Christ’s action through the congregation.  Other things which are necessary in the congregation for it to go on are not in the pastor’s authority.  Decisions about money, property, and other things are not in the authority of the pastor, but in the congregation.  The pastor may and indeed should use his teaching authority to teach the Scriptures in these matters so that those who are given authority to act can do so with God’s wisdom.  This is why the congregation has set up boards to handle these other matters with the authority of the congregation behind them.

What is your authority as an elected officer or board member of this congregation?  First of all, consider your place.  Then go to those documents which spell out the authority found in that place.  That is usually spelled out for most congregations in their Constitution and Bylaws. These materials can be supplemented by policy manuals as well.  If you know your place in the congregation, consult those materials to find out which authority God has bestowed to you through the congregation.  Please note that the authority ultimately goes back to Christ, and also to the congregation.  What that means for you is that if the congregation decides to change who has the authority to do these things, it can do so (a congregation can override a board).

The Scriptures do not prescribe a certain kind of organization for the congregation (other than having a man fill the Office of the Ministry).  In all other things, we are encouraged to use our own reason, seasoned by and subjected to the wisdom which comes from God (found in His Word).  The Word teaches us that in a Life Together, love should rule the day in our interactions.  Love for each other should help us look past our sins against one another and work hard to come to common goals and solutions to any problem.  In all things, the pastor is always available to apply the Word of God to a given situation and if necessary, preach Law or Gospel or teach (as that is his authority from God).

As you consider the authority this congregation has given to you, it is wise to ask God for wisdom to conduct your duties with all godliness, keeping the good of the congregation and the glory of God in mind for all decision making.  We want all things to provide good order so that the pure Gospel can have free reign among our congregation and all of our members be found in good spiritual health.  We want to allow for our fellow members to be able to receive from God the good things He gives and then respond in praise and thanksgiving for what they have been given.  We want them freed with a good conscience so that they can serve the neighbor in love.  All of what we do has these things as goals.  If you have questions about understanding the authority given to you, talk to your pastor, who can teach you more about it.



About Pastor Joshua Scheer

Pastor Joshua Scheer is the Senior Pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He is also the Editor-in-chief of Brothers of John the Steadfast. He oversees all of the work done by Steadfast Lutherans. He is a regular host of Concord Matters on KFUO. Pastor Scheer and his lovely wife Holly (who writes and manages the Katie Luther Sisters) have four children and enjoy living in Wyoming.


Life Together – Authority Abuse and Neglect — 38 Comments

  1. With all due respect, this article misses the mark.

    First, authority doesn’t exist in a vacuum – it is always coupled with the obligation to discharge certain responsibilities within bounds of appropriate behavior. Behavior outside of those bounds should be opposed, and rightly so.

    Second, while forgiveness is needed to heal from abuse in the congregation, forgiveness is not a solution for cases where abuse and neglect is ongoing and the abuser is unrepentant. Just like Christ with the Pharisees, such people need the law applied to them, their behavior named for what it is, and if they continue in their unrepentant ways, then they need to be removed from their position.

    Finally, abuse in the church has remarkable parallels to workplace bullying: and as such may be difficult for others to identify it so they could do something about it.

  2. I have found it to be a wonderful thing to see a Pastor or other leader EARN the trust and respect of the flock. Too many leaders expect respect instead of earning it and for those of us who have seen the abuse of authority earning respect is the only way they will get it.

  3. @Tim Kuehn #1
    In regards to your “first” – where do I say that authority exists in a vacuum?

    In regards to your “second”, please reread the article:
    “In every congregation’s life, these situations have occurred. Sinners misuse authority, it is what they do. Rebellion against authority comes naturally to the Old Adam, and so that rebellion will reveal itself in both abuse and neglect of authority in the congregation. The only solution to that is both the Law of God to reveal such sin, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ to cover that sin with the forgiveness that creates New Life.”

  4. The voters’ assembly should be included in any discussion of the various structural entities authorized within a local church. The voters’ assembly consists of the adult (and somtimes male only) members of the congregation.

    Through its authority the voters’ assembly of a congregation:
    – issues a divine call to a pastor,
    – sets up and changes the constitutional distribution of authority among the representative governing entities within the congregation,
    – discusses and approves the operation budget of the congregation,
    – approves the transfer of members into and out of the congregation,
    – considers and votes on any excommunication of congregational members,
    – votes on the church’s participation in larger church bodies or synods,
    – considers and votes on memorials to be offered to regional or national conventions of the church body or synod,
    – considers and votes on nominations or nominees for offices in the church body or synod,
    – votes on whether to sever the relationship with a larger church body or synod,
    – votes on whether to dissolve the congregation and the disposing of church property.

    Those are important powers for which the voters’ assembly has authority to use. It is also important that they not be relinquished through some episcopal polity.

  5. @pastor Scheer – For point #1: No, you didn’t say authority existed in a vacuum, however this article – like most others that I’ve read on authority – fail to make the coupling between authority and responsibility.

    For #2: When “speaking” the Law isn’t doesn’t curb continued and unrepentant abuse, then it’s time to move from “speak”ing the Law in words to “speak”ing it by removing the offending person(s) from their position.

  6. @Tim Kuehn #5
    I am sorry that my article doesn’t make the coupling you desire.

    Yes, removal is the ultimate in lovingly speaking the law, the final step.

  7. Carl Vehse is absolutely correct. The ultimate authority in any
    LCMS parish is the Voters Assembly. They have the power to
    issue a divine call to a pastor and to depose a pastor who
    is guilty of teaching false doctrine or leading an immoral life.

    The pastor is called to teach and preach the Gospel and
    administer the Sacraments. As such he does his pastoral
    ministry as Christ’s representative in that congregation.
    His ministry is one of servanthood as he serves the flock
    of Christ with unselfish love. To be talking about power
    and authority contradicts the calling of a pastor as a
    humble servant of Christ.

  8. While congregations issues the call, that does not equate to an unfettered right to depose the pastor. The call comes THROUGH but not FROM the congregation; it comes from God and God alone. Certainly the teaching of false doctrine is grounds for removal – but not because the voter’s assembly is some high counsel; rather removal is permissible because the pastor is violating the true authority – -God’s Word.

  9. I am surprised how many are using authority and power as synonyms. There is a difference. Authority is always tied to someone else who gives it. Power is something within oneself or taken from others.

    @Larry Nelson #7
    Larry – can you give me a chapter and verse for the Voters Assembly being the ultimate authority in the parish? Partly in jest, I would say that according to the logic of the voter’s assembly being the ultimate authority in the parish, you wouldn’t have to give chapter and verse, but meeting date and resolution passed.

    Thus says the Lord is quite definitive.

    @The Rev. BT Ball #8

    @Joe Olson #9
    The only thing I would say to correct what you said is that it is willful adherence to false doctrine. That means it is false doctrine that when confronted by the Word of God (not Voters’ Assembly), the pastor continues to teach error. It is important to note that laity are to offer correction to their pastors, and pastors are to be humble enough to accept the correction of the Lord as it comes from the sheep using His Word. Other than that small correction what you say is right on.

  10. @Carl Vehse #4
    I would agree to what you say.
    In my context, I was addressing the boards and elected officers, which had been delegated authority from the Voters to do certain things.
    I have seen the authority to transfer and release members given to the Elders (notably by the Constitution which was ratified by the Voters).

  11. @Paul Becker #12

    Their choice, probably influenced by Scandinavian practice.
    (LCMS didn’t create all the overseas Lutheran churches.)

    As I remind Carl from time to time, Walther would have
    accepted a call to be “bishop” after Stefan, if Stefan hadn’t
    soured the laity on that idea.

    @The Rev. BT Ball #8

    The constitutions usually mention the Word as ultimate authority.
    Some men joining Voters’ may even read the constitution, once. 🙁

  12. @Pastor Joshua Scheer #10

    Pastor Scheer – the dictionary lists authority and power as synonyms. It don’t it is out of bounds of the english language to use the words in this way.

    Perhaps there you are referring to only a theological difference betweent the two words? Is the means of obtaining power and authority their only difference?

    More to the point, is it sinful for a congregation or a pastor to demand obedience of anyone in matters where the scriptures are silent? People are called and gifted by God to perform certain functions within the church. Is the church congregation or pastors required to make this call efficacious, or do they recognize what God has already done and act in response and obedience to Him?

  13. @Joe #15
    People are called and gifted by God to perform certain functions within the church. Is the church congregation or pastors required to make this call efficacious, or do they recognize what God has already done and act in response and obedience to Him?

    Lutherans usually recognize a call by God “through the congregation”, (the Pastor being a member of the congregation, as some souls seem to forget.)

    So I’m afraid I don’t understand you. Please explain how this “called and gifted by God” occurs.

  14. @Joe #15
    Thank you for putting the best construction on my “definition” omission. It would be a theological difference for sure. I am not sure if it is their only difference, it is the only one I wanted to highlight in this article.

    Demanding obedience in areas where Scripture is silent is difficult. First of all, not all agree on certain things that Scripture is silent. I am not sure there are actually many things the Scriptures do not at least provide some guidance on. Secondly, as Christians we often willingly submit ourselves to certain things out of love for the neighbor. Thirdly, we often willingly submit ourselves to things out of necessity.

  15. Very interesting thread. Pastor Scheer speaks from a point of view that doesn’t include seasoning and experience. After a pastor has dealt with these issues for years and years he learns how to navigate with the skill not dissimilar from a surgeon using a scapel. Seems to me if you you have to tell someone you’re in authority, you’re probably not. If you have to legitimize your power, your probably inert. The admonition from Romans 12 is pretty powerful as well, “as much as it depends on you, live at peace with all people.”

  16. @Tim Klinkenberg #21
    Didn’t Jesus tell the disciples that He had authority?
    My article is meant to point out abuses from the pulpit and the pew and encourage repentance and faith to work together. I would suggest reading it again. Peace.

  17. @Pastor Scheer…of course Jesus told the disciples they had authority (exousia) not power (dunamis) but when you have to tell somebody you have authority over them and they are obligated to respect you because of your authority, you have lost. When you exercise authority in the way of the gospel, you don’t need to flex your authority or power so everybody knows you have it.. Your authority comes through your words, your tone, your own being. We begin our sermons with ‘grace to you and peace’ not “hey be quiet and hear me because I’m in authority.” It’s a find distinction but one that when mad can lead to a long a joyful ministry. Most pastors who demand authority seldom receive what they demand, and lose respect in the exchange. TK

  18. @Pastor Joshua Scheer #19

    Thanks for responding to my post and sorry about all the typos in my first message!
    I need a better editor!

    Would you agree that now, as throughout history there have been people called
    and ordained as pastors and ministers of God, who have held the office yet are false
    teachers? The command of God to all His people is to resist and separate with such ones.
    If the role of the congregation is to submit and unconditionally obey the pastor,
    then wouldn’t the congregation be violating the command of God by not examining the pastor to make sure that his teaching is in agreement with the Word?

  19. @Tim #23
    Tim, I think we are saying the same thing, but I will say that Jesus did actually tell others of the authority given to Him.
    There is a respect due to the office of the ministry (because Jesus made it), and then there is a respect that a man may earn/lose from how he conducts himself in that office.
    My point was to show how clerical authority abuse or neglect and lay authority abuse and neglect can have lasting effects and hopefully to encourage discussion on the matter.

    @Joe #24
    Certainly there are misfits or false teachers that are in the office. Most great movements against the Truth in history have been led by men who were false teachers in the office. That is exactly why the sheep should judge the shepherd, to discern what sort of teacher that he is. The congregation is obligated to hold the pastor accountable to the Word of God (for the pastor’s own soul’s sake and of course for the congregations).

  20. @Joe #2: “If the role of the congregation is to submit and unconditionally obey the pastor,”

    Actually, it’s not “unconditional”- it’s conditional on the pastor’s work among his flock being consistent with Scripture, since pastors are under Christ’s explicit command:

    But Jesus called them to him and said, ?“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles ?lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. ?It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but ?to serve, and ?to give his life as a ransom for ?many.” Mt 20:25-28

    This is a far cry from a pastor demanding unconditional (and doubtless unquestioning) obedience of his flock. Such is the path to cults and other forms of abuse.

  21. Hey Tim…now Tim Kuehn is onto soemthing. I guess I can’t remember one time in the gospels where Jesus said, “Because I have authority over you, now you need to obey me.” Jesus did teach as one with authority. It had nothing to do with his telling them, it had to do with the weight and content of his teaching. I guess I’d feel pretty funny starting my Bible Study on Tuesday’s with, “Hey I have authority over you, so buckle up, shut up and hold on.” But because I’m able to teach them the Scriptures, or in the case of our current study the catechism, it’s the content of the teaching that gives the authority, not the man. I guess I’d need to think about the distinction between authority and obedience.

  22. @Tim #28 – Somewhere in Scripture Paul writes something to the effect of “For deal not in words, but in power”, and “there are those who have the form of religion, but deny it’s power.”

    The power of the Word isn’t “just” in the words themselves, but in the Words combined with the power of the Holy Spirit using them that gives them weight, power, and authority.

  23. These posts only solidify the misunderstanding of the church at large of the use of the word “authority” within the congregation. Christ and His word are the authority within the church. In the call of the pastor, he is delgated to carry out that authority in the name and stead of Christ. All other offices within the congreagtion are derived in some way from the one divinely ordained office, and therefore are auxilary to or derive from the pastoral office.

    The ministry is no mere outgrowth of the congregations, for reasons of good order and efficiency. While these latter benefits might be true, the fact remains that the ministry itself is not the creation of the congregation or church but of God Himself. It came into being, and still does, by divine ordering, not human design. Not first-century wisdom, enlighted perhaps by the discretion of the early-church leaders, not even the apostles, but God’s own directive to His church called the pastoral ministry into existence. (Klug)

    By his acceptance of a congregation’s call a pastor assumes responsibility for the public exercise of the office, for the preaching and teaching of the Word, the administering of the sacraments, for exhortation to repentance and faith, for discipline, for consolation in time of trial and cross-bearing. (Klug)

    Congregations are to heed and respect the ministry of their faithful pastors. Only “when they teach or ordain anything against the Gospel,” do they “have a commandment of God prohibiting obedience.” (AC XXVIII, 20ff; cf. Apol. XXVIII, 13; Tractate 60) (Klug)

    The office of the ministry “is the highest office in the Church” (C.F.W. Walther, Church and Ministry)

    A church cannot abrogate the public pastoral office. But can it exist without the assistant pastor, vicar, parochial school teacher, elders, deacons, professors at synodical institutions, district and synodical presidents and other offices? Theoretically at least, the church or church body could dispense with some or all of these offices without harming the church itself. But that could not be said for the pastoral office, which Christ through His apostles mandated in the church for its upbuilding, nurture, growth, and spiritual life. It may not be abrogated. The functions, therefore, of these auxillary offices are divinely ordained or instituted functions. They belong to the pastoral office. But the particular form, structure, or polity under which the congregation or goup of congregations employs or structures them is a matter of Christian liberty. That liberty, under no circumstance extends to the pastoral office itself. It remains the focal center of the total work of the ministry in a given place, or in a synodical confederation of like-minded congregations united in one faith. (Klug)

    Therefore, regarding “authority” a pastor speaks and acts with the authority of Christ, as he carries out the functions of the pastoral office to preach the Word, distribute the sacraments, and minister to our Lord’s flock in that place. No others in the congregation are called on, without the shepherding of the pastor, to the exercise this authority.

  24. @Rev. Toby Byrd #31

    So a church can’t exist without a pastor? I thought one of the main points of the reformation is that the church is the congregation, or collection of believers, not the leadership. Why do the scriptures always talk about churches have multiple leaders (i.e. deacons, elders, etc) if everyone must answer to one man in an office above and superior to all others?

    Can lay people disagree with the pastor about theological issues then, or are they just supposed to think and believe as they are told about every little thing? Obviously now and throughout Lutheran history there have been debates and disagreements about hosts of issues. Are only pastors allowed to have a voice in these debates? Sould the laymen just sit quietly until the clergy have made up their mind and deliver the answer ex cathedra? That’s a joke! Seems like that is exactly the opposite attitude of what was practiced during seminex…

  25. Joe:

    The answer to your first question is no, a church cannot function without a pastor, someone must be called to assume the responsibilty of the office of the keys. In an emergency, that someone may be a suitable member of the laity of the local congregation who is called by the congregation to be their pastor. Regardless, of their background, a pastor is called to distribute the Means of Grace, the Saving Word of the Gospel and the sacraments, to hear confession and pronounce absolution, ensure orderly worship, teach, and preach lest chaos ensue. If the congregation is a LCMS congregation, then by all means the person called to assume the duties of the office of the keys should always be one who has been duly trained and certified in the functions of the office of the ministry according to the standards set by the Synod.

    Article V of the Augsburg Confession states: “1 To obtain such faith God instituted the office of the ministry, that is, provided the Gospel and the sacraments. 2 Through these, as through means, he gives the Holy Spirit, who works faith, when and where he pleases, in those who hear the Gospel. 3 And the Gospel teaches that we have a gracious God, not by our own merits but by the merit of Christ, when we believe this.
    4 Condemned are the Anabaptists and others? 5? who teach that the Holy Spirit comes to us through our own preparations, thoughts, and works without the external word of the Gospel.

    Moreover, Article XIV of the Augsburg Confessions clearly states: “It is taught among us that nobody should publicly teach or preach or administer the sacraments in the church without a regular call.”

    Furthermore, in addition to the lesson on the Third Commandment, the Small Catechism teaches:

    “Duties Christians Owe Their Teachers and Pastors“?

    Remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages?” (?Luke 10:7?). “?The Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel?” (?1 Cor. 9:14?). “?Let him who is taught the word share all good things with him who teaches. Do not be deceived; God is not mocked?” (?Gal. 6:6?, ?7?). “?Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching; for the scripture says, ‘?You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain,?’ and ‘?The laborer deserves his wages?’?” (?1 Tim. 5:17?, ?18?). “?We beseech you, brethren, to respect those who labor among you and who are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves?” (?1 Thess. 5:12?, ?13?). “?Obey your leaders and submit to them; for they are keeping watch over your souls, as men who will have to give account. Let them do this joyfully, and not sadly, for that would be of no advantage to you?” (?Heb. 13:17?).

    Regarding multipile leaders, the Scripture does not speak of elders and deacons on the same level. The duties of Elders (overseers) were to teach and preach (3:2; 5:17), to direct the affairs of the church (1 Tim. 3:5; 5:17), to shepherd the flock of God (Ac 20:28) and to guard the church from error (Ac 20:28–31). Deacons are those such as were chosen in Acts 6:1-6. Their duties were to free the elders so they could concentrate on prayer and the ministry of the Word. As regards those in the LCMS today who are called elders of a congregation, their duties would be more closely aligned with those described as deacons in the Scripture. Their function is to assist the pastor of the congregation at his discretion and supervision.

    Regarding your second question, I don’t believe my response every insinuated that the laity is to blindly follow the teaching of a pastor. In fact, I would that every member of every congregation were like the Bereans, who received the Word from Paul with all eagerness, but examined the Scripture daily to see if what Paul said was true (Acts 17:11). The laity is responsible for judging the teaching and preaching of their pastors to ensure that what is being taught is truly God’s Word. Whether the laity can or cannot have a voice in a debate is really dependent on their capability to add substance to the discussion. Obviously, from the start of the Reformation, Melanchthon, who was a laymen, had a great voice in what was said.

    However, this digresses from your first question, can the church exist without a pastor. I would simply point you to a few examples from Scripture; Ex. 28:1; 1 Tim. 1:3; Titus 1:5. We are all members of a holy priesthood, but we are not all called into the ministry of the Word.

  26. Yeah but…we have decided that a rightly called worker is only a candidate from a seminary after a prescribed set of courses and experiences. I”m not sure the authority comes in being seminary trained as much as it comes from the Office of the Keys in and through the congregation. Again, once you have to say, “I have authority because I have a call, or I have the power because I”m from the seminary.” You’re really lost the battle and depending on the circumstance the war.

  27. @Rev. Toby Byrd #33

    1. Your conclusion does not follow your evidence and is a logically fallacy. You assert that the church cannot function without a pastor – and then quote Article V of the Augsburg confession which does not state the necessity of a pastor, but the purpose of the pastor. Your quote from the Augsburg confession correctly points out that the actual requirement for the church to function and exist is the Word. Imposing the need of a pastor or anyone else on top of the Word is going beyond the scriptures and the confessions.

    2. You quote Article XIV of the Augsburg confession, which also betrays your position and doesn’t support your conclusion. Nowhere does Article XIV state that a pastor is required for the church to exist or function, and nowhere does it state that there must only be one person holding a single office in supreme authority above all others. This article does state that anyone who teaches or administers the sacraments publically should have a regular call – so every single person who walks in the door is not qualified to be a teacher or pastor – as the Lutheran church was accused of teaching by the RCC at the time. Article XIV is in accordance with scripture that teacher(s) should be qualified according to the requirements provided in the Word before teaching and leading others. Article XIV does not place a limit on the number leaders or the false imposition that one of the teachers must hold ultimate authority over all of the others.

    3. Your quotes from the Small Catechism also don’t follow or support your argument in any way. Nowhere is it stated that elders are required for the church to function or exist (please note that elders and deacons are plural in the verses you quoted to support your own position. This is evidential of the true Biblical model of the church as being Christ as the one supreme head and all others being of equal position but differing roles beneath Him). The Scriptures and the Small Catechism call people to submit to teaching and leading of church leaders who are truly dispensing the Word and Sacraments, and to share material goods with them. Nowhere does this impose the necessity of a single leader.

    4. You state that the deacons were chosen in Acts to assist the pastor at his discretion and supervision. Yet in Scripture, Deacons are chosen to help serve the congregation to prevent preaching and prayer from being neglected by the Apostles. The conclusion that elders or deacons can only act as directed and under the supervision of the Pastor does not follow. Deacons are specifically listed as helping serve the congregation food. What food do you think they are talking about? Pot luck dinners? Men’s group barbeque? Again, the scriptures you quote in support of your position don’t follow your conclusion, but entirely undermine it.

  28. Joe:

    It would appear you have something against pastors. However, just to give you a Lutheran perspective from Walther’s Church and Ministry we have regarding pastors:

    Thesis I: The holy ministry or pastoral office is an office distinct from the priesthood of all believers. 1 Cor. 12:29; Rom. 10:15; James 3:1. Witness, Article XIV. Luther: “For from the whole assembly of Christians some must be taken who shall rule the others, [namely,] to whom God has given special gifts and skills so that they are competent to adminster the office.

    Thesis II: The ministry of the Word or the pastoral office is not a human institution but an office that God Himself has established. Ps. 68:11; Jer. 3:15; Matt. 10; 28:18-20; Luke 9:1-10; MArk 16:15; John 20:21-23; 21:15-17; Luke 10:1-22. Luther: “You are not lords over the pastors and the ministry, for you have not instituted it, but God’s Son alone [has]. Nor have you added anything to it, so you have a lesser claim to it than the devil has to the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, you must neither criticize nor instruct, neither hinder nor rebuke it [the ministry]. For it is God’s [business] to punish and not man’s.

    Thesis VIII: The pastoral ministry [Predigtamt] is the highest office in the church, and from it stem all other offices in the church. 1 Tim. 3:1, 5, 7; 5:17; 1 Cor. 4:1; Tit. 1:7; Heb. 13:17. Formula of Concord, Thorough Declaration, Art. X, par. 10; …..”especially the ministers of the Word of God, as those whom the Lord has placed at the head of His church to rule it.” Luther: “Nevertheless it [the ministry] is the highest office, on which all others depend and follow. Again, wherever the ministry does not exist, no other office follows. The same: He must have servants, and these are the deacons who serve the congrgation in such a way that they have a list of all the poor people and care for them in all their needs with the money of the congregation, visit the sick, and in every way handle the supplies with great care.”

    Thesis Xa: To the ministry there is due respect as well as unconditional obedience when the pastor uses God’s Word. 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11; Acts 20:28; 1 Cor. 4:1; 2 Cor. 5:18-20. Luther: “In short, whoever we may be, they must receive the Gospel, absolution, and the Sacrament from their pastors and called ministers and not despise this divine institution if they desire their salvation. For if God wanted to establish it otherwise, He would have preferred them and commanded them to speak before others and ordered us to be silent and listen to them.” The same: “In the third place, it is true that we owe obedience to all persons who have been called into the ministry of the Word and sacraments and who truly do this great, divine work, rightly preach the Gospel, and administer the sacraments according to the divine command, whether they are called bishops, ministers, or pastors. We owe them this by God’s command in all matters that the Gospel prescribes or forbids at the peril of eternal damnation, according to the passage: ‘He who hears you hears Me, and he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejexts Him who sent Me’ (Luke 10:16).”

    It is my sincerest prayer Joe that you will come to a right understanding of the office of the holy ministry as something more than just another mouth to spew forth moralistic or feel-good stories to chastise or entertain pew sitters. It is an office of divine origin and those who fill it are called into it by God, both by the Spirit and through the congregation, to be an undershepherd of His flock in that place, leading them as the one true representative of the Shepherd, Jesus Christ.

  29. Thanks for another response. Unfortunately you ignored all of my disagreements from my previous post in which I explained how your arguments are imposing conclusions on the confessions that they themselves don’t necessitate. I also find your two opening sentences very insulting – first of all that I have something against pastors because I dare to disagree with you, and second that you need to give me a Lutheran perspective, as if your position is somehow more Lutheran than mine, or as if I am completely ignorant of a Lutheran point of view. I am disappointed that you have completely avoided a reasonable defense of your position and have retreated into personal attacks. I also regret that you seem to be using your same flawed model of the office of pastor in your dealings with me, as if everything you write is somehow superior to what I write because of your office – hence you have no need of stooping so low as to actually defend yourself against such a worm as me. Yet you have no idea what office I hold, if any.

    You again provide excellent quotes from additional texts, yet they still fail to support your position and entirely support mine. Thesis I, for example, your first quote, states clearly that the pastor comes from the congregation, not from some leader or ruler above the congregation. It also clearly states that God is the person who enables the pastor to fill the role and the office that God has called him to – the congregation recognizes God’s work and obediently appoints the man God has enabled. The quote also does not state that there must be only one who is superior to all others. The one word that may even slightly support your point is “rule,” that “of the whole assembly of Christians some must be taken who shall rule over the others.” What does Martin Luther mean here? Rule as a King or Emperor where all submit to one supreme monarch? Of course not! Such a conclusion would completely ignore the more important council of Scripture that clearly states that true Godly leadership is to be a suffering servant of those you are leading.

    You quote thesis II next, which clearly states along with Scripture, that God does not leave his people stranded and without aid. The congregation does not enable or make the pastor, and the congregation cannot remove the pastor, or add to or diminish his responsibilities. God does this by calling and enabling people of His choosing, who then obey and deliver God’s Word. The last sentence from your quote of thesis II does not mean that Christians cannot criticize, instruct, hinder or rebuke anything done or said by the person who is the pastor. Such a conclusion would directly contradict the Scriptural command from God that all people examine what they are taught to make sure it is accordance with the one true Gospel delivered once and for all to the Saints. “Therefore, you must neither criticize nor instruct, neither hinder nor rebuke it [the ministry]. For it is God’s [business] to punish and not man’s.” This means that Christians are not forsake the pastor or organized church, even when we want to. This undoes the contemporary notion of “church shoppers,” people who view the church only as a means of entertainment or moral instruction. Again, this does not elevate the pastor to a level beyond any examination or correction by lowly peasant members of the congregation!

    Thesis VIII – again, nowhere in this quote is it stated that there must be one pastor with complete authoritarian power over all others in the congregation. Nowhere does this quote state that a pastor is necessary for the church to exist or function. “Again, wherever the ministry does not exist, no other office follows.” This sentence does not mean that the church cannot exist without a pastor. Such a conclusion would clearly contradict Scripture, which is the authority above any pastor. Thesis VIII is correct that the ministry of the Word of God is the highest office and calling in the church. The people called and enabled by God to do this are therefore endeavoring in the highest office in the church. No other office or position is above them that validates their authority, like a Pope. The quote is also correct in that no other office in the church exists if no one is ministering the Word to a collection of believers. All of the other offices exist to assist with that ministry – which is bringing the Word and sacraments to believers. All other church offices don’t exist to serve the pastor! They exist to assist the Pastor in better leading the congregation to Christ!

    Thesis XA excellent states my point! Thank you for copying and pasting it into your response! Thesis XA clearly states that it is the Word of God that is the source and limit of any Christians obedience to a pastor. We shouldn’t hate the church or the pastor, we shouldn’t neglect meeting with them – even if we think they are boring or dim whitted. We can’t find God just as well in a fishing boat as many in our day claim. Disobeying a pastor who is actually performing his called duty is exactly the same thing as disobeying the Lord Jesus Christ, not because the pastor has some special power given to him by a title, but because he is proclaiming God’s words! At the same time, the pastor is only to be obeyed when he is in agreement with the Word – which requires that those in the congregation examine what the pastor is directing them to do against the higher authority of the Word. It also limits the pastor to prevent them from expecting obedience in matters outside of the Word and also prevents Christians from being yoked into slavery by tyrants claiming to be pastors. It also forbids the congregation from thinking that the pastor exists for their own amusement and can be dismissed or manipulated at their will. The pastor is there to deliver God’s Word, not put on a circus show. Thesis XA also clearly states that those who hate and forsake the preaching and teaching of the Word, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper do so to their own damnation – because it is through these means that God’s unmerited favor is extended to us, and by these means we accept it. The pastor is not a means of grace – but true pastors lead others and point them to the means of grace which are outside and apart from the pastor.

    Thank you for your sincere prayers. There is no doubt that I need them, and please keep them coming! I’ve never claimed on this blog or anywhere else to my knowledge that pastors are nothing more than “just another mouth to spew forth moralistic or feel-good stories to chastise or entertain pew sitters.” However, I will permit no man to claim for himself the obedience and authority owed to no one but my Lord Jesus Christ. He spoke the world into existence. He alone lived a sinless life, suffered, and died that I may live. He alone conquered death and rose again for my justification. To Him alone belongs all authority, all dominion, all power, and all glory now and forever. Any pastor worth his salt would wholeheartedly agree.

    @Rev. Toby Byrd #36

  30. Joe:

    If I insulted you, please forgive me. However, your responses have more than an air of arrogance to them.

    You have implied that somehow I have asserted that a pastor is superior to all others in the church. If so, show me where. I have always and only spoken of the pastoral office and its “authority”. I made this clear in my first post.

    As regards any defense I need in holding firm to my position, I have stayed away from personal opinions and relied solely on Scripture, the Lutheran Confessions and Lutheran theologians of great note. However, from your response these aren’t convincing enough for you.

    In regards to your response to my use of Art. V of the AC, you state this article does not state the necessity of a pastor, but only his purpose. However, if this is the case, then why do we have Art. XIV of AC which clearly states who may provide the purpose for which you say Art. V is written; only one who has been rightly called.

    As regards your reference to elders and deacons, it matters not whether these words are plural or singular, I never asserted there couldn’t be more than one pastor of a church. However, even you must admit, if there are, there is one who is the senior pastor and all others are under his supervision. As for deacons, they may well have served pot luck dinners and barbeques, for it is elders who are appointed in every church to pastor the congregations (Acts 14:23). Moreover, from Art. XIV it is clear that we believe that only elders are authorized to preach the Word and distribute the sacraments. However, if you desire to argue another position, then you would have to go outside the Lutheran Confessions.

    Returning to your earliest disagreement with my posting that a church cannot abrogate the public pastoral office (Professor Eugene Klug). The office and its functions are divinely ordained and therefore they cannot be abrogated. To believe that a congregation could exist in perpituity without this office is contrary to Scripture. In our chuch body, if a group of people are brought together to worship as a mission congregation, they must be pastored. This may be a mission pastor, a vacancy pastor, or a supervising pastor writing the sermon for a laymen to read, but they must be pastored. Moreover, the distribution of the sacraments must be done by an ordained minister of the Word. To do otherwise is outside the Lutheran Confessions and the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. This in itself implies “authority.”

    You’re correct when you say I know nothing about you, which is a failing of this type of communication. I do though believe you have taken my postings and done them injustice, implying that somehow I am supporting an autocratic, authoritarian position for the office of the ministry. I have never implied that. To the contrary, I have simply stated what Scripture, the Lutheran Confessions, and Luther, Walther, and Klug have said, and their meanings are clear and irrevocable. In all matters of the public office of the ministry, and that implies all matters pertaining to the proclamation of the Gospel, divine service, evangelism, witnessing, canvassing, et. al. the pastor is the final authority for its content and distribution. Does he do this without consultation and cooperation with the congregation, no there are some areas where consultation and cooperation are necessary, but certainly not all. A good example would be closed communion. If the congregation desired an open communion practice, an orthodox, Lutheran pastor could not subscribe to such a practice. Thus he would have to exercise his “authority” in this matter.

    Hopefully Joe this makes my position a little clearer, but if not, I apologize. I guess I’m just not intellectual enough for your edification. Blessings.

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