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.)

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