Andrew at Evangelical, Catholic, Missional, Faithful (maybe he can tell me what “missional” means; where did that word come from, anyway?) has an interesting take on the state of affairs in the Missouri Synod.
(My comments here should not be taken in any sort of antagonistic way. Anyway, how could they be? Andrew’s a Seahawks fan!)
He describes two groups of people: Group A and Group B. His sympathies are wholly with Group B. Now, I realize that generalizations are exactly that: general. However, since I can see my own opinions (obviously unintentional on Andrew’s part; I don’t think we’ve ever talked theology) described partially in Group A, I feel that a response is warranted.
Andrew’s description of Group A:
Group A says that Christians do not need to get involved in Church to be considered more mature Christians. They are holy and are serving God in their vocations as mothers, fathers, bankers, etc.
It all depends what you mean by “get involved in Church to be considered more mature Christians.” If you mean that the more time that you spend on church grounds, the more mature you are, I wholeheartedly dispute that. Even if you’re there for “spiritual” activities like Bible study. There is no necessary causal link between the two. As for “being holy” in one’s vocation–surely you can’t argue with that? Suggesting that only work done in and explicitly for the Church is holy is unChristian and it piles on the guilt for those who are legitimately carrying out their God-given responsibilities such as taking care of their families.
Not everyone is a minister. The Pastor leads worship, preaches, administers the sacraments, teaches bible study, visits the sick, and does funerals and weddings. This is his vocation. Not all have been called to this vocation, so Christians should not presume to begin new “ministries” or “programs” or “small group bible studies.” There is only One Office of the Holy Ministry, not many ministries. The Pastor is called to teach, so lay people should not lead or teach bible studies, because that is not their vocation.
I’m not sure if you’re disagreeing with the “job description” of the pastor, but it is simple common sense that he has one vocation while others have different vocations. But then you make a big leap to “so Christians should not presume….” It is not true that other Christians cannot start something. But if the pastor is the one called to spiritual oversight in a particular place, and if he is the one who must guard against false teaching, it only seems right to talk to him about it before starting a home Bible study group.
The fact that the pastor is called to teach does not mean that no one else can teach or lead. It does mean that they can’t teach whatever they want without pastoral oversight.
Running throughout this discussion is the distinctly American idea that faith is my personal thing and you can’t tell me what to think. “Teaching them to keep everything which I have commanded you” is diametrically opposed to this idea. It’s not what you or I or anyone else thinks about faith that is important; it’s what Jesus said and did. The pastor is there specifically to lead and teach. Who goes to the doctor and tells him her opinion on how best to treat her? “That’s just your opinion, Doctor. But it’s my own personal body, and I think I’m going to do things this way. Hey, I read some medical journal articles; I think I can treat myself.”
“Not everyone is a minister.” Definitions, defintions. If you’re going to define it so broadly as to mean only “servant,” well, of course. Who ever said, “NO! You cannot be a servant”?
But more on that in the next post.