Laypeople as Pastors, Pastors as CEOs

ordMost of the major issues of any contention before the LCMS convention this year were centered around our understanding of the Office of the Holy Ministry.  Basically, the contention centered on the question, “What things has God given ordained pastors (and only ordained pastors) to do?”

Our church body has struggled with the issues for decades now.  And ever since Synod met in Wichita in 1989 and said that laypeople could do may things formally only done by the ordained, we have been engaged not only in theoretical discussions about this issue but have been dealing with all sorts of situations which seem at odds with one of the articles of the Augsburg Confession, the document which is meant to most clearly define for us Lutherans what it means to be faithful to Christ:

Article XIV says, “It is taught among us that nobody should publicly teach or preach or administer the sacraments in the church without a regular call.”

We have watched many men (and some women) start to publically teach and administer the sacraments without being ordained by God through the Church to do so. 

At our convention this year, we started to talk more about how to meet the needs of those being served by these people without acting in contradiction to the Scripture’s teaching about the Office of the Holy Ministry.  Progress is much slower than many would like but it did seem that the Synod recognized that there is an issue and will move forward to study and then hopefully correct the situation.  We will move toward ordaining those who are doing these things already and we will move towards making clear that those not ordained as pastors should not be doing them.  This will mean much discussion on what is required for ordination but those discussions are much better to have than the ones we have been having.

And yet, while the direction of our last convention seems to be right on this issue, there are many members of the Synod at the same time arguing that the health of the church  depends on us not only embracing the ideas accepted back at Wichita in 1989 but taking another leap forward.

Person Stepping Onto Change ButtonIf Wichita told us that laypeople could be pastors, the next step is to tell pastors they no longer need to be pastors.  Let me explain.  There are those who wish to free pastors from the traditional tasks associated with Word and Sacrament ministry so that they can start to “lead” instead.  Oh, they are to still be called pastors, but they are to use that title to “lead” rather than caring for people through Word and Sacrament ministry.

Listen to words from a blog post which one of the leaders of a synod RSO called one of the best articles he had read in a long time:

Too often members—and even the church leadership culture expectations—focus more on caring for the members through deep and wide pastoral care. Hospital, nursing home, and home visitation are essential in most churches—particularly those under 350 in attendance. Then of course, there are marriages, counseling sessions, crisis counseling, funerals, follow-up bereavement care and counseling. Not to mention membership and spiritual formation counseling. If the pastoral leaders, deacons, and elders do all the expected caring, we have little time to lead the church forward. There’s only so much time in a day and so much energy.
After decades of consulting with churches of all sizes and denominational affiliations, I am convinced that many churches stay stuck in a plateaued attendance pattern because they choose not to change their expectations for church and pastoral leaders. When clergy are expected to do most of the caregiving, the church decides to become plateaued and stuck in a maintenance posture leaving little hope for engaging the unchurched around them. Members expect pastoral care from the clergy. In fact some often remind the pastor, “We deserve to be cared for. After all, we do pay the bills around here!”
For a church to grow, church leaders have to do more than care for the flock. They must lead forward. Church leaders and congregations need to understand that pastoral care can be provided in a variety of ways to minimize the caregiving expectations of the pastor/staff and deacon leadership in order that key leaders might focus on leading the church forward into the future. Unless the church expectations shift, the pastoral care model cannot shift. Leadership is about moving forward not just pampering the pews or pacifying the saints and sinners of the church. How can you provide adequate pastoral care while you provide leadership into a bright future for the church?
While there are certainly things that pastors are expected to do in  congregations that have little to do with publicly teaching the Gospel and administering the sacraments that could be given to others to do in order to free the pastor to do more Word and Sacrament ministry, this post and this RSO seem to suggest that the real key is to free pastor from many aspects of Word and Sacrament ministry so that they might lead instead.  It is hard to be both pastor and CEO and the better part is to be the CEO.  
Does it seem odd to anyone else to describe members wanting pastoral care from their pastor as problematic?  It does to me.  It that not what God has given them to do, to provide pastoral care, preaching and teaching the Word and delivering the Sacraments?
So while we as a synod try to fix the situation where laypeople are serving as pastors, we must also keep an eye on this idea that pastors should serve as CEOs rather than simply being pastors.  No doubt both are not in line with sounds teaching.  No doubt the two are connected.    They both take us to the  “What things has God given ordained pastors (and only ordained pastors) to do?”

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, July 30th, 2013 at 10:49 am and is filed under Theology and Practice. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

5 Responses to “Laypeople as Pastors, Pastors as CEOs”

  1. Nathan Says:

    You raise some important questions and make some valid points in your post. While I believe you are right on with the issues that you raise, It feels like a an overly simplistic view… let me explain. Paul writes in Eph. 4 that he gave some to be Apostles, some to be Prophets, some to be Evangelists some to be Shepherds and some to be Teachers for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry and the building of the body of Christ. In the LCMS, we typically have done one of two things combined all of them into one person called “pastor” heavily weighted towards shepherd & teacher, or we have said that the first three ceased to exist with death of the last apostle… More problematic is the fact that the Pastor does “the work of ministry” and not the saints… not that I am suggesting the Pastor abdicate his responsibilities to be CEO… but we have embraced the consumer mentality of our culture and allowed the followers of Jesus to become consumers of the gospel…

  2. Jonathan Holmes Says:

    My question is, what does the author mean by “lead into the future”? Does he suggest anything in the post about what it means to be a leader? That can mean so many different things, especially in a hymn (LSB 861) we call Christ a leader, but a leader through darkness as the lamp for our feet in this world of ever present darkness. Are not pastors the visible element of Christ among the people? Should not his job in providing care in order to tell people of the light that is in the darkness and leading the way taking as many with him to heaven to meet sweet Jesus, Himself, with the message he preaches? To me, his blog post makes no sense.

    Also, Nathan, I must respectfully as best as I can in print correct you a little bit. Ephesians 4 says nothing about giving “some to be.” In fact, what Paul says in Ephesians 4:11-14 reads as follows: “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”

    What Paul is writing about in this section is about the unity of faith. It is a dishonor when we try to use these as categories, instead of reading them as they are in their context. There is no “made to be,” but the language of giving. He talks about the apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers being given to the church as a gift in order to bring about unity in doctrine and so on. Now, these remaining “categories” have all been fulfilled in Christ, and so He sends His pastor to fulfill in the stead and by the command of Christ the office of ministry until he returns. Therefore, what we are doing by providing lay-deacons, etc., no longer brings about unity, but division, another great disservice to the church. We must rid ourselves of the “church as business” model, and replace it with what it is: The Church as the place for sinners in a dark world to hear their sins are forgiven, all through the Word and Sacraments, providing a light when they could not.

  3. Gary Hall Says:

    Look at the Dmin application for Ft. Wayne. In particular the evaluation sheet. It asks about the pastor as leader, not word and sacrament shepherd. I guess if I want to be accepted I must have led the congregation in some new direction.

  4. Nathan Says:

    Sorry that was the NIV, still haven’t got used to the ESV, Jonathan the argument you make is the one that is made most frequently in the LCMS, even though it as at odds with what is in the LCMS study Bible. The fact there is one office does not preclude different callings and giftings within that office cf Rom 12:6-8. What I question is the a priori assumption of “cessation” that certain gifts were only to the first generation following Christ. Where in Scripture does it say that God stopped giving these gifts? What Paul is talking about there is our sanctification individually and as the Body of Christ: “we are grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ.” Of course this will only be fully accomplished at Christ’s return…

    In the LCMS, I think we have limited our understanding to Augsburg XIV and decided that properly called for us means seminary trained, although that is not necessarily true. There is at least one famous case of a seminary graduate that was refused ordination yet has been a pastor for many years in an LCMS church. I think we would do well to read all of the confessions… For example in the Treatise says, “For wherever the church exists, there also is the right to administer the gospel. Therefore, it is necessary for the church to retain the right to call, choose, and ordain ministers. This right is a gift bestowed exclusively to the church… Pertinent here are the words of Christ that assert that the keys were given to the church, not just particular persons.”

    To that end the term “lay-deacon” may not be the best.

    The church as business has its issues, but I think what we need more is to get a better understand of what it means to be the body of Christ… and break down some of the barriers that are often used to separate pastor from people, so that pastors can in turn can say with Paul be imitators of Christ, follow my example(paraphrasing) and the people actually have an idea of how to imitate.

  5. Lea Says:

    Great article! And I am a member of a church where a lot of us could so use great pastoral care. This is exactly why I cannot stand the whole TCN process. Let the pastor be the pastor-we do not need a CEO!!!!

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