Can We Recognize the Ministry of the Average Christian? (and help them accomplish it?)
Devotional Thought of the Day:
11 And to some, his ‘gift’ was that they should be apostles; to some prophets; to some, evangelists; to some, pastors and teachers; 12 to knit God’s holy people together for the work of service to build up the Body of Christ, 13 until we all reach unity in faith and knowledge of the Son of God and form the perfect Man, fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself. Ephesians 4:11-13 (NJB)
Hence the highest office is that of the ministry of the Word, with which all other offices are also conferred at the same time. Every other public office in the church is part of the ministry of the Word or an auxiliary office that supports the ministry, whether it be the elders who do not labor in the Word and doctrine (1 Tim. 5:17) or the rulers (Rom. 12:8) or the deacons (the office of service in a narrow sense) or whatever other offices the church may entrust to particular persons for special administration. Therefore, the offices of Christian day school teachers, almoners, sextons, precentors at public worship, and others are all to be regarded as ecclesiastical and sacred, for they take over a part of the one ministry of the Word and support the pastoral office. (Italics mine)
Everything that has been said above concerning the People of God is intended for the laity, religious and clergy alike. But there are certain things which pertain in a special way to the laity, both men and women, by reason of their condition and mission. Due to the special circumstances of our time the foundations of this doctrine must be more thoroughly examined. For their pastors know how much the laity contribute to the welfare of the entire Church. They also know that they were not ordained by Christ to take upon themselves alone the entire salvific mission of the Church toward the world. On the contrary they understand that it is their noble duty to shepherd the faithful and to recognize their ministries and charisms, so that all according to their proper roles may cooperate in this common undertaking with one mind. (Italics mine)
Thirteen years ago, I was installed as the pastor of a Lutheran Church for the first time. I had served those people for well over a year as a vicar, (basically a student pastor) while going through a time of transition. I was glad for the 30 months or so of transition, it gave me a chance to work through the differences in theology and the difference in practical ministry.
There were two sermons were given that day, one directed toward me, another directed to me and the people of Shepherd of the Valley. The latter, given by Greg Seltz was basically about the unity of pastor in people. A unity that is found in our baptism, a unity that is seen in our mission, our apostolate. It is not pastor over people or people over the pastor, but pastor and people. It was a great sermon, and something we need to understand in every congregation, in every parish!
We don’t always get this correct. Many people think the pastor is the evangelist, the only one that works in what the quote from Vatican II calls the salvific mission of the Church. Pastors don’t save anyone, neither does the average person, but they are saved by Christ, through the work of the Church.
We both have roles, even as Walther writes in Church and Ministry ( an incredible nook from the early days of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod). He says they are to be recognized as ecclesiastical and sacred, as part of the ministry of the Word, supporting the pastoral office.
Yet there are clergy and laity in both the Roman Catholic Church and in Lutheran churches that don’t understand this. They don’t get that the ministry is God’s, entrusted to the entire church together. It is our mutual responsibility, to reveal to the world the Love of God, and God’s desire to reconcile all to Him. Each has their own role, each has their own God-given place in this ministry.
Such a responsibility isn’t to be hoarded like Gollum’s precious ring or relegated to the pastor/priest alone, to provide a convenient scapegoat when the church shrinks. Nor is this responsibility a duty, with checklists and deadlines. It is best done, when all, so in awe of God’s love, work naturally, sharing it with those around them, and then bring them into the family of God. Serving together, ministering together, we see the world turned upside down, amazed not just at our love for each other, but the love of God that pours through us, to them.
We, the church, pastor, and people, are here for the world. To reveal to them the greatest treasure, the greatest of blessings, which brings the news of the greatest love, and the greatest of peace.
It is time again, to work as the church, the people of God.
Lord, have mercy on us and help us be your body, reaching out to the world. AMEN!
Walther, C. Church and Ministry : Witness of the Evangelical Lutheran Church on the Question of the Church and the Ministry. electronic ed. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999, c1987.
Catholic Church. “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church: Lumen Gentium.” Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011. Print. Italics mine
Posted on February 17, 2018, in Ancient Future, Augsburg and Trent, Devotions, Theology in Practice, Vatican II and tagged apostolate, clergy, laity, Life in Chirst, Ministry, Missional, pastor, priest. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.