Saturday, June 25, 2011

Circuit Pastor Visitation

Dear Readers,

Once again, thank you for all the comments thus far in answer to my request.

It has now been suggested that I guide the comments a bit more, and seek to focus them on the main area in which I’m looking for ideas and suggestions – namely, doctrine and practice.

To do so, I believe you need to see and read through the questions in the first interviews I have put together. These have been “field-tested” here among the Pastors in my Circuit for the past seven years. They have been unanimously well-received thus far.

A couple of notes:

- First, you will notice that these interviews are labeled “#1” and “#3.” That is because I intend the interview regarding doctrine and practice to be the second interview in the future.
- #1 is very basic and emphasizes the Pastor’s relationship with his congregation, Circuit, District, and Synod.
- #3 is quite a bit more “personal,” and delves into areas like continuing education, parish work habits, and the Pastor’s marriage and family life. I have moved it to the third interview because I realize that if these are going to used by other Circuit Pastors, it may take a few years to build up an adequate personal relationship with his fellow Pastors and their wives to be able to speak openly and frankly about some of these matters.
- I have shared some of this already-used material with some fellow Circuit Pastors and with various District and Synod leaders over the years. Most have encouraged me to continue working on this project, which might then be of some benefit to church leaders in the future.
- Now, regarding #2, you will notice that I have broken down the categories into six areas. This should give you a good idea of the kinds of questions I’m looking for. However, please feel free to suggest questions in other areas of doctrine and practice.

Also, if you are curious as to the reasoning behind the line of questioning in these interviews, or a certain question in particular, please feel free to ask and I will try to explain my thinking.

Again, thank you for your participation. I look forward to hearing more suggestions from both Pastors and laypeople.

Pastor Spencer

CP Visitation Interview #1

A. Personal Ministry

1. How long have you been at this parish?
2. When, and to where, was your last Call?
3. How would you feel about being placed on a Call List at this time?
4. What do you enjoy most about your ministry?
5. What do you feel is the most difficult part(s) of your ministry?
6. What would be the single biggest help to you in your ministry?
7. What are your long-range plans for your personal ministry?

B. Parish Ministry

1. Should the LORD call you to heaven tonight, would a new Pastor find everything here “in order,” so he could carry on this ministry without interruption or major difficulty?
For example:
- Do you make monthly reports to your congregation; Council, Elders, etc.?
- If so, is a file maintained with copies of all previous reports?
- Do you keep a list of all calls you make on members and prospects?
- Is the membership list current?
- Are the “Vital Statistics” of all members up-to-date?
- Are the records of “Parish Acts,” i.e. Baptisms, Confirmations, Weddings, etc., accurate and up-to-date?
- Is there a list of current Inactive members?
- Is a list of members living out of the area being maintained?
- Are there adequate notes on current difficult member situations?
- Is there is a list of current Prospects?

2. How far ahead do you plan out your worship – monthly; quarterly; semi-annually; annually; other?
3. Does this planning include:
- The Church Year
- Liturgy
- Theme for the day
- Sermon Text & Theme
- Scripture Readings
- Prayers
- Hymns
4. What format do you use for this process?
5. What are some of the positive attributes of the congregation(s) you now serve?
6. What are your major concerns about the congregation(s) you now serve?
7. What are the general long-range plans for this(these) congregation(s)?
8. Any additional comments you would like to make regarding your personal or parish ministry?

C. The Circuit, District, & Synod

1. What do you believe is the single most important duty of your Circuit Pastor and why?
2. What do you believe is the single most important function of the Circuit?
3. What do you like best about our Circuit meetings?
4. What do you like least about our Circuit meetings?
5. In what ways do you think our Circuit meetings could be improved?

The District

6. What, if any, District office(s) do you hold?
7. What do you like most about serving in the District?
8. What do you like least about serving in this District?
9. What, if anything, would you like to see done differently in our District?

The Synod

10. What, if any, Synod office(s) do you hold?
11. What do you believe are the strengths of the Wisconsin Synod?
12. What are her weaknesses as you see it?
13. What would you like to see done differently in the Synod?
14. What are your major expectations or concerns regarding the future of the WELS?
15. Any further questions, comments, concerns, complaints, or suggestions regarding the Circuit, District, or Synod?

CP Visitation Interview #2

Doctrine & Practice

I. Public Ministry, Divine Call

II. Scripture, God, Law, & Sin

III. Repentance, Conversion, Justification, Gospel, Faith & Good Works

IV. Baptism, Lord’s Supper, & Absolution

V. Prayer, Pastoral Acts, & Worship

VI. Last Things

CP Visitation Interview #3

I. Continuing Education (with the Pastor only)

A. Current Events & Information

1. Do you believe it is important for a Pastor to keep himself informed about current events, religious and otherwise, both locally and world-wide? If not, why not?
2. Do you receive and read a daily local newspaper? Print or online? If so, which one(s)? If not, why not?
3. Do you receive and read a daily national newspaper? Print or online? If so, which one(s)? If not, why not?
4. Do you receive and read regularly a regional or national news magazine? Print or online? If so, which one(s)? If not, why not?
5. Do you receive and read regularly a theological magazine? Print or online? If so, which one(s)? If not, why not?
6. Which radio and/or television new & information sources do you make use of, if any? Online?

B. Theological growth and education

1. Do you do your own independent exegesis on your sermon text each week? If not, why not?
2. What are you doing to maintain and improve your proficiency in Hebrew and Greek? Learn and/or improve on Latin & German?
3. Do you believe it is important for a Pastor to read and study the Bible and the Lutheran Confessions, including Luther himself, on a daily basis, independent of and addition to his sermon and Bible class preparation? If not, why not?
4. What part(s) of the Bible are you currently reading for private devotion and meditation?
5. What portion(s) of Scripture are you currently studying, aside from Sermon and Bible study work?
6. What part(s) of the Confessions and/or Luther are you currently reading?
7. What theological books are you currently reading?
8. Do you believe it is important for a Pastor to read deeply in other subjects, such as history, science, philosophy, and the social sciences? If not, why not?
9. What book(s) in these areas are you currently reading?
10. What other programs of continuing education are you currently involved in?

II. The Pastor and His Family (with the Pastor & his Wife)

A. Pastor's work habits (to the Pastor; wife may respond also)

1. Do you try to maintain a regular, organized weekly work schedule? If not, why not?
2. If so, does it include adequate time each week for each of the following?
- Sermon Preparation
- Worship Preparation
- Bible Class Preparation
- Sick & Shut-In Calls
- Private devotion
- Personal Study
- Member Visits
- Outreach Contacts
- Correspondence & Reports
- Church & Pastoral Meetings
- R & R with Family
- Personal R & R
- Exercise

3. Are any of these missing consistently from your work-week, and if so, why, and what might be done about this?
4. How many total hours, on average, do you work each week on ALL areas of ministry; personal, local, district, and synod?
5. Do you get enough rest?
6. Do you feel you have time for recreation, hobbies, etc.?
7. Do you feel you spend enough quality time just with your wife each week?
8. Do you feel you spend enough quality time with your children each week?
9. Do you have any health issues related to your work?
10. What would you like to change about your work routine?

B. Wife's work (to wife; husband may respond also)

1. Do you believe being a Pastor's wife is a calling from God? Why or why not?
2. Do you believe you have a role in your husband's Call, and if so, how?
[Please note: It is assumed that all the wives of our Pastors work very hard to maintain a Christian home. Many of the following questions, therefore, are about "other work" they may do in addition to that of a wife and mother.]
3. Are you employed?
[If no, skip to the Section C]
4. Is your employment due to financial necessity?
5. If not financial, what is the reason for your employment?
6. Do you work from home or outside the home?
7. How many hours do you work at your employment?
8. Do you ever feel that your employment lessens your ability to function well as a wife and mother? If so, how do you deal with these feelings?
9. Do you ever feel that your employment lessens your ability to function well as a Pastor's wife? If so, how do you handle this?
10. If feasible, would you prefer not to be employed? Why or why not?

C. Marriage and Family (to both, and both are asked to respond)

1. Has your marriage relationship suffered due to the work of the ministry?
2. If so, in what ways?
3. How would you describe the spiritual state of your marriage?
4. How would you describe the emotional & physical state of your marriage?
5. What would you like to be better about your marriage?
6. What is your plan to bring about these improvements?
7. How is the Christian faith emphasized, inculcated, and practiced in your family?
8. Are there any health-related issues with you or your family members that might be important relative to future Calls, and if so what are they?
9. Do you believe that you and your family receive the proper and necessary care and support from the congregation?
10. If not, what would you like to see done differently in this regard?

Other comments, questions, or matters for discussion:


Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

Rev. Spencer,

Are these the types of questions you may have in mind?

Some Doctrine Questions:
Does God work apart from Means to produce saving faith and create spiritual life in the otherwise dead heart of the unregenerate and thus grant him the forgiveness won for him by Christ on the Cross?

If so, adduce the supporting scripture passages. If not, name those Means, and adduce the supporting passages from Scripture and the Confessions.

Also if not, define the Reformed doctrine of Immediate Grace, and repudiate it using the references you just cited from Scripture and the Confessions.

Consider the following quote from Calvin: “No, we [i.e., Calvinists] are not Evangelical, we are Predestinarian”. Do Lutherans believe in Predestination?

If not, adduce the supporting scripture passages. If so, adduce the supporting passages from Scripture and the Confessions.

Also if so, by what sole “means” can Lutherans also be called “Evangelical”? That is to say, in issuing His eternal decree, what did God attach to it, via which His people would be called, gathered and enlightened?

Define “Divine Providence.” In Whose interest does God providentially work in creation?

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

Some Questions regarding Practice:
Define lex orandi, lex credendi.

Using the Confessions of the Lutheran Church, defend Lutheran catholicity, and then explain why it is important for the sake of Lutheran teaching and its continuity into future generations, that the wise and wholesome church practices we have received from previous generations be carried forward.

If a pastor is not “winsome” by the world’s standards, but, let’s say, is a “crochety old groutch” (i.e. “rigidly doctrinal”), but nevertheless is a faithful preacher of Law and Gospel, and is diligent in his Public use of the Means of Grace, how many of those whom God has predestined for eternity with Him will go to Hell instead because the pastor was not “winsome” by the world’s standards?

Let’s make this more difficult. Suppose this same pastor is called to a region of the US dominated by pop-church Evangelicals, and let’s emphasize that this pastor, as a proud confessional Lutheran, is also diligent to express Lutheran catholicity through his execution of the Divine Service and in his clerical attire as he is seen about town. In other words, not only is he a “crochety old groutch” by the world’s standards, but he is definitely out of place, given that all the sectarians in his locality reject his specific doctrine, cannot abide anything but loose theology anyway, and despise anything that smacks of “Catholic” practice. If this pastor is a faithful preacher of Law and Gospel, and is diligent in his Public use of the Means of Grace, how many of those whom God has predestined for eternity with Him will go to Hell instead because this pastor was not “winsome” by the local community’s standards and because he didn’t fit-in with the local sectarians?

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

Some Questions regarding Practice (cont'd):
Let’s make this even more difficult. Let’s say this pastor has never cajoled his congregation into hosting “outreach events” and never, ever, followed up with a visitor within the statistically super-critical time-window of “two days following his visit.” If this pastor is a faithful preacher of Law and Gospel, and is diligent in his Public use of the Means of Grace, how many of those whom God has predestined for eternity with Him will go to Hell instead because this pastor did not follow these basic Church Growth practices?

Let’s make this very difficult. Let’s suppose a young, energetic pastor, from a prominent Synod family, is granted large sums of money from a mysterious benefactor so that he can start a new Lutheran congregation two blocks away from the long-stable congregation shepherded by the “crochety old groutch” of the previous three examples. Let’s suppose that this young, energetic “Lutheran” pastor despises anything resembling Lutheran catholicity, routinely mocking traditional practice from his pulpit. Let’s suppose that this young, energetic pastor despises doctrinal expressions and important ecclesiastical terminology, also routinely mocking them from his pulpit. Let’s suppose, further, that this young, energetic pastor is so consumed with “reaching those whom nobody is reaching” that he is convinced that the only way to reach them is “to do things nobody is doing.” In other words, he’s convinced that certain methods, outside of or in addition to the faithful use of the Means of Grace, are required to save the lost from the fires of Hell. Finally, suppose even further that this young, energetic pastor is so convinced that Lutheran Law and Gospel preaching is bankrupt of any “effectiveness” in the modern era, that he is known to parrot, verbatim, the sermons of sectarian preachers. Given that the efficacy and centrality of the Means of Grace is the only basis for the Lutheran claim that our doctrine and practice is “Evangelical”, is it proper for the district president of these two pastors to refer to the young, energetic pastor as more evangelical than the pastor who is not “winsome” by the world’s standards?

For that matter, is it proper for any district president – in the documentation he supplies to a calling body, like a congregation, let’s say – to characterize some candidates for a ministerial position as more evangelical than other candidates, based on personality, when the operating assumption is that all candidates are equally faithful in the use of the Means of Grace? Let’s suppose that Candidate A is a studious fellow, expert in church history and languages, but isn’t interested in acting like a teenager, and that Candidate B couldn’t care less about languages, performed moderately in school, but is extremely extraverted and very likeable. Assuming they both are equally faithful in the use of the Means of Grace, is it proper to paint one as more evangelical than the other based on such a biographical summary (a summary which is meant to be used as an aid in the decision-making process of the congregation)?

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

Some Questions regarding Practice (cont'd):
Are Church Growth practices really about “Evangelism”? Or are they about Church Membership? Or are they, perhaps, about district size, revenue, and influence? That is to say, are Church Growth practices rooted in the efficacy of the Means of Grace, or are they centered on organizational viability? If the latter, what is the impact on the future of Lutheran doctrine, if promotion of Church Growth ideology pervades from central organizations within Synod, and if the minds of the practitioners of Church Growth methods are taught to think according to what they do?

Evaluate the following statement that a pastor, bearing the label “Lutheran,” might make: “I will not preside over the death of a congregation.” Assume that this statement is offered as a defense of his adoption of bald sectarian practices , rejection of Lutheran catholicity, and a notoriously loose regard for orthodoxy. Given the doctrines covered above, repudiate this statement.

Finally, how many of those predestined for eternity with God will go to Hell instead because Lutherans, instead of cow-towing to the “winsome” factor demanded by Synod psychologists and Church Growth sociologists, maintain strict orthodoxy even if it means that they may be considered “unlikeable” by the world’s standards? How many will go to Hell if Lutherans practice consistent with their Confessions, retaining those practices received from their forebears which can be practiced without sinning, and striving to give evidence in their practice of their claim to belong to the church catholic (rather than belonging to the “church sectarian”)? Can confessional Lutherans, faithfully preaching Law and Gospel, and diligent in the Public use of the Means of Grace, have evangelical confidence while maintaining strict orthodoxy and embracing confessional liturgical practice? Won’t such Public representation of themselves send some people to Hell by mistake? Or is the evangelical-catholic practice of Lutheranism both Biblical and Confessional, and on this basis alone trustworthy?

Pastor Spencer said...

Mr. Lindee, good sir -

Methinks that perhaps your questions are rhetorical, eh?!

We know the answers, don't we. Yet, I'm glad you asked the questions, and in the manner you did. I hope other readers will ponder them deeply.

This "winsome" nonsense is exactly the kind of thinking I would hope all Circuit Pastors ferret out among those in their charge and diligently work to get rid of. It does not belong in a confessional church body - or one professing to be such.

Thank you for your insightful comments!

Pastor Spencer

Anonymous said...


I appreciate this discussion greatly. Pastor Spencer, your comments did help me see a "bigger picture." Preaching and outreach - It can't be a matter of doing one and leaving the other undone. However, in my experience in WELS churches,if we are falling off one side of the cliff, it is NOT in my pastor using sectarian sermons. I hear good sermons in most WELS churches that I visit, ones that certainly seem to be unique and textual and so rich in Law/Gospel that they clearly were not stolen from an Evangelical! I know you have expressed concern about churches losing Confessional heritage and practice. But it seems like it's the same churches cited over and over, indicating, this isn't a widespread problem. Granted, if ONE of our churches is wandering from the faith, that's one too many. My point isn't that loss of confessionalism is something to be unconcerned about. My point is that if we are falling off a side of the mountain, it's the OTHER side. We have confessional pastors who don't have much of a plan for outreach, maybe because they don't like doing it. Maybe they find it scary. Maybe they get no support from their laypeople. Or maybe they find it unnecessary.

What I find troubling, Mr. Lindee,if your use of the doctrine of predestination. When I was a little kid in confirmation, I don't ever remember that doctrine being applied to outreach. It was taught as a doctrine of comfort and assurance. To use the doctrine of election to justify lax and lazy outreach efforts is, in my opinion, to twist the Word of God. I wish others with more theological insight and wisdom than I would weigh in on this. But to me, that sounds just plain wrong. And it's perhaps a symptom of the reason we are falling off the edge. We aren't aggressive or faithful in performing outreach, because we use the doctrine of election in a way God never intended it to be used -- as a reason the commissions passages need not have urgency. And if we twist the doctrine of election such a way, God have mercy on us.


Pastor Spencer said...

Dan -

Thank you, again, for your very thoughtful and sincere comments.

I think I can help further. You wrote:

“We have confessional pastors who don't have much of a plan for outreach, maybe because they don't like doing it. Maybe they find it scary. Maybe they get no support from their laypeople. Or maybe they find it unnecessary.”

Now, I will admit that doing “cold” outreach calls is indeed scary. I’ve done literally thousands of them, and never completely lost my fear of the process. I will also admit that most laypeople don’t like doing outreach, and that some Pastors, like the one I cited the other day, don’t think it is even necessary at all. OK, those points I will grant, and I don’t think they are very debatable points either, quite frankly.

But once again, that’s not the point. You talk about having a “plan for outreach.” Aye, there’s the rub. WE don’t need a “plan” for outreach, because God already has one! It is for believers to gather together in groups around the Means of Grace and Call a man to administer those Means of Grace to them and in their name. In doing do – which also includes LIVING one’s faith, both Pastors and people, out in the community – souls will be drawn toward the Gospel, and some eventually brought into the kingdom of Christ. If the Pastor has good work habits, and visits his flock regularly, if he preaches outreach in some way in nearly every sermon, if the carries out his ministry with zeal and faithfulness for the Gospel and the confessions, if he carefully plans his worship services around the ancient Church Year, if he preaches the Holy Scriptures in all their truth and purity, if he does all that, and administers his parish well; then THAT, my friend IS also his plan and his work for outreach, pure and simple! In other words, we do our jobs – which, yes, includes getting out among the unbelievers – and we let God take care of the results. Period!

In short, Dan, the problem is not that not enough Pastors work up a plan of outreach, rather the problem is that not enough Pastors plan to work enough at all! Outreach is not the issue. The work ethic of our Pastors IS the issue – in spades! That’s what needs to change. And it will be hard – very hard – to change. Because we must admit that we have this problem; then we need to repent; then we need to get back to Luther and the confessions, and let these trusty old friends hold our feet to the fire and get us to do more and better work for our Lord. We need to quit relying on a “quick fix” of some Church Growth method and just get back to doing the old fashioned hard work of preaching the Gospel, feeding Christ’s flocks, and giving and answer to any and all who would ask of us the hope that is within us!

That’s my “plan for outreach.” And while I will never fulfill it completely or perfectly, with God’s help I work at it every day!

Pastor Spencer

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

Rev. Spencer,

Rhetorical...? Well, if they're not rhetorical, there are at least a good many leading questions. I offer them in this form for our readers, but would expect that, if they're helpful to you at all, you'd get the central point and do a much better job composing questions for your purpose. A couple things that I think are important to emphasize, no matter what the doctrine, is that the one being examined be requred to defend doctrine from both Scripture and the Confessions. Scripture is not a matter of private interpretation, and if the objective is to show that the examined believes, teaches and confesses in harmony with his Lutheran brothers, then he should do so by appealing to those objective confessions to which all true Lutherans are required to unconditionally subscribe. Second, in our day and age, it seems to me that the efficacy of the Means of Grace, while confessed with the lips, is not confessed in practice; most Lutherans ultimately rely not on the biblical Means of Grace, but on devices of purely human contrivance, designed to draw a crowd. Most Lutherans, it seems, lack the simple faith to rely God's promise to work through Word and Sacrament, and in their frantic worry over the future, instead embrace common marketing principles that are based on statistical studies revealing cultural preferences and human responses. Rejection of such crowd control techniques (that are ultmately designed to sell things to people that they don't really want or need), needs to be reinforced in favor of a genuine trust in the efficacy of the Means of Grace.

Another area to cover is the utter confusion that seems to persist regarding our status as "Evangelicals". Reformed-Arminians are "Evangelical" for entirely different and incompatible reasons than true confessional Lutherans. If I have to suffer another swooning Lutheran – infected with pop-church Arminianism – to tell me that historic Lutheran practice needs to turn completely upside down "for the sake of evangelism," and that if we don't make these "changes," well then, the church will die, people will go to hell, and it will be all my fault... well, let's just say, I won't take it very gracefully. It's a bunch of nonsense. You see, Church Growthers have read a little history, and discovered that the period of most explosive growth in Christianity was during the Early Church, and as many historians have observed, it was due in large part to the pressure created by the Ten Persecutions. To duplicate that explosive growth in the modern day, Church Growth advocates have thus reasoned, Christians need to feel the angst of persecution, of crisis in their midst. Such a sense of crisis now pervades – but it has all been manufactured, mostly by Barna who for decades has prominently fed Evangelicals his version of the health of Christianity.

(Continued in next comment...)

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

(...Continued from previous comment)

A new book out by a bona fide sociologist, Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites...and Other Lies You've Been Told: A Sociologist Shatters Myths From the Secular and Christian Media, cries foul, however, and proves it. No, Christians are not just as likely to get divorced as the general population; no, teenagers are not leaving the church in droves; no, evangelical Christians are not disrespected in America, but are in fact highly respected; no, the church is not shrinking. In fact, since 1972, the Roman Catholics have held steady, increasing by a percentage point or two, Evangelicals have held steady, loosing a percentage point or two (in fact, the only branch of American Christianity to dramatically lose numbers – like 50% – has been mainline liberal Christianity). Barna could not separate his statistical methodology from his false doctrine, and has wound up providing false reports for some time now. False reports laced with hysteria like "Change or Die!!!" – which is nothing but rank, stinking B.S. Seriously. An important quote from the beginning of this book demonstrates this fact:

"Based on these data, the Barna Group concluded that non-Chrstians are 'dismissive' of Evangelicals. According to the article, this negative opinion has consequences. 'One reason why evangelical churches across the nation are not growing is due to the image that non-Christians adults have of evangelical individuals.' [Here we have the classic CGM call by Barna for a change in practice and adoption of culturally "winsome" traits, etc., as revealed by the author of this book next sentence.] Wow, if this is true, it gives us a key to church growth – changing non-Chrstians' negative impressions of Christians" (pg. 15).

If it is true, which it isn't, as the author goes on in following paragraphs to demonstrate. Regarding statistics, the author states a few pages later:

"You might think that only the most accurate and important statistics see the light of day, and so we can trust what we hear. Ah, wouldn't that be nice... The fact is, statistical research is an inherently messy and thoroughly human activity. Research findings reflect insight, error, and self-interest. People make statistics, and like everything else that people make, the results are mixed. Some statistics are good, some are bad, and a lot are in between."

That quote is almost as good as the classic work, How to Lie with Statistics – required reading when I studied probability and statistics in Grad school. The question to be raised, of course, is whether we simply trust Scripture and stand on the Confessions, or fear the "thoroughly human activity" of statistical "research", break into a sweat, swoon and hysterically cry with quivering lips and shaking voices "We must Change or Die!!!!.

(Continued in next comment...)

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

(...Continued from previous comment)

I'll choose the former, thank you. No, we Lutherans do not suffer from from false and hysterical cries of statistical doom. We have certainty in the sure and certain promises of the Gospel, and stand firmly and confidently on our confession. No, we Lutherans do not suffer from some Arminian disease, and thus carry the Gospel to the lost for fear that if we don't people who might otherwise go to heaven will go to Hell. HA! No, on the contrary, we make faithful use of the Means of Grace solely out of love and gratitude for what Christ has done for us, in obedience to the clear teaching of Scripture: But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Th. 2:13-15). Predestination in this reference is bound to the Means of Grace – the Means by which we are called, granted faith, and sanctified before God.

Providence is another teaching, which, when neglected, leads to a flurry of hysterical Christian activity, as if it is up to us to "grow the church." The fact is, God works providentially in creation for the benefit of His Bride, the Church. The sun, the rain, the heat, the floods, times of plenty, times of famine, times of freedom, times of tyranny, are all providentially orchestrated situations by which God causes His Means of Grace to be Publicly employed in various places, at various times, through which the elect are gathered by the Holy Spirit into His kingdom. To this end, the Call He issues to His Representatives on Earth, through His congregation, is to faithful Public use of the Means of Grace.

The rest of my questions focus on areas of practice descending from these seemingly forgotten teachings..

Anyway, I know you get it. I sometimes wonder how many others do, though, and whether doctrine and confession is any basis for some to take a public stand... I suppose we’ll find out this July.

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...


There is great comfort in the Doctrine of Predestination. And it is a genuine doctrine with definite impact on our practice. There is absolutely no “going off the cliff” by applying it in this way. The fact is, Predestination is a great embarrassment for many Lutherans, since it forces us to admit two Scriptural teachings which seem to be contradictory, which cannot be resolved without denying other teachings of Scripture, or holding doctrine that Scripture does not teach. I covered this lightly in my recent essay, Differences between Reformed and Lutheran doctrines. As a result, it is a teaching which is generally covered only insofar as is reasonable for the average hearer, who is less than age fourteen. This is unfortunate. It’s also why catechesis does not end with catechism class. In my long experience as Chairman of my congregation’s Board of Evangelism, I can assure you that my WELS pastor informed me of the rest of the story, on numerous occasions: “HA!” He would say to my crazy ideas. “It doesn’tmatter what we do, it doesn’t matter if we do nothing. Not a single one of God’s elect will be deprived of heaven. It is a privilege to be used as His instrument. That’s all there is to it.” What you call “lax and lazy” is so labeled from what other Lutherans have referred to as the perspective of “functional Arminianism,” and is actually normative of Lutheran practice. Pieper is quite clear on the application of the Means of Grace to Predestination – I encourage you to look it up. In addition, a very recent paper delivered to the LCMS Indiana District by Rev. Heath Curtis, has finally resurrected this discussion in a fruitful way – of applying Predestination to evangelical practice. Here are the links to his essay, in four parts:

Part I: Freed from the Shopkeeper's Prison - Election, Evangelism, and Functional Arminianism

Part II: Bible and Confessional Study on Election and Evangelism

Part III: What is the Pastor's Job?

Part IV: How to Run a Lutheran Evangelism Program

Anyway, no, the comfort of the questioning soul is definitely not the only application of Predestination, and as a genuine teaching of Scripture, it most certainly has application to our congregational practice as evangelical Christians.

(Continued in next comment...)

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

(...Continued from previous comment)

If there is any “cliff hanging”, however, it is in the fact that the Doctrine of Vocation is completely ignored and left un-taught in nearly all discussions regarding the role of the laity in God’s process of calling/gathering/enlightening His Elect. Under current CGM influences, laymen are to be super-active on behalf of the congregation as some sort of quasi-pastors – preaching, teaching and devoting their lives to evangelism. There is supposedly greater ministerial value in this activity. Vocation teaches otherwise. It is in all Christian activity, whether washing clothes, baking bread, changing diapers, milking cows, etc., through which God works to orchestrate the affairs of men such that His elect are brought into contact with the Gospel. If you are unfamiliar with this teaching, it’s no wonder – no one that I am aware of teaches it in the WELS. However, it is has recently been revived in LCMS, by Dr. Gene Edward Veith, and I can highly recommend his acclaimed work on the subject, God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life. It is a summary of an older work – “reduced for the modern reader” – by Gustaf Wingren, Luther on Vocation. The Doctrine of Vocation does not paint the Christian as some heroic evangelist, but as a contented and conscientious worker who does whatever he is doing with a love for Christ and a sincere desire to represent Him in word and deed in all he does. That’s it. Nothing glamorous. Not a subject for blockbuster movies about overcoming the odds and enduring pain and hardship to achieve victory in the end; just simple, joyful, day-to-day plodding. That’s what we do, and that’s how the church grows – not by what we do, since we do little of any real consequence, but by God using us as instruments to work out His hidden plans.

Unknown said...

Quoted ... "It is in all Christian activity, whether washing clothes, baking bread, changing diapers, milking cows, etc., through which God works to orchestrate the affairs of men such that His elect are brought into contact with the Gospel. If you are unfamiliar with this teaching, it’s no wonder – no one that I am aware of teaches it in the WELS."

While I am not sure I would call it a teaching, our pastor definitely speaks about vocation as evangelism in Bible studies and from the pulpit in sermons. Our day-to-day lives as Christians do witness to others, including the lost, and by God's grace this activity wins souls for God's kingdom in Christ.

Maybe this can be a question in the visitation? How do you as pastor encourage your flock in their vocation as witnesses of Christ? I am sure someone can word it much better than I can.

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

Yes, indeed, Perry! Witnessing to others through word and deed in our daily lives is very importent, and we should always be ready to give an accounting of the faith within us. While Vocation includes this, however, it goes beyond it to include God’s involvement in the affairs of man through man’s vocation, or various callings in life, to orchestrate situations which work out His hidden plans, which ultimately are to bring His elect into the Church. If I am not witnessing at the moment, God is still using me as such an instrument – whether I am typing on my computer for the benefit of my clients, mowing my lawn as a property owner, or even as a father waiving my arms and shouting like a maniac at my children. None of this is very glamorous, but Vocation teaches that these are our priestly callings in life (business owner, property owner, father – whatever we happen to be doing at the moment), and when carried out by the Christian with a love for Christ and gratitude for His atoning work, is equal in ministerial value to preaching from a pulpit. Luther states this directly, in fact.

What do I mean by “orchestrating situations”? We have many examples in the Old Testament. God used the slaughter of infants, at the command of Pharaoh, to raise up Moses as leader of Israel, lead His children out of bondage and give them His Law. God used Saul, in his vocation as King, to torment David with various murder attempts, and through these experiences shape David’s character as the future King of Israel, and as a model of the repentant believer, a “man after God’s own heart.” God used David as an instrument, even in his sin with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah, to eventually bring about the salvation of mankind (check out the lineage of Jesus – many big sinners in that family tree, including at least one notorious prostitute...). Vocation is very “unglamerous”, especially by pop-church CGM standards. In almost no case does anyone really know how God is using them, nor can anyone expect to see in his lifetime the true results of God's work through them. So, Vocation doesn’t get a lot of attention these days. Nevertheless, by it God works in the affairs of man, to gather His elect into the Church through the Means of Grace. The Means of Grace are key, which is why they are, and must remain, central to Lutheran practice

Pr. Benjamin Tomczak said...

To the question of Christian vocation being preached/taught in the WELS, the 2006 Symposium at WLS was on this topic:

And one of those essayists, Prof. Mark Paustian presented on that topic at the 2009 South Central District convention (see page 71ff of the District Proceedings at the link below):

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