Official Publication of the LMS-USA
Volume 8, Number 1
In this Issue:
Ministry of Word and Sacrament
A Lutheran Ministerium and Synod Perspective!
by Rev. Ralph Spears
What the Church is truly about is always understood in terms of ministry in answer still to Our Lord's question, "Do you love Me?" If so, then, "Feed His sheep, feed (also) His lambs." The feeding of people and their needs is authentically done by means of Word and Sacrament. It shapes the motives and keeps the message clean, unadulterated by lesser motives and human energies that would move the care away from the lambs and the sheep ever so slightly but surely.
Community is created by the Spirit as we are, in the words of Luther, "Called, gathered and enlightened. For 'where two or three are gathered together' in His Name/Spirit - this Community is His promise!"
Ordinarily we have thought of congregations as the typical units of community even the exclusive community grouping. But this is not always so, especially today.
At least five of our LMS Pastors are doing Word and Sacrament ministry as Chaplains in various settings without a congregation. In fact the status of the congregation seems to have fallen on times which have brought it to a lesser role. We will probably never declare the post-congregational era as once, a few decades ago, the post Christian era was discussed by some pundits or the post modern era of the Church was mentioned by others. But with little doubt, more and increasingly valid Word and Sacramental ministries are being done virtually without a congregation in the typical sense or structure.
One of the main goals for our pastors in the Lutheran Ministerium and Synod is to maintain an active roll of such ordained pastors fresh in commitment to real ministry to today's world, as opposed to a collection or list of ordained pastors with abstract motives or no particular sense of call..... For to be one "who is sent" - the traditional meaning of pastor or minister, - the call must be felt and acted upon.
If for no other reason;
back to top
Chaplaincy: Triage Ministry
by Rev. David W. Dietsche
It's not quite clear to some people what chaplaincy is all about. That's a problem I understand since I had some of the same questions when I started my job as a chaplain. I had been a pastor of a small church before becoming a chaplain and I remember some of my thoughts about chaplains. I remember feeling a little threatened by chaplains ministering to "my" people in the hospital. Chaplaincy was an unknown for me.
I hadn't planned on becoming a chaplain. I believe the Lord led me to become, in fact, intended me to become a chaplain. I just didn't know it until I became one. At first I wasn't sure what to do, but I realized that the skills I had developed as a pastor were still going to be used, but they were going to be used differently. I don't have many long-term relationships with my "parishioners" now. In fact, I seldom see many people more than a few times, if that. In chaplaincy, you have to realize that you are dealing in "moments of ministry" where most often you will not see or know the effect of your ministry. I've come to see that much of my ministry is like that of the triage medical staff: you are not the one who is the primary caregiver, but you're the one who is available in a time of crisis. You do what you can to help the person in need get through that time of crisis and then you hand them over to the person who normally takes care of them. The biggest part of chaplaincy is being there, letting the person know that someone cares enough to be present with them. While my calling to Christian ministry leads me to want to communicate the Lord's love and presence, the first thing I need to do is show His love for that person regardless of whether we speak of Him or not. In my conversation with a patient I always ask about and show concern for the patient first. I then check on the patient's family and loved ones. When I've made sure that the patient knows that I'm concerned about them and their loved ones first, I then move into the area of their relationship with God. Crisis times such as medical emergencies are not the time to get into a debate about God and so I inquire about contacting someone from the patient's religious tradition to help them through the crisis. This usually opens the door for patients and their loved ones to start talking about their religious beliefs and practices. I can answer any questions they have from my religious perspective. I have been able to minister to many people who were much more open to talking about God when their health was in jeopardy. It is a great joy when I can share about the love of God with those who are in such need to hear those words.
At the hospital I work at, the former "Pastoral Care Department" changed its name to "Spiritual Care Services" to reflect the fact that we are not here to replace a patient's pastor, but are here to serve their spiritual needs. Knowing that people are in the hospital for such a short time, and that the need for a pastor is long-term, we try to connect people with their pastors whenever possible. As a chaplain, I'm always glad to pray for patients and their families. I'm also glad to see them and to be present for them. Chaplains will administer the sacraments in a crisis need but we try to encourage the connection between the patient and their community of faith. In line with this thinking, I also contact a patient's pastor to bring communion, even for those of my own tradition. I don't want to cause a patient to be stressed because they question, even at a later time, whether they should have received a sacrament from me and not their own pastor or at least someone in their own tradition. I do administer the sacraments in crisis situations when a patient's pastor can't get to the hospital. My desire though is always to have a patient's pastor give them sacraments and to build the relationship a patient has with their own pastor.
One surprise I had about chaplaincy was that I never associated preaching with this ministry. How wrong I was. I get to preach in the hospital chapel and at a nursing home affiliated with the hospital. In a situation where most everything is "unfamiliar" for patients, I get to bring some of the familiarity of the love of God and the life of the church into patients' lives. I help them experience something "normal" in the "abnormality" of being hospitalized.
Chaplaincy is probably one of the most rewarding jobs a person can be called to. My position is full-time and it is a blessing that our hospital has eight full-time chaplains. I am able to pray for the doctors, nurses and staff on a daily basis, thus helping them through many difficult situations. Not knowing what crisis has happened and how people are reacting, praying on the way to the patient, and then being a calming presence and helping people through their time of stress has been a blessing to me.
I know that I couldn't do this job on my own, I'm just the mouthpiece and visible presence of God to those in need. I thank God for the privilege.
back to top
Expanded Ministry In Nontraditional Manner!
by Rev. Ralph Spears
We are a near Inner-city congregation who for the past two to three decades have served typical inner-city needs of people in our immediate neighborhood and those who transit our area with the familiar "brother, can you spare a dime" label. Most often they are out of work, out of luck, out of permanent home. Their struggle is often with themselves but they are most often challenged to find and keep a job, sometimes just to find decent shelter for the night.
There are also the more stable residents who still battle the problem of society, which assail their family structure-most especially - their children.
It is no easy task even armed with the compassion of Christ and a seasoned assessment of their situations in life - to adequately answer their real needs.
But nearly three years ago there came a most unusual opportunity to expand our ministry especially to this second group of neighbors and from a most unexpected source. The County Juvenile Judge and the Chief of Probation were increasingly frustrated with the limited availability of counseling services available to those ordered by the Court for mandatory counseling as a part of their treatment in probation. And they wanted to expand their sights to qualified churches and the more pastoral type counsel and sense of community these church groups could offer such as a pastoral concern that doesn't give up on a case even after it is closed.
Soon twelve religious bodies in Indianapolis applied, eleven were chosen, and eight (8) eventually, including St. Matthew Lutheran Church, began to offer Faith-based, home-based services to referrals from Marion County. There were a number of problems, including the fact that this had never been done before - as far as we knew - anywhere else in the country!
We were very aware of the inherent problems so well outlined in the press currently concerning faith-based services proposed by President George W. Bush.
How to bring the "Love of Christ" and Christian compassion to bear on society's problems without proselytizing was the first question. We were also very concerned to provide sound counseling technique along with our compassion and I was gratified to find that nearly all of the other religious providers were also very concerned about the same problems. Many of us are seasoned veteran counselors while some of us are licensed by the State as counselors in our own right.
It is important to note that each family was asked to choose our services specifically, so that it is by their choice alone that they receive faith-based counseling service rather than the traditional services of secular organizations!
Soon the trickle of referrals turned into a steady stream of calls for services to families in our neighborhood for matters ranging from truancy to drug problems, from neglect to theft and all manners of abuse. At first the traditional counselors were quite concerned but there were more than enough cases for all of us as the problems in Indianapolis - like most of our large cities, increased dramatically. [It is no coincidence that the former Indianapolis mayor, Stephen Goldsmith is now special advisor to President Bush's Faith-based initiative.]
Our feeling is that Faith-based services have been discriminated against because they are Faith-based and should be allowed at least equal consideration as long as the client families have full reign in the choice of our services. Nor do any of us feel that we have been asked to compromise anything of our Christian values and commitments just because we are offering our services to the government in a fair market system.
That was all hammered out over two and a half years ago. Since that time over fifty cases have been assigned to St. Matthew Lutheran Counseling Services, the name that we use for our congregation to contract with the County for my services to 'the sheep and the lambs'. And these are known as CHINS cases or, children in need of services, for truancy to drugs, to theft and assault and other mischief lambs can get into when gone astray. The 'sheep' represent eight or nine of those cases referred to me as families where negligence or abuse has been reported, often where the children have already been removed from the home. (In two cases, referral came because infants were born drug positive.)
This means working with a probation officer or a case work supervisor often informing them as to what is really going on with the kids, meeting with them in their homes often visiting their schools. In a couple of cases it has meant going to the home in the morning and getting the kid to school. And then of course going to court with them often arguing their cases before the judge in their hearings. Quite often the judge listens carefully to the home-based counselor and takes our recommendations.
After twenty years of inner-city ministry, none of this is really new. But what is always refreshingly new, is the charm possessed by these kids, despite their attempts to act 'tough' or just to 'tough out' bad times. Many are in blighted neighborhoods of the inner-city, some in the relative luxury of suburban homes.
One father was amazed at what his son had told me, "he can't lie to the collar", he said, referring to a visit where I had worn my clerical collar.
Often kids who are confined to juvenile lock up and lonely, have nothing to read but the Bible, prompting some very interesting conversations. Their favorite read is Revelation, or they might read straight through a Gospel, the most common being Matthew. I sometimes refer them to the Psalms and say, "now the guy that wrote this was really in trouble, but it worked out by the end of the Psalm." The favorite question usually involves curiosity about life after death. And they are very open to the suggestion that they pray. One young man told me that he did 'now' every day!
A thirteen year old boy after learning at the hospital that his father had died from alcohol poisoning said, "I would like to kick God's butt". To which I could only reply; "Well God doesn't have a butt, and when you really meet Him you won't want to kick Him!" We had his funeral two days later.
In only five cases out of fifty-two has the original father been in the home and in three of those cases, the father has been one of the main problems. In seven cases the child has been in the care of a grand parent or aunt.
The lambs given to our care have been equally divided between African-American and white, between boys and girls. In most cases we are very cautious about touch since many have been abused, in fact the incidence of physical and sexual abuse that has been reported by the adults as well as the kids, is simply stunning. At least four mothers have been victims of aggravated sexual assault. The children are most often abused by older family members or the mother's boy friend.
Although these factors are certainly not pleasant to report, it gives an idea-- these cases being a cross section, - of the kinds of problems faced in ministry almost anywhere today! In all of this however, I became aware that one thirteen year old girl looked forward especially to a hug at the end of the visit - with grandma looking on - of course!
Several families, quite on their own, have come to worship services and participation in some of the congregation's activities, while we have been able to help quite a few of them with food, or clothing, transportation and hospital visits in times of special need.
This has come to our congregation of St. Matthew as special and somewhat surprising expansion of our ministry to -now-many sections of Indianapolis in every direction.
All of this teaches us that ministry can work anywhere under any conditions. But it also reminds us what a privilege it is to serve, how precious is Ministry, and how important it still is to "Feed His sheep, and feed also, His lambs!"
back to top
The Hospice Patient
by Pastor Richard Barley
Mary was eighty-some years old, and her death was near. How near, no one knew for sure. A couple of years ago, when her health began to deteriorate, she moved from her home to live with one of her sons and his wife. Gradually, her condition declined and there was no hope for recovery. Her doctor had suggested to her and to her family that she contact a hospice, which would provide nursing care, a home health aide, a social worker and a chaplain. This hospice "team" would coordinate medical and spiritual care in an effort to help her to live the balance of her life with as much dignity and self-respect as was possible and with a minimal amount of pain. As the chaplain it was my responsibility to do a spiritual assessment and to establish and carry out a spiritual care plan.
When I first met Mary she was lying in a hospital bed in what had been a family room of the home. She was able to communicate well, and I talked with her about her life and about her health. As usual, I asked about any religious affiliation so that I could coordinate efforts with her pastor. Although she had been a rather faithful church member in the past, she no longer had any ties to a church, had not been to church in many years and, therefore, had no pastor. This proved to be an area of great concern for her. She believed in God and found Him to be a source of strength. But something worried her. She was not yet able or willing to express to me what it was. When the time was right, and when she felt comfortable with me, perhaps then she could talk about it. At the conclusion of my first visit I offered to have a word of prayer with her. She agreed and I prayed, among other things, that God would continue to hold her in His loving arms.
During a subsequent visit Mary told me that she felt guilty about not having attended church and was worried that God would hold it against her when she died. We talked for a while about her fears and beliefs and why she had quit attending church. It seemed appropriate to use the occasional service entitled "Individual Confession and Forgiveness" in which a person confesses his or her sins, prays for forgiveness and hears the pastor say, "God is merciful and blesses you. By the command of our Lord Jesus Christ, I, a called and ordained servant of the Word, forgive you your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." This seemed to provide Mary with some consolation, but there was still something that seemed to bother her. Neither the family nor I would not know what that was until a few days later and a couple of hours before she died.
During the next two days the family said good-bye to Mary, told her that they would certainly miss her and that they would take care of each other. They also told her that it was okay for her to go to be with God. She continued to cling to life. Something seemed to keep her in this world.
On what proved to be a day that was marked by awe inspiring marvels, at the request of the family, one of our hospice nurses called me to come to the son's home to be with Mary. She was dying. When I arrived Mary was in a reclining chair and was non-responsive. Both of her sons and their wives were present and tears of grief filled their eyes. From a previous conversation they knew that I am a singer, and they requested that I sing "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" to Mary. It was her favorite hymn. After singing it, I used another occasional service, "Commendation of the Dying," which contains prayers for God to take this person to be with Him. I also read some appropriate psalms and other readings from the Bible to try to give comfort to the family. At the conclusion of the brief service I extended one of my hands toward Mary and with my thumb made the sign of the cross on her forehead as I said these words, "Mary, I make the sign of the cross on your forehead as a reminder to you that you always were and always will be a beloved child of God." I had hardly finished speaking when her eyes opened, she sat upright and began to speak! None of us had ever seen anything like this in our lives. We were speechless.
An hour or so later Mary asked to talk with her sister. The two had not spoken for a number of years. The sister was called and she came right over. During her visit Mary said, and gave, something to her sister that mended the rift that had existed between them. Apparently, the need to tend to this unfinished business was what kept Mary clinging to life. She died peacefully a couple of hours later. The broken fence had been mended.
What marvels we had been honored to see. To gaze at the power of God filled us with awe.
At the request of the family I conducted the funeral service, during which I again sang Mary's favorite hymn and everyone present joined with me. It was a beautiful and moving moment.
Sometimes my ministry as a hospice chaplain has experiences like this. At other times it is far less glorious. I have helped to change diapers on people. I have helped a nurse to clean a body just minutes after we sat with the family and watched him die. I spent one Good Friday afternoon sitting with a patient in a nursing home so that her family could get a couple of hours of rest. I have held grieving adults in my arms. I have read from the Bible and prayed with people who can not respond but who I am convinced can hear me. About one-half of the patients that I have visited have no church affiliation, so I become their pastor. I also have become the pastor to patients whose pastors have failed to visit them. Unfortunately, this happens a lot. I have taken communion to patients, heard their complaints and confessions and have conducted funerals. It is a ministry of Word and Sacrament and a ministry of presence. It is the ministry of a hospice chaplain.
back to top
Counseling And The Authority of Scripture
by Rev. John Erickson
The following is the opening statement in the Preface to The Chicago Statement On Biblical Inerrancy (1978).
The authority of Scripture is a key issue for the Christian Church in this and every age. Those who profess faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are called to show the reality of their discipleship by humbly and faithfully obeying God's written Word. To stray from Scripture in faith or conduct is disloyalty to our Master. Recognition of the total truth and trustworthiness of Holy Scripture is essential to a full grasp and adequate confession of its authority.
There will likely be those who disagree with me on this, but first and foremost, I believe that counseling belongs in the Church. God has given various gifts to those who are members of his body, the Church (i.e., Romans 12:4-8; I Cor. 12:4-11), that are to be used for the good of all (I Cor. 12:7). Thus, in both the local congregation, as well as in the Church at large, God has brought together a number of persons, given each of them a gift (or gifts) that they are to use for the 'common good.' Further, he has called certain persons to particular functions in that body (i.e., preaching, serving, teaching, encouraging, leading, showing mercy (Rom. 12:6-8), again, for the good of all.
It is the Word that is the authority for the Church and which gives authority and purpose to the Church. This is the same Word that brought things into being in the beginning. It is the same Word that, following human-kind's fall into sin, is now able to bring new and eternal life within the soul of fallen men, women, and children. It is this same Word that gives direction to our lives, pointing out to us when and where we go wrong, and directing us to Him in whom we can find the help we so desperately need when we have gone wrong.
The Apostle Paul gave direction to young Timothy who was gifted and called by God to be a worker in the Church. Among other things, Paul spoke to Timothy concerning the Word of God, i.e. Holy Scripture, with which he, as a pastor in the church would be working. "All Scripture," Paul said, under inspiration of the Spirit of God, "is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (II Timothy ":16-17). The church is equipped with all that is needed for effective counseling.
Think of this treasure the Church has been given. Think of what the church has to share, not only with those who are in the church, but with those who are as yet, outside the Church. But sadly, this treasure has been sorely compromised. Today it is no longer the "Word alone" with which most churches are working, and as a result, the work of the church in the world today is quite often ineffective.
Dave Hunt brought this to light for me a number of years ago. In one of his books, The Seduction of Christianity (Harvest House, 1985), he points to a significant change in society and in the church after World War II. In 1946 Congress passed the National Mental Health Act. This act established a national program with federal funds. The result was an explosion of psychology courses in the universities of our country. And from the universities, this spread into the seminaries. E. Brooks Holifield, in, A History of Pastoral Care in America: From Salvation to Self-Realization (Abingdon Press, 198"), points out that prior to WW II, "few theological schools had even bothered to teach counseling courses [involving psychology, but] by the 1950's, almost all of them did [and] over 80 percent were offering additional courses in psychology. ..."
Thus, much of the counseling which had been based solely on God-given, eternal and unchangeable truth, had now been infused with, and in some cases set aside for, the "truth" of psychology (i.e., a "truth" that is constantly changing and quite often, contradictory). The Bible is "God-breathed," whereas psychology's 'greatest teachers' were, and are, for the most part, unsaved men and women. And, as Paul reminds us, "...the man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned." (I Cor. 2:14).
The church today has, for the most part, in its desire to be "up to date" and "with the times" has set aside God's Word, and the authority and power of that Word, in order to make room for the theories of men. And this means, we have set aside the wisdom and the power of the God who made each one of us in the first place... and who knows us intimately... who knows our hearts and "every motive behind the thoughts" ... and who even has a plan for each one of us... (see Ps. 139, Jer. 29:11; I Chron. 28:9).
We have forgotten that the many miracle accounts of the New Testament are not just stories. Rather, they are actual events that involved people like you and me. They took place at a particular time in history. We have forgotten that he who is the "same yesterday, today and forever," is the One who was there and did those mighty things, and that He is here today ready and willing to work in the same way with us.
Why, if we need help, would we want to go anywhere else, before first going to those to whom God has given gifts and appointed in our midst, for counsel? Why would we want to rely on the faulty thinking of fallen man, when we can call upon the almighty and everlasting God of heaven and earth for help, and look to His unchanging Word for counsel? Do we believe in the power of the Gospel to make alive and make new? If we do, then let us seek help where the Gospel is given its rightful place.
It is not so easy to know just where you can find help and counsel that is truly "Christian" and based on the Word. You would expect that you should find it in a church, but often that is not the case. You would also expect to find it among those who advertise by offering "Christian Counseling." But that is not always so either. On the other hand, you may find true Christian counseling where you least expect it. A couple of years ago I tracked down a fine Christian committed to Bible based counseling in a public school setting. I found he also had a private practice. Let us remember, not all to whom God has given gifts, and called to service, work within the institutional Church... and yet, they are functioning members of His body.
If you are seeking professional help, there are some basic questions you might ask in choosing a marriage counselor, a therapist, a social worker, a psychiatrist, a psychologist, or whatever:
Now, as a parish pastor, I know my limitations. There are some matters that are beyond my ability to help. But this is one of the many blessings of being part of the 'body of Christ.' There is a church at large, beyond my local congregation, in which God has gifted and called those who can give help when I am not able. I keep a list of counselors who approach counseling from a biblical perspective. We are all here to help each other, and to see that no one is going to be put into a position where they might be lead to stray from Scripture in faith or conduct.
Christian counseling, first and foremost, should use biblical concepts and truly emulate the way Jesus dealt with people. For example, listening with compassion, even as God listens, to all we do or say. Without question, the Bible, and especially the New Testament, is the best book on counseling one can find.
Further, as for the use of Scripture and prayer in counseling: Just quoting Scripture verses for the sake of quoting Scripture, or just praying because it is felt that a Christian counselor must pray, does not make for Christian counseling. We know that there were times when our Lord quoted Scripture and there were times he did not, in his dealing with people. So too with his use of prayer. But he was a man of Scripture and of prayer. And he approached the tasks at hand as one firmly grounded in Scripture and prayer. Christ was, in the truest sense, the embodiment of the Word. In the same way, the Christian counselor must be the embodiment of Word and Sacrament if he is to be considered worthy of his calling. Never forget, if the Holy Spirit has 'called' an individual to be a counselor, that same Spirit stands ready to equip and empower for the task at hand.
back to top
The Lutheran Pastor
by G. H. Gerberding
Lest we think that there is anything remarkably unique about the times in which we live, here is a quote from an older book.
...in almost every community there are distractions and vexations from those who claim to have a superior grade of piety. Because of the skepticism that permeates our atmosphere; because faith in Christ, in His Word, His church, and His means of grace, has been so utterly weakened, if not lost; because faith in man, in self, in one's own ability to make himself acceptable to God, has grown to such colossal proportions, therefore extremes meet and fanaticism joins hands with rationalism. Immersionists, revivalists, sanctificationists, Adventists, and healers of every hue, name, and grade, are abroad in the land. They invade the school-house, the barn, and the woods. They spread their tents on the common and on the vacant lot in village, town, and city. Each one offers a new way of salvation. All cry: "Lo, here is Christ," or, "Lo, there." They all claim that the church which teaches the old doctrines and walks in the old ways is a failure. They unsettle the minds of the uninformed and the unreflecting. They bring heartache and sorrow to the earnest pastor.
All this skepticism, uncertainty, and experimenting has unfortunately unsettled only too many pastors in the churches around us. These pastors themselves have lost faith, more or less, in the divinely ordained means of grace. They are casting about for new means and methods by which to reach and hold men. They are experimenting with all sorts of novelties and attractions. Their churches and services are becoming more and more places of entertainment. They try to outbid and outdo each other in sensations calculated to draw. And so the church, like Samson of old, is shorn of her locks, and is degraded to make sport for the Philistines of the world. No true Lutheran pastor can stoop to such prostitution of his office and of his church. But he suffers from the misdeeds of others. His people are influenced by their surroundings. Some are drawn away from him, others make trouble in his own church. And so he is caused to grieve for the hurt of Joseph, and sighs "for the hurt of my people am I hurt" (Jer. viii. 21).
Source: The Lutheran Pastor by G. H. Gerberding, written in 1902 (pp.123-24).
back to top
The LMS Annual Conference and Convention
St. Matthew Lutheran Church
June 22-24, 2001
See the May issue of Table Talk for details
~ Visitors welcome ~
For information: Contact by email - email@example.com
or call 1-888-637-8880
back to top
The LMS-USA is a Biblical, Confessional, Evangelical, Liturgical, Congregational expression of the universal (catholic) orthodox Church on earth. It is a 'Forum by Subscription.' As a 'Forum' the intent is that there will be an ongoing discussion of theological issues and concerns among clergy and lay alike. The LMS-USA meets annually for a Theological Conference and this publication, besides carrying news of the Ministerium and Synod, functions also as a vehicle for this continuing dialogue.
For information or to make comment contact:
2837 East New York St.,
Indianapolis, IN 46201
P. O. Box 31
Chetek, WI 54728
email - firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
back to top