In this six-page paper (presented by the author in January 2017 during the Exegetical Symposium at Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, Indiana), Dr. Juedes offers a concise introduction to a view that supports “deacon” as an office from a Lutheran theological perspective. Dr. Juedes supports each of his main points with documentation of his exegetical study of Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions.
Here are some excerpts:
ON THE ROLE OF THE FIRST DEACONS AS A MODEL FOR INTEGRATING THE GREEKS
“People who think the Seven (deacons in the book of Acts) were tasked to help the poor struggle to explain why stories of them baptizing Greeks don’t fit the theory. But if we see that the Seven were tasked to assist the apostles in converting and integrating Greeks into the church, everything makes sense. Luke offers the Seven as a model for how to assimilate Greeks because this problem plagued the Church for generations, from the Jerusalem council to Corinthians eating food sacrificed to idols.”
ON THE TEMPLATE PROVIDED BY ACTS FOR THE OFFICE OF DEACON
“….Acts 6 lays out five elements of the deacon office which are the pattern for today:
- Deacons are a separate office with a ministry similar to, but distinct from apostles, overseers and pastors; neither “layman” nor “pastor.”
- The office of deacon and overseer overlap because deacons assist and expand their ministry,
- Deacons are called by local congregations and publically ordained.
- influential spiritual ministry of deacons requires spiritual and character qualifications as in 1 Timothy 3
- Ministry portfolio is broad, and varies in response to needs of congregations and overseers.”
ON WHAT THE LUTHERAN CONFESSIONS SAY
“….The confessions speak of deacons as being ordained. In the modern Missouri synod “ordain” is a word restricted to pastors, but in the New Testament and Confessions it is a multipurpose word used of bishops and deacons also. Lutheran practice is that one must have a call before he can be ordained. Since the confessions consider deacons to be ordained, they also consider them to be called.
Overall, the Lutheran confessions teach that deacon is one of three orders, or offices, of minister, one type of called and ordained clergyman, neither pastor nor layman, with liturgical functions….”
ON THE USE OF DEACONS IN OTHER LUTHERAN BODIES
“….We identify modern deacons by looking at their functions not their titles. A list of 18 Lutheran and nonLutheran bodies that have deacons, and their titles, is available. In general, liturgical churches give deacons pastoral functions while nonliturgical churches limit them to social ministry. The recent American Missouri Synod (i.e. the LCMS) is an anomaly in that it has no nationally recognized office of deacon.
There are two gaps in synod’s view of deacons. The theological knowledge gap is that recent American Missouri Synod tradition does not realize that the Confessions consider deacons a biblical office nor that there are three orders. The administrative gap is that there is no roster of deacons.”
In this publicly available document translated into English, the faculty of Seminario Concordia, Buenos Aires, Argentina, provide their position in response to a growing trend within their church body. Included at the end are letters of support from the Presidents of Lutheran Churches in Brasil, Guatemala, and Argentina.
Why share this document on this website, originally focused on issues regarding Licensed Lay Deacons? As the reader will find out in the position paper provided by the IELA Seminario Concordia faculty, there is an important discussion going on in the wider global Lutheran church about the nature of the Office of the Public Ministry, the Priesthood of All Believers, and the role of the Lutheran Confessions and Scripture in determining ministry practice within different cultures and contexts.
We thank Rev. Dr. Anthony Steinbronn, District President, New Jersey, for offering permission to use the following thoughts on the “priesthood of all believers,” with special focus on Luther’s treatise, Concerning the Ministry to the Bohemian Christians. Click here to read the original post on Rev. Dr. Steinbronn’s blog on the New Jersey District Website
In 1523, Martin Luther wrote a treatise to the Bohemian Christians titled Concerning the Ministry. In that treatise, he dealt with two ministry situations: (1) the right of congregations to elect their own pastors and (2) the right of, and command to, God’s people, as the priesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2:4-10), to be engaged in the ministry of the Word (Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23, 51-52; Romans 10:13-17).
That is why we, as Lutherans, affirm that the Predigtamt (AC V) is the highest office in the church and from it flow all other offices in the church. Consequently, both the office of the pastoral ministry and the office of the priesthood of all believers have been entrusted with the ministry of the Word so that they might make known this “justifying faith” (AC IV) in the lives of others as they proclaim, tell, share, and witness the Gospel through the spoken Word in its various forms (Predigtamt).
One normative example from the Book of Acts, in which His people are actively engaged in the Predigtamt, is recorded in Acts 8 and 11. It is the account of how the the priesthood of all believers (Priesteramt) are scattered because of a significant persecution that broke out in Jerusalem in response to Stephen’s witness and message — and wherever His people were scattered, they “went about preaching the Word” (Acts 8:4)…
“and on that day a great persecution arose against the church in Jerusalem; and they were all scattered through the region of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles…now those who were scattered went about preaching the Word. Philip went down to a city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ” (Acts 8:4-5)
“now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to none except Jews. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of theLord was with them and a great number that believed turned to the Lord” (Acts 11:19-21)
In these selected verses from the Book of Acts, we have the priesthood of all believers engaged in “the ministry of the Gospel — the spoken Word” (Predigtamt); and we witness the Holy Spirit bringing people to saving faith, whenever and wherever He wills, just as Augsburg Confession Article V declares.
The following excellent and extensive quotation is from Dr. Robert Preus regarding the meaning of Predigtamt (AC V) and its relationship to the ministry and work of the whole church.
“Notice that in this passage no mention of the office of the pastor is made, no mention of man, of rank, or ordo. Rather an activity is spoken of, a function, a preaching activity (ministerium docendi evangelii). This is the means whereby faith is created and nourished, the means whereby the church is born and nourished. And thus this ministry becomes the essential work of the church. Notice the prominent place given this ministry by Melanchthon. The article on this ministry of the Word follow directly upon his presentation of the work of Christ and justification by faith, and it precedes the articles on the new obedience and the church (Art. VI-VIII), for there can be no new obedience or church without this ministry.
It is important to note the functional non–institutional nature of this ministry. Melanchthon is simply speaking here, as elsewhere, of the preaching of the Gospel Word, or of the work of the Gospel Word. This fact is illustrated clearly in the Schwabach Articles VII as they speak on this point. ‘To obtain this faith, or to bestow it upon us men God has instituted the ministry of the oral word (Predigtamt oder inundlich Wort) namely, the Gospel through which He causes this faith and its power and use and fruit to be proclaimed, and through it as through means He gives us faith along with the Holy Spirit, as and where He wills. Apart from this there is neither means nor way, neither mode nor manner to receive faith.’
There can be no doubt that this article, like AC V, describes the work of the church, or more properly, God‘s work through the church in causing His kingdom to come. This conforms to the Confessional notion that God is the author of baptism and of the Sacrament of the Altar. The church‘s mission, or ministry, is God‘s mission through the church. And it is a ministry with a completely soteriological and eschatological goal. The kingdom of power (creation, preservation, providence, civil government) is totally in the service of the kingdom of grace, namely, God’s Gospel claim upon men.
The Lutheran Confessions see this ministry as the work of the whole church in contrast to a ministerium leviticum which still dominated the hierarchical notion of the Romish church (Tr. 26). This functional view of ministry destroys all ranks (Tr. 7-13). What, then, is the office of the pastor? He is simply the public servant of the church, rightly called to teach and preach publicly and administer the sacraments (AC XIV).
The pastor does nothing that the church is not commissioned to do.
The ministry of the Word today is seen as the continuation of the apostolic ministry which in turn was the continuation of Christ’s ministry (Tr. 9), Christ’s opus proprinin, which is to proclaim the Gospel.” (Robert D. Preus, “The Confessions and the Mission of the Church,” The Springfielder 39 (June 1975), No. 1: 22-23).
 “…since they are the people of God it is due them that no one be set over them without their election, and the bishop ought to confirm no one whom they did not know and approve of as suitable” (LW 40:11)…”then call and come together freely, as many as you have been touched in heart by God to think and judge as you do. Proceed in the name of the Lord to elect one or more whom you desire, and who appear to be worthy and able. Then let those who are leaders among you lay hands upon them, and certify and commend them to the people and the church or community. In this way let them become your bishops, ministers or pastors. Amen. The qualifications of those to be elected are fully described by Paul in Titus 1:6ff. and 1 Timothy 3:2ff.” (LW 40:40)
 “…the command, to declare the wonderful deeds of God, is nothing else than to preach the Word of God” (LW 40:22); “the ministry of the Word is the highest office in the church, that it is unique and belongs to all who are Christians, not only by right but by command” (LW 40:23) and “a Christian is born to the ministry of the Word in baptism” (LW 40:37).
 “To obtain such faith God instituted the office of the ministry, that is, provided the Gospel and the sacraments. Through these, as through means, He gives the Holy Spirit, who works faith, when and where He pleases, in those who hear the Gospel (Tappert 1959:31).”
 This understanding of Predigtamt in AC V is predicated upon its definition and usage in the predecessor documents of the Augsburg Confession developed by Martin Luther, Philip Melanchthon and others: “To obtain such faith or to give it to us, God has instituted the preaching office or the spoken word (that is, the gospel) through which He has this faith proclaimed, along with its power, benefits and fruits. God also bestows faith through this Word, as through an instrument, with His Holy Spirit, when and where He wills. Apart from it there is no other instrument or way, passage or path, to obtain faith” (Schwabach Article 7; July 1529). “On the external word we believe that the Holy Spirit, properly speaking, gives this faith or His gift to no one apart from preceding preaching, or the spoken word, or the gospel of Christ. Rather, the Holy Spirit works faith through and with this word when and in whom He wills” (Marburg Article 8, October 1529).
 “Another example is provided by Stephen and Philip, who were ordained only to the service at the tables (Acts 6:5-6). Yet the one wrought signs and wonders among the people, disputed with members of the synagogue and refuted the council of the Jews with the word of the Spirit (Acts 6:8ff.), and the other converted Samaritans and travelled to Azotus and Caesarea. By what right and authority, I ask?
Certainly they were not asked or called by anyone, but they did it on their own initiative and by reason of a common law, since the door was open to them, and they saw the need of a people who were ignorant and deprived of the Word… And the Eunuch converted by Philip (Acts 8:36)… [the Eunuch] undoubtedly taught the Word of God to many, since he had the command to make known the wonderful deeds of God who called him from darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).
From his word (the Ethiopian Eunuch’s) resulted the faith of many, since the Word of God does not return in vain (Isaiah 55:11). From faith sprang a church, and the church through the Word received and exercised a ministry of baptizing and teaching, and all of the other functions enumerated above [Luther listed seven functions of the priesthood of all believers: “to teach, to preach and proclaim the Word of God; to baptize; to consecrate or administer the Eucharist; to bind and loose sins; to pray for others; to sacrifice; and to judge all doctrine and spirits” (LW 40:21)].
All these things a eunuch accomplished through no other right than that inherent in baptism and faith” (LW 40:38).
“…To the best of my knowledge the increases (over two decades) can be summarized as follows: from 1 to 13 congregations; from 0 to 19 teaching posts/ preaching stations; from 1 to 6 worship languages; from 25 to 610 baptized members; from 45 to 770 pre-baptism learners; from 7 to 49 new leaders-in-training; from 3 to 23 teaching elders; from 4 to 23 women leaders; from 0 to 6 evangelists; from 0 to 4 seminary students; and from 0 to 2 pastors.”
This report “snapshot” is provided by Rev. Dan Kunkel, missionary emeritus, Ghana, West Africa.
Rev. Kunkel’s Service as An LCMS Missionary:
- 1973-1994 — Evangelistic Missionary, LCMS World Mission, Ghana, W. Africa, among 7-plus language groups, church planting, school planting, and leadership training and community development.
Why do we share reports like the one by Rev. Kunkel accessible below?
IN A PREVIOUS POST ON THIS SITE we offered (already publicized by the SE District on their website) answers by all three candidates for Synod president, one answer being specifically about the use and function of Licensed Lay Deacons. President Harrison noted in his comment that “…I have come to realize that the LLD issue raises other perhaps even more fundamental issues. Some are convinced that our seminaries and the manner of training our pastors in residence is completely outmoded and should be replaced with a 100%, in-context training by local mentors. I have noted elsewhere that this model had been tried for decades on the mission field and has failed spectacularly to grow churches.”
As a follow-up to that post, this site welcomes a response from LCMS missionaries on the following:
- Data and experience from the mission field either supporting or reversing the assertion that extending the Office of the Ministry through a variety of auxiliary functions or offices under supervision has been “a spectacular failure in growing churches,” (President Harrison), and,
- Theological perspectives on this approach on the global mission field.
The “snapshot” of two-decades of ministry below was provided as a response to this request.
Of interest is the “farm system” approach that allowed a flexible AND responsible (supervised, mentored, regular training provided) response to the needs of a growing mission field. Here is another excerpt from Rev. Dan Kunkel’s report:
“The Lord of the harvest greatly blessed and multiplied the Office of Ministry through this team ministry of missionaries and pastors serving together with local languages-proficient disciples, teaching elders, and evangelists.”
“…before they were allowed to study to be a trained lay preacher… they had to already have planted two village churches in their area….”
This report is provided by Rev. Dr. Paul Mueller who returned two weeks ago from a trip to Liberia and serves as Executive Director of the Center for Applied Lutheran Leadership (CALL), Concordia University–Portland, Oregon.
Dr. Mueller’s Service as an LCMS Missionary:
- 1983-1990 – Evangelistic Missionary, LCMS World Mission among the Kisi, Lofa County, Liberia, W. Africa
- 2005-2009 – Regional Director – Africa, LCMS World Mission
In 1979, mission work was begun by the LCMS in Liberia, W. Africa, and missionaries worked in the country until 1990 when they were evacuated as a result of the war. The LCMS had four upcountry missionaries and one serving in the capital city, Monrovia. During that time, though the missionaries did the initial work of planting village churches and training non-literate leadership, that same work soon became the responsibility of lay preachers – they preached in the villages, cared for the worshippers, led weekly worship, and even planted more village churches. None of them were pastors.
When the war erupted and all missionaries were evacuated, about 30 villages in the entire country of Liberia had Lutheran congregations worshipping – none of them with pastors. At that same time, many Liberians also left the country, fleeing for their lives. As a result, Acts 8:1-4 was resurrected – those who were scattered preached/proclaimed the word everywhere they went, even as they were being persecuted, jailed, and beaten.
As they scattered and proclaimed the Good News, new ministries were started in Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire where the Liberian Lutheran Christians fled and where there were no LCMS missionaries. 50 village churches were started in Guinea by the lay preachers – there were absolutely no pastors doing this work. They preached and baptized. As a result, there is now an Evangelical Lutheran Church of Guinea in a country where there were no LCMS missionaries, and where no other protestant church but the CMA was allowed by Guinean law to do mission work. That Guinean Lutheran Church continues to grow. Very few local pastors are available to do the work, so the national Lutheran church relies on the large cadre of lay preachers to do the work today.
Cote d’Ivoire also, as a result of the war, now has a Lutheran church body. Once again: there are very few pastors who then continue to rely on the many lay preachers to carry out the work of the church. In both Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire, to my knowledge, none of the pastors has had any academic training equivalent to what is offered in the states, in Europe, or even in Kenya or Nigeria. They have been trained locally by missionaries, or by other African local leaders who have had more experience and local training.
Since 1997 when many Liberian refugees were able to return to Liberia from Guinea, Sierra Leone, Cote d’Ivoire, and even Ghana, (though there was still fighting and unsettled movement by many people), lay preachers who returned began the work to re-plant the village churches. From the 30 or so village churches worshipping before the war, there is now a robust Lutheran Church with about 15-20 pastors. One of them has St. Louis/Ft. Wayne Western academic training, one has a degree from Matongo Lutheran Theological College in Kenya, some have limited training from the seminary in Nigeria, but most of the pastors received minimal training from the Coordinating Center for Theological Studies (CCTS) located in the small village of Jembe in Sierra Leone.
The faculty of CCTS included one missionary, visiting instructors, and local indigenous leaders who had received the same training and had local church leadership experience. Lay preachers from Sierra Leone and Liberia, as they were able, would go for a month of training with several months off before the next session would begin. Many only returned as local family and village opportunities allowed. But in order to begin that training, they had to have already planted two village congregations.
Let that be noted again: before they were allowed to study to be a trained lay preacher, and then maybe continue on to be ordained as a pastor, they had to already have planted two village churches in their home area.
Today, that Lutheran church in Liberia has 15-20 pastors, 140 worshipping congregations in villages scattered throughout the country, with about 20,000 members.
Those results (and its continued missional growth) have been achieved by God blessing a model of leadership which primarily uses lay preachers. Most of the phenomenal growth has been done mostly without missionaries on the ground, without outside funding, and without pastors in every village congregation. The Lutheran Church in Liberia is a great example of spectacular success using a lay preacher model very similar to our own Licensed Lay Deacon model in the states. These faithful lay leaders serve in Liberia with the blessing of the Liberian Lutheran Church and the blessing of the LCMS.
Following the request by Rev. Eric Lange to share his “fraternal response” more widely across the district, The Exec. Asst. to the President, NOW District replied with a number of items of agreement, some differences, and some questions. Kunkel’s response is an informal exposition of his essay posted on this site, “Category Error, Common Sense, and the Office of the Ministry in the LCMS.” Note: if you have not already done so, please read Rev. Lange’s posted response to Kunkel’s essay which is also found on this site.
Here is an excerpt from Kunkel’s response (you can access the entire response in PDF at the bottom of this post):
“As in my essay, I must again suggest calling LLD’s “pastors” is a titular solution to the issue rather than a systemic solution. I’m not against the LCMS carrying out an extensive conversation about ordination, and the possibility of extending it to new groups of leaders. However, in my opinion, the subject is of enough consequence that TF 4-0A should not be jumping the gun with a quick solution all the while claiming it has done more than its due diligence. To summarize my perspective: we need to re-think and re-build a robust selection process for our leaders (usually the congregation and local circuit knows best who has faithful character); we need a training process that is flexible, not financially onerous, and modeled after the training methods of Christ; and we need pastoral supervisor-trainers who can walk with these leaders as they practice proclamation within real faith communities. These are not static structures but ongoing processes. The SMP program is a helpful step in this direction, but remains 1. Too expensive, 2. Too centralized in the Midwest (when it could be pushed out regionally, which would also take care of lowering expenses), and 3. Too limiting upon completion. The EIIT program is also a helpful step in this direction.
Foundational to this discussion is the Lutheran notion that authority for Word and Sacrament ministry rests in the local congregation. Our synodical arrangements are, at minimum, one step removed from this at a secondary level and we should communicate this difference regularly. If we do not, we begin to confuse primary authority with secondary organizational structure created to enact the authority. The growth of the church across the world and more specifically the LCMS through its partners in mission has always moved forward with multiple functions extending the Office responsibly under supervision. That is a fact. I have heard leaders in our church body denying that fact, but it is a fact. I was there in West Africa in the ‘70’s, ‘80’s, and ‘90’s. Local congregations and “preaching stations” raised up leaders, most with little education, to preach and baptize and commune under supervision. I was present when the Word of the Lord spread (Acts 6:7) in West Africa. The challenges of that mission world have arrived here in our insular western world, pressing us to reconsider our assumptions about the Office. This discussion is proof of that.”
And another excerpt:
“…The “ramifications of the use of LLDs” are in evidence today, not 30 years from now: It is a fact that we have congregations in the NOW district that would not exist without the ministry of LLDs. It is a fact that we have congregations that have called a full time pastor as a result of the service of LLDs. It is a fact that the seminaries have noted, over and over through the years, that entrants who were previously LLDs and sensed the call of God to voluntarily go and chose the M.Div. route are excellent pastoral candidates. It is a fact that we have been able to launch new congregations with the service of LLDs. The ramifications of the use of LLDs are clear, today: with careful supervision, God’s people receive the word and sacraments regularly in every corner of the district. 30 years from now, if we still have LLDs, my guess is we’ll also have excellent graduate-trained theologians supervising them responsibly.”
And another excerpt:
“Is it better to have a highly trained and highly educated theological educator/pastor leading a congregation without any required supervision and/or accountable relationships, or have a less educated and less trained pastor or deacon who is supervised regularly and held accountable locally? The reason I bring up this question is that I’ve heard more than once the argument that we need to turn deacons into pastors because of “abuses” or “deacons off the rails.” I find this logic suspect, considering that we have just as many, if not more, pastors who abuse the office or “go off the rails.” Why would we turn deacons– functioning within accountable systems–into pastors when we don’t have reliable accountable systems in place for our pastors? Deacons can have a license removed at any time by a DP, or not renewed at annual licensure, while pastors, typically, must commit an egregious error for there to be action from a DP.
…As I have already indicated, I support extensive pastoral training culminating in a graduate degree. We are in ongoing need of more and more graduate-level pastors. The question is not about men being trained extensively but rather the need of our congregations to receive the word and the sacraments regularly, and for new and old faith communities to have flexible provision. It is a fair question to ask: at what point does a current congregation no longer receive the Word and Sacraments regularly because it cannot afford the type of leader Synod requires? A secondary question is this: by whose authority shall this congregation be told it cannot receive regular Word and Sacrament ministry?”