A Truly Anonymous Army
When it was suggested that the Spokesman might feature our retired pastors and their long-time faithful work in behalf of the Lord and His Church, a couple of those pastors sought to broaden our focus. “Aren’t we a little heavy on attention to the clergy?” one asked. “We have had, as well, many laymen of distinction over the years.”
A truly blessed fact! So true, in fact, that our first thoughts were along the lines of where would we begin, and where would we end, in mentioning those lay-people who have “distinguished themselves” in the work of the CLC since its founding.
The quotation marks in the last sentence are significant. The parable of the workers in the vineyard (Matthew 20) makes clear that everything as far as the workers are concerned — from their “hiring” to their final “reward” — has grace as its distinguishing characteristic. Any “credit” goes to the Holy Spirit of God. Every faithful laborer in the vineyard of the Master, whether clergy or laity, knows that.
We saw an editorial in another Christian periodical not too long ago entitled “The Army of the Anonymous” The writer called attention to the fact that the church, for the most part, is nourished by “nameless, unknown figures” and “unheralded servants” who stay at the work, day after day, in ordinary congregations. And, said the writer, these men do so faithfully, and without prodding, for the simple joy of knowing they are serving their Lord. You might guess that the reference was to “ordinary” pastors.
We would broaden the focus. When, in the parable of the talents (Matthew 25), the lord said “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord” we see nothing that limits the complimentary word to faithful clergymen!
Listen to just a couple of testimonies to the anonymous army of faithful laymembers in our midst:
A retired CLC pastor wrote: “In the past it was always taken for granted that the chairmanship of each synodical board would be held by one of the clergy members on that Board. Now we are finding that a lay member may be the best qualified for that position, and that we do have laymembers who are willing to put in the endless numbers of volunteer hours that such an office requires.”
A few months ago the president of the CLC, in commenting on the time-consuming work of synodical board members — which boards indeed include laymen as well as clergy — wrote as follows: “Not a single man receives salary for what he does on a board. They are all otherwise employed. They take time, sometimes vacation, from their gainful employment to do the work of the CLC. They do take time that they might otherwise spend with family. I personally do not hear a word of complaint. I believe all elected to serve do so gladly. But the fact is they do not have to do for the CLC what they do, except the love of Christ, and their election by the brethren, compels them. . . .”
Included among unheralded servants of the church are not only those who have been elected to synodical boards. How about those who have for years served faithfully in church council positions in our local congregations? Not long ago we heard of a layman who has served for 50 years as treasurer of one of our congregations! We know there have been laywomen as well as laymen who have served for decades as organists and Bible School or Sunday School teachers. And shall we yet mention the men and women who have chosen the lackluster career as teachers in our Christian day schools? (We are introducing some of them to our readers in the new feature “In Our CLC Classrooms.”) Nor is this all. How about countless “ordinary” members who have served as pillars of our churches over the years? And we have previously referred to the wives of our pastors and professors….
Yes, where would we begin and where would we stop in adding names to our list?
To one and all in the vast anonymous army of faithful servants of the Lord in classroom or board room, in home and workplace, in pulpit or pew, we say: “Well done, good and faithful servants. . . .”
— Pastor Paul Fleischer
A Few Outstanding Examples
(In answer to our request for reflections and comments on the church scene, Pastor Norbert Reim, an active retiree currently living in Phoenix, passed along what he termed “a few outstanding examples” in his experience — examples of “the stature, education, skills, dedication, and leadership provided by our lay people.” We, in turn, are happy to pass these along to our readers. — Ed. * After completing construction on the parsonage at Lynnwood (Seattle), Washington, mostly with volunteer labor, and having excavated for the A-frame church building, I looked out of the parsonage window one morning to see someone I did not recognize as any of our usual volunteers preparing some of the main beams for erection. Hurrying out before any damage could be done, I found it was a member of Gethsemane in Spokane, who had been the main figure in the volunteer group building the church there. A licensed plumber and electrician, he was also a master craftsman with wood. Though he never admitted this to me, I am convinced that he moved from Spokane with his family (including several sons also highly skilled in the building trades) just because he felt their services would be needed now in Lynnwood. Finally we paid him a fraction of what he could have earned in his own business to work full time on our project for over a year, while also providing direction to the volunteers.
* A member of the Resurrection congregation in Corpus Christi, Texas who had a library of theological books that many of our pastors might be glad to trade for their own. And the underlinings and marginal comments proved that they were diligently used!
* A young layman from another Lutheran synod moved to Phoenix and started to attend our services. After a time he asked about becoming a communicant member. When told that we could either spend a few evenings discussing the differences between the two church bodies or he could take the complete adult information class, he instantly opted for the latter. When that was finished he wanted to know what came next. Since he and his family were already attending all services, Bible Classes, and other activities, I was at a loss to know what to suggest. So he asked if he and his wife could be tutored in New Testament Greek. His wife had to drop out of that when the children started coming, but he finished the course. More recently he published a book on his computer with the title: Rediscovering the Trinity in the Bible, which would be an eye–opening blessing to anyone under the spell of the Jehovah’s Witnesses or other sects denying the divinity of Christ. By comparing Old and New Testament passages he proves that the name “Jehovah” in the Bible is used to refer not only to God the Father, but also to Jesus Christ, His Son, and to the Holy Spirit as well.