My purpose has not been to offer a systematic or polemical theology. My desire is to give a theological explanation for the history of the Lutheran view of Christian Vocation. Whether readers agree with the theological reactions against Rome, it is my hope that people see how Luther and other reformers gave much of the laity a renewed sense of Godly focus and energy in their daily lives. Indeed, as a pastor, this has become an area of great importance to me. In my experiences, churches function best when the laity is deeply invested in the life of the church. As a Lutheran, I would agree that our greatest contribution as Christians is to recognize, celebrate, and receive the grace that we already possess in Jesus Christ.
There are practical ways we can accomplish a renewed vision of lay vocation. I am the Connections Pastor at New Life Lutheran Church, and congregational leadership has been very intentional about moving from speech that implies membership to speech that implies discipleship. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with being the member of an organization, including the church. The problem of the modern church, however, is at least as ancient as the Reformation. Membership now often implies a passive approach to church life.
It is my opinion that the church today, much like the church of the Reformation, does not need more members. It needs disciples who have a clear sense of vocation. With regrets to my friends who might argue that the term is an oxymoron, I believe the church needs lay-ministers who are living out their vocations in all of life, most certainly in the church, but also at home and in the community. Like Luther, today’s theologians must begin to see that the priesthood of all believers is not an abstract theological topic to be bandied about. It is instead a way of seeing God’s grace, and our living out of that grace. We need to be teaching it from the pulpits, and we need to be using language within our congregations that places the focus of ministry on every man, woman, and child in the congregation. That includes ordained pastors, but it is not limited to the ordained. That is the way of the New Testament Church, and it is our way forward.
Adam Roe is the pastor of New Life Lutheran Church in Sterling, IL.