by Rev. Matthew C. Harrison
I recently had the opportunity to visit the Lutheran Church of Australia. (I studied in Adelaide on exchange in 1987, and I’ve enjoyed the friendships of many Australian Lutherans ever since.) Dr. Andrew Pfeiffer, head of the school and with a Ph.D. in missiology, invited me into his office at the seminary.
He pointed to a shelf full of books, and in his delightful Australian manner and accent, said, “See all those books? Those are all the mission gimmicks and programs that were supposed to save the Lutheran Church of Australia. None of them worked. Not a one.”
Andrew’s been teaching his seminary students something very simple but profoundly important: Pastors are to teach the Lutheran view of vocation for laity. Each of us has a divine calling, a vocation. In fact, that vocation is multifaceted. Our vocations place us in contexts where we serve God through our neighbors.
Luther was a master of the Bible’s teaching on vocation and wrote eloquently and very simply about the high callings of everyday life, like that of mother, father, sister, brother, grandparent, worker, butcher, baker or farmer. He rightly pointed out that the calling of mother is every bit as holy and divinely pleasing as that of pastor!
“Whatsoever you have done to the least of these, you’ve done to Me” applies to diapers. (And Luther, by the way, expected fathers to change them too!) Forgiven in Christ, Christians are freed to serve those around them according to the station in life they occupy.
Dr. Pfeiffer teaches that, in the context of our vocations and especially as we interact with relatives, friends and neighbors, we share Christ and His Gospel of free forgiveness while inviting folks to church. Pfeiffer is teaching his students the importance of conducting regular membership classes and encouraging and training his people to invite others. It’s simple but vital for the salvation of souls and the mission of the Church.
The Church needs clergy and laity in the mission field as called professionals. But just as profound is the vocation each of us has where we are to speak Christ and invite people to church.
Each of us is a saint, a spiritual priest, who offers sacrifices of prayer (“Pray the Lord of the harvest send workers.”), praise and thanksgiving. Each of us can and must support the Church’s work of global mission and sending missionaries, a sacrifice of praise (2 Cor. 9:615).
Each of us in our relationships has a sacred vocation, however humbly, to speak of Christ to our loved ones and neighbors and speak forgiveness in His name!