Forming Church Workers in the Divine Service

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This past summer I attended Divine Service with my 5-year-old grandson. When we came to “This Is the Feast,” he robustly sang it by heart. A friend recently sent me a picture of my 3-year-old granddaughter singing in church with an open hymnal.

Children are formed in the faith through the proclamation of the Word in the Divine Service. These are snippets from my own experience — grandmas and grandpas, moms and dads, and Christians around the world have their own stories of children who are immersed and instructed in the Word in the Divine Service.

Why is it so important that the Word in the Divine Service become a part of who these young Christians are? Because it is through these words — the preached and sung Word of God — that the Holy Spirit creates, nourishes and sustains saving faith in our children. Even when we think they’re not listening or paying attention, children often later make a comment about something the pastor said in the sermon or go home humming the liturgy and hymns. This is why it is so important for children to be present and participate in the entire Divine Service.

When a child hears and sings, “Lord, have mercy; Christ, have mercy; Lord, have mercy” (Kyrie), these Advent words become a part of who this Christian is. This prayer is then prayed in confidence to God throughout his life — when he is bullied, when he is sick, when his marriage is in turmoil, when his loved ones die.

When a child hears and sings “Glory to God in the highest” (Gloria), these Christmas words become a part of who this Christian is. This hymn of praise comes to mind in times of sin and guilt, depression and anxiety, worry and fear — knowing that God, in His incomprehensible love, came in the flesh to be his Savior from all sin and the effects of sin.

When a child hears and sings, “Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world” (Agnus Dei), these Lenten words become a part of this Christian. These words are sung when God’s people receive the body and blood of Jesus Christ. From these words, this child learns that Jesus shed His blood for him to forgive his sins and give him eternal peace.

When a child hears and sings, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of power and might” (Sanctus), these Easter words become a part of who this Christian is. When his world is crumbling all around him, when so many are turning away from the Triune God, and when Satan whispers doubt into his ears, the Christian draws on these Sanctus words with the confidence that Jesus crushed sin, Satan and death, and that heaven and earth are full of the glory of this God as He comes in the name of the Lord in Word and Sacrament and on the Last Day.

Christians are formed in the Divine Service, through the proclamation of the Word of God from beginning to end. Youth and adults who consider or enter church worker are first Christians. 91% of current LCMS church workers stated that regularly attending the Divine Service was the factor that most influenced and shaped them to consider and pursue church work. This is because faith comes by hearing the Word of God, and a church worker is one who first has saving faith in Jesus Christ for life and salvation through such hearing. 

I am often asked how many church workers I have recruited. Though I encourage youth in various venues to consider church work, the formation and recruitment of church workers takes place more so by mom and dad taking their children to weekly Divine Service, by the pastor faithfully preaching God’s Word in the context of liturgy that prepares God’s people for all of life, and by commissioned church workers and the laity attending Divine Service and encouraging our youth to gladly hear and learn God’s Word.

This continues at the Concordia universities and seminaries. The president of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Rev. Dr. Thomas Egger, addressed the 2023 Synod Convention with these words: “The rhythm of daily worship instills a humility before the Word of God. Each day, we sit shoulder to shoulder under this life-giving Word — faculty, staff, students, families, visitors. Each day, we confess together not ourselves as Lord, but Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. Each day, we pray for one another, for the whole church, and for those who don’t yet know Christ. Such Spirit-worked humility before the Word of God then flows outward from our shared chapel life to our classrooms, submitting to God’s holy Word, knowing that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of all true wisdom.”

I would add to Dr. Egger’s words — the Word of God then flows outward as these men and women become pastors and church workers, formed in the Word of God to speak it for the life and salvation of God’s people.

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