ST. JOHN LUTHERAN CHURCH
(The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod)
Alma, Kansas
A family united by faith in Christ gathering around God's Word and Sacraments.
To reach out in Christ-like concern and Christ-borne love to each other and to those without Christ!
In This Month's
St. John Witness
MARCH WITNESS
Theology for Today / Stephen Ministry
Stephen Ministry

What is Stephen Ministry?  Congregations equip lay caregivers to provide high-quality, confidential, Christ-centered care to people who are hurting or are experiencing grief, divorce, cancer, job loss, loneliness, disability, relocation, and other life difficulties. Stephen Ministers serve in a one to one relationship of trust, care, and Christ-like concern. If you think you  might benefit from having a Stephen Minister, please call Pastor Grimm, or talk with one of these servants of God. - Brad Becker, Don Frank, Charlie Gann, Judy Peddicord, Laura Stuewe, Junior Stuewe, Carol White.

If you would be interested in becoming a Stephen Minister, please contact Pastor Grimm.

Below is more information about the Stephen Series & Stephen MInistry.

  • Why is it called the Stephen Series?

Stephen was one of the first laypeople commissioned by the Apostles to provide caring ministry (Acts 6). Series describes the steps a congregation follows to implement the caring ministry system, which is commonly called Stephen Ministry.

  • How many congregations are using Stephen Ministry?

More than 11,000 congregations are enrolled, with hundreds more enrolling each year. They represent more than 150 denominations and come from all 50 United States, 10 Canadian provinces, and 24 other countries. Many congregations have had Stephen Ministry going strong for 20 or 30 years—or longer.

  • What size congregations are involved?

Stephen Ministry congregations range from fewer than 100 members to more than 10,000. Churches of any size have opportunities to care for hurting people in the congregation and community.

  • What are Stephen Ministers?

Stephen Ministers are laypeople who commit to two years of learning, growing, and caring. They receive Christian caregiving training in their congregation and then provide one-to-one Christ-centered care to hurting people. Each Stephen Minister typically has one care receiver at a time and meets with that person once a week.

  • What types of caregiving situations are Stephen Ministers used in?

Stephen Ministers provide high-quality, one-to-one Christian care to individuals facing a variety of crises or life challenges—people who are experiencing grief, divorce, cancer, financial difficulties, hospitalization, chronic illness, job loss, disabilities, loneliness, a spiritual crisis, or other life struggles.
In addition to caring for members within the congregation, Stephen Ministers can provide care to nonmembers, reaching out to unchurched people in crisis.

  • What are Stephen Leaders?

Stephen Leaders are pastors and lay leaders who direct Stephen Ministry in their congregation. They attend a one-week Leader’s Training Course (LTC) where they learn how to effectively lead their congregation’s Stephen Ministry.

  • What is the meaning of the logo?

The Stephen Series logo symbolizes that we are all broken people and that we are only made whole through the cross of Jesus.

Since 1975 nearly a half million Christian men and women from all walks of life have trained and served as Stephen Ministers in their congregations. Most decide to become Stephen Ministers as a way to help hurting people in their congregation and community—but very quickly discover that God gives them amazing blessings in return.


  • What do people say about Stephen Ministry?

“My faith has grown, my prayer life has doubled, and I know how to really make a difference in people’s lives. I’d encourage anyone who has the chance to become a Stephen Minister.”
  George Lund, Architect
  Prairie Village, Kansas

“Being a Stephen Minister has taught me to rely on God instead of always trying to fix things myself. I’ve learned what to say, how to listen, and what to do during a crisis. It’s a great feeling to provide people with the spiritual care and support they need.”
  John Eichelberger, Physician
  Greenwood, South Carolina

“The assertiveness skills I learned through Stephen Ministry gave me the courage and confidence I needed to be a more effective supervisor in my secular job—and to be more assertive in my personal relationships. Thank you for helping me develop these vital skills.”
  Elizabeth McMillion, Rehabilitation Counselor
  Madison, Wisconsin


Theology for Today

Notes on the Liturgy
(Brothers of John the Steadfast offers articles to teach good practice and theology. This article is from a series that teaches about the liturgy. These notes were originally written in 2001 by Pastor David Oberdieck and have been edited.)

#12 — The Creed
“No creed but the Bible.” Perhaps you have heard something like that before and wondered why Lutherans and other Christians use creeds in the Divine Service. A wonderful answer to that question, is to use another question: Why not use them!? If another Christian ever asks you that question, recite one of the creeds to them, and ask then what is it about that creed that they would object to. We Lutherans boldly confess “Scripture alone!” We do not place creeds on the same authority as Scripture, but they become important for us because they teach what the Scriptures teach. Throughout history people have twisted the Bible. Thus, creeds become important tools for confessing the orthodox (“right teaching”) doctrine of Scripture. They say, “Here we stand! This is what the Word teaches! This is what we reject!”
Dr. Martin Luther states they have two duties, “feed the sheep and ward off the wolves.” (Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Rule and Norm, 529.14 Kolb (click here, then scroll down to paragraph 14); Acts 20:25-31, II Timothy 3:16) That is, the pastor must teach the Word purely and also condemn false doctrine. This is what the creeds do for Lutherans. In Lutheran Worship there are three ecumenical creeds–Nicene (pg. 141), Apostle’s (pg. 142), and Athanasian Creed (pg. 134). They are called “ecumenical” because they are accepted by many Christians throughout the world. All three creeds teach the doctrine of the Trinity. Note how the Nicene & Apostle’s Creed follow a similar outline based on the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
These Creeds are ancient. The Nicene Creed began to be formed at a church council in Nicea, Turkey in 325 AD as a response to specific heresies that were invading the church. The Apostle’s Creed dates to at least the early 2nd century after Christ, and it gained its name because it confesses the faith as the apostles taught it, not because they specifically wrote it.
The Athanasian Creed appears in what is now Southern France in the 400’s, but no one knows who the author is even though it was named after Athanasius. It too was developed to address specific heresies of the time, and it is typically used only on Holy Trinity Sunday because of its length. We do not confess “modern” creeds written anew every Sunday and neglect the confessions of the past. Because the ecumenical creeds are built on Scripture, they are timeless. The age of these creeds remind us that we do not confess them alone. We are part of a mighty army of believers marching from of old and yet we are one church that confesses the faith “with angels and archangels and all of the company of heaven.” (L. Rast, Lutheran Witness, June 2000, pg 22).
#13 — The Sermon
The task of proclaiming God’s Word is one of the major tasks of the Pastoral Office. It is for this reason that Dr. Norman Nagel told his students at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, “The most important thing about you that is ordained, is your mouth!” If a service, is held without the Lord’s Supper, then the high point of the liturgy is the sermon, and in the Divine Service it serves as the culmination of the Service of the Word that began with the readings.
The sermon is nothing more than the exposition of the Scripture with the proper balance between words of Law and words of Gospel. It is a relatively simple goal, but accomplishing it is anything but easy. The ultimate goal of the sermon, like the liturgy as a whole, is to serve the Gospel. The Law that exposes our sin and then condemns us for that sin, gives us a thirst for the refreshing drink of the Gospel that offers us the forgiveness of Christ. We will never outgrow Law/Gospel preaching this side of eternity though we may not always appreciate it. A Lutheran pastor should never lose sight of this primary task of Christian preaching!
Some people want “how to/practical” sermons, but there is a danger here. It has been said, “The most popular sermons…will draw principles from the Bible about practical issues–such as how to manage money, how to handle family problems, and how to avoid stress. Jesus taught His disciples how to pray in the Sermon on the Mount.
But preachers may easily make such sermons to become all ‘Law’, or they water down the Law so that it seems easily achievable, a matter of self-help rules, rather than demands of a righteous God. Such sermons, however popular, can never bring anyone into faith…pastors must be very careful to avoid the cultural temptation to preach sermons that are merely ‘therapeutic,’ as opposed to bringing their listeners to repentance, through the Law, and to faith, through the Gospel of free forgiveness through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (For the Sake of Christ’s Commission: The Report of the Church Growth Study Committee p. 25) The other issue that arises with such “practical” sermons comes with the Gospel. The Gospel is God doing fro us what we cannot do for ourselves. Modern preaching often  excludes the Gospel altogether, or waters it down so that it’s unrecognizable or tragically warps the intended gospel into Law (Think of the Evangelical’s demand that you must “pray Jesus into your heart” in order to be saved. They call that the Gospel, but it’s really Law as it makes salvation into something that I must do to be saved.)
There is nothing wrong with “practical” properly understood. The Bible does indeed have some “how to’s,” but never encourage your pastor to preach practically so that Law/Gospel proclamation is lost. Train your ears to hear the word of Law/Gospel in the sermon. As C.F.W. Walther said, properly distinguishing between Law & Gospel is one of the most difficult aspects of studying God’s Word. It is a fine art that is practiced, but it is never perfected this side of Paradise. Apply the Law to yourself first not your neighbor first. Listen carefully to the words of Gospel and believe that in Christ those words of mercy are for you!

#14 — The Prayers
The Apostle Paul wrote, “1I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone — 2for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1-4).
This passage gives the spirit of what the church has intended for the General Prayer also called The Prayer of the Church. This prayer is designed to, “rise above small, local, and selfish considerations” (Luther Reed). In other words, this is a time of prayer on behalf of the Church at large. To that end, many LCMS congregations today base their prayers on ones prepared by the Commission on Worship. In this sense, the petitions truly are universal and prayed by the Church at Large.
It goes beyond praying only for the sick in the congregation. It is a broad ranging prayer that includes the great commission goal that the Word may be preached to the strengthening of God’s people and salvation of the lost (see “Lutheran Service Book”, pages 305-318 “Lutheran Worship” page 144; See “The Lutheran Hymnal” page 13, 23) Without careful consideration it is easy to let this prayer slip into becoming only a grocery list of parochial needs rather than breathing the spirit of Saint Paul’s words above.
As far as its positioning in the worship service, the Prayer is closely tied with the offering and singing of the offertory. We offer up gifts and our prayers to God. It is the first of our responses to God, after hearing His Gospel in the sermon. We give our requests, prayers, thanksgivings and petitions to Him, for He answers prayer. We bring offerings in thanks for His mercies, and to reach out with His love.
How do we stop our minds from wandering in prayer? It can be hard enough not to wander in our own prayer let alone following someone else’s prayer! This is part of the reason the prayers are often broken up with words like, “Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.”
When I have followed another person who is leading a prayer, I have found it helpful to focus on a thought or phrase of the person’s prayer and bring in my own quick petition on the subject. Perhaps I will repeat a phrase the other person is praying and give a quick “amen” or “Lord have mercy.” See what works for you, but don’t let Satan and your flesh steal community prayer from you. Don’t surrender so that you simply bow your head and let your mind drift. Respond with heartfelt and soulfully-expressed communication to God!