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
FEBRUARY 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

Theology for Today: I Believe _________.
by Todd Wilken of Issues, Etc.(www.issuesetc.org)
Confessional subscription seems like a very difficult subject. The sainted Dr. Robert Preus famously observed what should still be, but no longer is obvious.
There is... nothing obscure or confused or even complex about the concept of confessional subscription.
This is the reason why the notion is not discussed at length but only touched upon by our confessions
themselves. The creeds do not bother to explain what is meant and involved by the formula "I believe."1
Preus was right. Confessional subscription is simple, as simple as “I believe.” …
If you have ever said, “I believe _______,” you have subscribed to a confession. Your confession might be wrong: “I believe Jesus was merely a man,” or your confession might be right: “I believe Jesus is God incarnate.” Either way, you have subscribed to a confession. Really, everyone, even atheists and nihilists, subscribes to a confession of some kind. The atheist says, “I believe there is no God.” The nihilist says, “I believe nothing.” But both have just stated their respective confessions, haven’t they? Everyone subscribes to a confession.
This explains why a Christian needs a confession. Simply put, you can’t be a Christian without one. Confessional subscription is an essentially Christian act. Every Christian subscribes to a confession, right or wrong, written or unwritten, strong or weak. Confessional subscription is unavoidable. If a person doesn’t have a confession to which he subscribes, he simply isn’t a Christian.This also explains why it makes no sense for Christians to reject the idea of confessions and creeds. Many do, but it makes no sense for them to do so. Many Christians say, “I have no creed but the Bible.” But that statement itself is a creed, a confession. Besides, the Bible is full of creeds and confessions:
Hear O Israel, the LORD is our God, the LORD is one.(Deuteronomy6:4)
The LORD, he is God; the LORD, he is God. (1 Kings 18:39)
You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.(Matthew 16:16)
You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel.(John 1:49)
We have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.(John 6:69)
My Lord and my God.      (John 20:28)
Jesus is Lord.        (1 Corinthians 12:3)
Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit,
seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.         (1 Tim. 3:16)
Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. (1 John 4:2)
All of these statements are confessions of faith. If the Bible is your only creed, then you subscribe to these statements as your confessions of faith. But, there is no contradiction between believing the Bible and subscribing to a confession of faith. Good confessions of faith do nothing but summarize what the Bible teaches. This means that subscribing to a confession of faith is not only unavoidable, it is also absolutely necessary.
When a Christian says, “I believe what the Bible says,” that’s good, but it doesn’t tell you much, if anything about what that Christian believes. Many Christians say they believe what the Bible says, but can’t tell you what the Bible actually says. Others can, but completely disagree about what the Bible actually says. What does the Bible say? If you answer that question (and you must), you are making a confession of faith.
Confessional subscription is as simple as “I believe...” So, what exactly is subscription? It is your agreement with a statement of faith. The word means “to sign at the bottom.” If you subscribe to a particular confession of faith, it is as though you are signing that confession, putting your own name on it. You are saying, “This confession is my confession.”
Again, Robert Preus provides a helpful explanation:
Confessional subscription is a solemn act of confessing in which I willingly and in the fear of God confess
my faith and declare to the world what is my belief, teaching and confession. This I do by pledging myself
with my whole heart to certain definite, formulated confessions.
I do this in complete assurance that these confessions are true and are correct expositions of Scripture.
These symbolical writings [confessions] become for me permanent confessions and patterns of doctrine
according to which I judge all other writings and teachers.2
There are several things to note about confessional subscription here. First, this isn’t a half-hearted agreement. There is a little Latin word for this half-hearted agreement or subscription, quatenus. It means “insofar as.”This kind of subscription is an agreement with your fingers crossed. You say, “I believe __________ insofar as...” Insofar as what? Insofar as you think that confession agrees with the Bible, right? Now, at first that sounds good; but it isn’t.
Think about it this way. The opening statement of the Apostles’ Creed is: “I believe in God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.” Someone says, “I agree with that insofar as it agrees with the Bible.” Do you know whether or not he agrees with that part of the Creed? No, you don’t. He has qualified his subscription with his “insofar as.” He has told you nothing of what he actually believes about God the Father. In fact, all he has really told you is that he agrees with what the Bible says. But, he hasn’t told you what the Bible says, has he? What good is such a subscription? Preus writes that a quatenus, insofar as subscription is “a contradiction in terms and no real subscription at all. As John Conrad Dannhauer observed, “one could subscribe to the Koran in so far as it agreed with Scripture.”3
The problem with a quatenus confession is that it doesn’t actually confess anything. A quatenus subscription says, “The Bible is the final authority,” but refuses to tell you what the Bible says. Such a subscription really makes the subscriber the final authority, not the Bible. Another late Lutheran Theodore Tappert said (referring to the Confessions as “the symbols”),
If the church conceded that its ministers should not be required to interpret the Scriptures according to the
symbols but interpret the symbols according to the Scriptures, subscription would not give the church any
guarantee that the pledged minister would understand and expound the Scriptures as it does but rather as
he himself thinks right.
Thus the church would actually set up the changing personal convictions of its ministers as the symbol to
which it would obligate them.4
Tappert is saying that if the church allows its pastors to make a quatenus subscription to its confession of faith, you will never know what your pastors believe, the pastor might change his mind, and the pastor will end up being his own authority, even over the Bible. I’ve been a pastor for more than twenty years. Believe me, you do not want your pastor to regard himself as the highest authority.
This brings us to the second thing we should notice about confessional subscription. A quatenus subscription doesn’t tell me what you believe. But there is a kind of subscription that does. It goes by another little Latin word, quia. It means “because.” Again, words of the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe in God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.” Someone says, “Well, I agree with that because it agrees with the Bible.” In other words, he is telling you that this statement, this confession, is what the Bible says, and because of that, he believes it. Now you know what he believes. Are there still a lot of details to explore about his statement of belief? Of course. But you aren’t left to guess what he thinks the Bible says. A quatenus subscription says, “The Bible is the final authority,” but refuses to tell you what the Bible says. However, a quia subscription says, “This confession says what the Bible says, and the Bible is the final authority.” Such a subscription allows the Bible to remain the final authority and tells you exactly what the subscriber believes. It is a real, honest “I believe...”
That brings us to the third thing we need to know about confessional subscription. Preus says that a confession of faith “become[s] for me permanent confessions and patterns of doctrine according to which I judge all other writings and teachers.” You see, confessional subscription is your “I believe...”
Yet another late Lutheran, Charles Porterfield Krauth said of the sixteenth century Lutheran Confessions and the Bible,
Finding that they teach one and the same truth, we heartily acknowledge the Confession as a true exhibition
of the faith of the Rule --a true witness to the one, pure, and unchanging faith of the Christian Church, and
freely make it our own Confession, as truly as if it had been now first uttered by our lips, or had first gone
forth from our hands."5
But with that said, confessional subscription isn’t only about you, your confession, your beliefs; it is also about the Church. As a Lutheran, when I subscribe to the Lutheran Confessions unconditionally, I am not only saying “This is what I believe,” I am also saying, “This is what the Bible says” and, “This is what every Christian should believe,” and moreover, “This is what the true Christian Church has always believed.” Preus puts it this way,
Confessional subscription is not some sort of individualistic, autonomous act. ...It is a responsible public
act of confession, done in fellowship and union with the Christian church ...The confessions do not belong
to me, but to the Church as the unanimously approved pattern of doctrine. They are above me or any individual. 6
This is a politically incorrect statement. Our postmodern world says we can’t know the truth, even the truth of the Bible; much less confess that truth with any certainty. Our postmodern world therefore rejects the possibility of an unconditional confessional subscription.
Unconditional confessional subscription requires us to say that there is such a thing as THE Christian faith. It requires us to say that this faith can be put into words that are in total agreement with the Bible. It requires us to stand up and confess that faith with the whole Church throughout time. I think that the Apostle Paul had this in mind when he told some of the first Christians, “Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, ‘I believed, and so I spoke,’ we also believe, and so we also speak.” (2 Cor.4:13)
Is there more I could say about confessional subscription? Yes, books have been written on the subject. But, these are the most important things: Confessional subscription isn’t a half-hearted agreement, we don’t subscribe insofar as, but because a confession agrees with the Bible, and it isn’t only your confession, but the Church’s confession.
So, you really have no choice. You already subscribe to a confession. What is it? What do you believe? Do you believe it because it is what the Bible says? Is it what every Christian should believe? And, is it what the true Christian Church has always believed?
Try this: Read my confession of faith, the 16th century Lutheran Confessions. You can find them at http://bookofconcord.org/.  Read them, and when they start to disagree with the Bible, stop reading. If you’re like me, once you start reading them, you won’t need to stop.

1 Robert Preus, “Confessional Subscription,” An address to the Lutheran Congress, August 31-September 2, 1970 printed in Faithful Confessional Life in the Church, pp. 46 (http://www.christforus.org/Papers/Content/Confessional%20Subscription.pdf).
2 Ibid.
3 Ibid., p. 43.
4 Theodore Tappert, Lutheran Confessional Theology in America: 1840-1880, New York: Oxford University
Press, 1972, p. 66.
5 C.P. Krauth, The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology, Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co. 1871, p. 169.
6 Preus, “Confessional Subscription.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
How to bridge the generation gap
Ideas for the elder generation:
  • Be a storyteller.
  • Millennials are highly educated and love what is “retro.” They enjoy learning what has happened in the past and recreating it for their lives.
  • Tie in how God was with you during these moments in your life.
  • College students and young career people are especially looking for a sense of home.
  • Become a surrogate grandparent. Remember, Millennials are extremely close to their parents. That goes for grandparents too.
  • Create a sense of home for them by using your gifts of hospitality.
  • Cook dinner for your Millennial and his or her friends.
  • Don’t judge their differences in lifestyle. Just listen and pray for opportunities to share Jesus.
  • Offer to take them out frequently for meals to catch up on their lives.
  • Show enthusiasm for their successes with a card or kind word.
  • Overall, don’t be afraid to connect with them. If you are real, yet loving, they will see you as pure gold.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~