Varieties of Service

One of the many great parts about being a pastor for me has been seeing all of the quiet, behind-the-scenes ways that laypeople serve the Lord in their congregation without any awards or fanfare. From teaching children to trimming bushes, our congregations are made up of servants of Christ, who respond to God’s rich mercy and grace with the gifts that they have been given. In describing the body of Christ, St. Paul writes, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone .” This issue of The VOICE highlights the many and various ways that the saints of God serve in their congregations and communities.

Martin Luther’s doctrine of vocation emphasizes the Scriptural teaching that every Christian is called by God to a life of service. Some may be called to lives of service as pastors or teachers, while others serve their neighbors as accountants or police officers. However, each is a form of service that we offer in Christ’s name. This key teaching of Lutheran doctrine gives purpose to the daily work that each Christian undertakes. In his “Freedom of a Christian,” Luther writes, “A Christian is an utterly free man, lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is an utterly dutiful man, servant of all, subject to all.”

We are, therefore, free to serve the Lord with gifts of music and art or by picking up trash around the church grounds. All forms of service are considered acceptable sacrifices to God on account of Jesus–the one, perfect sacrifice. For our service to Christ and His Church is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer.

While we need young people to consider church work vocations, it is my prayer that all of our congregation members would understand their vocation as priests of God who offer themselves and their service as spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God. The Scriptures and Lutheran theology help us to see that we do not have to attend a Lutheran college or seminary to serve God. The Table of Duties in the Small Catechism provides a great paradigm for lives of faithful service at work, but also in our homes, communities, and congregations.

How is God using you to serve others and be His chosen instrument of blessing? If you’re not sure how to answer that question, please ask your pastor for help. There are so many different ways that we can serve with the gifts that God has given us. As St. Paul writes, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17) Jesus Christ has set you free to serve! May our heavenly Father use you to be a blessing to many with the gifts that He has given to you! God’s blessings in your service!

Fraternally in Christ,

President Lee Hagan

Rev. Dr. R. Lee Hagan was elected as the fifth president of the Missouri District-LCMS in 2015.  He is a 1992 graduate of Concordia College (now University), Seward, Nebraska.  He graduated from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis with a Master of Divinity in 1996 and Doctor of Ministry in 2011.  Dr. Hagan served as associate pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Evansville, Indiana from 1996-2002.  In 2002, he was called to serve as senior pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Concordia, Missouri until he was elected district president.  Additionally, he served as the Interim Director of LCMS Rural and Small Town Mission from 2011-2012.  He has previously served as Missouri District first vice-president from 2012-2015, fourth vice-president from 2011-2012, and chairman of the Board for Congregational Services from 2006-2011.  He has presented workshops and retreats on a host of ministry topics including elders, rural ministry, outreach and ministry to inactives.  He has written articles for Lutheran Witness, Concordia Historical Quarterly and Missio Apostolica.  He has led mission trips to Cambodia, China, Guatemala and the Bahamas.  Dr. Hagan is married to Jill (nee Johnson), who works as a speech-language pathologist.  They have two children, Caroline and Jack.