Interpreting the PMW: The Narrow Sense

Here’s the third point from the summary of my explanation of the new ELS doctrinal statement, The Public Ministry of the Word (PMW). The PMW speaks of this ministry using two different senses of the term “public ministry.” The first one it addresses is called the narrow sense, or narrow meaning of the term. To what does the narrow sense refer? Here’s the third point. Comments are welcome.

The narrow sense refers to the office of ministry that was established by Jesus when He called and sent His apostles by command and promise, an office characterized by the preaching of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments, and perpetuated today is those stations collectively known as the “pastoral office.”

Does this mean that all pastors are also apostles? No. But it does mean that the apostles were pastors.

The apostles were not in the Pfarramt, though, which term seems to refer consistently to the parish ministry. What does that tell us? It tells us that when we use the term “pastoral office,” we do not mean the Pfarramt. Instead, we mean a divine institution with several different manifestations. One we see in the apostles. Another we see in the parish pastorate, including those posts which are specialized and focused on only a portion of the work, such as visitations, youth, or preaching. Another we see in our seminary professors. Another in our missionaries, etc. The thing that unites them all is the preaching of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments, which characterize the pastoral office because they are the content and fulfillment of Jesus’ command and promise.

One thought on “Interpreting the PMW: The Narrow Sense

  1. Interesting. Out of curiosity, do you see a difference between youth pastors and Christian dayschool teachers?


    #### Response from J.J.:

    Why, yes, I do. As far as I can tell, youth pastors are pastors who are specialized to serve a subset of the whole spectrum of the duties they might otherwise be doing. They preach the Word and administer the sacraments mostly to youth. In places where that’s wrong, my answer would be different.

    For example, I don’t know of any youth pastors who consider it the essence of their vocation as pastors to teach arithmetic. Yet I do know of CDS teachers who rightly consider it the essence of their vocation as teachers to teach arithmetic. How did that duty get assigned to the office? By God himself — like the essential duties of the pastoral office, or by the Church in her God-given freedom? (Those are rhetorical, btw.)

    CDS teachers come under the next point, being in an office that falls under the wider sense, but not the narrower sense of “Public Ministry.”

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