The Zion Blog > Ask the Pastors > Communion

Non-Ordained Men Assisting In Communion

Question: Hey Pastor, I have a question!? In the Augsburg Confession, Article XIV it states:? ?It is taught among us that nobody should publicly teach or preach or administer the sacraments in the church without a regular call.?? I have seen called Principals and Teachers assist the Pastor(s) with the Sacrament of the Altar.? Why is it that elders who are not ?called? can administer the Sacrament of the Altar?

Answer: Thanks for writing.? First, let?s expand your thoughtful question a bit.? You asked about having non-ordained men assist with the distribution of the Sacrament of the Altar.? Based on the quote from the Augsburg Confession (Article XIV) it also seems ?out of order? for non-ordained men to preach sermons during the Divine Service as well.? This would apply to vicars (student pastors) like Zion has had off and on over the years.

Back in Reformation times, there were different orders or ranks of clergy.? The following is a quotation from Martin Chemnitz, an extremely talented and brilliant Lutheran who is credited with holding the Reformation together following the death of Dr. Martin Luther.? (In fact, it is often said:? ?If it were not for the second Martin [Chemnitz], the first Martin [Luther] would have been forgotten!?)

Chemnitz writes:? ?Because many duties belong to the ministry of the church which cannot all conveniently be performed by one person or by a few, when the believers are very numerous ? in order, therefore, that all things may be done in an orderly way, decently, and for edification, these duties of the ministry began, as the assembly of the church grew great, to be distributed among certain ranks of ministers which they afterward called taxeis (ranks) or tagmata (orders), so that each might have, as it were, a certain designated station in which he might serve the church in certain duties of the ministry.?

Chemnitz continues:? ?Thus in the beginning the apostles took care of the ministry of the Word and the sacraments and at the same time also of the distribution and dispensation of alms.? Afterward, however, as the number of disciples increased, they entrusted that part of the ministry that has to do with alms to others, whom they called deacons.? They also state the reason why they do this ? that they might be able to devote themselves more diligently to the ministry of the Word and to prayer, without diversions. (Acts 6:1-4)? This first origin of ranks or orders of
ministry in the apostolic church shows? that [it is] for the welfare of the assembly of the church the individual duties which belong to the ministry might be attended to more conveniently, rightly, diligently, and orderly, with a measure of dignity and for edification.?

I suppose we can say that our use of non-ordained men to assist with the distribution of the Lord?s Supper has its roots in the above description by Martin Chemnitz.? In other words, we use such men to expedite the work of the Called Pastor in a given congregation.? Those who serve are serving under the authority of the Called Pastor (Servant of the Word) in that body of believers whom God has installed in that place.? Thus, the use of non-clergy men as ?communion assistants? is a way to lessen the burden on the Pastor of the work necessary to serve those communing at the divine service.

Similarly, when a vicar or seminary student preaches to a congregation (prior to his ordination), he is not preaching under his own authority;
rather, he preaches with the Called Pastor’s permission, under his authority, and with the Called Pastor being ultimately responsible for the content of that sermon.

There is much more that I could write.? If you wish more information on this subject, kindly get in touch with me.? Thanks again for your question.

Pastor Rock