Luther and Reformatory Ideas: Pastor and Congregation

The priests of the Catholic Church had been specially ordained and were an indispensable intermediary between God and the people. Now Luther emphasised the direct relationship between God and the individual believer. He advocated ‘the universal priesthood’, i.e. that all Christians could in principle interpret the word of God and be a pastor for their neighbours. Luther’s statements included ‘whoever has crawled out of baptism are both priest, bishop and pope’. There was, in principle, therefore no difference between the clergy and laypeople.

At the same time, Luther considered it necessary that someone preaches, and most practical if one person assumed the position of pastor for the benefit of others. For Luther it was important that nobody put themselves forward. There had to be someone who ‘called’.  In Luther’s understanding, it is the congregation that ‘calls’ the pastor. The congregation needs to hear the gospel, and ideally it is therefore the congregation who appoints the person they find most suitable to preach it. The pastor and congregation are in this way closely connected. Today too, the clergy of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark are always pastors for a specific congregation.