Worrying the Bureaucracy

By Paul Koch


A friend of mine was trying to explain to a district official (whom I had recently offended) what my problem was. Now admittedly this is not an easy task for my problems are numerous and constantly shifting. But being my friend and trusted colleague he was trying his best to put the best construction on my actions. As he related the story to me he said that he ended up saying something along the lines of, “Well Paul just doesn’t care that much for Bureaucracy.”

Now I must tell you that is a true statement if I ever herd one. Part of my personal mission statement is to make sure the the bureaucracy is always worried. I find a great amount of pleasure in reminding the bureaucracy of our church that they don’t really hold any power. Sure I appreciate them when they can be of service to the work of the church but otherwise I operate under the suspicion that they are just a vacuum of resources and a constant distraction to the real work we have been called and sent to do. And I know that is not fair, like an abusive boyfriend I use the bureaucrats when they serve my purposes and discard them when they bother me.


I’ve had this problem for many years, from my earliest memories of elementary school to the present I’ve always resisted those in some sort of bureaucratic “authority” over me. The thing that worries me of late is that this problem of mine seems to be getting worse. The longer I’m a pastor the more I have realized that the central element of my vocation is that of preaching. The more that I see that the proclamation of the Word, the actual binding and loosing of sins is what I am to be about the more the bureaucracy becomes irrelevant.

LCMSCross-CI think I like my Synod, I’m pretty sure I enjoy my District and I want to love the brothers in my circuit whom I actually see regularly. In our circuit we actually have discussions on the preaching of the Word, we challenge and encourage one another in the task of proclamation and in this I find great comfort and strength. At the district level, we might engage in such a discussion though I fear it would be because someone wasn’t paying attention and it slipped through the conference planners agenda. At the Synodical level – well I don’t really know what they do but I’m sure it’s all very important.

The point is, the further we move from the task of preaching the less use the bureaucracy seem to be. That is, I think, how it should be. The problem with bureaucracy in the church is that those furthest from the preaching task always seem to want to consume the time and energy of the church. From the church’s mailbox, to my personal e-mail to any conference on any level there is a constant flow of distractions that would have me focusing on just about anything and everything but the essential task of my calling.

The Word must be central, the electing and living Word is the creator and upholder of the congregation not the Synod or district or even circuit. Which makes me wonder, what would happen if a concern over preaching became the focus of the bureaucracy? Would it look different or can that just never be its purpose?

Well to be honest, I probably still wouldn’t like them. But like I said I have a lot of problems.