Great Stuff Found on the Web — Preaching on Credit by Pr. Lovett

November 18th, 2011 Post by

Thanks to a loyal BJS contributor for finding this post on Pastor Lovett’s ORATIO + TENTATIO + MEDITATIO blog:

 

I am no different than most pastors. I want to be a good preacher. Now certainly we (myself and other pastors) differ on what that means, to be a good preacher, but I think it nigh impossible to find a preacher who would say that he wishes to be a worse preacher than he already is, though many a preachers’ habits and ways might suggests such to the casual observer. Be that as it may, certainly the vast majority of all preachers would quickly and quite truthfully say that they want to become better preachers. But after some soul searching (yes, soul searching; perhaps with even the theme music from a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie) I have found that I don’t really want to become a better preacher. If I did I would do the work. I’d read books on preaching. I’d listen to good sermons (whatever “good” might be to me); not to copy them – though that’s a start – but to be inspired by them, to mimic them in their goodness. If I really wanted to be a better preacher I’d spend a great time on, well, preaching! But I don’t. And I’d wager most others don’t either.

No, what I really want is to not have to work at being a good or even decent preacher. What I want is to stand up in the pulpit tomorrow and with little or no effort deliver the most powerful, awe-inspiring, soul-changing, life-altering homily that the ears of men have ever been blessed to hear. What I want is to be so endowed with the ability to inspire and impress the audience (those who hear) that I cannot help but be the most marvelous orator since the Greek orators of ancient renown.

In essence: I want to win the lottery of good preaching.

We have succumb to the society around us, we want our best … NOW! Joel Olsteen is such a success – as we all know – because he preaches to itching ears. And we’ve been listening. You don’t have to work at good preaching, just meditate a bit, really want to do it, and be earnest, truly believe you can achieve it and *PRESTO* you’ll have it! Every week we play the lottery. (1) We drive to the local gas station/read the texts; (2) Pick our numbers/do a little exegetical, mostly isogogical work; (3) Pay the $1/write a few ideas down; (4) go home hoping and praying that our number is the winner/wait until Saturday night or Sunday morning to frantically make some sense of nothing. Sometimes we get $10 or $15 dollars, but mostly we will just have wasted our time and our hearers’ time.

Now don’t get me wrong. We all know the joke that since God once spoke out of the mouth of an ass, he can speak out of my mouth. That’s true. But that doesn’t free us from doing the work of an evangelist and so fulfilling our ministry. It simply means that God will have His way with or without us. But we are still accountable.

Usually we buy the lie. We act like we’re rich when we’re not. We preach on credit. That is, we depend on past study, past inspiration, past victories to settle accounts on Sunday morning. We have our favorite catch phrases and prose, so we bank on those. But it’s like paying the $100 minimum payment on your $4,000 maxed out card so you can use it a little each month. You don’t really have the money, but nobody but you knows it. Of course, the only reason you got the card in the first place is because you didn’t have any money, so you borrowed. Eventually, though, you don’t have the $100 to pay the minimum payment and the creditor calls and you loose your TV and everybody knows it: you’re poor and in massive debt!

So it goes with preaching. We don’t have the money to begin with so we borrow from our past or from other pulpits, not doing the work ourselves because it’s too hard or we’re afraid of failure. We’re afraid of not being as good as or with keeping up with the Jones’. Eventually, though, our past becomes too far past and our “creditors” become too foreign to our place in life, and we are faced with the reality that we are poor preachers.

And as there is only one way out of debt, so there is only one way out of being a poor preacher: work. What does that work look like? It looks like prayer, not “lottery-like” prayer, but meditative prayer in the psalms and the breviaries of the Church catholic. It looks like studying the Greek and Hebrew, not only with Bible Works or Libronics (as good as a tool as they are), but struggling to internalize the meanings and endings and all that good stuff. It looks like not using filler in our sermons. Get to the point. If that means you begin to preach 10 minute sermons, then preach them! If the point needs building up to, then build up to it. But if it doesn’t, then don’t. But even here we are tempted to play the Preaching Lottery. We want the work to come naturally, without great effort. We need to repent and do the work of an evangelist.

Mostly we need to pay attention to the Scriptures and to what we preach. Pay attention to your sermons, your words. For by them you will save both yourself and your hearers. The actually delivery of the homily may be easy – maybe not – but the process is work, hard work. It is our work. Let us do it with fervor and spirit, not neglecting to pay careful attention to ourselves and the flock of God over which the Spirit has made us bishops.

Peach the Word.

Rev Mark Lovett
Concordia Lutheran Church
Hoisington, KS






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  1. A Beggar
    November 18th, 2011 at 23:47 | #1

    Praise God for faithful hardworking preachers AND for forgiving parishioners who know that God’s Word is efficacious even though the preacher is not a “good” preacher.

  2. helen
    November 19th, 2011 at 15:15 | #2

    Thank God for the faithful Pastors (and I would imagine Pr. Lovett is one of them, really) who do the hard work of reading in the original, consulting the commentaries, meditating and finally writing and preaching a lawandGospel sermon! No step along the way is without prayer. May the prayers of the congregations join in to support them!

    God bless the work!

  3. Our God Reigns
    November 21st, 2011 at 17:25 | #3

    Joel Osteen is an industry devoid of care for the consumer and extremely profit motivated. Please do not even think about following his pattern. I think he forgets to check in with God before he pontificates because God certainly does not get much billing.

    Personally I don’t care if the preaching is dynamic or quietly assuring as long as the preacher doesn’t feel motivated to be a stand up comedian. Dumbing down or playing to the crowd is the surest way to lose your congregation. And it is rife in the church today, especially LCMS

  4. Our God Reigns
    November 21st, 2011 at 17:28 | #4

    And what about the preacher who can’t seem to find the pulpit and preaches in the middle of the aisle? What’s up with that? Is he paid to occupy the aisle or the pulpit because I think the aisle preacher should get a reduced salary. :) Heck, anyone can stand in the aisle and spout religiosity and jokes, but only the true pastor is to be in the pulpit. Anyone one to comment? And please let’s avoid the tired argument of if the message is clear the method shouldn’t matter.

  5. November 22nd, 2011 at 10:39 | #5

    @Our God Reigns #4
    Heck, anyone can stand in the aisle and spout religiosity and jokes, but only the true pastor is to be in the pulpit. I agree. If you will it’s about “location, location, location”. So when a Preacher stands in the aisle of the Sanctuary he is giving an obvious signal: the man wants to connect with the congregation in a more immediate way with nothing inbetween. This is the way of the flesh. There is no immediate love within the congregation of the faithful. (One can see this immediate fleshly love in the various vids of CGM in the ‘technomass’ blog posting) Love is always mediated: in and through Jesus Christ. Such ‘preaching’ opens the door to the sway of personality and we tend to preach ourselves, our stories, our ‘narrative’, our feelings, not Jesus Christ. This is why Liturgy is so important: it’s a reminder that the Pastor submerges his personality into the greater whole of the una sancta. We must make no provision for the flesh to satisfy it’s desires. Desire is only purified in the Word of God. In the seemingly simple choice of the aisle, there is signaled the deeper malaise, the fight against the powers and principalities, the zeitgeist which idolizes man. I love the phrase “Mark Schroeder Ministries” but it’s wrong. Pr. Bonhoeffer wrote about this in Life Together and says it better than I:

    “Ultimately, this hankering for false authority has at its root a desire to re-establish some sort of immediacy, a dependence upon human beings in the Church. Genuine authority knows that all immediacy is especially baneful in matters of authority. Genuine authority realizes that it can exist only in the service of Him who alone has authority. Genuine authority knows that it is bound in the strictest sense by the saying of Jesus: “One is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren” (Matt. 23:8). The Church does not need brilliant personalities but faithful servants of Jesus and the brethren. Not in the former but in the latter is the lack. The Church will place its confidence only in the simple servant of the Word of Jesus Christ because it knows that then it will be guided, not according to human wisdom and human conceit, but by the Word of the Good Shepherd. The question of trust, which is so closely related to that of authority, is determined by the faithfulness with which a man serves Jesus Christ, never by the extraordinary talents which he possesses. Pastoral authority can be attained only by the servant of Jesus who seeks no power of his own, who himself is a brother among brothers submitted to the authority of the Word.” (emphasis my own)

  6. Rich
    November 23rd, 2011 at 13:28 | #6

    @Our God Reigns #4
    The only preacher I know who routinely departs from the pulpit is one who ALWAYS walks as he talks. Attending Bible class is like watching a tennis match. I have never been concerned that he only preaches truth when he is confined to the 4 square feet of his pulpit. Are you squeamish about the use of voice amplification too?

  7. Rev. Robert Mayes
    November 26th, 2011 at 16:59 | #7

    @Rich #6

    Rich:

    The issue is not that anyone thinks truth can be confined only to the 4 sq. feet of a pulpit. The issue, however, is what the practice of preaching from the aisle also communicates. Practice teaches. Teaching is connected to practice.

    In FC X, we rightly understand that there are practices which are neither commanded nor forbidden in Scripture (adiaphora). Preaching from the aisle is one of these practices. However, FC X also teaches that such adiaphora can and should be forbidden, when it obscures the true teaching of the Gospel by showing conformity in ceremonies with those who oppose the confession of the Gospel (in all its articles). In our day, preaching in the aisles is done by Pentecostalists, non-denominationals, and many other Protestants – all of whom deny that there is an office of the ministry that God calls men to through the Church, and all of whom deny that the Word is efficacious.

    When Lutheran pastors preach from the aisle, they show that they have a unity and conformity with these errorists. (Yes, I know that there are some errorists who also use pulpits, like Roman Catholicism, so one could argue that preaching from a pulpit shows unity and conformity with them. But this is a ceremony that has long been used in church history before the Reformation, was retained by Luther and the Reformers, used exclusively in the church probably up ’til the time of John Wesley, and is not the innovation that preaching from the aisle is. Therefore, preaching from the pulpit has the priority).

    FC X also says that when a plain and steadfast confession is required of us, we should not yield to the opponents even in regard to the use of ceremonies not commanded nor forbidden by Scripture. “For in such a case it is no longer a question concerning adiaphora, but concerning the truth of the Gospel, concerning preserving Christian liberty, and concerning sanctioning open idolatry… in which we have nothing to concede…”

    Furthermore, when preachers preach from the pulpit, it is a good custom to do in order to help the pastor decrease so that Christ may increase. One thing the devil likes to do is to puff pastors up so that they feel like they are center stage, when in actuality, it is the Word of God that is central that they are to proclaim. Preaching from a pulpit hides the man while allowing the Word to be heard. Preaching from an aisle puts the man in the center of attention, in competition with the Word, which means this is the last place a preacher of the Gospel should want to be. For the Gospel was not invented by him, nor is it possible because of him, nor is the pastor elevated above Christ. He is not on the same level as the Word. He must decrease, that Christ may increase.

    This is why preaching from a pulpit is such a good idea, and why preaching from the aisle is not in our hyper-Schleiermachian time.

    In Christ,
    Rev. Robert Mayes
    Beemer, NE

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