What We Really Need Is . . . — Pastoral Letter by Pastor Rolf Preus

November, 2017

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

The Church is not the pastors. It is the people. The only reason we need pastors is because we need the word of God that the pastors preach and teach. What we really need is God’s word. What good is a pastor who doesn’t preach the true word of God? Besides, pastors come and go. The word of God remains forever! As the prophet Isaiah writes:

The voice said, “Cry out!” And he said, “What shall I cry?” “All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, because the breath of the LORD blows upon it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.” Isaiah 40:6-8

The word of our God stands when everything we have cherished in life has faded away. And everything else that we cherish in life most certainly will fade away.

How much attention do we pay to it? How much time do we spend reading it? How much effort do we put into studying it? The explanation to the Third Commandment in the Small Catechism reads: “We should fear and love God that we may not despise preaching and his word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.”

There are reasons why we don’t do what God tells us to do. We are by nature sinful and rebellious, thinking we know better than God what we should be doing. We are by nature selfish and self-serving, thinking that by doing what pleases us we will be doing what is best for us. There are many reasons why we don’t devote ourselves to the teaching of God’s word, learning it, pondering it, discussing it, talking about it, and taking a stand upon it. One reason might be that we have breathed in the spirit of our age that says the truth of God is unknowable anyway. So why bother?

Doctrinal ignorance in the Church today is so widespread and profound that religious con artists regularly lead entire churches away from God’s truth. Denominations with millions of members adopt the fashionable opinions of the world in opposition to the clear teaching of the Bible. We who hail from a conservative tradition that upholds the truthfulness of the Bible and the faithfulness of the Catechism might think we can’t be led astray. If so, we should think again.

Do you know how to boil a frog? You don’t toss the frog into a pot of boiling water. If you do, he’ll jump right out. Instead, you put him in a pot of lukewarm water and turn on the stove and let the water gradually come to a boil. By the time the frog realizes the water is too hot for him his muscles won’t respond to his instinct to jump. He’ll be boiled alive.

So it is with Christians who neglect the lifelong study of Christian doctrine. They make a false assumption. They assume that the water hasn’t changed. But it has. And so have they. They have adopted attitudes and opinions and beliefs that run counter to the faith they once confessed. It was so gradual that they didn’t even know it was happening.

I recall a theological conversation I had with my wife’s dear aunt back when I was in my twenties and we were visiting their home in Michigan. Her family was Christian Reformed. She was very concerned about a movement in her church body to ordain women as pastors because she knew it was forbidden by God’s word. Things change. The Christian Reformed Church changed its position. Her congregation followed along. So did she. The Bible doesn’t change, but times change.

Examples could be multiplied. A generation ago nobody would have dreamed that most nominal Lutherans in America would belong to a denomination that advocated homosexual “marriage” and favored ordaining homosexuals as pastors. Today we are used to it. How many churches teach that God sends unbelievers to hell? Can the average churchgoer in America confess the Trinitarian faith? But does the average nominal Christian in America even go to church?

We have the opportunity to attend Divine Service and Bible class every Sunday morning, as well as Bible study or Vespers (depending on the season of the church year) on Wednesday evening. In the Divine Service, God feeds us with a well-balanced diet of good spiritual food, including the reading and preaching of God’s word, the reception of Holy Communion, prayers and hymns of praise, and a liturgy filled with well chosen portions of God’s word.

Bible class is also of great benefit. It provides us with the opportunity to ask questions, to discuss God’s word in (ight of current issues in the Church and in the world, and to grow in our understanding of how God’s word applies to the concerns we face in life. Right now we are studying the Revelation of St. John in Sunday morning Bible class and we are reading the Large Catechism in the Wednesday evening class. Once a month, at the parsonage, we gather together to read a portion of the Lutheran Confessions together. This custom began when Pastor Warner was here, and it continues.

What else can we do? How about a Bible study at the parsonage on a morning once a month? Or a Bible class after breakfast at a restaurant once a week? Or maybe a Bible class during or after lunch? Maybe you have an idea you would like to share. Please let me know what interests you, and let’s see what we can get going.

It is the duty of every Christian to know the teaching of God’s word. Even as our Lord Jesus warns us to beware of false prophets (St. Matthew 7:15) and St. John teaches us to test the spirits (1 John 4:1), it is the duty of every Christian to judge the teaching of his pastor by the standard of the Holy Scriptures. This is one reason why we catechize the young, requiring them to memorize Luther’s Small Catechism. St. Peter teaches us to be ready at all times to give a defense of what we believe [1 Peter 3:15). Our Lord Jesus tells us to confess him before men (Matthew 10:32). This requires a constant searching of the Scriptures (Acts 17:10-11) so that we can distinguish truth from error. Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life (St. John 14:6). Everything the Bible teaches us pertains to our relationship to Christ as our Savior. When we are grounded in God’s truth we will not be tossed this way and that by every trendy wave of doctrine (Ephesians 4:14).

We lose many of the things we love in life. What God gives us in his word cannot be taken away. It makes us wealthy and brings us peace.

Sincerely in Christ,

Pastor Preus



About Pastor Rolf Preus

Pastor Rolf David Preus grew up on the campus of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, the fourth of ten children, where his father, Dr. Robert David Preus, taught for many years. Pastor Preus graduated from high school in 1971, from Concordia College, St. Paul, Minnesota in 1975 and from Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, Indiana in 1979. He was ordained on July 1, 1979, at Trinity Lutheran Church, in Clear Lake, Minnesota. He served Trinity Lutheran Church in Clear Lake (1979-1982), First Lutheran Church in East Grand Forks, Minnesota (1982-1989), St. John's Lutheran Church in Racine, Wisconsin (1989-1997), River Heights Lutheran Church in East Grand Forks, Minnesota (1997-2006), and First American Lutheran Church in Mayville, North Dakota and Grace Lutheran Church in Crookston, Minnesota from (2006-2015). On February 15, 2015 he was installed as Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, Sidney, Montana and St. John Lutheran Church, Fairview, Montana. Pastor Preus received his Master of Sacred Theology degree from Concordia Theological Seminary in 1987. His thesis topic was, “An Evaluation of Lutheran/Roman Catholic Conversations on Justification." Pastor Preus has taught courses in theology for Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, Concordia University Wisconsin, and St. Sophia Lutheran Theological Seminary in Ternopil, Ukraine. Pastor Preus married Dorothy Jean Felts on May 27, 1975, in Coldwater, Michigan. God has blessed Pastor and Dort with twelve children: Daniel, David, Paul, John, Mark, Stephen, Christian, Andrew, James, Mary, Samuel, and Peter. David, Paul, John, Mark, Stephen, Christian, Andrew, and James are pastors in the LCMS. God has blessed Pastor and Mrs. Preus with sixty-three grandchildren so far.


What We Really Need Is . . . — Pastoral Letter by Pastor Rolf Preus — 12 Comments

  1. Amen to that! … I’m guilty in my own life in being lethargic to God’s word. Also, I’ve notice that when you go into a church, mind in particular everyone is talking, which is great, but…. what happen to reverence? This is a minor thing, I know. But, just think, there was a time when you went into church and you could hear a pin strike the floor because of the quiet atmosphere. Now that I’m older, I realized that the time spent before the service began was probably for meditation and reflection. …. which we do not do anymore. … I doubt it is being done at home. I know I guilty, due to the business of life, hence the lacksidaisiness of all who worship. Satan knows what he is doing. It is no wonder that ELCA and other liberal domination are going down the wrong. My prayer is that the MoSynd., despite some weakness that had crept into the church stays strong in their theological truth. GOD’S WORD… THE BIBLE; INTERPRETING IT CORRECTLY…. This is coming from a Catholic turn Lutheran…. So I am looking from the outside in. May the Good Lord never abandon us. And may the sleepers wakeup.

  2. Rolf –

    I agree with everything, save for your opening sentences. That kind of stuff merely fosters the pastoral/congregational divide, of which Missouri hardly needs more.

    It was way too wide a brush with which to paint those who honestly labor in the vineyard, as do you. You should know that yourself. You, like many of us out here, have taken some serious shots for being true to your/our Divine calling.

    I keep in touch with Patrick – he spoke as highly of you as I think of your father, whose Confessions I class was my very first class at Sem; not to mention another favor he did for me and my buds who painted our families’ living through Sem. Your father was a saint. I loved the man!

    We who wear/have worn the weird collar are as much a part of the Church as anyone else. We, too, need the very Gospel we preach, and its consolation. Be cool in speaking of the Holy Office, Brother.

    Rev. Jeff Baxter, Em.

  3. Dear Pastors one and all!
    If you want us to believe anything else you have to say, please don’t tell us the “boiled frog” story!
    Not only is it as old as the hills; it probably never happened!
    Keep your illustrations in your sermons down to something you know something about.

    [And even if we know you to like fishing, don’t say, “Yesterday when I was at the lake…” (2 hours away) when half the congregation saw you in town yesterday at the time indicated.]

  4. @jb #2

    Rev. Baxter, thank you for your kind words about my father. He’s been gone for 22 years now and I miss him.

    It certainly wasn’t my intent to denigrate pastors. It was to say that if we do not preach the pure word of God we are no good. The word is everything. We’re not.

  5. Say Helen, today when we were at the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Dort and I saw dozens of buffalo, several big horn sheep, some deer, and a few tourists.


  6. @Rolf Preus #5

    Sounds like fun! [Just don’t put it in a sermon if your members saw you at the local Target instead.] 🙂

    @Ted Badje #6

    To keep the frogs in a better environment? 😉
    I can remember when our Pastor had a cow, too, and a acre or so of garden to feed nine kids (with another acre of potatoes in the unused portion of the cemetery).

    [Unintentional duplication]

  7. @helen #3

    It did kinda-sorta-maybe happen, if Wikipedia can be believed…

    As part of advancing science, several experiments observing the reaction of frogs to slowly heated water took place in the 19th century. In 1869, while doing experiments searching for the location of the soul, German physiologist Friedrich Goltz demonstrated that a frog that has had its brain removed will remain in slowly heated water, but an intact frog attempted to escape the water when it reached 25 °C. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boiling_frog

    Old joke: laboratory experiment exploring jumping strength of frogs: yelled jump! and measured effect. Removed one leg, yelled jump! Two legs, etc. All went well until removed fourth leg and frog inexplicably went deaf.

  8. @GJG #9

    Big IF!
    Did “scientists” really have so little to do in 1869? Perhaps some others should have tried the heated water on the “scientist” (minus brain)?

    Apparently someone who could put an article in ‘wiki’ got tired of the story, too! 😉

  9. Rolf, Unfortunately, Ive also met far too many pastors who neglect studying the scriptures and the Lutheran confesions. Some pastors have never even read all the book of Concord. I’ve pastors who spend almost no time preparing sermons. There are plenty of directions to point.

  10. Loren –

    You aren’t wrong, per se, but you ain’t exactly right – precisely my point in #2 to Fr. Rolf.

    The Divine Mystery of the Holy Ministry – which is the Holy Office that belongs to Christ and Him crucified – and that which you and Rolf and I hold by the grace of God, does not need nor deserve much more of a beating.

    Stop already. Being upset with heretics and the multitude of calvinists is not equal to destroying the Lord’s institution of the Holy Ministry in out midst. You cannot declare Orthodoxy by slamming the very High Office Christ Himself – the Holy Ministry!

    Lazy pastors – not to challenge you, but do you know for sure – as in – betting your salvation upon your opinion, who is and who isn’t? I doubt very much you would do so. We must “beware ourselves” against those who hate the Holy Office you and I possess, and rather than beat against it ourselves, we ought to be defending its PROPER practice, rather than demeaning it.

    And truth be known – you haven’t met “that many pastors.” None of us have. Using linguistic gymnastics to make a theological point is not a part of what we are supposed to be about doing now, is it?


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