Sunday, August 20, 2006

Where's the...GOSPEL?!?

Remember those comercials from the 80's with that little old lady asking "Where's the beef?" I have a vague memory of them, I was a wee lad in the 80's, but I do remember that we had this really dorky beach towel that said "Where's the beef?" on it.

Well, being back in St. Louis, there is a wide variety of churches to pick from. My lovely wife and I went to one today (of which I will not name names) and were very, very disappointed by the sermon. The preacher talked for 25 minutes about the dangers of getting caught up in sin. How it sneaks up on you, how we need to avoid it at all costs, and going into great and graphic (and, I thought, inappropriately violent) accounts of sinful actions. His point was that sin sneaks up on us unawares, that we are powerless against it and that despite our best intentions, we fall victim to the ravages of sin. All very well, but what are we to do? This sermon was terribly short on the beauty and safety of the gospel. Christ was mentioned, I'll give him that, but in such small amounts and comparatively of such little importance that all my wife and I left with was a feeling of impending doom.

What was even more discouraging is that this message was from a seasoned retired pastor, who, in my humble opinion, should have known better. It is a tragedy when a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ focuses solely on clever stories, illustrations and the sinful life. Unfortunately, it has been my experience that many (not all, but many) retired ministers in the LCMS are prone to preaching in this way. It is as if they are above the gospel, that they have lived such lives of service and have had so much experience that they cannot be held down or bound to the gospel alone. This is very sad and somewhat discouraging for me as a young man just about to begin a life of service to the precious Word.

Do you, my dear readers, have any thoughts on this? Have you seen similar things? Are we to just sit back and take this kind of disservice of the gospel? What is to be done if anything?
I have learned that one must never assume the Gospel of Christ!



Preachrboy said...

I confess I am not always comfortable with the Law/Gospel balance of my own sermons either.

However, I did find that a recent Bible Class series really affected how I think of my preaching. We listened to sermon critiques from Issues, Etc. radio program... where Pastor Wilken does a "diagnostic" asking some very simple questions about a sermon. Not only did it prove helpful to my laypeople here, but I think those questions are ringing in the back of my mind when I prepare sermons now. "Is Jesus Mentioned?" "How Often?" "Is the Subject or Object of the Verbs?" "What are Those Verbs? What is Jesus doing?"

Very helpful. Especially because the temptation for us preachers is to fall into a rut, and "drift" from the Gospel. I often wondered why the professors at seminary constantly reminded us to keep the Gospel and Christ central to the sermon. It seemed so obvious. But when I hear and hear about sermons like the one you mentioned, I understand the wisdom of their warnings.

Preachrboy said...

And the Wendy's lady was named "Clara" and you need a picture of her to go with this post!

Whey Lay said...

There are more than a few active pastors who have the same style. I can think of at least two. Clever stories, illustrations, and multiple references to pop culture, movies and music. But no Jesus.
Proclaiming the Gospel and what Christ has done is the mission of the church. I'll stop here before turning this into even more of a gripe post.
Enjoy your last year of study, the selected classes look wonderfully interesting.

Jim Roemke said...

Brother Jack,
I firmly believe that it is the duty of educated Christians to demand, as lovingly as possible, that their shepherds and preachers proclaim Christ and Him crucified. It is the center of our faith, it is the pearl of priceless worth, it is our life and salvation and without it we are nothing!