Saturday, May 6, 2017
Doctrinal integrity in the pulpit. . .
Mohler is certainly correct. The retreat of doctrinal and exegetical sermons and the lack of competence to preach thus are crippling to the faith and work of the Church. Nowhere is this more clearly revealed than in the shallowness of modern day Christianity and its preoccupation with the moment over eternity. The problem with the Joel Osteens of this world is not simply their unfaithfulness but how their preaching weakens the witness of Christianity and how it weakens and harms the hearers. Even Lutheran folks are affected by the prevailing ideas that good sermons are practical and direct you to means of improving your lot in life. Whether in the pulpit or in the pew, the pressure to exchange doctrine and Biblical content for pop psychology is powerful and tempting. We know the stresses on our people, on their marriages, and on their children. We pastors are not unfeeling or uncaring. But as true as this is, nothing does more harm to the state of the faith and the faithful than choosing to preach positive thinking, inspirational example, and motivational purpose over Christ and Him crucified.
Speaking personally, I well recall one person in my parish complaining to me that at least when this person watched Joel Osteen that person felt better . . . and this was more than could be said after listening to one of my sermons. Ouch! But the triumph of feeling over truth has not improved our lot or added to the number of Christians one bit. In fact, it has done just the opposite. Conflating Christianity with feel good ideas and their salesmen has not encouraged growth in the kingdom. Even the numbers that are touted by the mega churches are hollow -- how many of those folks go from church to church in pursuit of the newest, latest, and freshest version of self-help spirituality?
We need to remember that we are captive to the Word of God. The proclamation of that Word faithfully is what will grow the Church and grow those in the Church. Nothing else. Christ and Him crucified, says St. Paul. So if you are in a church and do not hear about sin, are not moved to repentance by the clear preaching of the Law, are not comforted and consoled with the Gospel gift of forgiveness, life, and salvation earned by Christ alone, and are not urged to good works that display this faith and serve your neighbor, leave that church and find one that preaches this Gospel faithfully.
It is one thing to have an off sermon every now and then but it is another to hear the same banality of tired and empty tips on a better life now without ever hearing the Law and the Gospel. Furthermore, those churches that retain the liturgy offer both a context for this preaching and a place where this doctrinal and exegetical truth is present even when the sermon is off.
Lutherans beware. You don't need more eloquent preachers. You need faithful preachers. You don't need to hear more relevant and practical sermons. You need to hear more Biblical sermons. You don't need to be inspired. You need to be catechized and faithfully addressed with Law and Gospel.