Due to some very difficult circumstances after our pastor retired last year, we felt very strongly that we needed to find a Christ-centered confessional church for our family to attend.
We’ve been at First Lutheran Church in Knoxville now for almost exactly a year. Lutherans don’t change churches very often or easily so it was quite a bold move for us. Our new pastor counseled with us at length and we all prayed that the situation would resolve itself so that we could return to our home church.
It did not and he agreed that we should proceed with moving our membership. The process took awhile but we couldn’t be happier.
We drive an hour each way to church every Sunday and pass no less then 50 churches on the way.
I can say with confidence that I don’t think I have ever heard better preaching. Our pastors preach law and gospel every Sunday without fail.
The message is ALWAYS Christ and His finished work on the cross on our behalf. For that, I’d drive much farther.
There’s no “you can do it if you try harder” or “10 steps to a better you”. There’s no fancy sermon series. They faithfully follow the lectionary and preach from the biblical texts. It is classical christian worship.
Every single message, every single Sunday is about Jesus and His love and grace extended to us sinners.
I sit in the pew in awe and often in tears. I keep waiting for the ball to drop. The gospel every Sunday? What a precious gift.
And I’m no stranger to sermon-stalking. In fact, I’ve listened to more than 30 sermons (online) of various preachers in our area over the past few months.
I’d say that Jesus was the focus of about 3 of those sermons. Maybe 3. Jesus is usually given honorable mention at the end of the sermon. Kind of an “oh by the way….”
It’s become my hobby because as I look back over the years, it’s amazing how little Christ-centered preaching I’ve been privileged to hear.
Why is there such a drought of preaching the gospel? It has become so vogue to talk about everything else but Christ.
Why are churches trying so hard to be hip and forsaking the very thing that they have been mandated to preach?
Jesus did not say, “Go ye into all the world and be hip and tell some cute stories and give people ten ways to make them better.”
He said to preach the gospel. It’s the church’s only message.
And yet, we seem to have forsaken it for the wisdom of the age.
We don’t bat an eye. We like the practical life lessons. We like knowing there’s something we can do.
It’s our natural theology to be given a to-do list and to keep track of our progress. That may be fine psychology but it’s not christianity.
The gospel is crazy. The gospel makes no sense. The gospel is counterintuitive to everything we know about the world and ourselves.
The gospel is foolishness to the world.
And sadly, too often it seems, the gospel has become foolishness to the church as well.
We mistakenly think that it’s the lost person who needs to hear the gospel and once we’re saved, we must move on to bigger and better things.
There is nothing bigger. There is no other story to be told.
The story of redemption is all we have.
We need desperately to hear the gospel.
Why? Because we can hardly believe it. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to wrap my mind around it. I need to hear it often and clearly.
It is the ‘power of God unto salvation’. It brings life and forgiveness and salvation.
And we need our pastors to remind us and reassure us over and over and over again that Christ died for us.
That He loves us and has forgiven us and has marked us in our baptism as one of His own.
The law is meant to kill us, not to give us something to do.
Then once the law has plowed us under, Christ’s forgiving word makes us alive again.
Those precious words that we are literally dying to hear—–” your sins are forgiven.”
“Beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
If it’s been a while since the sweet preaching of the gospel refreshed your soul, you can find it here and here and here and here and here.
What a debt of gratitude we owe to those faithful pastors who continue to preach Christ despite temptation on every side to preach something else.
And to Issues Etc.—–thank you for tireless hours of catechesis and sermon reviews.