By Scott Keith –
Paul and I went out for a few drinks this past Friday night with our lovely and down right sexy wives. We were at one of our favorite Ventura watering holes OLeary’s Side Bar, and an interesting conversation ensued (Shout out to OLeary’s). Paul began to talk about his frustration surrounding the district pastor’s conference. Interestingly enough, last night all of The Jagged Word guys received an internal email from Ross Engel, pretty much saying the same thing. They are both concerned that the leaders in our church (the LCMS) think that we can solve perceived problems with various programs, schemes, and even consultation efforts. At the heart of their concern seems to be this realization that the higher ups in the LCMS are not even asking the right question. My response to both of them was similar, “shut the hell up, stop your damn whining, and proclaim Christ!” (I was perhaps more polite to Ross than Paul.)
Here is the thing, the preaching in our church, in my never to be humble opinion, sucks. Now, I know that I am not a pastor, and I have no right to say such things because I don’t know how hard it is to preach every Sunday. (In fact I do, but that is a story for another time.) I go to a lot of different churches. I speak at many different churches, which means that I have over the past four or five years become somewhat of a professional church visitor. Even when I am not out and about, we split our time between two churches where the preaching is, on the whole, good, but these churches were not easy to find and we drive far to attend them. What I am trying to say is that, over the years, I think I have heard more individual pastors preach than most. And I have heard some good preaching and a lot of bad preaching.
So what does this have to do with anything? Here it is… Ross and Paul think we need to answer the why question. That is: why do people go to church? Or rather: why ought people go to church? Is it out of obligation to God? Is it to bring up our children around other Christians? Is it because that is where all of our friends are on Sunday morning? Is it to hear about why we need the church or why we need our pastor? For me, there is only one answer, to have my sins forgiven because they are many. I go to hear Christ. I go to receive forgiveness from the Christ, the pastor, and via the mutual consolation of the brethren. I go because I know of no other place where someone will proclaim to me that Christ died for me and hand over His body and blood for the forgiveness of my sins. I am one of those awful people who feel no need to have excessive “fellowship” with others. I can raise my kids just fine on my own, and when I need help I have the numbers of friends and family. I am free from the burden of the Law, and thus obligation doesn’t suit me so well. I go to hear Christ because: “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” As Cindy Koch likes to say, I am a simple man with simple needs (she says that of Paul, I just decided to own it). All I need is what God has promised He will give, forgiveness. All I need from a pastor is to bring the goods.
So here is my offer. I am already a professional church visitor. I have already told you that all I want is the Gospel and the sacraments. I have already admitted that I do not necessarily have a church “home.” I will visit your church for free. Now, to clarify, if I am driving more than 30 miles, I may ask for gas money. Also, my honesty flows more earnestly after a beer or two. Much like my offer to be your life coach, I will be your preaching visitor. All you need to do is ask and buy me a beer. We need more proclamation in the church as a whole. We need better preaching. This good preaching will cover a multitude of ills. It will answer the “why” question because the Word is always the answer. Let me, and others like me, help you.