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The Relevance of Preaching

Today we live in the most scientifically, medically, and technologically advanced civilization in history. In less than a century and a half we have gone from horse-drawn wagons to GPS-equipped hybrid cars, from pen and ink wells to text messaging, and from the telegraph to the internet. But although human civilization has progressed at such an incredible speed, there is something it has never outdated: God and His Word. The One who created the universe and sustains our lives by the word of His power still has the answers to our souls’ deepest needs.

Over the millennia, the main method ordained by God for propagating His Word has been preaching. To preach means to proclaim or herald an important message. Although the styles, settings, and mediums of Christian preaching have varied with the years and generations, the essence of the message has never changed. “Preach” is found in the New Testament about 130 times. The majority of those times, it is accompanied closely by “Jesus Christ,” “the Word,” or “the gospel” (the evangel). It is clear what message is to be preached. 

In 1937, a group of four preachers became so convinced that this message must be proclaimed more boldly that they organized a three-day conference to raise awareness of the place and urgency of evangelism. Out of that Spirit-stirred conference, the Lutheran Evangelistic Movement (LEM) was formed to be a tool for united evangelism within the whole Lutheran church. Nearly 75 years later, the heart of our mission at LEM Deeper Life is still the same: to proclaim the Word of the gospel. Culture and language have changed a bit since our beginning; but the what, why, where, who, how, and when of preaching are essentially the same.

What do we preach? We preach repentance of sin: that people “should turn from useless things to the living God” (Acts 14:15). We preach Jesus Christ, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) and restores peace with God. We preach that “He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you” (Rom. 8:11). We preach a relevant gospel “having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come” (I Tim. 4:8).

Why do we preach? We preach because “the gospel of Christ . . . is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16). God’s Word still has the power to radically transform lives today. A pastor I know uses the illustration of a man who keeps a loaded pistol in his nightstand drawer to protect a collection of valuables in his home. One night a robber enters through the man’s bedroom window, and the man pulls out his pistol. “I’m sorry, but I don’t believe in guns,” the robber says. “Oh, forgive me,” says the man foolishly as he puts the pistol back. Just like that pistol, the Word of God is loaded with power regardless of what any skeptics or critics may think. When it is “fired,” it unleashes the convicting power of the Holy Spirit and the saving power of the crucified and risen Christ.

Where do we preach? We preach within existing churches. Although a significant amount of preaching also takes place at LEM Deeper Life’s retreats and small-group cell churches, we are still gripped with the conviction of our founders: that there is an urgent need to proclaim the gospel within established mainline churches, large or small.

Whom do we preach to? We preach to both unbelievers and believers. Besides Christians, there may be in a church audience some who are openly opposed to Christ, some who are unbelievers but curious, and some who are present only because they were invited by a friend. And within many churches are some who are either pretending to be Christians or who mistakenly assume they are Christians. One of the LEM’s founders attended Christian school, married a Sunday School teacher, and served on a church council, knowing all the while that he was running from God until God transformed him at 31 years old. Another LEM founder was an established pastor who came to repentance and salvation only after being stunned to discover that he did not know how to help a dying friend find peace and assurance of heaven. Our preaching at LEM Deeper Life is aimed at saving the lost. It is also aimed at deepening and reviving the spiritual lives of Christians. Paul addressed Christians as “beloved of God, called to be saints,” and then followed with, “I am ready to preach the gospel to you” (Rom. 1:7,15). We Christians still need the gospel because we still live in the sinful flesh and sin daily. Luther said that “the old Adam in us, together with all sins and evil lusts, should be drowned by daily sorrow and repentance . . . and that the new man should daily come forth.” To this, LEM evangelist J.O. Gisselquist used to add, “Why does the old Adam need to be drowned daily? Because he is a good swimmer.” We Christians never outgrow our need for a Savior.

How do we preach? We preach as those whom Christ has made to be evangelists “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-12). Let me give you an example of this. Last fall, LEM director Peter Churness and I had the privilege of preaching at South Zumbro Lutheran Church in Kasson, MN. Our theme was “The Christian and the World.” During the regular Sunday morning service, I preached about “Strangers And Pilgrims On The Earth,” explaining how a Christian is fundamentally opposite from the world and how God keeps Christians pure in world. On Sunday evening, Peter preached on “The Mission of the Church,” describing the message of the cross in a way that brought joy to Christians and challenged them to surrender to God’s mission of reaching the world around us. On Monday evening, I preached that “The Most Neglected Element of Christianity” is dying to self and the sinful flesh, but only when that takes place can the Sanctifying Spirit bring personal or congregational revival. During each message, many were listening attentively. Throughout the two days, Peter and I also enjoyed many personal conversations and times of fellowship with new friends. We left Kasson believing that God was doing His work in many hearts, and we rejoiced to be part of His work.

When do we preach? We preach whenever we are invited to do so by a church such as your own. The invitation may be for a special evangelism conference, an annual Bible conference, or any other type of “special meetings.” We are also happy to speak at regular worship services or Bible studies. No congregation or conference size are too small for us. If you and your church sense God’s leading to invite us, we at LEM Deeper Life would welcome the opportunity to preach His Word for you. Maybe you want a conference geared specifically towards Christians inviting their unsaved friends. Or perhaps your main concern is the equipping and encouraging of believers. Whatever your need, we will work together with you to plan a theme specific to how God is leading you. If we can be of service in that way, would you contact us at preaching@lemdeeperlife.org or 763-535-3309. The preaching of God’s ageless Word is paramount, and our desire is to be a servant within His church to that end.


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