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The Word Works - by Pastor Larry Beane of Gretna, LA

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The Holy Spirit has worked through Rev. Larry Beane, a true theologian who, like the famous Paul Gerhardt, has been tested in Satan's sieve.

What he reminds us of below is what the church has utterly forgotten! May she now remember it. May every pastor read this every morning for the rest of his life.

And now, Pastor Beane:

The Word works.

There is no more Lutheran statement, no more Christian statement, no more pastoral statement than “The Word works.” For those of you who are in the holy office, who are serving as shepherds of Christian congregations, your job is to “preach Christ crucified.” You have been called and ordained and tasked with the vocation to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching ... "

“The Word works.” We preach the Word of God, which is, Holy Scripture and which is Christ, the incarnate Word. Our preaching is supernatural. The Holy Spirit works through our preaching - but only if it is the Word that we are preaching.

St. Paul urges us to “preach the Word” and to do so whether it is popular or not, and to “reprove, rebuke, and exhort” by means of our preaching the Word because “the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.” And this is true in our own day and age as much as it was during the Apostle’s earthly sojourn, perhaps more so. St. Paul says to you, preacher: “As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”

The Word is a serious matter. It is sobering when we ponder the ramifications and the implications of the Word of God and its proclamation. St. Paul urges us to preach the Word - because the Word works - it is efficacious and powerful, it drags people out of hell, out of the grasp of the devil, and it delivers people to salvation and eternal life, to Jesus - by grace, through faith, for the sake of Christ alone! It is especially poignant to remember that we are at war, that Satan has been thrown down, and his time is short, therefore he hurls his “great wrath” at us. The devil “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” As a result, St. Peter implores us to “be sober-minded; be watchful” as we “shepherd the flock of God.”

The Word works. Luther said as much when he refused to take any credit for the Gospel’s proliferation, saying that:

“I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing. And while I slept, or drank Wittenberg beer with my friends Philip and Amsdorf, the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it. I did nothing; the Word did everything.”
— AE 51:77
This is Lutheran Theology 101, and it stands against Romanism, Pietism, the Theology of Glory, the Word of Faith heresy, and the diabolical delusion of grandeur that tells a pastor that it is about him, about his presentation, about his intelligence, about his creativity, about his being “dynamic,” or about his gimmicks.

The Word works!

And this is why I want to play Bob Newhart’s role in the video above, and urge gimmicky pastors to “Stop it! I have no authority other than being a fellow presbyter and member of synod. I can’t order anyone to “Stop it!” but I can make the case, and offer them my fraternal opinion and implore them that they should.

The gimmick pastor probably means well. He is certainly not a “bad person” or “evil” when he clowns around in his vocation as proclaimer of the Word of God. He is a product of a debased culture that expects 24-7 entertainment on demand, that has “itching ears” for “teachers to suit their own passions.” He may well think that his goofball behavior cuts through the clutter, or is even self-deprecating, when all the while, it is a seizure of attention from the Lord and His Word and onto the self: the performer, the purveyor of street theater, the court jester - the center of attention.

Stop it! The Word works.

It sends an unintended message when the Word is supplemented by gimmicks: that the Word alone doesn’t work, that the Word needs Luther and Melanchthon and Amsdorf - and me - to make it effective through performance art.

Stop it! The Word works!

I’ve seen LCMS preachers (either in person or online) doing things including, but not limited to, playing a vulgar rap song with the f-bombs replaced by Jesusy lyrics, giving a devotion standing on a ladder, or wearing a football jersey and foam cheese-head hat in the pulpit. One gimmick-pastor distributed slices of pizza in the chapel of one of our seminaries as part of his “sermon.” The examples are legion. One lay leader of a worship service vowed to “get you out of here” before kickoff.

The gimmickry is especially rife in school chapel services. On one occasion, in the school that called me to be a campus pastor, a lay-leader included a life-size cutout of Sponge Bob in the chapel, which matched his Sponge Bob tie, and somehow he worked Sponge Bob into his “message.” While the governing board of the school loved the gimmicks, the students - some of whom were legally adults - correctly perceived that this kind of kitsch was demeaning to them and a debasement of the Gospel.

Stop it! The Word works.

Does this jibe with the above-quoted advice and counsel from the Holy Scriptures, from the apostles Peter and Paul? Whether intended or not, this kind of dingalingery sends a message that the Word is ineffective and it needs clowns, jugglers, lounge singers, stand-up comedians, dancing girls, and Karaoke performers to be efficacious.

Stop it! The Word works!

We need to restore our sense of the supernatural, the awe at the majesty of the Lord’s divine Word, a true love and devotion to Jesus and His Gospel, trust in His Word that it will do what it says it will do, and the humility to get out of the way. We need a renewal of faithfulness, and of faith itself. We need to stop fueling the itching ears that some have for teachers who suit the passions of those who want to be entertained rather than reproved, to be made to laugh rather than being exhorted, and to enjoy a show rather than hearing the omnipotent Word proclaimed with patience and teaching.

You know what I’m going to say next. Let’s say it in unison:

Stop it! The Word works!

2 Comments

Amen, The Word works!
AMEN! I wish every man in seminary and every called pastor could read this. It saddens me to see LCMS Pastors performing for their "audience". I refuse to attend such theatrics. The Word works, indeed!

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