Feed My Sheep: 3 Exhortations for our Pastors

Dear Pastors of Christ’s True Church:

We felt the urgency to write to you and detail some things that we as a congregation and holy assembly of God’s people feel the need to bring to your attention. We know life has been different since the whole COVID thing. We understand “regular” services have been a thing of the past for well over a year, now. And we certainly get that you are constantly under pressure from within and without the congregation, juggling life’s responsibilities and pastoral duties.

But truthfully, we’ve been feeling a little malnourished as of late. To be honest, it’s been going on for sometime, even well before the lockdowns started. We are simply asking you to fulfill the oath which you swore to our Lord Jesus, the Great Shepherd, to shepherd us until that Day when we will all be with Him. Here are three things we would like to see you begin to include in our time of worship together:


preach the Word

Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Norfolk VA

Please let us clarify what exactly we mean when we say, “Preach the Word.” Many pastors feel they can reach their congregations a little easier if they ignore Scripture and talk about relevant issues of today. This always leads to ignoring large parts of the Bible in favor of a more Ted Talk style of sermons. But isn’t Scripture the very God-breathed words given to us? Doesn’t Scripture contain all the answers to the “relevant” issues they are so craving? Yes! It is the very foundation upon which the true Christian lives his life. We are seeing our services turned into an entertainment venue that looks oddly like a rock concert or a Times Square ball drop. We are supposed to be different, holy, set apart; it is our calling. Much of the service seems to be spent in pep talks rather than actual preaching. In short, we would like the Word to be front and center! Here is our plan for making it happen:

  • Be expository. Topical sermons are useful and sometimes necessary. But this should not come at the sacrifice of a verse-by-verse sermon. Exegete the passage and tell us what it means. Explain some of the harder things in it so that we understand. Don’t treat us as if we are dumb because we may not have the same theological training that you received. Be gentle with our lack of understanding and give us the Word. Give it to us until we are full.
  • Be Law/Gospel oriented. It is extremely important that you learn to divide the Scripture properly into its two distinct sections of Law & Gospel. When you confuse and commingle the two, we become confused, especially in our own minds. Many pastors will say something like, “If you believe that Christ has died for your sins and trust in His perfect work, you have the assurance of Eternal life. BUT…”

    When conditional emphasis is placed upon a text that already states a simplistic truth, it is confusing to our souls. Is faith all that is required for salvation? If so, why is there a “but” thrown in there? Many of us are keenly aware of our sin and it terrifies us that God, at any moment could bring down His hand of wrath upon us. Please take extra care to properly give us the Law when the Law is needed. But when the Gospel is clear and present within the passage, preach it without any other conditions.

Incorporate the liturgy

The assembling of the local Body of Christ is the place where we are supposed to be nourished each and every week. It is a place we are to be participants in worship. Unfortunately, it usually consists of a couple of congregational songs, special music, and a sermon by the pastor. We rarely, if ever, truly participate in the service alongside you. The early church participated in the services through the reading of the Scriptures, recitation of pivotal creeds and the giving and receiving of blessings. They were catechized, a fancy way of saying they were taught the elemental doctrines of Scripture through recitation and repetition. In fact, did you know that catechesis in the early Church lasted for three years! This was to ensure that the catechumen would be prepared for the coming persecutions. This is certainly a far cry from the way we receive church members today. We would love for you to begin to teach us our catechisms and creeds.

Lectionary of John’s gospel. No date given

It is also in this liturgy where we may receive the sacraments, Christ’s gifts to us for the forgiveness of sins through baptism and the Eucharist. These means of grace strengthen us from week to week and do two things for us: (1) they are reminders that we need forgiveness of sins daily, and (2) they are real, physical elements that show us Christ’s compassion on His Church and impart to our consciences the assurance of forgiveness of sin. It may sound strange in your ears and there has been debate over the efficacy of these sacraments since the time of the Reformation. Many have taken these to be mere symbols or figurative language to represent something. But those in the early Church certainly took them as literal.


Teach us to study

There is nothing quite like the joy of reading a passage of Scripture and seeing something there we had never noticed! We know this is the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit in us, guiding us into all truth. And while we understand the Holy Spirit is our teacher, we still would like to understand how we can gain knowledge through study. The only way this can be achieved is for you to begin teaching us the method of feeding ourselves. We certainly do not expect seminary-level classes. We only want to understand the methods of objective Bible study known as Observation, Interpretation and Application.

We know this is asking more work of you, but what is more important than investing in the eternal aspects of the congregation? We desire to understand God’s word better. We want to follow along with you as you preach. This is not only a way for us to be prepared but also a way that we may hold you accountable for what you are teaching. Our souls are more valuable than anything else and we do not wish to be led astray by slick-sounding arguments or doctrine.

Do not take this letter as berating you. It is actually written out of humility and necessity. As the people of God, we desire to follow Him in every holy way, with every ounce of strength, and in all purity until the time as He sees fit to come for us or call us individually into His presence.

Thank you kindly for taking the time to read and consider our petition.

Sincerely,

the Laity.

Into Liturgy: My 5 Reasons Why Liturgical Worship Matters

I belong to a Southern Baptist church. I know it sounds strange for a member of an SBC church to advocate for a liturgy style worship but I was truly astounded on my first visit. Over the past two years, I’ve been studying Lutheranism, and along with it a lot of the early church fathers’ views on worship and the sacraments. Though I’m not a member of a Lutheran church I highly enjoyed my experience at one last year when my family and I attended for a few weeks.

I had been captivated by the use of the Sacraments, order of worship, and the soaking of Scripture that is present within liturgical worship. The sacredness of the entire service was joyful and a refreshing change to the modern-driven, program-saturated, and fluffy “Christian” songs that are typical of most Evangelical mainstream churches. With that in mind, I would like to offer my five reasons why I believe Liturgical services, especially those that incorporate a lectionary, are superior to most modern worship services.

1. No Pressure on the Pastor

If you’re a pastor or one who teaches regularly you understand the pressures of planning and executing a sermon/lesson each week. In a liturgical setting that uses a lectionary, the pressure to come up with the next “big sermon” is eradicated. That’s because the lectionary is a guide in and of itself. It gives several options of Scripture from which to draw the sermon. While I don’t have a hard copy of a lectionary check out the screenshot below from one of the lectionaries in my Logos collection.

Lectionary Passages to Preach from

You can observe that there is an Old Testament, a Psalm, an Epistle, and a Gospel reading. The pastor will choose one of these four passages to preach from. This keeps things in line and ensures that the pastor doesn’t go off on a tangent or personal soapbox, as has been many a person’s experiences, including my own. Lectionaries are a wonderful guide and it keeps the flow of preaching nicely all year long.

2. Liturgical Services Follow the Church Calendar

This is much like the first point. Lectionaries follow the Church calendar, marking the seasons and times of the year. There’s no need, then for the pastor to come up with a Christmas service or Easter sermon every year. And the cool thing is that the lectionary is divided into these seasons automatically.

Lectionary Church Calendar

As you can see the services are conveniently divided by the calendar and provide the Scripture and service details according to the different seasons. This makes it quite easy to choose a text and study and prepare for the sermon. Of course, most will chide the idea and state that simply choosing a book of the Bible and preaching expositorily through it (vers-by-verse) would be far superior. While I agree that expository preaching is the best way to present Scripture, using a lectionary does not do away with it. The preacher may still preach in this fashion. The only difference is that the congregation is getting a well-rounded view of Scripture rather than waiting 1-2 years, depending on the length of the book, to move along to the next portion of Scripture.

3. No Smoke & Mirrors

Most worship services I’ve been in have a high-focus priority on entertainment. The choir sings, the soloist solos while the congregation sit back, smile, and clap when the performance is done. It’s all seemingly harmless and most would say it falls under the scope of Christian Liberty. But there’s something a little sinister (at least to me) about applauding a performance in a setting where the focus should solely be on one Person. Consider the video below of North Point’s Christmas Eve service back in 2016.

This video represents the extreme of self-centered worship but there are far too many churches adapting worldly measures in the name of reaching people. The Body of Christ is supposed to gather in order to pray, encourage one another, and be equipped to go into the world and make disciples. While I certainly believe there is a place for singing (I’m not referring to congregational singing) and artistic expression I hold the view that the worship service should be as sacred as possible. Call me legalistic, but many of the things I’ve experienced in some churches is inappropriate, in my opinion.

4. Congregational Participation

This sounds a little strange. I’m not talking about singing as a congregation or giving to the Church financially. I’m strictly speaking of the Sacraments ordained by the church, namely Absolution & Confession, the Eucharist, and Baptism. During these times, and especially the former two, each congregant participates in a personal way that is very meaningful. This participation then becomes participation, not just in the worship service itself, but in the body of Christ, along with His atoning work and redemption. This was probably the best part of my experience at a liturgical service. The reality of the Godhead and His grace washed my soul anew and I walked out of the service refreshed and exhilarated

5. Scripture Soaking

My favorite reason and argument for liturgical worship is the amount of Scripture present within it. From the time the service began until it ended I was soaked with Scripture. I understand most Evangelical churches base their services around the Word, but truthfully I’m accustomed to hearing only the Scripture passage of the sermon read and then other Scriptures read for support of the sermon text. For the Christian, the Word of God is life! It is what we base our doctrine, practice, and all of life upon. And the amount of Scripture I received was astounding. Along with the catechism book I received upon my initial visit I am always surrounded in the Word of God. The catechism book is one that I’ve been reading to my children at night. It is neatly divided into sections for easy reading.

A Lutheran Service Hymnal has all the Scriptural & responsive readings for the Sunday listed in the Church calendar.

Liturgical Worship was a change for me. I walked in the first time not really knowing what to expect. To be honest, my expectation was that it would be some kind of quasi cult-like ceremony with foreign chanting and figures walking in, dressed in ceremonial robes. But what I found was a God-honoring, sacred assembly of God’s people meeting together to bring glory to the King of Kings. What I experienced was a realization of the forgiveness of sins through Christ’s work and atonement. I’m not saying those things weren’t just as real as they were at my other church. I’m simply pointing out that at a liturgical service I saw those things more clearly than I ever had.

A lot of folks would disagree, and that’s okay. The conclusion for me is that a liturgical service is much more structured, sacred, Scripture-focused, and participatory. I would encourage you to find a church with liturgical worship and at least attend a couple of times. You may just end up coming to the same conclusion that I have. Have a wonderful Lord’s Day and a happy Father’s Day to all you dads!