Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church - Marshfield, WI

September 2021 Newsletter

“Preach you the Word.  Be ready in and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.”  2 Timothy 4:2

I have been asked about preaching a lot lately.  How I learned to preach, style of preaching, etc. My preaching on Ephesians got a few inquiries come my way of which I am all thankful for and love. It is after all, my trade in life.  So, I thought I would take some space to give more background into my training and the nature of homiletics (the study of preaching).  I could go into the reason for preaching, theology, and the nature of it, of which there are volumes of excellent books to read about it.  But here, I will just stay personal.

As a Pastor, hearing Paul’s charge to St. Timothy above rings in my ears frequently.  Twice, when I was ordained into the Office of the Ministry and then Installed here a week later, I was commanded by the nature of this office that God established with those words.

It is a task that I take very seriously, even before I became a Pastor.  The decade leading up to it, I remember focusing more on both the message my pastor gave and how he gave it.  I have always been blessed by Pastors who have preached Christ very well and am thankful for it.

As I went through College and Seminary, I was overjoyed to find and discover access to sermons across the two millennia of Christian Preaching.  I love Gregory of Nazianzus and John Chrysostom’s preaching for example.  Their Christology shines in their preaching unlike anything the Church has in our day. Martin Luther became a frequent source of inspiration because of his integrity and bluntness when preaching the Christian faith, something I wanted to emulate in my own preaching.  

My professors at Seminary are some of the best when it comes to teaching preaching.  I took a few classes that focused on preaching itself, and during my vicarage (internship) year I was able to preach nearly every week because I was placed in two churches.

When it comes to the actual preaching and preparation itself, it’s a different animal.  My goal is to not master the text, but to let it master me on how it wants to be proclaimed.  This never made sense to me until I had to go about preaching.  Sometimes the text presents itself readily, other times I struggle for days or weeks with it.  In Seminary, they give us a goal that every minute of a sermon should have an hour of prep time behind it.  A 20-minute sermon therefore should have 20 hours of prep work behind it (meditating, thinking, writing, practicing, etc.).

Then there are different styles of preaching that have different goals in mind.  You are used to me as a narrative preacher (this doesn’t mean telling stories!).  It is the style that I feel best communicates the Gospel while also trying to incorporate biblical literacy.  It also dovetails nicely into our Lutheran sacramental and Law/Gospel emphases of preaching.  It is becoming more popular with my generation of preachers.

Another style is what I did for Ephesians the last two months, what is known as expository preaching—verse by verse with the intent to understand the thrust of the text—It is more of a Bible study kind of sermon.  It is also how I do Bible class generally, so if you liked that, make sure you come to Bible class!

But there are more styles: 3-point sermons (Pastor Daryn and Pastor Mark are usually at home and at their best here), exhortatory preaching, text-world preaching and so much more.

I have learned through all this that preaching is not a job, but a habit and a way of life.  I am always plotting on sermons a month ahead.  In fact, as of writing this, I already am well into prepping for Christmas Eve.  When it comes to preaching, I never turn my mind off from it.  I can’t anymore.  As I mow the lawn, I am chewing on the text as my mower does the grass.  When I take walks or exercise, I am pondering the next few weeks of preaching.  This is good, because as I go about my day, the texts that I am chewing on have a habit of playing out in my day-to-day life and it aids in my eventual proclamation.

Because that is what preaching is at the end of the day: Proclamation of the Kingdom of God in our midst from the text of Scripture.  Preaching is, as I love to say, the handing over of the goods of Christ’s kingdom.  That means that the Word of God determines everything.  It determines length, it determines style, it determines what needs to be said.  My goal each time I preach is faithfulness to that text, to the Gospel, and to my Lord Jesus Christ.  I pray that you always hear that too, that the voice of Christ calls out to you to come to him and find your salvation in his wounds for you. God grant that for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

Ministry Update
We are now a full month into Tammy being on disability for her health.  As I last talked to her she is proceeding with the treatments, keeping track of all that her doctors have asked her to do, and keeping in good spirits.  I know many of you have reached out to her and I would say to keep checking in with her from time to time.  I know that she would appreciate it and is thankful for your prayers and support.  Lord willing, she will be back as soon as He deems it so.

It is important that we make sure we take good care of her.  She has taken care of us for the last 23+ years in our congregation.  The council approved back in August to supplement the rest of her salary that the insurance does not pay for the first six months, which is what the insurance said we could do for that time period.  Our leadership is making sure to check in on how she is doing that we can provide for what she needs and are looking for options to keep to support her as it can be allowed.

In terms of her work, we are turning to the Bethlehem Walk in a couple of months and we will need some volunteers and coordinate that.  Please reach out to us and we will have more details as the time gets closer.    

The big thing to focus on is the National Youth Gathering.  We will have a meeting toward the end of September to see what interest there is and go from there.  But pending that interest, we will need an adult leader to step in to help coordinate the travels and the logistics.  Preferably someone whose youth is going, but we can work with whoever would like to step into that task and can certainly assist if anything is needed.

Besides that, we are thankful that Mr. Ed Rehmer has stepped into the position of teaching the 1st year confirmation class along with the help of a couple of elders.  It has been good to see many fill positions, especially in our Sunday School and Education areas.  I am thankful to God for them all.

Building Update
The Men’s maintenance Team has done a bang-up job this summer getting a lot of projects done.  Overhangs have been repainted, gardens tended to, and plans are in place to spruce up the landscaping, remove dead trees and place new plants.  Potholes have been filled in as a  temporary fix, and general maintenance kept up.  They have a lot of projects ahead of them.  If you want to join them, you can find them out and about on Monday mornings.  They are also usually fed lunch at the church as well.  So, if you desire, feel free to come and get together with a pretty good group.

With our building, we have signed contracts for the bricks and the windows and those should be moving forward now as well. The bricks will be taken down, repaired, and then put back up and capped.  The windows are a single pane of glass that does not insulate well and so they too will be replaced.  Since we are already working with the brick in those spots, we will do all the work in those areas at once.  Both projects will complete our list of things to tackle for this year on the building projects and they eat up our building fund as well for the year.

Speaking of the financials, we are still doing well this year. Not enough to support a second Pastor, but enough to take care of what needs to be taken care of. As of the end of August, we are $9,400 ahead. We were also able to give $1955 to the Adopt-a-Seminarian program at part of the tithe. They will be matching us with a student who will then send us the occasional letter and may even visit over the summer. We also added $423 to the VBS Mission Project “Soles for Jesus.” We are looking for suggestions for next year’s tithes. If you know of a Christian based organization that would be good to support, let us know.

Leadership Changes
This next part is rather big news, and I am sure that it will be making the rounds soon, so I will tackle it briefly here.  But I would be happy to discuss the situation in its entirety in person.  I am disappointed to say that the President of our Congregation has stepped down. The elders, District President and I prayed over the situation and feel the situation was handled as well as possible.

Essentially what happened is this.  Over the last 6 weeks there have been several meetings and discussions that centered on worship.  There have been several disagreements from both sides for several weeks concerning how we worship.  During these meetings I believe we did make sure that we weren’t talking past each other and that we each had the floor to speak.  But in the end there were still disagreements with what worship is and how our Lutheran identity and beliefs are practiced.

I prayed over the decision and even discussed with my District President and brother pastors in the District and ones that I know and respect and at the end of it all decided that this was the best path forward in what we preach, teach and practice.
After all this, the president of our congregation put in his resignation.   I initially rejected it and I asked him to prayerfully reconsider, work together through the disagreements, and complete his term.   At that meeting, he informed me that he and his family were attending another church here in town.  This led me to ask questions that I always ask when I hear people say they are attending a church in regards to what that church’s confession of faith is and where it is at odds with the Scriptures and our Confessions of this Congregation.  Very quickly, these differences centered around significant doctrinal differences around The Lord’s Supper.

I was pained as our discussion revealed that it was clear that we did not see eye to eye regarding the true physical presence of Christ in the Sacrament.  Our confession is that Christ is physically present in the sacrament.  The other congregation confesses that he is only spiritually present.  What is being confessed is two different Jesus’ so this is no small point.  

At the end of that final discussion, I again asked him to take some time to prayerfully consider the matter for the sake of his family and also for the vows he took when he was placed in this position.    Several days later he gave a final decision to leave and resign.

Before he gave the official notice, I had talked to the Head Elder and the VP concerning the President’s resignation.  The VP is ready to serve and has my full support as well as the District President, and the elders.

The former President and I have kept things professional, and we hold no ill will toward each other or with other members of this church.  Having said that though, it saddens me beyond belief that a valuable member of our congregation has walked away from us and our confession of faith.  It has weighed painfully heavy on my mind and spirit for the last 6 weeks now.
Despite this unfortunate situation you have my promise to continue to make clear our teachings and the effort to continue catechizing in a constant effort to strengthen our Lutheran faith and bond and to continue to turn to God's word in all situations. Know that I love this congregation and that I take my calling here very seriously, having spent half of my life preparing for it, as I know I will stand before Christ to give an account of my ministry and of you all.
As always, I ask for your forgiveness in Christ for any wrongs, because I know from God’s Word that nothing good dwells in my flesh.  So that means that I am more thankful that Christ loves perfectly and that is why he is Savior, and I am not.  I just love to point you all at him with all that I have in me with every sermon, service, Bible study, and opportunity.  He has forgiven this sinner for very much and for that I am eternally grateful.

Finally, I am thankful to Christ for his work of healing that he continues to do among us.  There is no greater joy for me as it is for our Lord than when I see you gathering at the Lord’s table to receive Christ Himself in the flesh.  With this situation, as with all things, continue to look to Christ and keep all the saints in prayer that Christ may unite us around His Word and His gifts with a true faith.  The devil so easily finds a way to dig in with things like this but we have Christ’s pure Word which cuts into all his schemes.  

God’s grace and peace to you all in the Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring to light all things at his return!  As one of my favorite hymns boldly proclaims:

“O Spirit who didst once restore
Thy Church that it might be again the bearer of Good News to men.
Breathe on they cloven Church once more.
That in these gray and latter days,
There may be those whose life is praise,
Each life a high doxology, to Father, Son, and unto Thee!”
Hymn LSB 834 “O God O Lord of Heaven and Earth”

In Christ,

Pastor Andrew Belt
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