So, a church has a new pastor. He seems like a nice guy. He’s a self-titled “Confessional Lutheran”. Sounds great! The congregation is also “Confessionally Lutheran”, as far as they know. Then he gets into the pulpit the week after installation and he begins his sermon: “In the milieu….the Theotokos….Blessed Fr. Luther….Chrysostom….Blessed ever-virgin Mary….Mass….Sexagesima….(ten minutes of head scratching later)Amen.” Later, during the consecration, the congregation gets quite concerned when this new preacher has to bend down TWICE to pick up things he apparently dropped.
Then the complaints start. The congregation is pretty sure their new pastor is a Roman priest seeking to reclaim Cross of Glory Evangelical Lutheran back into the fold of the Bishop of Rome, but they aren’t positive because they have no idea what the guy actually said. Meanwhile, the pastor is completely clueless as to why these horrible people are criticizing him. Goodness, all he did was preach a fine “Confessional Lutheran” sermon. What is wrong with these American Enthusiasts? He is tempted to send them off to their Joel Osteen prattle since that’s what they seem to want. He is ready and willing to be martyred for the cause of “Confessional Lutheranism”. He is sure that generations will praise him for his bold confession of the truth in the midst of these pseudo-Lutherans, who in the future will know how unfairly they treated him and will weep at his graveside. Oh, if only they had brought their thesauruses, dictionaries, and French translators to church with them! Then they would have appreciated and learned so much from Pr. Wichtigtuer and not stoned him in the parking lot between conventicles. (By the way, this is only applicable to the LCMS, as the number of WELS sem grads who even know what a thesaurus is can be counted using the six fingers on one of their inbred hillbilly hands-the Great Commission does not mean it’s ok to marry your first cousin for the sake of having more babies to baptize and teach).
Church history for most laypeople extends back to their earliest remembrances of Sunday School and VBS. What they were taught by good old Pr. Wahrheit is considered to be straight from God’s mouth. Likely, it was not. However, when a new pastor comes in and changes practices which in the minds of life-long members were instituted by God himself, that pastor is going to have problems. He may be doing nothing wrong, but he is acting quite stupidly. True Confessional Lutheran pastors teach. They teach the Lutheran faith. They will not convince everyone. Most Lutheran congregations have some Baptists and Methodists spooking about, sometimes loudly making trouble for the actual Lutherans, but it’s the Church Militant, so that’s to be expected.
When these Confessional Lutheran pastors teach, they speak so as to be understandable. If they really get a hankerin’ for four and five-syllable words or to throw in some French, German, or Greek, they wait until they are at a pastors’ conference or at home with their families, who likely have learned to ignore such outbursts.
This is in no way to imply that your hearers are of a lesser intellect. There are probably several listening who have a higher IQ and more expertise in various areas than the one speaking. A middle ground must be found between talking down to the laity and talking over their heads. It does no good to preach the healing of the Great Physician in technical jargon to show how intelligent you are, just as it does no good to treat your hearers like toddlers. You will unintentionally, but inevitably make your listeners feel inferior, and they will dislike you. And, more importantly, they will not know what or Whom you are preaching.