Annual symposium looks at preaching

On Sept. 22-23, 400 pastors and students attended the annual symposium at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis. The topic of this year’s symposium was preaching.

Rev. Paul Wendland, seminary president, opened the symposium by reminding those in attendance of the importance of the words they speak. “Words often seem like an insubstantial thing. They are spoken. They are heard. Then they are gone,” he said. “But not this Word. Jesus’ words are spirit. They are life. Heaven and earth may pass away, but Jesus’ words do not. We are privileged to speak those words.”

Three speakers then addressed how 21st-century Lutheran preachers can clearly proclaim law and gospel in our rapidly changing, increasingly diverse, and biblically illiterate culture.

In the first essay, Rev. Michael Jensen, St. Mark, Watertown, Wis., looked at how pastors can trace their preaching roots to Jesus. He shared, “The Messiah shows us what our preparation and preaching is to be. Like our Messiah, we do not come to announce law-based tips for better living. We come to announce something other worldly, something that cannot be known or experienced apart from God’s proclamation. To proclaim this gospel is our sole reason for entering the pulpit.”

Presenting the second paper, Rev. Andrew Bauer, New Life, Lake Zurich, Ill., traced the history of some famous American Evangelical preachers and their emphases and styles. “For people whose activity of ‘preaching’ is so closely bound up with who we are, namely ‘preachers,’ it is a given that we will be interested in our craft, interested about hearing preaching in our circles and other circles, interested in learning what others have done, giving thanks for the good while marking the bad,” he shared.

For the final presentation of the symposium, Rev. Phillip Sievert, Lord of Life, Thornton, Colo., looked at today’s culture and how it affects both the preacher and the listener. “Twenty centuries after Peter proclaimed the gospel on the streets of Jerusalem and Paul preached on the streets of Athens, the world we live in and the people to whom we preach, are becoming more and more influenced by a post-Christian landscape,” he said. “In a way, we are moving from an Acts 2 cultural context to an Acts 17 setting; from a world shaped by Christianity to a world that is pushing Christianity further and further into the background. As Lutheran preachers, we will want to gain insight in how to speak with such an ever-changing culture in a way that communicates as clearly as possible God’s unchanging truth and the gospel of our Lord and Savior.”

All the papers and reactions are available at and archived video of the essays can be found at