In this, our third of a six-year Reformation focus with the theme of “Celebrating Renewal”, the Northeastern Iowa Synod is highlighting the Gospel.  This month we are taking a closer look at what it means to preach the Gospel.

In the March STAR, Bishop Steven Ullestad emphasizes the enormity of the responsibility of the preacher to proclaim the Gospel:

“The pulpit is the symbol that this is the gospel of Jesus Christ being proclaimed from the church for generations. Historical symbols — such as the pulpit, alb and stole — set the pastor apart and show the authority of the church to preach the gospel of the church.”


In the cover story of this issue, Bishop Ullestad, with Pastors Steve Brackett, Mark Anderson and Joelle Colville-Hanson, share their insights on preaching the Gospel.

This week I asked our Rostered Ministers to share their wisdom on preaching the Gospel.  We had such a good response that we are sharing their responses this week and next week.

Here are their responses:

“As a preacher, you have to ‘hand over the goods’ and give the Spirit something to work with; after all, faith comes by what is heard.”

Pastor Shane Anderson, St. John’s & St. Paul Lutheran Churches, Guttenberg


“Not about me”

“Preaching the Gospel is not about me, in that I need to get over whatever fear or bad day I am having….it is all about loving God, loving God’s people, and pointing to the Good News of Jesus Christ.”

Deacon Elayne Werges, CrossRoads Lutheran Parish, Nora Springs


“Say what you’re going to say, then sit down. Shoot for editing out as much “I” language as you can.”

Pastor Matt Larson, Burr Oak and Hesper Lutheran Parish, Decorah


“Spend time daily in the scriptures you are about to preach and spend time getting to know the community you are preparing to preach to and the issues they are facing in their daily lives. The scriptures will come alive, and the Spirit will encourage and empower you to faithfully preach the Gospel into your context.”

Pastor Dave Kebschull, St. John, Cedar Falls


“The sermon is good in direct proportion to Jesus being the subject.”

Pastor Mark Anderson, Assistant to the Bishop

“Give em the Gospel”

“On any given Sunday, it’s likely that one of the people in the pews is coming to worship fresh from a cancer diagnosis, another wrestling with a failing marriage or an abusive relationship, and yet another in existential doubt about the meaning of his or her life and whether God could possibly love someone like that.  Give ‘em the Gospel, nothing less — the Good News of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, for you, for us.”

The Rev. Dr. Kathryn A. Kleinhans, Mike and Marge McCoy Family Distinguished Chair in Lutheran Heritage and Mission Professor of Religion, Wartburg College


“Be engaged with and aware of the world around us when we preach.”

Pastor Beth Olson, St. Timothy, Hudson


“Preaching is the opportunity to connect the world of scripture to our personal story and the story of our congregation, community, and world. Remember that you will have another chance to speak the Gospel, don’t try to get it ALL in one sermon.”

Pastor Elaine Siemsen, Immanuel, Cresco


“Led by the Holy Spirit, preaching is the proclamation of God’s Grace, Love, and Forgiveness shown to us through and in Jesus Christ to the Glory of God’s Holy name that we may all come to know we have life eternal through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

Pastor Jay Ilten, St. John’s, Dubuque

You don’t need to have all the answers

“When I preach, I try to keep this quote from Thomas Long in mind:

“To call the preacher an authority does not mean that the preacher is wiser than others. What it does mean is that the preacher is the one whom the congregation sends on their behalf, week after week, to the Scripture.” [Long, Thomas. The Witness of Preaching. (Louisville: John Knox Press, 2005), 48.]

I don’t have all the answers, nor am I supposed to. I do, however, have time and training to intentionally engage with the text in a way beyond what most of my parishioners can do. I get the privilege of sharing the insights I’ve found with them. I trust those insights come from the Holy Spirit.”

Pastor Daniel Flucke, St. Peter, Greene


“To ensure I preach rather than give an exegetical lecture I make sure to answer three questions for my hearers,

  • So what?
  • What does the gospel look like?
  • What could it look like for me/us?”

Pastor Grant Woodley, First, Clarion & First, Dows


“We live in the age of the 30 second sound bite. If you have a great conclusion to your sermon, but you can’t get to it in 12 minutes you need to edit your sermon so you can.”

Pastor Kim Wills, Zion St. John, Sheffield


“I usually check the website “Working Preacher” from Luther seminary.  At text study, we discuss the context, the “gospel” of the text and ask the question, ‘How does this preach to the person sitting in the pew today?’”

Pastor Randy Baldwin, One in Christ Lutheran Parish

Check back next week for more pearls of wisdom from our synod preachers!

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About The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson

The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson has been Director for Evangelical Mission, ELCA for the Northeastern Iowa Synod since late 2013. Part of her job description is to help leaders and congregations use social media and other digital means for outreach and mission. She writes and edits this blog as well as runs the social media accounts for the synod.




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