How shall they hear without a preacher?

by Matthew C. Harrison 

“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). Over and again, Luther emphasized the orality of the New Testament message. The Word of God is to be preached. St. Paul explains in Romans 10:

“For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. … For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace and bring glad tidings of good things!’ … So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:10–17, KJV).

Paul says that faith grabs hold of Jesus and confesses aloud who Jesus is for salvation. All who call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. But that can’t happen where Jesus is not believed. And belief can’t happen where the message has not been heard. And there can be no hearing of the message without a preacher. And there’s no preacher if one is not sent. How beautiful are the preacher’s feet. Those feet go! Feet going, mouth preaching the Gospel of peace and glad tidings: That’s the pastoral office in a nutshell.

But can’t the Gospel be proclaimed by the layperson? Certainly! Remember the Samaritan woman that Jesus met at the well, and how many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Jesus because of the woman’s witness (John 4:39). Don’t we all have the responsibility of proclaiming Christ? Certainly. That means we speak Christ and His forgiveness in our families, to our friends — in short, wherever the Lord has put us to be His disciples. We also have the responsibility of making sure the Word of Christ is proclaimed “officially” among us, in our congregations and through planting new churches. Thus, we see Paul, for instance, making provision in his epistles for more called and ordained workers. He was following Jesus’ mandate, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Luke 10:2).

Over the next 15 years, one-half of the current active clergy of the LCMS will reach retirement age. Seminary class numbers have been small in recent years. Even with an increase of multipoint parishes in both rural and urban settings, we will still need more pastors.

What can you do? First, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send workers. The Lord commands us so to pray and shall hear our prayers. Second, treat your pastor like the gift he is — a man with “Good News” feet and a Gospel mouth. Being a pastor is tough. He needs all the love and support he can get. Third, encourage young men to visit our seminaries and to consider a life dedicated to preaching Christ’s Gospel, caring for Christ’s holy people and seeking those who shall yet come to faith in Christ. “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17).

–Pastor Harrison

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