The ACELC exists "to give a united voice against errors that are officially adopted in convention, tolerated, and/or promoted in the LCMS.”



On Easter Sunday some of you heard what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you.” (I Corinthians 15:1-2) In the verses which follow, Paul identifies the content of that preaching, “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” (I Corinthians 15:3-4) Paul makes it clear: the salvation of the Corinthians depends on the word which has been preached to them. This agrees with what Paul wrote to the Romans, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17) While Paul uses different words in these two places, the verb εὐηγγελισάμην in First Corinthians and the noun ῥήματος in Romans, they both refer to preaching.


The point is preaching is important! But what is good, faithful preaching? To answer that question the ACELC is happy to offer the following brief essay from Pastor Isaac Johnson of New Hope Lutheran Church in Charles City, Iowa. He gives those who listen to preaching, as well as to those who preach, something to think about on the topic of faithful preaching.


Eloquence in Preaching: Virtue or Vice?

When discussing the excellencies of a man for the pastoral ministry, his ability to preach stands out predominantly in most church bodies. This is so true for us Lutherans that we often refer to the entirety of the pastoral ministry as the Predigtamt, or preaching office. Now there are arguably two elements to preaching: the Word, which we all must agree is the main thing in preaching, but there is also the element of the preacher himself, specifically his eloquence. Although we would downplay his role in comparison to that of the Word, and rightly so, it is often precisely this element that we are judging when we casually say that someone is a “good” or “bad” preacher.


Throughout church history and up to this day, eloquence in the pulpit has been hotly debated. Is it to be welcomed as a gift in service to the Word, or is it a human insertion predicated on a lack of faith that the Word will accomplish that for which it was sent? Naturally, the answer is not to be stated in such a simple dichotomy, so we will first propose a definition for eloquence.


For the purposes of this essay, we will employ that of Quintilian, who defines eloquence, or rhetoric, as “the knowledge (or science) of speaking well” (Inst. Orat. 2.15.34). The idea, bluntly stated, is that one who speaks poorly about something is not eloquent, whereas one who speaks well about it is. Under this definition alone, who could argue that eloquence should be banned from the pulpit? Are we then to speak the divine Word poorly? Surely not. Nonetheless, there is a reason why eloquence in many cases was shunned from the pulpit, and that is where a further distinction is necessary between the two kinds of eloquence: worldly and spiritual.


Here we demarcate three characteristics of worldly eloquence: subject matter, origin, and purpose. The subject matter of worldly eloquence is taken from the world, its power originates from the speaker himself (his skill or craft), and its goal is to persuade the hearer of the speaker’s point of view. Worldly eloquence does not preclude deceit or wicked ends by its very nature and allows for the loathed “rhetoric” of so-called politicians, who might employ lies, trickery, and a beautiful appearance to hide something utterly contemptible. Thus, an eloquent man by the world’s standards is one who can get what he wants, perhaps by any means necessary. Indeed, this sham eloquence has reared its head in the church, and it certainly ought to banned from the pulpit, as Paul says in 1 Cor. 1:17: “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom (οὐκ ἐν σοφίᾳ λόγου = not “eloquence,” but in the “wisdom of words/argumentation,” denoting the human origin), lest the cross be emptied of its power.”


Spiritual eloquence, by contrast, is different from that of the world in subject matter, origin, and purpose. Its subject matter is heavenly, in the sense that it must be taken from Holy Scripture, its origin is in God, as a work of the Holy Spirit in and through the pastor and hearers, and its purpose is the salvation and edification of the hearer. Reinhold Pieper, early president of the preaching seminary in Springfield, IL, which is now CTSFW, defines it as such: “Spiritual eloquence is nothing other than the practical competency, bestowed by God and acquired through certain means, for speaking in a proper way about divine things discerned from Holy Scripture in order to lead the hearers to the knowledge and adoption of the truth and to salvation” (Homiletik, X).


What then, is the true eloquence of a pastor? It is simply his ability to speak well about things derived from Scripture for the salvation and edification of the hearer. May God make us eloquent men, competent for the administration of the preaching office.


Pastor Isaac Johnson

New Hope Lutheran Church

Charles City, Iowa


Preachers and hearers – don’t forget the upcoming annual ACELC conference. We will meet under the theme, “A Fraternal Conversation: The State of Our Synod 2024.” You are invited to come to Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Kansas City, Missouri on June 18-19, 2024. A range of presenters will offer their perspectives on the issues facing the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod and the “break-out” session will allow you to discuss the state of the Synod today and into the future. We have a great line up of speakers:


Rev. Jeffrey Hemmer, Assistant to President Harrison

Rev. John Hill, Wyoming District President

Rev. Dr. Martin Noland, Grace Lutheran Church, San Mateo, California

Rev. Dr. Brian Saunders, Iowa District East President

Rev. Jason Braaten, Immanuel Lutheran Church, Tuscola, Illinois, Banquet Speaker


Follow this link ACELC ANNUAL CONFERENCE to register.



Register Here

A Fraternal Conversation: The State of Our Synod in 2024

June 18 & 19, 2024

Holy Cross Lutheran Church

Kansas City, MO


Rev. John Hill – State of the Synod Regarding Holy Communion

Rev. Dr.  Brian Saunders – State of the Synod Regarding the Office of Holy Ministry

Rev. Jeff Hemmer – State of the Synod Regarding the Role of Women in the Church

Rev. Jason Braaten – Banquet Speaker

Rev. Dr. Martin Noland – Historical View of Correction in the Lutheran Church

More Information

Past Conference Presentations:

  The Aim of Our Charge, 2023

Catechesis and Synodical Unity, 2022

Ecclesiastical Supervision, 2021

The Church's Mission & Evangelistic Task, 2019

Unionism & Syncretism, 2018

The Order of Creation, 2017

Dispute Resolution, 2016

Unbiblical Removal of Pastors, 2015

Office of the Holy Ministry, 2014

The Divine Service, 2013

The Lord’s Supper!, 2012

Addressing Error in The LCMS, 2011


This video serves as a great discussion prompter for congregations, gatherings of circuit pastors, districts—all who care about the spiritual well-being of our brothers and sisters in Christ within the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. It spells out clearly the issues of doctrine and practice that continue to cause division within our synod and threaten our ability to walk together. It also shows our desire assist in the return to faithfulness within our synod.

We encourage you to watch this video, and use the study guides, as we together seek to deal with such issues, guided by the Holy Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions. We pray that these resources, and others available through the ACELC website, will be a blessing to you and our synod. We welcome your feedback.

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