Prof. Joel Russow
Preaching for the Unchurched: Remembering the Non-Member Audience, Prof. Joel Russow
St. Paul ask the believers in the church at Corinth to think about what they do if they are gathered for worship and “an unbeliever or an inquirer comes in…” (1 Corinthians 14:24). So, Paul tells those believers to expect that “non-members” will show up and to think through what happens in worship because of that fact.
In our WELS congregations, we hope to increasingly have “unbelievers and inquirers” visiting our worship at the invitation of a Christian friend. Over half of unchurched people say they would seriously consider accepting an invitation from a trusted friend to visit church. So, imagine WELS members take this all to heart and begin regularly inviting unchurched neighbors and family members to worship. Some of them actually show up! Now what?
What would you want the preacher to keep in mind as he preaches to these guests for the first time? Preachers, how should the presence of visitors impact your sermon preparation and proclamation? How deep can (or should?) a sermon go with listeners who know little about the Bible?
The reality is that our sermons will strive to keep two audiences in mind—church members and non-members. This presentation will especially wrestle with keeping the non-member audience in mind, but the encouragement shared will also edify the members too. Church members and preachers alike can benefit in this presentation as they seek to grow wise toward outsiders and make the most of every preaching opportunity.
Prof. Joel Russow
Joel Russow is a 2010 graduate Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. Upon graduation, he was assigned to serve Faith Lutheran Church in Tallahassee, Fla. where he served until early 2022. While in Florida, he also served as discipleship coordinator for the South Atlantic District and as circuit pastor of the Gulf Coast Circuit. In January of 2022, he began serving as professor of Pastoral Theology and Systematic Theology at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. He also earned a second master’s degree in 2022 (STM from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary) and is currently pursuing a degree in clinical mental health counseling.
Joel has been married to his wife, Jill, for fifteen years. They are blessed to have four children: Jude (13), Elijah (11), Rachel (9), and Isaiah (6). The Russows love sports, traveling, camping, and good cheesecake.