An Interview with Author and Pastor, Rob Guenther

An Interview with the Author of the book “In Their Sandals” and Pastor, Rob Guenther

Q: Pastor Guenther, can you start by telling us about yourself?Family, hobbies, your ministry, etc.

A: Sure. I’ve been blessed to be a pastor in the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod for a little over 10 years now. I grew up in the WELS going to Calvary Lutheran School in Bellevue, WA, then on to Evergreen Lutheran High School in Des Moines, WA, then Martin Luther College and Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. I was assigned to serve at Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Raleigh, NC (cf. and was there from 2004 to 2010. For the last four years I’ve been serving at Grace Lutheran in Kenai, Alaska (cf.

I’ve been married to my beautiful wife for 12 years. We have four sons: Josiah (10), Jacob (8), Judah (4), and Joel (1). As you can imagine, Alaska is a great place to bring up four boys. I enjoy the Alaskan adventures of camping, hiking, hunting, and of course, fishing. I’m an avid reader and average a little better than a book a week (which I think helps my preaching style tremendously as I pick up different styles and literary devices).

I’m also a bit of nerd and love tech. I’m a big fan of WELS Tech (cf. and try to be a regular contributor. (You can listen to my interview with them on this same subject here:  I’m also passionate about personal, professional, and spiritual growth and am always striving to improve my skills and foster the gifts God’s given to me and to help others, especially pastors, to do the same. I’m a fan especially of marrying the two and am currently working on a new website that gives productivity tips and life hacks to pastors to help them serve better. (But I’m not quite ready to roll it out yet. It’s a big project and won’t be ready for a while. But I think that once it’s complete, it would make a good book too.)

The Interviewer: Steve Brown – Outdoor Worship Service at Messiah Lutheran Church, South Windsor, CT (May 2014)

Q: What inspired you to self-publish a book?

A: Well, as a pastor, I have an ardent desire to share the message of the Gospel with as many as I possibly can. Pastors are natural authors as we’re constantly writing new sermons each week. I’ve always thought that publishing a book would be a great way to reach a broader audience and to leave a legacy of Gospel proclamation that will outlive me. So my personal mission statement includes the goal: “I will strive to leave behind a digital and print record of my Gospel proclamation for future generations.”

I started writing a book maybe the 3rd or 4th year of my ministry. But it got challenging to schedule time to work on it with a busy ministry and family life. It was one of those projects I really wanted to do and thought was important, but wasn’t urgent and so it kind of just sat on the back burner. (To this day that book sits unfinished about 3 or 4 chapters in, but with an outline for 12 or 13 chapters. I hate to say it, but it’s become a “someday” project.)

But then I got thinking: “Do I really need to write brand new content? I have all these sermons (let’s say 500, give or take after 10 years of preaching just about every week, not counting special mid-week services). Why not just rework some of them a bit and reformat into a published book?” And thus, the idea of “In Their Sandals” was born. I took the first person sermons I’d already written and gathered them together into a book.

Q: Are the sermons contained in this book, sermons that you have preached? How did you come up with the idea of putting yourself (and the listener I might add) into the biblical story? Have you heard others preach in this style?

Pastor Rob Guenther & Family
Pastor Rob Guenther & Family

A: Yes, I’ve preached every one of these sermons. I’m always looking for fresh ways of preaching and like to stir things up from time to time. I really enjoyed the book “Called to Testify” by Ken Kremer (Northwestern Publishing House, 2003) and loved that NPH put it into an audiobook. I’ve probably listened to it 3 or 4 times already. If you haven’t read it, check it out. Kremer does an outstanding job of doing first-person sermons. That book was kind of my inspiration.

One Lenten season a few pastors in my circuit and I decided that instead of purchasing a kit with a sermon series in it, we’d write our own. We used the theme: “Were You There, When They Crucified My Lord?” and all wrote our sermons in the first person from the perspective of the historical characters of Holy Week. (That’s where 6 of the 12 sermons in the book originated.) The series was very well received and I’ve tried to use that style every once in a while ever since (where the other 6 came from).

Q: How has the book been selling; in both E-Book and paperback formats?  Have you found it to be an effective way to spread God’s word?

 A: I don’t follow the sales reports too closely. I just kind of launched it and leave it out there for people to find. That’s what’s so cool about the Amazon affiliate, CreateSpace (cf. It’s totally free to me since it’s “print on demand.” I paid nothing to do this. CreateSpace doesn’t print the book until someone orders it. Then they print and ship. So I kind of get to (in the words of Ron Popeil) “set it and forget it.”

When it first came out I did some promotions on Facebook and gave the Kindle edition away for free. My goal was to give away 500 copies and I came close. I think I distributed 492 copies that week. But since, I’ve sold another 150 or so of the Kindle version and about 90 or so of the print edition (though to be fair, I think my parents bought a dozen of those to give away to people).  So, in all, I’ve sold or given away a little more than 700 copies.

But here’s how I look at it. How ecstatic would I be if I had 700 people visit my church and stay for 12 weeks? Well, through this book I’ve had a chance to share 12 sermons with at least 700 people and, with no more effort on my part, may still reach thousands more.

Not too long ago I got this message from a pastor thousands of miles away:

“Had an elderly member pass away today. His granddaughter was with him in his last hours. She told me she was reading this nice little book she got for free on her Kindle called “In Their Sandals.” If your book does nothing else in this life, it was worth all your effort just for today. Praise God!”

How cool is that?! So I would say, “Yes, absolutely! This is an effective way to spread God’s Word.”


Q: As I read these sermons, all I can say is that they “work” for me. And what I mean by this is that I can relate to them on a personal level. I see these old stories in a new light. I can sense what is going on better if I am “in” the story. I once had a Pastor whose sermons were faithful to God’s word and nicely delivered, but I asked him to do a word search in his sermons to find the words “I”, “me” and “you” because I sensed that these were missing. And to me, these words help to personalize and internalize the sermons for us sitting in the pew. In this book, your sermons have gone to the other extreme – “I am pulled into the story because it feels like you are talking to me with first-hand experience.” Was this your intent; to get your listeners involved in the sermons or did you want to personalize the biblical stories and characters – or both?


A: My intent was really just to make people stop and consider that these aren’t just stories out of a storybook. They’re real, historical, events that happened to real people who were just like you and me. I think the result is that it does bring the characters to life in a way that we can relate to them and so it also pulls the listener (or in this case, the reader) into the sermon as well. I can relate with Peter, with David, with the Emmaus disciple, because they were sinners, just like I am, and they were recipients of God’s amazing grace to them in Jesus, just like I am. My goal was to make the characters seem real, because well, they were and still are. And I’ve been very pleased with the response. Most people have really enjoyed the style.

Q: I think that pastors would benefit by this book simply in seeing a different approach and style to preaching. When you preach in this style, do you first offer a few words of explanation about how you will be preaching or do you just dive in? Have you gotten any feedback from your congregation on this style of preaching?

A: I haven’t given any explanation first when I preach these. I just launch right into it. I think that can be a bit jarring, but in a good way. It makes people sit up and go “Oh! He’s going to play a role this morning. This will be interesting.” They’re always a bit more difficult to write because I, of course, want to always stay true to the text and maintain textual integrity. But when preaching biblical stories with historical fiction, it’s necessary to add some filler. But it has always been well received. I think the one I got the most positive feedback on was the Good Friday sermon written from the perspective of the Roman Centurion. It’s a moving and emotional day to begin with, but the first person sermon made it even more moving. It was an emotional sermon to preach and I think the congregation really appreciated it.

Q: How often do you preach in the first person versus in a more standard format?

A: I maybe preach first person sermons once a year. It’s not too often. It’s obviously easier to preach these from a Bible story rather than an epistle or piece of poetry. But obviously, I’ve preached from the books of Psalms and Job and Ephesians and not just from the Gospels. I’d like to do it more and think a series written from the perspective of the Apostle John based on the visions he saw in Revelation would be a cool one to write and listen to. But I guess the biggest setbacks are that 1) they take quite a bit more time and creativity to write, and 2) it’s a device I don’t want to overuse. I think the novelty and interest would wear off if I preached first person sermons too often. I’m not sure how often is too often, but so far, it’s been very well received and I don’t want to overdo it.

Q: I notice a lot of explanation marks in your text! Even after a few question marks?! These must be “animation” points when you preach these sermons. I would love to hear you preach someday. No answer required unless you care to. This is just an observation of mine.

A: A wise pastor once told me that you can make a mediocre sermon good with a great delivery. Of course, the opposite is also true: You can also make a good sermon just mediocre with a flat delivery. Of course my goal is to make a great sermon even greater with a great delivery and I try to be a dynamic preacher. (By which, I don’t mean charismatic.) I don’t want my delivery to become cheesy and then to take away from the message, and I know I can never add to it. But I want to remove any barriers that might keep people from hearing it. So I try to use lots of inflection. I use intentional pauses. I try to show the emotion of the thoughts on my face. But I’m glad you could pick up on the style even in written form.

Incidentally, I’m trying to get my book produced in audio format. I’m using another Amazon affiliate called ACX. (cf. Their voice actors audition to read my book and convert it into an audio book. Then ACX puts it in the Audible and iTunes stores. It works the same way that there’s no up front cost to me. I just share any proceeds with the voice actor and ACX. Hopefully I’ll have that done soon and can reach even more people through another medium.

But if you want to listen to me preach, you can hear everything I’ve done at Grace at our website:

But I think I’ve only done two first person sermons here:
Tychicus of Ephesus:

My Hope Will Not Change (Job):

Q: It is my opinion that this preaching style would be most effective on children and teens. Have you tried it before this demographic?

A: Well, I have teens and children in the pews when I preach, but I think everyone loves a good story. Adults easily watch more movies than they read books these days and a touch of “edutainment” (educational entertainment) is well received by everyone. I think the touch of the dramatic certainly does reach all ages, including the kids. I think I have more young people hang with my sermons when I preach in first person to be sure. But I think I have everyone’s attention captured a little more.

Q: I see that you have another book titled Webcasting 101. The title says it all but would you like to share any comments on this book?

A: A pastor asked me if I would be willing to write-up a step-by-step guide of what I do to run the webcast at our church. I did, including images and links and figured, “Hey, I already wrote it. Why not add it to my Kindle books as well.” I’ve sold a few dozen copies of that one. But it’s kind of dated since I wrote it as I’ve changed some equipment around and now use a new live streaming service. But maybe it’s still helpful to some. I wish I could make the books permanently free since my goal isn’t to make money but to distribute the material and get the message out. But Amazon’s a for-profit company and they get to set the minimum price. So it’s a $.99 book.

Q: Is there yet another book in the making?

A: Always.  I still have those 3 or 4 chapters written waiting for me to come back to them and finish that original book from 6 or 7 years ago. The premise of that book is that God gives us countless visual reminders of his grace to us in Christ anywhere that two lines intersect to make a cross. So it’s kind of a day in the life of Rob, wrestling with my selfishness and sin, but being constantly reminded of Jesus’ grace when I see the intersecting lines in the tile on the floor, in the lattice in the window, in the intersection on the street corner, etc. which all create a “cross” and remind me of what’s most important.

Someone also recently asked me to create a step-by-step guide to show how I use Google Sheets for my prospect management system. It took me a few weeks to complete it, but now that I have, I think it only makes sense to add it to Amazon too. I did the work already. Why not try to reach a broader audience?

And to that end, I’ve been meaning to take more sermons and do the same. In particular, I’ve written series on the The Apostles’ Creed, the 10 Commandments, and the Lord’s Prayer to review Luther’s Small Catechism as three separate sermon series for the last three summers. I’ve been meaning to carve out some time to compile and edit and reformat them all for Amazon. Maybe I’d call it “What Does This Mean?” It would be a bit longer with 20+ sermons in it, but who knows who I might reach with another book.

And I do have a lot of ideas for when I retire from parish ministry to just write books. I have a file full of them in Evernote.

One is a devotional on the three parts of faith: knowledge, agreement, and trust. I think it’s a concept we don’t ponder enough, but is so important to understanding what we mean by “by faith alone,” how we are justified “by faith,” and how faith and works cannot be separated.

One is a historical fiction of the life of Jesus as told by the thief on the cross (who I’d have an orphan struggling to survive, taken in by a den of thieves, then picking pockets wherever the crowds gather around Jesus). The climax of the story, of course, would be the interactions with Jesus during Holy Week (mostly fictional, but obviously including the real interaction on the cross). He would move from atheist angry at a god who would take his parents, from finding a sense of restless belonging with a life of crime, to skeptic, hearing what Jesus says but scoffing at it, to believer in the final moments of his life (since we find him initially taunting Jesus with the other thief, even on the cross).

Another would be a fictional account of God’s plan of salvation as told by an angel (who I’d call “Oariel,” which means “Light of God”). Since angels are immortal I could have him witness the fall of satan, visit with Abraham in his tent, be in the choir of angels at Bethlehem, sit in the empty tomb of Jesus, and talk to the apostle John in Revelation. This one might have to be a series of books. (Can you call it first person if the narrator isn’t a person?)

Another I’d title “Pastor Exposed,” which would deal with our fear of being exposed in our sin. But how we can be exposed, as embarrassing and uncomfortable as it is, because we have the Gospel. It would be an application of 1 John 1:8-9 to the life of a pastor. The safety net of the Gospel allows me to fail (and fail big) and still get back up again and serve Jesus. It allows me to be open and honest in my confession to God and even to others. (Think David and Nathan and how much better off David was having his sin exposed. Then he could be free of it and move on, even while still suffering the consequences.)

Another would be a comparative theology between different denominations where I would actually interview local pastors and ask them about salvation, faith, sacraments, good works, etc. and then write about our key differences comparing them to the Word. It wouldn’t be hard to write once the “research” of interviews was done and I think it would be an interesting perspective since it would be based on what actual parish pastors say and not on stereotypes of what we’re all taught other denominations believe. (Too many other protestants assume I’m pretty liberal and unbiblical in my theology because of what they know about Lutherans from other Lutheran denominations. I’m sure I have made some stereotypes of Baptists and Catholics too.)

Anyway, I have lots of ideas, just not lots of time. I hope to buy an RV and travel the country with my wife and my laptop in retirement. Just write and write and write and self-publish. Until I get a paid sabbatical, I’m going to have to put most of it off until retirement and just do a few things here and there, piece by piece.

Q: Any advice for other Pastors interested in writing their own books?

A: As Nike says: “Just do it.” You already write 2,000+ words each week. Why not take some of that content and compile it into a book of your sermons? It’s really easy to do at You simply upload a Word document and they walk you through every step of the way, even helping you design your cover. And when you’re done they automatically make your book available at Amazon in print and in Kindle formats. What do you have to lose? Sure there may be critics. But remember this email:

“Had an elderly member pass away today. His granddaughter was with him in his last hours. She told me she was reading this nice little book she got for free on her Kindle called “In Their Sandals.” If your book does nothing else in this life, it was worth all your effort just for today. Praise God!”

Your efforts to share the Gospel in one more format will reach more souls. You may never see the benefits this side of glory, but who knows who will greet you on the other side and say “Thank you. I’m here by God’s grace. But I’m here by God’s grace working through your efforts to reach someone like me.” That will make whatever effort you put in worth it… just for that day. Praise God!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

PS – Want help getting started? Don’t hesitate to drop an email to pastorguenther “at” gmail “dot” com. I’m happy to do what I can to get you started!

Lot’s of great resources and advice mentioned for our Pastors here! New resources to check out – Amazon Kindle, Self Publishing, CreateSpace, ACX, Evernote, Webcasting, the WELSTech Podcast, preaching advice…! Thank you very much Pastor Guenther for taking the time to share your ministry with the readers. May God continue to bless your efforts! – Steve

You can purchase or read more about Rob’s books here:

In Their Sandals

Webcasting 101



“The sponge is in the water, or is the water in the sponge?”

I am now in Christ
If I’ve really answered the call
And Christ himself is in me
For He is my all in all

Jesus Christ is in the Father
And the Father is in the Son
And they are also in me
And I, in them, are One

We are members of His body
Of His flesh and of His bone
Each one, a member in particular
We are never, again, alone

The body’s the temple of the Holy Spirit
This, the believer should be seeing
That in God, we live and move
And we have our very being…

Based on Gal 2:20, Eph 4:16 & 5:30, Jn 17:21-23, Acts 17:28 & 1 Cor 12;27-27

By Bobby Brown
Author of “Seated Above, Looking Below

Now available on paperback at:

Seated Above, Looking Below: Poems to Lift Your Spirit

I Am

God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” – Ex. 3:14
God is the great I Am. 
  • I Am whatever you need. 
  • I Am your father if you are fatherless.
  • I Am your patience when you are impatient. 
  • I Am your shepherd when you need care.
  • I Am your healer when you are sick.
  • I Am your provider when you are without. 
  • I Am your teacher when you are confused.
  • I Am your lover when your heart aches.
  • I Am your savior. Always. Forever.
  • I am the bread of life when you are hungry.
  • I Am your creator and sustainer.
  • I Am your alpha and omega, your beginning and end.
  • I Am your path, when you are lost.
  • I am living water, for all who thirst.
  • I simply Am.
  • I
  • Am
  • That’s who I Am!
- I Am

A Tribute to Robert Frost!

By Bobby Brown

FIREFLIES IN THE GARDEN that dazzle with their light
He wrote of GOOD HOURS when he walked

Like all poets, he had a deeper style
ONCE BY THE PACIFIC he was inspired
He even wrote about A WOODPILE

He wrote about THE ROAD NOT TAKEN
And that seemed to be his call

He showed us the beauty of A DUST OF SNOW
Is a poem that we all cherish and know…

More from the author:

Seated Above, Looking Below

The Importance of the Opening Song

The Importance of the Opening Song


Welcome to Worship

One hundred people enter from all walks of life.  Some are struggling with addictions, some with divorce, some with a job they don’t like, some with mis-behaving children, some with family troubles, some are over-worked, some are in financial ruin, some are dealing with loss, some are looking for work, some struggle with disease, some are overwhelmed, some are near to death, some are depressed, some are insecure, some are feeling heaps of guilt from a signature sin, some are bewildered, some doubt God’s existence, some wonder if God hears their prayers, some need counseling, some are perfectionists, some are burned out, all are sinners, and some actually think they are normal and trouble-free.  These are the people I worship with every Sunday.  I am one of them. Welcome to worship.

“We open this morning’s worship in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.” – Your Pastor

Now that deserves a response! It is time for the opening song.

My favorite song location is the “Hymn of the Day.”  It is sung right before the sermon and to the best of our ability is lyrically spot-on with his message and the scripture readings.

Next to the HOTD, my song of choice is the opening congregational piece because the Spirit can use this song to help prepare the tribe of varied worshippers with their myriad mindsets into a unified group of believers and followers with one common goal – if not only for the next hour.  This is the song that the Holy Spirit can use to level the playing field.  This is the song that helps to prepare our minds for worship.  This is the song that delineates the worship service from the rest of the weekly grind. This is the wake up call.  This is the call to worship. Reveille! This song is the trend setter for the mood of the service to follow. This song is powerful because the Spirit is present in the gathered assembly. You are in worship and your problems, troubles, concerns and thoughts are minimized in comparison to the Almighty.  He can handle all of these burdens before blinking if He so desires.

How To Choose This Song

There are several hints in the preceding paragraph.  It is a wake up call – it can be lively.  It prepares people for worship – it should be edifying and pointing to God. It is used by the Holy Spirit – it needs to be grounded in scriptural truths. It needs to show who is in charge and it’s not you, your family, your job, your financial situation, your anything – it is Christ centered, or Gospel centered, or God centered. It’s like a compass always pointing to the truth.  It is a piece that people can rely on.  It is a piece that helps to carry them through the upcoming week. The song should move their heart, mind, body and soul.

Looking for a Few God Songs?

Meaty Hymns:

  • Blessed Jesus, at Your Word
  • Stand Up! Stand Up! For Jesus – try singing this one      actually standing up for a change.
  • God Himself is Present
  • To Your Temple I Draw Near
  • Now the Silence

New Songs:

  • Gather in His Name – by Gwen Smith and Carl Cartee
  • Enter This Temple – by Leland Mooring
  • Here I Am Lord – Dan Schutte
  • Here With Me – Bart Millard
  • Here for You – by Matt Reman and Matt Maher
  • Here – by Kari Jobe
  • Meet Us Here – Mike Honholtz

Psalm 139 – Confession of Sins

“Confessing to God provides forgiveness, while confessing to someone else provides healing.” – Aaron Stern

The following Confession of Sins can also be accompanied by song.
Contemporary Song Choices:
“Search My Heart” by Joel Houston
“Search Me Oh God” by Hillsongs
“How Great is the Love” by Paul Baloche
“Every Promise” by Keith Getty

Psalm 139:1-8 
M: You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.  You are well acquainted with my sin.
C: You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. I do confess of my sinful thoughts and ask for forgiveness.
M: You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. 
C: Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. I do confess of all the lies, the gossip and the indecent thoughts I have committed and ask for forgiveness.
M: You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. 
C: Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 

Psalm 103:10-12 
M: He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. 
C: For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

James 5:16 
M: Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. 
C: We confess all of our sins to you Lord and to each other.
M: The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
C: Praise be to God. Forever! Amen.

A Simple Contemporary Song Tip for Musicians

A Simple Contemporary Song Tip for Musicians

Song Flow
Some pieces of contemporary music can be complicated – containing introductions, verses, refrains (choruses), bridges, repeats, codas and multiple endings all jumbled up as if thrown into a Vita-mix blender. It seems like some of these pieces require schooling in music just to decipher the code. My solution – I will often write out the song structure on the top of my sheet music, for example:

Listed in order:
Intro (played by Ruth) – Verse 1 (sung by Stella), Chorus (all), Verse 2 (Steve), Chorus (all), Bridge (layered vocals; first Ruth, then Ruth and Stella, then all three of us), Chorus (all; no guitar), Ending (Ruth – softly)

Use Highlighters on Your Music
I also will often use highlighting pens to indicate the flow. For example, I usually highlight the repeat markings, the coda markings and the “dal segno” marks which we refer to as “da sign!” (inside musician humor). The highlights quickly draw my eyes to the place where I need to go. For really complicated songs I’ve been known to use different color highlights as well. So the start of Coda for example is highlighted in green and I get to it by highlighting the D.S. al Coda in green as well.

The Bulletin
By the way, we also have our church secretary print a simplified “map” in our bulletin as well so that our congregation can easily sing along, for example:

Verse 1, Chorus, Verse 2, Chorus, Bridge, Chorus, Ending

Now you know the rest of the story!

Summer Psalm for August 31, 2014 – Pentecost 12

Summer Psalm for August 31, 2014 – Pentecost 12
Based on Psalm 73 (selected verses)

Song Choices: 
“Praise You in this Storm” by Marc Hall
“God My Rock” by Paul Baloche and Brenton Brown

Level of Difficulty:
These are both great songs for your worship team to offer but would prove to be difficult for the congregation.

You Tube:
Praise You in this Storm:

God My Rock:

Rationale for the Song Choices:
They both capture the spirit of verses 23-26.

Suggested Format:
This is the last week of this summer series. As such, I am proposing something a little different.  Make your song choice and instead of the usual responsive Psalm of the Day format, use the song in it’s place but plan for an instrumental interlude midway through the song where the Pastor reads versus 23-26 along with the background music.  The band then finishes the song.

Psalm 73:23-26 Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heartand my portion forever.

A Toolbox for Worship Leaders, Pastors and Musicians


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 291 other followers

%d bloggers like this: