Lutherans (Pt. 1)

What makes a Lutheran exactly?

Hmm, I’m not entirely sure anymore. And I don’t care.

I’m going to come right out and say it: Being a Lutheran (or Methodist or Presbyterian or _____) doesn’t matter to me.

For anyone who follows church trends, denominationalism is a diminishing concept and structure. Most of Western Christendom has entered into a post-denominational era. Essentially, less and less people identify themselves as Lutheran, Catholic, Presbyterian, etc. Of course, people always seem to gravitate towards one label or another. Emerging, Missional, Organic, Neo-Calvinist. But in these series of post, when we use the term post-denominational, that is what we mean – people caring less and less about denominations.

Although there seems to be a growing trend of Reformed identification, it appears once again that leaders within most of these other movements (regardless of denomination) are seeking to break away from all labels other than Christian (and usually secondary labels of Evangelical or Orthodox, although both have developed a negative connotation over the years, so people even remain hesitant in this regard).

Why the fear of labels?

Public perception.

Emerging began to personify liberal. Lutheran began to mean traditional. For me personally, I use to think Lutherans had copyrighted grace – until I saw that virtually every other denomination and church emphasized grace as frequently – if not more – than most Lutherans. Evangelical began to mean judgmental, conservative or short-sided. Catholic has usually meant dead or cult.

Even Christian is a label the public struggles with. According to the research of the Barna Group and published in UnChristian, Christian predominantly means judgmental, hypocritical, and anti-homosexual.

What is the deal? Why the change?

This question will be more thoroughly addressed in future blog posts, but in short, it’s because of:

* Public perception and negative connotation

* Outdated language and irrelevant traditions

* Confusion about Luther, the Reformation, and the meaning of Lutheran history

* Worship packaged in containers that only make sense to insiders

* The breaking up of Lutheranism within Lutheranism

* And the fact that future generations just don’t care as much about denominations.

Whether you personally like the change of semantics within these labels and denominational structures imploding, this is reality.

What then shall we do? Do we care? What are we fighting for? Is the preservation of Lutheranism important? In what ways will Lutherans simply die off into the sunset if there isn’t change? What key aspects of Martin Luther, the founder of Lutheranism, are important to hold onto?

As we enter into this period of transformation, re-identification, and dare I say it, emergence, in the worldwide Church, it is time for Lutherans to actually engage in this inevitable trend and either die or change.

If Lutherans are even going to get people into the front door of following Jesus Christ, then leaders must wrestle with these questions fervently.

* Every label must be considered through the eyes of non-Christians.

* The missional aspects of our language must be culturally and contextually considered.

* Jesus is the founder and most important EVERYTHING in regards to being a Christian or Lutheran; therefore, Lutherans must re-submerge into his idea for what it means to be a Christian and a church. Further, Martin Luther wasn’t exactly a weak-minded or hearted disciple. Therefore, Lutherans must re-evaluate the way they’ve distorted his ideas for Christianity and the church.

* Worship styles throughout most of Lutheranism have given way to tradition rather than relevance and frankly, because most Lutherans have failed to contextualize the containers of the Gospel, most churches are dying because of it.

* Being a Lutheran CAN BE positive in many regards. So ask the question: Who is Martin Luther and what is being a Lutheran?

* And finally, it is clear that all of us who have ever labeled ourselves “Lutheran” must courageously ask the question: What makes me a Lutheran and do I care? Maybe even more importantly, do you (the non-Christian seeker) care? Is Lutheranism worth fighting for?

Throughout the next few weeks and series of posts, I’ve asked some close friends of mine to post and answer some of these questions.

In no way is this meant to be a manifesto on our beliefs in regards to Lutheranism. More, it is just an attempt to conversate over a subject we all have been a part of in one way or another.

One thought on “Lutherans (Pt. 1)

  1. Thanks John. I look forward to the series.

    I do want to make a note about denominationalism though. I don’t think it’s quite accurate to say anti-denominationalism is a new thing. I was raised non-denominational. Non-denominationalism is a deeply established tradition of our parent’s generation.

    The odd thing is that I now very consciously identify myself as Reformed Baptist – perhaps a reaction against a non-denominational upbringing. (I will note however, that Reformed Baptist – those who hold the the LBC 1689 – are not a denomination properly understood. There is no hierarchy of power. The local church is autonomous. What makes us Reformed Baptists is our confession of faith, our beliefs, and nothing else).

    just a couple cents to throw in

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