All You Disaffected Evangelicals should Become Lutheran

I never thought I would write a post with this title.

However, I suspect a lot of you are already thinking about it, so let me say out loud what you might be thinking.

Image source - http://cyberbrethren.com/whats-a-lutheran/
Image source – http://cyberbrethren.com/whats-a-lutheran/

“Maybe checking out a nice Lutheran church wouldn’t be so bad.”

Over the past few weeks, the Evangelical world (read: media, twitter, blogosphere) has been full of drama, so much so, that I wrote about how it reminds me of High School drama. There have been those who are just tired out. Those who have resolved to quit fighting about the drama with other disaffected folks. Those who are advocating for schism. Those who are breaking up with Evangelicalism.

Meanwhile, Lutherans in the US elected a Presiding Bishop, Elizabeth Eaton, who is a woman. Nadia Bolz-Weber (our own little rock star) wrote an incredible book worth reading. Lutherans have a strong history, we have leaders like Dietrich Bonhoeffer who have found renewed followings among many Christians. Lutherans have been doing alright.

Let me be clear though. I am not saying you should become Lutherans because we are awesome (because we are not), and I am not really into sheep stealing.

In fact, Lutherans have a lot of flaws and we may not seem, at first, like what you are looking for.

Most Lutheran churches can seem kind of boring. We don’t create cults of celebu-pastors. We are pretty calm and subdued in worship, when people smile at a joke told during a sermon it is a really big deal. We generally do liturgy, but we are not as good at it as the Catholics or Episcopalians/Anglicans. Lots of us try the praise and worship thing, but we are still stuck in 1992 when it comes to music and style. We sometimes try to get involved in our communities and with helping the poor, but our churches don’t have big outreach budgets and many of our folks are burning the candle at both ends. We do have strong aid organizations like Lutheran World Relief, but we are not like the amazing Mennonites. For youth, we have 2 years of church school (confirmation) for 12-14 year olds – we do not do youth group like the Baptists or Pentecostals.

Of course, Lutherans have drama too. We fight about all kinds of things that churches fight about, from theological understandings of human sexuality to worship styles to carpet colour to budget deficits.

churchsignBut here is the thing you disaffected Evangelicals might appreciate. We Lutherans are pretty sure we are wrong and imperfect. Plus we like to name it.

Most Sunday mornings, we begin by confessing our sins. Together. We admit to God and to each other that we haven’t got things right and we won’t in the future. We remind ourselves that we are all pretty screwed up.

Then we hear God’s forgiveness. Given to us, freely, generously, graciously, without condition.

And we go from there. We begin with confession and forgiveness, and then we preach grace.

Real grace. Grace that is God’s action and not ours. Grace that is entirely God’s responsibility, not ours.

Lutherans might not be the best at liturgy, music, social justice, outreach, youth group, or promoting celebu-pastors. But we are the best at grace.

In fact, I am going to go out on a limb and say Lutherans have the best theology of justification – bar none. We get this grace stuff and we drill it into each other a lot. Lutheran theology and preaching at its best provides the clearest distinction of law and gospel, of what our problem is and what God is doing about it, in all of Christianity. Lutherans churches at their best will boldly declare that we are not the ones saving ourselves, that our theology, our pastors, our liturgy, our music, our youth programs, our celebu-pastors… our good works… don’t meant squat to God.

God has already decided how God feels about us. Any pastor, any Christian who tells you otherwise hasn’t read enough Martin Luther. Or enough of the Bible.

God loves all of us, and not because we earn it or deserve it. God loves us because God is just really cool that way.

This is why I think you disaffected Evangelicals need a little more Lutheranism in your lives. Because we know how to be broken, marginalized, tired out, sinners, and we do it honestly, without pretense. And we know that we will be okay. We know that God is really good at working with our brokeness, working with us at our worst. That is what grace is all about.

That is what I hear you needing. That is what I see coming to odds in Evangelicalism. The need to be right, the need to do it all, the need to have it all together, the need to do God’s work all on your own. The need to be prefect little bible believing Christians coming to odds with the reality of all suffering, sin and death in the world.

Now, before I tell you to become a Lutheran, let me explain one thing. Yes, Lutherans are named after Martin Luther, but Luther named himself after something else. Martin Luder changed his name to Luther, which is derived from the greek work ‘eleutherius’, meaning one who has been set free.

Lutherans are followers of Luther, but we are also ones who have been ‘set free.’

So all you disaffected Evangelicals. Become Lutherans. Become set free.

Become ones who  are set free by God’s grace.

So who wants to become a Lutheran? Is this an option for disaffected evangelicals? Share in the comments, or on Facebook or on Twitter: @ParkerErik

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32 thoughts on “All You Disaffected Evangelicals should Become Lutheran”

  1. Yes and no.. I love my lutheran church, but at the same time I don’t. I find hard-core judgement even while claiming to embrace grace. My church just changed their constitution to exclude women from leadership roles…

    We’re lutheran brethren though…so maybe that’s different. And I guess there are bound to be imperfections in any church and addressing those issues happens gradually. I’m waiting on God for direction in how to move. I am anxious for change and know that it will come in his time.

    It is a mixed bag. I wouldn’t tell people to become lutheran. But I’m still a lutheran. So that says something, too.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking piece.

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    1. Yes, Lutherans are definitely imperfect, and we are not always at our best. I am sorry that your congregation is clamping down on leadership. I know some Lutheran Brethren churches and pastors, and they are actually going more toward Evangelicalism than authentic Lutheranism.

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  2. I’m getting closer lol. My exposure to “Lutheranism” was in the form of the Evangelical Covenant Church at my time at North Park Seminary. I was attracted to paradoxical theology (or theology of tension) and the posture of “well, it’s both/and” or “we just can’t be dogmatic on that issue.” It was both frustrating and refreshing, oddly enough. My guess on why evangelicals don’t make the Lutheran “move” is because of their baptistic and non-sacramental view of the “ordinances.”

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  3. Erik, I identified with your article. If I would have written this, the title would have been, “Why I became a Lutheran.” You nailed it. The Lutheran Church’s theology of grace meshed with my experience of God so I could do no other.

    I do agree with one of the other commenters though. Sometimes Lutherans aren’t very good at living in grace with one another. But all part of the dynamic of saint/sinner.

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    1. Excuse me, but I thought scripture was the final authority, per Second Timothy.
      As an ex-charasmatic, where human experience IS the final authority, you get all kinds of problems. It becomes Corinth all over again.

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  4. Maybe disaffected evangelicals are already Lutheran…
    before we self identified as Lutheran we were the evangelish league. I want that good news gospel grace word back…

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  5. I *love* this. It likely won’t convince me to become Lutheran (too many bored Lutherans in my extended family have kind of ruined that scene for me, so I’ve found a home with the Anglicans. You’re right – they’re liturgy rocks!), but it does up my respect for Lutheran’s up another notch. I love how you speak about what is important and how you try to do show this, and that you’re listening to people besides those who are just like you.

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  6. I’m in my thirty-second year of ordained ministry as a Lutheran. Your article underscores for me that I am becoming Lutheran. Christian is something that we (I) grow in, over time, with all the ups and downs of it. At the same time Sinner and Saint. You are spot on when you write of the Lutheran understanding of justification and law/gospel.

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  7. I know this article is from awhile ago, but I just discovered it. I myself have come out of the world of Evangelical Christianity and all it entails….and have been attending my Dad’s Lutheran church. It has been comforting and I have decided to stay. Yet all along worried as to whether I was making the right choice….so this article is just what I needed!

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  8. Wait pastor, you like nadia bolz-weber??? I always thought she was a nut!!!! She doesn’t respect the Lutheran tradition, or the liturgy. why do you like he millennial pastor??? I respect your opinion pastor.

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    1. My experience of Nadia is that she is very solid theologically. And my understanding of her church is that they do acapella liturgical worship. She is very respectful of the Lutheran tradition. I would be curious to know what your thoughts on her are.

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      1. Sir, could you explain where the bishopric in scripture ever permitted women to serve in authority? I seem to observe that a woman in authority strikes against the scriptures penned by the apostle Paul to Timothy and Titus, as well as the apostolic commands to be silent in church, in subjection to the husband, ruling his own house well, being a father, &c?

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  9. I grow up with a very traditional Lutheran family and a great evangelical lutheran church, going to church was demanded by my parents. I left the church when I was 9 or 10 years old. Time pasted, going into high school, I was afraid of my soul, and i was also very afraid of hell and the devil. I decided to return to my church, with coming home I found Jesus christ. After years I have grown to love taking communion, listening to the scripture readings, and the old hymns. But by the love of tradition, I also have become afraid of our church losing these great traditions. So it isn’t that I hate Nadia, but I am afraid of her new ideas, and what it could mean to the Lutheran church and her traditions.

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  10. I attended Church this past weekend at the nearby Lutheran Church and was very impressed (it was my first time at a Lutheran Church ever). I plan to attend over the next few weeks to make sure, but in my heart, already feel it is where I belong. Any advice on what my next steps should be to move in the direction of becoming a member would be much appreciated. I was baptized and raised as a Catholic but have been an Episcopalian for much of my adult life. I would be very willing to discuss more of my background and why I want to be a Lutheran if anyone wants to discuss it? Thanks!

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  11. Funny. I googled, “How to become a Lutheran,” and this blog popped up. My husband and I are disaffected, disgruntled, disillusioned, exhausted, battered, nearly beaten, former Evangelicals. We nearly threw the baby out with the bath water and then realized, no, we love God and Jesus, we just don’t love what we experienced in Evangelicalism. There’s a nice little ELCA congragation down the street. They don’t seem to preach the hate for gays, women, and poor people that we were passively experiencing in our former church. Or the navel gazing, I’m-worse-than-cow-dung-mentality so oft promoted there. So, we might give it a whirl. Your blog title was perfect!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Be careful lifting up Nadia Bolz-Weber as a great example of Lutheranism… she’s a Universalist heretic and couldn’t be farther from Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Yes, were imperfect together but we don’t need to celebrate the heretical.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Reblogged this on Reluctant Mysticism and commented:
    I would be just such a disenfranchised Evangelical who became a Lutheran (ELCIC). Definitely laughing at the being stuck in 1992 music quip: if I hear “Shine Jesus Shine” or “As the Deer” or “Pass it On” or “Majesty” on more freakin’ time, my ears will explode & bleed. Ha!

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