What is it that Free Lutherans can offer to the broader church planting movement in America? What gifts do we have? Is there something unique about us? What can we offer that the generic Bible believing church down the road doesn’t? We both believe the Bible. We both might even be congregational. We both speak about being Gospel centered and evangelical. We both seem to value lay ministry giftings. We both value expository preaching. We might even sing the same songs on Sunday. We both seek to foster real community and relationships. So what is it? Why are we unique? What do we bring to the table? How would you answer those questions?
As a planter, I have spent countless hours wrestling with these deeply profound questions. What I am realizing more and more as I wrestle through the above questions is that we should not only celebrate our Lutheran theological heritage, but lean into it as well. Why? Because our theology, which is beautifully summarized in the Catechism, is the very thing that makes us unique. I think sometimes in our broader American evangelical culture, we want to downplay our theology or minimize it. It’s easier to simply blend in and do what everyone else is doing. However, in a culture where people are longing for experiential spirituality, Lutherans have unique gifts shaped by Scripture and God’s people that we can invite people into.
Being Lutheran is all about the Gospel of Jesus and how Jesus comes to us. As Lutherans we celebrate Sacramental theology and the earthiness of God’s work in our lives through His Word, Baptism, and the Lords Supper. It is through these physical gifts that Christ is made present in our lives. As we struggle through the ups and downs of life, he promises to come and minister to us through these gifts in the local congregation.
Being a Lutheran also ties us deep into the history of the church. How beautiful it is to realize that we stand on the shoulders of the faithful and don’t have to reinvent the wheel in hopes of catching every constantly changing fad within the church. I can joyfully embrace the gracious rhythms that God has used in the church for centuries (i.e. Creeds, Confession of Sin and Grace, Sacraments).
So are we unique? Yes and No.
Yes, in the sense that our churches are grounded in a far more historic and sacramental shape than many evangelical churches today. Yes, in that within the Lutheran world, we cherish congregational freedom. But, we aren’t unique in the sense that these historical beliefs, practices, and rhythms are anything new, but really a continuation of how God’s people have worshiped all along.
As our cultures spiritual foundation continues to erode, we can bring real gifts to the table. Could I be so bold to say our culture needs more Free Lutheran congregations. Congregations that magnify Christ and bring Christ into peoples lives through his Word and Sacraments. Congregations that invite believers to follow Jesus through the simply rhythms God has used to shape his people for centuries.
May God grant us wisdom, humility, and intentionality to continually learn how to express these great gifts in our culture.
Pastor Andy Coyle
The Lutheran Church PLanter
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