Friday, June 4, 2010

Why I Became a Lutheran

I was introduced to Luther, and by extension Lutheranism, by a professor of mine at an Evangelical seminary I attended. I thought I was a pretty convinced Southern Baptist until I realized that Luther nailed me and my pietism on too many things.

The summer after my first year at seminary I started attending a Lutheran church off and on and discovered the irrelevance of Lutheran worship and Lutheran preaching. Why irrelevant? Not once did I walk out of that church with steps to improve my love life, my bank account balance, my job prospects, or my social skills. In fact I don't think I ever walked out with steps to improve anything, because all I ever heard about was my sin and my Savior.

Two back-to-back Sundays during this summer stick in my mind. The first Sunday I attended my regular Baptist church. I don't remember the sermon title, or much of anything about the sermon as a matter of fact, despite the power point and my careful note-taking. I do recall, however, the pastor suggesting that if we wanted to grow in our Christian lives we should take advantage of all the great resources available to us today. If we had financial problems there were books on that, if we had marital problems there were books on that, if we wanted to improve in just about any area we were just about guaranteed that someone had written the book for that struggle which would detail how to be a good, virtuous Christian. The following Sunday I attended the Lutheran church, and received a very different answer to the exact same question-- Jesus. And not just some abstract Jesus who gives me a warm fuzzy feeling in my heart sometimes, but a Jesus who died for my sins, vividly portrayed by the crucifix in front of the church. The pastor didn't tell what to do, but he told me what had already been done. For me.

In the view of pop-Evangelicalism it doesn't get more irrelvant than vestments, lectionaries, prayer books, hymns, or chanting. It doesn't get more irrelevant than preaching the same gospel to forgiven sinners week after week and month after month. It doesn't get more irrelevant than God's Word combined with water or the very body and blood of Jesus given for the forgiveness of sins. It doesn't get more irrelevant than the Church which desires to know nothing but Christ crucified for sinners.

It doesn't get more irrelevant than the Church being the Church.


  1. I had a very similar experience. I had started attending a Lutheran church because I had started dating a Lutheran seminarian. After several weeks, I went back to the Baptist church I had been attending, and the sermon was all about making New Years Resolutions about where the congregation should go that year. It was such a difference. I left literally aching for gospel.

  2. Having come out of Rome, I was attending three churches in my doctrinal search. One was Southern Baptist, one was independent Pentecostal style and one was independent reformed. The first two motivated their congregations via stirring emotions. Sometimes the second wouldn't even have a sermon prepared but the pastors would ask for some testimony from a congregant. But in the latter the pastor preached Law and Gospel. I was moved to tears and choked up when I went there with inducement only from the TRUTH via the faithfully preached Word of God. We do not need to be "worked up", I resented it in the other two churches as it smacked of emotional manipulation. Well I joined the latter church and both that pastor and I moved on to become Lutherans! And I certainly don't take it for granted.

  3. Thanks for sharing Ellie. I'm glad that you made a decision to be with a congregation that stands and stands alone on the work of Christ. Please let me humbly suggest, though, that maybe it's not so wise to paint everyone with the same brush. Even though I don't consider myself Baptist, the church I am part of is supported by the SBTC (oooh- Southern Baptists- the worst kind, right?! lol..), but I do consider myself Evangelical. The church I attend doesn't sell solutions to problems to make me more pious nor do I believe that anything outside of the work of Christ can set me free from sin. So while I totally agree with your motivation for switching congregations, please understand that not all are that way. (Even though there are a lot of them). I think the most important thing to remember across denominational lines is Christ- who He is, what He did, and who we are in Him. Outside of that, semantics don't seem to matter much, to me at least.

    Thanks for sharing!!

  4. You find that, when so many of us have stories exactly like this one, that something greater than semantics is at play. The greatest, brightest theologians of all time did not ultimately disagree simply because of some silly word games that they were too stupid to unravel. They disagreed because of what was at the heart of the different systems of belief. Praise God that he still works even where the Gospel is weakly proclaimed.

  5. Sounds quite a bit like my experience (I too am a former baptist.)

    Now, how I love the blessed, wonderful Law and Gospel, over and over again on Sunday after Sunday.

  6. Ellie--

    I share your concerns with the worldiness of much of modern-day evangelicalism, but why do you throw out the baby with the bath water? Why the apparent chip on your shoulder concerning all of evangelicalism and all of pietism? Puritanism was pietistic without de-emphasizing doctrine and was incredibly Christ centered (though it is true they reacted against the misuse of sacramentalism by pitching it altogether).

    Also, why did you become Lutheran as opposed to joining another confessional Protestant group (e.g., conservative Anglicanism or Presbyterianism)?