The Best of the Tradition With a Heart for Evangelism and Discipleship
What are Lutherans? Lutherans are Christians who believe that the efforts of Martin Luther to keep the church faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ were on target and need to continue. The work of Luther and other 16th century reformers continues to speak to the Church at large, including many Protestants who have strayed from traditional "evangelical catholic" teaching and practice. Rightly understood, Luther was an early adopter to "non-denominationalism", steering the Church back to its early sources and fathers, the Bible above all else.
What is the Law?
The Law are all of those things we should do. We know we should do them because God's Law is written on our hearts. However, we are unable to perfectly obey God's Holy Law. So we give thanks to Christ, who fulfilled the Law on our behalf. We confess weekly our bondage to sin, and also receive the forgiveness of God through Christ.
What is the Gospel?
The Gospel is what God does for us. It tells you that, just as you are, in your anxiety and guiltiness, as creature and sinner, are loved, forgiven, received, valued, and accepted by God. This Word of God was uniquely incarnate in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Understood as "good news," it can be heard today in the Church, the Body of Christ.
What is salvation?
Salvation is being grasped by the grace of God so that you know yourself to be loved and forgiven by God and therefore reconciled to God, yourself, and all your neighbors. You cannot do anything to earn salvation. God does it all, through grace alone.
If you don’t have to do anything to earn salvation, does that mean Lutherans don’t do good works?
As Paul says in Romans when faced with this same question, "God forbid!" Lutherans do lots of good works. But we do them out of gratitude to God, not to make God like us better. It is often said that Lutherans get all of the blame when we sin, but none of the credit for doing good! Well, there is a little truth to that as our good works are the result of the Holy Spirit working through us.
What do Lutherans believe about the Bible?
Lutherans believe the Bible is the Word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit and authoritative in all matters of doctrine and truth. Sadly, Lutheran churches in American - and indeed the world over - are divided on the nature of the scripture, some reading it more liberally than others. We hold that the scriptures teach authoritatively on all matters of doctrine, and a plain reading of the texts is right and proper.
How many sacraments do Lutherans have?
Two. Baptism and Communion. In them we believe God comes to us; we do not go to God. Therefore, we do baptize infants as well as adults, and all in between. We receive the Lord's Supper every week in worship, regarding it as the apex of the liturgy. All are welcome to receive the Lord's Body and Blood who are baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and believe that Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, is truly present in, with and under the forms of bread and wine for the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.
Do Lutherans believe they hold the one true faith?
Yes. But we also believe we are not the only ones who hold it.
What is your church structure?
First Lutheran has a Congregational Council that has oversight for the spiritual and financial well-being of the congregation. Consisting of nine men and women, the Council meets monthly.
What makes the NALC different from other Lutheran church bodies?
The NALC is a new church body formed in 2010. At that time, and still today, there were concerns about the direction of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) on theological matters. First Lutheran was a member of the ELCA from 2002-2011, and along with over 350 congregations, we left the ELCA out of concern for the teaching of the ELCA. The NALC might be seen as something of a centrist church body, wherein we affirm the authority of the scriptures and oppose the theologically liberal direction of the Mainline Protestant churches, and we have retained a role for women in ministry. The NALC is not a congregationalist church body, as it has one national bishop (The Rev. John Brodosky) and regional deans to serve pastors and congregations.
The following is a newsletter article written by Pastor McClanahan that speaks to liturgical worship and its relationship to Christian discipleship. For those committed to being disciples of Jesus but unsure where more traditional worship may fit in, this article may help.
Liturgy and Discipleship: More than a Passive Connection
The Protestant Church at large has worked hard in recent years to help parishioners see themselves less as members of a church, and more as disciples of Jesus Christ. It rightly understands that the true work of the Church is discipleship, or following Jesus, rather than the creation of a social club, a trap into which churches can easily fall. This change in concept is in large part due to the devastating losses which the Church has experienced over the last five decades, as Mainline Protestantism has seen its relevance and influence practically disappear.
“What do we do?” pastors asked each other as their flocks slowly dwindled from four- to three- to two-digit totals. The answer was staring them in the face as it had since the first century: recommitting themselves to the Great Commission and making disciples.
Concurrent with this change in focus were the worship wars between “evangelical” Protestants and “confessional” Protestants. Their arguments were essentially over worship styles, what we now call “contemporary” or “traditional”. “We have to appeal to the culture if we ever want to reach the next generation for Christ!” yelled the evangelicals. “We have to stay true to our identity and not be conformed to the world!” yelled the confessional types. The evangelicals blamed the decline in Protestantism on a failure to connect with contemporary culture. The confessionals blamed the decline on the Church’s abandoning its core identity and thereby becoming indistinguishable from the world.
Where do these two issues of worship and discipleship intersect? In general, it seems that those pastors and churches who have emphasized discipleship have been of the more evangelical persuasion. Discipleship was seen as an emotional commitment, a life-changing choice. Discipleship was often encouraged with emotionally uplifting music in the background and constant calls to go deeper, higher and further in your walk with the Lord.
Again, in general, going deeper into discipleship became nearly synonymous with evangelical worship; both appealed to the need to be an active Christian. Liturgical types were seen as endorsing a passive Christianity, a kind of blind adherence to the liturgy.
Those who clung to liturgical worship thought that the liturgy had been part of their discipleship all along. While those in the pews and those in the culture simply saw the liturgy as the “old” way of doing things, the confessional/liturgical types were wondering what all the fuss was about. Their commitment to traditional forms of worship was the living out of their commitment to their formation by Jesus himself.
While I think the confessional/liturgical folks were right in their way of thinking, they were probably wrong to assume that those in the pews made a connection between discipleship and liturgical worship. And just in case I might make the same mistake, let me offer some thoughts.
Liturgical worship and discipleship are intricately bound together. While contemporary worship will, for many, move us emotionally, liturgical worship forces us to work with a counter-cultural, historical, and Biblical form that shapes us more deeply than emotional highs. Liturgical worship is the cornerstone of what discipleship is really all about: adhering to a higher form, a greater good, a foreign truth that is expressed over and above how we feel.
Far from hindering our walk with the Lord, liturgical worship, and our commitment to it, is the first step in saying to the world that we are willing to worship God in a way that is different from the music of popular culture, or is even rejected by popular culture. Far from being a mere taste or preference, liturgical worship is a discipline that disciples embrace because it lifts up God’s Word and his Sacraments. And far from being a time to “go through the motions”, the liturgy offers Bible stories, passages and the sacraments week in and week out.
I, for one, am always struck by the sober truths of the Confession, the Creed, the Word, the Lord’s Supper and the Lord’s Prayer. These things never seem stale to me, but instead are always challenging my sins, my preconceptions, and my shallowness of faith.
So the liturgy is the foundation of discipleship, and there need not be any thought that a liturgical congregation cannot also embrace discipleship, even if liturgical congregations don’t always do a great job of bringing these two concepts together. I think that congregations that embrace liturgical worship, in spite of the cultural pressures not to do so, are actually setting themselves up to teach new believers about discipleship as well. For in both, there is a subjection of our will to the object of our faith, the Triune God.