I’ll admit. It’s a click-bait article for a church to post right before a name release. But if you clicked it, I hope you’re ready to actually read this, not just browse the article for something that will help you prove a point (one way or another).
My roots go deep in the Lutheran denomination, tribe, tradition. Whatever you choose to call it, both Mark and I are steeped in Lutheran theology. We were both baptized in Lutheran churches as babies, both confirmed Lutheran, both attended Lutheran universities for undergraduate and graduate studies, both entered professional church work in the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod (LCMS). Our son was baptized by his father in a Lutheran church and now attends a Lutheran preschool.
If there was a contest for “poster couple” for the LCMS, Mark and I would be in the runnings.
When someone planted an idea in our minds 10 years ago that *one day* we would make a good church-planting team, there was no question in our minds that it would be a Lutheran church.
And maybe you were waiting for a different turn at this point in the article, but SURPRISE! We’re planting a LUTHERAN church!
On the way to the coffee shop (a.k.a “the office”) this morning, I laughed out loud at something. I noticed the car next to me was being sprayed down with water--the stream was hitting the driver side window with such force that it was splattering over the top of the car. I couldn’t quite grasp what I was seeing at first. In the background was a carwash but this car wasn’t at the car wash… it was stopped at a red light. As I looked again, I realized that there was a sprinkler head in the median that was pointed in the wrong direction. That driver might’ve planned to wash his car today, but not that way!
The wrong application of the right thing is still the wrong thing. I wonder if, sometimes as the church, we're guilty of the same.
I’m a proud Lutheran (but not too proud). And I wonder if I’ve been guilty of wrongly applying my love for my denomination... either in the wrong ways or in the wrong places.
When Mark first introduced the question of whether or not this church plant should have “Lutheran” in the name, I can tell you that I bristled. Maybe you’ve heard this same thought process before:
Are we ashamed to be Lutheran?
Why would we try to hide our denomination?
Are we trying to trick people?
Won’t that make us just like every other 'non-denom' church out there?”
Who cares about the answers to those questions? Christians, that’s who. Specifically, “churched” Christians.
We didn’t pick up our family and move to Houston to evangelize the churched. Our mission is to reach the disconnected--people who are disconnected from Christ, His Church, and His Kingdom calling (the Great Commission).
When a disconnected person encounters our church family, we want them to walk away thinking, “Wow, this church is all about Jesus, the Bible, and grace.” Now of course, if a Lutheran walks in, they’re going to think, “Wow, this church is all about Jesus, the Bible, and grace--of course they’re a Lutheran church!”
But we’re not here to attract Lutherans. In fact, we’ve already got all the Lutherans we need--they’ve been training with us for the last 6 months as the Launch Team. In an area where the Mormon church has already scooped up the prime real estate, the headline we need to lead with is simply that we are a Christian church.
If someone new moves into the area and is looking specifically for a Lutheran church, they’ll be able to find us. It’s not a secret or anything. But leading with it? It'd be the wrong application of the right thing. Like spraying the car in the intersection.
Do you find this offensive? Luther wouldn’t.
“I [Luther] ask that men make no reference to my name and call themselves, not Lutherans but Christians. What is Luther? After all, the doctrine is not mine, nor have I been crucified for anyone. St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 3 would not allow Christians to call themselves Pauline or Petrine, but Christian. How, then, should I, a poor evil-smelling maggot sack [gotta love this guy!] have men give to the children of Christ my worthless name? Not so, dear friends. Let us cast out party names and be called Christians after Him whose doctrine we have.”
(Luther, Martin. What Luther Says: An Anthology. Compiled by Ewald M. Plass. Vol. II. Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publ. House, 1959.)
Luther goes on later to express that there is nothing wrong with being called Lutheran so long as it is used only as a way of being specific in language--as a way of distinguishing one doctrine from another. And we similarly are not ashamed to use “Lutheran” in this manner.
I love the way one of our Launch Team members answered when someone asked him if we were going to be a Bible church: “Yes, we’re a Bible church… and we interpret the Bible through a Lutheran lens.” I am not ashamed of the Gospel, nor am I of using the Lutheran lens to interpret Scripture.
Do you belong to a congregation that has Lutheran in the name? That’s wonderful! At the time your church was planted, this was surely a useful and necessary word to include in the name itself.
But just as some Lutheran churches have dropped the adjective “evangelical” from their name as it became less and less useful in communicating to the outside world, so we are choosing to drop the Lutheran adjective from our church name. Your Lutheran church is still evangelical (Gospel-focused). Our church is still Lutheran and evangelical. But that’s insider language. It’s the wrong application of the right thing. What matters to those disconnected from Christ, His Church, and His kingdom calling is that we are a Christian church.
Still have questions? Want to talk about this further? Don't take to Facebook or a blog to do so. Let's sit down, as Luther would, for a table talk. I'll buy the beer.