About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
The Lutheran church, as a “Christian” denomination, dates back to the Reformer, Martin Luther (1483-1546). There are now over 9,000 Lutheran congregations and millions of Christians who worship in them in over 76 nations around the world.
Christians worshipping in a Lutheran church confess that we are sinners who fall short of God’s expectations, but this same God forgives us. We believe that it is God acting for and in us, and not our own acts, that brings forgiveness. We call this “justification” by grace through faith. As a result, we are new people. We trust God, who comes to us in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Christians worshipping in a Lutheran congregation are evangelical, which means we reach out to share the message of God’s grace. Evangelical refers to the good news, or gospel, of Jesus Christ. We try to look beyond ourselves to bring the gospel to community life with people of no faith. We welcome others to worship and work with us.
Christians worshipping in a Lutheran church are Born Again. We believe that every day and in every act of serious return to God we are returning to our baptism. We come forth as new people, which means that we are born again and again or born from above.
Christians worshipping in a Lutheran church think of worship not as a pastor’s performance but as a people’s service. We are sacramental. Along with Baptism, we celebrate Holy Communion ((Eucharist or Lord’s Supper) frequently in many congregations weekly. We believe Jesus Christ is truly present when we gather in faith for this sacred meal. Our worship includes song and prayer. We place special emphasis on the Word of God. Our worship stresses preaching in the form of sermons that address the needs of sinners and announces the living, loving activity of God in our world. We believe that God is present when humans speak the divine word, so we gather to hear it together. We believe God speaks to people through the scriptures, and so we revere personal Bible reading in addition to personal prayer. We are serious about our devotion to God.
Christians worshipping in a Lutheran church are stewards, which means we believe that all of life and health, all possessions and capabilities are, in a sense, on loan from God the creator. So we keep on learning how to return on God’s investment in us.
Christians worshipping in a Lutheran church want to make a difference as people who do when God works through us. We take the divine law seriously, but we are not legalists. We do no think we can please God by following laws, nor can we come to perfection. Remember, the first thing we said is that we are sinners who are forgiven, but we believe that we are to make faith active in love. Where there is no love, generosity, no service to others, we suspect that faith is weak or absent. We want to work for justice, as biblical prophets and New Testament believers did. We also participate in works of mercy and healing.
Christians worshipping in a Lutheran church continue the reformation begun in the 15th Century. We believe Christ’s church is universal, and that we are connected with other Christians who stress their ties to Christ’s church everywhere and through the ages. The denomination name Lutheran was acquired accidentally and refers to Martin Luther, German monk and Old Testament professor, who came to renewed understanding of the good news almost 500 years ago. Lutheran congregations do not worship Martin Luther, but we celebrate what God worked through Martin Luther. Luther’s writings called for church reform and led to protest – now known as the Protestant Reformation. His statement of justification by grace through faith remains a central characteristic of the Lutheran church.
Christians worshipping in a Lutheran church believe that the Christian good news knows no racial, ethnic, economic, national or gender-related boundaries. TheEvangelicalLutheranChurch inAmerica is organized to give emphasis to its desire that women and men, Black, White, Hispanic, and Asian, and others share equally in the benefits and tasks that go with Christian life.
Christians worshipping in a Lutheran congregation do not limit their activities to local or regional areas. Local churches which bear the name Lutheran baptize, commune, speak the word of God, reach out with acts of love, pray for others and live out their responsibilities as Christians. Lutheran congregations are connected by synods and by church bodies like theEvangelicalLutheranChurch inAmerica. They pool their resources so that together the congregation can better reach out to people in need everywhere. Lay Christians as well as ordained ministers make up what Martin Luther called “a priesthood of all believers.” All are ministers. Lay people, in teamwork with pastors, take initiative to help see that Jesus Christ is represented among them and in our communities.
Christians worshipping in a Lutheran church, though forgiven, are aware of human weakness, imperfection and mixed-up priorities. We are hopeful people. We respond to God’s love by reaching out to others to tell and to demonstrate the good news of Jesus Christ. We believe that with God anything is possible. We invite others who are not now active in Christian communions to join them in challenge which a trouble-filled world presents and to rejoice with the promises with which a loving gracious God greets all of us.
Adopted from Leaflet Ministries Series by Martin Minter
Used by permission.