For the longest time, I’ve said the reason I love being a Lutheran is because I love Lutheran theology. Justification, by grace, through faith, is the single most important and greatest gift that any of us can ever receive. I love to preach this teaching because it assures us that what we do or don’t do in this world has no merit on our salvation, because our salvation has already been won for us by Jesus.
A few years before my grandfather passed he told me how we was counseling a 90+ year old-woman who had grown up and been active in the church her entire life. She called on my grandpa, and said, “I’m going to die soon, but how do I know if I’ve done enough good to get into heaven?” What amazing news my Grandpa shared with her! Yet, at the same time, how sad that this woman spent 90+ years of her life and never lived with the certainty of heaven that Christ had won for her! When it’s not about Christ and His work on the cross, we never do know if we’ve been good enough.
The Lutheran doctrine of justification, by grace, through faith, gives us more confidence and comfort and assures us of our eternity with God!
While I love being a part of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) denomination because of our doctrine, I’ve also made the claim that I struggle with the practice of the Lutheran church. Why does our denomination struggle with reaching the culture more than most other denominations do today? Why do we have so much fighting within the denomination? Why do so many feel led that we must all worship the exact same way? Why do we lose so many people year after year? Why are we one of the whitest denominations in all of America?
I’ve said before, “I love the doctrine of the LCMS, but I hate the practice.” But can that even be an accurate statement?
I was reminded of what a Seminary professor once said in class. Theology and Practice are not separate. Theology informs practice. Whatever practice you have comes out of your theology. According to that logic, then, if we want to measure how successful our theology is, we would have to measure how successful our practice is. And to put it frankly, we haven’t been very successful! Our numbers have been declining for almost 40 years in a row! We have the Good News in Jesus that can give people hope, comfort, and confidence in the midst of a chaotic world, and yet, we are becoming a shadow of what we once were! How is this even possible? We have to ask the hard questions and figure out how we can get ourselves out of this decline.
The leadership in our denomination has gone on record to say the number one way we can fix the growing decline is if young parents would choose to have more kids. I think that’s a terrible answer.
While having and raising kids is certainly not an easy task (it’s probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do), it is also the very safe answer. Having more kids never forces us to take our faith outside of our homes! In this sense, we are simply playing defense while we continue to sit on what we claim to be “the greatest theology in the world.” It’d be like Lebron James, the most gifted athlete in the world, choosing to stop playing basketball because he’s afraid he might get hurt. That’d be ridiculous. That’d be insane. By the way, please come back to Cleveland, Lebron!
Something about our theology has to compel us to become more strategic and passionate about reach the world for Christ. Listen, there are many great pastors, leaders, and even churches in our denomination who already understand this and are doing it right. But we have to take a look at the whole, ask the hard questions, and come up with a different answer than just having more kids!
The number one way to change this world for Jesus is to quit playing defense and start playing offense. Let’s take our theology out into the world. Rather than waiting for them coming to us or waiting to have our homes more full of kids, let’s actually go out, do the hard thing: find and make new disciples.
What are some effective ways to reach people and grow the church today that you can think of? Please share your thoughts below.