graphic website title banner

Surveying the Lutheran landscape

by Pastor Randy Freund (WordAlone board member)

September 24, 2004

With all the questions, issues, causes, controversies and concerns “out there” among particular Christians who call themselves Lutheran, it appears things have gotten even more confusing these days. The responses to all of these matters range from deeper apathy to renewed zeal. Some choose to ignore the urgent issues before us; others have started new confessing and reforming movements or have become active with existing ones; while others have said “enough” and have joined Christian communities that are not Lutheran.

For all these reasons (and particularly, because it is the Word alone that shapes and gives life and faith), WordAlone is attempting to instigate regional meetings or conferences that can bring leaders together to see how we could better organize ourselves to bring that particular Lutheran “theology of the cross” witness to bear. This is what is behind the “non-geographical” concept you may have heard about.

As I survey the Lutheran landscape out there, I can only conclude that God is up to something.

Conversations among leaders whom you may not expect to be talking together are now talking together. There are people in WordAlone with no intention of leaving the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), but who yet seek to be a voice within it, seeking to reform it. There are people in WordAlone who have passionate interest in working with other reforming movements outside of the ELCA who are theologically sound and are doing innovative, exciting evangelism and mission work.

There are people who have not joined WordAlone, yet want to “dip their toes in” because they find it a refreshing movement. There are good friends and leaders who were formerly active in WordAlone who have now found organizations like LCMC to be the most helpful way to carry out mission and ministry.

Could all of these folks and others have something in common? Could God be renewing and reforming Christ’s Church through a variety of voices (and no small amount of confusion)?

God is at work to will and to work His good pleasure. We must humbly confess that we don’t know exactly what that is or how God will pull this one off. But as we wait and watch and wrestle and pray and work, there are two questions we all need to be pondering: 1) How important is a Lutheran witness and identity in a post-denomination world, and 2) What particular kind of Lutheran witness is it important to convey?

In the body of Christ, there are many gifts. This applies to individuals as well as to the various expressions of Christianity (denominations). Yet, there is a reason I am not a pastor of another denomination or sect. I have found “Lutheran” to be a helpful, honest and faithful way to think about what it means to be a Christian. I’m not about to give that up. And this is not simply because I’m stubborn or parochial. The body of Christ needs this particular witness. Maybe now more than ever!

Wherever you happen to find yourself in this diverse and sometimes confusing Lutheran landscape “out there,” maybe it would be helpful to do some soul-searching. Ask yourself the two questions posed above. They may help you to determine both what is non-negotiable for you, as well as where your passion for ministry and witness lies. For wherever God is leading WordAlone and other movements, and however God is using us, we can be sure that God is placing in our ears the words of an old hymn like “Rise Up, O Saints of God!”