Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Evangelizing Lutherans?

Today in Dr. Aune's class, "Living Tradition," we talked about what Luther's The Bondage of the Will means for evangelizing. The concern raised was, "If we are to trust solely in God's mercy for salvation--a salvation in which human action plays no part--what then is the role of evangelism?"

This becomes a particularly difficult issue as many Lutherans perceive their Church to be shrinking, and wish to change that trend. However, as my classmate Jeremiah pointed out, if the Lutheran Church in and of itself is not necessary for salvation, should we care that it is getting smaller?

The ELCA Rocky Mountain Synod has responded to these questions in a bold manner. This September the synod launched a pilot program for a massive ELCA advertising campaign, placing ads on billboards, in newspapers, and on the sides of buses. The ads are simple. Some are statistical figures about how Lutherans provide humanitarian assistance. Some are simply the tools of service in the shape of the cross.
Through these ads, the ELCA seems to be saying that the Lutheran Church matters because it provides humanitarian aid.

More information about the ad campaign can be found at:

Whether or not you agree with these ads, or with advertising in general, I thought of a couple more ads that might send different messages.


Lucas Johnson said...

Healthy churches speak universal truths to people in the language of the day.

Some hold that the Lutheran Church was a precursor to modern-day 12 step programs.

Truths of the Lutheran Church are:
1. All humans are broken, damaged goods, sinful, etcetera, even if we are not capable of seeing such imperfections with our own eyes.
2. We are only brought out of our darkness by the strength and goodness of a higher power.
3. A mark of being taken by the hand out of this spiritual darkness is sharing of the light we've been given with other people.

As the wisdom goes, "We can't keep it unless we give it away."

Health for our church is only achieved by continually revisiting each of these three legs of Lutheranism.

While it is important to note that we are innately broken, and that it is only by God's gift that we are saved through no virtue of our own, we can only hold onto the gifts we've been given by sharing them with others.

We can't keep our faith unless we share it with others. Thus we're in no position to judge any work of ours as good. We don't do good on behalf of the Lutheran church. We do good on behalf of the love of Jesus. We also don't give from a position of strength. We give from a position of weakness where we give that we might keep.

We should care about the perceived decline of the church because it's feedback to us that as members of that church we are missing out on a universal truth.

While evangelism is only 1/3 of the picture, it is also the entire picture, because it supports the other two. Thus, we all have a stake in evangelism, good works, and the survival of the church for the maintenance of our personal spiritual gifts.

Giles Colahan said...

I'm telling you, you oughta be a producer.

You've got a film right there in the Sin Boldly photo: it's about a seminary which has to close because of lack of funds,
but the seminarians realize they can can get publicity and profits by brewing beer in the choir loft.... The seminarians are excomunicated (do Lutherans do that?), but in the end, money comes in, church membership rises exponentially, and beautiful women apply to the seminary in droves.

What do you think?

Ben Colahan said...

Not a bad idea...I'll have to remember that one. Of course, a studio has already taken an interest in our seminary. Apparently during the Vietnam War seminarians ran an underground railroad for draft dodgers in the Bay Area. The seminarians used a basement which was obstensibly used for brewing beer as the front for their operation!

While Lutherans don't really excommincate people, there is the incident of the Seminary in Exile (Seminex), in which nearly all the professors and students of a major Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod seminary walked out over a controversy of the interpretation of scripture. They formed their own independent seminary and would eventually be an important part of the formation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
There's a good wikipedia article about it with links to other sources: