The vocabulary of the church is in the process of some change, with new words being used toâ€¨describe the different approaches and styles of doing mission in the 21st century. Definitions of three of these terms follow.
While they aren’t exact, and would be challenged by some, they are used today by many leaders in the church, including myself.
• Postmodern: The perspectives, values and culture of people born since 1964—GenX and Millennials. They are significantly different from those of previous generations in North America.
• Transformational: The process of leading existing congregations with set and increasingly ineffective styles and patterns of worship and community life into new models for Great Commission ministry in their changing local settings. See the Transforming Church Web site.
• Emergent: The ministry of congregations and leaders committed to engaging people with the gospel in the terms, images and perspectives of postmodern generations—including a radical blend of ancient church practices with future technology and culture. See the Emerging Leaders Network Web site.
What does it mean to be Lutheran? For many in
the ELCA who’ve grown up Lutheran, religious identity is intertwined
with a sense of family and cultural traditions: beer and brats for
some, lefse and lutefisk for others, familiar liturgy and hymns for
all. But the shape of Lutheranism is changing.
While the majority of Lutherans worldwide still live in Northern Europe, Lutheranism is growing rapidly in other parts of the world, according to the Lutheran World Federation. Today there are almost as many Lutherans in Asia and the Middle East (7.4 million) as there are in North America (8.1 million), and there are more Lutherans in Africa (15 million) than there are in Germany (13 million).
So what does it mean to be Lutheran, beyond cultural heritage or geographical location?
During the 16th century, Martin Luther challenged the teachings, practices and structures of the Roman Catholic Church. He insisted that the central message of Christianity is the good news that sinners become reconciled to God by grace through faith because of the saving work of Jesus Christ.
It’s important to remember that Luther didn’t intend to start a new church. He wanted to reform the existing church so the gospel message was communicated clearly and so the life of the church reflected that gospel center. Lutherans organized into a separate church only after the Roman Catholic Church repeatedly rejected Luther’s views.
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