The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


A cure for Lutheran laryngitis?

Here's what it means to be Lutheran today

More than once I’ve heard it said that the average Lutheran invites someone to church once every 23 years. My defensive side wants to respond that at least half of our “members” hardly come at all and shouldn’t be held against the rest of us. Then I do the math and we only improve to about one invitation every 10 to 12 years. Since it’s easier to invite someone to church than to tell someone what trusting Christ means to me, I don’t even want to guess how infrequently we talk to others about Jesus.

Contrast this with Martin Luther’s dream. He believed “all Christians have the authority, the command, and the obligation to preach …” (Luther’s Works, vol. 30: The Catholic Epistles, edited by J.J. Pelikan, H.C. Oswald & H.T. Lehmann; Concordia Publishing House, 1967).

How is it that a movement founded on the idea that every Christian would be a preacher in the midst of their daily work ended up being so silent?

Lutheran laryngitis?

Along with many others, I’m discovering that renewing the church isn’t likely to happen unless we give attention to renewing the Christian life—reclaiming discipleship as a way of life. Many of us in what people refer to as “mainline” traditions come from centuries-old connections as state churches. We internalized a sense that we were legitimate simply because we existed. We assumed we always would.

As a result we clammed up about Jesus—and developed a serious case of laryngitis. This isn’t a Lutheran problem. It’s much broader than that (most of our full communion partners have laryngitis too).

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