The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Can Luther help?

Our dilemma isn’t new. Martin Luther was clear that the purpose of gathering as Christians is a life-changing encounter with Christ so people leave worship different from when they came. While many of us attend worship weekly, daily attendance wasn’t uncommon in Luther’s time. Yet he also understood that merely attending worship guaranteed nothing:

“People can go to church daily and come away the same as they went. For they think they need only listen at the time, without any thought of learning or remembering anything. Many a man listens to sermons for three or four years and does not retain enough to give a single answer concerning his faith—as I experience daily. Enough has been written in books, yes; but it has not been driven home to the hearts” (Luther’s Works, Vol. 53: Liturgy and Hymns, edited by J.J. Pelikan, H.C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann; Fortress, 1965; pages 67-68).

Luther believed the church’s impact in changing lives was minimal. Instead, his goal was developing a life-changing, truly evangelical form of the Christian life.

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