A “Moment” for Lutheranism: Are We Willing to Be Who We Are?
This comes from my friend, Michael Spencer, aka, "The Internet Monk," an articulate and thoughtful Southern Baptist blogger/teacher/minister, who finds himself increasingly, let us say, "discomforted" by church-life as he knows it in much of Evangelical Christianity. This post surely gave me pause, perhaps it will you as well. Are we rising to this occasion? Or is it the case that too many of us Lutherans are rushing headlong into the very things that increasing numbers of Evangelical Christians are finding ultimately of great disappointment and even feeling increasingly impoverished and spiritually disatisfying? Here then are Michael's comments:
I wrote this piece in July of ‘07. It garnered 70 comments and some grousy updates on my part. (You can read the original here.)
I’m reprinting the post with a clear comment thread because I feel
the sentiment I expressed in this piece is even more true now than
ever: there are thousands of evangelicals who would give a serious look
at mainline churches, traditional worship and the riches of Protestant
heritage IF some good brothers and sisters could recognize our journey
and meet us somewhere halfway along the path.
It seems that at the moment there is the most interest in the
broader, deeper more serious heritage of Protestantism and a growing
discontent with worshiptainment, there is a strong prejudice against
evangelicals within those communities that could reach out to them.
Evangelicalism needs what Protestantism has always done right…..at
least in those places where they still remember what was right all
Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans, Anglicans….
Mainline churches….we’re having a moment here.
Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans, Disciples of
Christ…do you know what I mean? We’re having a moment, and it’s
slipping right by.
We’re having a moment when thousands of evangelicals are getting a
bellyful of the shallow, traditionless, grown up youth group religion
that’s taken over their pastor’s head and is eating up their churches.
It’s a moment when people are asking if they want to hear praise
bands when they are 70…or if they will even be allowed in the building
when they are 70. It’s a moment when the avalanche of contemporary
worship choruses has turned into one long indistinquishable commercial
buzz. It’s a moment when K-Love is determining what we sing in church
and that’s not a good thing.
It’s a moment when some people are wondering if their children will
ever know the hymns they knew or will ever actually hold a Bible in
their hand at church again. It’s a moment when a lot of people are
pretty certain if they hear the words “new,” “purpose” or “seeker” one
more time, they may appear on the evening news for an episode of
It’s a moment when significant numbers of people have heard the same
ten sermon series so many times they could fill in for the pastor on
short notice. It’s a moment when many people would actually like to see
a section of the congregation who are over 50 and not trying to look
It’s a moment that- believe it or not- some people actually want to
go to something that looks like church as they remember it, see a
recognizable pastor, hear a recognizable sermon, participate in the
Lord’s Supper, experience some reverence and decorum, and leave feeling
that, in some ways, it WAS a lot like their mom and dad’s church. It’s
a moment when reinventing everything may not be as sweet an idea as we
were told it was.
It’s a moment when the baby boomer domination of evangelicalism is
showing signs of cracking. Some younger people actually want to hear
theology. They aren’t judging everything by how seekers evaluate it or
what Rick Warren would say about it.
Yes, my mainline friends, we’re having a moment here. You can see it
all around the edges of evangelicalism. It’s there and it’s real. It
isn’t easy or automatic, but it’s there. And it is sad to realize that
at the very time so many are looking for what you have, you’re mostly
squandering the moment entirely.
Your churches could be taking in thousands of evangelicals. That’s
right. Those recognizably “churchy” churches of yours, with the
Christian year, the Biblically rich liturgy, the choir robes, the
still-occasionally used hymnals and the multi-generational, slightly
blended worship services, could be taking in thousands of evangelicals.
Of course, you’d have to want them. You’d have to, in many ways,
meet them halfway or more. You’d need to talk to them as younger
evangelicals, not dangerous fundamentalists. You’d have to reconsider
how important it is to you to keep homosexual grievances constantly on
the front burner. You’d have to start acting like Biblical morality
meant something. You’d have to stop acting as if being mainline is a
game where you wait to see how fast the membership dies off.
It’s a moment when you need to speak the language of people who want
to hear the Bible; a moment when preachers need to preach mature,
Biblical evangelical messages.
Those younger evangelicals are ready for your appreciation of
tradition, your more balanced theological method, your commitment to
multi-generational churches and your more substantial appreciation of
But they aren’t ready for the things that have emptied so many of
your churches. They will never come if things remain the same. Much
needs to change and should change.
You need to communicate, and you need to go back to your roots. It’s
frustratingly ironic to know that when many of us are longing for a
church that has the things we cannot find in evangelicalism, you have
so many of those very things every Sunday. But what you don’t have is
the willingness to come back to the center of evangelicalism where
people who love the Bible and take it seriously can find a home with
You’ve made it clear that you want those on the left. And
evangelicals have made it clear that they are not going to accommodate
those who want tradition. We’re having a moment here, if you can stop
and see it, who knows what could happen? Will your own churches divide
in order to meet evangelicals on the road? Or will the moment go by, a
“might have been,” that never was to be?
The moment will come and it will go. Right now, the moment is upon all of us.