We Lutherans make a big deal about the Reformation. We celebrate it on October 31, the date in 1517 when Martin Luther nailed 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. These very scholarly statements challenged the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church at that time, which was the only institutional […]Read More
In the past, American Protestants have had two different kinds of church cultures. They emerged out of the colonial First Awakening of the 1730s-40s. One side emphasized religious emotions as the essence of being a Christian; feeling the love of God was most important. The other side taught that the heart of true religion is right thinking; emotions are fickle and often lead one astray.
Historically since the Reformation, pastors of established mainline churches were university educated. It is no coincidence that the Reformers were a university professor and a sophisticated lawyer. Pastors in my heritage were and are taught by professors lecturing them. I know that the majority of Bible studies in our churches are lectures to the members by the pastor. No one else could be trusted to have the right knowledge.
The problem with one-way lectures is that they are absolutely the least effective way of communication, especially if you want to change someone’s behavior. Job behavior is shaped much more by informal communication with those around you. On-the-job training is so effective because you learn by doing. Worker effectiveness is shaped much more from these two sources than from the formal job description given to you.Read More
In general, the ministries of traditional mainline churches are done without conscious belief in the Holy Spirit—a belief that goes beyond mouthing the Creed. We mostly rely on the Father and the Son. But ministries lose their effectiveness over time without reliance on the power of the Spirit. Our ministries cannot remain effective without a firm belief in the Holy Spirit and the role he performs. Luther describes how the Spirit “calls me by the Gospel, enlightens me with his gifts, sanctifies and keeps me in the true faith, just as he calls, gathers enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth.”
Those roles are the essence of the ministries and church life we try to guide and develop. How can we do that effectively if we are not looking for and expecting the Spirit’s power to accomplish what we are trying to do on our own? Believing in just the Father and the Son is like trying to do ministry with one arm tied behind your back. Without the Spirit, tradition too easily turns into traditionalism.Read More