A heartfelt cri de coeur from a mainline pastor:
We Lutherans have a major problem with evangelism. This has been really bothering me as of late, so in true Lutheran fashion, I offer the following theses as to why we suck so bad at this.
1. We do not know what evangelism is. We confuse it with service ministries and anything else that may bring us into contact with people. But we don’t really get that it is about introducing people to a loving God who offers salvation.
2. Evangelism requires opening up to someone else about your own faith, and we all know that faith is something that should be kept private and personal (note the dripping sarcasm).
3. We have no real compelling reason to evangelize. When I was a kid in the Free Will Baptist Church, a group of men met weekly to go door knock. Every week without fail they were out in the field sharing Jesus with people because they were compelled to do so. What compelled them were many different things, not the least of which was concern for how a person would spend eternity. We as Lutherans don’t seem to have anything that motivates us quite like hell motivated these Baptist men. Come to think of it, when is the last time you heard the word “hell” from your pastor’s mouth during a sermon? (please note: i am not one of those people who likes the idea of using hell to frighten children and old ladies into believing, but we seem to stumble over this whole afterlife thing.)
4. Perhaps all of this is due to the fact that we have no real doctrine of salvation anymore, leaving this idea that Jesus needs to save us back in the Lutheran dark ages. Do we even see Jesus as a savior anymore, or is he simply a moral exemplar for those of us who really aren’t so bad? I don’t know sometimes. i mean, you are ok and i am ok and we are all just ok, right? Well…I am not so sure.
5. Many of our churches are membership enclaves, and are not focused on making disciples. We focus on making life comfortable for ourselves and catering to ourselves, usually without much regard for outsiders. We want everyone to be a member and then we try to avoid challenging or upsetting them for fear that they will leave and our institutional life would be weakened and our time as an institution shortened. So let’s avoid all that stuff that makes Christianity seem hard like taking up crosses and following Jesus and let’s focus on providing quality programming and music like we are a PBS affiliate.
(H/T: Proclaiming Softly)