What Struggles Do Former Evangelicals Have With The Lutheran Liturgy?

325783_jesusThe journey from American Evangelicalism into Confessional Lutheranism is a long, difficult, and sometimes scary road. The journey is neither something that just happens overnight, nor is it an easy shift. The shift has linguistic, emotional, worldview, and epistemological challenges that accompany it, thus producing a great deal of anxiety, stress, and uncertainty for the individual.

Not only does one experience this shift ideologically, but one also experiences misunderstandings, hesitations, and struggles with the changes from non-liturgical worship settings to the worship practices of the Lutheran liturgy.

In order explore this subject more thoroughly I conducted a survey several weeks ago. (To learn more about the details of the survey, CLICK HERE) The purpose of the survey was to identify the common misunderstandings, hesitations, and struggles of American Evangelicals who have or are joining liturgical Lutheran churches.

Today I am pleased to announce that 125 participants completed the survey and the result are available for your edification.

‘Becoming A Liturgical Lutheran Analysis Summary’

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Richard


To learn more about several of my other studies on the journey of American Evangelicals into Confessional Lutheranism, CLICK HERE.


About Pastor Matt Richard

Rev. Dr. Matthew Richard is the pastor at Zion Lutheran Church of Gwinner, ND. He was previously a Senior Pastor in Sidney, Montana, an Associate Pastor of Spiritual Care and Youth Ministries in Williston, North Dakota, and an Associate Pastor of Children and Youth in Rancho Cucamonga, California. He received his undergraduate degree from Minot State University, ND and his M.Div. from Lutheran Brethren Seminary, MN. His doctor of ministry thesis, from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO, was on exploring the journey of American Evangelicals into Confessional Lutheran thought. Pastor Richard is married to Serenity and they have two children. He enjoys fishing, pheasant hunting, watching movies, blogging, golfing, spending time with his family and a good book with a warm latte! To check out more articles by Pastor Matt you can visit his personal blog at: www.pastormattrichard.com.


What Struggles Do Former Evangelicals Have With The Lutheran Liturgy? — 6 Comments

  1. Very interesting. As the study indicates, there are many Lutherans who don’t realize what they have in the Liturgy, and many are experimenting with or adopting the worship style of the enthusiasts. Liturgical, confessional worship is a true heritage of Lutheranism, grounded in sola Scriptura. Not only Evangelicals, but Lutherans would be well served by studying the Liturgy.
    Thanks for your work, Rev. Richard.

  2. I didn’t take part in the survey (Sorry, Rev Richard; let it get away from me :( ) but if there’s any misgiving that I’d still like a little clarification on, it’s the process of confession and absolution. I say that only because (on the surface) it appears that absolution removes God as the Forgiving Agent and replaces God with man.

    When I say confession, I do believe my sins are forgiven, but it’s still a little bit of a wrestle to hear the pastor say “I forgive you” rather than “God forgives you.” That’s one to educate ex-evangelicals about. 😀

  3. I found the results interesting, especially the comments from participants. I suggest caution, however, concerning the use of the confidence interval as a measure of statistical accuracy, for a few reasons:

    1. An important characteristic of the sample set is that participants were self-selected, not randomly selected. Self-selection can significantly bias poll results. One might expect, for example, that participation in the survey is more likely by those who have gotten interested in Lutheran liturgy and are favorably disposed toward it, while those who are indifferent or not favorably disposed are less inclined to participate in a survey. (And aren’t the less interested people the ones you especially want to reach more effectively?)

    2. The confidence interval statistic requires a random sample of the population. Since the survey is not really a random survey of “Evangelicals who have joined or are joining liturgical Lutheran churches,” providing a confidence interval as if the survey results are representative of that population is problematic.

    3. The assumption of 100,000 as the population is not substantiated. Reporting the number of adult confirmands over a reasonable period of record might at least give readers a sense of whether that number is “in the ballpark,” even though adult confirmands come from a variety of backgrounds. Using sensitivity analysis to show how the confidence interval would vary between a low estimate and high estimate of the population would also be helpful.

    In any case, the survey does provide useful insight into the experience of some Evangelicals joining liturgical Lutheran churches.

  4. @J. Dean #2
    When I say confession, I do believe my sins are forgiven, but it’s still a little bit of a wrestle to hear the pastor say “I forgive you” rather than “God forgives you.” That’s one to educate ex-evangelicals about.

    If all you’re hearing is “I forgive you”, you are not hearing the critical part: “In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins.”

    Even better if you privately confess what the sins bothering you are, and receive the absolution personally.

    It’s all in the Small Catechism; the Large Catechism is also useful. If you are from a non-Lutheran background, the Pastor should be discussing these things in an adult instruction class over several months. If he’s not willing to do that, maybe he isn’t as Lutheran as either of you think.

    If you are not willing to take extended adult instruction (and attend Bible class afterward) maybe you aren’t as interested in being Lutheran as you think.
    [This probably doesn’t apply to you, but I’ve met a few of the sort.]

  5. @J. Dean #2
    Confession is tied to Baptism, because it represents a return to it. Just like in Baptism, we wouldn’t call it a work of man and say the Pastor is washing you of your sins, so in Absolution we we say that it is a work of God, and not a work of man. In Baptism, even though you hear the voice of the Pastor speaking the name of the Triune God and see him washing with his hands, we believe it is God who is speaking and washing, using the Pastor as his instrument. This is because the Pastor is doing so by the command of Christ and as He instructed, Christ is inseparable from His own words, and the Spirit is inseparable from the Words of Christ. So because Christ and the Spirit are present in Baptism, God himself is active washing and regenerating. This is also how we can say “Baptism saves” without it constituting works-righteousness, because it isn’t our work. Similarly, in Absolution, the Pastor is forgiving sins by the command of Christ, who sent out a ministry of reconciliation for this purpose. So when the Pastor says “I forgive you,” he is not doing so by his own authority, but by the authority of Christ who sent him and commanded him to do this. When you hear his voice in your ears, though it sounds like your Pastor and appears to come from his mouth, those are not his words. The words themselves came from Christ, and thus what you hear is actually Christ speaking to you to forgive your sins, through the instrument of your Pastor. When your Pastor forgives the sins of penitent sinners, you are hearing the voice of Jesus speak, because that is what he always says and alway does, daily and richly.

    At least I think that’s how it goes. If I’m off, I’m sure one of the pastors here can clarify.

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