In Name Only.
I used to be a diehard Minnesota Twins baseball fan. I used to watch every game on television and even had partial season tickets. I knew all the players names, their strengths and their weaknesses. I wore Twins t-shirts, hats and jackets on a daily basis. I was faithful to them even if they were horrible and an embarrassment to baseball. I dressed my children in Twins apparel and exposed them to the baseball world I loved so much. I was not a fair weather fan. I lived to read the box scores and watched highlights online. I was truly a diehard baseball fan. After my children were born I found myself having less time and money to dedicate to baseball. Over time I lost interest in the game I loved so much before. I still watched from time to time and maybe went to one game a year. Then we disconnected our cable and I found myself not missing baseball at all. Can I still call myself a diehard baseball fan when I never watch and don’t really care about the game? I don’t think I can even call myself a fair weather fan. If the Twins were winning that wouldn’t make me hook up my cable to watch or go spend $20 on a t-shirt. I think I know all about baseball but don’t pay attention to it. My heart isn’t in it. If I’m totally honest I’m a baseball fan “In Name Only”.
“In Name Only” is the way many people and churches are today in the world of Lutheranism. I regularly see posts on Facebook from friends whose churches are “Lutheran”. Upon visiting their church’s Facebook page or website very little is found about Lutheranism. This fact crosses Lutheranism’s denominational lines. I grew up in the ELCA but this fact isn’t specific to the ELCA. Even visiting local congregations in my area within the LCMS expose this fact. Many LCMS churches fail at confessing much of anything. There is more focus on family, friends, and fellowship then any confession of the Lutheran faith. Sadly most “Lutheran” websites barely confess Christ, let alone The Lutheran Confessions. Churches are more worried about their current program or series then practicing the historic liturgy. The Lutheran Confessions are not taught and bible studies are replaced with worldly topics of the day. We fall into the mistake of thinking that the Lutheran faith is something else besides what has already been given to us in the Scriptures and Lutheran Confessions. Trying to add to it and take things away from it are the works of our sin and the devil.
Worldly preaching with Christ thrown in every once and awhile when it’s convenient is not Lutheranism. Dust collecting on the church’s copy of the Lutheran Confessions is not Lutheranism. Discounting the Liturgy is not Lutheranism. Marginalizing the importance of weekly communion for sinners is not Lutheranism. Your church’s confession should be apparent in way they preach, teach, and confess the Holy Christian faith. If your church is Lutheran “In Name Only”, kindly ask them to drop “Lutheran” from their name. You’re not fooling anyone. Why give prospective members the wrong idea? I’m not sure what you should call your church, but “Lutheran” isn’t it.
Properly confessing the Lutheran faith means properly confessing the faith we have in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ came for sinners. He came for Lutherans and he even came for Lutherans “In Name Only”. How are sinners supposed to know the great Gospel of Jesus Christ when it is so obviously downplayed by the practice and confession of Lutheran “In Name Only” churches. Repent and believe that Jesus Christ died for your sins in accordance to the Scriptures. The Word of God which proclaims God’s saving grace in Jesus Christ for us all. The Word of God is truly and beautifully stated in the Lutheran Confessions. It’s what the Lutheran Church is all about. Thanks be to God for his Word and the Lutheran Confessions which proclaim the name of Jesus Christ, and not just “In Name Only”.