What is a Lutheran?
The Short Answer...Lutherans are Christians.
The quick answer is that a Lutheran is first and foremost a Christian, one who believes Jesus Christ and does their best to follow his teachings. In Jesus, God became human, bore our human condition and our sins, in order to save us from sin and death and restore us to a right relationship with God. Jesus came to make known God’s love and grace to our broken and seeking world. As Christians, we believe that Christ lives among us today by the power of God’s Spirit, present when the Good News is preached and the sacraments are administered.
So Why Are You Called Lutherans?
Lutherans are Christians who accept the teachings of Martin Luther (1483 – 1546). Luther was a German theologian who realized that there were significant differences between what he read in the Bible and the practices of the Roman Catholic church at that time. On October 31, 1517, he posted a challenge on the door of Wittenberg University, titled “95 Theses” (to debate 95 theological issues). His hope was that the church would reform its practice and preaching to be more consistent with the Word of God as contained in the Bible.
What started as an academic debate escalated into a distinct separation between the Roman Catholic church of the time and those who accepted Luther’s suggested reforms. "Lutheran" became the name of the group that agreed with Luther’s convictions.
What does it mean to be Lutheran today?
Today, nearly five centuries later, Lutherans still celebrate the Reformation on October 31 and still hold to the basic principles of Luther’s theological teachings, such as Grace alone, faith alone, Scripture alone.
Grace Alone - We are saved only by the grace of God and not because of anything that we have done or not done. God's grace is a free gift to all people.
Faith Alone - Our salvation is through faith – a confident trust in God, who in Christ promises us forgiveness, life and salvation. Faith itself is seen as a gift of God given to us because of the grace of God.
Scripture Alone - The Bible is the norm for faith and life – the true standard by which teachings and doctrines are to be judged.
How Many People Call Themselves Lutherans?
Lutheranism is a faith tradition that is open to all, regardless of background. The ELCA alone is over four million members strong, with nearly 10,500 congregations across the U.S., Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. There are more than 75 Million Lutherans around the world found in countries all over Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, Latin and South America.
If you would like more information about Lutheranism in the United States and around the world you can look at the Partners in Ministry page of this website.