Why Do You Follow the Teachings of Martin Luther?

What's so special about that guy Martin Luther that you follow his teachings? Shouldn't you just follow what Jesus teaches? These are two questions that I get asked from time to time. The short answer is that we follow the teachings of Martin Luther because they are the teachings of Jesus.

There was a blog post that did an excellent job of explaining this much better than I did. Unfortunately, it's no longer available for me to link to it. I'm copying it here and will update the blog if I'm ever able to find it on-line again. The originally was posted here.

Are Lutherans no different than Mormons following Joseph Smith or Seventh Day Adventists following Ellen G. White or Pentecostals following the imagination of the latest charismatic preacher or Roman Catholics following the Pope? Absolutely not! First of all, while Martin Luther is a very important teacher and pastor in the history of the church and was used by God to help restore very important things to the church, Luther was not restoring anything to the church that was not already the possession of the Christian Church not only in Scripture but also in better times among the early church fathers, as many quotations from them could readily prove. Lutherans find the source of what they teach in Holy Scripture, God’s written Word, and we also find the continuity, or continued teaching, of God’s Word in various times and places throughout the history of the Church, including the time before the Lutheran Reformation among the church fathers of the early church and the medieval church. Jesus promised that the gates of Hades will not prevail against the Church. God preserves His faithful remnant until the end, though it is not always easy or happy. So because of this we do value church history and what treasures God has preserved among us throughout the centuries. Lutherans believe that what they teach is nothing new – the Lutheran reformation was a restoration, not a revolution or a start of a new religion, but a restoration in repentance.

But what about the Creeds and the Book of Concord, are these being “added on” to the Bible? Absolutely not. The Creeds and the Book of Concord are simply echoing the teachings of Scripture to help address doctrinal issues which have arisen in the history of the Church so that we have a faithful test and roadmap to Scripture. They are a standard of teaching and practice that is in full agreement with the Bible, but which also do not add to Scripture but find their source in the Bible. The very words of the Creeds and the Lutheran Confessions demonstrate this clearly. We hold to the Creeds and Confessions of the Church because they are in full agreement with Scripture, God’s inspired and authoritative Word. Our Creeds and Confessions continue in Peter’s faithful confession of Christ, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Upon the rock of the confessing Christ faithfully, through that ministry the Church is built by Jesus. So we rightfully hold to the Creeds and the Confessions without compromise because they are faithful. In this sense Lutherans are in substance evangelical and catholic.

Lutherans hold their teaching to be “catholic” in the original sense of that word. The word catholic originally meant, “according to the whole or entirety.” We hold that what we confess is fully in agreement with Scripture, is identical to the apostolic faith, and does not add to or take away from the Word of God, and therefore is universal and should be believed by all. Upon that certainty the Church teaches, engages is evangelism and mission work, knowing she has a priceless treasure given to her from the Lord Jesus Christ. It gives peace that surpasses understanding, peace that the world cannot give. This is what enables us to say, “This is most certainly true.” Our Confessions, hymns, liturgy, Catechism, prayers, all confess this openly. There is no gap, no daylight between our doctrine and the doctrine of Scripture. To be a Lutheran is no less being Christian, in fact it is the fullest teaching of Christianity on earth. Otherwise, why be Lutheran at all? That is no cause for arrogance, it is a cause for humility before God, who gave this to us without any merit or worthiness on our part. It is a pure gift to us – grace alone! We have a treasure to tell the world about! We have a unique treasure in the world.

We are not Lutherans simply because our parents or grandparents were. We are not Lutherans simply because we might enjoy a Garrison Keillor story from Lake Wobegon or because we like potlucks. We are Lutherans because what goes under that nickname (which we did not choose for ourselves) confesses Christ most faithfully, purely and completely from Holy Scripture. Because it is the one true faith that we can die into with confidence knowing that we have a gracious God with us who declared us holy in Christ, the crucified and risen One. In teaching and practice, we remain Lutheran because among us we see the Word preached faithfully and the sacraments administered according to Christ’s institution, even when others lean in the wind and water things down to entice the sinful nature. In the time of the Reformation, one Lutheran territorial prince put it well. George the Margrave of Brandenburg wrote:

I am not baptized in the name of Luther; he is not my God and Savior; I do not trust in him and am not saved by him."Therefore, in such a sense I am not a Lutheran." But when I am asked, if with heart and mouth I profess the doctrine which God has restored to me through His blessed instrument, Dr. Luther, then I entertain no scruples about calling myself a Lutheran, nor do I fear to do so; and in that sense I am and will remain a Lutheran all my life.

When Lutherans fall into the trap of relying on “official positions” rather than confessing the faith, it runs the risk of jumping both feet into sectarianism. No synod can claim to be “the official interpreter” of the Lutheran Confessions anymore than any individual can claim to have a monopoly on biblical teaching or interpretation. The Lutheran Confessions are not simply “what we as Lutherans believe” or worse, “what Lutherans once believed” (as museum pieces), but are manifestations of the catholic faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3), apostolic doctrine in the sense of Acts 2:42.

The preservation or reclamation of a synod cannot therefore fall into the realm of simply repristination of its founding or early days or some “glory days” nor even to reassert the influence or writings of an individual theologian. That is simply refighting previous wars and ignoring the real issues of the day. Church history keeps moving forward to the Last Day. Doctrine remains the same, though its articulation always comes forth into new controversies and battles. The devil does not relent and the world continues to send its erosive forces against the Church, seeking to push her off the foundation of Christ and the unchanging marks of the Church. Lutherans, of all Christians, ought to have a keen awareness of the church militant, the theology of the cross, and the eschatological (end times) nature of the Church on earth and in heaven. We are not waiting for the end times to begin (Hebrews 1).

There is much more at stake among us than buildings, nostalgia, and benefit plans. The Church is a pilgrim people that has no permanent city of residence in this world, no incorporated 501c3 or left hand organization that cannot be taken away by the Lord. The Church in this world is in her state of humiliation as was her Lord until His bodily resurrection from the dead. We cannot expect to always have an “ecclesiastical Mount of Transfiguration” before our eyes, since we live now in the time of hearing rather than seeing. To be sure, we do not evaporate the church on earth into mere invisibility (as if the church is ontologically invisible), but the Church is certainly hidden under battle, strife, shed blood, argument, slander, and a cloud of dust all around her. Where this is not, we wonder if the devil sees a reason to attack, any threat against him?

We do not simply follow Martin Luther alone, nor any one individual alone, except Christ Himself. But our path is not a new trail to be blazed in the wilderness, but a well-worn path, dare we say even a “rut,” that includes Christ, the apostles, the early church fathers, many medieval fathers, Luther, Chemnitz, Paul Gerhardt, and so many others. And we would be remiss to point out men, women, children, and those who are not famous on that Holy Way as well. We do not blindly follow ruts of those who slipped off the road here and there (many of them driving back up on the road, but some not). But the test of the true way, the road, is Christ and His Word. That’s what makes a real synod, a genuine walking together, not just with each other, but with the Lord who speaks and provides those who speak in His name according to the rule of faith, the apostolic doctrine.

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History of Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church

As recorded in church records, newspaper articles and letters:

July 3, 1979: The first organizational meeting of Mrs. Karen Marshall, Mrs. Evelyn Burton, Mrs. Donna Brumm, Mrs. Sandra Smith, the Reverend Michael Trinklein, Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church of Boonville, and Mr. Dan Magnus, Director of Christian Education at Immanuel was held in the office of Reverend Trinklein.

July 14, 1979: An ad was placed in the Fayette Democrat Leader for persons interested in attending Lutheran Church services to contact one of the four families working to organize a church.

August 16, 1979: A second meeting of the Howard County ladies was held with Reverend Trinklein.

August 20, 1979: Article in Fayette Newspaper: Lutherans explain quest for Church. Why another Lutheran Church? Simply because there isn’t one in the Fayette/Howard County area. A strong part of the reason for the rapid growth and development of the Lutheran Church in previous years was its desire to provide pastoral care and the ongoing worship of Word and Sacrament to its members living in areas where we have no church, but who expressed an interest in receiving the same. The proposed establishment of a Lutheran Church in the Fayette area should not provoke any accusations of divisiveness, nor any expressions of false pride in comparing one church body to another. This is simply an effort to fill a need felt by those Lutheran Christians who have been brought up in the traditions, practices, and distinctive teaching of their church. The Lutheran Church wants and needs to be faithful to what it considers to be a “commission for mission” from the Lord of the Church, as recorded in Matthew 28:19-20. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

September 7, 1979: A third organizational meeting of the Howard County Ladies was held with Reverend Trinklein.

September 16, 1979: The opening service of welcome, praise and reception, of the Fayette Lutheran Mission, was held in the multi-purpose room of the Fayette Middle School. The Reverend Michael Trinklein officiated. Sixty-six persons attended and offerings of $1088.67 were received. Greeters and registering guests: Dawn Brumm and Georgia Marshall; Acolyte: Don Brumm, Jr.; Ushers: Kevin Smith, Greg Smith, Greg Marshall, and Keith Ruether; Pianist: Mary Jane Wright; Serving refreshments: Mrs. Juanita Shaw, Mrs. Lou Shirley, and Miss Shannon Burton; Accounting of Offerings: Mrs. Joyce Gibson and Mrs. Sandra Smith. Officers were also elected: Interim Chairman: Mr. Don Brumm, Sr.; Secretary: Mrs. Evelyn Burton; Treasurer: Mrs. Sandra Smith. Hosts for the event were: Don and Donna Brumm, William and Evelyn Burton, Dr. William G. and Karen Marshall, and John and Sandra Smith.

September 23, 1979: The First Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, church membership of Fayette, generously agreed to rent the Multi-Purpose Building to our congregation. On special occasions, the main facility was used. The first worship service was held in the building on September 23, 1979. Worship services were held there until January 1990.

October 1979-June 1980: Of the 36 worship services held, Reverend Trinklein conducted 27. The remaining services were led by these area Lutheran Pastors: Reverend Mark Smith, Salem, Forest Green: Reverend James Troyke, Zion, Lone Elm; reverend Herbert Swanson, Calvary, Columbia; and by D.C.E. Dan Magnus, Immanuel Boonville. Reverend Trinklein also helped our congregation organize, instructed the confirmation class, provided pastoral care to the congregation, installed Vicar Fred Hazel, III, and was supervising Pastor to the Vicar during his assignment in Fayette.

Our First of many bake sales was held on October 27, 1979 at the Fayette Shoe Store.

Much was accomplished in 1980-1981. Among them, the church constitution was written and approved by the congregation and Church officials of the Missouri District of the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod. An information class was started. Our first Confirmation was held in 1980. those confirmed were Dr. William G Marshall, Jennifer Sanders, Shannon Burton, Kevin Smith, Greg Smith, Keith Ruether, and Don Brumm. Pastor Trinklein officiated.

Charter Sunday: Charter Sunday was held on June 7, 1981. There were four youth confirmed, three youth and one adult baptized, six adults confirmed, and three adults were received by affirmation of faith. Fifty-five persons signed the Charter.

A daughter was born on August 21, 1981 to Vicar Fred Hazel and his wife Marilyn. Members voted to name the Lutheran Mission, Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church.

November 1981-April 1983: A graduate of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Reverend Fred Langlois was assigned to server the congregation. He resignd as Pastor and from the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod in April 1983.

We bought our Church lot, consisting of 8 acres from Keith (Kay) Anderson in November 1982.

August 1984-November 1986: Reverend Loren Famuliner served his year of Vicarage in Fayette, then was ordained into the ministry in August of 1985, and served this congregation until November 1986 when he accepted a dual parish at Corder and Waverly.

April 1983-November 1986: the congregation was faithfully served during this period by: Reverend Gilbert Wenger, Pastor Emeritus, of Boonville, Reverend Norman Bultman; Pastor Emeritus of Jefferson City; Reverend Henry Kleindiest, Hospital Ministry after retiring from Triniy, Columbia; Reverend Oscar Helwegge, Pastor Emeritus, Marshall; and Reverend James Troke, Bunceton. Reverend Edgar Priess, Pastor of Trinity, Clark’s Fork served as vacancy Pastor from April 1983-August 1984, and also as supervising Pastor to Vicar Loren Famuliner until he was ordained in August 1985. We will be eternally thankful that the Lord blessed this congregation with faithful servants dedicated to serving Him and ministering in Fayette. These Pastors served congregations faithfully until retirement, and then they faithfully served this congregation. We were truly blessed.

February 1989-March 1990: Vicar Daniel Garber served his year of Vicarage in Fayette. Supervising Pastor was Reverend Douglas Morton, Immanuel Lutheran Church, Boonville. Pastor Morton was also Vacancy Pastor from August 1988 to March 1990.

March 1990-June 2000: Reverend Allen Mack served this congregation in a dual ministry as a Prison Chaplain in Jefferson City. The groundbreaking for the new church was held on June 23, 1991. the new church building was dedicated in October of 1992 with many members and guests present. Pastor Mack assisted in the loan process for the new facility, and also spent many hours in the building project. On June 18, 2000, Reverend Allen Mack was called to his heavenly home. Pastor Mack did much for our congregation and community. He is greatly missed by both church and community.

September 2000-Present: Reverend Andrew Etzler was installed as our ministor on October 14, 2001, after having served for a year as vacancy pastor. He is a worker/Priest, working as a network engineer at Central Technology Services in Jefferson City as well as serving our congregation part time. Pastor Etzler and his family Carolyn, Joshua, Rachel, Zachary, and Rebecca are a wonderful addition to our church family.