It hurts when you come to realize that family members and friends who also identify themselves as being Lutheran don't actually believe, teach, and confess the same things that you do; the same things that Lutherans have historically believed, taught, and confessed.
It makes for some very serious "soul-searching" if I can use that silly phrase. What I mean by that is that once I became a Lutheran -- and I mean when I really became a Lutheran, thanks be to God, as He directed me to His Word, His Son, and His Sacraments as what our Confessions have to say about all of that -- I quickly wondered if it was worth it.
I started to notice things. I started to notice that so much of what was being allowed and going on at our church was actually quite "un-Lutheran" -- everything from the preaching from the pulpit to the teaching in Sunday School and Small Group studies!
Naturally, I did what I think anyone would do in that situation. I approached my close brothers and sisters in Christ who I had grown so close to (think David and Jonathan in 1 Samuel 18-20) and asked them about these things I was seeing, hoping I wasn't the only one.
What I didn't expect was that I was the only one! Actually, in some cases, it was even worse, because my friends agreed with me and said I was right to notice such things, but they just didn't care about making a big deal about any of it like I was.
As a result, "becoming a Lutheran" for me became synonymous with "becoming an outcast" as I soon noticed that people talked to me less and less if they even associated with me at all anymore. The ones who did, started to interact with me on a very impersonal level preferring to talk about anything and everything except the very doctrine I thought we shared and cherished together.
It's was the most frustrating and strangest thing (and still is!), especially since that church's "Mission Statement" is "To Make More And Better Disciples of Jesus Christ" though no one there actually knows what truly makes a Christian (a.k.a. disciple) or actually wanted to engage in true discipleship with me (Proverbs 27:17).
Bringing my concerns to the Pastor, the Deacons, and the Elders had an equally bizarre effect. Again, many agreed with what I was pointing out, but no one wanted to do anything about it. Besides, it's much easier to silence one person (or marginalize and shun him) than it is to implement changes throughout an entire congregation even if they are necessary.
Once again, a love for pragmatism had replaced a love for pure doctrine.
Becoming a Lutheran was becoming quite difficult, but the whole time I at least felt secure knowing that for the first time in my life I was truly confessing "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3), because we Lutherans are truly Christ-centered and cross-focused at all times.
For years, as an Evangelical, whenever I'd write or record podcasts, I often talked about "persecution" from family and friends and wore it as a badge of honor. Boy, was I self-righteous back then! But it was never legitimate in the sense that I think I only wrote and talked that way in an attempt to sound all pious since "that's how a Christian's supposed to talk!" I told myself.
I'm not about to equate what I've gone through since becoming a Lutheran (and what I'm still going through to this day) with the kind of persecution unto death that our dear brothers and sisters in other parts of the world face on a daily basis, but I do want to simply point out that whereas all the talk of being an "outcast" in the past was mere lip service, and it's now the reality I live with and it's extremely heartbreaking at times if not outright exhausting to have to explain yourself to love ones all...the...time.
Questions like, "Well, what's the big deal with doing a Bible study on that Christian bestseller?" and "Why do you want to go to that church instead when it's so far away, the music and singing is horrible, and there's not a lot of people there?" or "But what about all our friends and what they'll think if you do this and say something?"
Here's a better question: What is it that Jesus said we should expect?
Matthew 10:34-36 (ESV) Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.
Now, even though I was quite familiar with this passage long before becoming a Lutheran, I can tell you that I wasn't prepared one bit for the kinds of unique challenges that comes with a fulfillment of this truth in your own life!
It's something that still causes unnecessary conflict even to this day and all I can do is pray for patience and pray for the grace to remain steadfast in the face of such pressures that are entirely unique to strained familial relationships.
My comfort is knowing that Jesus said it would be this way. My comfort is know that Jesus established His Church as a confessing Church -- we are to speak the Lord's truth before men and women (even our own close family members) at all times (Matthew 10:32-33).
My Lutheran Study Bible says this...
The radical nature of following Jesus may result in conflict and divisions within families. Jesus wants His disciples to strive for eternal life, even if this means sacrificing earthly benefits. In all honesty, we must confess that we often fail to put Jesus first in our lives, that we do not take up His cross and follow Him. What we fail to do, Jesus did for us. He took up His cross and paid the penalty for the sins of the world. In Him, we have peace. Thank You, Jesus, for bearing my cross on Calvary and making me Your highest priority. Amen.
I think about how Jesus distanced Himself from His own family, some of whom did not believe in Him (Matthew 12:46-50; Mark 3:21; John 7:5).
More than loving parents and other family members is loyalty to Christ. To value family more than Jesus means that one is not fit to be a disciple (Matthew 10:37). Of course, that does not mean we don't honor our father and mother or reject the vocation as husband and wife, father and mother that the Lord has given to us.
Still, these are all the thoughts that have lived in my mind since becoming a Lutheran.
As difficult as this process has been, make no mistake, it's also been a blessing and extremely comforting too.
One of those comforts is just knowing that I'm not alone and that many others who have become Lutheran have also experienced (and are experiencing) these very same struggles.
Becoming Lutheran can be a painful process. But the pure Gospel is worth it!
Here are the two live hangouts that we did on this topic:
Part 1 - https://youtu.be/Km5OeBKpLXQ
Part 2 - https://youtu.be/HXHkFlrrp6U
There you have it.
Apparently, it's not an uncommon experience I'm having. Thanks be to God!
Ok, but what should I do whenever I feel beat up and burdened by family and friends to the point where I feel like I'm all alone with this Lutheran faith?
At times, such as in this case, I've written about it here. While that seems to help quite a bit (and particularly when others send me emails or texts to let me know they're praying for me and that they're going through the same thing), there are days when it doesn't.
Sure, I have the Divine Service for those times, but I must admit that one of the biggest challenges since becoming a Lutheran is trying to communicate and impress upon my family our need to go to church each and every week to be blessed by receiving God's gifts for us there as we gather with other saints around His Word and His Sacraments.
It's been a real challenge, because my wife and I didn't come from a background where weekly attendance at church was a important let alone a background that properly understood what it means to be Lutheran let alone that the Word of God and the Lord's Supper is what each and every one of us so desperately needs.
From now on, I think I may need to prayerfully consider this advice I was given recently...
Richard H: My two cents ... I have a bit of experience with this sort of thing and will give you my opinion, for what its worth. From my experience; You will not convince them to change. You can get worked up and think you can reason with them, but they will not respond to your well reasoned arguments. You will get more angry and bitter, but still they will go on their happy way, while ignoring your concerns. The District you are in is rather liberal, so no help there. So what to do? Voice your concerns when they come up. Maybe follow up if you think it’s worth it, and then have a few beers and relax. This is the life of a Confessional Lutheran in a liberal district. Complain to us, and we will sympathize with you. I would keep your kids there. The alternatives are public school (completely godless), an evangelical non-denom school (dangerously deceptive works righteousness) or RC (openly works righteousness). Teach your kids the truth, teach them to respect the teacher but that they are wrong on these points. It makes for good family discussion. And if you ever need to vent over a cold beer (or 3) I’m not to far from you.
Yes, becoming Lutheran can be a painful process and often is, but the pure Gospel is worth it!
In a Lutheran layman's terms, "this is the life of a Confessional Lutheran."
NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just a regular Christian, Executive Recruiter, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm also a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little more than 2 years ago now. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Also, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because they are not blasphemous/heretical, because we now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!