By Graham Glover –
I’d love it if more of you were Lutheran. Specifically, it would be great if you were a member of or in fellowship with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. It’s not that the LCMS has a monopoly on the truths of Christendom, but as I proclaimed in my ordination vows, I believe her confessions to be a correct exposition of the Holy Scriptures and a right exhibition of the Christian faith. This is why I am and will remain a loyal member of her communion.
I wonder though, does such loyalty mean all that much? It certainly means a lot to me and to the church body that baptized, confirmed, married, and ordained me. If I waivered in this commitment, I could not continue in my current vocation. In other words, if I was unable to confess the truths contained in the Book of Concord, there isn’t much reason for me to remain a Lutheran, much less an LCMS clergyman.
But to some (perhaps many), this type of loyalty is pointless. To them, loyalty to a particular denomination is an outdated and unnecessary relic of the past. They claim we live in an increasingly relativistic and ever transient society where people can’t possibly be expected to remain loyal to one particular denomination. Ours is a time that ranks among the most culturally and religiously diverse ever they say, where expectations of denominational loyalty make little sense. This is especially true to those believers that understand their faith and the god they worship to be primarily an individual thing. That is, what an individual believes is all that matters. The church body/denomination/religious organization where they practice this faith or to which they belong matters not. For example, if one were raised and baptized in a Pentecostal church, there’s no reason they couldn’t feel comfortable worshiping in an Episcopalian parish. A confirmed Lutheran should feel free to commune in a non-denominational mega church. A Roman Catholic might feel most “at home” within the walls of a Unitarian fellowship. A Reformed Jew could just as easily see the goodness in the teachings of a bible study with Latter-day Saints and feel closer to god when around this group of individuals. That these denominations and religions teach different and at times, contradictory doctrines, is irrelevant. Feeling trumps creed. Emotion supersedes denominational loyalty.
But I just don’t get it. It boggles the mind how fluid people can be as they flow in and out of churches whose teachings stand in complete opposition to one another, yet I see it all the time. No matter how often I hear their explanations, I simply cannot fathom how one’s feelings can ever trump one’s creed. I think I’m an emotional guy, but under no circumstances can I ever imagine a scenario where my emotions will supersede my denominational loyalty or dictate my doctrinal indifference. While Christians seem more and more prone to take a lackadaisical attitude toward church membership, believers of all stripes put themselves in grave danger if this trend continues.
If denominational loyalty remains insignificant, then so is the faith that we confess. If church membership means nothing, then we ought not claim to be part of the one holy catholic and apostolic church. If our feelings and emotions dictate where we worship and who we pray with, commune with, and fellowship with, then the god we call out to might as well be our own selfish egos. If doctrine becomes an afterthought, if adherence to a particular confession become passé, then the church has ultimately ceased to be church.
Denominational loyalty matters. It matters to me. It matters to the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. It should matter to you, even if you are not part of my communion.
Denominational loyalty matters because words mean something. It matters because doctrine informs how we understand these words. It matters because the doctrine contained in our confessions ultimately guide how we read and interpret the Word – they very Word that is our faith.