Part 3–Our Piety

This brings us to the second area pointed out in Pastor Huglens paper (about the AFLC)– our piety. It’s unfortunate that the word piety in the worldly language around us is treated with such disrespect, for it is a critical part of any believer’s life. Our piety is how we worship, how we pray, how we relate to God, how we relate to the world as citizens of God’s Kingdom. One of the things the founders of the AFLC sought to do was to cling to the pietistic roots from which they had come. They wanted to remain steadfast in their worship lives as well as living properly, to live in a godly manner in the world. Too many Christians today have a disconnect between what they say and do on Sunday morning and what they say and do the rest of the week. And I want to make clear, if I am chiding you, I’ also chiding myself, because, my ways are not always God’s ways. I have much for which to be forgiven every day. As do all the people in our association.

Still, our goal is to have an experiential faith–a faith that not only give us a sense of security about our salvation, but a faith that will be lived out and visible. Those who formed the AFLC were afraid that seeking after a living faith would decline or possibly even die if they strayed from their roots. And frankly, they were right in that. Some of the congregations that entered the merger managed to retain their focus on pious living and when the ALC(American Lutheran Church) merged with others to form the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church of America) some of them even came back to their roots and are part of us today. But many were lulled into a false sense of security and failed to focus enough on the life we live as followers of Jesus.

Come back tomorrow for part 4 — Our Theology ……

For more on piety see:

Piety and Me

What Does Piety Look Like #2

Practicing Piety

Part 2–Our Polity

Polity–this means how we are organized and why we have chosen to do things in this manner. I believe it’s safe to say that no other Lutheran Denomination in this country is organized in the same way the AFLC has chosen. The AFLC is not a synod in the traditional understanding of that word. We are an association of congregations who have agreed to work together to accomplish certain things which few, if any, congregations could do on their own; such as having a seminary and bible school, sending out missionaries on the field, or planting new churches in the American mission field.

When we look at the New Testament churches, we find no evidence of any human authority over the local congregations planted by Paul and Barnabas and Peter and so many other apostles. Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus, as well as the book of Acts, all show that pastors and teachers and deacons were not imposed upon a local congregation but were raised up from within that congregation for the most part. It is why we believe, teach and confess that, “according to the Word of God, there is no authority above the local congregation except the Spirit and the Word of God.”

Notice that, while we are a free congregation, we are not free to do anything we might feel like doing–but only those things that comport with the movement of the Holy Spirit among us as we find it in the Word of God. We are free from ecclesiastical supervision, but we are nt free from the Way of Christ revealed in the Scriptures. That means we must be constantly alert to the possibility that we might be acting contrary to God’s will. There is no one who can come in and tell us to straighten up and fly right, as my dad used to say. So if we are to be a free congregation we all, every one of us, has the responsibility of knowing and clinging to God’s Holy Word as our touchstone and direction. If we fail to do this, we have no one to blame but ourselves.

Stay tuned for part 3 — Our Piety

For more about the AFLC see:

Praying for the AFLC

AFLC 2019 Bible Study for Women

What is Pietism?

The Laity– Free and Living

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3:17

I’ve spent my adult years in Lutheran denominations with a congregational polity – first the Missouri Synod, now the AFLC (Association of Free Lutheran Churches).  What does this mean?  Well, it means that the congregation, and therefore, the laity have a crucial role to play.  They own their church building; they call their pastor; higher church officials cannot dictate how they must organize or conduct the congregation’s business.

According to the AFLC:

“Each local congregation should be free and living, subject only to the Word and Spirit of God.”

The Association is not a Synod and does not have the authority to bind the conscience of the local congregation to particular positions. They do not assess local congregations in order to obtain funding. The purpose of the Association is to do the tasks together that cannot be done by one congregation alone:  send missionaries, publish Lutheran materials, support mission congregations, educate pastors, and so on.  For each purpose, separate corporations have been formed, and every corporation must have more lay members than pastors.

To be a member of the AFLC, the congregation simply agrees that they accept the Augsburg Confession, The Small Catechism and the inerrancy of Scripture.  When our congregation voted to join the Association, we had a visit from Pastor Bob Lee, who was then the President.  Many questions were raised, such as:

Can women be Elders?

Can we hire a youth leader who is not a Lutheran?

Can lay people take communion to shut-ins?

The answer to virtually every question was, “It’s up to you.”  This was a surprise to many.

Of course, with this freedom comes responsibility.  The laity must be well grounded in Scripture in order to make appropriate decisions.  They must prayerfully consider issues facing their congregation and be willing to make personal sacrifices when necessary.  A congregational mindset fosters the understanding that the congregation is not just something we join like a club; it is who we are as the people of God.

Sometimes we don’t question the way we’re organized or do things, but we should.  The framework we use affects our view of ourselves, the Church, and what it means to be a Christian.  It comes back to the question I raised in an earlier post.  Do you want to be an adult Christian, taking personal responsibility for growing in your knowledge of Christ and in service to others?  Are you part of the “priesthood of all believers” or just a consumer of Christian services?

I’m not saying other ways of organizing are wrong.  God can use all sorts of tools to grow His church; but being part of a congregational church body has worked for me.  It’s my framework and within it, I’ve learned to thrive.  Readers and authors, do you have a different experience/opinion?  I’d like to hear more.