Ascension Lutheran Church

What is a Lutheran?

A Lutheran is first and foremost a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ. Lutherans are members of a denomination of Christians who trace their theological heritage to the teachings of a group of 16th century (1500s) Christians, at the center of which was a man by the name of Martin Luther.


A bit of history

Luther was born on November 10, 1483, in Germany and died on February 18, 1546. He was first a lawyer before becoming an Augustinian monk in 1505, and was ordained a priest in 1507. While continuing his studies in pursuit of a Doctor of Theology degree, Luther discovered significant differences between what he read in the Bible and the theology and practices of the church. On October 31, 1517, he posted a challenge on the church door at Wittenberg University to debate various theological issues (“95 Theses”). Luther's 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 to a religious war, fueled by fiery temperaments and violent language on both sides. As a result, there was not a reformation of the church but a separation. "Lutheran" was a name applied to Luther and his followers as an insult but adopted as a badge of honor by them instead.


Today, most Protestant (or, non-Catholic) Christian denominations (including Baptist, Methodist, Episcopal, Reformed, Presbyterian, etc.) owe some debt to Martin Luther for beginning the movement of which they are apart. Lutherans consider themselves the oldest group of Protestant Christians. Though there are few in the South (outside of North and South Carolina), they constitute one of the largest groups of Christians across the mid-West. Just as there are various types of Baptists (Southern Baptists, Primitive Baptists, National Baptists, etc.), there are various types of Lutherans. The largest group, to which Ascension belongs, is the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Though many associate the word “evangelical” with conservative, narrow-minded believers who believe in the necessity of a personal conversion and faith for salvation, for ELCA Lutherans its connection is with its origin with the Greek word for “Gospel”—the good news of the story of life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, who Christians consider to be the Messiah (Savior) of the world.


(As a sideline note, Martin Luther King was named after this early Protestant hero.)