“Let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!” II Chronicles 16:10
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The following questions have been asked of us by one or more individuals. Here now are those questions and answers.
IS MIGHTY FORTRESS AN INDEPENDENT CONGREGATION, OR IS IT PART OF A LARGER GROUP?
For the first two years of our existence, Mighty Fortress was a completely independent congregation with no ties to any other external organization or group. In May of 2006, Mighty Fortress became affiliated with the Association of Free Lutheran Congregations (AFLC). Then in January of 2011 we changed our affiliation to the American Association of Lutheran Churches (AALC), which a full partner in ministry with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS). We changed our affiliation to strengthen our ties with Concordia University in Seward, and to help us in our local and global mission work. Even though AALC is a synodical body, the congregations are autonomous and not part of a hierarchy. For more information on this subject, please refer to the official website of the AALC.
DOESN’T THE NAME “LUTHERAN” BELONG TO THE LARGER SYNODS AND CHURCH BODIES? ISN’T THERE SOME RESTRICTION ON ITS USE?
No, not at all. The name “Lutheran” describes our heritage and doctrine.
Our heritage goes back to the time when Dr. Martin Luther set out to reform the church in the 16th Century. It wasn’t his purpose to start another church body, but that’s what happened. Those who agreed with Dr. Luther became known as “Lutherans.”
Our doctrine is as set forth in the Holy Bible, and as expounded in the Book of Concord of 1580. The Book of Concord is a collection of documents known as “The Lutheran Confessions.”
Most of the world’s Lutheran congregations are gathered together in larger groups called “synods.” The word “synod” (pronounced: “SIN-uhd;” often mis-pronounced: “sin-ODD”) is the combination of two Greek words (sun=together or with; hodos=road), which when combined mean “walking together down the same road.”
Even though the majority of the Lutheran churches are part of a larger church body, or synod, no particular group has an exclusive right to the name “Lutheran.”
For more information, please select the topic “What is a Lutheran?” from the miscellaneous menu.
WHY DO YOU USE THE LUTHERAN CONFESSIONS? ISN’T THE BIBLE ENOUGH?
Certainly the Bible is the ONLY rule and norm for our faith, life, and doctrine. No doctrine in our church is tolerated that departs in any way from, or is in addition to what Scripture teaches.
The Lutheran Confessions came about by necessity. The majority of the Book of Concord was written to refute the errors and anti-Scriptural practices that had crept into the church. If you were to read through the confessions, you would find a systematic listing of things we believe because that’s what the Bible teaches. In a similar fashion, you would find a systematic listing of unScriptural teachings and practices that we reject, because they don’t agree with the Bible and sound Christian doctrine.
One key document in the Lutheran Confessions is the Augsburg Confession. We refer to this as the “unaltered Augsburg Confession” because in the 14 years following its publication, there were four revisions of it. Each revision compromised sound Biblical doctrine in some manner, so the word “unaltered” refers to the original version.
Other parts of the Lutheran Confessions contain Luther’s Small and Large Catechisms. Christian education and teaching tools were woefully lacking in Luther’s day, and so he came up with these two catechisms so that the heads of households would be equipt to teach the Christian faith to their children. These two fine documents are included in the Book of Concord.
The Book of Concord also contains the Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds which are Biblically fundamental statements about the one true God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and what a person needs to believe in order to be a Christian.
We whole-heartedly state that we hold to the Lutheran Confessions as contained in the Book of Concord of 1580 BECAUSE (and not insofar as) it is a correct exposition and presentation of sound Biblical doctrine.
I’VE NOTICED THAT THE BIBLE READINGS USED IN YOUR CHURCH ARE THE SAME AS SOME OTHER CHURCHES USE. HOW DO YOU KNOW WHICH READINGS TO USE EACH SUNDAY?
There is a system of readings appointed for each Sunday and church festival. This is not a new tradition; it has been in practice even in the Old Testament Church in Jesus’ day (cf. Luke 4:14ff).
From the time of the early Christian Church, a system of Scripture readings developed called a “Lectionary,” or “Pericope (puh RICK oh pee).” This has carried through to the present time.
The word “pericope” means to “trim around.” It would be extremely impractical (if not impossible) to preach through the entire Bible in a calendar year. But yet, we are to preach the whole counsel of God, and not neglect the key doctrines of the church. The pericopes are designed so we do not dwell upon some sections of the Bible while ignoring others.
There are various pericopes that have been used over the years, and are still being used today. For centuries, there was a series known as the “historic pericopes,” which repeated every year. In addition, various ethnic groups had their own one-year pericopes (Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, German, &c.) which were sometimes used instead of, or in addition to the historic pericopes.
In the early 1970’s, the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) produced a lectionary that repeated every three years instead of every year. This included almost all of the historic pericopes, plus a lot more. The readings for each Sunday have a particular theme, usually carried through all of the readings. The ILCW 3-year lectionary include an Old Testament lesson (or sometimes a New Testament lesson from Acts), an Epistle (most often one of Paul’s letters, or sometimes from John’s Epistles, or Peter, or the Epistle to the Hebrews, or Revelation), a Gospel Lesson from one of the four Gospels, and a Psalm.
A more recent innovation, is what’s called the “Revised Common Lectionary (RCL).” This is a 3-year lectionary which has the same form and idea of the ILCW lectionary, and is a close parallel to it. The RCL attempted to bring more unity between similar lectionaries used by other Christian groups. Most Lutherans today use an adapted form of the RCL. Some still use the ILCW series, and a small number have retained the historic one-year pericopes.
Our congregation currently uses the Missouri Synod version of the Revised Common Lectionary; however we do have the freedom to use a different series if we so desire. God has not given any command that we use a particular series, so long as we do not neglect the teaching and preaching of his Word.
With this in mind, most churches who use the Revised Common Lectionary will have the same readings we do. For those churches who use the ILCW lectionary, the readings may or may not match up, depending on which week it is.
One other thing–the Church Liturgical calendar is divided into two basic parts; i.e. the Festival half, and the non Festival half. The festival half runs from the first Sunday in Advent until the Sunday after the Ascension (7th Sunday of Easter.) The festival half focuses attention to the life of Chirst–his birth, passion, death, resurrection, and ascension. The non-Festival half, called the “Sundays after Pentecost” concentrates more upon the growth and life of the Christian Church.