Who are we?
We are part of a movement of Christians with over 60 million members worldwide. The Lutheran Church is strong in Africa, Asia and North America, as well as in Europe where the church had its origins. (For more: Frequently Asked Questions, Our Story in New Zealand)
The worship services in most congregations are contemporary. We also draw on our rich heritage. We celebrate the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper or Eucharist. We are conscious of the fact that we worship as part of the vast Christian Church across the world and down through the centuries, but we do so in a contemporary kiwi style. As a church whose origins are with people who have arrived as settlers in New Zealand we are conscious of the need to welcome newcomers.
Each of our congregations is of course unique. The Mountainside Congregation in Auckland now has more and more Asian participants. Some of our larger congregations are able to offer two or three worship services in different styles each week. Our smaller congregations have their own character and special features.
Our pastors currently undertake a six year training programme including one year's full-time internship with an experienced pastor. We are a part of the Lutheran Church of Australia and work together with Lutherans in Australia in training workers and other areas such as overseas mission.
In 1999 the Lutheran Church of New Zealand adopted a new Vision. We called it Celebration 21 - Coming of Age.
"Celebrating Christ's presence and work among us, we are the people of the Lutheran Church, part of the New Zealand Christian community, growing in relationship with Jesus, building communities of love and hope, witnessing and serving people where God calls us, stepping out in the power of the Spirit, with boldness, passion and in diversity."
The Lutheran Church of New Zealand is committed to bringing good news to all people. God loves us so much that he sent his son Jesus Christ into our world where he gave his life for us. Because God loves us and cares for us, we seek to love and care for others as well.
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Core Values and Teaching
We value knowing that God loves all people unconditionally. No matter what I do, God never stops loving me. Even when I disappoint myself and God with what I say and do and think, he still loves me. We value the security that this gives us. God loves me no matter what! He values me as the person that he, and I, know that I am.
This doesn't just mean that God has nice feelings about me. He acts on his love. For example, God made angels as an expression of his love and care for us. In the Bible angels sometimes bring a message from God to people. Sometimes they appear to help a person in need.
We value God's gift of angels, but God's love is even greater than that. God also gives us his only Son. Jesus Christ became a human being. He was born to a young woman named Mary in a little town called Bethlehem in part of the Roman Empire around 2000 years ago. God became a human being like us, with flesh and blood, pain and suffering, joy and sorrows, anger and peacefulness. He lived on the earth for about 30 years, but never travelled more than a couple of hundred kilometres from where he was born. He taught the people and healed their sick. He set people free from their addictions and other bondages. In the end the authorities executed him, in the customary way of those days, by nailing him to a cross and letting him die.
We value the gift of Jesus because when he died God placed on him all the things that we have done that disappoint ourselves and God and that cause us to separate ourselves from God and his love. Every bad thought, every unkind word, every thoughtless act, even the deliberate wanton acts of every human being that has ever lived, were placed on Jesus Christ.
Today people often talk about the law of karma. Simply put, the idea is that you have to pay for all the things you do wrong and that payment is usually made in the form of personal suffering. Jesus Christ has paid the price for all of our wrongdoing. We no longer have to suffer for the things we have done wrong because Jesus suffered and died for us. We are forgiven and set free from guilt and shame. We greatly value the forgiveness God gives us through his Son Jesus.
Because we are forgiven and no longer have to pay for the things we have done wrong we know that when we die we will be brought back to life with God. There won't be an endless chain of reincarnations into higher - or lower - life forms. Death brings an end to suffering and ushers us into the fullness of life with God. We value the conviction that after we die we will be raised to a new life with God.
We receive God's forgiveness through his Son, Jesus Christ. It is a gift, we don't have to earn it. As the Spirit of God begins work in our lives he makes us conscious of our sin and failure. What we call "conscience" is a God-given gift to lead us to confess our sin to God and ask his forgiveness.
We receive the gift of forgiveness by faith. Faith is not just a vague feeling that God exists, the sort of thing people might mean when they say they believe in God. Faith is the conviction that because Jesus died for us we are forgiven. There is nothing we can do to add to that or make it more certain. Faith is simply trust in God. Faith is also God's gift - it is not something we dream up for ourselves or something we decide to do after considering the evidence.
So how do you get "faith"? As you read the Bible or hear someone talk about the Bible's message, the Holy Spirit works the miracle of faith in your life. Many people simply come to the realisation that God has done that by making the joyous discovery that they believe, "I trust God that I am his child because of the death of Jesus for me." Because it is God's gift, we don't have to measure it and say "I have strong faith" or "I have weak faith." God has given us faith and that is enough. Because it is his gift and not our own creation, our faith is not threatened by our doubts and difficulties. It is God's work through his Word in our lives. We value the security that this gives us in our relationship with God.
Another of our core values is baptism. Only God could think of something so simple. He uses ordinary water, together with his Word, and gives us a blessing that is quite revolutionary. We take water and at the command of Jesus pour it on someone's head saying, "John or Mary, I baptise you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." The Word of God calls this a washing of new birth that brings with it the Holy Spirit. God puts his name on the person and says, "You belong to me. I am your God." It is the way we enter the Kingdom of God. It is a means by which God gives us his grace. That's why we baptise anyone who has not been baptised before, whether it is an infant only hours old or an elderly person.
Because the focus of baptism is on what God does for us, and not on what we do in response to him, it is also a great source of comfort and strength when we run into difficult times. When things are hard and confusing I can begin to doubt my love for God and my commitment to him, but he has given me a physical sign that reminds me that his love for me does not waver. I may doubt many things but I can not doubt I am baptised, and because I am baptised God has put his name on me and said that I belong to him.
Above are pics from the celebration with Simon & Cherie Campbell in the baptism of their twins, who were born in Palmerston North on 20th February 2007. Rev Tony Gerritson, from All Saints Anglican Church Palmerston North, who is also Simon's Uncle, baptized the twins at St Lukes Lutheran Church, with Pastor Greg Fowler from St Lukes sharing their joy with the congregation.
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We value worship, because here God comes to us through his Word and Sacraments to serve us. He is the host and we are invited to his party. God speaks and we respond. Worship is a dynamic interchange between God and us. God declares his presence and we respond with confession of sins. God declares us forgiven and we enter his presence with thanksgiving. We hear his Word and we sing our songs of worship, confess our faith and make our offering. We celebrate the Lord's Supper or the Eucharist and again we praise him. God blesses us and our lives are transformed and made new.
We value our pastors because they are called to serve us with a public ministry of word and sacrament. We honour them for the sake of their office. We also value the service of all the people of God. Men and women, boys and girls are active in our congregations serving in many different ways. We value our Christian communities or congregations, because we meet Christ in one another.
|We value the fact that we have meaning and purpose in life and relationships - our lives have direction and impact. We serve God in our families, workplaces and communities, as well as in Church. This little story illustrates the point.
Bruce worked for the council. He was a labourer. His workmates often wondered out loud why he seemed to find work so satisfying when they found it a drag. He explained that he wasn't just working for the council, he was working for God. In fact God worked through him. Ever since God made the world he had been concerned about its upkeep. So when Bruce repaired potholes in the roads he knew that God was working through him and that many good things would happen because of it. There would be less accidents. Lives wouldn't be broken and destroyed, cars wouldn't be damaged and people would have more time and money to spend on other things. Bruce often prayed that some of that money might be spent on taking the kids on a holiday, rather than down the pub or buying cigarettes in the corner dairy.
People travelled his roads when they went to help others and to visit the sick. Some would hear the gospel because they were able to go to this place or that. Bruce prayed for them as he worked, and realised that God was using his labour to do many other things. It gave him a great sense of meaning and purpose in what he did. His workmates had never thought of it that way before. Many of them became interested in other aspects of his faith. Bruce's work had purpose and impact. He made a difference.
Please contact one of our congregations for more information about these issues and other matters like justice for all people and care of the environment, family values and the importance we place on Christians being involved in the political processes in their communities and nation.
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