How did the Lutheran Church Begin?

The Lutheran Church began in the 1500's as a reforming movement which sought to restore the centrality of the Bible, Faith and Grace within the Catholic Church. Although the earliest Lutherans preferred to be called "Evangelicals," their opponents labeled them "Lutherans" after their leader Martin Luther.


He was the leader of the Protestant Reformation. His teachings became the Cornerstone of the church that bears his name. Born in Germany in 1483, Martin Luther (the son of a miner) became a monk and was ordained in 1507. He soon earned a Doctorate of Theology and was appointed Professor at the University of Wittenberg and became widely known.

Throughout his career, Luther was torn by inner turmoil. If man was ruled by sin, how could he hope to gain redemption in the eyes of God? On October 13, 1517, Luther nailed a critique of indulgences, known as the 95 Theses, to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg.

The 3 basic ideas of the 95 Theses were:

  1. PROTEST against the abuse of papal authority;
  2. CHALLENGE to the Pope - if he controls Purgatory, why not empty it for free?
  3. DENIAL - of the "extra merit" theory behind indulgences. The "True treasury" of the church is the GOSPEL - the proclamation of God's mercy.

The Church ordered Luther to appear in hearing to answer charges of heresy. Luther refused to recant his views. Luther argued that the papacy was of human, not Divine origin and quickly became a national figure.

As reform ideas spread, the Pope's answer was to threaten Luther with excommunication unless he recanted and subsequently was in January 1521 at the age of 38. In June of 1525 Martin married Katharina von Bora, a former nun whom he had sheltered at Wittenberg. They had six children of their own and gave a home to eleven orphans.

While Luther remained in protective hiding, he pursued reforms in Christian doctrine and practice. These included recognizing the Bible as God's Word, the true source of doctrine; popularizing Holy Baptism and the Lord's Supper as the chief sacraments; producing a vernacular liturgy and translating the Bible into German.

Martin Luther published almost 400 works, including Biblical commentaries, catechisms, sermons and tracts. He wrote many hymns and continued to teach and preach. Luther died from a stroke in 1546 at the age of 63.


The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, the ELCA came into being in January, 1988, when three Lutheran denominations (The Lutheran Church of America-LCA, the American Lutheran Church-ALC and the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches -AELC) merged.

Other Lutheran denominations include the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (LCMS), the American Association of Lutheran Churches (AALC) and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS).