Lutheran Society for Missiology logo

Call for Papers

Call for Papers: Authentically Lutheran in Every Cultural Context

The Lutheran Society for Missiology and its journal, Lutheran Mission Matters (formerly known as Missio Apostolica), has been for more than two decades serving as an international forum for the exchange of ideas and discussion of issues related to proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ globally. The journal welcomes items from mission fields, studies and research, new developments and challenges, and reviews of recent books on mission and missions. You are invited to submit articles, editorials, or book reviews.  

In his earliest writing Luther offers a fascinating example from his own experience of what happens when the Good News of Jesus crosses a boundary of language and culture and is proclaimed authentically in a new culture and finds its home there. The first pamphlet ever published by Luther, already in 1516, was an incomplete, anonymous little booklet in German that Luther came to call Theologia Germanica. By 1518, he had obtained a more complete version of the same booklet, and he brought out a new edition, this time with a preface​

In the preface Luther talks about the effect the book had on him; “. . . no book except the Bible and St. Augustine has come to my attention from which I have learned more about God, Christ, man, and all things.”[1] Luther sums up what makes the message authentic for him, “I thank God that I hear and find my God in the German tongue, whereas I, and they with me [other university scholars], previously did not find him either in the Latin, the Greek, or the Hebrew tongue. God grant that this little book will become better known. Then we shall find that German theologians are without a doubt the best theologians. Amen.”[2]

An unsigned “Abstract” to A. Scott Moreau’s book, Contextualization in world mission: mapping and assessing evangelical models (Kregel, 2012) suggests, “Contextualization is the art of translating ideas into a particular situation, place or culture. It is fundamental to communication, which makes contextualization essential in missions.” Few practicing Lutheran missionaries would disagree with this statement, but discussion of the topic would soon reveal a myriad of different viewpoints as to how the work should be done; who should do it; and what outcome can be expected.

Since the Lutheran and, indeed, most evangelical Protestant expressions of Christian faith are Word-oriented, it is not surprising that most contextualization efforts have focused on what Moreau (following Stephen Bevan and Robert Schreiter) calls translation models. The essential task of the translation model is to determine the pure message of the original and communicate it in a way that evokes the same response in the second culture as it did in the first.

When the agenda of the translation model is stated this way, it immediately becomes apparent that translation involves far more than finding an equivalent term in the target language that is the equivalent of the term in the original language so that exactly the same thing can be said in exactly the same way. Language is an important key to unlock culture, but the culture is always bigger than language, and language learning, especially at the beginning, needs to enable the missionary’s listening even more than his speaking, and very likely much more is required before a message is perceived as authentic.

The Editorial Committee of Lutheran Mission Matters plans to use its May 2017 issue to discuss the communication of the Good News of Jesus under the theme “Authentically Lutheran in every cultural context.” What have Lutherans done and what should Lutherans do and why to call men and women into the body of Christ, the Church, that they continue to do the work and will of God in an ever-changing world? The committee invites you to contribute to this discussion. 

 Submissions should be received by March 1st, 2017.

[1] Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 31: Career of the Reformer I. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 31, p. 75). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
[2] Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 31: Career of the Reformer I. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 31, p. 76). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

For additional details and submission guidelines, please download this document.