Since Martin Luther first nailed up his 95 theses on October 31st, 1517, people from all backgrounds have been drawn to his brand of rebellious but deeply  personal Christianity. Over the years, countless protestant artists, celebrities and athletes have joined the fold – many of them household names. 

Minnesota has had its share of famous Lutherans, including current and recent Governors, Tim Waltz and Jesse Ventura. Beyond our state borders there are many other practicing Lutherans who you may or may not know. Who are these other proud Lutherans that you’re in good company with? Read on!

Famous Lutheran Athletes

Religion and sports have always been closely linked. You often hear athletes pray that the ball makes the hoop, that a kick stays in bounds or that a field goal is good. Heck, there’s even a Hail Mary pass in football when teams need a miracle to win. Here are some famous sports figures who also happen to be Lutherans:

Troy Aikman

Dallas Cowboy quarterback extraordinaire and hall-of-famer, Troy Aikman is a driven man. He won three super bowls and broke countless records along the way. His friends and colleagues point to his laser-like focus and unstoppable drive when he sets out to do something. But Troy is clearly a spiritual man who reportedly sleeps with a bible on his nightstand. In more recent years, he’s praised the value of meditation as a means of staying on task.

Dale Earnhardt Jr and Sr

NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt Jr won 26 races during his career. Despite the dangers of racecar life and his motto “You win some, you wreck some,” it was a 2019 plane crash that nearly killed him. His father, Dale Earnhardt Sr. was also a racing legend and Lutheran and was described as a “man of faith.” Both men were known to keep bible verses on the dashboard when they raced and always made sure to attend church on Sundays.

A New York Yankees emblem next to a baseball.

Lou Gherig

Baseball’s Lou Gherig is a household name both for his skills on the field and for his determination and grace in the face of a crippling disease. He left the game with an impressive 493 home runs and had 1,995 RBIs. His record of 23 grand slams stood for 56 years until it was broken by Alex Rodriguez in 2012. Sadly, he died at age 37 of ALS. Friends and teammates described him as a quiet and humble man who always tried to do the right thing. When asked by a reporter if he was Jewish, Gherig replied that he was “a proud Lutheran.”

Famous Lutheran Musicians

From classical to contemporary, Lutherans have held their own. Whether it’s a harpsichord or an electric guitar, these Lutheran prodigies have climbed the ladder to fame note by note. 

Johann Sebastian Bach

Arguably the most famous Lutheran composer if not all around Lutheran, Bach had a stunning impact on the musical world. He was an orphan at age 10 and worked as a musician in protestant churches while living with his brother. He began composing organ music for the primary churches in Leipzig and eventually became the court composer to Augustus III of Poland. Bach is known for adapting Lutheran hymns into his vocal works, chorales and sacred songs. He was a deeply religious man who poured over his three volume Luther translation of the bible.

Johann Pachabel

Unlike Bach, Pachabel was originally inspired by Catholic music. He is best known as an organist who helped develop the chorale prelude and fugue during the baroque period. Despite financial hardship as a youth, his musical aptitude won him scholarships to continue his education. He went on to play organ in Lutheran churches and grew to be a well known composer who likely crossed paths with a young Johann Sebastian Bach. His most famous work – “Canon in D” – is played at graduations and weddings of all denominations. 

Peggy Lee

A child of Swedish and Norwegian Lutheran parents, Peggy Lee became a highly regarded jazz vocalist and composer. She began singing as a youth, working in radio and on stage before landing her famous gig with Benny Goodman’s orchestra. Despite her outward success, Lee was deeply depressed on the inside. She lost her mother at age four and battled with depression much of her life. She used her faith as a means of self-improvement and focused on giving and receiving. 

Ace Frehley

Paul Daniel “Ace” Frehley is best known as the space-themed guitar player for the rock band Kiss. One of the biggest bands in the 70s and 80s, Kiss’ hits include “Rock and Roll All Nite,” “Beth” and “Heaven’s on Fire.” Ace’s father was a Lutheran Sunday school teacher and he grew up attending church until his rebellious rocking teens. Ace credits his faith with helping him through tough times when fame left him feeling alone. 

Famous Lutheran Celebrities

It turns out that some well known TV and movie stars are also Lutherans at heart. 

Steve Zahn

Minnesota born actor Steve Zahn’s father was a pastor at Peace Lutheran Church in Robbinsdale, MN. Zahn began as a theatrically trained actor but then became typecast as a slacker/outcast in his early film roles like Reality Bites.  He’s since proven his versatility playing everything from a P.O.W. in Rescue Dawn to an evil ape in War for the Planet of the Apes. He and his wife live on a farm where he wakes up at 5:30 every day and believes in hard work no matter what you’re doing.

Jeff Bridges

Actress Ann Margret winning an honorary Oscar award.

The dude abides by all religions but was raised Lutheran by his famous father Lloyd. The star of The Big Lebowski, Crazy Heart and True Grit professes a strong connection to buddhism these days but stresses the importance of spirituality and most importantly kindness. “Be kind, be kind; that is my religion.” 

Ann Margret

Swedish born actress Ann Margret worked with everyone from Elvis to Jack Nicholson. As a youth she attended the Lutheran church in Sweden. She was sustained by her faith throughout the hardships of her life including a battle with alcoholism and a two-story fall from a stage platform that left her in the hospital with her jaw wired shut. “Trust in God,” her mother told her. She made it back to the stage saying “When trust removes fear, faith flows in.”

What’s Your Claim to Fame?

We’re all famous in the eyes of God. Whether you’ve been in 50 movies, raised two healthy kids, or made it through life with grace, loving God and others is what makes us all renowned. Share your fame with us at King of Kings church where we support growth and connection in a faith-based community where all are equal.