The Tipping Point of the Reformation.
The global Church is in the midst of a change similar in magnitude to the 16th century European Protestant Reformation, which, like an untamed stallion, broke free of 100’s of years of institution and tradition and personalized – once and for all – our faith in Christ! Their rally cry became:
“The priesthood of all believers, the Bible in the language of the people and justification by faith”.
The current reformation /transformation of the church is re-examining those treasured milestones of the first Reformation and calling the church to a new Reformation. The following two important books speak of this upheaval:
“The first Reformation was about freeing the church. The new Reformation is about freeing God’s people from the church [the institution].”
“Christendom is dying and needs to be removed from its life-support system.”
What was the tipping point of the first Reformation?
Clearly, Martin Luther not only understood his own times better than most but he understood the times and epochs of those who went before him. I personally feel that THIS is the battle of our times. This is our “Waterloo” as the church of Jesus Christ enters the 21st Century. Will we go silently into the pages of history OR will we – men and women, young and old, gifted by God – rise up and change the future by an even greater understanding of the past and a show a deeper conviction to live out all those conclusions in the present?
Most scholars would say that Luther was just a “baby Christian” (perhaps a believer for 2 years) when he nailed his 95 Theses to the church door. Within days his life was under threat of death by the foremost power on earth during his day.
On All Hallow’s Eve (October 31st) in 1517 Luther, nailed his 95 Theses on the door of the castle church in Wittenberg, Germany. During those days, the common practice when someone wanted to initiate dialogue and debate among scholars on controversial subjects was to nail your ideas or declarations to the church door. (The Story of Christianity, Price & Collins) Luther’s act, in and of itself, was not dramatic! But the people listened… and Europe (and thereby the USA and Canada and beyond) have forever been changed.
Luther’s greatest impact on the world, it could be argued, was NOT as a leader, reformer or pastor, but as an author. He was the author of over 55 large volumes. Luther was actually Dr. Luther and he taught Biblical Theology at the University of Wittenberg. His “lightening rod” influence came not so much from his personal charisma as from his diligent studies. Luther looked critically and passionately at the church of his day and the church of history. The selling of indulgences, which so greatly angered Luther and provoked the 95 Theses, was not looked at simply in his present day context, but through the long and narrow lens of biblical accuracy.
Another example is that of Transubstantiation (the idea that the Eucharistic elements are the actual physical blood and body of Jesus). Luther traced the issue of Transubstantiation to the Lateran Decree of 1215 A.D. and claimed that the term and the idea were “unknown until the false philosophy of Aristotle took root”. (A.G. Dickens, Reformation and Society)
Luther was able to change his current situation by being a meticulous student of world history.
“Of Whom The World Were Not Worthy…”
One thing we can be sure of: Reformation of the church will be costly!
Think of William Tyndale, the noble New Testament translator from England who died at the young age of 42, burned at the stake. His crime: he dedicated his whole adult life to translating the scriptures into the language of the people!
Think of Jan Hus, headmaster of the University of Prague. His bold statements that the Church had gotten off track from Her apostolic roots cost him his life. His blood – Hus was burned at the stake in his mid-40s – laid the foundation of the Hussites, the Bohemian Brethren and the Moravian movements, whose missionary impact has been felt across the globe.
Think of John Wycliffe, theology professor at England’s great Oxford University. He was harassed his entire life time for wanting to “free the people” from the institutional church. He succeeded in translating the entire Bible – by hand – into English. His followers, known in history as the Lollards, kept the flame of Reform alive into the 1500s.
All these men and women, and many others, were persuaded of this one thing. It was literally the “red thread” down though the centuries, spoken first by John Wycliffe (1329 –1384), considered to be the Morningstar of the Reformation: “I believe that in the end truth will conquer”.
The “truth” we fight for in this day and age looks vastly different than what those great leaders died for in the 15 –16th Centuries. Our battles may be different, but the message is the same. We must align the church with the clear and costly teaching of Scriptures, especially the New Testament, for therein lies our “blueprint” for today. To do less is to make a mockery of their deaths.
I believe that “church-as-we-known-it” will soon undergo such total change as to be nearly unrecognizable! “Church-of-the-New-Reformation” will be more participatory, have more of a “24/7” feel about it, and function more like a “family get-together” than a “formal gathering”. Never again will mankind dress up for Sunday morning church! This future church will look incredibly similar to the past churches found in our New Testaments and will include meeting in homes (Rom. 16:5; Col. 4:15) where we actually eat a whole meal together – The Lord’s Supper – when we assemble. I long and hope for a “Corinthian-type church” that has such expression of life, the Spirit, unpredictability and joy.
“Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. God help me.” Martin Luther
Yours for the least in the kingdom,