Making Disciples That Make History
This year, 2017, is significant in the life of the Christian Church. It marks the 500th anniversary of the launch of what we know as the Protestant Reformation. If enough of you are interested in joining me next June, I hope to lead a Reformation tour. We will stand before the doors of the Wittenberg church where, in October 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses: 95 topics of discussion regarding reform of the Catholic Church. It set off a firestorm. We will stand inside St.Pierre’s Cathedral in Geneva, Switzerland, where John Calvin launched the Reformed branch of Protestantism and where a young Scottish minister, John Knox, came to study. And we will visit St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh, Scotland, where Knox returned home to rail from the pulpit against the Catholic Queen Mary who lived right down the street.
The great “solas” that arose out of this Reformation—scripture alone (sola), grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone, to God’s glory alone—ring out to this day. And 500 years later, we still remember these men and the religious movements they launched, movements that changed not only the Church but the cities and countries of which they were a part.
Sadly, we will also discover that those particular churches—churches that once echoed with some of the greatest preaching in the history of Christendom—are now mostly tourist stops, religious museums with a handful of Christians who huddle inside for weekly services. As for the surrounding communities that were once swept up by this great movement, they are at best indifferent to what goes on inside those building and, increasingly, downright hostile.
The harsh truth is this: the Christian Church is at the same time robust and fragile. Robust in the sense that the witness to the grace and salvation and victory that is ours in Christ will not be stifled. It rises up in unexpected places throughout God’s world and one day, when God is ready, Christ will return and reclaim all that is his. But the witness of individual churches is also fragile. Every generation must insure that it hands off the faith to the next. All you have to do is visit these great but (now) largely pagan cities that I mentioned above—or a country like Turkey in which much of what we read in the New Testament took place but is now 97.8 % Muslim—to realize that every generation must proclaim anew and afresh the life-changing, city-transforming message of the risen Christ.
This weekend, we will launch a new initiative called Beyond These Walls: Making Disciples That Make History. What might we do to ensure that 50 years from now, after most of us are gone, the witness of Chapel Hill to the Lord Jesus in Gig Harbor and the surrounding area is still vibrant and vital? I have a vision I want to share with you that could make that possible. I prefer that you never miss a weekend service. But this weekend in particular is one not to miss as we begin a journey together that, well, could make history.
P.S. If you are interested in that Reformation Tour in late June 2018, add your name to the list by emailing Kathy Berry.