This is the article I'm planning on sending out in our Youth Ministry Parent Newsletter for October :
October 31st is famous for two things, the first of which is Halloween but the second and more important is Reformation Day. On October 31st, 1517 A.D. a German monk named Martin Luther nailed Ninety-Five Theses, expressing a call to change to some of the traditions (most notably the sales of indulgences) which were being passed down through the Church, upon the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. This event marks the traditional beginning of the Protestant reformation in Europe which paved the path to reformation in other regions as well. Luther opened the door for people to begin to question and to think for themselves about the traditions and beliefs passed down to them. He allowed his culture and his fellow Christians the opportunity to make their faith truly their own. He called for true change in the Church with the sole desire to see the Church be what God intended it to be, namely the people of God and the Body of Christ. Luther’s call was that the Church would re-focus on Christ and Christ’s mission. Luther called the Church to be what it could be, a place and a people where Jesus could be found. Luther once said, “Anyone who is to find Christ must first find the Church. How could anyone know where Christ is and what faith is in him unless he knew where his believers are?”
We, like Martin Luther, have the responsibility and the opportunity to call for real change. Every generation has the responsibility to look at what has been passed down to them, embrace what is good, and reject that which should never have been passed down in the first place. We have the opportunity, in the spirit of the reformation, to call the Church to be what it can be, to be Christ-focused, Christ-centered, and the place/people where the world can find Jesus. But the solution starts with us. We must, as Mahatma Gandhi once said, “be the change [we] want to see in the world.” This is even truer of the Church than with anything else because the Church, after all, is us. Therefore we must be the Church and continue to focus our lives on Christ’s message and mission. Christ must be our example if we want him to be the Church’s example. We must make our faith our own by living it out holistically and redemptively.
Stanley Hauerwas, a theologian from Duke Divinity School, once said “stay with the Church that hurt you.” If you have been hurt by the Church, if you have been burned by the Church, if you have seen the Church act nothing like the Jesus they claim to worship, then it is our opportunity to remind the Church of its true identity. It’s our opportunity to reject that which does not belong and live out the true identity of God’s Church in your own life and in your community of faith.
Built into the Church is what I call a DNA of change, an inherent capacity to change through time and to continue to reform as context and history move forward. We should never stop following Luther’s example (even if we disagree with any or all of what Luther said). We should continue to rethink our identity, to rethink Church, and to re-focus our lives on the mission and person of Jesus Christ.