Advise for Young Ministers About Conflict

Quick, what do church leaders value above almost anything else?

The answer: homeostasis.

Homeostasis? Well that is balance and the maintenance of the status quo. Elders crave this NOT because church leaders do not want to see the church grow, see people won for Christ, see the budget rise and the Kingdom impact around the world swell. No, it’s because most church leaders have a full-time job somewhere else and cannot and will not give large amounts of time to smoothing over internal bickering.

So the one who is seen as the cause of the conflict is generally seen as the one who needs to change, mend fences or go. Generally, this means the minister who is trying to guide the church into what he views as God’s preferred future for Kingdom impact is the one on the hot seat.

Key Questions for Ministers who are Spiritual Leaders: “Do I display a non-anxious presence in the room? Am I a calming influence or an escalating one?”

You can be a leader of Kingdom growth and institutional change—but it takes wisdom, insight and much prayer. And there are a few truths to note where ministers tend to shoot themselves in the foot. Here are a few courtesy of my dear late professor, Charles Siburt:

1. Many of our wounds are self-inflicted…. But wounds become scabs, and scabs become scars—if we do not pick at them. And scars then become our best stories.

2. The greatest point of leverage you have in ministry is to become a healthier self. If you are seen as following most closely to Jesus then people will respect your lead.

3. You have a choice… you can manage the situation or let the situation manage you. If you choose to manage the situation you can be the non-anxious presence.

4. Whoever dispenses information…controls the reaction to it. So always tell the whole truth to anyone who needs to know, and do not withhold information from co-ministers unless you must, or they will resent you for it.

5. Some people crave a fight… Conflict is like rolling around in the mud with a pig. You both get muddy, but the pig enjoys it.

I have a dear friend, Milton Jones, who moved after 26 years in ministry from Seattle, Washington, to Amarillo, Texas. I asked him what he thought would be the biggest difference between Seattle and Amarillo? He of course responded, the culture shock. I told him that was, of course, true. But then I warned him of something else he might not realize:

“In the north, mean people do not go to church. In the south, mean people try to run the church.”

With all due respect to all Elders and church leaders, young ministers need to know that not every Elder is a loving grandpa figure sitting in his study praying for the success of a minister. Most don’t think about ministers much at all, few pray for them, and fewer still are rooting for them to step up and lead them into God’s future.

So be wise; pray hard; follow most closely and stay away from pig-wrestling!

Scott Sager

What advice have you for young ministers? Leave your comments!

Thinking Differently About Rest

For the first time in my six years in Nashville I had to go to the doctor for an antibiotic, had fever, and found myself at home resting. It reminded me of David’s words in Psalm 23, “He makes me lie down in green pastures; he restores my soul.” While resting, I’ve been reading about, well, rest….

“By the seventh day God had finished his work he had been doing, so on the seventh day he RESTED from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he RESTED….” (Gen. 2:2-3)

What if REST is a rhthym God built into the music of Creation. What if the music of life only works if REST is honored just as much as the notes we bang out the rest of the week? What if REST is far more than the absence of work but the door to the wardrobe that ushers us into a whole new way of seeing the rest of our days?

What if REST is not the absence of work, or the adversary of workaholics, but work’s partner? What if REST and “work” actually compliment and complete each other? What if REST is a skill to be learned, and we can grow in our ability to REST just as an athlete or a woman in labor grows in thier ability to breath?Sure, breathing comes naturally (as does REST) but we can get far better at it with focus and practice.

Ministers, like busy CEOs, often think of stress and overwork as a badge of honor. Getting little sleep, giving up unused vacation, not taking days off are seen as a way to get ahead and an edge, but really? REST is not paying a tax on innovation or productivity–it is investing in it!

Alex Pang says it this way, “REST is not something that the world gives us. It’s never been a gift. It’s never been anything you do when you’ve finished everything else. If you want REST you have to take it. You have to resist the lure of busyness, make time for REST, take it seriously and protect it from a world intent on stealing it.”

So the people who have travelled the road of productivity, creativity, illumination and breakthrough by embracing REST and becoming skilled at it tell me there are four things I need to learn as I pursue this quest to becoem skilled in REST:

1. Word and REST are partners in my life–they complete each other.
2. REST is active-I can do triathalons and call it REST if that completes and compliments my work, but it has to be intentional and planned REST.
3. I must see REST as a skill to be learned–and to grow into improvement.
4. Deliberate REST sustains creativity and productivity–I’ll do more if I learn to do less, and trul REST.

So, this is my quest…more details and cool quotes to follow soon.

QUESTION: Are you skilled in REST? If so, leave your secrets for us here!

500th Anniversary of the Reformation: Where Do You Stand?

Happy Reformation Day! Where Do You Stand?

Soon after Luther tacked his 95 Theses to the Wittenberg Cathedral on October 31, 1517 the church ordered Martin Luther to recant and seek forgiveness. Instead, Luther penned an Open Letter where some of his most famous words were penned:

“Unless I am convinced of error by the testimony of Scripture…my conscience is taken captive by God’s word. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to act against our conscience is neither safe for us, nor open to us. On this I take my stand. I can do no other. So help me God. Amen.”

So here we are 500 years later on October 31, 2017 and the question I have for you this day is this, “On what do you stand?” Or better said, “For what do you stand?” Today I share with you where I stand: my purpose and my faith. Read it over and see if there is anything worthy of being incorporated into your life and what you stand for today….

 Statement of Faith and Purpose by Scott Sager

October 31, 2017

The purpose of my life is discover, know, surrender to and live in the steadfast and abounding love of God the Father, shown in Jesus the Son and poured into my heart through the Holy Spirit. This love is lived out in me as I respond to God’s love by loving God with all my heart, soul mind and strength, and loving others as I love myself. I cannot love everyone equally, therefore my aim is to love God first, my family second, friends third, church fourth and my career and vocation fifth.

Central Core of My Beliefs:

There is a God.

There is only One God; integrity and order come from Him.

God is Spirit, and thus is neither male nor female.

God is Creator of all things visible and invisible; speaking them into existence from nothing.

Satan exists, and is the Father of Lies reeking havoc in the world by corrupting the good, darkening hearts and opposing truth.

Through Satan, sin exists as the opposite of the God-way and as the corruption of every good thing.

God is Love, and though One in substance, is best revealed through the love of the Trinity as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

God’s love desires to be known, and thus God has revealed himself.

God is revealed first through the creation, which testifies to the Creator and is studied to understand truths that hold the world together.

God is revealed through the Word spoken to his chosen people Israel through the prophets and later through the Apostles. These words are studied to understand

God’s character and moral demands and to take captive every thought before God.

God is revealed most clearly through the special revelation of His Son, Jesus Christ–who was begotten, not made, of the Father and His exact representation.

Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary, and is fully God and fully man at the same time demonstrating no divide between sacred and secular.

Jesus lived a perfect life while teaching all humankind how to live like Him through his words, his walk and his witness concerning his Father. To imitate Jesus is to live the God-life.

Salvation can only be found through Jesus Christ; and participation by baptism into his death, burial and resurrection affords by grace both forgiveness of sin and the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

The mystery of all ages is revealed in me through my baptism into Christ, which has both clothed me in Christ and revealed me as a New Creation, “Christ in me, the hope of glory.”

Jesus now sits at the right hand of the Father ruling over all creation; he hears our prayers and advocates for us to the Father through the Spirit. Jesus will return again to judge the living and the dead.

The church is the visible and spiritual representation of Jesus Christ in the world. The only hope for redemption of humankind comes through participation in this community of saints.

Baptism, the Lord’s Supper and the proclamation of the infallible Word of God (the Bible) are “graces” given to the church to administer and safeguard. The church is God’s last best hope for the world and one cannot fully participate in the “Kingdom of God” apart from this community.

Once saved by grace through faith, followers of Jesus live as disciples, “learners,” striving to grow in the image of Jesus through Jesus’ own spiritual practices like study, prayer, service, worship, evangelism and charity.

Disciples converge under various “pathways” of discipleship often called “denominations”; each denomination is an expression of what a group of disciples consider “best practices” for living the “Christ-life.” Within all these denominations there are faith-filled followers of Jesus, and my life desires unity with them upon essentials, liberty on non-essential and in all things charity.

My own religious heritage grows from a branch of churches known as the “Restoration Churches” and finds its denominational rooting among Church of Christ disciples who view: believer’s baptism by immersion for the forgiveness of sin, weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper, biblical inspiration, simplicity in worship, the priesthood of all believers, autonomy of congregations and the free-will of individuals to choose some good as key markers of discipleship.

As I view my place in the Kingdom I affirm that God is over all; Jesus is exalted in all; and the Holy Spirit is our guide in all things. My family will be whole-hearted disciples of Jesus regardless of what others do; Truth will be relentlessly pursued; the Christ-life will be constantly nurtured; and all people of moral fiber, character and integrity are welcome in our home and lives regardless of nationality, gender or religious persuasion.

Thoughts and comments welcome . . . 

How to Celebrate Reformation 500 Tomorrow

Reformation 500: Day Seven: How to Celebrate Reformation 500 Tomorrow

Tomorrow is the day!!!

It was October 31, 1517 when Martin Luther tacked his 95 Theses to the Wittenberg Cathedral ushering in the Protestant Reformation and reshaping Christianity. Today, Protestants number over 560 million worldwide—more than one out of every three followers. Yet many who fall into the category of “Protestant” no longer know what they believe—or why they should believe at all. Perhaps tomorrow could be a great day to sow some seeds by asking people how they would reform the church of 2017 some 500 years after Martin Luther?

How to Share Reformation Day with Your Friends…

  1. Wish Them a “Happy Reformation Day” and let them know that 500 years ago a man named Martin Luther cared so much for Jesus Christ and so wanted others to know him that he risked his life. Send them this You Tube clip that tells in 4 minutes what Luther did 500 years ago:
  2. Send Out Luther’s 95 Theses with a note saying, “This was what everyone was reading 500 years ago—and this message changed our lives!” Explain that Luther was not trying to break from Catholicism but clean up abuses that had come into the priesthood. In the 95 Theses (click here) Luther laid out his objections to indulgences and also took aim at a priesthood that had grown lax, shallow and corrupt.
  3. Create Your Own Virtual Doors and Let Your Friends Critique the Church by placing on one door Luther’s 95 Theses. On the other door ask your friends what they would write to critique the church some 500 years later. What do your friends think are the abuses of the church today, and how would they go about correcting them? This question will open up hours of important conversation.
  4. Remind Others That a Concern for the Poor drove Luther’s critique of the church. He was concerned the church had lost the passion of Jesus Christ for those on the margins. Remind people of statements Luther made like:

 “He who gives to the poor or lends to the needy does a better work than buying pardons.”  . . .  “Christians are to be taught that he who sees a man in need, and passes by him, and gives his money for pardons, purchases not the indulgences of the Pope, but the indignation of God.”

  1. Create Your Own “Reformation 500 for Dummies” where you summarize the importance of the Reformation in a paragraph or two. Use the past few days (especially Day Two) to get you started.

QUESTION: What would you write and tack on the doors of Wittenberg Cathedral some 500 years later to reform the church of today?

Let me hear from you…

Reformation 500: Day Six

Reformation 500: Your Seven-Day Countdown 

Day Six…

Are Protestants Still “Sola Fide & Sola Scriptura”?

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther tacked his 95 Theses to the Wittenberg Cathedral ushering in the Protestant Reformation and reshaping Christianity. This revolutionary moment inspired five great doctrines that undergirded the entire Reformation:

Today, Protestants number over 560 million worldwide—more than one out of every three followers. Yet many who fall into the category of “Protestant” no longer believe and practice all the central tenets of the Reformation platform. Inside Protestant Christianity different groups focus upon differing aspects of the “Five Solas” listed above.

Mainline Protestants– tend to no longer hold “Sola Scriptura” in as high a regard, adding “reason, experience and church tradition” to the mix as items equally valid to Scripture in determining God’s will for individuals. This has led to a sharp division between the “Mainline” and the “Evangelical” followers of the reformation.

Evangelical Protestants- still affirm both “Sola Scriptura” and “Sola Fide” in principle as central tenants of faith and practice. Arguments with evangelical circles tend to divide over whether the Bible is “inerrant” (without error) or “infallible” (perfect in conveying the message for which it was written). While many in academics circles have split hairs over these two designations, a commitment and conviction to holding Scripture above all else in determining God’s will for believers has come into decline and steady decay.

A recent report from Christianity Today indicates that 52% of Protestants believe that good deeds are needed to merit salvation. This is a tricky statement, because both Paul and Luther teach that justification with God is through “faith alone” and not based upon works. However, Jesus’ own brother James did remind us, “Faith without works is dead.” A combination approach to justification with God based upon faith and works bring the Protestant Reformation back much closer to the Catholic position it split from 500 years ago.

We see more clearly the gap that has occurred between Luther and today’s typical Protestant in a Pew Survey (pewforum.org, 2017) that indicated only 3 in 10 Protestants world-wide still believe in both “Faith Alone” and “Scripture Alone” as central tenets of their personal theology. In the US these numbers are higher, and interestingly grow even higher among those with a college education. This group of college educated Protestants believe both “Sola Fide” and “Sola Scriptura” at a rate of 65%. This is a great reason to promote Christian Higher Education in our churches!

But there is still much work to be done. When just looking at the Bible as the Word of God, those holding to “Sola Scriptura” has fallen to just 46% world-wide. This data indicates more clearly than anything else that the age of secularism is upon us, and the place of the Bible in forming faith and practice is quickly vanishing not only from the culture but from our churches as well. In America, 88% of the population has a Bible in their home (avg. is 3 per home) but nearly 54% of them are never read. Only 18% of Americans read the Bible daily, 15% a few times a week and 13% once a week (Barna, State of the Bible Research, 2014). The younger a person, the less likely they are to read the Bible regularly.

Today’s Protestant Church is in danger of giving up all that Luther and the other Reformers fought to preserve—and to return again to darker ages. Perhaps the 500tha Anniversary is a great time to recommit to the standard of the Word of God as all-sufficient for directing faith and practice for the church.

QUESTION: What about you? How many Bibles in your home? Do you read the Bible more often as you grow older?

Reformation 500: Day Five

Reformation 500—Your Seven-Day Countdown

Day Five…

On October 31, 1517 Martin Luther tacked his 95 Theses to the Wittenberg Cathedral ushering in the Protestant Reformation and reshaping Christianity. Today, Protestants number over 560 million world-wide—more than one out of every three followers. This revolutionary moment inspired five great doctrines that undergirded the entire Reformation:

Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone)

Sola Gloria (God’s Glory Alone)

Sola Fide (Faith Alone)

Sola Gratis (Grace Alone)

Sola Christos (Christ Alone)

And Luther was not the only key figure in the Reformation. Other men figured prominently in the development of the Protestant churches as well:

  • Martin Luther– (1483 –1546) was a German professor of theology, composer, priest, monk, and the seminal figure in the Protestant Reformation.
  • Huldrych Zwingli- (1484 – 1531) was a leader of the Reformation in Switzerland during a time of emerging Swiss patriotism and increasing criticism of the Swiss mercenary system. In 1519, Zwingli became the pastor of the Cathedral in Zurich where he began to preach ideas on reform of the Catholic Church. In his publications, he noted corruption in the ecclesiastical hierarchy, promoted clerical marriage, and attacked the use of images in places of worship.
  • John Calvin- (1509-1564) was an influential French theologian, minister and reformer in Geneva during the Protestant Reformation. He was a principal figure in the development of the system of Christian theology later called Calvinism, aspects of which include the doctrines of predestination and of the absolute sovereignty of God in salvation of the human soul from death.

Zwingli’s ideas came to the attention of Martin Luther and other reformers. They met at the Marburg Colloquy (1529) and although they agreed on many points of doctrine, they also began to realize with great clarity that their reformation would not bring uniformity of thought on all matters. Luther, Zwingli and Calvin could not (and would not) reach an accord on the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper and what occurred with the elements in the midst of the communion sacrament. Please notice that each man started from “Sola Scriptura” but focused upon a different phrase from Scripture to arrive at differing positions:

Luther: Focused upon the words of Jesus at institution, “This IS my body” and believed quite similarly to what the Catholic Church did that the bread actually becomes (changes into) the actual body/flesh of Jesus. The Catholic church taught “transubstantiation”: Trans means “change” and substantiation means “substance.” Luther’s teaching saw the change occurring “with-in” the elements and is generally called “consubstantiation.”

Zwingli: Focused upon the words of Jesus that stated, “Do this in REMEMBRANCE of Me.” He viewed the Lord’s Supper as a memorial, a regular reminder of the sacrifice of Jesus—but nothing metaphysical was taking place. The one time sacrifice of Jesus has been fully offered and grace reckoned to us as salvation.

Calvin: Focused more upon the meaning of what was taking place in the communion meal. Narratives like Jesus on the road to Emmaus carried great weight as scripture records, “Jesus was REVEALED to them in the breaking of bread. “ He viewed communion as a place of grace where Jesus Christ is spiritually present and meets us to bestow grace. For Calvin, it was not about the elements being changed but rather human hearts changing.

Notice that Luther, Calvin and Zwingli all agreed upon many aspects of the Lord’s Supper… Who? (Jesus?), What? (bread and wine) When? (they all partook each Sunday) Why? (instituted by Christ before his crucifction). But the reformers could not agree upon “How?” God went about presenting the elements to us. What would they do?

When“protesting” Reformers did not see eye-to-eye they met to discuss, tried to reach consensus and then found unity apart from uniformity. It was a follower of Luther who later first said:

      “In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty,

In All Things Charity”

QUESTION: What do you think happens at the Lord’s Supper? Are you closer to Luther, Zwingli or Calvin? Let us know your thinking….

Reformation 500: Day Four

Reformation 500—Your Seven-Day Countdown

Day Four…

Soon after Luther tacked his 95 Theses to the Wittenberg Cathedral on October 31, 1517 the church ordered Martin Luther to recant and seek forgiveness. Instead, Luther penned an Open Letter where some of his most famous words were penned:

“Unless I am convinced of error by the testimony of Scripture…my conscience is taken captive by God’s word. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to act against our conscience is neither safe for us, nor open to us. On this I take my stand. I can do no other. So help me God. Amen.”

As people flocked to acquire the German New Testament Luther had produced, the Word of God for the first time became available to the general public in their own native tongue. This revolutionary moment inspired five great doctrines (The 5 Solas) that undergirded the entire Reformation:

  • Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone)- The Catholic church of Luther’s day had elevated philosophical reason, church tradition and religious experience to equal standing with the Word of God. Luther changed all of this—elevating Scripture as the divine word of God and claiming it alone was the sole guide to life.
  • Sola Deo Gloria (Glory of God Alone)– The clergy of Luther’s day had replaced the Glory of God with personal glory and the elevation of the priesthood. Luther argued that no one can bring glory to God and to self at the same time–and the leaders of the Catholic church were eaten up with personal pride, ambition and narcism. A burning passion for God’s glory–and His alone, field the Reformation.
  • Sola Fide (Faith Alone)- The Catholic church taught that faith in Jesus, good works and right standing within the Catholicism were all necessary for salvation. This belief in meritorious deeds that could earn salvation led to the “Treasury of Merit” and the indulgences being sold. Luther stood on the words of Paul that the only way a person can be justified is by faith in Jesus Christ.
  • Sola Gratia (Grace Alone)- It is by God’s grace alone and only by God’s grace that a person may be justified with God. There is nothing anyone can do to merit such a gift, and there is nothing but the gift of God’s grace that can justify a sinner. With this Luther demonstrates the Pope’s entire “Treasury of Merit” to be a sham and a fraud.
  • Solus Christus (Christ Alone)- Nothing can save a sinner except Christ alone and he alone (and no other) is capable of saving a sinner. Nothing else adds to salvation found in Christ and it is only Christ who can save a sinner—and no amount of money can add anything to what Christ alone has done.

With these five central doctrines in hand, the “protesters” of the Catholic church ushered in a Protestant Reformation that has reshaped the landscape of the church—and elevated Christ alone to the highest place once again. If you “Speak where the Bible speaks,” follow “Priesthood of all”, believe only “Jesus saves” and find “nothing in your hand to bring, but simply to the cross to cling” you might owe Luther bigger thanks than you ever realized before!

But “protesting” Reformers did not always see eye to eye and nothing brought out a feverish debate like a discussion of the Lord’s Supper, also called “communion” or “Eucharist.” But that’s a tale for another day…How about tomorrow?

FACT & QUESTION TO PONDER: Did you know my freshman students at Lipscomb University are far more likely to base decisions on “personal experience” than upon the “Word of God”? Has Experience officially trumped Scripture for this emerging generation? If so, are we who are older to blame? Let me hear from you…

Reformation 500: Day Three

Reformation 500—Your Seven-Day Countdown

Day Three…

Luther saw a power grab perpetrated by the Pope in selling “indulgences,” and in response on October 31, 1517 wrote his 95 Theses (a list of 95 grievances against the Pope and the church). Luther tacked the document to the door at Wittenberg Cathedral with the intention of defending his position against Catholic leadership in an open forum or series of debates. Luther laid out his objections to indulgences and also took aim at a priesthood that had grown lax, shallow and corrupt.

95 Thesis

The Pope responded by charging Luther with heresy and ordering him silenced. But the prince in Germany as well as the local church protected Luther and allowed him to continue his critique. In 1520 Luther published his most confrontational polemic against the church titled, “The Babylonian Captivity of the Church.” Here Luther actually called the clergy a “cabal” and argued that only two of the churches Sacraments (practices where people receive God’s grace) were truly biblical in nature: baptism and communion. The church ordered Martin Luther to recant and seek forgiveness; instead, Luther penned an Open Letter, where some of his most famous words were penned:

“Unless I am convinced of error by the testimony of Scripture…my conscience is taken captive by God’s word. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to act against our conscience is neither safe for us, nor open to us. On this I take my stand. I can do no other. So help me God. Amen.”

With this, Luther was kicked out of the church, excommunicated. But his “Protest” as it would eventually be named, recovered five great doctrines of the early church and returned them to the heart of Christianity. These five great teachings emerged only after Luther, in 1522, published the first-ever version of the New Testament in the German language. For the first time, church members who had only heard the Bible read in a Latin they could not understand were now hearing God’s word in their common tongue. And wherever recovery of Scripture occurs, great things follow….

Luther’s famous line, “On this I take my stand; I can do no other” speaks of a man who fears God so much there is no place for fear of men. Where is God calling you to take a stand upon the Word of God? I’d love to know…

Fun Fact: Did you know that the first president to add Luther’s words, “So help me God” to the end of the Presidential Oath of Office was Chester A. Arthur in September 1881, after the assassination of James A. Garfield?

 

Reformation 500: Day Two

Reformation 500—Your Seven-Day Countdown

Day Two…

500 years ago in the year 1517, Pope Leo X began raising money to build the grand basilica St. Peter’s by selling “indulgences” (a “Get Out of Hell Free Card”) to sinful, wealthy elite. He explained a person could purchase forgiveness from the Pope, who would then grant the extra credits not needed by saints who died with a surplus of good deeds. These merits were stored in a “Treasury of Merits” controlled and allocated by the Pope. Anyone could purchase forgiveness from the Pope, “If the price is right.” Even more, “indulgences” could be purchased for the dead—transporting the soul of a loved one to heaven for all eternity merely by paying the appropriate sum.

The Ninety-Five Theses: In response to the power grab and abuse of the common people he saw being perpetrated by the Pope, Luther wrote his 95 Theses (a list of 95 grievances against the Pope and the church). The subtitle of the document carries the strength of his feelings, “A Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences.” Luther tacked the document to the door at Wittenberg Cathedral with the intention of defending his position against Catholic leadership in an open forum or series of debates. It is important to note Luther never intended to break from Catholicism, but to “reform” what he saw as a pattern of abuse within the church’s leadership.

In the 95 Theses, Luther laid out his objections to indulgences and also took aim at a priesthood that had grown lax, shallow and corrupt. In statement after statement, Luther built his case against both indulgences and the abuse found within the priesthood. Luther’s tongue was biting, and his manner was caustic—he took no prisoners with statements like: Indulgences are the nets with which the church fishes for rich men,” “Men must be on guard against those who say that the Pope’s pardons are the inestimable gift of God by which man is reconciled to Him,” “Christians are to be taught that the Pope’s pardons are harmful, if through them they lose their fear of God.” Luther even dared ask why the Pope did not empty all of Purgatory by emptying the treasury of all its merits? (read the complete document at http://www.luther.de/en/95thesen.html)

To be fair, Luther also instructed on right Christian conduct stating: He who gives to the poor or lends to the needy does a better work than buying pardons”; “Christians are to be taught that he who sees a man in need, and passes by him, and gives his money for pardons, purchases not the indulgences of the Pope, but the indignation of God.” Luther argued that personal confidence in entering heaven came not through the purchase of an indulgence but through tribulation, hardship and effort.

The Pope responded by charging Luther with heresy and ordering him silenced. But the prince in Germany as well as the local church protected Luther and allowed him to continue his critique. The battle lines were drawn and the future understanding of Christian faith was in the balance.

QUESTION: Luther saw a church beholden to money and Christian leaders who had lost their voice being more devoted to materialism than to Christ. Do you see any similarities today? Has Christian ministry become a non-prophet society? Let me hear from you…

Side Note: On October 31, 2017 churches and Christians around the globe will pause to acknowledge the contributions of an unknown priest at the time names Martin Luther, whose 95 Theses tacked to the door of the Castle at Wittenberg ushered in the greatest Reformation since the Apostle Paul. Luther’s influence upon the church and upon society cannot be overstated, so over these next few days I will attempt to give you the nuts & bolts of the Reformation for you to consider anew. 

Reformation 500

Reformation 500—Your Seven-Day Countdown

(On October 31, 2017 churches and Christians around the globe will pause to acknowledge the contributions of an unknown priest at the time, whose 95 Theses tacked to the door of the Castle at Wittenberg ushered in the greatest Reformation since the Apostle Paul. Martin Luther’s influence upon the church and upon society cannot be overstated, so over these next few days I will attempt to give you the nuts & bolts of the Reformation for you to consider anew. –SS)

Day One…

The winds of change rattle the shores of civilization regularly, but seismic events occur far less frequently. The background to the 1517 Reformation brings several seismic shifts into play culminating with Martin Luther’s 95 Theses as the epicenter of a giant fault line that ultimately divides Protestant from Catholic and radially alters civilization, capitalism, technology, marriage and politics for the next 500 years.

Early Events of Seismic Proportion: In 1453 the fall of the Christian capitol of Constantinople (today’s Istanbul) to the Ottoman Turks was of seismic importance. The result was the subjugation of the Eastern Church to Islam and the rise of the underground church in eastern areas of Greece, Turkey, Russia and Egypt. All that remained was a foundering Catholic church in a weakened Rome beholden to western power structures for its existence. The church held sway more as a nation state than as the body of Christ upon earth. Because the church claimed the power to absolve sin, its coffers were full and today’s ornamental Vatican City was emerging on the scene. Amazingly, two years after the Ottoman conquest, the greatest technological advancement this side of the Internet occurred in Mainz, Germany. Guttenberg invented the printing press with movable type and the production of written materials as print emerged. The Bible was the most printed of all materials, and was presented to the masses by priests who could read it only in the Latin of Jerome’s Vulgate.

The Resulting Religious Context: In order to stay relevant to the surrounding culture, the church embraced the philosophy of the Greeks, mixing Plato and Aristotle regularly with the teaching of Paul and Jesus. The veneration of saints and the adoration of Mary began in earnest at this time as well. Instead of a papal leader known for wisdom, simplicity and poverty, the Pope of Luther’s era emerged as lax, corrupt and living in decadent opulence while promising forgiveness of sins for parishioners’ financial contributions.

The Final Straw: In 1517 Pope Leo X began raising money to complete what would be the crown jewel of the Vatican, St. Peter’s Basilica. To finance this, the Pope began selling offices to wealthy individuals and then also began selling “indulgences.” The papacy did this by explaining that many saints had gone to heaven with a credit balance of “merits” that they did not need to be saved, so these were placed in a “Treasury of Merits” controlled by the Pope and forgiveness could be yours… “If the price is right.”