By John Ed Mathison
One of the highlights of my year was going to Wittenberg, Germany on November 1, 2017, with Lynn and Ken and Faye Love, for the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s nailing the 95 theses to the Castle Church door. This act initiated the Protestant Reformation. He was just a young monk, 33 years old, but he had the boldness to call the Church to accountability. He ignited a small flame that grew rapidly and still burns brightly today through the witness of every Protestant church.
Martin Luther had no idea that he would create such a revolution. The use of the Gutenberg printing press was gearing up around 1517. It was the first time in history all notes didn’t have to be handwritten. They could be mass-printed. Within a few days, his document of 95 grievances against the Church began to have massive distribution. The technology of that day aided much in the spread of the Reformation.
Martin Luther came under sharp criticism from all the religious and political authorities. At one point he was called before the Church council in the city of Worms where he was given the opportunity to take back his criticisms of the Church. He knew that his refusal to do so might cost him his life. Yet he refused. He answered strongly and clearly that he was doing what God called him to do and he would not take back his concerns. His famous words were, “Here I stand. I can do no other. So help me God.”
The Wittenberg Church only holds about 475 people. The Billion Soul Network organized this gathering, and the church building was filled with people representative of the major denominations of the world and pastors of some of the largest churches in the world. It was a moving experience to hear a marvelous choir from David Sobrepena’s World of Hope Church in Manila sing the Hallelujah Chorus and lead us all in singing Martin Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” The rafters shook!
Our emphasis was to commemorate the Reformation, but not spend all our time looking back. We needed to look forward and see the modern application of the 95 theses for the Church today. Different people wrote essays on each of those theses. I had the opportunity to write on the Priesthood of All Believers as part of the newly published Great Commission Study Bible.
The spirit of our entire three-day conference in Berlin was to focus on The Great Commission and how to “finish the task.” Dr. Bill Bright set a goal of starting 5 million churches and winning 1 billion new believers by 2020. We are making great progress, but we must finish the task!
One great area of concern and focus is the unreached people groups of the world. There are millions of people who have no Bible and for the most part have never heard the name of Jesus. That number of unreached people groups has been reduced from about 10,000 to about 3,000.
Our conference set a goal to place a Bible, a believer, and a body of Christ in every unreached people group by the year 2030. Wycliffe Bible Translators introduced modern technology that will make the translation of the Bible into all languages quicker and more efficient.
Based on the famous words “Here I stand,” Dr. Leonard Sweet gave a strategy for continuing the Reformation in our time – and beyond. Luther’s “Here I stand” was necessary and represented that he was in a given place (Here); he was acting as a single individual (I); and he was going to stand firm on that faith regardless of the consequences (stand).
In the future, we need to acknowledge “Here I stand,” but boldly act and move forward with “There we go.” Our task is not just here, but to go where people have not been reached for Jesus Christ (There). We must work together in a collaborative effort in order to finish the task (we). Instead of standing, we must go to all people (go). Luther proclaimed 500 years ago, “Here I stand.” Today will you proclaim and practice with me, “There we go!”