While “Reformed” is sometimes hijacked by Calvinists, Arminians and Wesleyan-Arminians are sons of the Protestant Reformation. Reformation history is our history, and we should celebrate it.
The Sunday preceding October 31, 2017, was an exciting time at our church as we celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. We used the story of God’s activity in history to point people to the timeless word of God and the glory of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone to the glory of God alone. Here is how we celebrated Reformation Sunday, the last Sunday in October.
1. We planned in advance.
We started planning for Reformation Sunday in advance during our monthly pastors’ meeting. It was our conviction that: (1) Every Christian should be familiar with the Reformation and its major themes, especially justification by faith and the supremacy of Scripture. (2) A Reformation Sunday service needs to have clear implications for our lives today as a God-glorifying, gospel-centered people. (3) We have a responsibility as pastors to invest time and resources into making it meaningful.
2. We prepared the hearts of our congregation.
On Sunday mornings, our youth Sunday School class studied the Reformation for several weeks. On Sunday evenings, we preached verse-by-verse through Galatians (Martin Luther’s favorite book of the Bible and a hard-hitting gospel epistle that greatly impacted the reformers). By including historical illustrations and excerpts from the Reformers, we planted seeds for an in-depth look on Reformation Sunday.
3. We highlighted the Reformation in our church bulletin.
Quotes from the reformers, Reformation paintings, and a short write-up from the pastor reinforced the themes of the service.
4. We sang “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” during congregational singing.
Our song leader shared a few thoughts on this important hymn written by Martin Luther. He pointed out that it became known as “the battle hymn of the Reformation” and that it has been called “the greatest hymn of the greatest man in the greatest period in German history.” By encouraging another ministry leader to share on the Reformation, we reinforced its importance.
5. We passed out short books on the Reformation as a gift to each of our regular families.
These books provided an excellent summary of the Reformation while being gospel-centered and devotional in nature. They were simple enough for young teenagers to understand but interesting enough for mature believers to appreciate. Good reading material is an important part of spiritual formation. By supplementing Bible reading with spiritual books, we encourage our people to think about life from a Christian perspective.
6. We shared a Reformation-themed message.
The Sunday morning message communicated the big picture of the Reformation and why the key themes of the Reformation still matter: faith alone, grace alone, Christ alone, Scripture alone, and the glory of God alone. Some are hesitant to bore people with a history lessons. But history is a story, and a most colorful one indeed. Most enjoy learning about how the present connects to the past. We asked our congregation, “What would you say if we suggested that we should no longer study the American Revolution in our schools?” They were horrified! We were then able to explain why studying the Reformation is actually much more important for those who call themselves Christians.
7. We pointed people to resources for further study.
There is so much to learn from the Reformation. It is packed with exciting stories, amazing testimonies of God’s grace, and abundant insights for doctrine, piety, and the life of the church. There is only so much that can be covered in one Reformation Sunday service.
8. We glorified God, not the Reformers.
When done well, a study of the Reformation is transformational. It points to the eternal word of God and the key doctrines of the faith. Soli Deo gloria!