Wittenberg This Month!

I have been invited along with twenty two other people who will this month convene at Wittenberg and Berlin Germany on the anniversary of Luther’s posting of the 95 theses.  People like Christian Schwartz, Mark Batterson, Chris Seay, Len Sweet, Alan Hirsch, and a number of international scholars.  The topic?  New Reformations. What would it mean for us to turn the world upside down again and explore the pressure points for making those new reformations a reality?

So I have a question I would love to hear back from you on.  All of us have a 20-30 minute slot to attempt an answer to the above question and then facilitate conversation among the 22 others about that idea.

So here is my question for you.  If you were me what idea would YOU present?  I will let you know where I am heading later, but I would love to know what idea do you think would turn the church world upside down so we in turn could impact the world?



21 Responses to “Wittenberg This Month!”

  1. Wow….fun….anything? Hmmm….. I think if I could pick one major change that I’d like to see happen in the church, it would be to lose the lost vs. saved conversation. Completely eliminate those terms from our dialogue and start looking at people. Not us vs. them. Not, “the unchurched.” Not Buddhists, Jews, Baptists, Hindus, Presbyterians, Muslims…(with our own ideas about where each group falls in the spectrum).

    I wonder if by losing the determination of who is in and who is out, if we would treat people differently. If our language would lose its arrogance if we included ourselves among them.

    If we truly believed that “God sent His Son into the world not to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved,” what would that look like? Would we lose some of our works theology? Would love then become our fingerprint?

  2. I think the idea of Jubilee – divesting for the sake of others – would be revolutionary if the church really practiced it. If we really re-thought our economics, and opted for / modeled a way that allowed us to consider the poor (local and global) in tangible ways. It is hard to confront the consumerism in our culture, especially as it has seeped into our church praxis as well. But I think breaking this hold on the church and followers of Jesus could unleash a fresh demonstration of the Good News Jesus proclaims.

  3. Shihan! Wow, what an opportunity! I’d love to explore how faith communities can become more integrated holistically (i know, i know… that sounds too “fluffy”… i mean, “right… whatever that means… who wouldn’t?”, right?). Rather than doping everything out here, we’re trying to find practical ways to implement what i describe as the “car model” here: http://smartzombie.blogspot.com/2008/08/smart-zombie-wwzd-what-would-zombies.html. This is fundamentally a more “pragmatic question” rather than a theological one to some degree, but it’s what we’re going to try to explore next. I think true integration of all facets of our lives is going to look different than any of us currently think it might, and we’re starting to tinker with some of the potential prototypes and what they might look like. Hope you enjoy your time there! Can’t wait to hear how it goes! -samurai jack

  4. Wow! Wittenberg? I was there years ago – in front of the VeryDoor. What a sense of history and heritage!

    Main message?…

    OK. As heirs of the reformed traditions we believe that Jesus’ death is for the forgiveness of our sins – but we need to challenge people to think again about HOW that is effected. The idea of appeasing an angry God who just had to kill somebody is to me increasingly superficial and wide of the mark. You get this when you get an emphasis on sacrifice and death without a commensurate emphasis on resurrection and Life. On this basis it is almost like there are two Gospels that barely hang together: on the one hand we are saved through Jesus death for the “forgiveness of our sins”; on the other it is rebirth through the spirit that saves us and gains us entry into the Kingdom.

    So how do these two dimensions fit together? In Paul’s letters they do e.g. “He saved us by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit… so that we might be made righteous (= justified) by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.” Similarly in Galatians, the whole thrust is that we are made righteous (= justified) by receiving the Spirit. The Spirit is the promised “blessing of Abraham” the guarantee of life and sonship. In these contexts it is the resurrection life of Jesus that saves us, on the basis of his death.

    Jesus died in the form of sinful flesh ( i.e. as a man born of woman) so that his victory over sin by resisting it to the end can be transferred to us and through it both his death (to the old) and his resurrecion life (making us new). This explains the whole emphasis in Hebrews on him being made perfect etc – not just the sacrificial dimension of his death.

    If it was just a question of a sacrifice by proxy why did God the Father not just kill Jesus at age 20 – or 15 – or 5?!!

    And to help us understand this, let’s get rid of that silly word in the English translations: “justified” – with all its centuries of accretions of quasi-legalistic overtones. The Greek word simply means “made righteous”; not in some ledger, as if a legal account had been settled: but IN US – by our receiving the Spirit of Jesus’ righteousness.

    I feel very strongly about this because I think a superficial understanding of the sacrifice of the cross is selling us short. If we go round believing that I have been made righteous just in some legal account book, I am less likely to feel the power to walk daily as a changed and righteous person. I have been righteous in present fact and experience. The old has passed away. I am a new creation. That is how I am “justified”.

    This means among other things we need to rethink the traditional differentiation beween Sanctification and Justification. There isn’t any.

    I feel that in the Reformed and Lutheran traditions, which have so influenced all other traditions including Baptist and Pentecostal, we should re-examine our basics and not accept things just because we have been told it is so for five hundred years.

    It’s not Jesus death that saves us from sin but his Death and Resurrection together. And it is effected in us by receiving the Spirit – not by settling accounts in a legal book somewhere.

    For goodness sake, let’s get real about this!… Finally.

    Anyway, even if this is not of interest to you, let me wish you a blessed trip in the Vaterland!

    Warm regards

    Bill Brodie

  5. sal vasquez Says:

    The short answer would be LOVE… Real deal Love would change this world…. How do we really love… I watched the movie conversations with God the other day, I would like to share a quote from the movie..

    “What would love do now? Answer that question and I will be there. Always. In all ways.”

    If we could answer this question and teach others to do the same, I think we would transform the world.. People are starving for Love..

    Anyway thats my 2 cents.. This has been the hardest challenge of my life–> to learn what real love is and then to do it!!

  6. Everybody has heard of Luther. Very few people understand Melanchton’s important contributions. Might be fair to say: No Melanchton, no Luther.

    More importantly, alot of folks today fill the same sort of role behind the scenes for well known folks without recognition.

    Who are the Melanchthons supporting today’s Luthers? There’s one suggestion.

    BTW, Melanchthonhaus is still standing and is open for tours in Wittenberg.

  7. Original goodness. What would it look like if we began at the beginning? What if we began to see the goodness in creation and in one another as the pivot point for the subsequent ascent of our conversations. Certainly not to avoid the trouble that sin continues to leverage, but to re-establish that how we’re seen by the Father through Jesus can be summed by what he says about us at creation, “This is good.”

  8. What a fun and exciting opportunity. I love what everybody has said here so far. I especially love Sal and Edgar’s thoughts. I think what Edgar mentions about “Original goodness” would be like my top 2-3 things if I was posting a thesis on a door today. A proper understanding of this reality would allow us to “Love” as we have been designed and called to love.
    God’s creation is still good and to suggest otherwise is to miss the essence of who God is. If the church could shift it’s focus from the sin of man to the goodness of God then maybe man would be positioned to shift from sin to goodness.
    When you get back it would be fun and beneficial to read a blog of what the top 5 things you hear are.

  9. cindy bailey Says:

    Stop pointing out problems and become part of the solution.

  10. Reformation involves a fundamental altering of the shared story of a people, which energizes huge effort/sacrifice and unleashes a torrent of creativity, etc. My sense is that within the current re-imagining of the Christian story, our individual identities in God, and therefore our identity as a Christian community, must be informed by the broadened Creation-Fall-Redemption-Restoration that we have discussed over the past few years.

    When we see Adam’s powerful role in the garden as being a ‘catalyst of destiny/purpose’ within God’s creation and understand the ‘fall’ as Adam yielding to the temptation to disconnect from God’s design for creation and substituting his own, the stage is set for us to see our potential role. Jesus provides the reconnection and example for us to take up the mantle of co-creator with God for his purposes in creation.

    I think in this story, the focus on individual purpose becomes the critical focus. Church becomes the discovery and networking of individual purpose into corporate destiny. Vocation becomes the primary arena of our activity and interest, not just the source of funds to sustain disconnected church structures. Callings and giftedness and mission expressions become as diverse as the vocational diversity of the corporate body. Each finds the unique ground upon which they are meant to stand and with authority, like Adam (and Jesus), call forth God’s purposes there.

    Something like that anyway! 🙂

  11. I’m pretty sure that this is going to be the simplest of all recommendations and yet I often wonder if it’s not one of the most challenging…

    Open our ears to hear…to listen. I think listening is the most human things we can learn to do for one another…maybe it’s one of the most divine things we can do for one another.

    And might I say it seems as if our culture is screaming for it….blogs, twitter, facebook, my space, youtube. People just want to be heard…creating ways to be heard. Call me naïve but I think we can tap into the most creative, imaginative ways of being, doing and seeing like Jesus…if we would come together to dialogue.

    Can I come together with you and you with me in a way that we don’t have our preconceived agendas and beliefs that build up walls before we even begin? I think the most compelling life in the Church is yet ahead of us if we can bring a world together to get past defensive debate (deluding ourselves that we are somehow defending/standing up for Jesus) to a place of honesty, love, collaboration and discernment.

    Some of you probably laugh at the simplicity of this recommendation but do our practices reveal our ABILITY/inability to listen and our TRUST/fear of what we might come to know? Do we prioritize collaborative community or something else? I wish everyone could experience collaborative community…Amazing Growth and Life!!! So Ron – talk about how (the components, the leadership, the connection) to create venues, environments, organizations, churches where we listen. It’s what you are doing here (not brownie points…he really reads and listens with openness to what others say and write). Think this listening element is an important component to the incredible ideas that the rest of you have listed here.

    Aside: I have some thoughts on ‘sola scriptura’ but those require the listening environments that I’m talking about… where we not only listen to one another but also experience the Bible where the Spirit addresses us in the present day. That may require more than 20-30 minutes ….

    I’m off…

  12. When people are looking for security and willing to give up their freedom for it, Christians must be willing to go against that temptation knowing that Christ died that we might be free. Honor Christ; be free even if it means taking what society deems as risky.

  13. I’m really diggin’ what everyone has to say here! I especially resonate with Cathy as this is the journey I’ve recently found myself being invited to take. One where the poor in spirit are blessed and love looks a lot like getting in the dirt and making myself vulnerable. I find myself needing salvation every single day (that smashed my small lil cosmos).

    It all brings me back to the simplicity (well not really) of what Jesus spoke when He said that everything is summed up in loving G-d and loving others. That everyone would know…why move on from here?

    What if we modeled what the culture longed to become and could actually manifest true & pure love? What if we could show the world what real beauty looks like, from the inside out? So counterintuitive to live this! What if we could show ppl the inner life of Christ because the Creator of all that is good has been formed inside [us]? What if we really did believe that G-d loved the whole world…and had this nifty lil plan to love them by living [His inner life] through us?

    What if, what if, what if 🙂

  14. Scott Mawdesley Says:

    Wow Ron! So excited for you and proud of how God is using you in these conversations! My thoughts for you are out of where God has me growing personally right now. I guess I am concerned in my own life about how I have embraced and gone after the external things of ministry and our world (call it consumerism or celebrity) without first turning inward to the much harder work of making sure this journey with Christ actually works in real life for me. It is soooo easy to look at what must be done for the cause of Christ and to forget that the only really effective doing is anchored in my soul walking closely with the Lord. There is no faking when it is working or not working: What is my wife seeing in me? What do my kids see? Are those around me being drawn to a deeper understanding of God’s love through who I am? Are my neighbors and coworkers who don’t care about Christ seeing something and engaging me in conversations and with questions? I know we all have gaps, but will it be cracks or chasms? I think we have to move Christian leaders and followers back toward a state of living, moving and having our very being in Christ and I don’t think we have been diligent enough in the church about helping people get there…maybe it’s because we have had a hard time as leaders getting there ourselves? Don’t know for sure, but what I do know, as a good friend of mine says, that “if it ain’t workin at home, don’t export it!” Not sure if this is helpful for your talk, but it is fresh for me and feels important. I will be praying for you and for this trip my friend! S.

  15. What if ecumenism were taken seriously, not as a movement to re-unite the denominations, but as a way to unify our efforts to broadcast God’s love?
    What if we threw out legalism and embraced mysticism? Go back to the mythos of our faith – the power rather than the rules?
    What if we made grace and sacrifice the focal points rather than holiness and salvation?

  16. Dale Cohen Says:

    I think the new reformations will radiate from the principle of co-existence. What does it mean for us to co-exist with God, with creation (environmentally, geologically, meteorologically), with a global and radically diverse community (i.e. culturally, politically, economically, spiritually), with old ideas that won’t die (i.e. dogmas, prejudices), with new ideas that challenge our sensibilities and sensitivities, and with our Selves that are forced to integrate our experience at an ever-quickening pace? Co-existing with all of these will either propel us into some reformations or lure us back into some inquisitions.

  17. Ron what an awesome opportunity to meet with other generals in Gods army the thought of what could come out of that group could not only be reformational but probably needs to be revolutionary as well. I have no idea how we let the church get away from what church is supposed to be. Community, sharing, giving, loving the unlovable being a support system for lost people. Instead were pretty much in the state of hyper individualism.

    I think what Sal and Nancy said is really very basic and true stuff that the church needs to get back to listening and loving. I would only add forgiveness is needed as well. Without forgiveness I believe love and listening can’t exist. We don’t forgive ourselves let alone forgive others. We really need a church that has all three with no hidden agenda’s just caring about lost people and loving them all unconditionally.

  18. Wow, I LOVED reading through the comments. If this is the conversation flowing through the church right now, the next reformation is going to be AMAZING!

  19. Just the words “Wittenberg Door” send shivers up and down my spine. What an amazing opportunity.

    I think the church could be turned upside down if they replaced their concept of “my church” with “the kingdom.” Once the territorial boundaries are broken down and hands shake “across the aisle” God’s work just becomes so much wider, broader, more mysterious.

    When it is all for the kingdom, there is no jealousy, no sense that every church must follow this model or that, no censure for travelers walking in a smaller group or a larger group. It is all for the kingdom and the King.

    If we truly grasped the breadth of God’s work our small issues would fade to mere signposts along the way, irrelevant to the larger work, the best work.

    Bring back the report, Ron.

  20. A change of format. Ever since before Constantine we’ve operated under a Western/Greek style of teaching/discipleship when Christ and the Apostles operated about of a Eastern/Hebrew understanding. One of the major lacks in today’s Church is a depth of understanding and maturity in the Spirit. Perhaps this is because we take in vast amounts of spoken and/or written information but don’t do anything with it. Christ discipled the 12 through intimate discussion and challenges to their worldview. This is what makes Christ ministry so outstanding-He challenge the “why” of things rather than just the “what.”

  21. Jesus – for us, in us, through us.

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