Commemorating the penning of Luther’s 95 Theses
In October 1517, Martin Luther penned his famous and church-shaking 95 Theses in Wittenberg, Germany. By Oct. 31, the list was complete and a copy was delivered to archbishop Albert of Mainz, or nailed to the thick oak door of the Castle Church of Wittenberg, depending on which version you wish to accept (probably both happened).
The 95 Theses were written in Latin and kick-started the Protestant Reformation into existence (although Luther’s primary goal was to reform the Catholic Church of many abuses such as nepotism, simony, usury, the sale of indulgences and the authority of the Pope).
In just a few short years the 500th Anniversary of the 95 Theses will take place. Will the church in America be ready or even take notice of this great event?
I see here a prime opportunity for the church in America to commemorate the writing of the 95 and to also present church history to their people. Here are several suggestions which could be used to give your people a “Church History” year they will never forget.
• First, the pastor and church leaders should catch a vision on why this event is so important.
• Second, form a committee in early 2016 and formulate your plans.
• Third, one Wednesday a month present a lesson on the life and ministry of Martin Luther.
• Fourth, have a reading list of four or five church history books that could be passed around during the year.
• Fifth, make or buy large banners and keep them on the platform for the entire year.
• Sixth, make or buy small 95 Theses booklets; pass them out or have them available in your foyer.
• Seventh, the Sunday school teachers and pastor should insert many church history illustrations into their teaching.
• Eighth, the youth department can present church history skits at various times during the year.
• Ninth, at least once a month, the congregation can sing “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.”
• Tenth, studies of many other Reformation leaders could be presented.
• Eleventh, as another prop, make a Wittenberg Church door and post the 95 Theses on the door.
• Twelfth, every Sunday the pastor could read at least five theses; some of these could make great preaching outlines.
• Thirteenth, in October themes such as justification by faith could be presented from the pulpit.
• Finally, on the last Sunday before the 31st, the pastor could dress like Martin Luther and preach on salvation by faith alone.
Other ideas include: have a Reformation weekend and invite a Bible college professor to speak; or have a Bible College professor come and speak on how the King James Bible was translated; study the hymns of that time period and have your choir sing them; use your imagination.
Promote your church by promoting your events, contact your local newspapers, and get excited about the 95 Theses. Remember, the church in America exists today because a little German monk challenged the authority and practices of the established church.
2017 could be an exciting church year if we take time to commemorate one of the greatest events in church history: the writing of the 95 Theses.
Sid Stewart is a minister from Trinity and holds a PhD in Religion (Bible) from Bethany Divinity College and Seminary.