The Protestant Reformation (which began in 1517, back in the day when the priest was the smartest person in town) made some very effective changes in the way church was done. Those changes helped to create a spiritual revolution and have been mightily used by God for almost 500 years.
In 1517, a monk named Martin Luther published 95 ideas for changing the way traditional church was being done. (His ideas also changed theology, but that is a different story.) The traditional church at that time in Western Europe was the Roman Catholic Church.
Sunday worship in the Roman Catholic Church was called Mass and centered around an altar that held the Eucharist (the bread and wine that the Catholic church taught became the literal body and blood of Jesus Christ when blessed by a priest). Repeating ancient liturgy (a fixed set of ceremonies and words) to honor the Eucharist and then having a priest serve it to the people in the congregation was the main focus of the church meeting. Sometimes a homily (a short talk that followed the reading of Scripture) was given by a priest from a lectern located beyond the side of the altar.
According to Google, the homily was “primarily for spiritual edification rather than doctrinal instruction.” Religious images and statues that decorated the church buildings were intended to teach the people. Bibles were very rare before the printing press was invented around 1445. For centuries afterwards very few people knew how to read. They desperately needed someone to explain the Bible to them.
Martin Luther believed that the way church was being done was not as biblical or as effective in maturing Christ-followers as it could be. The ideas Luther presented sparked a revolution in the way church was done in Protestant churches:
- Most of the liturgy was removed from church meetings and most of the statues and images were taken out.
- The every Sunday Eucharist was removed and replaced with occasional Communion which was no longer seen as the literal body and blood of Jesus.
- The altar was reduced in size and was no longer the center of the meeting.
- The lectern was replaced with a pulpit that was given the prominent place in the church building, usually behind and above the altar.
- The homily was replaced by a weekly sermon that focused on doctrinal instruction and became the central focus of the meeting.
- The primary role of the people was no longer to receive the Eucharist and participate in the liturgy, but to listen to religious instruction.
Now that those changes have been in effect in Protestant churches for 499 years, what is the best way we can celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation in 2017? Perhaps that would be to update some of those changes for the 21st Century.
In 1517 the preacher was the smartest guy in town and often was the only person who could read. There were few Bibles and very few people knew much about it. So the Reformation created a spiritual revolution by making Bible knowledge available to common people through sermons.
However, in 2016 most people can read and Bibles are very easy to come by. Technology has given us incredible Bible study tools. People can hear a sermon anytime and anywhere — on TV, radio, YouTube, smart phones. Millions of Christ-followers are walking away from hearing Sunday sermons and calling themselves “Dones.” Our culture has become highly participatory and interactive.
Perhaps we it’s time for a brand new reformation based on 1 Corinthians 14:26 that instructs us to allow everybody present the freedom to speak out church meetings. Perhaps, like the Protestant reformers, we need to go beyond church as usual.
Check out Beyond Church: An Invitation To Experience The Lost Word Of The Bible–Ekklesia at this link.