Ulrich Zwingli

*Excerpt from the book: 131 Christians Everyone Should Know

Militant Swiss reformer

“For God’s sake, do not put yourself at odds with the Word of God. For truly it will persist as surely as the Rhine follows its course. One can perhaps dam it up for awhile, but it is impossible to stop it.”

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Ulrich Zwingli, the city chaplain, stood before the Zurich City Council in January 1523. The winds of reform had made their way over the Alps from Luther’s Germany, and Zwingli was arguing 67 theses, beginning with “All who say that the gospel is invalid without the confirmation of the church err and slander God.” Though 28 shy of Luther’s 95 Theses, published some six years earlier, Zwingli’s arguments were more persuasive: authorities gave him permission to continue his preaching, which emphasized Christ first and the church second (“Christ is the only mediator between God and ourselves,” said another of Zwingli’s theses). The Reformation in Switzerland was now well on its way, and Zwingli would play the key role in the early years.

Línea de Tiempo.pngAnxious for his charge

Zwingli was born to a successful farmer in the Toggaburg Valley of the eastern lower Alps. Here Zwingli developed a deep love for his homeland. Later he translated one line of Psalm 23, “In the beautiful Alps, he tends me,” and he used the Rhine River as an illustration of a key theme of his preaching: “For God’s sake, do not put yourself at odds with the Word of God. For truly it will persist as surely as the Rhine follows its course. One can perhaps dam it up for awhile, but it is impossible to stop it.”

But it took Zwingli years to discover the power of this Word. After graduating from the University of Basel in 1506, he became a parish priest in Glarus. From the beginning, he took his priestly duties seriously. He later wrote, “Though I was young, ecclesiastical duties inspired in me more fear than joy, because I knew, and remain convinced that I would give an account of the blood of the sheep which would perish as a consequence of my carelessness.”

The feeling of responsibility for his charge (rather than, like Luther, a personal search for salvation) motivated Zwingli’s increasing interest in the Bible. In an age when priests were often unfamiliar with the Scriptures, Zwingli became enamored with it, first after purchasing a copy of Erasmus’s New Testament Latin translation. He began teaching himself Greek, bought a copy of Erasmus’s Greek New Testament, and started memorizing long passages. In 1519 he began preaching from the New Testament regularly.

Privately Zwingli also started challenging the customs of medieval Christendom he thought unbiblical. He had struggled with clerical celibacy for some time (and even admitted that as a young priest, he’d had an affair). In 1522 he secretly married. That same year, he broke the traditional Lenten fast (by eating sausages in public) and wrote against fasting.

By 1523 he was ready to take his ideas to a larger audience, and in January he did just that before the Zurich City Council at what is now called the First Disputation. The Second Disputation came in October, and with further approval from the council, more reforms were carried out: images of Jesus, Mary, and the saints were removed from the churches; the Bible was to have preeminence.

Arguments over Supper

Things moved rapidly after that. In 1524 he wedded his wife publicly, insisting that pastors had the right to marry. In 1525 he and others convinced the city to abolish the Mass, with its emphasis on the miracle of transubstantiation, and replace it with a simple service that included the Lord’s Supper but only as a symbolic memorial.

As it turned out, it was the Lord’s Supper that prevented the uniting of the German and Swiss reform movements. At a 1529 meeting at Marburg, called to unite the two movements, Luther and Zwingli met. Though they agreed on 14 points of doctrine, they stumbled on the fifteenth: the Lord’s Supper. Against Zwingli’s view, Luther insisted on Christ’s literal presence. Zwingli balked. Luther said Zwingli was of the devil and that he was nothing but a wormy nut. Zwingli resented Luther’s treating him “like an ass.” It was evident no reconciliation was possible.

Zwingli died two years later in battle, defending Zurich against Catholic forces, and plans for spreading the Reformation into German Switzerland were ended. Still Zurich remained Protestant, and under the leadership of Heinrich Bullinger, Zwingli’s successor, this unique branch of the Reformation continued to blossom.

This article was originally published at: Christianity Today

Hus’ Last Words

*Excerpt from Five Minutes in Church History by Dr. Stephen Nichols.

This month we are celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation by writing various reflections concerning this momentous occasion and its influence.  Dr. Stephen Nichols does the same thing in his Five Minutes in Church History, a podcast I highly recommend.  The following is an excerpt from his October 4, 2017 episode: The Goose and the Swan.

Jan Hus was a forerunner of the Protestant Reformation. Hus was from Prague in Bohemia, or what is now the Czech Republic. He served at Bethlehem Chapel in Prague. He was charged with several great crimes against the church, the first of which was that he preached in the Czech language rather than in Latin. He also refused to wear the clerical garb of the medieval church because he believed it contributed to an illegitimate distinction between clergy and laity. Finally, he was also in favor of congregational singing and desired the reform of the church.

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He was greatly influenced by the writings of John Wycliffe. Eventually, Hus’ own writings and influence drew the attention of church officials, and he was summoned to the Council of Constance. There, he was condemned as a heretic. Actually, the council condemned him as a heresiarch—an arch-heretic. He was led about a kilometer outside the city and was martyred by burning at the stake.

Hus’ last words are important. He declared that he would die trusting in the gospel that he had proclaimed and taught. Then he told his executioners that they could burn the goose (his surname means “goose” in Czech), but a hundred years later, a swan would come whom they would be incapable of killing.

Hus was almost a true prophet. It wasn’t exactly a hundred years later, but rather a hundred and two years later, that Martin Luther posted his Ninety-Five Theses to the church door at Wittenberg.

Johannes Zacharias was Hus’ fiercest opponent at the Council of Constance, and he was buried under the slab in the Augustinian monastery in Erfurt where Luther was ordained as a priest. At that monastery, Luther studied not just the traditions of the past but also the Word of God. Out of that study, the Reformation began.

 

Luther Before Luther

I have recently become fascinated by the backstories of great leaders throughout history.

Growing up, I studied in school the presidency of Abraham Lincoln and the political influence of Martin Luther King, Jr.  Today, students around the world research Gandhi’s brave pacifism and Wangari Maathai’s contribution to democracy and sustainable development.  These are history-makers, and we rightly need to know when and how they transformed entire nations.

However, oftentimes there is very little attention given to the making of these giants.  Did anyone know who they would become? Could they see in a child or young adult the seed of something great? And how was that seed sown and watered so that its fruit would be evident to all decades later?

Essentially, I am asking, “Who were these world-changers before the world even knew it was being changed?”

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During the month of October 2017, we are celebrating the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.  The one man most responsible for this revolution is Martin Luther.  We know about the 95 Theses and the Lutheran Church.  His proclamation at the Diet of Worms (“Here I stand!”) is renowned and we can read his extensive writings.  But how did he become what he became?

Holly Hausler explores Martin’s childhood and education more extensively, but for our purposes I will highlight three interesting parts of Luther’s upbringing.

First, all accounts agree that Luther grew up with strict parents and stringent schooling.  He was taught to follow rules and was punished harshly if he did not.  This environment certainly fostered the essential discipline necessary for Martin to later examine the Scriptures deeply and meticulously.  Why did the Church he loved not adhere to what he saw in Scripture?

I also wonder what his strict education had to do with his understanding of grace.  Success in studies, and perhaps all of life, came down to following the rules, and “Martin’s teachers did not consider him a model pupil.” Having grown up with parents and teachers – and then his Church! – all telling him to sit straight and stop questioning authority undoubtedly cultivated in him a longing to be freed from day-to-day validation based on works.  How marvelous for him to discover that “toeing the line” would not save him, but only grace alone!

Second, as a young student in Eisenach, Germany, Luther loved music and actually put this love to a practical use.  He and his classmates would sing door to door welcoming small donations and bread crumbs.  He had to sing for his supper, so to speak. There we find little Martin on the street corner saying, Panum propter Deum, “Bread, for God’s sake.” Martin Luther a beggar?! Martin Luther singing humbly with an empty stomach?!  It is not the view we have of the iconic Reformer.  Yet, how did those moments on the street corner mold and shape him in his faith and later ministry?

Third, on July 2, 1505, he was caught in a terrible thunderstorm on his way to Erfurt, Germany. Some accounts claim that he was even struck by lightning. Stephen Nichols writes that Luther thought that God was out to get him, to take his very soul. He cried out, “Help me, and I will become a monk,” calling on the patron saint of miners (his father was a miner). Despite his extensive studies in law (he had earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees) and the anger of his father, Luther kept his vow. He turned over his law books to his friends, threw a party, and two weeks later entered the Augustinian monastery.

This is Luther before he became LUTHER.  These are moments in his early years that left an indelible mark on his character and calling.  They are glimpses into the Reformer while he was still being formed.

Could there be a reformer in your midst disguised as a hungry child who has trouble following the rules?

Have you had trouble seeing how God has been leading you through seemingly insignificant experiences? What are the instances in your formative years that have drawn you into a higher calling?

The Protestant Reformation 500 Years Later

“Whether by day or by night, whenever the cloud lifted, they set out…At the Lord’s command they encamped, and at the Lord’s command they set out.  They obeyed the Lord’s order, in accordance with his command through Moses” (Numbers 9:21, 23).

October 2017 is a special month. It marks the five-hundredth anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. The end of this month, October 31, will be five hundred years to the day since Martin Luther nailed the Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. This was the act that started it all, that started the grand and vast movement of Protestantism, that started the Reformation.

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In the evangelical church – and in the Church of the Nazarene specifically – we have obviously been greatly impacted by the Reformation.  If you have ever asked, “Why do we do this or that in the Church?”, many times the answer comes in large part due to the Protestant Reformation.

During the entirety of this month, we will be focusing on this anniversary. At times we will dive into the lives of the Reformers.  Other times we will focus on the core tenets of the Reformation (keep an eye out for the “5 Solas”). The primary purpose will be to help us learn about and reflect upon this enormously important event and how it has brought us to this moment in history as a Christian Church.

At the same time, a secondary purpose is also at work.  By dedicating a month to this topic, I hope that we will recognize that we are a Church that is always willing to evaluate itself and make adjustments as needed.  We have not always been good at that through history, have we? The Church has often been the last entity in society that is willing to change.

Thus, through this month I pray that we would renew our calling to reform, beginning with ourselves.  Just as the post-Exodus Israelites needed to be ready in any moment to follow the cloud, may we be so attuned to God’s presence that we willingly move and adapt at his prompting.  Lord, begin a reformation in me, and in us!

8 Good Questions to Evaluate Your Church

By Dan Reiland

It’s easy to get so busy doing ministry that you don’t take the time to evaluate your ministry.

But evaluation is how you get better.

It’s like your annual physical. No one wants to get a check-up, blood work, and maybe a test or two, but that’s how you learn what you need to know.

Then, of course, you need to act on what you learn.

The 4-point plan to get better:

  • Ask the right questions.
  • Give honest answers in a group process.
  • Determine the best-prioritized plan for improvement.
  • Take action.

It starts with asking the right questions.

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8 good questions that will help your ministry get better:

1) How is the unique culture of your church helping you make progress?

Sam Chand wrote an excellent book titled Breaking Your Church’s Culture Code. He states that more than vision, programs, money, or staff, culture has the greatest impact on your church’s future.

How would you describe your culture? Is it what you want? Is your church culture helping or hurting as you pursue God’s purpose for your church? What changes do you need to make? If the culture is healthy, what practices are in place to stay healthy?

2) How would you describe the overall morale of your church?

Are the people happy with your church? That question seems very subjective but is surprisingly easy to answer.

Do they trust the leadership? Are they fired-up about the mission? Are they passionate about following Jesus? Is there momentum? Are problems solved with relative ease (without significant resistance? You get the idea.

Morale and culture are closely linked. If you are struggling and the culture and morale are not ideal, I urge you to pour your leadership energy there first.

3) What is your approach to spiritual formation in your church?

Is there an overall sense that people are pursuing God? It’s not about perfection, but do you see progress? What factors do you consider important to help assess spiritual maturity?

Consider things like prayer, serving others, obedience, and financial generosity. How about the fruit of the Spirit like love, joy, and peace, etc.?

Do you utilize small groups? How is community developed? What priority does biblical truth hold? A great overall approach to assess spiritual growth is to gather stories of life change.

4) Are you developing new leaders?

Next to the favor of God, everything rises and falls on leadership. Do the leaders in your church demonstrate a strong spiritual depth and a servant’s heart? What is your plan to find and develop new and better leaders? You will not realize your potential as a church without a serious dedication to this process.

5) How would you describe the strength of your volunteer teams?

Are your volunteers part of vibrant and productive teams or a struggling band of survivors? Much of that depends on how you select, train, encourage and empower your volunteers. Do you recruit to a vision or just to get a task done?

All churches face the pressure of needing people to volunteer to serve, but how you build teams makes a significant difference. How would you rate the overall esprit de corps of your volunteer ministries? What is the first best step to strengthen your teams?

6) What are the financial indicators telling you?

It is relatively easy to measure results when it comes to money. The weekly offering defines reality. At the same time, one of the largest challenges a leader will ever face is successfully inspiring the people to trust God with their finances and remain faithful to generous giving.

Are you bold in your teaching of God’s truth about money? Do you offer practical training about money management? Do you personally model generosity? Where are you stronger regarding money, faith or practice?

7) Are you on mission?

You must first be clear about the purpose of your church. What is your mission/vision – exactly? Does your congregation have a good sense of what it is? Are you acting on that mission?

It’s essential that your leaders become and remain aligned together in that mission. It will always feel like you are swimming upstream if you are not headed in the same direction.

8) Do your people enthusiastically invite others to your worship services?

I have coached churches where the people had obviously lukewarm feelings about the worship service. They were not motivated to invite someone even if they had a friend they wanted to bring.

It’s not always the worship service, but it starts there. Is there anything about your church that would cause your congregation to pause about inviting their friends?

This is a huge evangelistic combination. If your people are committed to the vision enough to invite people to church, and your worship experience (from nursery to invitation) is worth inviting people to – that is the combination you work toward!

I trust these questions will be helpful to you and the health of your church.

I pray God’s wisdom for your leadership and His favor upon you!

This article was originally published at: danreiland.com

 

Practical Points For Leading Difficult People

This is part two of the article published in the previous post written by Dan Reiland.

1) Discover what is underneath.

When a person becomes difficult, and the situation seems to persist, try setting the issue aside and take the conversation to a more personal level. 

Get “underneath” the obvious to discover if there is something deeper. My favorite go-to question is “What is really bothering you here?” It’s important to ask that question in a kind and caring way. 

When you connect with the real issue, it’s much easier to love and lead someone. 

2) Manage your own emotions well.

It’s vital to remain emotionally self-aware and in control. When you lose control, you lose. 

This does not mean to become bottled up and detached, but of all the things that could make the list in the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, kindness, forbearance, goodness, faithfulness gentleness, self-control is included! (Galatians 5:22)

When you become angry, you forfeit your leadership.

You can’t stop someone from pushing your buttons, but you don’t have to descend to their level.

Here’s a practical plan for when a difficult person is getting to you.

• Count to 5.

• Lower your volume.

• Sit back in your chair.

• Speak deliberately.

• Call time out if you need to.

Hot heads never win in the long run. 

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3) Set limits and boundaries.

So far, I’ve emphasized our approach with difficult people. How we manage our heart, thoughts, and emotions. 

But some people are just plain difficult nearly all the time. We don’t want to be around them, and it can be hard to love them.

Boundaries and limits are healthy and necessary. Here are the boundaries I use.

My first boundary is respect. The person can disagree with me, and express dissatisfaction with my leadership, but it must be respectful. 

My second boundary is alignment. We need to agree on the overall mission and head in the same direction. It cannot become all about their personal agenda.

My third boundary is progress. Difficult conversations are part of leadership, and it’s not uncommon to get stuck for awhile. But soon we need to make progress! 

4) Communicate clear expectations.

Setting clear expectations is vital to working with a difficult person. 

Think through what is needed for a healthy relationship, and progress in ministry and make that clear. 

5) Lead them to higher ground.

This is your opportunity to encourage and inspire.

It’s not about selling and winning, don’t close a deal like you’re in sales.

Help them see themselves and the situation differently and for their good!

  • • Establish common ground.
  • • Communicate their value. Affirm the person.
  • • Point toward the bigger vision.
  • • Warn them of the consequences of continuing in the same path.

6) Pick your battles.

Sometimes people will knock on your door with the intention of “picking a fight.” And sometimes the situation escalates to the level of a battle. 

Always ask yourself, does this battle need to be fought? Sometimes it’s important to set it aside to climb a bigger hill. 

7) Focus on solutions.

Resolution of some kind is needed. 

Productive solutions are best. 

The worst thing is to leave a situation in a mess. Someone needs to clean it up. If you don’t, someone else must. 

Two crucial questions that help bring insight and resolution:

  • • What would you like me to do differently?
  • • What do you want?

When you know what the person wants, you can be clear about whether or not you will be able to comply. In the end, sometimes you must say no and hold your ground. And sometimes you should remove the person from leadership.

There will always be difficult people you are responsible for leading. How you lead them can change you, them, and the church for good!

This article was originally published at: Danreliand.com

 

 

The Challenge is Urban

By Scott Armstrong

Last week I had the privilege of being in Panama where several leaders were gathered to brainstorm solutions for more effective ministry in three areas:

  • Urban Mission
  • Youth
  • Children

These areas have been declared our regional emphases in Mesoamerica for the upcoming Quadrennial.  And rightly so: although great things are currently taking place in each of these ministries, we have a long way to go before we see an explosion of fruit all across the region among children, youth, and our cities.

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I’m sure you have listened to our Worthless Servants podcast recently (if you haven’t, seriously, what are you doing with your life?), and you know we have addressed all three of these issues in various episodes.  However, for the sake of this article, let’s focus on urban mission.

If you have heard my wife and I speak recently in any service or event, you know that we are banging the drum for urban mission.  Our ministry is GENESIS after all, where the mission is to make Christlike disciples in the urban centers of Mesoamerica.  We are sending missionaries to 28 strategic cities so that they may plant churches and impact communities with little or no Nazarene presence.  And it is happening!

Still, I admit that the influence a team of four workers can have in a city of 1 million+ is limited.  And what about the other cities that have not been identified as the 28 strategic, urgent sites that will receive missionaries? It is clear that our whole region needs a genesis and it will not come solely because of a dedicated volunteer missionary force.

This very week while we were in Panama, we received from Dale Jones in Nazarene Research (love them!) a list of all of the cities in the Mesoamerica Region with 100,000 or more in population.  The findings are intriguing and yet staggering:

  1. General statistics show that 72% of Mesoamerica lives in an urban area (this includes several cities of less than 100,000 that are still considered urban). Nearly 3 out of every four of us is an urbanite! When you think of urban, you may think of New York, Beijing, or Tokyo. But we are the region with the highest percentage of urban dwellers.
  2. In just two years we have grown from 169 cities with 100,000 people or more to 182 fitting that description. All over the world people are moving to the big city in droves, and our region is no exception.
  3. Of these 182 metropolises, 115 are in one country: Mexico. One. Five.  Reaching the cities of our region means especially reaching the cities of Mexico, many of which have no Nazarene church.
  4. After Mexico, the four countries that have the most cities with population of 100,000 or more are: Cuba (16), Dominican Republic (9), Haiti (8), and Nicaragua (7). In other words, 155 of the 182 biggest cities in our region are in FIVE countries. Would you pray specifically for urban impact in those five countries?
  5. The total population in Mesoamerica is 223 million. 42 million of us live in cities with greater than 100,000 people.  That’s 54%More of us live in a huge city than don’t.  Shouldn’t this effect the way we equip our leaders for ministry?

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  6. If the majority of our population lives in a big city, then that’s where all our Nazarenes are, too, right? Wrong. Only 32% of our members live in a city of over 100,000 people.  That’s 129,354 out of 406,000 total Nazarenes.

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  7. #5 and #6 above cause me to reflect: I know that we have many Nazarene members in these cities already and I praise the Lord for their witness. However, there is no doubt that in the great majority of these urban settings, we lack a true presence as a Church of the Nazarene.  Having a church building and holding services every week will not cut it.  In order to impact the city, sacrificial, creative, and missional discipleship will be required in the days ahead.
  8. A significant number of these 182 cities have recently been affected adversely by devastating natural disasters. Could it be that our entryway into these cities would come through comforting those who have lost all in hurricanes or earthquakes? Could it be that – even without natural disasters – acting as agents of compassion would be the healthy way to impact our cities anyway?

My intention is not to overwhelm you with statistics.  I recognize that each observation above must be digested thoughtfully for greatest understanding, and I pray you would do so!  Honestly, I share all of this not just to inform, but also to invite you to be a part of this initiative.

Would you pray?

Would you give?

Would you go and impact an urban context right where you are or even far away?

Comment below if God is turning your focus toward the city.  Communicate with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or at MesoamericaGenesis.org.  Listen to our podcast and tell others about it so the conversation about these topics spreads.

We need your help.  The statistics are clear and the call of God is clearer: let’s bring a genesis to the urban centers of Mesoamerica.