Three practical ways to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation

  • Mark Gilbert
  • 2 January 2017
Stepping Out in Faith

If you are at peace with God because you believe the sacrifice of Jesus has assured you of eternal life…

If you know God clearly and directly because you have been taught how to read the Bible for yourself…

If you relate to God personally through his Spirit who dwells in your heart, and not through some other mediator…

If you are eternally united to your Father by adoption and therefor united to every other Christian as a spiritual brother or sister regardless of denomination or institution…

Then you really do have reason to celebrate the wisdom and the sacrifices of the Reformers and those who followed—who held onto these truths despite persistent opposition even to this day.

But what is the best way to celebrate? To give gifts of course!

When we have received so much, it is easy to give.

I grew up as a committed Roman Catholic, and when I first discovered these truths I was very angry. How dare those who put themselves forward as the spokesmen of God and shepherds of his sheep so carelessly—if not deliberately and persistently—misrepresent these truths that are so plainly spoken of in the Scriptures. But over time I realized that there was nothing special about me that I should come to understand and believe these things: it was all God’s grace. So I decided to commit my life to being generous to my Catholic neighbours and family and friends, so that they might know these truths too.

Can I suggest that one of the best ways you could celebrate the Reformation is to recommit yourself to sharing these truths with your Catholic friends… many of whom are searching.

In the popular TV series from a couple of years ago, Judith Lucy’s Spiritual Journey, Judith Lucy went to school convinced she’d become a nun, but by the time she’d left school she was a committed atheist. Now she is convinced that there is something between these two extremes—she just doesn’t have a clue what it is. This series struck a nerve amongst a large proportion of Australians: non-practicing, searching Catholics.

As an ex-Catholic who spent 30 years in the Catholic Church, here are my three top tips to effectively share the gospel with Catholics:

  1. Keep inviting Catholics to belong to things: youth groups, Bible study groups, mothers groups, your church, sporting groups, or even just to belong to you. Catholics are taught that religion is all about belonging to the Catholic Church. By inviting them to belong to these other things you can help them to belong to God.
  2. Keep sharing your story with them: what it is like for you to be a Christian; how you became one; how it changes your life now. Catholics are taught to look for religious experiences (especially through the sacraments, which for them are physical experiences of God), so share your experience with them. When you do it often opens up questions like “How can you be sure you are going to heaven?” and “When you read the Bible, how does it make sense to you?”
  3. Show them how to read the Bible for themselves. For me, in order to leave the Catholic Church, I needed to trust my ability to read and understand the Bible more than I trusted the priest. Your Catholic friend may not trust you, but they will usually trust the Bible. If you can show them how to read it, God’s word will do all the work.

There are currently some great tools to help Christians read the Bible with people who are not used to reading it for themselves. The Word One to One is a fantastic tool, and very popular with Catholics. It was produced by a London insurance broker and based on the sermon notes of William Taylor from St Helen's Bishopsgate, one of the leading evangelical teachers in London. The booklets divide John’s Gospel into coffee-break-size chunks, with some very helpful notes that enable almost any Christian to read the Bible with their Catholic friend. In fact, Catholics are much more likely to say yes to an invitation to read the Bible than anyone else you might ask, because they still believe it is the word of God.

So there you have it. If you really want to celebrate all you’ve received from God, especially the things that were fought for and held on to in the Reformation, then keep sharing this gift with the Catholics in your life. Keep inviting them to belong to things, keep sharing your story with them, and keep showing them how to read the Bible for themselves—because if by God’s grace they receive the gift, the celebration will go on forever!