In the Christian world, most laymen (meaning a nonordained member of a church) know about Martin Luther, the 95 theses he nailed to a church door in Wittenberg, and the succeeding Reformation. But most likely, that’s about it.
The 500th anniversary of the Reformation reached its pinnacle in October. In honor of this history, here’s the historic impact and future evangelistic potential of the Reformation in three European countries.
Germany: Reforming the Church
Wittenberg, Germany, coined ‟̎Die Lutherstadt” (Luther’s City), is where the Reformation began and thus will always have a place in church history. For this 500th year celebration, it’s also become a major tourist hub with millions pilgriming to the very door where Luther (perhaps unknowingly) changed history.
Although hailed as a revolutionary, and manipulated by many in the future to support their own ideologies, modern histories paint Luther as a reformer rather than a rebel.
“The most accurate historical accounts, however, suggest that Luther was not a rebel. He was not trying to undermine the Catholic Church or start his own new denomination. What he was trying to do was “reform” the church, freeing it from practices he considered to be unbiblical,” says Lynn, an OC worker who’s served in Germany.
The “reform” idea that gives the Reformation its name is a thought worth preserving today. Many churches today, whether Catholic, Lutheran, or any other denomination, need reform – the reform that only comes from the truth of Jesus Christ.
Will you pray with us for the church in Germany?
- Pray that the transforming grace of Jesus Christ would saturate the nation and believers would be able to speak God’s truth to their neighbors.
- Pray for a bold “reformation” attitude rooted in Truth from the nation’s Christian leaders and that this spirit would be gravitational to unchurched peoples.
Austria: Embracing Unity
The Reformation has had quite the impact on the church in Austria, both historically and in modern times. Historically, it’s one of death and exile, but in modern times is one of unity and grace that only comes from Christ.
“The Reformation happened and converted 95% of the population to the teachings of the reformers. The 5% that remained faithful to the Catholic church were the monarchy and the army. Leading to the Thirty Years War beginning in 1618, also known as the Counter-Reformation. This war saw many protestants murdered, exiled to other countries, or enduring other manners of persecution. By the end of the Thirty Years War, 95% of the populace was returned to the fold of the Catholic church,” says Don, an OC Global Alliance mission worker serving in Austria.
This history has created a split in the church in Austria and frankly a deep distrust of the “established” church. However, the Reformation took on new meaning about 30 years ago when a new Cardinal of the Catholic Church was instated.
“Christoph Schonborn was a man for ecumenism or as we would say it, unity … a true unity that centered on the Lordship of Christ through repentance of sin and the opening of the heart for Jesus to become Lord. He was highly interested in seeing a fellowship of Catholics and Protestants working together,” Don says.
This desire for unity led to “the way of reconciliation/roundtable,” which seeks to bring unity among believers, those who have given their lives over to Jesus.
“(The history of) the reformation/counter reformation led us to repent for the sins of the church and we have, in a profound sense, a unified church here in the country,” Don says.
Will you pray with us for believers in Austria?
- Pray for the unified church and her work in Austria. Some well-respected prophetic people speak of the work of unity here being a leading influence of unity among all the nations of Europe. Praise the Lord for the open doors for unity developing in the last year.
- Pray for the Evangelical church to have open hearts and spirits to their true brothers in the faith in the Catholic and Lutheran churches. In the past, this has been a great area of distrust from the Evangelical churches.
Ukraine: Spreading the Gospel
The history of the Reformation is not as deeply saturated in Ukrainian history as it is in Western Europe; however, the celebration of its anniversary has brought people to Christ.
A public celebration took place in downtown Kiev that brought the gospel message to 400,000 people. “The event was the largest downtown Christian evangelistic event since the beginning of Ukrainian independence in the early 1990’s. It culminated with Nick Vujicic sharing and giving a great gospel presentation,” says Joel, an OC worker in Ukraine.
Organizers estimate that 75,000 people responded to the gospel message!
Will you pray for Ukraine with us?
- Pray the gospel would continue to reach the hearts of the Ukrainian people.
- Pray the seeds that were planted during this celebration would grow and spread into true discipleship.