As we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, it is important to reflect on the faithfulness of our churches today with the same Reformation spirit that Luther and the other reformers looked upon the church of their day. We need to ask ourselves the important questions in evaluation of our life and ministry: are we, the church of today, a faithful expression of God's intention for his followers? In what ways
would God smile down on us and in what ways have we fallen short of God's call as Christ's bride?
For some the answer is clear: the church in America has lost its way. Some might go so far as to say the issues that the church in America faces today are as big or bigger than the issues the reformers faced in Europe 500 years ago. As I work with congregations in renewal workshops, the question has often been raised, "How has the church in America gotten so
far off course?"
In response, I like to share an illustration I first heard from a pastor I used to work with, John Bradosky, now bishop of the North American Lutheran Church. John had taken lessons to become a private pilot and he explained the importance of checking your heading. If a pilot were to have a slight error in his or her heading, the plane would be significantly off course several hours into a flight plan. This is what I believe happens to our churches when we put ministry on auto-pilot: we may start off only slightly off course, but a generation or two without checking our heading and we are a long ways off from where God would want us to be!
So in the spirit of the great reformers, I invite you and your church to check your heading. Are we where God wants us to be? Are we going where God wants us to go? What course corrections do we need to make in order to get headed in the right direction? What areas of our church life together have become false idols and taken the place of the mission and discipleship to which God calls us?
In Revelation 2, we read of the message that God has for the church in Ephesus. First he praises them for the ways they have been faithful in their hard work and protecting truth in teaching. But then in verses 4-5 God gives them this correction: "But I have this against you: You have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember then how far you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. Otherwise, I will
come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent."
As we celebrate all that God has done in and through our reformation churches that has been good and faithful, we also pause to take note of that today which is not good or perhaps even unfaithful. And I pray that we will listen to God's correction and be obedient in our response to his command to repent and return to our first love. May God bless us as he continues to reform the church still today!