A Pastor’s Note to Grace Covenant – October 29, 2021

This coming Sunday, October 31, will have a dual emphasis at Grace Covenant. It is both Reformation Sunday and the kickoff of our Global Missions Week.

Reformation Sunday & Global Missions

If you’ve been around Grace Covenant for any length of time, it is likely that you have heard mention of the Reformation, and likely heard it said that we are a “Reformed” church. Both of these statements reflect the roots our our tradition, our “Tribe”, which are connected to the great Reformation that shook Europe in the 16th Century. While there were a number of precursors, it is widely recognized that a set of 95 Theses, penned by young German monk named Martin Luther, and posted to the front doors of a church in Wittenberg on October 31, 1517, provided the spark that ignited what became known as the Reformation. The posting of these 95 Theses was a “shot heard ’round the world”.

As the Reformation gained steam, a handful of common themes emerged. Among these was the “priesthood of all believers”, which recovered the biblical understanding that Jesus alone is the mediator between God and Humanity, and that anyone who puts his/her trust in Christ is able to relate God and pray to God on his/her own, without need of any other human intermediary. Additionally a handful of biblical truths, widely known collectively as “The Pillars of the Reformation” or as the “5 Sola’s of the Reformation“, were recovered: 1) God’s Glory Alone is Our Primary Purpose in Life; 2) Scripture Alone is our Authority for Faith and Practice; and reconciliation with God, which is needed because of our sin, is accomplished 3) by Grace Alone; 4) through Faith Alone; 5) in Christ Alone.

I believe these 5 pillars are also appropriately expressed as three values that are central to the life and ministry of Grace Covenant:

  1. The Glory of God – We take God seriously; and we find our greatest joy and satisfaction in Him.
  2. The Authority of Scripture – Since “all scripture is God-breathed”, the Bible is God’s Word. It is God speaking to us, revealing to us everything we need to know about Him, about ourselves, and about how we ought to live.
  3. Gospel-Centrality – the gospel is the “good news” about Jesus Christ, the long-promised “Redeemer” and “King”, and what God has done to redeem a people and reconcile them to himself through Jesus. The Gospel is “good news” NOT “good advice”. The three pillars (listed as 3-5 above) are all key components of that gospel message: Salvation comes by Grace, through Faith – faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

So we have good reason to recognize, and to be thankful about, the Reformation, and to recognize Reformation Sunday. For those interested, here are a couple short but helpful articles:

The Reformation is an important period in God’s redemptive work. The Reformation resulted in the recovery of the clarity, and the simplicity, of the gospel. But whether or not we experience the benefits of this recovery depends almost entirely upon how we “relate” to the Reformation.

I believe there are two primary ways people who appreciate the Reformation relate to to the Reformation: 1) By Living in Light of the Reformation, or 2) Living in the Shadow of the Reformation. Here’s what I mean:

  • Living in the Shadow of the Reformation is the mere remembering and celebration of the historic event. Practically speaking this happens when the day is marked as a holiday on the calendar, and primarily observed by “re-living”, commemorating or “re-enacting” the events of that period of 16th Century European history. It’s not that re-enactment is itself a bad thing. It is a means or re-telling a story. But when remembering and re-enacting is the primary objective, it fails to recognize that the same God who was at work then is still at work today. It also has a tendency to highlight the differences among Christians of various traditions rather than the unity that Jesus prayed for us (John 17.20-21) and secured for us. (Ephesians 4.4-6)
  • Living in Light of the Reformation is focused more on living our lives, today, in the 21st Century, in light of the principles recovered in the Reformation. It is not an eschewing of the past. It is certainly appropriate to remember the dates and events. But the reason for remembering is to live in the light of freedom of God’s grace, and to continue to cultivate lives rooted in that grace that was recovered in the Reformation. In a sense, the recognition of Reformation Day for those who are living in light of it is somewhat akin to a healthy American celebration of July 4.

But why are we observing a global missions emphasis on Reformation Sunday? For some this may seem somewhat incongruous. There are many who have assumed that the Reformation, and the Reformed tradition with all emphasis on doctrinal purity, is not missions minded; some even suggesting it is “anti-missional”. But nothing could be further from the truth! Some of the greatest missionary heroes in history were part of churches in the Reformed tradition! This included William Carey, widely considered the Father of Modern Missions; John Eliot, David Brainerd, etc. As one writer expressed:

“The most lasting impact of the Reformation is gospel-centered mission. So the Reformation – with its return to the gospel -unleashed a movement that continues today as Christians everywhere take the good news to the entire world.”

For those interested in exploring the vital connection between the Reformation and Global Missions, check out:

Why a Global Mission Week?

Global Missions conferences were once a common event in Evangelical churches. In recent years such events have become much less common. I’m not sure this is for the better.

Some months ago I stumbled across this graphic about awareness of the Great Commission and the average churchgoer in the USA:

As you can see, the statistics are somewhat stunning. I do not think that they are a reflection of our commitment to global missions at Grace Covenant. But I am certain that we do not want this to become a reflection of Grace Covenant. So to fortify our understanding and ongoing commitment to the commission Jesus gave us to “make disciples among peoples of all nations” (Matthew 28.16-20) we want to highlight our missional emphasis in a variety of ways. Included among those ways is this upcoming missions emphasis week.

{NOTE: If you are someone who is unsure about the Great Commission, this note is not in any way to scold or embarrass you. Rather, the reason for our missions emphasis is to help you deepen your clarity about what Jesus called and commissioned his followers to do in this world.]

Global Missions Week at Grace Covenant

Global Missions Week at Grace Covenant will involve a series of opportunities. Most prominent of these opportunities will take place in our worship services these next two Sundays – October 31 & November 7. Each week we will gather for worship, as usual, with the goal of engaging with God, but with an eye upon what God is doing in this world. Our missionary speakers will offer the message from God’s Word. Each will also introduce a distinct mission endeavor that Grace Covenant is partnering in:

October 31 – Rev. Craig Pohl will introduce the Japan Project. The Japanese are considered the second largest unreached people group in the world. Roughly 95 percent of the Japanese people have never met a Christian. Craig will be joining others serving on teams to reach Japan with the gospel. To see what God is doing in Japan, check out: MTW Japan

November 7 – Rev. Robert Davis will introduce us to the West Africa Project. The West Africa region consists of 18 different countries, predominated by Islam and animism but, where God is doing amazing things to bring people in from out of the darkness into His radiant light!

Sometimes people have this idea that missions Sundays are not like regular worship weeks, and maybe use those weeks as a time to travel, or do something else. I hope you will join us these next two weeks!

Education hour each week, from 10am – 10:45, will provide a deeper insight into these projects, and help you see how you can be of help.

Finally, on Wednesday November 3, we will be holding one of our quarterly Congregational Prayer Dinners. The focus of our prayer will be for the advancement of the gospel to the Nations. Please join us for this important event. Prayer is not just a primer for the work of the Kingdom; Prayer IS Kingdom work!

This is a long note, so I will stop here. In ending I will only again urge you to participate as much as you are able in these important missionary opportunities. And if anyone has questions about global missions (or the Reformation) please know if would be my privilege and my pleasure to talk with you.

Grace & Peace,

W. Dennis Griffith, Lead Pastor

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