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The Recalibrating Martins

7 months ago written by
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While editing this issue and considering its “change of direction” theme, I thought about a couple of my favorite historical figures who have a name and much more in common. In the following pages, you’ll find multiple references to “recalibration,” and these two men became great recalibrators who changed the directions of both the church and the society of their times by advocating for needed changes.

Martin Luther first made news in 1517 by posting his “95 Theses” on a church door (Facebook didn’t exist yet) in Germany, and he’s still a big deal. He’s pictured on the cover of the January/February issue of Christianity Today magazine that proclaims “his Reformation still looks pretty great at 500.” He’s even popular in the toy world. The toymaker Playmobil had its fastest-selling item in its four-decade history when it created a Luther figurine in 2015.

Luther recalibrated the church after it embraced the false idea that you can buy or work your way into heaven. I disagree with some of Luther’s writings and actions, but my theological tradition might not have existed without him. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, famously wrote in his diary that, when he heard someone read from Luther’s “Preface to the Epistle to the Romans” during a gathering on London’s Aldersgate Street, “I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”

Martin Luther King Jr. was born in 1929 with the first name Michael, but then his father decided a few years later to change Michael to Martin in honor of the German reformer. King lived up to his recalibrated name after being recruited as a young pastor to lead the bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama. Then he became the first president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and received the Nobel Peace Prize. He left a rich legacy of good deeds when a sniper’s bullet ended his earthly life at age 39.

Sadly, many evangelical Christians let theological differences, fear or racism keep them from supporting King and his dream during his lifetime. As King said, “It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is 11 o’clock on Sunday morning.”

Thankfully, that is changing as evidenced at the recent Mosaix multiethnic church conference about which I report in this issue’s News section. The change is also evident at my home congregation, John Wesley Free Methodist Church in Indianapolis, under the recalibrating leadership of two other Martins — Pastors Kenny and Estelle Martin. In the Discipleship section, you’ll read Pastor Kenny’s encouragement to go in the direction of your God-given purpose.

Martin Luther tried to recalibrate despite opposition from his church’s hierarchy, but if you picked up this magazine at a Free Methodist Church, you can be assured that the church’s top leaders support recalibration. Bishops David Roller and David Kendall lead the call from the pages of this issue. Read on and then recalibrate.

Jeff Finley has served as the managing editor of Light + Life since 2011. He previously worked as a reporter and editor for Sun-Times Media. He serves as a volunteer youth leader at John Wesley Free Methodist Church.

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[Openers] · Culture · L + L February 2017 · Magazine · US & World