Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Kindred Spirits

Post by: Thomas Cross

This fall, we will be celebrating the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. When we think of the Reformation, most of us think of Martin Luther and the 95 Theses he nailed on the Wittenburg door.

The story of the Reformation is a fascinating one, but it is truly a story of a movement that welled up in several cities and spread like wildfire, involving dozens of thoughtful, courageous leaders. While the most famous of these leaders were known for their preaching, some of the Reformers were also focused on nurturing the faith of the people through a variety of means.

One of these leaders, Martin Bucer (1491-1551), was an early disciple of Martin Luther, after hearing Luther defend himself and his critique of indulgence selling. Bucer, who was a monk like Luther, asked to be released from his vows, and he married a former nun, Elizabeth Silbereisen.

According to Elaine Heath and Scott Kisker, Bucer arrived in Stasbourg, a free city open to reforming ideas, in 1523. He began to lecture to small groups in a private home. That same year, he published the content of his teaching in a pamphlet entitled, “No one should live for himself but for others.”

Eventually, Bucer became one of the leading Reformers in Strasbourg, where a number of Anabaptists found relative security, and Bucer took their perspectives seriously. During his last years in Strasbourg, Bucer established Christian Fellowships within the authorized church. These were small groups of devout persons who voluntarily gathered together and pledged to submit to mutual discipline and live according to the law of love. (Heath and Kisker, Longing for Spring, p. 26). They were much like the Covenant Discipleship Groups of today.

Bucer eventually moved to England, where he served as the primary author of the 39 Articles of the Church of England. Some two hundred years later, John Wesley, an Anglican Priest, would condense those 39 Articles to 23 to serve as the Confession of Faith for the Methodist movement. Wesley adopted Bucer’s model of accountable Fellowship Groups, which he called Bands and Class Meetings, as he organized his own renewal movement in the Anglican Church. So both the theology and practice of Methodism have their roots in the work of Martin Bucer.

It is always a surprising joy for me to discover that I have a kindred spirit in somebody who lived centuries ago. Recently I ran across one of Bucer’s Prayers. I could not have described my personal mission in Small Groups ministry any better than he does in this beautiful prayer:

Eternal God, gracious Father: Your will is that we work together to create places among your people in which your word and teaching may be preserved and spread.

Grant us your help, who are gathered here in your name, so that all we say or do may serve to make your glory known and contribute to the good of your church.

Through your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, forever and ever.

Amen and Amen! I give thanks for all those kindred spirits here at BUMC with whom I get to work together to create places among God’s people in which his word and teaching may be preserved and spread. In this way, we all continue to grow in faith and love. 


Thomas Cross is one of the pastors at BUMC, starting his ninth year here.  He loves to help people grow in Christ and start new small groups.  He says his passion is ‘to introduce people to the God I know through Jesus Christ, the God who is merciful and compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.’  He enjoys hiking, reading, cooking, going to movies, working out, collecting art, listening to jazz music, and watching the Broncos for fun.  And he has a blast meeting with the diverse small groups he facilitates! 

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