Seminary Reformation tours leave pastors inspired

EDITOR'S NOTE: This year, Baptist Press is publishing a series of stories leading up to the 500th anniversary of when Martin Luther posted the 95 Theses to the door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany, Oct. 31, 1517.

WITTENBERG, Germany (BP) -- Renewed commitments to expository preaching and teaching theology were among pastors' takeaways this summer from Reformation tours of Europe led by Southern Baptist Convention seminaries.

"After going and seeing the tour of Martin Luther [sites] -- all that went into his life, the risks he took -- why would you ever do anything other than preach the Bible?" said Clint Pressley, a North Carolina pastor who participated in Southern Baptist Theological Seminary's Land of Luther Study Tour in Germany Aug. 14-21.

Fellow North Carolina pastor Marty Jacumin said his excitement was stoked to train younger ministers when he visited Luther's study in Wittenberg, Germany, during Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary's June 16-26 Reformation Study Tour.

"In the study of [Luther's chief assistant Philip] Melanchthon and the study of Luther, you see their desks," Jacumin, pastor of Bay Leaf Baptist Church in Raleigh, N.C., told Baptist Press. "And you see the chairs around the room where students would have sat ... That just fires me up to think about the conversations that would have gone on in those rooms."

New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary each will lead Reformation study tours in the spring.

Southern's study tour, co-led by Florida-based Ligonier Ministries, took participants to such Reformation sites as Wittenberg (where Luther posted his 95 Theses), Eisenach (where Luther took refuge in the Wartburg Castle as he fled from the pope) and Worms (where Luther replied when asked to recant his writings, "Here I stand; I can do no other. God help me").

Among the trip's featured speakers was Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr.

Pressley, pastor of Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., and a Southern Seminary trustee, told BP he was inspired to see Wittenberg's City Church, where Luther preached "thousands of times ... with remarkable faithfulness."

"Over the course of time, God used that," Pressley said. "We can only pray that the Lord would use that in our own churches because that's what has the impact -- God's Word speaking through someone who is faithful."

Jacumin, chair of Southeastern's board of trustees and an adjunct professor, helped lead the June Reformation tour along with Southeastern President Daniel Akin and Southeastern professors Stephen Eccher, Scott Hildreth and Dwayne Milioni. Wittenberg, Worms and Zurich, Switzerland -- where Anabaptists were drowned for their faith -- were among the tour's highlights, Jacumin said.

"The takeaway was the amazing history," Jacumin said.

Yet he also appreciated the tour's inclusion of a concentration camp, where 20th-century Nazis drew inspiration from some of Luther's anti-Semitic writings, and mention of Luther's tendency as an older man not to let other believers "speak into his life anymore."

"Luther was used in an incredible way," Jacumin said. "But with all our heroes, we've got to understand they were men of flesh, and there are things in their lives that reveal that."

New Orleans Seminary church history professor Lloyd Harsch, who will lead the seminary's May 23-June 2 Reformation tour, told BP that Reformation tours help believers understand "the context in which" their faith "developed."

"Seeing that Martin Luther shook Western Christianity from the tiny village of Wittenberg gives hope to pastors serving in small towns that their ministry can have an impact far beyond the borders of the town," Harsch said in written comments. "Standing in the room where John Calvin and John Knox taught the next generation of church leaders reminds us of the importance and value of discipleship and theological education.

"The simple plaque along the Limmat River in Zurich marking the location of the first executions of Anabaptists and worshiping in the remote cave where they later met in secret makes vivid the price those who have gone before us paid for following their understanding of Scripture," he said.

"Just under 500 years ago, revival fires were kindled that would sweep across Europe, and beyond," Harsch noted. "Reformation tours allow participants to see where the tinder was gathered, why the match was lit and how the fire spread."

David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally.
Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP).
Download Story