A New Reformation?

Phil Johnson's recent post on the state of Evangelicalism ended by saying, "We sure could use a new generation of Reformers." He's right, of course. I believe it was Howard Hendricks who said that Evangelicalism is 5 miles wide and 1 inch deep. And that was said years ago. I can't help but think that it is worse now.

We do need a new Reformation. I've thought a lot about that over the last few years. How might it happen?

First, we need to remember that the Reformation was a work of the Spirit, unique for its times. Can the Luther/Calvin/Zwingli (and a host of others) event happen again? Who knows? But it was a work of God's Spirit. Because of that, the most important thing that we can do it pray. And when we pray, we may find that we, like those who came before Luther and company, are planting seeds for a future harvest.

Second, we need to be faithful to Scripture. If we don't have 500 or 5000 people because Bible teaching is "boring," then so be it. Oh, not that we are to be boring. We are to be creative, engaging, relevant, personal. Afterall, Jesus embodied these qualities. But the message is unchanging. The meal we offer hungry people on the Lord's Day cannot be a clever quick-fix "how to" series. We need to teach the Scriptures, teach them through exposition, teach them sequentially (meaning that we don't skip from place to place each week).

Third, we need to urge greater commitment to the local Church. In many churches, we've gone from what was considered a legalistic approach to church attendance (Sunday AM, Sunday School, Sunday PM and Prayer Meeting) to a far more lackadaisical approach. I'm not saying that we need to go back to old forms. But we do need to call our people to be faithful. As I have been urging our folks, we need to see that being with with the Lord's people on the Lord's Day so that we can hear the Lord's Word is an essential, not just one of a number of options for Sunday. They need to understand that something is wrong with their hearts if they are not giving the Word of God the attention it deserves in their lives. Our particular model emphasizes Sunday morning, Sunday School and Small Groups. If we really believe that our people need to be taught, so that gathering together on the Lord's Day or in Small Groups are times for re-orientation and encouragement (among other things), then we need to let them know that we expect them to be there. Some will choose to not follow. Lead the ones who will. But when we meet, let's be sure that we feed them well.

Fourth, we need to preach the Gospel clearly. We've obscured the meaning of justification by faith by all sorts of nonbiblical terms from "invite Jesus into your life" and "surrender to Christ" to (for children) "ask Jesus to be your special friend." Are we smarter than the Spirit? Are we more clever, more articulate, better able to understand how to get through to people? We need to repent of false representations of the Gospel. And if you think I am being overly technical, survey your people and find out how many of them believe they are saved because of what they said, prayed, did (going forward). I read on someone's blog yesterday (sorry - I forgot where, so I can't give credit) about a woman who would bribe children with candy so that they would pray the sinner's prayer, and thereby be "saved." What a horrible, horrible thing to do. The Gospel is the power of God for salvation. Let's explain it clearly and accurately. It is possible to do both.

Fifth, we need to warn our people when we see them endangered. We need to be able to point out error and wrong emphasis, but do so without the jealous rivalry and silly bickering that characterized (and apparently still can characterize) fundamentalism. We don't need witch hunts. If you have a problem with what Rick Warren says, articulate a biblical position against it, but let's leave his waistline and Hawaiian shirts out of the discussion. What do they have to do with anything?

Finally, we need to pray. I said that already. But we need it. I am so deficient in this, and in talking to many in ministry I know I am not alone. We need to pray for the state of the Church, but be confident that Christ is building His Church. We need to pray that God will raise up sound teachers. We need to ask God to mute the impact of those who have the ears of our people due to TV, radio and bestseller lists, if they are teaching what is not sound. We need to pray that God will work in the hearts of our people to lead them to a deeper commitment to the local church. We need to pray for each other, that God will keep us faithful, will help us to be growing, and that He will use us as His servants in this difficult day.

Perhaps God will use these things to bring needed Reformation and renewal to His Church. Maybe not. But Luther's reformation began in his heart. Let's let that be true of us.


John said...

Thank you for your post.
Enjoyed reading it.

May our God bless you and your ministry.

In Christ,

John said...

I particularly agree with your comments regarding the continuing need for reformation within our churches.. and the need to clearly present the gospel and the teachings of the Scriptures (without diluting them so much that the message is lost).

Grace and Peace to you,
in Christ,

Milton Stanley said...

Good stuff, Peter. I blogged about it today. Peace.

Seun Oduneye said...

Hi Peter, I really enjoyed your post. The cool thing is that there is a present Reformation move of God in the global Church. I am sure God doesn't think of cool words like Reformation to describe His present speakings (the greater revelation of Himself), but nevertheless we needs words to describe what we see. The point I am trying to make is that we must be careful not to let our mindsets prevent us from seeing what God is doing in the Church and in the earth. Therefore the problem is never God, but us.