Reforming The Local Congregation

1387263_steeple_jpgIt has been said before that the church is in need of a continuous reformation. In other words, this call for reformation is a plea for the church to daily reclaim her fundamental roots. The reason why the church is in need of constant reformation is that we as sinners are prone to wander; we are prone to leave the God that we love.

Due to the tactics of the old Adam, there is a tendency for churches to drift away from a Christ-centered and Christ-crucified Gospel to an ‘ism.’ Generally speaking, the church will drift into one of the following isms and/or categories: mysticism, legalism, licentiousness, pragmatism, rationalism, and prosperity theology. At the center of all of these categories and isms is none other than, self.

Left to ourselves, without the Extra Nos Word, we are like a drug addict looking for his next fix—we will abandon everything rational, true, and meaningful for the fix. Gerhard Forde once said, “As sinners we are like addicts—addicted to ourselves and our own projects. ”[1] This drift away from God’s Word back to ourselves has been consistently repeated over the centuries. Michael Horton says, “In every generation, our natural tendency is to put the focus back on ourselves—our inner life, piety, community and actions… ”[2] Thus,

“Every Dark Age in church history was due to the creeping influence of the human-centered gospel of ‘pulling oneself up by the bootstraps.’ Whenever God is seen as the sole author and finisher of salvation, there is health and vitality. To the degree that human beings are seen as agents of their own salvation, the church loses its power, since the Gospel is ‘the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes.’”[3]

Due to the drifting nature of the church, this paper is intended to explore the idea of reforming the local church, bringing her back to her roots of justification by grace through faith. While this paper is written from my Lutheran presuppositions, I will attempt to avoid excessive theological labels so that it can be applicable in a plethora of church contexts.

In part 1, we will be examining the idea of whether or not a church should actually attempt a reform. To reform or not to reform, that is the question of part 1. In part 2, we will be spending some time thinking through what actually is going on behind the scenes when a new/renewed epistemological source is introduced into a church in need of reform. Finally in part 3, we will reflect on parts 1 and 2 from a pastoral perspective. In other words, part 1 examines whether or not it is feasible to attempt a reform in a church, part 2 examines what happens when one reforms a church, and part 3 reflects on how to pastor a church going through reformation.

To read the full paper, CLICK HERE.

[1] Gerhard Forde, On Being a Theologian of the Cross (Eerdmans, 1997), 94.

[2] Horton, 122.

[3] Michael Horton, Pelagianism, (accessed January 28, 2013).

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