Protest averse Protestants

5 12 2008

lutheratwormsOccasionally as we engage people in conversations about restoring aspects to the church  that  appear to have been lost (5-fold ministry, structuring like a body, the mission as city-wide discipleship) I’ll hear through the grapevine of a person (often a church leader) that writes us off saying “they think they are the only ones who know how to do church”.  Their summary judgement seems intended to allow them to avoid the uncomfortable process of wrestling through biblical concepts that are unfamiliar and, therefore, might require some change.

What I find terribly ironic about this reaction is how quickly Protestants seem to forget their history.  Protestant comes from the word “protest” and was given to our movement because we had a heart to reform and restore things to the church.  And reform we did.  Every Protestant church today stands on the back of 40 or more very hard won restorations that are far more fundamental than anything we’ve ever suggested.  Things like salvation by faith, the authority of Scripture, the priesthood of all believers and on an on.

So a Protestant who refuses to engage in any further reformation or restoration conversations is actually saying, “our church has finally figured out the final restoration and we now, alone, represent the fully restored church.”  In a phrase, they cease to really be Protestant.  They fall prey to the objection one Catholic voiced over the Reformation when he said, “you will simply replace one pope with thousands.”  Sadly, his prediction has become a functional reality.  Just look at the language we use.  Someone who believes strongly in the tenets of the Reformation during the 1400’s is said to be “reformed”.  Not a refromER or reformING but reformED.  As if all that needed to be reformed occurred 600 years ago and now we can truly stand and say the reformation is over and we are now reformed.  They are theologically Amish and chose to pause theological converation at an artibrary date in history but without the Amish integrity to admit it.  If we were living through the reformation today doubtless 90% of the people who are committed Protestants today would have been the most ardent supporters of church status quo because their actions reflect protecting church tradition as their most passionate agenda.  How did this happen?

I believe true humility is for all of us to admit that we have a long way to go to see the church fully restored and we need to graciously and rigorously engage in restorative conversations.  This should be an ongoing part of our Protestant DNA. So please, don’t cut off the conversation prematurely but give us all the benefit of your wisdom and experience as present and future generations continue to discover elements long forgotten but in need of restoration.

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7 responses

5 12 2008
Ben

that’s pretty awesome. i love your “theologically amish” line. it is pretty amazing how the language we use reflects our mindset of arrivedness (i just made that word up). Your call to humility seems so anti-institutional and un-business like but then again maybe those old guys were on to something.

it’s been strange for me dealing within the presbyterian church (i was going to call it “movement” but i don’t think it’s really that any more). they(and myself) tend to rely on their structure at the cost of any major innovation citing their lengthy and accepted tradition. i wonder if most of them know that 400 years ago they were sneaking around in houses because the English Anglicans had banished them, citing the same reasons.

5 12 2008
Colin

Awesome. Very encouraging post. As much as we know believers are to be marked by humility, it seems that for some reason, we feel like it doesn’t apply to talking about church structure. Thanks for the necessary reminder.

5 12 2008
Kami

Amen!

5 12 2008
Heather

That is a great argument you have raised. It makes me wonder how many of us so-called “Protestants” even know or understand our history.

BTW, I’m enjoying the Story-Formed Life class out here in Kirkland. It is really shaking things up for me.

6 12 2008
James

I’ve come to these same conclusions. Due to a personal experience of what personal reformation is enacted by the regeneration of the Holy Spirit, I’ve realized that everything we know and do about church is standing still. Anything new is referred to as a program, boxed, packaged, shipped, and implemented to bring “diversity” and teach “discipleship.”

I’m tired of McDonaldanity…the value menu does it cut it.

Can I have some Bible with that please?

6 12 2008
Craig Bertrand

Yes Luther would probably roll over in His grave if He saw the attitudes of the church today. I think the way to combat this is not only to point out the errors in the church but to do just as Paul did. Begin to build up where there is lack. In 1 Tim 5:1 it says…

“Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father”

Looking at the words rebuke and intreat in the original language show quite a difference in attitude.

But one thing is sure Paul expected His disciples to confront error He just told them when it was with an elder not to listen to an accusation unless it was before 2 or 3 whiteness. So this would be fine but how do we do this on a denominational and furthermore a worldwide scale. Well none of us really have that influence.

Besides If the biblical model is the city Church then lets start in our cities with discipleship and watch the Church change in one generation. What are some ways we can come to the church in a way that will be a service to them in a area they lack while not trying to “take their sheep”? Institutions are intimidated by other institutions so lets foster a resurgence of discipleship in a non-institutional way. Whether it be by the “Story-Formed Life” or something else(I am working on a framework called “The Journey”) lets see discipleship put back as the top priority!

Call me crazy but I believe if we just do what Jesus says for us to do; “make disciples”, then He will do what He said He will do; “I will build my Church”.

Craig

9 12 2008
marktreas

Great post JP.
I think it is important to isolate and understand exactly what keeps leaders clinging to familiar models. Logically, if folks are convinced that A (as the traditional manner of protestant operations)is more valuable than B (more progressive/contemporary processes), then A is championed.

So we have to ask:
-What goods are produced by A that are sacrificed by implementing B?
-What goods are produced by B to justify it’s costs?

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