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.