Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sunday Post for Shepherds -- Courage & Reformation

Wednesday was Reformation Day; for on October 31, 1517, German Augustinian monk Martin Luther inadvertently, but somewhat formally, began the Protestant Reformation. And while his intention to begin a world changing movement was not present, his courage certainly was; courage to challenge long held beliefs precious to his own church. May God grant Christian pastors of our day the same kind of protestant courage, a courage rooted in Bible doctrine and our certainty of God's trustworthiness when He speaks. We will know this has come when God's men "do not shrink back from declaring the whole counsel of God" (Ac 20:27); when God's approval means more than that of the congregation (Mt 10:28); when we lean on God's grace and not our paychecks (Mt 10:31); and when we see the fruit of such preaching -- thriving and dying churches. For the Word of God is a hammer (Je 23), both softening hearts unto repentance and hardening hearts unto damnation (Ro 9). The chief weapon in the growth of one church and the killing of another is the same -- the proclaimed Word of God.

And when hearts are moved unto repentance and faith by God's Word, our outward practices also change to reflect what has happened on the inside. For pastors this means our gatherings begin to look and sound and feel different, because we are trusting God the Holy Spirit and detesting man-centered religion where numbers and reputations reign.

So go on brother pastor, preach the Bible systematically. Say about God what God says about Himself. Teach doctrine and stop with the "how to" sermonnettes, for we are designed to know Him (Jn 17:3), not "success." Abolish the altar call which forever ties God's saving work to something we do. Rid your congregation of the songs that could be more fittingly sung to our pets. Take that American flag out of the auditorium and teach your folks that Christians, not structures, are the Lord's sanctuary. Set up a book stall filled with resources that help your flock better understand the Bible. Design your gatherings in a way that enables your people to do all the "one another" commands of the New Testament. Establish a council of biblically qualified elders to rule the church under Christ's headship (You might want to do this first, so that you aren't trying reform alone). And then lead them to mercifully excommunicate faithless members of the flock. Begin to sit together at the Lord's Table often enough for it to actually serve its good purposes. And when you do, use the elements our Lord consecrated for the meal, including wine. And if the elements do not matter, and therefore a shot of grape juice is sufficient, then we might as well serve Coca-Cola and Little Debbie oatmeal cream pies.

In other words, we must pray and labor to see both ourselves and our flocks reformed by Scripture. This is not only what Luther would do, but what Jesus commands (Mt 28:18-19). Trust the Lord of the Church enough to do it all His way. Move at a reasonable pace, and with great patience (2 Ti 4:2). But by all means, do move! For to do so is to love Christ and His people (1 Pe 5:1-5; Jn 14:14-22).

It is quite possible, and even common I think, for a pastor to preach the Scriptures but then not lead his folks to do them. Doing them (reformation) gets worked out in the meetings and conversations and decisions. It is not enough to say what God says. Doing what God says is our vocation (Ja 1:22).

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