CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

In Need of Some New Theses (95 Or So)

Nov 19, 2010

Because we live in a fallen world, and all of us – even the redeemed – are still fallen and finite, there will always be the need for the church to continually renew itself, reform itself, and revive itself. When Martin Luther posted his now famous 95 theses on a church door in Wittenberg Germany in October 1517, it was simply one of many calls for church renewal.

God has always raised up people to remind the church what its mission is, what its calling is, what its purpose is. Time and time again in church history we find the church starting to derail, and head off into trivialities, distractions, error or worse.

Just as individual believers need to be constantly reminded to stay on the straight and narrow, so do churches, denominations and the entire body of Christ. Indeed, one popular motto that appeared a century and a half after Luther posted his theses was “ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda”.

It means ‘a reformed church, always reforming’. The work is always going to be ongoing, in other words. While a great revival, or reformation, or awakening, will do wondrous things in a local church or a much broader area, by their very nature they are not permanent.

God must continually break through afresh, and bring us back to where we are meant to be. We need to keep coming back to our first love. In his very important 1979 volume, The Dynamics of Spiritual Life, Richard Lovelace spoke to this theme.

He said that it is “a goal toward which many Christians in both the Catholic and Protestant communions are striving today”. He continues, “The Puritans and Pietists rediscovered a truth which is clear in the Augustinian tradition: the precondition of perpetual reformation is the spiritual revitalization of the church.”

Today the church is in as much of a need of a new and fresh touch of God as ever before, because there are many ways in which we have seriously gotten off track. Getting back to where we belong is always the need of the hour. Indeed, that is what biblical repentance is all about.

I write all this because someone just recently sent me an email in which a pastor offers “95 Theses to the Modern Evangelical Church”. I had not heard of these before, or of the author, but it all looked good enough to repeat here – at least in part. Here then are some of his theses:

1. The “church” at large has forgotten that the chief end of man is to glorify God. (Rom 16:27; 1Cor 6:20; Mt 6:9; 1Cor 10:31)

2. Christians ignore most of the methods, practices and principles found in the book of Acts. (Acts 2:42, 44; Acts 2:46; Acts 2:38)

3. Many treat “church” like any other social club or sports event that they might attend. (Acts 2:46; Heb 10:25; Acts 1:14)

4. We’ve made Christianity about the individual rather than the community of believers. (Rom 12:5; 1Cor 12:12; 2 Tim 4:16)

8. We take it too lightly that we have the blessing and honor of having God’s Scriptures in our possession. (Ps 119:16; Acts 13:44; Neh 8:9)

9. There has never been more access to the Word of God, yet so little reading of it. (1Tim 4:13; Neh 8:1-3; Ps 119:59)

10. Some read the Scriptures to attain knowledge, but do not practice what they read. (Jam 1:22; Mt 7:21; 3Jn 4)

13. The “church” spends more money on dog food than on missions. (2Cor 9:6; Lk 21:2; Acts 4:34-35)

14. We take lightly the cost of discipleship laid out by Jesus Christ and do not deny our lives. (Lk 14:33; Lk 14:26-27; Mt 8:19-20)

15. There is a lack of true discipleship and making others to be obedient disciples. (Mt 28:20; 2Tim 2:2; 2Tim 2:14)

20. We are living with an epidemic of cheap grace with flippant confession and shallow consecration. (Lk 14:28-30; Lk 14:26; Jam 4:8)

21. Since the inception of the Church, the Gospel had the requirements of repentance and discipleship. (Acts 2:38; Lk 14:26; Jn 8:31)

31. Modern day prophets are being stoned by criticism and neglect. (2Tim 4:3-4; Gal 1:10; Jer 1:7-8)

32. God’s prophets are ill-treated and shunned by most “Christians” considered too harsh or extreme. (Jer 6:10; Isa 6:9-10; Gal 4:16)

46. Run from churches where the worship leaves you cold, where there’s no sense of God’s presence. (1Cor 5:4; Ps 80:14-15; Jer 12:11)

47. Run from churches where you’re comfortable in your sin. (1Cor 14:25; Heb10:30-31; Heb 4:13)

I think you get the drift. The whole list is worth looking at. Many other such theses may well come to mind. But we need to continue encouraging one another and spurring one another on to love and good works. The aim, after all, is to present the church to Christ as a spotless bride. We have much work yet to do in this regard.

95moderntheses.wordpress.com/

[819 words]

8 Responses to In Need of Some New Theses (95 Or So)

  • Very true, Bill.
    Thanks for highlighting this. If only all Christians had to read these ‘theses’!
    Jenny Stokes

  • Read this on a website by some unhappy members of an AOG church. Tells of the state of the churches today, being more like a corporation and leaders like CEOs.

    “So, it is time to nail the 95 theses on all church doors. Some of the major ones are:
    (1) Back to God,
    (2) Back to Christ and the Cross (no heretical prosperity gospel),
    (3) Back to the Bible (no false apostles and false prophets),
    (4) Back to True Worship (not chanting and entertainment),
    (5) Back to Biblical leadership (no authoritarian pastor),
    (6) Back to True Church (no commercial mega church complex),
    (7) Back to True Doctrines (no watering down of Biblical teachings on exclusivity of Christ as the only Way, the Truth and the Life),
    (8) Back to Biblical ethics (no situation ethics),
    (9) Back to Biblical family life (no divorced persons as pastors or leaders),
    (10) Back to Church Growth through Evangelism and Conversion (no luring of members from other churches),
    (11) Back to Missions (giving and going),
    (12) Back to Decency (no indecency in dressing),
    (13) Back to Honesty (no fake doctorate degrees),
    (14) Back to True Cell fellowship (not gossip meetings),
    Barry Koh

  • So true. The ruling ethos in our society at the moment seems to be “I must be able to sin to the maxx without being impeded in any way by anyone”. And this culture has surely invaded our churches. And how many of us actually stand up to all this naughtiness and risk the flack? A lady in our church was telling us how as part of her job as a high school teacher, she had to hand out condoms in class to high school students. 6-month old babies basically know right from wrong. How long will it be before the Gideons and the Sampsons and the Jepthahs are raised up to stand up to Goliath? Raise us Lord, as we must make a stand or it will be too late.
    Ian Brearley

  • Barry Koh…Re: unhappy members of an AOG church…

    Interesting list. I presume “chanting” means excessive repitition? Hmmm. The rest of the points make more sense, since they are directly un-Biblical. Unfortunately Pentecostal bashers pounce on this stuff, and equally unfortunately the attraction of encountering the Holy Spirit has been pounced on by man-made systems.
    But I still met God in a “mega church” so God is bigger than anti-Pentecostalism, anti-Megachurchism, and lots of other isms. It wasn’t the Mega-church atmosphere that got me saved, I just suddenly got the bright idea to be real with God for a change. Feels like a fluke I met God. Like …. grace.
    Seems to me that man is good at wrecking things. I’m amazed how God managed to pick me up dust me off and say hello. Every salvation is an incredible miracle!
    How on earth does anyone get saved these days! Can’t help but enjoy the fact that we can actually meet other people who somehow got saved by the incredible power of God’s Word and Spirit. That’s amazing!
    Stick with the Word of God AND the Spirit. Lose one and you lose both.
    Tim Lovett

  • Hello Tim Lovett,
    I was saved after attending a small denominational church that did not believe in the gifts of the spirit for today. It was basically just a social club. Yet, by the grace of God, I found Jesus that night. Praise the Lord!
    God bless,
    Paul de la Garde, Sydney

  • Tim, thanks. The comments I pasted on were written not by Pentecostals bashers but by some concerned Pentecostals themselves, who were also pioneers of a now mega church (name and place I will not mention). They must have valid reasons. Glad you got saved in a mega Pentecostal church. I will rejoice for anyone who got saved by the finished works of Christ, regardless of which church or size. But I just feel everyone should be equally as concerned as those who raise the many issues affecting the church today which if unchecked will lead to a situation where any teaching or practice could be regarded as relative and acceptable and never wrong (which is already happening), and that showing concern or discerning makes one arrogant or a ‘basher’ or a pharisee.
    The 95 theses could well be nailed on the doors of many other churches including non Pentecostals, mega or small. We need more voices like those of the early reformers. Bashing is certainly not welcomed.
    Barry Koh

  • Hi Paul de la Garde…

    Ha, I love it! Praise the Lord alright! Another miracle.

    Tim Lovett

  • It’s so encouraging to see other people think of the same things… myself I’ve just written “95 theses on the trampling of the Gospel”. But it’s going to be within the context of some evangelism training.

    Keep it coming Bill!
    Nathan Keen

Leave a Reply