Semper Reformanda

Always reforming.

I recently read the 95 theses for the first time. It seems that Luther was quite the deconstructionist.

Reforming and emerging are really the same concept – the idea of becoming, as the church, all that God intends for us to be. Or as Paul would say, “growing up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.”

As a belated reformation day gesture, today I nail my versoin of 95 theses. Some of these are paraphrases of Luther’s statements. Others, where I couldn’t make much sense of the original thesis, are my own thoughts.

May we continue emerging, reforming, and becoming.

1. One’s whole life should reflect repentance and a heart for the kingdom of God.
2. The life of the kingdom cannot be administered by clergy.
3. This inner change of heart must have an outward expression also.
4. Peace and shalom will become a reality for us as we participate in God’s kingdom.
5. We are not condemned by men and their laws.
6. Neither can we be restored by men or religion.
7. God restores us as we humbly submit ourselves to the reign of Jesus.
8. We enter into this relationship and kingdom life while we are yet living.
9. The Holy Spirit is our teacher and reveals to us the heart of the Father.
10. Ignorant and wicked are the ministers who do not use their influence to lead others to this free relationship with God.
11. The church has been asleep, allowing religious tradition to replace the life God intended for his people.
12. Forgiveness and grace are available to all, even before they believe.
13. God’s grace frees us from death and condemnation.
14. The condition of a soul separated from the love of God is fear and hopelessness.
15. We should not forget the despair of being lost.
16. Hell and heaven are current realities, as are despair and shalom.
17. With souls in the balance, it seems that love must increase to counter despair.
18. There is no one outside the bounds of God’s love.
19. There is assurance of salvation for those who believe in Jesus.
20. This salvation is the free gift of God through Jesus, not dependent on anyone or anything else.
21. Those who suggest that salvation or God’s approval can be earned are in error.
22. They hinder access to the free grace of God.
23. We are all undeserving of God’s grace.
24. We are deceived if we believe that we can earn God’s blessing.
25. A minister has no authority except that which is given to him by those who submit themselves to him.
26. A leader does well when he leads, not with power, but with humble service.
27. It is deceitful to suggest that giving money to a ministry releases God’s blessing.
28. Money and greed can distract the church from the real message and ministry of the power of God.
29. The condition of a man’s heart is known only to God.
30. Our own heart can deceive us.
31. The wise man remains humbly aware of his brokenness.
32. Those who try to earn their salvation, and those who teach this, will miss experiencing the grace of God.
33. Beware of teachers and leaders who presume to mediate God’s grace.
34. Traditions and rituals do not have the power to redeem or restore.
35. True Christian doctrine points us to relationship with Jesus and the life of a disciple.
36. Forgiveness is available freely to those who call on the name of Jesus.
37. Every Christian is an equal member and participant in the church, the body of Christ.
38. Participation in the life of the church is necessary in the formation of a disciple.
39. It is difficult, even for the wisest teachers, to adequately present the fullness of God’s love and kindness.
40. True repentance recognizes the life and peace found in choosing God’s way.
41. Sermons and teaching should not be preferable to good works of love.
42. Tithes and offerings cannot replace or substitute for acts of mercy.
43. Giving to the poor and needy is better than paying dues at church.
44. Growth comes by loving others rather than by religious duty.
45. How can we see a man in need and pass by, missing the opportunity to show the love of God?
46. One should be responsible first in caring for the needs in their family.
47. Giving is an expression of love from the heart, not an obligation.
48. Leaders should be more interested in prayers than pocketbooks.
49. It is useful to be taught and equipped by others, but this should not replace dependence on God.
50. Leaders who build their empires on the backs of those whom they were entrusted to serve will eventually come to ruin.
51. God does not turn a blind eye to corruption in the church.
52. Church membership does not guarantee salvation.
53. The message of the gospel of the kingdom will always be relevant.
54. Injury is done to the cause of Christ when this gospel message is replaced with self-help sermons or with narrow legalism.
55. The gospel, which is the very greatest thing, still has the power to change lives.
56. This power has not been adequately known or demonstrated by the people of God.
57. Many of the gifts and blessings given to the church have been hoarded rather than poured out.
58. When the power of the gospel is made known, it will always work grace for the inner man.
59. One of the treasures of the church is the poor among us.
60. Christ demonstrated for us the keys and manner of life in the kingdom.
61. Life in the kingdom cannot be experienced apart from knowing Him.
62. The true treasure of the church is the gospel of the glory and the grace of God.
63. The subversive nature of the gospel is often ignored because it requires that the first be last.
64. The real life of the kingdom is demonstrated when the last are made to be first.
65. The kingdom does not favor men of power, wealth, and influence.
66. Rather it recognizes the treasure to be found in the souls of the poor and marginalized.
67. Some preachers’ greatness only serves to build their personal kingdom.
68. These kingdoms are worthless when compared to the reality of God’s kingdom and grace.
69. Yet they establish power and influence for themselves within the church.
70. They preach their own dreams rather than the gospel.
71. Woe to those who succumb to the temptations of fame and greatness.
72. Blessing to those who guard against the lust of power and influence.
73. There should be concern about those who strive for power in the church.
74. Much more, there should be outrage over those who injure love and truth in their quest for position.
75. To think religious rituals have the power to save – this is madness.
76. They will do nothing to remove guilt or shame.
77. Even the greatest apostles did not have the power to forgive or save.
78. Yet even the least believer is given access to the grace, power, and spiritual gifts of God.
79. It is blasphemy to allow religious traditions and doctrine to overshadow the simplicity of the gospel.
80. Ministers who do so will account for their narrow misrepresentation of God’s message.
81. This misrepresentation makes it difficult to rescue the true message of the gospel from legalism and religious tradition.
82. Why has the simplicity of the gospel become overwhelmed and complicated by layers of institution and hierarchy?
83. Why do clergy teach followers to be indebted to and dependent upon them?
84. Why has the free gift of grace become shrouded in religious obligation?
85. Why have the traditions of church been embraced as if the traditions themselves carried the weight of Scripture?
86. Why do church organizations absorb so much of the money that should go to the poor?
87. Why have gatherings been structured as if only one person is capable of sharing their gifts and talents?
88. What a greater blessing it would be if every believer were to participate in gatherings and ministry.
89. Those who are truly interested in the salvation of souls will minister freely without regard for position or titles.
90. To repress these questions of how the church functions will only serve to add to the decline of the church as it currently exists.
91. When the church truly reflects the message of Christ it will be credible to the world.
92. Woe to those who refuse to recognize this challenge to the status quo.
93. Embrace the prophets who call us to envision the potential of the church and the reality of the kingdom in our midst.
94. Christ-followers must live according to the way of Christ, our example.
95. Even if this way leads to suffering, we are confident of the reality of the kingdom of God in which we live.

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13 thoughts on “Semper Reformanda

  1. Very good post.

    I will have to read them more in-depth and match them up with the original. Some of them (the original) are a little “heavy”

    I think that a lot of what is going on now can be placed back to what Luther was doing (saying).

    I think that the Protestant church has built a organizational structure that Luther would not be too happy with and he may just nail some statements on Denomination Headquarters doors.

  2. Jeff,
    I agree that Luther’s reformation stopped short of addressing hierarchical organizations.

    Not having a catholic background, I struggled with understanding the context of some of the theses.

    Cindy,
    Thank you for reading and linking them. I don’t think I had ever read them before. I guess cause I wasn’t Lutheran either.

    Peggy,
    Thanks for stopping by. Yes, I’m afraid the number 95 scared off a few folks. However, it is still shorter than a Brother Maynard post. ;)

  3. Grace:

    I did not come from a Cathloic background either and I am really new to the Lutheran background.

    So, some of the understanding is difficult. However, I think that (to me) it is clear that he was very focused on indulgences and that the church has no place for that – it is you / God.

    I see it very similar to Jesus and the temple/money changers. that is really what they were doing.

  4. Jews are expected to perform Mitzvah on a daily basis (Acts of Lovingkindness). These Mitzvahs not only reward others and add sparkle into their lives, but reward the Jewish giver.

  5. Grace,

    This is a great list. If you’re setting out to finish the reformation I’ll cheer you on from the sidelines. I stumbled onto your site after finding a link on robbymac and between the two of you I have found encouragement following my CLB debacle. I more aware than ever that the reformation has never been completed and that it is probably an ongoing process.

    At first I thought that I could find reformation in the various movements of the church: pentecostal, charismatic, church growth, or seeker-sensitive. The power structures I found embedded within these systems blew me away. My CLB was cutting edge missional and incarnational; and only gradually did I realize that the same turf wars permeated this group. I feel post-missional even though I know that there is much truth bound up in this movement. Whenever I hear the words missional, values, incarnational, or accountability, I now strain to hear the positive side of whatever someone is communicating. These concepts can be liberating but they can also be bludgeons in the hands of control freaks who frequently gravitate to the senior leadership positions and build their own empires around their dysfunction.

    I think the reformation needs to be internal (the Holy Spirit having his way in our life) and external (a thorough revisioning of the way that we do church).

    The concept that keeps returning to me over and over is “character” . If I’m going to participate with another church group I’ll want to know the true character of the leaders. They could have doctrine a little different than mine and maybe different ways of doing things, but if they have Godly character, then I can work with that (I would hope that they would find Godly character in me).

    The problem with this is that it usually takes a few years to get to know the leaders if its a small church and its impossible in a huge church. I have no solution for this other than to go start my own group built on my character flaws.

    Grace, thanks for letting me rant for a bit, it was therapeutic. I’ve got to go and make breakfast for my family so we can head out to the huge church we’ve taken refuge in. I’ve never attended a church before, but there’s a first time for everything.

  6. jewwishes,
    Interesting.

    David,
    As you said, damaging leadership structures and lack of character are the elements of any abusive church power structure. Understanding the true nature of leadership was the most freeing thing to me in recovering from what we experienced at our CLB.

    I question the potential to be truly missional without embracing the qualities of humility and servanthood and rejecting the lure towards power and control. It would seem that would be only a form of missional masquerading as the real thing. However, I can also see it happening because of the tendency toward empire building.

    As you said, reformation is a process. It continues in emerging, missional, simple forms of church, in all of the ways that we try to wrestle with and understand what God is doing and saying about what church should be. As we stumble along, I’m sure that we’ll get some things wrong, but hopefully we will also continue to see His plans revealed.

    I understand taking refuge in a huge church. We continue to work through these issues also.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  7. Just a comment on a few of your 95 points:

    25. A minister has no authority except that which is given to him by those who submit themselves to him.
    34. Traditions and rituals do not have the power to redeem or restore.
    55. The gospel, which is the very greatest thing, still has the power to change lives.
    79. It is blasphemy to allow religious traditions and doctrine to overshadow the simplicity of the gospel.
    80. Ministers who do so will account for their narrow misrepresentation of God’s message.
    81. This misrepresentation makes it difficult to rescue the true message of the gospel from legalism and religious tradition.
    82. Why has the simplicity of the gospel become overwhelmed and complicated by layers of institution and hierarchy?
    83. Why do clergy teach followers to be indebted to and dependent upon them?
    84. Why has the free gift of grace become shrouded in religious obligation?
    85. Why have the traditions of church been embraced as if the traditions themselves carried the weight of Scripture?

    I am a regular poster over on TheOoze. I have a very checkered church resume. Robby is aware of my post-charismatic story. Yet I am much more aware of some of the Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant issues from my discussions over there.

    I was raised Roman Catholic. Was a devout altar boy. Recruited for the priesthood. Made my choice @ 15 years of age that being celibate was not for me!

    Came to a personal relationship with Jesus through a rather dramatic auto accident @ age 20. Stayed in the Catholic Church for about 6 months until one Sunday at Mass the Holy Spirit nudged me out of that worship expression.

    Anyway…

    I do believe we can misuse the words like authority, or tradition, or ritual, or doctrine, or gospel, or clergy, or minister, or scripture, or simplicity, hierarchy & institution…

    [sigh]

    Regarding authority: Jesus conferred real, honest-to-God authority. It was however meant to be wielded rightly. The Church catholic has preserved rituals, traditions, practices, expressions (all plural) that cannot be avoided. We all follow them. We do have disagreements about which are valid & which are not, but they are unavoidable.

    How we define those words listed above will expose differences of course, yet none of these alone can thwart the essence of the kingdom from being expressed. They are not the problem.

    And I do believe tradition & ritual in fact are graced. They release grace, are infused with grace, are meant to impart grace…

    Communion is the central aspect of what being the Church catholic has confounded the most throughout her history. We have made a big mess of the Communion Table. Made it a mockery really. Minimized it. Misrepresented it. Used it as a doctrinal rallying point. And in the process refuse to be in communion with those that are too quick to discount our traditions & rituals & the extension of grace…

    Our centrality or common-union has been fractured. The mystery & grace of this partaking has been downplayed. Overshadowed. Misunderstood. We have accepted cheap imitations. Something is not right. And how this essence of our Christian faith+pratice is rediscovered & restored will determine how we realign ourselves with the priorities of the kingdom.

    So, this is a rambling of sorts. Not another 5-point list of problems I perceive the Church Universal needs to address. But I do believe if we do not seek to be in communion as the Spirit of God wishes, the grace we seek may remain elusive.

    How does this relate to your 95 points? It may pertain to ‘my’ understanding of what or what is not the most accurate or best or the most right church expression. We may be addressing issues that are not really hindrances to God’s authority, power, anointing & grace. I just wanted to mention those words we use have different baggage associated with them & what they mean are not the same for whatever church tradition we are comfortable with…

  8. Joseph,
    Thank you for sharing a bit of your story. I agree that based on our personal experiences we have different perceptions of some of the words you mentioned. We also likely have different opinions concerning how some of these concepts fit into our expression of life in the kingdom.

    I think many of these things are neutral and their value is dependent upon their use or misuse. While for one person tradition and ritual may be very meaning as you said, imbued with grace and life, for another it may be an experience in religious obligation that produces bondage and death to their spirituality.

    Have I understood the gist of what you are saying? If you would like me to address any of these points more fully, feel free to ask.

  9. I was rambling in no particular direction. Making a list using common terms sometimes causes more issues than the issues themselves…

    Church tradition is rich in ritual. Doctrine is part of the tradition we have to wade through. And what is rewarding & inspiring & edifying for some may not be the end all for someone else.

    Every believer must make deliberate effort to keep from simply going through the motions for the sake of obligation. One must be careful to not replace ‘discipline’ for relationship, but being a disciple by definition is one that keeps doing the things disciples do. And some of what a disciple does is worship. Pray. Sing. Gather. Preach. Teach. Serve. All of these activities consist of rites & rituals & become traditions…

    I was not trying to make a point other than ‘pointing’ out the stuff we as believers inherit from the 2,000 years of Church history. It is all part of our family story. It does impact us. And each of us must ‘connect’ to the essence of the kingdom through the expressions that do breath life vs. staleness & elicit joy vs. drudgery. I think we are preaching to the other’s choir here. Thanks for the response…

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