Join This Threefold Protest and Change the World
A guest blog post from Dr. David Schroeder
Christianity as we know it — Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant — is a worn-out wineskin, desperately in need of a RE-reformation.
Or maybe a burial.
Many have argued that Luther’s Protestant Reformation did not go far enough. In fairness to Luther, he was not trying to start a new branch of Christianity; he was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church.
Many others, in fact, have taken Protestantism in new directions, from the Anabaptists of the 16th century to the Charismatics of the 20th century.
But the growth of Christendom, now about two billion worldwide, has flattened and is sagging in the West. Is there hope for turning things around and bringing it all back to Christ? Yes, there is—but it will take a full-on protest. Here’s why:
Evidence of a Sagging Church
- Orthodox, Roman Catholics, and Protestants continue their cold-war segmentation despite valiant attempts at ecumenicity.
- Depending on how one defines “denomination,” Protestants are fragmented into as many as 48,000 groups who all claim to be authentically Christian.
- Even so, denominationalism is on the decline, as independent megachurches, the emerging church, and house church movements proliferate.
- Christianity, and people who call themselves Christians in particular, are increasingly seen as odious haters (!) not only in the eyes of devotees of other religions but often in the eyes of the children and grandchildren of those Christians.
- Often multibillions of dollars are spent building and maintaining and upgrading church facilities rather than doing the work of the Church.
- The risen and glorified Lord of the Church, Jesus Christ, is virtually a stranger to many who bear His name as Christians.
So, should we just flame out — allow our lukewarmness to chill into the “frozen chosen,” quite content that we are Christians? Jesus Himself asked rhetorically, “. . . when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
Or, might God be calling us to re-reform the Church? If so, how would that be done? What would—what should— characterize the Christ followers of the future?
A Call for a New Reformation for Christ
David Bryant, founder of Concerts of Prayer International and Proclaim Hope, on the 500th anniversary of Luther’s protest, released an epic work called Christ Is NOW!, a magnificent 600-page volume calling for a Christological reformation.” Bryant’s book, like Luther’s 95 Theses, “captures the heartbeat of a grassroots insurgency already underway — soon to flourish as a ‘Christ Awakening movement’ in which the whole Church becomes wholly alive to the whole Christ” (Preface, Christ Is NOW!).
So, what is a reformation? Presumably, it is more than a revival. Is Bryant calling for a fourth branch of historic Christianity? Should we give up on the existing Church(es)? That is rather tempting, but that’s all the Church needs — another major split! So the other option, it seems to me, is to seek a reformation of unity within all churches based on only one idea: Jesus Christ is (my) Lord.
Bryant’s call for a Christological reformation is a call to individuals to “meet again for the first time” the Lord Jesus Christ in a sevenfold way (see the seven central chapters of Christ Is NOW!).
A Reformation That Must Be for the Whole Body of Christ
Is the living, exalted King Jesus partial to any of the thousands of groups that believe they are the purest, most authentic expression of the Church? Or does He even recognize the divisions we’ve created?
As the Bridegroom, Jesus is not a polygamist. He knows only one bride, and it’s doubtful that she is legally chartered, has buildings and a hierarchy of officers, or a mailing list and logo.
She is all over the world—in, but not always recognized in, those groups that call themselves churches.
Jesus’ bride consists of all those who are truly in love with Him, who commune intimately with Him daily, who obey His commandments, and who eagerly anticipate His return.
I’m Ready to Protest! How About You?
This new reformation is for me a protest—a threefold protest:
(1) I protest my shallowness, my lukewarmness, my infidelity, my estrangement, and my insensitivity to the glorious Lord who has loved me and given Himself for me.
(2) I protest my idolatrous commitment to the bride of Christ rather than to the Bridegroom, Christ Himself.
(3) And I protest my contentment in seeing God’s people similarly detached from the Lord and fragmented in their ecclesiastical schizophrenia.
Are you with me?
About the Author
Dr. David Schroeder is a graduate of Nyack College, New York Theological Seminary, and New York University. He has served churches in New York, New Jersey, and England and worked overseas with the Christian and Missionary Alliance, Trans World Radio, and International Teams. He continues preaching ministries in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and Europe. Formerly president of Philadelphia Theological Seminary, Nyack College, and Alliance Theological Seminary, Dr. Schroeder has served as president of Pillar College in New Jersey since 2007. He’s the author of ten books.