95 Theses on the Reformation of the Evangelical Church

31 10 2008

Updated: This was originally posted at The Thinklings by Jared Wilson.  Any guy who comes up with 95 modern theses is a noble writer in my book.

On the Discipleship of the Individual Christian

1. God saves us as individuals, but he does not save us to an individual faith.

2. The Christian’s faith may be personal, but it should not be private.

3. Life is not about us.

4. The Church is not supposed to be about us.

5. The American Christian takes for granted the convenience of the availability of God’s revelation in the Holy Scriptures.

6. When a Christian abandons the discipline of the study of Scripture, he spites and dishonors the men and women who toiled, sacrificed, and died to increase the availability of God’s written word.

7. Moreover, when a Christian doesn’t read Scripture, he spites and dishonors God who graciously reveals himself to us in and through it.

8. The Christian who does not devote himself to Scripture but yet expresses frustration over not hearing “God’s will for my life” is either confused or stupid.

9. The Christian who devotes himself to Scripture in order to achieve a knowledge that puffs up is storing up a harsh rebuke from the Holy Spirit.

10. The aim of devotion to Scripture is our transformation, not merely our information.

11. The American Christian and the churches that train him are adherents to the syncretism of biblical values and the self-idolatry of consumer culture.

12. This syncretism is suffocating the discipleship culture of our churches, which are mostly predicated on therapeutic gospels and self-help which make do not glorify God and which make the disciple the center of Christian faith rather than Christ.

13. The American Christian is often offended by or secretive about the message of the gospel, which puts him dangerously in league with those who find the message foolish and are perishing.

14. The Christian in the American Christian ought to affirm and embrace the cost of discipleship, but the American in the American Christian hesitates to deny himself because Self is his highest value.

15. The modern disciple is currently being spiritually deformed by leaders in the Church who do not make that which is “of first importance” the most important thing.

16. The modern disciple compartmentalizes his life and does not realize that even a large compartment for “faith” or “church” or “God” is not healthy discipleship. The American Christian’s schedule and routines reflect he believes his days belong to himself and not to God.

17. The American Christian finds Jesus’ command to sacrifice and serve abhorrent.

18. The American Christian has forgotten how to pray.

19. Discipleship is best cultivated in the active participation in and contribution to the culture of a gospel-embracing Christian community.

On the Necessity of Christian Community and Its American Bankruptcy

20. The culture running counter to the kingdom is neither sympathetic to nor conducive to the experience of real community.

21. The American Christian, immersed in self-idolatrous consumeristic culture, is in his attitudes and behaviors unresponsive to the biblical call to Christian community.

22. The evangelical Church in America, having capitulated uncritically to the values of the surrounding culture, is unwittingly supporting the idolatry of Self and thereby suffocating the community it professes to desire.

23. Discipleship is designed to be experienced in community, but we have privatized our faith.

24. The legacy of legalism, gossip, condemnation, and bigotry in the fundamentalist church suffocates community by removing the gospel-honoring security of bold confession and relational authenticity.

25. The legacy of license, corruption, and theological superficiality in the modernist church suffocates community by affirming the Self and its prerogatives as the Christian’s real gods.

26. There is no such thing as “virtual community.” Technology is a valuable tool in the contemporary church, but it is a powerful one that is used too often uncritically.
The uncritical use of technology by the Church only fosters individualism and facilitates separation from incarnational community.

27. Christian community requires that Christians submit themselves to the benefit of the community.

28. Every Christian is endowed by the Spirit with gifts and talents for the edification of the Church and the glory of God, not only or primarily for the fulfillment of self.

29. When a Christian refuses to submit to community, he is saying “I have no need of you” (1 Cor. 12:21) and therefore is spiting the exhortation of Scripture and despising the purpose of giftedness, which is “the common good” (1 Cor. 12:7).

30. When a Christian refuses to submit to community he is declaring himself better than others — even if he is abstaining because of elitism or arrogance in the Church — and is guilty of hypocrisy.

31. Christian community ought to be oriented around the treasure of the gospel and purposed around the proclamation of the kingdom.

32. The American Church’s occasional attempts at community are oriented around superficial interests, hobbies, self-actualization, and the livelihood of the church organization.

33. Christians need gospel-oriented community because we are sinners and constantly need to have our brothers and sisters speak and be the gospel to us, and because we constantly need to speak and be the gospel to our brothers and sisters.

34. The gospel is about reconciliation; therefore, to orient around the gospel means (a) to enjoy and to proclaim the good news of the sinner’s reconciliation with God through Christ’s finished work and (b) to enjoy and to embody the good news of the sinner’s reconciliation with other sinners through Christ’s finished work.

35. Christian community is primarily about “the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5), not mere fraternization.

36. Thousands of churches holding out Acts 2 as the ideal picture of the Church do so while simultaneously, in the context of their message and their methods, subverting the likelihood of their church resembling what is seen in Acts 2.

37. Our triune God exists in community, so the American Christian’s refusal to submit to community is disobedience to the first commandment.

38. Because Christian community reflects reconciliation with God and reconciliation with our neighbor, the American Christian’s refusal to submit to community is disobedience to the Great Commandment.

On the Evangelical Church and Its Congregations

39. The New Testament designates God’s elect “The Body of Christ,” and therefore the Church’s role in the world is to do what Christ did: proclaim and embody the gospel of the kingdom.

40. Jesus said the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church.

41. Much of what passes for church in America will be prevailed against by hell.

42. The local church is intended to be a loving community that truly treasures the gospel.

43. The Church in America is generally not community-oriented and mostly treasures itself.

44. The American Church loves itself more than its neighbor.

45. The message of the evangelical American Church has shifted from bold proclamation of Jesus to an inordinate application of “biblical values.”

46. The American Church loves the spirit of the age and idolizes relevancy.

47. Consequently, the American Church has lost its courage to preach repentance and its faithfulness to the gospel.

48. The American Church needs more and more bold elders and ministers willing to be missionaries for the gospel to evangelicalism.

49. The number of large churches has increased, but the number of professing Christians has decreased. This means what we are being told is working isn’t.

50. Churches are spending lots of money on unnecessary and selfish things.

51. The Church must repent of its idolization of personality and business principles.

52. The Church must repent of its idolization of political power and prestige.

53. The Church must repent of its idolization of the self and its failure to find Christ sufficient.

54. The Church must repent for its neglect of and casual approach to the sacraments.

55. The Church must repent of its idolization of “cool,” in which we dishonor our parents, spite our brothers and sisters in the faith, and merely set ourselves up for the sins we perceive in them — appearing “of the times.”

56. The Church must return to feeding its gathered people the Word of God, not therapeutic motivation, on a regular basis. The Church must return to cultivating community, not maintaining programs.

57. The tide can turn in American evangelicalism if we will return to our first love.

On the Pastorate in the American Church

58. The elders and pastors of the church, as ministers of the gospel, are charged by Jesus to feed the sheep.

59. The trend within the American church of orienting the worship gathering around seekers while simultaneously demanding sheep “self-feed” is therefore a sin in need of repentance.

60. Leaders in the church must watch their life and their doctrine closely.

61. Leaders in the church must not remove themselves from the community life of the church, as if they are somehow, by office or giftedness, above it.

62. The pastors of the churches in American have ceased serving as their church’s resident theologian.

63. The qualities necessary for church leadership are clearly outlined in Scripture. These include self-control, ability to teach the Word, and gentleness.

64. The qualities most in demand in the American pastorate are frequently foreign to the qualities made most important in Scripture.

65. The professionalization of the pastorate is stunting the discipleship culture of the American Church. This is not to say that pastors should not receive pay for their service, only that the influence and predominance of professional business and marketing skills and “types” have overtaken the biblical office of church overseer so that the pastorate is more about management than it is about shepherding.

66. Churches should protect their pastor’s livelihood and integrity by both providing for his needs and lovingly demanding he feed them the Word.

67. The pastors who direct the church are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.

68. The pastor who preaches not the incarnate Word in the revealed word, who teaches the satisfaction of good works (or anything but Christ) is serving dishonorably.

69. If any pastor preaches no gospel or a different gospel, let him be accursed.

70. The American pastor must repent of ambition.

71. The American Church must repent of its idolization of the celebrity pastorate.

72. The American pastor is right to seek to contextualize the gospel, but he must repent of the idolization of innovation and technology.

73. The American pastor must pastor more than he programs.

74. The American pastor must trust the Spirit, not statistics.

75. The American pastor must repent of the idolization of numbers and results.

76. The American pastor must above all be faithful to Christ, passionate about the gospel clearly articulated, devoted to the Word and the sacraments, and motivated by what is right, not what is expected, popular, or even productive.

On the Purpose of the Christian Life

77. The purpose of Christian worship is not momentary music but total submission to God and consecration for life.

78. The purpose of worshiping through music and the arts is not emotional reaction but the exaltation of God.

79. The purpose of preaching is not motivation but the proclamation of the gospel.

80. The purpose of teaching is not information but edification.

81. The purpose of evangelism is not recruitment but reconciliation.

82. The purpose of service and justice is not achieving or demonstrating righteousness but obeying Christ and demonstrating his righteousness.

83. The purpose of salvation is not self-improvement but resurrection.

84. The purpose of prayer is not accumulation but intimacy with God.

85. The purpose of ministry is not imparting knowledge or a spiritual impression but knowing and sharing Jesus Christ and him crucified.

86. The purpose of discipleship is not self-actualization but conformity to the will of God.

87. The purpose of the gifts of the Spirit is not self-fulfillment but the common good of the church.

88. The purpose of Scripture is not education but transformation.

89. The purpose of community is not fellowship but “follow-ship.”

90. The purpose of the pastorate is not impressing an audience but feeding the sheep.

91. The purpose of love is not reciprocation but the glory of God.

92. The purpose of grace is not vanity but the glory of God.

93. The purpose of the Church is not itself but the glory of God.

94. The purpose of the gospel is the glory of God.

95. The point of human existence is the glory of God.

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