Monday, October 31, 2005

What's Really Happening on Reformation Sunday, A.D. 2005

The iMonk talks about what's really happening on Reformation Sunday in southeast Kentucky.


I’m pretty sure that our church will die in a few years. I’m just as sure that most of the churches in our community that don’t embrace the Pentecostal-Charismatic style of worship will decline, and that many of the Pentecostal/Charismatic/Holiness churches will grow and prosper. I am certain that Biblical preaching means less and less to the average Christian every week in our community. It is a famine, and I am watching it happen in my lifetime.

. . .

In the majority -- the Holiness/Pentecostal/Charismatic majority -- the Gospel of Grace is no more likely to be heard than a review of Russian novels.

. . .

Some of the Baptist ministers here have discovered John Piper and are reading and preaching the Gospel more clearly. [You're pretty hard up for Gospel, when John Piper is the guy who opens your eyes to it.]

. . .

An educated ministry has a hard time relating to an uneducated culture. I’ve learned this many times. This is a place where feelings and emotions are the currency of religion, and the minister who seeks to emulate Spurgeon or Lloyd-Jones will have a difficult time. What works at Piper’s church or Dever’s church won’t work here.

In church, we followed, as is our custom on Reformation Sunday, the order of worship of Luther's Deutsche Messe with red paraments and a banner with the Luther seal. Pastor Mitchell preached powerfully about simul justus et peccator with application to a letter he received a month ago from an LCMS pastor who just went Eastern Orthodox.

We are the conservative Reformation now. Charles Porterfield Krauth fought to have the Lutheran church's title to this recognized in face of many competitors. But now we are it, because, it seems, no one else wants to be it. With the destruction of institutional Anglicanism (with other mainline denomination soon following) by libertine ethics and modernist theology, the seeming irresistible onward rushing of praise bands (more here), and charismaticism, we're all that's left.

Well maybe quite not all of it. The occasional Presbyterian, Baptist or Methodist will preach the Gospel. But is it institutionally rooted? (Well, here's the iMonk on the trends in the Southern Baptist church.) And are they really all that faithful to the conservative Reformation idea of a magisterial church with real sacraments and a real norm of faith in the Bible? Justification by faith alone, real and substantial presence of Christ's body and blood in Communion, and the authority of the Scriptures: just require those three things and voila, your horizons are limited to LCMS and WELS-ELS.

Bible-centered preaching and teaching, hymns and psalmody, and a pastor with gravity and authority: these three things were central to the experience of being a Protestant Christian in America for four hundred years. Does anyone still want them any more?

This is an opportunity, but it is also frightening. A famine of the word. A judgment of the Lord. It's happened before and it will happen again. God give us strength for the facing of this hour.