I think that the idea of another “Reformation” suffers from the same historically confused amnesia as the idea of “Crusades for Christ.” Can there be a more inappropriate name for a missional group than one which recalls the slaughter of Muslims, Jews and Christians? And should the current struggles in Christianity be likened to the Reformation?
The Reformation is idealized and made pure when in fact it was tragic. While it is certainly true that God used the Reformation to correct some of the many errors of the Church at the time, and this blessing has continued on to this day in the rejection of many sub-Christian doctrines, the fact that the people of God were split yet again should be a matter of lamentation. Indeed, the subsequent multiplication of denominations bears testimony to what was the biggest failure of the Reformation: the absolute independence of the autonomous individual. “If I don’t like you, I’m gonna split and do my own thing.” As Reed likes to say: “And 24,000 denominations later…”
I feel that there are better ways to describe what is now happening and what needs to happen other than deeming it a “New Reformation.” In his famous and incredibly influential book, Thomas Kuhn describes shifts in thought across disciplines (in this case the Christian worldview) as “Paradigm Shifts.” A particular pattern of thought carries with it certain assumptions and all new information is interpreted through these assumptions. What inevitably happens is that some new information which seems to contradict the dominant paradigm begins to become too obvious to ignore. What follows is a period of transition where an “old guard” proclaims a pox on the new paradigm, while others begin to explore new avenues of thought and follow the new information as it leads, until a new and enhanced, and also radically different, paradigm emerges. Eventually this repeats itself.
This is where our Christianity seems to be. In a period of transition. But what will emerge and how is only foggy ahead of us. I noticed that that (Re)formation page and event was mostly done by Free Church Protestants, almost all white westerners, and NO women. The (Re)formation of the Church, is gonna have to be more representative than that if it wants to really affect Christianity!
I agree with Paul (Stewart), the Church always needs to reform. But we have got to learn to do it together. Another thing I think is important to notice. The Church is growing in other parts of the world.
I think that one of the biggest reasons that the Church in the West is shrinking has nothing to do with church planting strategy, or even theology, both of which are important; but I think it might have something to do with the fact that God is the God of the poor and oppressed. We are neither, and I thank God for being there with those who are.
You propose an ambitious project Reed. Let’s see how much of it we can actually do!