From the Pastor’s Desk- October 2019

Time for Another Reformation

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther posted his 95 Thesis for debate on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany.  Luther was challenging the status quo in the church and wanted to debate its teachings in light of the Bible.  Thus the Reformation of the church began.

I believe it is time to challenge some of the status quo ideas of the Christian Church again.

In recent years there has been a staggering increase in the No Religion segment of the U.S. population.  According to the Pew Research Center, the “Nones”, as they are called, increased from 8.1% of the U.S. adult population in 1990 to 35% in 2018.  That is an increase from 14 million adults in 1990 to nearly 56 million last year!  In Minnesota those claiming no religion was found to be at about 20%.  That figure includes Seven percent who identified as Atheist or Agnostic and 13 percent said they believed in “nothing in particular” religiously.  Only about five percent of Minnesotans claim non-Christian faith, such as Judaism, Muslim or Buddhist.

What does this say to Christian churches?  Are they becoming a thing of the past, irrelevant to the lives of people today?

It’s not that churches haven’t tried to be relevant.  For years proponents the Church Growth Movement have proclaimed that the church needs to change.  Churches responded by doing things like changing to rock music and simpler “seeker” services in order to attract more people.  Many of these churches saw some of the desired growth, but it can be argued that this growth was due largely to the cannibalization of other churches more so than to the addition of new Christians.  In other words, the local congregation may have grown but the Christian Church did not.

Among the claims of the church growth advocates was that these changes to traditional churches would attract young people into the Church.  But did those promises deliver?  Apparently not, as according to the study the Nones claim 44% of the 18–29 age group, and nearly that (43%) among those who are 30–44 and those two groups make up the largest segment of adults claiming no religion.

If changing the methods didn’t help, perhaps it is time to re-evaluate the message.

In many churches today the last thing you will hear about is sin and its forgiveness paid for by the death of Jesus Christ.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ is being set aside and watered-down.  In order to draw crowds and not offend anyone, a crossless gospel that knows nothing of sin and repentance is being offered up each Sunday as a substitute for the real thing.

A quick perusal of the books that fill the selves of the “Religion” section of the local bookstore reveals much the same thing, as they are mostly pop-psychology, self-improvement and shallow “spirituality” books that teach nothing of sin and grace.

Perhaps it’s time for another Reformation.  It’s time for the Christian Church to stop apologizing for not being politically correct and refocus on the foundational truths of God’s Word.  “Then [Jesus] opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.  He told them, ‘This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things’”  (Luke 24:45-48).  It is time for Christian churches to return to the clear teachings of God’s Word – to be the witnesses of Christ’s work of salvation.  It is God’s Word that convicts us of sin and leads the repentant sinner to the forgiveness won by Jesus’ blood on the cross of Calvary.

Jesus said, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” 

Only through the inspired Word of God and its pure teaching will the church find the true pathway, through the narrow gate, to truth, relevance and ultimately eternal life.

~ Pastor Christensen