by Dave Miller
The first Reformation was about freeing the church. The new Reformation is about freeing God’s people from the church (the institution).
Those were strong words from Reggie McNeal in The Present Future, 2003. Now 17 years later the foresight of McNeal has gained incredible momentum. Even now, ordinary believers around the world are moving the gospel forward in unprecedented ways. A re-ignition of the priesthood of every believer combined with an intentional focus on simple evangelism, disciple-making, and church multiplication has unleashed millions of everyday believers with the Kingdom in mundane moments made eternally significant by the Holy Spirit’s power. Are we really in the throws of another great Reformation as McNeal suggests?
McNeal went on to write what he suggested was on the horizon:
"The original Reformation decentralized the church. The new Reformation decentralizes ministry.
The former Reformation occurred when clergy were no longer willing to take marching orders for their ministry from the Pope. The current Reformation finds church members no longer willing for clergy to script their personal spiritual ministry journey.
The last Reformation moved the church closer to home. The new Reformation is moving the church closer to the world.
The historic Reformation distinguished Christians from one another. The current Reformation is distinguishing followers of Jesus from religious people.
The European Reformation assumed the church to be a part of the cultural-political order. The Reformation currently under way does not rely on the cultural-political order to prop up the church.
The initial Reformation was about church. The new Reformation is about mission."
Simply put, the first Reformation gave the Word of God back to the people. After 500 years, it seems many of God’s people are doing what God’s Word says. This current Reformation is giving the ministry of God back to the people. Is this not what we hoped for?
JD Greear in Jesus Continued wrote of William Tyndale (1494-1536):
"William Tyndale devoted much of his life to translating the Bible into English. Every time Tyndale came to the word ekklesia in the Greek New Testament he translated it “congregation” instead of “church” because he wanted to reclaim the idea that the church was not a place to go but a movement to join.
This infuriated the authorities, because in so doing Tyndale had undercut their power. Controlling the “places” of worship meant controlling the people, and so when Tyndale downplayed the “place,” he diminished their control. Places you could control; movements you cannot. They tried Tyndale as a heretic.
During his trial, Tyndale said to one church leader, “If God spares my life, ere many years, I will cause the boy that drives the plow to know more of the Scriptures than you do.”"
Tyndale was burned at the stake for his translation.
Now here I am 500 years later, literally a boy that drove the plow, head, heart, and hand on the Word of God, released in the power of the Holy Spirit to do the work of making disciples because Jesus said so. Why would we hinder anyone with head, heart and hand on Word of God empowered by the Holy Spirit from doing the work of God?
It is hard to define our moment as a reformation when one is living through history instead of evaluating it based upon results and a hundred years of hindsight, yet must we wait for the definition? Instead, might we consider driving what the definition will become? Might we release not only the Word of God to the plow boy, but also the mission?
From my vantage point, limited as it may be, I see this new Reformation not only existing, but picking up speed. Indeed transition creates its own set of challenges. Releasing the ministry back to the church from the hands of the leadership and elites will also attract its challengers as well. But in order to take the gospel to this new millennia, now in its third decade, with all its demands, rapidly changing cultures and information, exponential population growth, and constant migrations, we need more hands to the plow, not less. We need more frontline engagement with the authority of Jesus and confidence to adapt, not less. We need more followers of Jesus sent in the power of the Holy Spirit, with the Word of God in head, heart and hand: exponentially more.
The simple reality is this: the complexity of the mission cannot be controlled by a few million leaders and elites. We do not have the capacity, nor the capability to control, let alone accomplish, a such a task. Yet, our Lord, who has faithfully been directing his mission through the Holy Spirit and the Word of God for 2000 years is more than capable. He will send out laborers into His harvest. Will we be in their way, or in their corner?
Simplify the ministry, lower the bar of leadership, and raise the bar of devotion to a life of whole-hearted surrender to Jesus and His Commission. And maybe, just maybe, history won’t have time to look back and critically decide whether this was indeed the second Reformation, because the Revelation 5 everyday priests from every tribe, tongue and nation will already be singing around the throne of our King as proof.
Until there's #NoPlaceLeft...