Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Notes from the Reformation Society Leadership Summit

I had a great time of fellowship in Indianapolis at the Reformation Society Leadership Summit. There were about twenty of us there, mostly from the Midwest. Numbers were down apparently, the economy is leaving nothing unscathed including the church.

I would have liked to have spent more time in discussion with the other Reformation Society people, but a schedule snafu (i.e. not being able to find the programs!) kind of threw us off. There was a lot of experience, wisdom, and new ideas in the room, and I don't think we really tapped them like we could have. I did get to see the Reformation Society of Indiana do their scheduled meeting and it was a great example. I was glad to have the opportunity to see a well established society in action.

We were blessed with some great teaching on suffering by Dr. Mark Talbot from Wheaton College. After falling from 50' at seventeen, he has been a partial paraplegic (I think that is the term) for more than 40 years and even the simplest of physical acts can be a source of struggle. The two big lessons (among pages of notes!) I gleaned from his talks were:
  • Suffering is not, in spite of the Western belief grounded in the Enlightenment to the contrary, the worst thing that can happen to us.
  • God uses our suffering which He sovereignly decrees to break down our stubborn self-reliance.
I found his talks to be amazing. I am looking forward to his new book on suffering due out soon. Suffering is a reality of the life of Christians, an important doctrine and something that the church has always been acquainted with. We need to think a lot more about Christian suffering and the place it has in God's relationship with His creatures and spend less time making ourselves comfortable.

The best part was the fellowship among other men who are passionate about the Reformation Societies. We all have our reasons for that passion but the reason I am passionate about the Reformation Societies is that they are unique in the Reformed/Reformational universe because they are so local and so interactive. There are lots of big (and getting bigger) conferences out there with big names. It has become a sort of Reformed arms race to see who can get the biggest names at their conferences. Together for the Gospel is great, but it can't and doesn't try to replace local fellowship. Aimed as it is, and most Reformed conferences are, at the super engaged and those in ministry, it is mostly lost on the rank and file Christian. That is where the reform of the church must ultimately land. We already have lots of engaged, passionate pastors who feel like they are beating the heads against the wall. Until that passion and equipping moves to the rest of the Body, that will continue to be the case: leaders with passion and apathy for Reformation among the rest of the Body.

There are struggles aplenty in this movement. Trying to be heard among all of the static can be difficult. Competing for interest is going to require a different sort of marketing, a more grassroots, word of mouth marketing (much as I dislike catch phrases). For the Reformation Societies to thrive, we are going to have to excuse ourselves from the Reformed arms race, rely on local church leaders and make our mark by being on the ground where the whole body of Christ can be a part. We are going to have to be more than just a secret club where we get together to talk with one another about Reformed theology. Reformation in the church is going to require more than just Calvinism, it is going to require and be driven by Christians thirsting for the Word of God and sharing that thirst with others. We need to recover the Word if we are going to restore the Church. When we recover and dig deep into the Word, Reformed theology naturally follows. Please pray for this effort and if you live somewhere where there is an active Reformation society check it out. If you don't have one, consider starting one. The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals is ready to help!

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