This is a question I wrestle with a lot. There are days, especially recently, where I don’t blog because I don’t think anyone is listening. Between general apathy, stubborn clinging to tradition befitting the most staunch Roman Catholic, institutional inertia, overweening pride and worst of all my own failure to live up to the standards I call for, it can feel hopeless. I can write with all seriousness that the church has lost her way for hundreds of years. Denominational splintering, theological wandering, neglect of the Word, refusal to fellowship, on and on it goes. The problems can seem so enormous, the gulf between the Word and our practice (personal and corporate) so great, that true reformation of the church seems impossible.
Having said that, I do know this for certain. Reformation will not come to the church by devoting ourselves to 16th and 17th century confessions nor by seeking to exclude from meaningful (i.e. more than a begrudging acknowledgement) fellowship Christians with whom we disagree on secondary issues. Confessions are wonderful and I refer to them all the time but when used as a litmus test for who can or cannot fellowship with us, their purpose has been perverted and their usefulness evaporates. Reformation in the church is something that must reform “The Church” and not be an attempt to create doctrinally pure enclaves. You can endlessly carve out others from the body of Christ until only you remain. That is not reformation, that is the precise opposite. That is telling Christ that what His Word declares important is less important than our own prideful pet peeves and doctrinal preferences. One of the faults of fundamentalism is a radical separation from the world around it, the very world that we are called to go forth and call to repent and belief in Christ. Instead of “in the world but not of the world” , you get just "out of the world". One of the faults of some corners of the reformation movement is a radical separation from the rest of the church that rivals that error. Saying I desire reformation but only on my terms and only by conforming yourself to my distinctives is a false and damaging misguided notion that has done nothing to unite and reform the church.
If we cry “Semper Reformanda” but only reformation on our own terms, we grossly misunderstand the nature and purpose of the church in the first place. The church gathered is not a place for theological triumphalism but of worship, fellowship and edification in the unity of our common confession and our common salvation. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that raising the banner of your doctrinal distinctive and centuries old traditions equates to reform. Nor should we strive to conform ourselves to the form of the 16th century church. Reforming the church will come only as a work of the Holy Spirit, calling God's people back to the faithful, simple expression of the gathering of the church under the power of the Spirit and the authority of the Word of God. We must spend far less time poring over tomes of theology and far more time in prayer. Less time worrying about the order of worship and more about the object of worship. Less time devising ways to keep others out and more time spent praying for genuine unity.
Let us strive in prayer and humility for reformation in the church, reformation in His way and not ours, reformation that brings people into conformity with Christ and not conformity with ourselves. Reformation is a desperate need in the church but only when done with the right motives and the right heart.