The Next Reformation of the Church

reformation_sundayNearly five centuries ago in Central Europe, an unknown Augustinian monk decided to nail 95 theses to a church door, sparking a religious revolution felt to the present day.

Reformation Day, the anniversary of when Martin Luther began the Protestant Reformation, is an observance remembered by hundreds of American churches in the modern day. While the exact date of Luther’s call to theological debate was Oct. 31, or the Eve of All Saints’ Day, many Protestant congregations choose to observe the occasion on the last Sunday in the month. This year, Reformation Sunday will fall on Oct. 27, with Protestant denominations such as Lutherans, Presbyterians, and Baptists drawing attention to the past.

by Michael Gryboski, Christian Post Reporter
“Churches Remembering Martin Luther With Reformation Sunday Observance,” October 27, 2013

Yesterday I had the pleasure of celebrating Reformation Day at a wonderful inner-city Anglican church in Melbourne, St. Matt’s Prahan, speaking on Rom 3:21-26.

It’s a great day to get your Luther on, unleash your inner Calvin, channel some Bucer, reconnect with your “sola” power panels, thank God for Tyndale, and play with your Ridley and Latimer action figurines. But such a day does lead to a question or two. Is Reformation Sunday a bit like commemorating a divorce, vindicate the violence between Protestants and Catholics, reinforce old prejudices, rent further apart the already fractured body of Christ, become an exercise in Roman Catholic bashing, and Anabaptist drowning?

by Michael F. Bird
“Reformation Sunday Reflection”

I’d never even heard of “Reformation Sunday” until Sunday before last when my Pastor briefly mentioned it from the pulpit. Last Sunday, Reformation Sunday, he gave a short presentation about this day during the “announcements” portion of the service. I didn’t take notes but near the end of his presentation, Pastor said something that sounded like the Church needing a Reformation again.

I can see his point.

We had recently discussed my viewpoint on John MacArthur’s conference Strange Fire. I know Pastor, in last Sunday’s evening service, delivered a sermon called “Should We Put Out Strange Fire?” (I’ll have to listen to the recording when it’s posted online).

I don’t want to rehash all that, but I do want to use the topic as a jumping off point for why the Church (big “C”) needs another reformation. Yes, I agree with my Pastor, but I think the direction and form of that reformation is a lot different in my eyes than they are in his.

Last Sunday, my Pastor preached on Acts 16:1-5. It’s just amazing how much insight and information he can draw from a simple five verses in scripture. For instance, one of the things Pastor said by way of introduction (I’m working from my notes, here) is that Paul always visited the synagogue when he arrived at any location. By the time he left, he had founded a separate church and believing Jews would leave the local synagogue and join the church, presumably with Gentile believers.

Naturally I chafed at this summary, as it depicts the Jewish worship and devotion to the Jewish Messiah as not Jewish at all, but rather a “Christian” activity wholly divorced from Judaism…and that’s an important distinction.

Burning-Star-of-DavidThe information he presented did not denigrate the Jewish people in the slightest, but it was still designed to separate the Jewish believer from Judaism. This has been the source of more than a few debates between us.

The “sister” blog post to this one is called What Church Taught Me About Jews and the Torah, and ironically, uses portions of Pastor’s sermon to fill in the gaps of my argument supporting Jewish continuing observance of Torah within the body of Messiah.

As I write this, he hasn’t read that blog post, nor have we been able to discuss it. I know that no matter how logical an argument I make, and no matter how well I think I’ve supported it in scripture, theologian that he is, Pastor will find numerous other scriptures to use to refute my opinion.

And yet, for me, the “Jewishness” and the “Judaism” of Jewish faith in Messiah is inescapable. Pastor sees the Church as a new entity that separated itself from Judaism, sort of like the train of God’s plan extending forward from Torah and the Prophets “jumped the tracks” at Acts 2 and took a whole different trajectory into the future, leaving the original path (and the covenant requirements, blessings, and promises along with them) abandoned. I can’t read the way most Christians see the development of the faith back into the Tanakh.

That’s why the general viewpoint of Messianic Judaism, including the perspective of Postmissionary Messianic Judaism makes more sense to me than Fundamentalist Christianity and Progressive Revelation. In order to celebrate Reformation Sunday as a significant holiday in the church, I have to conclude that the idea of Progressive Revelation must extend into the post-Biblical period and was active as recently as five hundred years ago, if we are required to see the Reformation as a Revelation of God.

And if it’s not a revelation from God, then it’s just another set of theologies and doctrines created by human beings who are trying to understand the Bible, God, and who we are as Christians.

You can’t have it both ways.

I could write a whole other blog post (and I probably will at some point) about whether or not the Holy Spirit continues to be manifest in our world or not (Pentecostals say “yes,” Fundamentalists say “not so much”). But for the moment, let me assume that God didn’t abandon us all for the past two-thousand years with only various translations and copies of copies of copies of the Bible to speak for Him. Let’s assume God actually cares about us enough to whisper in an ear or two from time to time.

And let’s assume that such whispers might even contain instructions for the periodic “course correction” of the great ship of the oceans called “the Church.” Obviously the authors of the Reformation felt the ship was off course and made efforts to steer her in a better direction. Obviously, they wouldn’t have made such changes if they didn’t believe it was within the will of God. Otherwise, they’d just be a bunch of guys reading what they wanted to in the Bible and acting out of their interpretations.

But then, it’s not like people don’t do stuff like that sometimes.

Yes, I believe God’s Presence still makes itself felt in our world. I don’t think we can put God in a box. Oh yes, we can make our boxes and say we’ve put God inside because it’s a perfect fit, but I think God has other ideas about Himself. He said that the tabernacle was not truly His home, since all the Earth is His footstool, so to speak. What makes us think we can make a theological box that is big enough to “fit” God yet small enough for us to carry around with us?

I can’t argue with history. Good, bad, or indifferent, the Reformation happened and it sent ripples across the timeline that still rock our boats today.

prophetic_return1But the Church (and all of its little churches, hundreds of them, thousands of them, all the little denominations, movements, and streams) has gotten really static. Even suggesting a paradigm shift meets with strong resistance. Inertia can be such a difficult thing. So hard to push start the truck on a cold morning when all it wants to do is to stay in its nice, comfy garage.

I really do think that the Church needs another Reformation. I think that by the time Messiah gets back, it will go through a whopping big one, whether we’re ready for it or not. I think that the beginnings of such a Reformation are already evidenced in our world. I write about those beginnings all the time. I wrote about one just recently and will continue to do so.

I can’t prove what I’m about to say, but I believe it’s a credible suggestion. I believe the next big Reformation for the Church is the restoration of Messianic Judaism. The Church was artificially carved from Judaism probably in the second and third centuries of the Common Era. Before that, it was one of a number of functioning Judaisms in occupied Israel and the Diaspora. I think Paul was instrumental in spreading this Judaism to both Jews and Gentiles in the Roman empire of his day. I think that he, like the ancient prophets of the Tanakh who came before him, intended that the Messianic promise should move forward in history as Israel’s path of redemption and restoration, with Israel as the light and Messiah as the light bearer, attracting the people of all the nations to that light to join in Messiah’s body…a Jewish body…a Judaism.

The next Reformation for the Church is for the Church to stop seeing itself as a separate thing and to stop seeing Judaism as dead. The next Reformation of the Church is to come alongside the resurrected Judaism of Messianic Judaism, the reborn Jewish faith stream of “the Way,” and to cease requiring Jews to become Christians and to leave being Jews and being part of Judaism and Israel and instead, for the Gentile Christians to realize that we must join them, not them joining us.

26 thoughts on “The Next Reformation of the Church”

  1. And may it come with grace and goodness, in our time, in the spirit of peace, that many would grow closer to HaShem and His Son through simply knowing them both with greater understanding and increased intimacy, which, in this case, are two concepts I take to be dependent in respective order.

  2. I hope so, Dan. On the other hand, recent experiences have told me that “the Church” will go into the Messianic reformation screaming and kicking because it won’t fit the preconceptions of the Kingdom the first Reformation taught them. More’s the pity.

  3. Sorry, but I have to disagree. The Church will not shift away from what it is… At least, not big time…

    Of course there will be some small congregations where their pastors will have a new understanding about the Jewishness of Yeshua and His real message, and they will be willing to make the shift. I happen to live in such environment, and it surely is great! That’s one thing that I admire my pastor for… He had a heart for Truth, so he made a commitment and suffered because of it…

    Let me explain myself:

    I know about the catholic church… it won’t change…
    I also know about the evangelical church… it won’t change…

    For them, there’s a lot at stake…

    Theological great minds, PhD’s, big, medium and even small pastors… they mostly are old wineskins…
    “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved. And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better.’” Luke 5:37-39

    They also run huge, big, medium size and even small organizations that require funding… making a shift means many people leaving their communities… means funds walking out their doors…
    “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” Matthew 6:24

    So, I know there will be some exceptions… but the majority won’t change…

  4. I understand what you’re saying Alfredo, and I generally agree, but it’s either reform now or reform once the King returns and commands us to reform. It’s our choice. It always has been.

  5. I think that it will be easier for individuals to know and learn about the Jewishness of Yeshua and make the shift, teaching their own families about these “found again” things, and THAT is already happening by the Hand of God… but I don’t see changes in an organized fashion, like I wrote in my previous comment.

    I can appreciate of what you are doing with your pastor and his congregation… but I’m not convinced about it being the best way of making the effort…

  6. This probably won’t excite your agenda very much, but Hebrew Roots groups are growing like wild fire… 😛

    I agree with Alfredo though, I don’t see changes on a larger scale happening, unless there is a form of exodus from the current status and new groups are formed.

  7. It’s still better than ignoring the issues we have in our churches today and making them a pariah. Even if we are turned down flat by churches in our attempt to promote change and raise awareness, at least we took the moral high road and engaged them.

  8. I can imagine they are, Zion. On the other hand “Hebrew Roots” covers a very wide range of organizations, from family home Bible studies, to small home groups, up to larger congregations. However, that doesn’t mean they are all “well-wrapped” theologically, so to speak. I once attended a conference of about a dozen different Hebrew Roots congregations in the Puget Sound area and I heard some pretty sketchy teachings and opinions (like the “lost years of Jesus” when he traveled to India with his Uncle Nicodemus).

    I think Gentile Christian interest in “Jewish Roots” is a response (this is just my opinion…I have no research to back it up) to the generally “static” state of the churches in our world today, especially the Western nations. Very few churches teach actually reading and studying the Bible, and those that do, most of them anyway, rely on the old Protestant traditions to define their interpretations and struggle (or ignore) with anything that could be even slightly unconventional.

    But as I see it, we have an obligation to at least try to share our viewpoints in a “user friendly” manner rather than either walking into churches and beating people over the head with a Torah scroll, or walking away altogether, muttering curses and name-calling at churches and Christians as we go.

    Like it or not, churches contain the majority of disciples of Yeshua who are observing the weightier matters of the Torah and churches send the vast, vast majority of missionaries out into the world, so the world is learning about Yeshua faith from them, not from Hebrew Roots and not from Messianic Judaism.

  9. I heard some pretty sketchy teachings and opinions (like the “lost years of Jesus” when he traveled to India with his Uncle Nicodemus).

    Lol, I never heard that one… By the way, I agree, there is some real sketchy teaching out there, especially among these Hebrew Roots groups, however there is also sketchy teaching from some of these Messianic groups as well, I mean look at yourself… 😛

    But as I see it, we have an obligation to at least try to share our viewpoints in a “user friendly” manner rather than either walking into churches and beating people over the head with a Torah scroll, or walking away altogether, muttering curses and name-calling at churches and Christians as we go.

    Like it or not, churches contain the majority of disciples of Yeshua who are observing the weightier matters of the Torah and churches send the vast, vast majority of missionaries out into the world, so the world is learning about Yeshua faith from them, not from Hebrew Roots and not from Messianic Judaism.

    Well said…

  10. …however there is also sketchy teaching from some of these Messianic groups as well, I mean look at yourself…

    Hardy, har, har [rolleyes]

    Well said…


  11. Terrific post and good comments… I see the blend of the two…

    As James says, it is a work of the Spirit, but like Alfredo and Zion mention, I see only a remnant coming out of the church, and usually only those with less to lose… Sadly.

    What seems to be happening is that the teaching among the Hebrew roots guys is getting stronger and more credible, though I agree, there is stuff I won’t touch. Bottom-line, it is clearly a work of the Spirit.

    What happens when Messianic Judaism openly embraces and begins to lead/teach, in a brotherly manner, the Hebrew roots? Now THAT will be the beginning of HUGE blessings and the true finding of The Way! (Currently, my sense is that much of Messianic Judaism still has a wall up to the non-Jew Torahkeepers…. But, maybe I just wear my feelings on my sleeve. 😉 ) Seriously, though. POWER from on High will come and dwell when we learn to walk in unity and mutually submit to each other’s strong suit. The Jews will still be Jews, the non-Jews will still be non-Jews, but they will be ONE body, ONE faith, etc…

    1. Pardon, Pete — but MJ has been teaching from its very inception, in a very open brotherly way, to non-Jews as well as to Jews, the Jewish roots of the apostolic writings and of Rav Yeshua as the Jewish Messiah. If there is a wall anywhere, it is as a defense against usurpers.

  12. PL, I hear what you are saying, but that has not been my experience… Yes, small sample, but I’ve spoken with plenty of others who have had similar experiences…

    A little while back I visited a Jewish Messianic congregation for a publicly advertised event. I was met before I got to the door with, “Shabbat Shalom! Are you Jewish?” My kind response was, ‘Shabbat Shalom. I am a Torah observant gentile.’

    I, along with the rest of those who joined me there that evening were pretty much ignored by the ‘locals.’ After the event, I tried twice to introduce myself to the Rabbi and only after most had left, did he come speak. I understand my own deep need for humility and love toward Judah. My fellowship prays for that fellowship and their good success among the Jews, but it is deeply troubling when I, along with everyone from our group, are treated as pariahs by all but one person in that congregation. (I used to point people to that congregation. Regretfully, not any more. We are starting our own work in that metro area. Frankly, both sides lose! We could be taught so much!! Instead, we have to learn on our own… And one wonders how errors get perpetuated.)

    I’ll simply reiterate what I asked, “What happens when Messianic Judaism openly embraces and begins to lead/teach, in a brotherly manner, the Hebrew roots? Now THAT will be the beginning of HUGE blessings and the true finding of The Way!”

    Blessings to you, brother.

    1. @Pete — While I don’t know anything of the treatment you received that made you feel like a “pariah”, would you find it at all strange that a Jewish group would focus its limited attention and resources almost exclusively toward Jews? It doesn’t sound to me as if you were turned away at the door or prevented from enjoying “the crumbs from the table”. It sounds to me that your group enjoyed the same general presentation as everyone who attended, and merely was not given the additional attention that Jews might have received under the host group’s priorities, which also were Rav Yeshua’s (and even Rav Shaul’s) priorities.

      What, exactly, did you want or expect from that congregation, that you should be so disappointed? Do you know anything of their experiences with folks who identify themselves as “Torah-observant Gentiles”? Sometimes that appellation may be interpreted as “we’re the folks who can easily outnumber you and take over your whole operation so as to make it no longer Jewish”. I certainly hope that doesn’t actually apply in your area or circumstances, but the question does come up at times and MJ congregations have some justification for caution.

      1. Brother, I understand what you are saying.

        I just look forward to the day when we can worship side by side without agendas. Its coming and the King will take care of the details…

  13. I agree with the idea that mainstream Christians will be hard-pressed to change. There is a strong sense of “Christian pride” that is solidly in place within the church, both Catholic and Protestant. It “celebrates” itw own Christian history, which, of course, only really begins with their conception of what happened at Shavuot in Acts 2, the so-called “birth of the church.” The pride in Christian history and tradition is a heavy obstacle to a deeper realization of its truest roots. The “salve” that it needs to “anoint its own eyes” (Rev. 3:18) will be out of reach without a genuine move toward humility, the condition that sets us all free to accept the truth.

  14. @Pete: No movement is populated wall to wall with wonderful people and all human beings have biases. I can’t speak to your experience, but I suspect that most other branches of the believing world are capable of similar snubs.

    @Pete: Thanks for the links. I’ll give them (or the right one, anyway) a listen when I get the chance.

    @Dan: I think that’s more of a human tendency than specifically a Christian tendency. We all like to settle down in our comfort zones and let inertia take over.

  15. @Pete, the fears always out way the unity. You are on your own, it will only be by the work of Messiah to create true unity.

  16. I completely agree with you James! I have the same conviction. I only learned that there is a difference between Judaism and Christianity. Despite messianic Judaism. The only thing that must be happen is the long awaited acceptance of the Messiah Jesus for the Jews and a really huge Reformation of the church. Until then we have Judaism and Christianity.

    It looks like Messianic Judaism are first fruits.


  17. Hey, James. I just can’t seem to get enough of your meditations and the comments…!!!! It’s just too good… I believe there are many improvements that should be made on both sides, which are MJ and Christianity… Personally, I think Rabbi Alloro is doing a great job, bridging the discrepancy between the two. From my personal experience, to simply put, I think the Gentiles interested in Messianic Judaism should be very aware of Galatians not to walk astray from the Messiah while Christianity really should apologize to the Jews for the past doing and also present humility towards them. But this is just a tip of an iceberg when it comes to bringing peace between Judaism and Christianity.. Well, I sincerely and wholeheartedly hope that every single one of us really provoke the Jews to Jealousy and for the Jews who are here, I sincerely hope that you become like Pauls for the Jews and light to the Nations… Bless you, James and all of you!

  18. Glad you’re enjoying my blog posts, Chul.

    I think Christianity and Messianic Judaism will come together when Messiah returns and brings us all to him.

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