Happy Halloween Martin Luther!

Posted in body of Christ, christian thought, church reform by Nathan Creitz on October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween Martin Luther!

It has been 491 years since you nailed your 95 Theses to the Wittenburg Church door and what a reformational act that was! Your “protests” against the corrupt Roman Catholic Church lit a fire that continues to burn to this day. You created a separate branch of the Church that we now call Protestantism but even the Catholic Church has gone through some major reform as well.

Dead Ancestors, Dead Saints, or Dead Doctrine?
Oh, and good choice of days for nailing up your protests against the corruption in the Church. October 31st used to be an ignorant pagan festival where people would dress up in scary costumes because they thought their ancient ancestors were coming to wreak havoc on their crops. Maybe if they looked scarier than their dead ancestors they might be scared away and leave them alone. They even sacrificed to them. In 800AD the Roman Catholic Church declared the day “All Hallow’s Eve” and the next day to be “All Hallow’s Day”. This was a day to celebrate the saints and martyrs of the Church. The church leaders had hoped this would take the place of such a barbaric pagan holiday.

Maybe you had the same thing in mind when you chose October 31st to start the Reformation? After all, what’s the point in celebrating dead saints and obtaining relics like a tuft of hair from this saint or a toe nail from that saint? Too bad Christians today neither celebrate the saints and martyrs (such as yourself) that have gone on before us or the Reformation. Instead, we choose to dress up in scary costumes and ward off little witches and goblins by giving them “sacrifices” of candy (and at $5.99 a bag it’s quite a sacrifice). It’s a pretty inane holiday and my wife and I give away candy to the children just so we can meet our neighbors but it’s sad that nobody thinks of what an incredible day this really is for God’s Kingdom.

Indulge Yourself
Anyway, enough about Halloween, I’m sure you wouldn’t be too happy that rather than celebrating the reformation of the Church we would rather carve gourds and eat ghost-shaped peeps. Let’s talk about penance instead. It seems that you spent a lot of your time trying to convince the Church that repentance was a matter of the heart and had nothing to do with some priest absolving you of your sin…especially through the sale of indulgences. I mean, what a rip off that was. We wouldn’t think of doing anything like that today. Instead, we do everything we can to guilt trip people into repentance. It’s the priest or ministers job to say things like, “I only saw you at the church (meaning a building) 5 days this week, were you partying the other 2 days?” or “I notice you didn’t check ‘Bible read daily’ on your offering envelope, care to explain?”. We would never stoop so low as to sell something when we can take the moral high road by guilting people into confession and repentance.

Poverty or Property
I also want to commend you for condemning the Church for using the money obtained through the sale of indulgences to build St. Peter’s Basilica rather than to give it to the poor. That was a lesson that we have taken to heart and I am happy to say, poverty is no longer an issue in the Church today. Not that poverty doesn’t exist anymore, it just doesn’t exist in the hearts and minds of most Christians, therefore, it’s not an issue in the Church. Problem solved. And we certainly wouldn’t waste money on a massive church building project to the detriment of the impoverished either. Why do that when we can just buy an already built football stadium and fill it with people and tell them that if they are poor or in need they should just believe…I mean really believe that God wants them to have their best life now. Maybe the reason they are poor is that they don’t smile enough.

Get Me A Tweezer
Finally, I should say that we are grateful for the movement you started in reforming the Church. You were right, the Church was greedy and corrupt and in need of reform. Unfortunately, almost everyone coming out of the reformation has a different idea on what needs reforming in the church and as a result, the Church today has never been more splintered. There are about 10,000 denominations around the world…some of them good, some of them not so good. We are divided doctrinally, geographically, racially, culturally, and in polity, purpose, and practice. I’m not sure what sort of tweezer is needed to start taking out the splinters in the Church but we are still in need of some desperate reform 491 years later.

So, I just wanted to say Happy Halloween and let you know how things are going here in the 21st century. People are just knocking on doors rather than nailing things to doors (my neighbors would be a bit upset). There is some good news: there have never been more Christians in all of history, but I guess the bad news is there have never before been so many people that have never heard the name Jesus. The world population is multiplying exponentially but the Church seems to still be using its fingers and toes to add and subtract. Hope you enjoy your peeps!

Nathan Creitz

PS – I know my letter to you sounds negative but I do not wish it to sound like your work was in vain. My gripe is with today’s Church. You helped to start a necessary movement that brought reform and change to the corruption of the Church in your day. My prayer is that the bad habits and false beliefs that the modern Church holds will continue to be reformed and transformed. There is much concerning the Church with which I am sure Christ is pleased and I enjoy writing about that as well, but you set the tone…October 31st is a day to think about reform and change. This is a day to boldly protest so that we can see reformation happen again in every new generation of the Church. Let the Protest begin again!

PPS – Not everyone has forgotten that this is the day you kicked off the Protestant Reformation. A guy in Canada named Tim Challies has started a Reformation Day Symposium to get people talking about what this day should be celebrating. I’m sure he would love it if you dropped by and checked out what everyone is saying about you.


What is the purpose of the Church?

Posted in body of Christ, cultural relevance by Nathan Creitz on October 23, 2008

Recently I was asked to answer a couple of questions about the purpose of the Church and its role in society…a topic that is in keeping with the subject of ChurchETHOS. Therefore, I decided to post my answers here. I got a little crafty and used Ephesians 4:11-13 to answer my question. There, we can find God raising up leaders for the Church to accomplish three things. Certainly there are other purposes but it was intriguing to find that these three purposes answer the following three questions.

Q. What is the main purpose(s) of the church, and therefore, what should be our measures of church/Kingdom success?

The main purpose of the Church is to make disciples. When Paul tells the Ephesians (4:11-13) that God gave some to the Church as apostles, some as prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, it was for about three reasons. First of all, it was to train saints in the work of ministry. This training harkens back to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. We are told to “Go and make disciples of every nation, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you.” We make disciples and teach them to be obedient to the commands of God. What are those commands? Love God, love people, make disciples, and teach them to obey my commands. It becomes a cycle much like the cycle that Paul initiates and encourages in Timothy: “And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:2) Paul is investing in Timothy who is investing in “faithful men” who will “teach others also”. This cycle is what has kept the Church in existence for 2,000 years.

How would you explain the current decaying of our culture and society in light of our current state of so many examples of successful churches?

This second question also leads us to the second purpose of the Church that Paul charges the leaders to accomplish. Therefore, I am still answering Question 1 while at the same time answering Question 2. Hope that’s not confusing. The second purpose of the church leaders is “to build up the body of Christ”. In other words, the Church is designed to grow. All organisms do it. We don’t have to be taught how to grow, but we do have to be taught how to stay healthy. The Church could be making a bigger difference in the world, but we aren’t healthy. As you mention in your question there are many examples of successful churches, but by what standard? Are they making disciples? Are the leaders encouraging growth that is both numerical AND in maturity? Meanwhile, the majority of churches are floundering. The world sees examples of perversion in the Church broadcast by the media and they don’t know what to think about the Church. Most of society has rejected Christ because of people who call themselves Christians but “deny Him by their lifestyle” as Billy Graham famously said. The leaders are given to the Church to build up the body of Christ.

What do you think the church can and should do in order to truly make a greater impact in our society and culture? To what extent is this possible?

Again, let me use the third purpose in Ephesians 4 to answer the third question. The leaders are given to the Church to do what? To make disciples, to build up the body, and finally, to reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son. What must be done by the church to have a greater impact in society? We have to stand unified against injustice and evil but also unified in our love for God and people. Most of the world only knows what we stand against (abortion, homosexuality, Catholics, Baptists, etc.) but rarely does a community or a city know what a church stands FOR. Most churches in a city or town are AGAINST each other because of competition or differing theologies or different races, etc. We aren’t really doing a good job of showing our unity with each other, much less show the world that we are unified. In order to make a greater impact in our society we have to be unified in our support of other believers and we also need to be unified in our love for our neighbor, especially those in need. Let’s let the world know that we love them. Let’s let the world know that we are unified against evil and are seeking and praying for the good of the city in which we live. All three purposes (make disciples, grow, and be unified) are necessary to make an impact in our culture. If we are the body of Christ but look anemic and unhealthy, no one will care about what we have to offer the world. If people’s lives are not being transformed through discipleship, the Church will cease to exist.

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