When we hear the term reformation we automatically have visions of an Augustinian monk marching to the large Castle Church door in Wittenberg with hammer in hand to nail his Ninety Five Theses there on October 31st 1517. However, there’s more to the Reformation than that one event and there’s an ongoing work of Reformation in our day. The weekly responsibilities of a pastor involves reforming the church. That’s what we see in Paul’s letter to Timothy in 1 Timothy 3:14-16.
The Church and Cultural Trends
There are dangerous ditches to fall into within the church. One ditch is the ditch of tradition where a church member resists any idea of change simply because he has never done it that way before. Another ditch to avoid is that of constantly changing in order to accommodate the changing culture. There is steady cultural breeze that seeks to move the church off course. It may not seem like it’s too far off at first glance, but over time the distance becomes greater and the compromise becomes more severe.
The church is under a steady assault from the world. Everything from the message to the mission of the church is being influenced by the culture. If not properly guarded—the church will be deformed little by little. Very seldom does a false teacher walk in the front door and introduce himself as the devil’s agent sent to destroy the church. But, if the message of the church is not properly guarded—the deformation of truth will take place week by week until the gospel is veiled altogether.
This is the same pattern with regard to every aspect of the church—including the weekly worship service. That’s why there is a steady need for reformation in the life of the local church.
The Pastor and the Work of Reformation
The pastor of the church in Ephesus was Timothy. Paul wrote to him and gave clear instructions for him to reform the church’s behavior (1 Tim. 3:14-15). The term “behavior” comes from the Greek word, “ἀναστρέφω” meaning — “to conduct oneself in a specific manner.” It’s a reference to the functionality of the church.
Apparently, since Paul wrote this letter to Timothy, there is reason to believe that something was off. It could be an indicator of some sort of compromise with personal relationships or within public worship—and both areas matter much to God.
The pastor’s role as an overseer is to guard the church’s behavior. Interpersonal relationships matter as the church is called to maintain the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3). Likewise, weekly worship must be orderly and arranged in such a manner as to bring glory to God. When the weekly worship is filled with man-centered elements from pragmatic arrangements to entertainment focused services—the gathering ceases to honor God and in some cases ceases to be a church altogether.
Rather than entertaining the church, the pastor is to reprove, rebuke, and bring correction according to the Word of Truth (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Both personal relationships and public worship are to be regulated by the Word of God. The Scriptures are sufficient to guide us in friendships and the worship of God. It is the Word of God that provides boundaries for God’s people and it is the responsibility of the pastor to regulate the church for God’s glory. Such red lights and green lights help us to see the path of righteousness and the cultural errors which enables us to walk in obedience among the household of God.
Not only was this true in the days of ancient Ephesus, but it remains true for us today. When we hear of consumerism invading the church whereby people pack up their bags and move churches over simple disagreements, larger playgrounds at a church down the street, or because their grandchild decided to attend another church three miles from their current church—we’re reminded of the need to understand proper behavior among the church. When we see pastors entering the pulpit on zip lines and rock bands leading the people into a frenzy through secular music—we are reminded of the need for faithful pastors to guard the church and to regulate the church’s behavior both in relationships and worship in order to avoid error and glorify God.
Pray for your pastors. Pray that they will not be swept away by the winds of compromise. Pray for them as they seek to engage in tedious work of reforming the church that the culture has sought to deform over time.
The phrase ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda (the church reformed, always reforming) is the call of the church as a whole and it begins with those who are called to lead.
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