A Reformation on the Horizon

Yesterday I found out that I wasn’t an evangelical.  Actually, I think I knew this already.  My ties to the evangelical mainstream are getting more and more tenuous all the time.  I live near a large evangelical seminary, and when I visit, I generally feel like a foreigner–the culture, the language, and theology are all outside my normal routine.  And the two things that are the focus of my life–prayer and art, make me an outsider in the reformed evangelical camp from the start.

Yesterday someone sent me an email with a lengthy apology from a pastor named Mark Driscoll.  I’m not embarrassed to say I never heard of him. He pastors a church called Mars Hill Church.  After reading the apology I had to go do research to find out why he was apologizing.  Frankly the most shocking thing was the $200,000 he spent buying his own book to get it on the New York Times Bestseller list.  As an author myself, I was a little stunned. (If you have $200,000, why are you pastoring?)  The other things, like plagiarism and being bombastic in the pulpit simply reaffirmed what I am coming to believe:

We need a new Reformation.  

 Over the past few weeks I have been laying out the thoughts for my next book.  My original title idea was “How to have a Renaissance in ten easy steps.”  The truth is, after reading what Driscoll says he believes, and what the others who call themselves “Neo-Calvinists” believe, I am firm in my conviction that the ideas promoted by the protestant reformers have run their course, and their interpretation of Christian doctrine no longer answers the questions being answered today.

That said, the answers being promoted by mainline protestant denominations are equally tired and irrelevant.  No amount of contemporary music, statements about gender equality, or film clips can make up for the spiritual, moral, and theological bankruptcy in the mainline church.  (Yes, that is a broad blanket statement, and yes, I stand by it.)

The Protestant experiment is over.  It worked for a few hundred years, but it ceased working sometime between the two World Wars. To explain how and why this happened would require the space of a doctoral dissertation, so you will have to trust me.

My old friend Clay McLean once said “Too much Bible and not enough Holy Spirit makes you dry up.  Too much Holy Spirit and not enough Bible makes you blow up.  A balance of Bible and Holy Spirit makes you grow up.”  This little maxim sums up where we are, and where we are headed.  God is calling us to grow up.  

I think there is a reformation and a renaissance on the horizon.  I can feel it.  I can see signs of it in several quarters. Based on these signs, I am going to make a few bold predictions.

First, these public embarrassments coming from various quarters of the evangelical and protestant churches are going to continue and probably increase for a season as we discover the emperor has no clothes.  The press will help, because they love making the church look bad.  Those who believe that the “end justifies the means” in order to build big ministries are going to continue to be exposed.

Second, the various waves of the Charismatic movement are about to overtake the evangelical church.  It is no longer enough to believe in a doctrine.  Your doctrine has to have practical experience attached to it.  Spirit-filled Christians know this.  Absurd man made ideas like limited atonement and cessationism (basically that Jesus only died for the elect and that the Holy Spirit stopped working after the apostles died) are going to go on the ash heap of history and called what they are–heresies of the first order.

A dramatic shift is going to happen in the Roman Catholic Church (and possibly the Orthodox churches) that will make some of the basic arguments of the reformation void.  Actually this process began in the 1960’s and is continuing.  Watch as walls continue to come down.  Pope Francis has humbly begun this work, but he is already making dramatic changes that will force the next pope to follow his lead.  Protestants who continue to fight over reformation issues will go the same way as the cessationists.  Jesus said he would have one church, and it is beginning to go that way.

 The negative rapture focused end-time theology is about to go too.  The gospel means “good-news.”  As the world gets more hellish, the church is going to embrace a more classical vision of  establishing the Kingdom and preparation for the return and reign of Jesus.  Many are already embracing the idea that our call is to live in the Kingdom and make a way, not store food for the tribulation and be afraid of the Anti-Christ.

 Finally, and this might take a while, there is going to be a new Renaissance born of the Holy Spirit that renews and transforms global culture.  We are going see the best ideas, the best inventions, the best literature, the best art, the best film, and the best fashion, and (you get the idea) coming from creative men and women filled with the Holy Spirit.  I believe there is about to be a global movement of creativity.  I think this is why the Marxists around world are rising up, they know it and they are afraid.  God is about to release the Renaissance anointing on a global scale.  Along with renaissance there is going to be an increase of wealth, an increase of godly stewardship, and a transformation of cultures and governments.   Unlike 500 years ago, I believe that Reformation is going to precede Renaissance.

This is a kingdom vision of ever increasing faith, growth, and transformation.   It’s a broad arc that I believe is going to alter the landscape.

God bless Mark Driscoll.  I don’t know him, but at the end of the day he’s just a guy.  He, and a lot of other leaders, are experiencing this shift, and I imagine to them it must feel like the earth is giving way underneath them.  Whatever happens ahead of us, I pray that we walk into the Great Commandment to love one another.   I think that really is part of what’s ahead too.   May we love those who are part of the old regime, and be grateful.  I’m here because of the Protestants (and the Catholics).  We owe that era a lot, but we are called to a new era.  May we not do what the reformers did, and chuck the “baby with the bathwater.”

May you have courage and the ability to walk toward the unknown!


Christ John Otto is the director of Belonging House and the author of An Army Arising: Why Artists are on the Frontline of the Next Move of God available from Amazon.com.