This last week I was talking with a friend who now attends my non-denominational church. We have a lot in common because we are both pastor’s kids from the same denomination. He “out-lived” my denominational experience by attending one of its’ private universities and was a youth pastor for a couple of years. He recently finished seminary and has plans on becoming a pastor again someday. I asked him if he still considered himself a part of that denomination.
He said “no” and told me a little bit about his reasons. He went on to say that for awhile he thought of staying on the inside and trying to reform it, but ultimately decided that reform would be too difficult to achieve.
Our conversation moved on to other things, but it occurred to me that reformation rarely happens in Protestant churches. It doesn’t happen because there are so many other choices. When someone becomes disaffected they just leave and find something that suits them better. Even leaving and forming an entirely new organization is much easier than reformation.
As I teased out the idea it occurred to me that Christian churches as a whole are rarely reformed. Ironically most of Luther’s reforms for the Catholic church were achieved. But only after he and many others left and set up sizable competition. I haven’t done any research on it, but other than that and the Worldwide Church of God, I can not think of a denomination that was changed by reformers. There are plenty of examples of denominations moving from point A to point B, but this is usually the work of a long slide rather than a sudden reformation force. Those changes typically occur over a lifetime rather than a decade (or less).
I’m not even sure that reformation has very much success in any religion much less Protestantism. So to all you reformers out there. . . give up. 🙂