Starting a Local Reformation Society
Reformation Societies is a ministry of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. Our purpose is to create societies of Christian pastors and leaders who will meet and labor together for the sake of the Gospel of Grace in the churches of local and regional areas. The mission of a society is to encourage, embolden, and equip pastors and other church leaders for the preaching, teaching, and fully relying upon the Gospel as the particular means given by the Triune God for the building of Christ’s Church.
Forward, Rev. Robert Amon
A Call to Action
The Plan for Developing a Reformation Society
"Reforming Your Bible Study," Dr. Roy Blackwood
"The 'Exercise' in Early Presbyterianism," Dr. Roy Blackwood
Reformation Society Standards
Afterward, Mr. Bud Wilson
Dear Friends of Reformation,
We are delighted to hear of your interest in Reformation Societies. Our desire is to develop local Reformation Societies which engage in Reformation Bible Studies, prayer and fellowship for the encouraging, emboldening, and equipping of pastors and lay leaders to preach and teach boldly the "whole counsel of God.” We have developed these materials designed to further your interest in the work of reformation.
My name is Rev. Robert Amon, better known as Pastor Bob. I retired from active staff ministry December, 2000, after serving as Associate Pastor of Southport Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis, IN for nearly sixteen years. I have been working with the Reformation Society of Indiana since 1998. We want to know how we can help and encourage you in this great work of reformation. We would be blessed to see thousands of local Reformation Societies formed across our country for the glory of God.
As you will see in “The Plan to Develop a Reformation Society,” a “Getting Started Packet” is also available from the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals with a DVD which includes a presentation by Dr. James Boice, “Here We Stand”, in which he explains the problem of liberalism even in the evangelical church. The second part of that DVD demonstrates a Reformation Bible Study, as Calvin, Knox, and others advocated.
I am able to provide support in the following areas: advise on society concerns; networking with those interested in Reformation in the church and Reformation Societies; general information including publications, conferences (PCRT), magazines (reformation21), and audio resources (representing the Alliance library of sermons, conferences, seminars etc. available, concerning the doctrines of grace).
Our website may be reached at www.AllianceNet.org and click the Reformation Societies on the sidebar. All Reformation Society services and support may be requested through me.
In service to the King,
Pastor Bob Amon
Rev. Robert A. Amon
1846 Colt Road
Indianapolis, IN 46227
Today's church is increasingly dominated by the spirit of this age rather than by the Spirit of Christ. We call ourselves to repent of this sin and to recover the historic Christian faith.
Reformation Societies is a ministry of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. Our mission is to encourage, embolden, and equip ministers and other church leaders for the work of Biblical reformation in the churches. Our purpose is to create societies of Christian pastors and leaders who will meet and labor together for the sake of the Gospel of Grace in the churches of local and regional areas. To this end we envision informal, voluntary Reformation Societies, where church leaders will meet for the joining of hearts and minds in pursuit of actual and practical reformation in their churches relying fully upon the Gospel as the particular means given by the Triune God for the building of Christ’s Church. By "the Gospel" we mean those scriptural teachings necessary for salvation. These teachings brought forth the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century and have been articulated by the "Solas" in the Cambridge Declaration of 1996.
Local Reformation Societies will aim to strengthen those already committed to the Gospel of God in its content, authority, and sufficiency for all the work of the church. They will also provide a Reformation presence to which other church leaders may come to learn of the "Solas", and to discuss various issues and challenges coming to bear on evangelical churches today. The Biblical theme for Reformation Societies is: "Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God. Therefore, take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with his own blood." Acts 20: 26-28. It must be emphasized that the cause to which we are rallying is that of the Gospel itself, as set forth in the Cambridge Declaration, and not particular denominational concerns or disputes; that we might be of the same mind, in the Lord. All Reformation Societies are locally funded, but support is provided by the Alliance.
Reformation Societies call upon pastors and Christian leaders to unite in our effort to bring reformation to the church by joining a local Reformation Society:
To create a network of leaders to cooperate in the work of reforming the church by affirming the conviction of the Cambridge Declaration, and to encourage, embolden, and equip one another for the practical implementation of Biblical principles in our churches;
To elevate the great truths of the Bible in the life of their churches and region, in particular the "solas" of the Protestant Reformation. We know by Scripture alone that we are saved because of Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone and all to the glory of God alone.
How Does God Bring Reformation to the Church?
Both Scripture and Church history show God's readiness to aid His Church in humble repentance and reformation. God brings reformation through the recovery of his Word in the church. King Josiah "read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant...then all the people pledged themselves to the covenant" (2 Kings 23:3).
In the time of Ezra's reformation, "They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand" (Neh. 8:8).
Our duty, therefore, is that of Jude 1:3, "To contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints." He adds, "Build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit... Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others, show mercy, mixed with fear" (Jude 1:20,22).
Reformation Societies believe therefore, that the times demand that leaders in Christ's Church must:
- Confess, before God, their worldliness.
- Humbly ask God for the wisdom and grace necessary for reformation in His Church.
- Seek guidance given to us in God's infallible and all-sufficient Word.
- Establish the Bible as our churches' only rule of faith and practice, employing means and seeking ends that are Biblical in principle.
We believe that Gods infallible Word is the source and norm for all faith and practice in Christ's Church. We hold that Word to be effective and sufficient for our needs in His service.
Furthermore, we affirm the following Reformation principles as vital summaries of Biblical teaching.
Scripture Alone: The inerrant Scripture is the sole source of written divine revelation, which alone can bind the conscience.
Christ Alone: Our salvation is accomplished by the mediatorial work of the historical Christ alone.
Grace Alone: In salvation we are rescued from God's wrath by His grace alone. Salvation is of his unmerited love and not of man's works.
Faith Alone: The knowledge of Scripture alone and the believing of and commitment to such knowledge shows forth that Christ alone is the object of saving faith through which we are justified by his atonement for our sins.
To God Alone Be the Glory: Because salvation is of God and has been accomplished by God, it is for God's glory. Therefore, we must glorify Him always.
Why a Call to Action?
We must act because worldliness—both in the means we employ and the goals we pursue—has gripped the evangelical Church. We must act out of obedience to the exalted Lord of the Church and give devotion to His Gospel of Grace which alone "is the power of God for the salvation of those who believe." Rom.1:16
Why a Society?
Reformation means standing against the spirit of the age, so pastors and church leaders must join together to encourage, equip, and embolden one another in the work of the Reformation. Most importantly, a society brings the Word of God and prayer to bear on the leaders themselves, strengthening them for the work of a faithful shepherd.
Starting a Reformation Society
A Reformation Society starts with pastors and lay leaders who agree to found a society in their local area. Pastors must lead the society supported by church lay leaders. They agree to:
- Invite the participation of church pastors and leaders committed to Reformed Christianity so as to create a network of the like-minded.
- Participate in a fellowship with others committed to returning Reformed faith and practice to the church. Reformed Bible Studies are essential to accomplish this purpose.
- Teach the essentials of Reformed Christianity to their church members, and particularly the ruling body of their church, so they are understood and affirmed.
- Affirm the conviction of the Cambridge Declaration.
What Will a Reformation Society Do?
The activities of a given Reformation Society will vary according to local circumstances, yet all meet and act in support of reformation in the church. Typical Reformation Societies engage in the following:
- Hosting pastor or church leader luncheons and/or other events which encourage, equip, and embolden them as heralds of the Gospel.
- Have Reformation Bible Studies (RBS). These were used by the reformers to guard the faith by sharpening their handling of the Word of God. See “Reforming Your Bible Study” by Dr. Roy Blackwood. We also have a DVD of a live RBS (along with Dr. James Boice’s "Here We Stand" address). The tape and postage make a charge of $10.00 a necessity. The Reformation Bible Study luncheons are an important part of a local Reformation Society's bonding and growing in the reformation of the local church. They act as a means of equipping, encouraging, and emboldening pastors and teachers in proclaiming the whole counsel of God.
- Host a seminar or conference in your local area to elevate the great themes of the Bible and of Reformed Theology.
Action Plan I: Getting Started
Gather local churches at a local or regional meeting for the purpose of applying Biblical truth as is summarized in the Cambridge Declaration.
- Pastoral leadership is essential as the Reformation Society holds fast to letting Jesus build His Church His way. The Reformation Society is intended not to circumvent the work of the church, but to strengthen and embolden the churches in their confidence in the Gospel. Accordingly, the leader(s) of a society should be officers in an evangelical church (pastor, elder, deacon, teacher, etc.)
- To assist you in this, we will provide you with an audio-visual tape of Session I of the Here We Stand seminar. This approximately 40-minute audio-visual presentation features Dr. James Boice’s articulation of the current church condition, and the Reformation principles needed for our churches to turn away from the secularism of our day.
- It is often important to host an event which will attract people’s attention to your work. Examples of these are a local conference, seminar, or pastors’ luncheon to which you can invite the participation of a large number of local churches. The goal is to bring the local church community together to hear our message and to invite them to join us in this vital work.
- Our goal is to draw a community together for the sake of the Gospel, and not to advance the cause of any particular denomination or church congregation. Working together on an event will develop bonding, trust, and unity in the Gospel as set forth in the Scriptures. It will give you a concrete goal and serve to mobilize leadership to carry out a plan. Ideally, your meetings will take place in various churches on a rotating basis.
Action Plan II: Growing in a trusting and supporting relationship
In order to continue to build trust, confidence and enthusiasm for the building of a modern reformation in the local church community, you will want to do the following:
- Hold an evaluation of the past conference/seminar or a past get-acquainted meeting soon after the event.
- Start to plan the next conference/seminar for a follow-up of the first. You may draw upon Reformation Societies speakers, your own local resources or any combination thereof.
- Move forward with a monthly or quarterly schedule to accomplish an agenda of prayer, Bible study, and supporting fellowship. Rotating churches for meetings and events helps to further the participating congregation’s commitment to the work. Include a Reformation Bible Study as part of your meetings. This study has been developed as a result of Dr. Roy Blackwood’s study of the Reformation in Scotland. This is a particular kind of study that was developed by Calvin, Knox, and other Reformation leaders throughout Europe. They said this study was necessary and essential to the continuing reformation of the Church in order that she would keep on being grounded and centered in Sola Scriptura, and that pastors would continue learning and growing and challenging each other in their study and exposition of God’s Word. A video illustrating this process is a part of the "Getting Started" packet and is available from the Alliance. It is approximately 30-40 minutes in length. Center a meeting around this study for further use in equipping, emboldening and encouraging pastors and teachers. This study has become the centerpiece of developing Reformation societies and developing a modern reformation in Christ’s Church.
- Focus your efforts on equipping members in their work of a Gospel of Grace ministry and reaching out to influence other churches and leaders for the modern reformation of Christ’s Church. Challenge yourselves to broaden your influence by reaching out to leaders of churches who can be influenced and encouraged in Reformation principles, and by crossing denominational lines to avoid a restricted impact.
- Plan a meeting in order to bring focus, exegetical study, and support to your local society. A luncheon for local interested pastors and leaders is ideal to hear this message and meet the national leadership. After the Reformation Society is organized and is focused on encouraging further involvement especially by the pastors and elders in the Reformation Society, you will develop more leaders, both ordained and lay, to participate and extend the work in depth and breadth.
Action Plan III
- Have an event which is intended to bring pastors and their families together for a meal and fellowship.
- Develop a conference/seminar event using local pastors to present the assigned theme such as the doctrines of Grace, Providence, Prayer, Attributes of God, Sovereignty of God, etc. You can have a presenter from outside or host a locally directed event which would help the community to identify with their own pastors and to have confidence in the ordinary means of grace.
- Invite Reformation Society pastors to exchange pulpits on Sunday, Wednesday, or special events. Preaching the Gospel in each other’s churches strengthens the bonds, brings prayer support for each other’s congregations and makes Gospel preaching exciting for the local church community. Think of the selection of Gospel pulpits in London during the 17th century. Over 40 pulpits were filled with great men of historical faith who shared their pulpits and their burdens as God brought in a harvest to His own glory.
Our plan is to develop and support the local Reformation Societies across the nation. Rev. Robert A. Amon is there to assist and support.
Reformation starts in your local church community. The Reformation Societies are the means to achieving the renewal of the Church, which is our Lord’s Bride. Furthermore, our Gospel is timeless in its message, relevance, and sufficiency for the building of Christ’s Church, the same yesterday, today, and forever. The Biblical standard of Gospel preaching, teaching and worship are embodied in the Solas of the Protestant Reformation and are now stated in the Cambridge Declaration of 1996. For in Scripture alone, we learn of a salvation that is by grace alone, received through faith alone, because of Christ alone, and in all this, to God be the Glory alone. Here We Stand, like-minded in His service and confident in His Work.
Dr. Roy Blackwood
There is evidence in early church history and in Medieval and Reformation history of the existence of a particular kind of Bible study. It is prescribed by God in I Corinthians 14. Wherever or whenever Christ was building and reforming His Church, this kind of Bible study could be found. Conversely, when this kind of group Bible study lapsed, the Church somehow fell into the hands of men and stopped growing or reforming.
It was a "most important" factor in Reformation history. John Calvin in his Ecclesiastical Ordinances (15-41) prescribed such a meeting every Friday evening. Knox required it for the English congregation in Geneva (1556). John Lasco (1550) required it in London. Calvin probably learned of it from Martin Bucer in Strasbourg. The French Book of Order called it a "Colloquy". For the Dutch it was an important part of their "Consistory". The Scots called it first the "Exercise" and then the "Society" meeting. Zwingli and Kuiper warned about abuses that must not be allowed to creep in, just as does the Apostle Paul in I Corinthians 14.
John Knox, with reference to I Corinthians 14, in his first Book of Discipline called it "The Exercise" and required it be each Thursday night in every parish.
"To the end that the Church of God may have a trial of men's knowledge, judgment, graces and utterances....And also such as somewhat have profited in God's Word may from time to time grow to more full perfection to serve the Church as necessity shall require.”
And Knox added,
"It is important that every town...one certain day every week be appointed to that exercise which St. Paul called prophesying."
The agenda for this meeting was carefully prescribed. First, the Scripture for that day is read (as appointed beforehand). Next, one man explains it and in doing so may not preach, must be "short,” and must be opening the mind of the Holy Ghost on that text. Then a second man "adds" (briefly), a third man may add (more briefly) so that everyone understands, and then all speakers are removed and "censured" (i.e. not so much criticized as questioned). Lastly, the whole group has a discussion and decisions or conclusions are made about "what we’re going to do about it.”
The format could be compared to three types of 20 century inductive Bible studies wherein" (1) No one comes really prepared and we share mutual ignorance; (2) One person is totally prepared, "preaches" as we give nodding assent or he "teaches" and we "learn", (3) Everyone comes prepared and we "share" our results with everyone else.
But Knox's Reformation "Exercise" study was more than any of these because everyone prepares in advance, three expound in detail and are critiqued, not only in terms of what God is saying, but also in terms of how it was studied, and then applications are made. So that everyone learns, not only what God is saying, but also how to study and grow on into maturity and conviction, They specified that, "The ministers each in turn, shall expound the Word of God, so that each may show how he practices the study of Scripture and the method and manner of treating same."
During the "Killing Times" (1660-1690) in Scottish Reformation history, when the church had to "go underground" and the pastors were "outed" or killed, the people revived Knox's "exercise" meetings and the Church not only survived, she multiplied and prospered. These exercise meetings came to be called "Society" meetings.
These Reformation Societies organized themselves into a "Correspondence". Each society would study the same passage and then the societies in one Shire would collect their "Conclusions" and send them to Loch Goin, John Howie's home, and there they would be reviewed and synthesized or condensed to form "The Conclusions of the United Societies of Southwest Scotland." This Correspondence of United Societies of Southwest Scotland held the Reformation Church together.
But individual societies continued to meet until well into the 18th century. Some societies later made up a Testimony out of those Conclusions and organized the Reformation Presbyterian Church. One congregation in that Church was made up of 26 Society meetings. And from them came, over a 50 year period, 30 ministers, 2 seminary professors, and 3 missionaries. One elder said these Society meetings were "admirable schools for training men to study and discriminate regarding divine truth.” Knox said, "the face of the Kirk must be constantly reforming."
If the face of the Church is to continue reforming today, she must find the kind of Reformation Society meeting that the Apostle Paul was calling for in I Corinthians 14, where men who are not exegetes or historians or philosophers can meet in the presence of an accurate exposition of God's Word to find God’s answers and plans for the current problems and opportunities of life. These will be meetings where men and women can come to "Conclusions" which will be so closely related to convictions that they would be willing, if necessary, to die for them. That “1 Corinthians 14 kind-of-study" would continue to be a very important factor in bridging the gap between history and theology, organization and paper testimony, personal profession and practice, political and moral truth. That would be a “Reformation Society" meeting.
Dr. Roy Blackwood
In 1579 the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland declared that "the exercise may be judged a Presbytery.” The history of Presbytery is inextricably intertwined with a practice known throughout the Reformed Church as the Exercise. And yet there are elements essential to the Exercise which are almost unknown in 20th century presbytery meetings. Many would say the 15th century Exercise more nearly resembled a 20th century Bible Study or Bible Class than a presbytery meeting.
One chapter of the First Book of Discipline, written largely by John Knox, for the new Reformed Church in Scotland is devoted to the Exercise and in the first paragraph he states their purposes.
To the end that the Church of God may have a trial of men's knowledge, judgments, graces and utterances; and also, that such as somewhat have profited in God's word may from time to time grow to more full perfection to serve the church as necessity shall require; it is most important that in every town where schools and repair of learned men are that there be one certain day every week appointed to that exercise which St. Paul calleth prophesying.
The agenda for the Exercise was specified. Each group might choose their own day of the week and the book of Scripture to be studied, but beyond that they must follow the outline as, Knox and other Reformers interpreted it, from I Corinthians 14:19ff. The Scripture for the day was read. One man explained it and “in that exercise may not take to himself the liberty of a public preacher, yea, although he be a minister appointed; but he must bind himself to his text, ‘use no invective,” be "short” in exhortations or admonitions, "that the time may be spent in opening the mind of the Holy Ghost in that place” and "in following the style and dependence of the text." Then a second man “adds” confirming, correcting or further explaining. A third man spoke briefly “in case some things were hid from one and from the other.” All speakers were then removed and "censured" or "admonished,” apparently by their peers (that did not necessarily mean adversely criticized) and lastly came the discussion of questions and doubts by all present. Strict warnings were directed against “debate and strife, curious, peregrine and unprofitable questions, all interpretations leading to heresy, repugnant to charity,” or in plain contradiction to any other Scripture.
The exercise was not invented for the Reformed Church in Scotland. It was a common practice, with some variations, throughout the Reformed Church at the time of her greatest growth. In the “form of prayers” book that Knox had used for the English Congregation in Geneva Switzerland (1556), There is a paragraph which requires that once every week the congregation shall assemble to hear the Scriptures “orderly expounded.” At which time it is lawful for every man to speak or enquire, as God shall move his heart.”
Calvin’s meetings, proscribed in the Ecclesiastical Ordinances (1541), took place every Friday. An eyewitness described how one minister expounded, then another followed and then all members were allowed to make observations. He too said it was an imitation of the custom of the Church of Corinth as described by Paul. Zwingli, writing on the subject in Zurich in 1525, denounced the Anabaptists and described the prophet as the teacher-scholar of Acts 13:1. In his weekday meetings all people and ordinary citizens could make criticisms or additions.
In 1550 John Lasco, pastoring a Reformed Church for Protestant refugees in London, made provision for members of the congregation to bring in questions through their leaders. In France the Discipline or Book of Order (1559) prepared for the Reformed Churches throughout the nation, specified that at the meetings of the Colloquies, “the ministers each in turn, shall expound the word of God, so that each may show how he practices the study of the scripture and the method and manner of treating the same.” There is no reference to participation by other church members. A similar practice was introduced in Holland in the 17th century.
The Puritans in England (1571-1574) revived the practice, specifying that the entire meeting last no longer than two hours: first speaker three-quarter of an hour, second and third not to exceed one-quarter hour with a conclusion by the “moderator.” In England and perhaps in France it appears that the Exercise was primarily for the purpose of maintaining or upgrading the competency of the ministers. “As iron sharpeneth iron, so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.”
Whether or not the rank and file member could participate is important because of the influence of the Anabaptists. They too based their right to “prophesy” according to their “inner light,” on 1 Corin. 14. Whereas the Reformed Churches insisted that the work of the Holy Spirit now is not to give new light in the form of more revelation, but to interpret the one and only Revelation which came through Jesus Christ. This was to be done via diligent study of the languages in the texts of the Old and New Testaments, Romanists too were looking at anabaptistic "prophesyings" as the logical development of the Reformation with its insistence on personal Bible study and the resultant breaking down of the partition between clerical and lay.
The anabaptist influence helps to account for the early abandonment of these meetings in many areas of the new Reformed Church. The risk of being identified with their excesses was too great to be tolerated. And this risk has continued to influence men's attitudes toward the Exercise. H. H. Kuyper, for example, is anxious to insist that laymen were not allowed to participate in Calvin's meetings in Geneva and cites as evidence the case against Bolsec in 1551. But the charges state that Bolsec had "presumptuously, rashly and contrary to order, risen in the sacred congregation accustomed to be held in the city every Friday morning by the local ministers." His sentence says he “very audaciously rose in the sacred congregation of our ministers and there proposed opinions that were false and contrary to the sacred scriptures and the pure evangelical religion.”
The minutes of the meeting on 16 October 1551 state that one man preached on John 8, another added and then Bolsec argued his point, which called forth a long response from Calvin and led to Bolsec’s arrest at the close of the meeting. It seems to me the facts do not warrant Kuyper’s conclusions. The objection was to the heresy not to the speaking. If Bolsec's views had been correct there would have been no objection to his speaking. But the point is that in spite of the real risks and dangers inherent in repeated incidents such as these, Zwingli, Calvin, Knox and others throughout the Reformed Church continued to prescribe the Exercise as “most expedient” or “most necessary.”
Knox rested his case for these meetings on a study of 1 Corin. 14:29ff, and quotes it in the Chapter on the Exercise. They appear to have been an important outworking or development of the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers, closely coupled to the conviction that a “knowledge of God and of ourselves” is basic to all Christian growth. Matters of faith and worship are not matters of emotional magic which benefit ex opere operato. The early reformers had seen in these verses a means, a type of meeting ordained by God, whereby men might learn to respond to His Invitation to come to reason together with Him, that "in understanding" they might become men.
In summarizing, it seems fair to say that the Reformed Church, at the time of her greatest growth, believed that God had designed this type of meeting to accomplish four things. (1) To develop leadership. They believed the Exercise provided the setting and situation which would identify and further develop those gifts and graces which God had built into the lives of men whom He was adding daily to His Church, and so call them to the attention of the church-as-a-whole that they would be promoted to the positions of leadership and responsibility which He intended them to have. (2) To help young Christians to grow up into spiritual maturity. Not only could they learn actual doctrine and content by listening and asking questions, they also could learn how to learn more by observing the study methods and growth patterns of older Christians and thus as Knox put it, "be encouraged daily to study and proceed in knowledge.” (3) To recruit new leadership by giving everyone a sense of personal responsibility for the continuing development of the Church as a whole, and to keep the Church mindful of the practical needs and developing maturity in the lives of the individual Christians who were being rapidly added to the church in those days. (4) To continue upgrading the competency of the teaching ministry.
In making 20th century comparisons we see some similarities between the Reformation Exercise and "Trials" or "Student Preaching" by seminarians today. But what fully ordained and perhaps aging Pastor today would welcome "censure" even by his peers, for his methods of study, preparation and delivery, and his doctrinal content?
There are similarities between an Exercise and a 20th century Bible Study, but exceptions must be made. If we classify modem Bible Studies under three types: (1) Where no one comes prepared and we share mutual ignorance about the text. (2) Where only one "professional" comes prepared and all others give a nodding assent, (3) Where all come prepared and we "share” equally; then we still have not described the Exercise. For in it all came prepared, but one who was recognized by others as specially qualified and spiritually mature expounded the Word and explained how he got it as well as what the doctrine was. The two others who were also recognized as being specially qualified and mature "added." Finally others asked questions, added, and the church as a whole learned together. In some ways the Exercise was more like a 20th century Bible Class or a Seminar than a Presbytery meeting. And it must be remembered that in spite of 15th century communication and transportation problems, and the extraordinary responsibilities weighing heavily on every member of the Reformed Church in lands as yet unreached by the Gospel, the Exercise meetings were held each week.
The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals welcomes association with existing groups of pastors and lay leaders working and praying for modern reformation in the Church. We do this by encouraging the development of local Alliance Reformation Societies. To be identified as a Reformation Society and receive the full range of benefits the following standards apply:
- To believe, live, worship and minister biblically.
- To join the entire Alliance in advocating the Cambridge Declaration.
- To join the historic Church by leaders, the pastor chair and lay leader administrator, subscribe to a creed or confession (many confessing creeds are listed on the Alliance web site).
- To form strong theological understanding and harbor close church relations with the appointment of a pastor chair.
- To facilitate the organization of meetings, generating support aids and bringing people together across denominational lines for the purpose of encouraging a Church-wide reformation, to appoint a lay leader administrator.
- To be financially self-supporting at the local level.
We recognize the fact that existing groups have their own formats for meetings, many long standing. We advocate the incorporation of a Reformation Bible study as part of meetings.
We advocate each society have a separate periodic meeting for just prayer.
Benefits of being an Alliance Reformation Society:
- Knowing that your local group joins a national coalition of like-minded Christian leaders.
- Enjoying relationships, both virtual and physical, with other Reformation Societies.
- Being part of a nationwide group praying for reformation in the Church of Jesus Christ.
- Availability of Alliance resources, such as books, CDs, tapes, DVDs at discount prices or on consignment, and speaker contacts.
- Access to Alliance marketing of meetings and events via web, email, and mail.
- Monthly mailings from the Alliance.
- Access to the Alliance website
- Visits from Reformation Societies Manager, Rev. Robert Amon.
Mr. Bud Wilson
The continuing work of the Church is re-forming. The prefix “re” means turning back, not establishing a culturally improved product. When troops are out of formation, they are called to re-formation to get back into formation, or to return to the standard of formation for parade or to battle. To break formation is to de-form, or to fall out of formation. The enemy is constantly trying to de-form the standard of formation to scatter the troops, in order to weaken the power of the formed or reformed unit. The devil must deform the Church for it to accept the compromise with evil. A deformed church is ugly before God and needs to be reformed by molding and shaping the church to God's Biblical and doctrinal standard as revealed by His grace and mercy. God, the Father, has provided the Reformer in Jesus Christ, the Messiah. The unregenerate man has no way to reform himself for God's approval except through the mercy of God's regeneration, effectual calling, justification, adoption, sanctification, and glorification. "No one cometh to the Father except by Me," Jesus said in John 14:6 and "No one cometh unto Me except the Father draws him," Jesus says in John 6:44, 65. “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren [the Church]. Moreover whom He predestined He also called; whom He called, He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified” (Romans 8:29-30). This conforming to Jesus, God the Father's only begotten son, means to be re-formed by and like Jesus in order for the Church to be the members of the body of Christ. “I’ve been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).
The Church, because of the curse of death, must be continually reforming by passing the Gospel of Grace from generation to generation. When it fails to do so, deformers enter in and the reforming is necessary to return to God's planned purpose of having a people who will call Him their God and He will call them His people. In the Old Testament prophecy in Jeremiah 31:33-34 and repeated in the New Testament in Hebrews 8:10, this purpose is made clear. The same purpose is completed in Revelation 21:3,7. This plan of redemption is not for individuals to keep to themselves, but that the redeemed should become a part of the Church, the body of Christ which provides the means of holiness that is necessary to see the Lord in our glorification.
This process of reformation starts in Genesis, chapter 3 with the fall of man in verse 6; the redeemer/reformer is announced in verse 15; the curse of no longer having access to the tree of life is pronounced in the forced exit of man from the Garden of Eden in verses 22-24. God's covenant made with Noah is a reformation of the race of fallen man to proceed to the establishment of the family of grace. The covenant of grace is given to Abram in Genesis 12:1-3 and the forming, deforming, and reforming process of the Church goes forth, the Church, under this family of grace, the nation of Israel, is the continuing story of the need for reformation from the disobedience, compromise and deforming of the church from God's standards to man's standards. Jesus, the Christ and the promised Redeemer, in order to save His people from their sins leads the Reformation and provides the way, the truth, and the life for the deformed church to become reformed. The apostles, having formed the New Testament church from converted Jews and gentiles, heard of the deforming, and returned to these churches with the reformation message. This is the record of the New Testament epistles. The last of these letters in the canon, Jude and Revelation, are still dealing with the need for reformation. Chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation deal with Christ's last review of the seven churches of Asia in which He brings forth the blessings, warnings, and need for overcomers (reformationists) in the church. The Old Testament prophets continually referred to the Reformationists as the remnant. The reformed theology message of the Protestant Reformation of the Church of Rome is no more than Sola Scriptura, that is returning to the Biblical doctrinal standard for preaching, teaching, praying, worshiping, and the life of the church. Church doctrines are in error if they misrepresent the final authority, Sola Scriptura. "All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Jesus Christ is interceding for us forever and saving us completely, that His Bride, the Church, can be presented to God the Father, Holy and without blame. Jesus is the Reformer; the Gospel of Grace is the reforming message; the Church is the reformed people of God; and the Reformation ministry must be continuing in order that the devil, the deformer, be defeated. Jude, in verses 3 and 4 puts forth the need of a continuing Reformation work in the Church of Jesus Christ.
To those who are called, sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed who, long ago, were marked out for this condemnation; ungodly men who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only God and our Lord, Jesus Christ.
The following 19 verses are an appropriate description of the ugliness of a deformed condition in the church which is similar to our own times. It is time to welcome and support a modern Reformation that is global in its scope, led by the faithful Church of Jesus Christ and reforming the church to the solas of the continuing reformation which are found in the Gospel of Grace. We know by Scripture alone that we are saved by Grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone and all to the Glory of God alone. This is the message of re-forming the Church to God's standard as revealed in Scripture Alone, Sola Scriptura.
The Alliance is dedicated to supporting the ministry of Reformation Societies throughout the world in order to continue the work of local churches in the equipping, encouraging, and emboldening the church to the preaching, teaching, praying, worshiping, and life in the church in accordance with the Gospel of Grace found in the whole counsel of God, which is found in the scriptures alone. “For I testify to you this day, that I am innocent of the blood of all men for I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God. Therefore, take heed to yourselves and to all the flock among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood" (Acts 20:26-28). May God bless His ministry for the church's continual reformation and may we, the members of the body of Christ, be faithful to respond to His ministry in the modern reformation.
Yours in Christ,