A New Reformation
By J.R. Ensey
In 1517, a young Roman Catholic monk named Martin Luther nailed ninety-five theses to a church
door in Wittenburg, Germany. The Protestant Reformation was on!
The theses had little to do with most major doctrines such as the nature of the Godhead or
water baptism, but they had a lot to do with the nature and removal of sin, and how faith
operated within the believer’s experience. The Reformation began to set the stage for the
twentieth century revival — the latter day outpouring of the Holy Ghost and a broad-scale
recovering of biblical doctrines relating to salvation and Christian lifestyle.
For nearly seventy-five years the Pentecostal revival rode roughshod over the religious world,
chalking up millions of converts out of Catholicism, Protestantism and paganism. It is estimated
by historian, Doctor Vinson Synan that upwards of 100 million have received the Holy Ghost since
1900 and 25 million presently claim that experience. Oneness Pentecostals may number ten present
of that total. While trinitarians and charismatics may be churning forward, United Pentecostals
have come to a time of very slow growth in the United States. The cause of this leveling off is
a perplexing question. There are several reasons at the root, no doubt, but some factors are
In the early ’70’s the United Pentecostal Church began promoting “endtime revival.” This came
on the heels of several years of intensive promotion of personal evangelism and church planting.
It was a good program, but the program became a philosophy and ultimately a doctrine. Revival was
not clearly defined and meant different things to different people. To many, it signaled to relax
evangelistic thrusts and wait on God to send “a mighty earth-shaking move” that would unilaterally
sweep millions into the kingdom. Nothing’s really wrong with wanting millions to be saved or
believing that “a sovereign move of God” could do wonderful things. But the effect has been to
blunt evangelistic activity, slow our growth, and halt our expansion.
Revival philosophy is not the only factor affecting the church in the 1980’s. The impact of
humanistic teaching that began to be broadly imported into our public schools in the 1930’s
has finally washed over into our churches. It helped produce the existentialism and
egalitarianism of the 1960’s and 1970’s. Personal rights, social issues, and the propagation
of psychology has confused so many minds and displaced the faith of millions.
The impact of feminism has left its mark on the church. More Pentecostal singles,
more Pentecostal divorces (and remarriages), a lowered estimation of the family,
fewer children, more birth control, an emphasis on women’s rights, and adjustment of
attitudes toward genetic issues are apparent. Pentecostal women are more assertive and more
independent than in the past. More apostolic ladies are going to college and pursuing careers
than ever before. Less discipline in the home is apparent than ever before. In the
denominational church, feminists have demanded and gotten changes in the way we refer to God.
He must be neutered so as to be neither male nor female. Hymnals are beginning to reflect these
changes. In the UPCI the cry is now being heard to change our by-laws and begin to install
women on District Boards and other positions traditionally open only to men.
The real reformation has come in the area of theology and worship. Theories are replacing
theology. Dogma has gone to the dogs. Theology is dying. Those who hold to absolute principles
are likely to be called narrow, mean-spirited, intolerant, or judgmental. Preterism and
Dominion/Kingdom Now concepts are supplanting the doctrine of the imminent return of Christ.
Positive mental attitude is now touted as biblical faith. Psychology has become the popular
approach to addressing human problems rather than counseling from Scripture.
Reformation is fine when it is bringing the church back into line with scriptual principles,
but when it is leading it away from the Word, somebody ought to blow the whistle and say,
“Whoa! Let’s get back to the Book!”