LEAVE THE YOUNG BAPTIST CALVINIST ALONE IN THE SBC
In the Greek, the word Baptist means “fight somebody” which means there is always something to fight about. YES, I”m being satirical! I’ve said it before, as I grew up Baptist we never smoked, drinker, cussed, slept around – but could be “mean as hell” and that was ok, because that was just being a good Baptist. We said that was our diversity at work – but when that diversity splits us, causes us to vilify one another, and puts more focus on us than on Jesus – we have moved from diversity to hatefulness. I’m all for standing up for the authority of the Scriptures, the divinity/humanity of Jesus, the death/burial/resurrection of Jesus, the exclusivity of Jesus, heaven/hell . . . . . BUT there are some things we simply can’t know for sure.
I grew up thinking there was only one way to view the second coming of Jesus. Just within dispensational premillinialism there are at least 6 ways to view that. I grew up thinking all spiritual gifts ended with the Apostles – until I studied Ephesians – no not Acts – another blog. I grew up thinking pastor & deacons were the only offices in the church – until I studied. I even grew up “Calvinistic” but didn’t like it because it was cold, harsh, impersonal, and seemed to make man a robot and God cold, abstract, and disconnected. But I must confess I do consider myself “reformed” – I do struggled with one of the “5” which is irresistible grace – and that’s another blog.
In the discussion that’s going on – I know some Calvinist can be as exclusive as a Church of Christ from deep East Texas that literally think they’re the only ones going to heaven. They can be as arrogant and “superior” as a charismatic who views other Christians second class who haven’t experienced their gift. Let ‘em sleep – if you wake them they might go into shock or something worse. BUT, there are so many young guys that I see God using like Matt Chandler, David Platt, Matt Carter and Ed Higgombotham that we run the risk of unnecessarily isolating ourselves from.
Let me tell you some good things about these young Calvinist that I admire and that are good for the American Church:
1. They are our best bliblicist. To be a Calvinist – a good Calvinist – you really have to study the bible and deal with a lot of Scripture. Even if you disagree with them on how “Calvinist” they are, they do have a grasp of Scripture that we desperately need today beyond “emotional” every Sunday “get saved today” preaching. Everyone’s concerned about biblical illiteracy – these guys have the ability to do something about that.
2. They’re our best thinkers. My son went to Tim Keller’s church in NY when he was a student at NYU. He told me, “Dad reformed theology is a thinking man’s theology.” He’s right – you can disagree academically and build your case against reformed theology – but you’d better be ready to think instead of respond emotionally. We desperately need deep thinkers that can explain complex truth in simplicity in our world today. As someone who deals globally in different cultures and religions – theology cannot be ignored in this world. It has to be simple, clear, and core.
3. They’re open to what God is saying in his word. I don’t know of any young reformed cessationist that are not growing their churches. Terry Virgo, (a reformed charismatic from London that has a significant church planting movement and calls himself a reformed/charismatic) is having a huge impact on many of these. The only thing missing from reformed theology is the lack of emphasis and focus on the Holy Spirit. That’s a problem, because you can’t cut the Spirit out of the Trinity and if he’s present – he isn’t the “silent partner” but the very power that God moves and glorifies himself in the earth today. Furthermore, for those that would touch the world – he’s not optional equipment. NO, I’ve not spoken in tongues – but could care less if the Spirit ever moved on me and supernaturally did that within me. Furthermore, reformed theology without the Holy Spirit is mean spirited and hateful and cold.
4. They’re reaching out to the world. Tim Keller & John Piper both – after being reformed – are known for their love of global missions and what God is doing. I read all they write on it. That’s being preached powerfully and adopted. Look at Platt’s book “Radical” and I know Matt Chandler is at work in various places in the world and passionate about missions. Micah Fries is a “missionary” at heart.
5. They’re engaging their cities in service, and engagement. There’s not a better pastor at this and church than Matt Carter at Austin Stone. Darrin Patrick and he wrote the book “For the City” and recently I’ve seen two churches with the names of their city and then “For the City Church.” This is awesome. Half-timers, real-timers want to do more than take up the offering and teach Sunday School, they want to use their jobs to serve the city. That’s what domains is all about – releasing the body of Christ and equipping them as pastors to go into the world and letting them be evangelist – not just us on Sunday mornings.
There’s more I could write – but these are the biggest. There are some things I’d challenge them with:
1. THANK GOD YOU’RE ENGAGING THE WORLD. But stop doing it like your grandfather’s world. Release the whole body of Christ. Get on the grid of the city – not just in the US, but around the world. It’s as if young reformed guys are so creative in the US but default to old school globally. Why you coin’ that?????
2. THEY IGNORE COVENANT THEOLOGY!!! This was core to Calvin, Kyper -and so many others. TIM KELLER doesn’t! GREAT you’ve got good soteriolgy. It’s all grace, not you – CONGRATULATIONS . . . . NOW WHAT? Be Paul – take it to the ends of the earth where no man has gone. But do it not by you’re preaching alone but by sending the entire body. The Great Commission was a function and call not just to preachers and missionaries but the entire body of Christ. Read my book Glocalization or Realtime Connections or Kyper – he got it – but his context is over 100 years ago. You don’t have to sneak around to fulfill the Great Commission, be honest and upfront. You might die. DING DING DING DING DING – YOU WIN!!!! You’re going to heaven when you die- and you are going to die sooner or later. This is nothing new to the New Testament or Church history, just American Christianity. We pay people to do our Great Commission and dying for us – stop it! I’m so obsessed with covenant theology I’ve started reading Jewish rabbi’s to understand it more and I LOVE it and that’s the practical outworking of reformed theology.
3. BUILD FRIENDS WITH PEOPLE WITHOUT JESUS AROUND THE WORLD. I’m with Atheist, Bhudist, Hindus, Muslims, Jews – they love to talk to thinking Christians who can answer their beyonds beyond “I feel it in my heart.” Don’t be exclusive. Do the majority of your blogs, tweets, books, deal with preachers and Christians or are these platforms for a global conversation about building relationships to talk about God? Come on guys – the whole world is listening – stop being a clique and talking to yourselves. You’re smart and the world needs you – don’t worry about you’re tribe – they’ll be fine. Model for your tribe a new way to communicate. Christians from America go and try to find other Christians around the world – STOP IT! Go where there are few if any. Sure, relate to them, but as Americans you have access to the world and gatekeepers like no one else. If we don’t do this, then our work becomes segmented, isolated, and we will never get to movement status . . .
Oh, these’s so much more I could write but my daughter has cooked us breakfast and I must leave!!!
Bob is the founder, senior leader, and chief spokesman for Glocal.net . His primary focus is to connect leaders and estabish relationships to explore transformation. Follow Bob on Twitter at @bobrobertsjr.