“The YRR movement has attempted to be centre bound. It has tended to gather around agreed upon doctrines – such as the doctrine of Scripture, the doctrines of grace and the traditional teaching on human gender and sexuality. On these positions they continue to enjoy widespread unity and agreement. But the devil is in the details.”
A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of joining with over 12,000 other people at the T4G conference in Louisville Kentucky.
It was a seminal moment.
Whether it will be remembered as the high water mark of the Young, Restless and Reformed Resurgence or not, only time will tell. Two things, however, are absolutely certain: the young Calvinists are riding high and the greater the heights, the greater the fall that follows.
To be clear, I am praying against that.
For better or worse this is my tribe. I love their commitment to the authority of Scripture. I worship the same Big God that they do. I see the same lostness of man, the same Sovereignty of grace, the same call to the nations and the same glory in the Gospel of Christ.
These are my people and I am desperate to see them thrive.
I am not ignorant of the challenges that they face.
The devil would love to bring this movement into ill repute. He would love to see it fall and the beliefs they cherish thrown down into the dust. And he has raised up many adversaries. Some from within and some from without.
From my vantage point – a fair ways from the centre – here are a just a few of the threats that must be faced.
The YRR movement has attempted to be centre bound. It has tended to gather around agreed upon doctrines – such as the doctrine of Scripture, the doctrines of grace and the traditional teaching on human gender and sexuality. On these positions they continue to enjoy widespread unity and agreement.
But the devil is in the details.
Fault lines have begun to emerge – and not in the place where many people predicted. Many people predicted that the movement would fracture along ecclesiological lines but thus far, those differences appear to have been treated as adiaphora.
The factions that are emerging have nothing to do with the volume of water used in baptism or the precise form of congregational government. Instead they revolve around the on-going work of the Spirit and issues of race and politics.
Given that the issues are complex and overlapping several large clusters of people have simply gathered around a recognizable pole.
I follow John Piper.
I follow John MacArthur.
I follow R.C. Sproul.
But is Christ divided? Was Piper crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of R.C. Sproul? When we say these things are we not behaving merely in a human way?
I fear that this natural and sinful tendency to align with a human leader rather than to think for ourselves will lead many of us into trouble. I love John Piper – but he is not the Pope. I respect John MacArthur – but he is not inerrant. I am in awe of the late R.C. Sproul – but faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ.
Let’s put the party spirit to death once and for all. Let’s seek and pursue the Christ of Scripture and keep human teachers in their proper place.
For who is John Piper at the end of the day? Who is John MacArthur? Who is R.C. Sproul? Merely servants through whom you believed.
We ought not to be surprised that a movement referred to as the YOUNG, Restless and Reformed movement contains a great many young people. I would assume that it contains a great many restless and reformed people as well. However, it is the “young” piece that is particularly concerning.
This past year at T4G there was a gathering of Canadian pastors and leaders scheduled for one of the breakout sessions. Over 600 people attended. In T4G fashion we did a book giveaway and we asked people to stand and sit in response to certain stated criteria. In the course of this tribal ritual I was shocked to discover that in a room of 600 pastors and leaders I had been in ministry for the second longest period of time.
I’ve been in ministry since September of 1994.
That means that roughly 598 people in that room had been in ministry for less than 24 years.
That’s incredible. That’s encouraging. And that’s terrifying.
To be clear I think it’s a great thing that so many young men are going into ministry and holding on to traditional Protestant Christian beliefs about Scripture, the atonement, God’s Sovereignty and the nature of gender and human sexuality – I am thrilled to see that.
Where are all the men in their 50’s and 60’s?
Who will mentor this massive herd of enthusiastic, energetic, courageous, untested, unsettled young men?
It will take more than a few famous people on a stage – it will take regular Christian men – regular, faithful, local pastors to mentor and steer and at times moderate these younger Christians.
Where are those people?
I’ve been looking for them my whole life. Many of them were lost to the pragmatism of the 80’s and 90’s. They became experts in things that never mattered and now they have very little to share with these theologically minded youngsters, and they know it. Many of them became experts in church politics and they are wise enough not to side with the Young Turks so late in their careers. In the renewal movement that I co-lead in my denomination I have had a number of men in their 60’s and 70’s put an arm around my shoulder and whisper into my ear: “I am with you – 100% but I am not in a position to rock the boat. I will be cheering for you and praying for you from a distance.”
I never found that particularly helpful and I’m sure that we will need to offer something more than that to this mass of pastors if we are to avoid scandal and disaster.