a kinder gentler Reformed Christian

Stopped by the Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) Leadership Conference to see who was there. Met Pastor Randal Young of New Community Chapel (Granada Hills, CA) and Pastor Sam Shin of Wellspring Church (SF Bay area). A couple of live-bloggers are here; one captured an excellent synopsis of this morning’s session from David Powlison (I confess that it speaks to my besetting sin for which I often need to repent):

“Introspectitus is a great sin: it’s just one more way of making everything about me even more about me.” … He said that we cannot persuade someone not to sin by trying to talk them out of a temptation, or by expertly analyzing their temptation. The only way to lead people away from sin it is to give them something more beautiful and more worth living for. … Excessiveness in analyzing our hearts is in fact selfishness and laziness, hoping that finding some new secret craving will lead to effortless change. He described the problem as “thinking that if I don’t get to the bottom of why I do what I do, I will not change.” Mere analysis is not the goal.

What was particularly touching to me was that during the 2nd plenary session of the day, C.J. Mahaney took a good 20+ minutes to give recognition and appreciation to the SGM staff and their wives, ending with showing a true kindness of prayer. I’ve not seen this kind of genuine appreciation given, and the heartfelt applause from the maybe 1000 pastors + wives in the audience, first to give gratitude to God for the gifts of the staff’s work, and to give thanks to the work they’re doing.

This was such a contrast to the vitriolic words that I sometimes hear from doctrinal pastors who have well-defined theologies and convictions (and rightly so), particularly in voicing concern against alternative views. C.J.’s demonstration of humility and appreciation convinced me that this living out of the Gospel for a community of a like-minded persuasion can work well and be a blessing.

[addendum] I had wanted to blog about The Internet Monk Interview: John Hendryx (creator of Monergism.com, a leading reformed theology website), and echo how it seems elusive to find those who can be graciously kind while holding on to their well-defined Reformed theology:

Internet Monk >> My own interaction with young Calvinists has made me less enthusiastic for Reformed Christianity. In my essay “I Hate Theology” I catalog some of the negative by-products of what often amounts to an obsession with theological minutae at the expense of kindness and charity. Am I off base?

John: No, I think you are right on the mark, Michael. I have had my share of battles with many of the type of people you are describing. However, perhaps you should try to distinguish those persons who consider themselves “Truly Reformed” from the average Reformed believer. There are vocal groups out there that have an “I am more Reformed than anyone else” type attitude, but I would argue that such persons constitute a minority in Reformed circles. Their activism and vocal nature has made them appear more influential than they are, and many of these groups also have prolific writers. While I will not mention them by name I find their arrogance equally as repulsive as you do, Michael, especially since they claim to represent my brand of theology. But the existence of such groups, I believe, should not discourage you from the biblical clarity and rich heritage that Reformed Theology has brought to the Church.

You may also like...

No Responses

  1. DJ, CJ, IM and John…

    Couldn’t agree more.

    It seems obvious to me now that at its origin ‘reformation theology’ intrinsically carried with it a highly-charged, anti-Catholic aversion to the doctrine of unity/harmony. The 5 points of Calvinism and the 5 solas were elevated above Christ’s summation of the 2 priority doctrines (loving God and loving others). These Reformed 10 commandments fail to mention of the importance of the unity of the Church as a testimony to the unity of the Trinity… and the gospel… despite the scripture’s clear teachings.

    And the Church has paid the price — ineffectiveness, as we’ve fractured the Body into a million consumeristic, egocentric pieces… with little or no accountability to the God-glorifying, scriptural model. And it shows. Barna Research shows that less than 4% of Americans hold a biblical worldview. The Church is getting beat 96-4. Hardly a testimony to the overcoming power of the gospel.

    Thankfully, in the 21st Century, there’s less ability to remain isolated… and thus less able to demonize others. Christ-followers are guarding their speech. And hopefully, they’re truly developing their theology more carefully, to determine what really IS to be prioritized.

    Those of us involved in cityreaching believe that it is imperative that the Church re-connect… and escalate theological/practical discussions of the nature and the mission of the model Church in a city.

    And let’s see just where God might take us as a result.

  2. Rob Mitchell says:

    Very well said indeed.

    At the Orientation Seminar for RTS Virtual Campus for my MA program, the campus president Andy Peterson emphasized the need to be “winsomely Reformed.” While Dr. Peterson didn’t originate the term, I think he gets it, as do you and the folks in leadership at Sovereign Grace and some other Reformed groups like Acts 29.

    On the one hand, it’s good to have strongly held theological convictions, especially on core issues we share with all Christians. It’s possible to over-correct to the point of tossing out issues we ought to die for, like the Atonement, the Trinity, and the concept of truth itself. But at the same time we should remember that one of our most important apologetics is to manifest, to incarnate the person and character of Christ. Fire-breathing polemics doesn’t serve that task well. Fortunately there are more and more voices that are resonating with the very effort you emphasize here. Kindness and gentleness manifest the character of Christ in a way that being arrogant and censorious never would.

    Keep up the good work.

  3. barry says:

    interesting. i used to go to the SGM church in cleveland as well as in pasadena but left SGM in 2000. i didn’t know that they’d planted a church in the valley. i might go check them out.