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.