Young(ish) Reformed & Reckless?

Young(ish) Reformed & Reckless?

I believe in the inerrancy and all-sufficiency of God’s Holy Word. I believe unflinchingly in the doctrines of grace. I love and cherish the writing of men like John Owen. Lloyd Jones’ book on spiritual depression is a classic that will never go out of fashion. Spurgeon’s sermons are rich with gospel infused doctrinal depth. I believe in the doctrine of substitutionary atonement, I believe in systematic, expository preaching from the pulpit Sunday by Sunday. I believe in the eternal and physical truth of heaven and hell. But I love Jesus most of all. He is the only way, truth and life for lost humankind. There is no other name under heaven and on earth by which men can be saved. I consider myself, for all intents and purposes, young(ish -38), reformed and a little bit reckless. As I survey the UK reformed church scene today, I am a little bit sad.

Now, there is a movement in the states that is labelling itself, Young, Reformed & Restless’ (YRR). It is being fronted by men like Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler, Kevin DeYoung and is presided over, in my mind at least, by the rather grandfatherly figures of men like John Piper and Tim Keller. Mark Dever, CJ Mahaney and Al Mohler are other men associated with this movement, although I am not aware if they subscribe to the label per se.

Regardless of the details, one thing for certain is that, in large swathes across the states, in Charismatic circles, Pentecostal circles, Baptist & Presbyterian circles, the doctrines of grace and the writings of the Puritans, amongst others, is becoming quite sexy. And these men, in large part, are responsible for injecting some ‘love’ back into serious theological and doctrinal thought, debate and biblical expository ministry. They are inspiring a new generation of young leaders.

My question? Where are our YRR men in the UK? Where are our generation of bright young pastor’s and thinkers? Why aren’t we rising up and contributing to this whole theological arena as we battle to reach our largely secularised culture? Why aren’t we offering our unique British world-view and insight when it comes to grappling with (post)modern missiological concerns? Why are we turning our eyes overseas and inviting the ‘big names’ over for our conferences to tell us what to do on our own shores when it comes to issues like church planting and leadership training? I am not saying they are not welcome and I am not saying that they have nothing to teach us (on the contrary, they have an immense amount to teach us), but we need to find our own voices and we need to inspire our generation with the beautiful treasure of the precious reformed doctrines.

The problem is that when many young men think of ‘reformed’ in the UK the image that springs to mind is that of organ clunking, AV bashing, miserable men in suits sat in their studies licking their signed Martyn Lloyd Jones photos, salivating over a copy of a letter that Charles Spurgeon once wrote to his milkman and waiting for their next ‘Why we are so sound Conference’! They think of the angry old bloke publishing yet another book on ‘The Pschyoheresy of the Angry Birds App’. They think of conferences where the main speaker uses this phrase: ‘we should be drinking at the fount of Spurgeon’s manliness’ (true, I heard it with my own ears). They think of men so caught up in ‘preserving the truth’ and protecting ‘the pure doctrines’ that they have forgotten (1) our missiological purpose and (2) how to inspire the next generation of men. No wonder there is an alarming shortfall in men coming forward for the ministry! When many young people think of ‘reformed’ they think of cautious, frightened, powerless men too timid to do anything in case it upsets somebody. Scared of the power of the Holy Spirit to make a mess and start transforming people’s lives.

I remember a conversation with a pastor who was telling me about a man who had interviewed for a position at his church. Apparently this guy had a PhD in the ‘Science of nuclear fissure physics as it relates to bottle tops, most specifically to Barr’s Dandelion & Burdock flavour (or something similarly boring). And (he was excited by this bit) ‘he also believes in the complete inerrancy of the Scriptures!’ My response: Lovely. But can he relate to human beings?

I met another pastor at a conference once many years ago. I had only been saved for about a year – tops. Somebody thought it would be helpful to me! Anyway, I was sat at the dinner table and this pastor next to me turns to me and the following exchange ensued.

Pastor: ‘Have you heard what’s happened to so-and-so (I think I was supposed to know who this person was)?

Me: No, what (thinking I hope the guy is OK)?

Pastor: He’s become a Paedobaptist! (scrunches up his face in real disgust)

Me: (given my background, any word with the term ‘paedo’ in it meant ‘kiddie fiddler’) That’s shocking! I hope they lock the pervert up and cut his todger off.

Pastor (all colour draining from his face just slowly turns away).

When I found out later what he was so agitated about, I was so depressed by it that I never went to another conference again until just recently (Aber & TGC). I just couldn’t be bothered sat around with sad old people going purple in the face because somebody modernised a word in an old hymn book and yet were completely ambivalent to the plight of millions in our inner city estates perishing without the gospel.

Serious point: Where are all our young reformed and reckless men? Where are our guys who not only believe the great truths and doctrines of scripture but also know how to apply them to our generation? What’s the point of having a lovely certificate from some theological institution and knowing the Greek word for ‘toilet paper’ if you don’t know how to wipe your backside? No point. Useless. Are we so caught up in the UK arguing over every ‘jot and tittle’ that we have (ironically) forgotten the rich and wonderful evangelical heritage we have of great men who engaged with the word and engaged with their culture.

Newsflash: Spurgeon is dead! Martyn Lloyd Jones is dead! George Whitfield is dead! Wesley is dead! Large swathes of ‘reformed’ churches in the UK are dead because they are still trying to apply the principles of dead men to a world that moved on long ago. Yes, the truths they held dear are the truths I hold dear. The battles they fought need to be fought today but in expressions that resonate with our culture. These men never heard of Facebook or an iPad. They reached out to their generation in ways which were peculiarly applicable to their context. Stop imposing that upon our young men today! Stop crippling our young men and selling them an image of ‘reformed’ that couldn’t be further from the truth. Inspire them! Let them loose with the faith. Let them loose with the gospel in all its glory and power and splendour and majesty. Give them room to make mistakes and recklessly live for Jesus