Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Generation of Bandwagon Jumpers – Kevin DeYoung

Kevin DeYoung, Pastor of University Reformed Church in Lansing, Michigan has a great article for the under 40 crowd, especially those who have begun to understand reformed theology. He has credibility for he is a member of that crowd. He writes...

There are two ironclad rules of Gen XYZ Americans: (1) They like to be trendy, (2) but only until everyone knows what they’re into is trendy. We want to be like everyone else but, at the same time, different. So we gravitate to whatever people are into as long as it doesn’t feel like everyone else is into it.

This leads me to a few thoughts on the young, restless, reformed movement. I believe God is at work in the under-40 generation, doing something doctrinally, ecclesiologically, and doxologically healthy among many youngish Christians. Further, I believe this work of God is being mediated through a remarkable network of like-minded pastors, preachers, and scholars. I don’t know when there have been so many folks, often friends, saying and writing more or less the same things about the gospel, the atonement, the Scriptures, the glory of God, the doctrines of grace, the centrality of the church, the importance of preaching, the roles of men and women, and on and on it goes. We are blessed with an inordinate and growing number of good teachers, good books, good blogs, and good conferences.

But our desire for biblical truth, as understood (for the most part correctly, I believe) by Calvin, Edwards, Piper, Carson, etc. must be a passion for God, not a passion for trendy.

We must embrace historic protestant orthodoxy in general and, for many of us, particular Reformed expressions of it, not because it makes us feel superior to them (whoever them is), but because it is the best way to know Him. The goal is not to be a T4G-TGC-CHBC-ACE-PCA-SGM-DGM groupie. The goal is to know God, love God, and serve God–all of which can be helped, and is being helped, by the love for gospel truth in these groups (and many others).
Now, what interests me in all of this is the opening sentence of this last paragraph.  What does it mean to 'embrace historic protestant orthodoxy' and 'a particular Reformed expression of it'?  Does it mean to simply affirm that one follows a particular teacher or pastor (take your pick)?  Does it mean that one consciously says that "I am a reformed baptist, a reformed charismatic, etc."?  Or does it mean that one do more than give intellectual assent to a tradition or even give permission for others to label them as a certain type of Christian, but that one actually puts shoe leather to his/her profession and actually joins a church in that tradition?  I would hope that DeYoung has this in mind but I'm not sure. 

I, for one, am a bit tired of all of the talk about how much the younger crowd loves reformed theology.  Visit where they choose to worship (note I didn't say the church where they are a member) and you often find little that relates to historic reformed piety or practice.  Ask a few questions and it becomes clear that they are there for the music, the programs, the entertaining preaching, the big screens, the success, and the big budgets. 

There are real reformed churches out there -- places where pastors spend more time over their books than chewing the fat over a Starbucks.  You just need to look for them.  Are they perfect?  Hardly.  Do they have all the trendy things of the larger churches?  No, but they have what is essential: the true preaching of the Word, the right administration of the sacraments, and church discipline. 

Here's an analogy.  What's a more authentic dining experience?  Going to the mall and eating at a national chain restaurant or finding some hole in the wall place run by immigrants that serves food based on family recipes from the old country, with huge portions, and a propreitor that genuinely cares about your well-being?  That's the difference between the franchise model mega-church and the authentic reformed church. 

Hey Generation XYZ.  Do something counter-cultural.  Join an authentic reformed church that subscribes to reformed creeds and confessions.  You won't be disappointed. 

A Generation of Bandwagon Jumpers – Kevin DeYoung


Kaitiaki said...

Dave, I am hesitant to post this - so if you decide it needs to be deleted, please do so. I am a little concerned because, though I love the Reformed Faith and am Presbyterian. My present circumstances, however, do not allow me to worship or join a local Presbyterian Church - the nearest is you in Midland. I live in Standish and have no car. So I worship in a Church I can never join - a local (Southern) Baptist Church because I can get there - under a pastor who claims not to be a Calvinist. He's more biblical than he thinks - but that's another story.

My situation may be unusual but it may also have an element which many younger Reformed Christians have in common with me. They are not near a local Reformed Church which expresses their own beliefs.

All I wanted to say is "please don't lump us all together in the 'don't care about ecclesiology' basket." Some of us care but God has other plans (it seems) for us, like helping a local preacher become more consistently Reformed, maybe?

Dave Sarafolean said...


I can relate. Some time I'll have to tell you my story of being without a church. I did not intend to lump folks like you in with the rest. There are plenty of churches like mine that are scratching out an existence as the mega-churches draw in the masses. It's those that go for the glitz and glam who I was targeting.

Kaitiaki said...

Dave, I am planning to attend a conference at Twining Baptist Church where you will be a speaker - perhaps you can share some of your story then. Either way I look forward to meeting you "in the flesh" as they say :)