Because evangelicals have not seen real revival for over a century (e.g. like the Welsh revival of 1905), as a result we have been slow to recognize our active cultivation of an ongoing culture of revival. By this I am not simply referring to a week of nightly scheduled meetings at a church in the Bible Belt (although that is one manifestation of this phenomenon). Rather I am speaking of how we tend to do things in waves, whether they are a real revival or not. Some of those waves have been helpful (the Jesus movement) and some have been pernicious (the emergent church).
The Jesus movement in the seventies might even qualify as an under-radar mini-revival, but it occurred against the backdrop of all the other seventies chaos. As one sage put it, if there are twelve clowns cavorting in the circus ring, and you jump down there to quote some Shakespeare, to the audience you are just the thirteenth clown.
A Cautionary Tale
I bring all this up as a cautionary tale. The young, restless and Reformed movement has all the hallmarks of the kind of thing we tend to do in waves. As a certified alumnus of the Jesus movement, I sometimes feel like I am living in Deja VuVille. After you all are done reinventing everything, and have settled into your different way of “doing church,” your wife will inform you that your eldest child is going to be starting kindergarten in a couple years. “What are we going to do?” she asks sweetly.
Do? Well, grow up, it appears. One of the ways God uses fathers is by having them tell those coming after them what to expect. Allow me to talk like a father for a minute. Part of being men is expecting maturity which, in case you all haven’t noticed it, is coming at you like a freight train.
At Least a Two/Thirds Change
Where will the young, restless and Reformed be in thirty years? At least two/thirds of that now familiar equation will be “old and settled” instead of young and restless. Hopefully you will still be Reformed, if you stand fast, and pay no attention whatever to the theologians of Academe, in whatever their latest attempt might be to escape from the clutches of the apostle Paul.
Being old will be God's doing—he controls all the speed settings on that conveyor belt called time. In fact, he appears to have welded them in their current position.
Being settled is where the trouble might lie. This is often a function of selling out, of compromising, of selling your soul to the devil at the crossroads. But there is another kind of settlement, the kind that comes to a man who has faithfully fought the good fight assigned to him. When Samwise got back to the Shire, his marriage to Rosie was not a case of selling out. It is appropriate to be restless (even when you have grayed some) about what God has not yet done in the future. But it is never good to be restless about what God has already given. Thank him for it, and build on it.
Doug Wilson is pastor of Christ Church, and faculty member and Senior Fellow at New Saint Andrews College in Moscow, ID. He is also the founder of Greyfriars Hall (a ministerial training program), founder and editor of Credenda Agenda magazine.
Recent posts for the 2012 Conference for Pastors —