I am weary.
It’s not age, I’ve only just turned 30.
It’s not just that I long for another world that’s free of sin and suffering. My hope of what to come is certain, and the blessings of God that I have now are far beyond what I deserve.
I love my life. I love my wife. I love my family and friends.I love my ministry to others in the church, and where I can, though I don’t often enough, to those outside the family of faith also.
I am blessed,and I am grateful for all that God, in His great grace, has granted to me.
But I am weary all the same.
The main reason I’m weary is that it seems we are fighting battles that are simply not meant to be fought as believers.
The battles about distinctive issues, standards, doctrines and definitives of certain denominational expressions are struggles that divide and are a cause of obsession in most churches.
I’m young, but I already feel too old to waste my time on another discussion about which translation we should read, whether Calvinism or Arminianism is ultimately, absolutely correct, about end times prophecies, about what we should sing in church, and what instruments to use when we do so, and on and on…
Some of these things are great things to talk about, and I’m not in anyway advocating a free-for-all on anything. But there should come a time when we move on from the temporary, elemental things. It’s exhausting and all consuming otherwise.
Purity in our expression of faith is vital. But that pure and undefiled religion will not come unless we put others before ourselves. ( James 1:27).
If I am to be exhausted, I’d want it to be for the right reasons, and when most your time in speaking of spiritual things is taken up in vain conversations about misplaced agendas, misinformed preconceptions, and quarrels about words (1 Timothy 6:4), you soon realize how the devil must be incredibly pleased with himself about how he has managed to make differences with other believers the sole focus of so many professing Christians. Someone told me some time ago, and it has stuck in my mind since, “We too often forget that it is the devil’s job to be the accuser of the brethren”.
I sometimes think that denominations ( demon-nations) were his invention to begin with. ….But that isn’t really true, and I must confess that have my fair share of pointless points about earthly opinions. I have also argued for my own glory rather than God’s, and that has been, and will be wrong of me, when I’m sure I will do it the future.
Arguing about church history and doctrines that we can trace back to certain men might be a valuable exercise when we are establishing the roots of our traditions, and whether they are founded on eternal biblical truths or men’s opinions. We need valid biblical points of reference. But there comes a time when we simply must focus on what is in front of us.
We could spend the rest of our lives discussing the same things, arguing the same points, debating the same topics of differences, and why we are not like the other churches.
We could exhaust ourselves with conversations about things that seem important to us, but meanwhile, life goes on. The world keeps spinning, and all we may have done is score some points, and distracted ourselves from what we really should be studying out and carrying out.
Church history is fascinating, but it is history for a reason. It has happened. Some of what happened affects greatly what happens today, but while we reason about what has happened and why we adhere to what we do, in our various denominations, we have missed the fact that we are losing our chance to have an impact in our piece of history.
Too often I have been left wondering where exactly my generation will end up. What will our mark in church history be?
Is there room for discussion about what sort of shape we will leave the church in that we have been left by our parents and grandparents?
Will there be a local church in my community that the next generation will be attending?
What will it look like?
Will the churches that I know of now, and serve in now, still be here?
I don’t rightly know any answer to that. I do know that the church of Christ will endure and the gates of hell won’t prevail against it. What I am certain of is that all our energy seems to be spent on issues that will have absolutely no meaning at all in eternity.
There is a story told of a believer who died and went to heaven. He arrived at the pearly gates, and Peter took him on a tour. Being a baptist, he was thrilled to see his ‘clan’ so close to the throne of God.
Looking chuffed with himself, he said to Peter, “Who is that group beyond the baptists there?”
Peter responded, “ Oh, thats the Methodists.”
The baptist raised his eyebrows, then said, “ And the ones beyond them?”
“That’d be the Pentecostals”
The baptist laughed out loud. “What about those ones far far out there, just on the horizon?”
Peter smiled knowingly, “That’s the Presbyterians and similar minded.”
The baptists slapped his knee gleefully, “Guess they just snuck in then, hey?”
“ No. They were just the only ones God could trust to let out of His sight.”
I’m not a Presbyterian, but you could interchange any of those accordingly, as I have when I have told that joke in various denominations.
My father has never been a fan of tags.
I heard him often say, “Not much point in having a tag. If you’re going up, it’ll fall off. If you’re going down it’ll burn off.”
Tags are a cause of weariness for me also.
We seem to be living in a time where we are being handed many traditions, standards, principles and doctrines, some of which we can see are helpful, but not all of which seem wise, timeless or relevant to us here and now, let alone from an eternal or biblical perspective. It has created a culture where preferences become convictions.
I am not just thinking here of conservative church circles or influences either.
Traditionalism extends beyond the ‘boundaries’ of the independent fundamentalist churches.
There are these same issues in many ‘mainstream’ denominations also.
I’m something of a church ‘misfit’.
I grew up non-denominational, as you could probably tell from the above quote.
I am blessed to have had such a strong Christian heritage, it’s something I’m extremely grateful for.
My dad’s family were Methodists, Mum’s were Church of Christ.
The church I grew up in was independent, non-denominational, and fundamentally conservative in it’s ministry expression.
As I got older, and gained personal independence and identity as I made my faith in Christ a personal one, I did some study, made friends through various connections, and it soon became apparent that people outside my church life experience were very concerned with alignments, associations, affiliations, denominations.
I studied through an evangelical Anglican college, under a Presbyterian minister.
This lead to me getting some connections within the Presbyterian church within my local city, and I started several years of filling pulpits for various ministers when they were on leave, or doing pulpit supply in churches without a minister.
While doing this, I stayed as a member, then Secretary/Treasurer of the non-denominational church I grew up in, and I also took chapel services in Church of Christ nursing homes, helping the head chaplain ( who was a Baptist Union minister). I also spoke at bible studies with a group in the city that ran a rehab center, and they were Charismatically inclined.
I started working for a Christian business, and made friends and connections again with many various believers from many different denominations.
I then married my wife, and moved to the suburbs, and started attending the church she had been attending, which was an Independent Baptist church, which is where will still are and I am now happily fellowshipping in and serving in.
Maybe that history of my church affiliations is a little confusing, or maybe you think that my whole point here is that all churches are the same and I’m calling for more ecumenicalism. That’s definitely not my point.
What I’m trying to get to is the identity that we are assumed to take on whenever we enter ANY denomination, and how I was naive to the importance of this identity to each individual church group coming out of my ‘tagless’ past.
Talking with Presbyterian ( or Calvinist) believers, I was naive. When they asked me if I was “reformed”. I would furrow my brow and just assume that they were asking if I was protestant and agreed with Luther’s reformational statement of salvation by grace alone through faith alone, and I’d say yes, knowing I am certainly not a Catholic. Little did I know!
Speaking with dear old saints in the Church of Christ nursing home, some would refer to me as “Father”, thinking I was a priest. Others would pull me aside after a service, and ask which church I was in, and if I said I attended a baptist church, they’d then say, “ Yes, you don’t sound very Church of Christ” . What that meant, I still have no idea.
I have been in trouble on all sides of the fence, while being accused of sitting on it.
If I’m speaking in a ‘non-calvinist’ church, I am told I am Calvinist because of my high view of God’s Sovereignty, but this comes from more of a culture that has created such an air of finality about some things that assumptions are based on the loosest of affiliations, with many and various ‘slippery slope’ arguments, but I am not a Calvinist.
If I’m speaking in a ‘calvinist’ church, I am told I must be an Arminian because I don’t have a high enough view of God’s Sovereignty. I certainly haven’t picked any tulips recently, but I’m not an Arminian.
If I am engaging in discussion with a Pentecostal, they say I’m too much of a fundamentalist.
If it’s a conservatively expressive believer, they say I am far too liberal.
It can leave one very confused.
Where do I fit in? Do I have to fit in order to serve God and others? Why are we so obsessed with aligning ourselves with dead men who would roll in their graves in they knew how much we esteem or defame their names?
This world is no place for the weary kind when there is so many things that drain us to despair like these arguments can.
I’m ready to leave vain conversations about foolish controversies that cause quarrels. ( 2 Timothy 2:22-26).
The time for talking out things may never be past in some contexts, but for now, in my generation of thirty and twenty somethings, it is time to settle our minds, stop thinking about what we can think about and think about doing something.
We can study forever and never come to an understanding of the truth if we are only ever studying for our own benefit and glory.
It’s time to rest in our identity in Christ and leave the cerebral battles of defining doctrines of men behind for the cause and glory of the Gospel of Christ and worship of the One True God. Mainly so we can train the next generation coming up after us not to make the same mistakes we have.
If we stay disillusioned with what the church has offered, or where we should fit in, we will end up not just dissatisfied with in our fellowship with other believers, but with the Gospel and God.
There are many young people leaving the church, but I’m not convinced the true church is really to blame. The body of Christ will never die based on the whims and fancies of disillusioned generation. The faith of may will grow cold, but only because we gave place in hearts to something other than Christ to begin with.
The current generation of non-church attending Christians may be a statement against some practices of the church that are unhelpful, evil even. But what are we offering in response, if we are truly that offended for the cause of Christ? Or we just offended for offense’s sake?
What legacy we will leave is a pertinent question, since we seem to struggle so much with the legacy we have been left.
If we have ended up disillusioned, dispassionate, and restless about it all, what next?
Where will the next generation go if we have lead them nowhere?
I believe, if we are truly disappointed with the direction of the church, then the fact we may well leave those who come after us completely directionless is much worse endictment on us than on any perceived or real offenses we have about previous generation’s influence on us.
We can content ourselves with bemoaning the errors our various churches have made, and we should keep ourselves informed of errors, but we may be reaching a stage where criticism has become less about moving forward, and all about dragging up the past, while being stagnant in the present. The church only needs so many critics. We need to move on to a more noble challenge of trying to leave a legacy of learning and study of Scripture that shows people how to think, not what to think.
Scripture will not change, it will be with us forever. We need to get back to looking at correctly, and living in it, instead of searching it for arguments we can use against fellow believers.
This battle of disillusionment and exclusivity should stop with us, here, in this generation. Every generation has it’s own struggles, why would we pass on our’s to the next?
No more blaming previous generations for distracting us, we’ve driven ourselves to distraction by doing so.
No more blaming churches for our identity confusion. We’ve argued ourselves into confusion.
We don’t need anymore apologists for traditionalism any more than we need any more apologists for doctrinal differences. If we haven’t figured out where we all stand by now, either we are blissfully blessed by not ever letting it get into our minds at all, or we never will figure it out, and we’d much rather argue our way into heaven, while the world goes to hell.
We need apologists for the reasonable and shameless hope that lies within us. We need apologists for Christ, not for denominations.
The church only needs so many full time theologians. We need practical application of the Gospel in our everyday lives so we can be disciples who are making disciples.
It’s time to get rid of obsession with ‘getting to the bottom’ of our restlessness.
Restlessness is supposed to stop when are at rest in God.
The young, reformed, and restless movement has done great things. It has inspired many to deeper faith and thinking, and some great practical applications too in missions and church growth.
But they there is danger in being obsessed with being reformed, being consumed by being so restless, as you’ll soon get weary of being young.
We can, absolutely, be restless as we seek to the Will of God here on earth.
While we are young, we should strive to be obedient in the practice of faith we have been called to.
But I’m not so convinced we all need to be reformed to do so.
Neither am I convinced that we have to not be reformed.
I am convinced though that there is a need for action, and the greatest act for our generation would be for us to entrust ourselves to God, our Faithful Creator, and do good.
Faith in Christ, repentance towards God, and to be in His Word, lead by His Spirit.
We need more movements like the young, restless, and reformed. But we must move our ‘movements’ past the intellectual and the exclusive.
If I am not alone in my thinking, maybe there are many, many others out there who are in this generation and are tired of being ‘pigeon holed’, labelled, and ‘denominationalized’, or ‘demonized’ for not fitting in.
I’m aware of the argument that being non-denominational can become denominational in itself. That’s fine. Have a label for everyone if you must. But I’m not sure I’d like anything else but the name of Christ.
Would you die for the name of Calvin? King James? Ariminus? Wesley? Spurgeon? Tozer? Murray? Sproul?MacArthur? Olsen? McKnight? Wright? Johnson?Keller? Piper? Paul? Peter? Apollos? Barnabas? ( 1 Corinthians 1:10-17).
I’d die for Jesus, those guys will have seek their martyrs elsewhere.
Call me a “Christ-one”, but please don’t make me kneel at the altar of a doctrine of man and tell me it’s a commandment of God and that I will find my identity there. To do so would be to empty the power of the Cross ( 1 Corinthians 1:17).
There are enough creeds, confessions, statements of faith.
There are enough denominations.
There is not enough churches.
There is not enough followers of Jesus, otherwise we would not be called to make more.
Maybe all this talk of getting rid of tags is too strong, that’s fine if you think so, you are free to. The great part about unity in Christ is the diversity that naturally comes when so many bodies make up THE body of Christ.
I am all for diversity of ministry expressions and we need different denominations.
What we don’t need is to fight about unprofitable and worthless things ( Titus 3:9).
Tag me if you must. If it helps you sleep at night, but let me have a say in what tag that would be at least.
Maybe I’d like to pick a new tag if “tagless”, or “non-denominational” are too generic or out of date. If “synergism” or “monergism” are too abstract and contradictory. But I’m not sure there is a specific corner that can be, or even should be marked denominationally for me. Someone who believes in God Sovereignty and men’s free will at the same time. A non-confromist fundamentalist. A pre-millienial, post-tribber. Someone who accepts the Word of God as the Word of God, no matter what translation may be in use ( though I have my preferences). A not entirely cecessationlist ( however that is spelt), creationist.
Even all these, however, die the death of a thousand qualifications before we even get around to speaking of what is we’re talking about…
There seems to be this ironical thing we have with calling something ‘old’ ‘new’ through history.Old things are always new in some ways. There is nothing new under the sun.But it seems adding ‘new’ to something makes us feel more comfortable.
New Calvinists. New Atheists. There is a New Conservative movement within politics, so that one’s taken.
Maybe we could go with the “New Fundamentalists”.
I can see the tagline ( pun intended) now, “ The New Fundamentalists: putting the ‘fun’ back into fun-da-mental” !
I have nothing against the term ‘fundamentalist’. We just need to lose the obsession with secondary things that cause division, and actually get back to the real fundamentals of the Gospel of Christ.
Maybe we should go with the New Methodists, but we border on exclusivity again there.
Maybe there are others like me. Somewhat young, somewhat restless and weary, and not really reformed, or not quite.
The young, restless, deformed.
Who is with me?
All foolish talk aside, we must stop making much of men.
We must make much of Christ. To live and speak in such a way that those who hear and see will know nothing but Christ, and Him crucified.