Monday, May 5, 2008

What in the Church is Going On?

I ask this not abruptly and with exclamation, like, “What in the church is going on!!?”, but more observationally and curiously like, “hmm…what in the church is going on?” Even though I don’t ask with exclamation, I attempt to answer or at least respond with a bit of urgency, because I believe the answer has implications towards serious things like life or death, heaven or hell, and truth or deception, and not just on minuscule things like Coke or Pepsi, Republican or Democrat, Apple or PC, and so on.

I originally wanted to consolidate numerous thoughts and insight from books, articles, sermons, conversations, recent experiences, etc. into one mammoth post that attempted to summarize the fascinating, shocking, and monumental things that I have noticed are going on in the world, specifically in America, and specifically as it relates to the Church, the Body of Jesus Christ, and our interaction with the culture, identified by some as “postmodern”. Alas, this I cannot do. But what I will do is give a synopsis of my thoughts, why it matters (or why I think you should be interested), and then give you an outline of some of these books, articles, sermons, conversations, recent experiences, etc. with links to help you seek more about all this if desired. And God willing, I will write more about these individual things as time and energy permit.

Synopsis: Young adults in America are incurably spiritual, which is to say that they react to spiritual things more than anyone will give them create for. But these days they are also more and more hostile to the concept of absolute truth, and so the Church is responding accordingly in an effort to reach those in this generation who are resistant to Christianity, while also mobilizing and building up those in this generation who have embraced Christianity and desire earnestly to effectively reach their peers.

Although a generalization, it seems that the Church is responding in two distinct ways: On the one hand you have those who would admirably prioritize engaging the culture of this generation, and take the message of Jesus and the concept of Christianity to those who need it, in a way that is loving, relevant, and tolerant; but who would also do all this at the risk of compromising the reality of absolute truth and losing or distorting the Gospel of Jesus Christ, or the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. On the other hand, you have those who would passionately contend for this faith delivered once for all, and defend, promote and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but struggle to escape from stereotypes of intolerance or arrogance or an unloving lack of engagement with a complex culture for fear of compromising the Christian doctrines that are so precious to them. To generalize, if you spend any time on blogs, or read current books or articles on the topic, you would describe these two responses as, respectively:

1) the Emergent Movement

2) the resurgence of Reformed theology, or “New Calvinism”

Each side claims many names that might be familiar to you.

Truly, there is a lot of gray area in between and even much of the Church may not see this distinction or ever consider themselves in either camp, which for the record, probably would include the local church I attend. This is fine. Actually, this is great. My intention is not to present to you two sides of the Christian Church and make you feel like you have to choose. But something is happening, and the next generation of pastors, teachers, and leaders in the Church will no doubt be affected by one if not both of these “movements”, and the shape and nature of the Church will reflect that, for good or for bad. (Surely for good, as Romans 8:28 promises.)

Even regular Christians, who attend church and desire to seek and glorify God with their whole life, should practice spiritual discernment in this area as Scripture calls for, and heed such instruction so “we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.” (Ephesians 4:14) Sadly, both of these movements may not lead to the same place, and lack of discernment could lead to such things talked about in the book of Jude (which is slightly terrifying) if we find ourselves blindly following a “movement” that may or may not center itself on the Supremacy of Christ.

Meanwhile, the potential of revival in the context of youth, college, and twentysomethings is being whispered about inside ministries, churches, universities, and communities around the country, and God doesn’t seem to want to be put in a box right now (not that He ever has). He wants to move, and perhaps affect eternity through our generation. And we should be willing and ready.

And personally, I find myself reading certain books, listening to certain sermons, having certain conversations, and developing a certain theological framework in my life that seems to favor one of these sides; not because I necessarily find the implications of one response more attractive than the other, but because I find the foundation and implications of one more true, and therefore more glorifying to God, and more loving to others.

This now, is an outline of resources I have encountered (over the course of several months) - maybe to launch you on a similar journey, or confuse and overwhelm you beyond measure, or at least introduce you to what in the Church is going on. More commentary to follow. I pray this will be helpful and enjoyable for you. If not, at least for me it got a lot of helpful information all in the same place.

  1. The Truth War - John MacArthur

  2. Why We're Not Emergent - Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck

  3. Young, Restless, and Reformed - Collin Hansen

  4. The Emerging Church - Dan Kimball

  5. The Reason for God - Tim Keller

  6. The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World - Justin Taylor (editor)

  7. Listening to the Beliefs of Emerging Churches - Robert Webber (editor)


  1. How the World Sees ChUrch - Derek Duncan

  2. Improving the Gospel - Mark Dever

  3. Living with Jesus at the Center - Mark Vroegop

  4. How I Distinguish Between the Gospel and False Gospels - John Piper


  1. The Gospel of Jesus Christ - D.A. Carson

  2. Two Cheers for the Resurgence of Calvinism in Evangelicalism

  3. Christianity Today - great resource for what's going on among God's people politically, spiritually, denominationally, theologically, personally, ethically, financially, professionally, culturally, etc.


  1. Youth Revival - The ministry of Two:Eight recently witnessed 25% of a high school student body, at a public school, pray to receive Christ at a voluntary after-school event

  2. The Rising - Young Adult Ministry at East 91st Christian Church

  3. Proclamation and Demonstration of the Gospel - Urbana 2006 and York Moore challenge

  4. Hills to die on - I’m working on a post that articulates what I consider as the essentials to the Christian faith; to help me as I approach ministry in the local church

  5. The BIBLE

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