In recent weeks, I have found myself reflecting quite a bit on the past 15 years of my life. I am not exactly sure why (perhaps it is because I have been an adult for almost 50% of my life?), but as I shared with a college-aged student yesterday, there is no way I could have mapped out the course my life has taken.
When I came to embrace the doctrines of grace, I did not enter the typical “cage stage” that people talk about. For me, the sovereignty of God was my lifeline. Either God was in control of every detail of my life for my good and his glory, or I had really no point in believing or living out my faith. In a short period of time, my world was rocked time and again.
In my first position at a local church, I served with several of my roommates and friends, all who came to embrace the doctrines of grace at some point in that journey of college life. While I was the least Reformed at that point, I guess you could say I had the roughest experience. My tenure at the church did not last long as I was physically threatened while being “kicked out” (not excommunicated but threatened to leave) by the senior pastor and education pastor (who called me “Absalom” and verbally assaulted me for 3 hours). That’s not the way you want to begin a lifelong call to gospel ministry to say the least. What happened in those early days were formative moments that would mark my life forever, and I am profoundly grateful to God for the brothers He placed in my life.
Over time, all of my brothers from those college years went their separate ways. We represented, I suppose you could say, the early stages of the young, restless, and Reformed movement. In the following years, the debate over Calvinism would hit a feverish pitch, mostly with charges that Calvinism stifles missions/evangelism and kills churches. This blog was very involved in the early years of the debate to offer rebuttals to many of the critiques that were leveled against Calvinists in the SBC, and it is without question that people loved to debate Calvinism (my stats were way higher then than they are today).
But I came to a realization that the best apologetic for what I believed was not having a high-trafficked blog or even winning arguments. It was going to be the outcome of my life and work in the local church, in the trenches, doing what God has called me to do. Over time, the trajectory of my writing changed from trying to change the landscape of the discussion on Calvinism to trying to serve and encourage others who were living out the implications of what they believed as they applied sound doctrine to church and mission. Rarely do you hear me talking about Calvinism these days. It is not because it is unimportant to me; rather, it is because the best Calvinists I know are working hard to be faithful ministers of the gospel in their own context–a context which focuses on stuff like making disciples, developing leaders, and planting churches.
Fifteen years later, I think about where the young, restless, and Reformed have gone in the SBC. Are they sitting in the halls of academia, waiting to write the next book defending Calvinism? Perhaps. Are they trying to work their way up into denominational life to influence the SBC toward Calvinism? I seriously doubt it. For the men God brought into my life over a decade ago, here’s the breakdown of where they are now:
- one planted a church in Tuscaloosa, AL
- Another planted a church in urban Chicago, IL
- One is revitalizing a church in Yorkshire, England
- Another is a strategy coordinator for the IMB among one of the largest Muslim countries of the world
- Another is a missionary with the IMB to a people group in Africa
- And another is a strategy coordinator for the IMB among one the largest Hindu country in the world
- And another still has already given a decade of his life to a UPG in East Asia, translating the Bible into their language and bringing the good news of Jesus for the first time to those who have never heard.
I don’t want to sound sarcastic here, but that’s not bad for a bunch of five-point Calvinists who stifle missions and kills churches. Granted, I cannot tell you where all of the young Calvinists are going these days. This is just the brothers in my world who began our journey together 15 years ago. And they would tell you they are doing what they are doing not in spite of their theology but because of it. The Calvinism we believe has inspired seven young men: three who are church planters and four who are missionaries. These guys are not on the SBC blogs trying to keep up with the latest arguments against Calvinism. They are not attending the denominational meetings worried about their seat at the table. They have left houses, family, and denominational debates for the sake of the kingdom and glory of Christ among the nations.
I am reminded this morning of the exhortation from the writer of Hebrews who said, “Remember your leaders, who spoke the Word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith” (Heb. 13:7). These men have led me and spoke the Word to me throughout these years. I am considering today the outcome of their lives, and if you are a young Calvinist, I encourage you to do so as well. Granted, their journey is far from over, but what I see in them, I rejoice in God’s sovereign grace at work in their lives and desire to imitate their faith.
So if you are wondering where did all the young, restless, and Reformed guys go, at least I can tell you where some (if not many) of them are today.