Future of Evangelicalism
The Evangelical Reformed Movement: A Comeback
By God's grace we will not live up (or is it down?) to these stereotypes. If God uses the movement for his glory in the days and decades ahead, it will be because he has given us the grace to be clear-headed and warm-hearted, doctrinal and devotional, discerning in spirit and ecumenical in our affections. If God uses us it will be because he has kept us focused squarely on the gospel and its massive implications flowing from Christ the center. So long as the evangelical Reformed movement offers a means of supporting gospel-centered unity, doctrine, worship, and action, we suspect it will prosper and leaven the broader church.
Still, we understand from history that movements come and go. Coalitions change when the scene shifts. So in that sense, we are not concerned for the future of this Reformed resurgence. God doesn't promise that movements will stand the test of time. That privilege belongs only to the institution of the church (Matt. 16:18). As in the local church, movements suffer the inevitable tensions that stem from diverse personalities and persistent sin. Looking toward the future, we can only pray to God and exhort one another to resist the temptations to seek personal acclaim. Rather, recognizing God's grace shown toward us, we should "love one another with brotherly affection" and "outdo one another in showing honor" (Rom. 12:10).
Meeting this standard will not be easy. As our movement grows, we will face new challenges. We will not always agree. Right now, we see several potential dangers.
1) Some of us struggle to be bold without being obnoxious; others of us seek to be meek but often succumb to cowardice. We want to guard the truth, not strangle it. We want to be both wise and innocent, fearless and faithful, bold but brokenhearted. We want to keep our affections in proportion to the things that matter most.
2) We are trying to find the right balance between the call to radical discipleship and the acceptance that faithfulness requires much that is mundane and ordinary. Along these lines, there is still much confusion about whether the church's mission in the world has been too big or too small -- too diffuse or too narrow.
3) We anticipate there will be the inevitable tensions between generations as retiring leaders pass the baton to a younger generation. Younger leaders will need great wisdom to both show respect for their heroes in the faith as well as learn that some disagreements with them are okay. For their part, older leaders must plan ahead to train a new generation of leaders and empower a deep and broad network of capable, young ministers for faithful ministry for the years ahead. We are encouraged to see many good examples of these things in both generations.
Hope in God
We don't pretend to know how or if these three tensions will resolve. Certainly we will be disappointed if they rise to the level of splitting the movement. But no movement of God can or should long endure if Christians cannot treat one another with grace. We have been given much; we agree on much; we ought to love much. Above all, we pray God will be pleased to raise up more churches around the world that delight in our great God, proclaim his great gospel, and lift high great David's greater Son, our Lord Jesus Christ by whom all things in heaven and on earth hold together.
Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor at University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan. Collin Hansen is editorial director for The Gospel Coalition. Justin Taylor is vice president of editorial at Crossway Books.