I have been hearing a lot about the YRR- Young, Restless, Reformed- debate as of late and this topic has caused me to think about my history in fundamental, conservative churches over almost 50 years of my life.
While I have lived from New Jersey to Tokyo and have been in many different kinds of churches, from independent "Baptist" churches to GARB's, I have found that often there is something in common. I don't want to throw a one word description out so I will tackle it from the other side; what most have NOT been.
As a small bit of history, my grandfather and great grandfather were both full-time, long-time overseas missionaries who knew their Bibles and loved God. While I didn't know my GGF I lived with my grandfather for about 2 years in Tokyo while growing up. Sadly, the thing I remember most about my grandfather is not that he loved Jesus, or not that he really loved the Japanese people or not even that he was such an expert linguist that he had an audience with the emperor of Japan, but rather that he loved to argue.
He loved to argue about Calvinism, what is the greatest of God's attributes, whether one should go to the temple to preach and really anything else you might have an opinion about. There is no question in the minds of those who knew my grandfather well that he loved Jesus, but he had a real hard time making you know that he loved and cared for YOU. That's not so good when you're his grandson.
There is nothing wrong, and a lot right, about having a head full of truth. There is nothing wrong with having strong convictions. There is nothing wrong with having the centrality of Scripture guide our conversations, but the Scripture must also guide our lives and our affections and I never saw that in my grandfather and I didn't often see it growing up in the conservative Christian churches we went to, from pastors to deacons or elders.
So today we have a large discussion about whether the YRR's are loving the Bible as much as they are loving their freedoms. If they are actually living their lives by the Word and even if they actually care about the Word. I am not a Bible scholar and for sure there are many who know much more than I, but it seems like there were plenty of people in Jesus' day that knew the Scriptures, many teachers and religious leaders but Jesus didn't question them as much on their knowledge of Scripture as much as He did about how they lived. They said a lot and yet did little.
I have seen recently that there are many who certainly know their Bibles better than I, who can argue about pre and post and have lots of long words that end with -ology, but I don't see much difference in their lives compared to a professor at a local college or university- super smart and often kind of grumpy. Grumpy about the fact that the "students" haven't caught up to them on their teaching. But why would an outsider want to fill their heads with all this stuff if in the end they come out grumpy old men who think their brain buckets are what will impress Jesus?
Again, I am not saying that we should not strive to increase our Biblical understanding as well as pass that Spirit given understanding on to future generations, but if it comes at the cost of joy in what God is doing in His people right now, mourning with them in times of sadness and rejoicing with them in times of celebration, then it seems we have missed the point.
The reason I titled this in this way is because it often seems like it is those who have been around the church for a long time who are tired and crotchety and with enormous heads and tiny little hearts, they are deformed. Will the world ever ask them of the hope that is in them if they are always going around acting as if there is no hope for the "stupid" people? Will their neighbors ever talk with them if they are feeling as if they are not smart enough to carry on a conversation "on their level"? Where is the hope of the Gospel? Where is the love of Christ shed abroad in hearts? Where is the light that is supposed to be shining in a dark world? It's stuck inside of church walls acting as if a huge head will bring sinners to repentance.
Maybe the YRR are not all that the conservative, fundamentals are, and maybe they need to increase the centrality of Scripture, but the way to get them to do that is not to have an argument about how foolish they are, tell them they are completely missing it, when it seems like at least they are living their lives the way Jesus did- with the people. We have churches with big brick walls that are not inviting but rather seem like they are there to keep people out of the "club" of us 4 and no more.
I will close with this. A friend was over last night for dinner and some visiting. They said that the thing they noticed most about the church they are currently going to is that the people actually seem like they have joy, love each other and there doesn't seem to be any complainers. They said that they have not experienced that at ANY other church they have ever been to. That is a sad indictment on the state of the conservative churches of America- not much joy, not much love and complaining.