A few years ago, when we moved to Grants Pass, I came here a Christian man with very Reformed distinctives. In fact, I could barely stomach things that weren't in line with the doctrines of grace. One of the first orders of business was finding a church. We shopped around here and there. We stopped for a while, discouraged (mostly me). I would look again. I found there was a very traditional Reformed church outside of town. I was thrilled. I went there for a few months, but then left because we weren't all into it. Soon after, we met up with some like-minded folks and began a friendship and Bible study. They, too, had shopped around. Things were looking up, but we still had no church. It seemed like our main goal (at least mine) was to have a good church of our own, and preferably Reformed in doctrine.
A year or two later, we came to know the folks at Bear Creek Church and they showed interest in planting a church here in Grants Pass. Finally, a Reformed church -and "nice," too. It wasn't the crusty old dusty kind of Reformed thing that we hear about -you know, "frozen chosen." God gave me (us) what I had been looking for and whining about. What a brat I am!
Within the past year, however, I have come to a painful realization. That was virtually the substance, the pinnacle of my view of Christian existence as a Reformed believer. Get a Reformed Church. Now I get to hear things "more Biblically" and not have to feel like the odd-man-out for believing them. I don't have to put up with Arminianism. I can talk about reading John Owen, and most people actually know who I am talking about. Yay! We have our Reformed church! Now, we get a place to go to every week and hear things we like and... and... now what?
Is that the be-all-end-all of being a Reformed Christian (or, more broadly, a Christian at all)? Aside from raising our family in the school of Tedd Tripp, is the chief end of Reformed Christians to find a good Reformed church home? I came to realize that I was foolishly naive at this point. Church is not a club. Being Reformed is not a status symbol. If what we believe is true, then we have come to see these things by pure grace, and we have a much greater responsibility to fulfill Christ's purpose for us... if we can remember what that actually is.
Has our concern for "orthodoxy" and a safe, doctrinally-sound church-home eclipsed our calling as members of the Body of Christ, called for a purpose -to live for and enjoy Christ, displaying Him in this world in our families and in our communities, for His glory? What is the purpose now that we have our good little church? Is there a single, unifying purpose that transcends Sunday-morning and becoming a "mutual admiration society?" Are we just the same as all those faceless church-consumers we talk about who need a place to "feel fed," but that is it?
Here are a few things I have come to realize when I look at myself:
1. Jesus isn't going to high-five me when He returns, just because I am Reformed. He is probably going to be concerned with why I, having been given this light, have sat on it under a basket.
2. I am called, as a Christian (Reformed, non-Reformed, whatever) to a life greater than myself. What does that mean? I think it means that I am a member of the Body of Christ, which has a transcendent purpose and a glorious Lord and Head. This transcends Sunday morning into all of life, into how I engage and relate to people in my home and on my street.
3. The Church has a purpose. It behooves us all to actually think about what it is. I might be able to say why I show up on Sunday mornings, but can I think of exactly why and what it means to be a part of the Church, manifest in a local congregation? What does it mean for my life?
4. Being "Reformed" should give me pause to consider how much more greatly I ought to be about Jesus Christ and placarding Him everywhere, with love, humility, joy, and thanksgiving. There is absolutely no excuse for the "holy huddle" attitude. These truths ought to go very far in humbling me and producing joy, rather than becoming a means to sectarianism and exclusivity.
These things necessarily push questions on me that I must answer. How does this impact how I view myself in this world, in this community, in this congregation? How does this impact how I love my wife, my kids, and my neighbors? How does this impact how I use my time and talents? What should I be doing differently? What is it all about?
I know some readers might be thinking, "This isn't a problem uniquely with Reformed Christians, though." Sure, I never said it was, but I think this particular manifestation of it might be most friendly to us. Perhaps it is because we are so concerned for doctrinal purity. Perhaps it is becuse we are such a relative minority in the American evangelical landscape. So, we become imbalanced and miss the whole point. I know I do. Do you, too?
There is more. Being "Reformed" isn't enough.