“I also think, ten years later, the younger members of our tribe seem less restless than we did when we started. For all the flack the millennials take in the wider culture, the millennials I meet in the gospel-centered tribe seem more mature, more settled.”
I never set out to “join a movement.” I hadn’t even set out to jump on on a new church strategy bandwagon. I was simply in recovery mode and discovered a larger context that helped make sense of my growing unease with church as it was.
Let me back up.
I learned from Tim Challies that today marks the 10-year anniversary of Collin Hansen‘s landmark Christianity Today article “Young, Restless, Reformed”, which later became a book with the same title. The article featured some now better-known figures in the YRR (or gospel-centered, neo-Reformed, neo-Calvinist, whatchamacalit) camp like John Piper, Josh Harris, Mark Driscoll, et.al. I remember where I was when I first read the article.
Wait- let me back up again.
About twelve years ago I was suffering from the ruins of a life built on private sin and outer falseness. Everything was broken. (I tell most of this story in the last chapter of my book The Prodigal Church.) I was depressed; I was suicidal. I was begging God for some kind of help, any help. And one night the Holy Spirit intervened in a special way, a unique way. I had an experience I have since referred to as gospel wakefulness. I did not get a vision for a new church methodology at a conference; I did not become awakened to Reformed theology. I had come to see God’s grace like oxygen and suddenly realized I’d been suffocating in my current life (and church).
It was this experience that began to create a strong dissonance in my church fellowship. As my wife and I both became more sensitive to the good news of Jesus Christ in our lives, the absence of this good news from our church life became more and more pronounced. We felt like aliens. Everything was so upbeat and peppy — the music was “rockin’,” the creativity was turned to 11, and the messages were inspirational — but we were starving. I had tasted and seen the glory of God in the gospel and was heartbroken to feel like my community was having this withheld from them on a regular basis.
I was still in that church and leading a young adult Bible study one evening at a friend’s home when I looked down at the coffee table to see that issue of CT. The cover had a picture of a guy wearing a Jonathan Edwards T-shirt, which I thought was weird, but the cover story title caught my attention: “Young, Restless, and Reformed: Calvinism is making a comeback and shaking up the church.” As I started reading the article, I suddenly felt like my world was opening up. I had been a Calvinist for a while — “converted” in college, actually — so it wasn’t that part that really intrigued me. And a few of the leaders discussed were familiar to me. In fact, the preaching of John Piper and Mark Driscoll had been especially helpful to me during my depression. It wasn’t a new theology or new people to learn from that Collin’s article gave me — it was a feeling of not being alone.