Ten Years Later - The YRR, Partnerships and What We’re Learning

Transcript:

Why? Why was this happening? So, I traveled around the country, talked with dozens and dozens of people. I'll never forget one pastor in particular who just said, confidently, because it's true, cause Calvinism is true. That doesn't work for a journalist or a sociologist. You have to know these other answers of why. After all, Calvinism was popular in colonial America even for the early 19th century but as on professor in college told me, there were no Calvinists in America after 1830. He was wrong about that but still not totally off. 

The thing is I went forward with that book and I didn't expect to get an answer to that question. Nobody could really explain the why. They'd explain the how and the what, but not the why and actually it wasn't until years after I published that book, that's one of the first things, you know, what we've learned about church partnership and just our current environment and the number and the years since then, and actually it was a philosopher named Charles Taylor, who helped me to be able to discover that answer. 

Taylor was born in 1931, still alive. He's a catholic philosopher from Canada. He published his book, A secular Age less than a year before I published Young Restless Reform. I've described this book in a number of different settings. It's probably the most ambitious book published in the last decade. That might be a little hyperbole but he's trying to answer the question of why is the west secular? Why was it impossible not to believe in God 500 years ago and why is it almost impossible to believe in him today?

I ended up working on a book that came out that my pastor here is a contributor to, called Secular Age, 10 Years of Reading and Applying Charles Taylor, and what I do in this first chapter is try to explain, help give me the [inaudible 00:01:43] why. So, what we knew at least 10 years ago is what Christian Smith at Notre Dame had been [inaudible 00:01:53] the national study of religion through their research and understanding that basically youth had been abandoning the church in [inaudible 00:02:02] but more importantly than that [inaudible 00:02:05] what people still in churches believe has actually morphed as well. 

Twin problems, one of them more obvious just in terms of looking around in our congregations but another one of them less obvious unless you understand a lot of these bigger transformations. This is the phrase that you've probably heard [inaudible 00:02:24] these last decades. They've discovered that what's replaced Christianity in much of America is something called moralistic Therapeutic Deism, an idea that God wants us to feel good, to do good, and to be good but it's the void of a lot of the specific confessional Christian content that has sustained the church for centuries. 

Taylor goes into a lot more detail about what this belief actually is and how it formed. Ultimately, it's a turn toward self, a whole new religion, and age of authenticity. You hear authenticity spoken about positively in the church and if that means honesty, then that's what we want, honesty and confession but too often it reveals an inward quest for significance and meaning a part from any external factors and authorities. 

Here's what Taylor describes and we'll explain how this fits in with [inaudible 00:03:16] theology in a second but this is how Taylor describes our era of what people believe and it helps to explain how utterly counter cultural and unexpected Calvinism would be. Taylor says this, enhanced what was for a long time and remains for many, the heart of Christian piety and devotion. Love and gratitude at the suffering and sacrifice of Christ seems incomprehensible or even repellent and frightening to many. To celebrate such a terrible act of violence as a crucifixion to make this the center of your religion, you have to be sick. It's important there that he sues that health language of sickness. It's why people talk about when they see things they don't like on Twitter, they say it makes them physically ill. There's psychosomatic dimension here to this, not just mental, but even physical. You have to be perversely attached to self mutilation because it [inaudible 00:04:15] your self hatred or calms your fears of healthy self affirmation. You are elevating self punishment, which liberating humanism wants to banish as a pathology to the rank of the numinous. 

It's a long way of Taylor essentially saying, those of us who worship a crucified Christ substituted for sinners, raised on the third day for our justification, are regarded by many in our culture, even people in churches, to be sick, to be twisted, and we've seen in the last decade plus, a number of Christian leaders actually say that. You'll hear them discuss Jesus' sacrifice as a form of divine child abuse. This is the scene that Taylor's describing of the churches. So, what does it mean then for Calvinism? How did this fit in and what [inaudible 00:05:04] help [inaudible 00:05:06] for why. 

Basically, our secular age has forced on us two options, either God is for you on your own terms or God is the one who sets those terms. Where theology comes in [inaudible 00:05:22] got to be transcendent and inscrutable and possible to understand in some ways, his ways. Yet at the same time, eminent among us, in us, and sympathetic to us, depicts God to be nor mere cosmic butler to our whims but that he loved us enough to send his one and only son on the cross to die for our sins. 

So, again, as secularism has forced these two options upon us, Calvinism as it seems, actually, one of the only viable alternatives to the only one that people are rushing toward in this age, not even the most popular one but it makes the choices more stark. It makes the emergent response seem rather feeble. We've seen in 10 years the emergent church in some ways dissipate and even disappear in part because it just slides right straight into a form of liberalism or even a kind of paganism. You also see in the church growth movement continue in some ways to grow and yet to be incapable of solving some of the greater hostility that our culture has faced, some of the greater challenges and also in its turn, without a proper theological grounding, you've seen much of that church growth movement turn toward the therapeutic, to turn toward Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, to try and parlay a gospel of self affirmation and call it Christian. This is one reason why actually, I think if you look at the best seller lists, what people are buying and Lifeway, one of the better options, but what people are buying in Christian bookstores, those that are still around, it's appalling. It's actually much worse than 10 years ago or 20 years ago. It almost makes you pine for the era of the Purpose Driven Life and Left Behind.

I mean if you look, you see a lot of prosperity gospel. A lot of self help, and that's what people think is Christianity. So, if you're not looking, if you're reading the scriptures and saying this is not being a particular viable option for following a crucified Christ, who tells us to lay down our lives and pick up our cross and to follow him, Calvinism suddenly becomes a more plausible option for you but you have to dig back into history, you have to turn to places like Jonathon Edwards to find that writing that's so counter cultural and yet strangely, I think by the power of the Holy Spirit, appealing. This is what James [inaudible 00:07:53] Smith of Calvin College writes about [inaudible 00:07:55] the Puritans in a secular age. 

It says this is what makes Jonathon Edwards not only unthinkable but reprehensible to modern sensibilities. Edwards god is about God, not us. Tim Keller about 10 years ago, actually it was 10 years ago, two thousand [inaudible 00:08:12] First Gospel [inaudible 00:08:14] Conference, his overview of scripture starts off with this simple message, the bible's not about you. The bibles about God. If you can get that, you can worship a risen Christ in a secular age, but without that fundamental conviction, religion in this age simply devolves into the self. It collapses into the self. So, that's how Charles [inaudible 00:08:37] describing our climate helped me to finally find answers to why this was appealing to people in this era. 

So, now I want to look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of the Young Restless Reforms in the last 10 years. There will be a lot of good. The bad tends to be things that are just bad for the church in general. The ugly tend to be things that Young Restless Reform have been particularly struggling with. I speak of it as I did in my book as an insider to this. My position at the Gospel Coalition was only solidified that kind of perspective so hopefully these will come across as the hopes and dreams and desires of somebody who wants this movement to flourish and yet has had a front row seat to a lot of the worst of it. 

So, let's start out with the good though. There is a lot of good. Many of us [inaudible 00:09:25] cage stage. All right, so you can give yourself a little round of applause, survived the cage stage, still Christians, have not totally alienated everybody we love in our lives with that. One of the most fascinating things ... We take these things for granted but one of the most amazing things that's happened in the last 10 years is that peace has unexpectedly erupted in the Southern Baptist Convention. Now, this is not the primary ... well I mean just numerically, I suppose the SBC would be one of the ways where Young Restless Reformed has really, you know, has numerically grown, especially cause the SBC is just so much bigger than other denominations but we have to understand that 10 years ago there were talks of purges. There were talks of firings. 

There were talks of people being smoked out and fired from institutions and their churches but one of the most positive developments we've seen and I just, I don't want us to take these things for granted, sometimes it's hard to even know that history from 10 years ago if you weren't in the middle of it in the time but one positive thing I can say of all the negative things I see within the Southern Baptist Convention, is that actually, Southern Baptists to care more about evangelism than they care about hunting down Calvinists. That's a positive thing. 

What has really helped is that the Calvinists have shown that they really care about evangelism too. So, once both sides realize, so we really do care about getting the gospel of Jesus out and we basically agree on the content of the gospel they've been able to make peace and to not fight and to purge one another on this. 

Another good thing, from the beginning, all the way through, Young Restless Reform has always been about church partnerships and that's what we're talking about here at this conference. First T4G that I wrote about in 2006, there were two Southern Baptist leaders, one PCA leader, one PCA leader, one charismatic, non denominational leader, again we just assume that's the way things are but that's just not always been true in our individual cities. That kind of collaboration, that kind of church partnership. We take it for granted that a baptist in Birmingham can learn cultural apologetics from a Presbyterian in New York. Or, that a free church pastor in Chicago can learn about membership and church discipline from a baptist in Washington DC. Or, that a same sex attracted anglican pastor outside of London can teach baptist students in Cedarville, Ohio, about a biblical sexual ethic.

These things were forming and coming together 10 years ago but they were not fully blown out and on display in the ways that they are today and I think that's an occasion to give great thanks and I think this is possible for a couple other things that we often want to take for granted. Those would be the internet, which certainly was around 10 years ago, but especially through smart phones. The connectivity has just increased since then in negative ways as well but the spread of the internet and then also just the affordability of travel within broader western affluence. 

Again, this was around 10 years ago but it has only been solidified since then. These things are possible, this kind of collaborations and partnership is possible in environment of common grace that allows these to flourish. I joined TJC in my current role just a couple years after I wrote the book. It's fascinating. I didn't really create anything in this role in building the Gospel Coalition website. All you had to do is just bring people together. What people were doing independently all over the places in their church and on their own blogs. I think it's fascinating as well, another really good development since then, we just think about the resources that are available. I didn't write [inaudible 00:13:28] in Young Restless Reformed. He didn't want me to wrote about him. I actually talked to him at that 2007 Gospel Coalition event. I wasn't working for them at the time. He and I had been working on a book project together but I asked him if he wanted to participate, he said, no. Then he wrote me back later and he said, yes, you can send me some questions. I sent him five questions. He answered them something like, yes, no, no, yes, no. It doesn't help for a journalist.

He didn't want anything to do with the book. There were a lot of reasons for that but just think about what we've seen from one person, let alone entire publishing houses and ministries since the. The resources available to us because of church partnership in this movement, center church, the meaning of marriage, walking with god through pain and suffering, prayer, preaching, making sense of God, I mean a lot of these are my go to books I've been recommending to people. None of them around. None of them around 10 years ago. 

Prodigal God, Reason for God, came out in 2008. It's just amazing how we're allowed to pool resources together through church partnership. None of us has to be an expert on everything. So, we pay Ivan Mesa back here at the Gospel Coalition to bring together the best book reviewers from around the world to review the best books. Not everybody has to be an expert on every topic but you reading that are able to benefit from that. We asked Mike Cosbert to be an expert on things like Charles Taylor and art and things like that. So, you don't have to be but you can learn those things and apply them in your ministry. It's so crucial. 

The most popular church function in the history of the Gospel Coalition is transgender. Most popular one ever. Transgender and this is going back at least five years. I mean like this did not suddenly appear on our site. Every pastor has to deal with these challenges in their own families, in the schools, with their own kids, but certainly with their own churches and their communities. Well, not everybody has to be an expert in all of these things. We can have a few people who really devote a great deal of time and then it's easy to get that information out to others and not everybody has to do the first hand research. 

Again, things that may seem obvious but they're things that we've seen come about in the last decade. I think also for church partnership you need a healthy understanding of theological triage. This is also something that's come about in the last 10 years and commonly discussed. Not talking here about mere Christianity, a lowest common denominator evangelicalism. We've seen that problem in previous [inaudible 00:16:08] about those church [inaudible 00:16:08] and baptism but does help give us framework for understanding the difference between first order doctrines that are tied to judgment and salvation. Things like the doctrine of health. Early in the Gospel Coalitions history, our engagements with Rob Bell were instrumental for this particular reason. It gets at those first order issues of why we're even Christians in the first place. Those second order doctrines that separate our churches but those things that we still through church partnerships come together to even debate and to sharpen one another charismatic gifts, baptism, the lord's supper, church Polity. Church partnerships allow you to come together, the Young Restless Reform [inaudible 00:16:48] these things again, to improve one another in them and in our understanding and sometimes to change each others mind in helpful ways. 

You finally have those third order doctrines that divide Christians in the same church, like the rapture. We have to recognize that in previous generations, something like the rapture was treated by some people as a first order doctrine. If you didn't believe in a premillennial pre-tribulational rapture, you probably weren't a Christian. This si something to celebrate, that we're not doing that any longer. It's all out of proportion to the actual biblical witness. We can give thanks for that. That's a good trend. There is a problem here with theological triage. It doesn't fit everything though. We've seen that in the last 10 years. What do you do about the doctrine of inerrancy? You don't have to believe in inerrancy to be a Christian and yet it seems to be a linchpin doctrine that holds a lot of other [salvithic 00:17:42] doctrines together with it. Gender roles are not essential to the gospel. I'm not talking about gender identity here. I'm talking about male and female roles. You don't have to be a compliment arian to be a Christian. That's not a thing. Well, I won't say anything there. 

So, there non essential but at the same time, you do sometimes see some significant slippage into questions from gender roles to gender identity, that we're seeing especially in the last few years. One thing I tel people a lot at TGC is, I've been there long enough to see that we were meanies for not allowing women to be pastors and then we were cruel for not allowing gay people to love their gay partners or to be married to them and then we were literally killing people with our words. They were committing suicide because of our hate, because we were not allowing them to express their transgender identity, That happened in the course of about three years, that progression and it was the same people, saying the same things to us. 

So, where does that fit in theological triage? You talk about gender roles. It's not a first order issue but it is an important one because without a firm conviction about what the bible teaches on these things, it's easy to slip in these other areas. 

There's a few other positive things as well. Young Restless Reformed has prepared people for denominational and institutional influence. David Platt at the IMB. Russel Moore at the ERLC. Jason Allen at Midwestern Baptist Seminary. Ligon Duncan at RTS. Phil Ryken at Wheaton College. David Dockery at Trinity International. Kevin DeYoung as the board chairman of the Gospel Coalition. Even people like Trevan Wax one of the publishers at Lifeway. None of them in these positions 10 years ago. None of them in these positions. In fact, I've probably never been more confident in the leadership of evangelical seminaries, colleges, and publishers as I am today and that's not a moment too soon with the legal, political and financial crisis that we have on our hands. I could get into the details of all of them but I think you guys probably know what I mean in general. 

You have to understand that 10 years ago when I'm writing this book, the president of Wheaton College is telling me that I made it all up. He wasn't perceiving any of this. He's telling me I made it all up. The president of Conwell Seminary is holding up my work saying, this will never happen under my watch. There was a visceral reaction to this stuff but the reaction was often an unthinking possibility that this could be true. It doesn't make any sense that Calvinism would be influential and especially a kind of partisan Calvinism that upset the lowest common denominator evangelicalism that people were wanting to flourish at the time. 

I use these examples to shoe that institutions are going to last in ways that social media accounts and websites will not last. That's why this transition into institutionalization while it can lose some of the restless vibe, it is a really beneficial thing and just think, more importantly than any of those institutions, just think of the churches. Just think of the churches, thousands and thousands of churches planted and reformed and sustained just by the patient laborers of men and women in love with God and desiring to get His word out. Again, this group may have been young 10 years ago but has grown into a legacy of leadership roles.

A couple other things. I like to tell people a lot that far more women than men attend the Gospel Coalitions national conferences of course that's because we have a women's conference that's about as big as our national conference, might be bigger this last time and about 30% of our national conference is female. You see people like Jen Wilkin taking up the challenge of biblical literacy that is endemic to all of American culture but includes women there. I think this as we've seen at the Gospel Coalition, women sem to be really in the target of this expressive individualism that Charles Taylor's been writing about. The idea for them to look within for the answers as opposed to external authorities and God himself and in His word. So, that's an issue that feal writers have taken up again, and again, and again, and again, for us at the Gospel Coalition.

I would also say, we've seen in 10 years, a better complimentarianism. I don't think you have to look further than Acts 29 to see that transition. It's one thing that we're working on right now to profile those shifts within Acts 29. I'm in a partnership with them at the Gospel Coalition. I'd say it's not so much about macho men telling women what they can't do but servant leaders leveraging their roles to support gifted women for the broader church. That's not a perfect thing but this is a change. A positive one I would say.

Maybe my favorite positive thing, same sex attracted brothers and sisters showing all of us the cost of discipleship. Showing what it truly means to follow Jesus. I'm not sure 10 years ago I knew anyone writing publicly about being same sex attracted and celibate. Maybe you guys in the questions and answers, you can fill me in on some people that I'm missing there but I can't think of anybody who was doing that at the time. Now, I would argue that among even our most articulate voice is showing us how to lay down our lives and pick up our cross as Jesus picked up his cross for us, are those people same sex attracted, our colleagues [inaudible 00:23:27] at TGC. Those people struggling in that particular way. I'd also say, I give thanks that still in our college campuses where these issues like gender identity are most acutely faced, we still see people out there evangelizing, discipling, raising up leaders with students who are open to new ideas, open to conversion, impressionable, wanting to make their faith their own. 

I think the best of Calvinism is this combination of evangelism with theology. So, you really see that thrive in those places, those college campuses. All right, so, normally you'd wait to give the good last just to leave on a happy note but I figure we'll go good, bad, and then ugly. 

All right, so, let's start talking about the bad. The bad is that as Young Restless Reformed have grown, it seems like we feel more disconnected and isolated from other evangelicals. There are exceptions. My colleagues at Christianity Today picking up a number of great young reformed writers but I referred earlier to the best seller lists. It's just fascinating to me that of all the books that we sell and all the effort we put into these things and all the conferences, we don't land hardly anything on the top 50 Christian books. There's almost nothing on there I can recommend. It's possible that we've gained real influence but actually lost ground in the last decade overall. That's hard to think but we've got to escape the Twitter echo chamber where reformed voices are disproportionately influential in places like that but not necessarily where the people actually are. I think a short hand way of putting this are where is Sojourn Network in places like this and again I count myself among this challenge.

Where are we planting churches among people addicted to opioids and voting for Donald Trump? Where's that happening? It seems like we're becoming more disconnected from the broader evangelical movement, which also might be just because of bad trends more broadly. I think if we were talking about the evangelical movement in general, we'd have a lot more in the bad category. For example, a lot of what we saw in the election continues through today. This is a connected bad point but we've seen and Joel didn't address this but I know he could have, church planting at a means of self fulfillment for people to develop and picked congregations. That is a challenge. 

We all know that we need a lot more churches, like that's not in dispute here even in a place like Birmingham, Alabama. We need more churches and there's good reasons why we don't step into existing churches. We know about sometimes the hostility toward our theology, hostility toward mission, maybe even hostility toward actual neighbors, like we know these are challenges but maybe church planting is way for some of us not to avoid dying to self as pastors. Actually, it's gonna happen to you anyway in ministry. There will be a dying to self because God loves you. Because Christ wants what's best for you and that's His way of sanctification. It doesn't matter if the congregations in their 20's or their 80's. It doesn't matter their musical preference. The call to ministry is a call to lay down our lives for others. It's not the right calling if you wanna custom build your perfect congregation. 

Joel speak eloquently about this but it's a challenge that we face in our own church planting. I think we're seeing a good bit of that. I would also say and this was alluded to earlier this morning, there's been way too much focus on gifting and success compared to character. I'd put myself in that category as a journalist whose profiled and featured and platformed as a conference planner whose chosen speakers, this has been a challenge for me. This is an area where I've failed on a number of different occasions. I think this is a particular challenge for Americans in general.

I don't think the reformed are so different from other evangelicals when it comes to this. We're enamored with numbers. We're willing to overlook immaturity. The good part of that is what Dave talked about last night, taking risks on messy people. I don't want to lose any of that the restlessness but it seems like we're willing to overlook even explicitly ungodly behavior and speech if someone has achieved ministry success.  Primarily numerically. Rarely do we find, I do mean rarely there. There are examples. It helps if you get brain cancer. It helped you grow out of immaturity if you get brain cancer. Okay, just a life event that helps bring your mortality and brings humility to the forefront but rarely do folks grow out of this immaturity, this kind of spiritual immaturity that we've seen if they've been given significant platforms and influence. That seems to be a key.

If they get that kind of platform from people like me but actually by enabling them we often make the problem worse down the road but we need our more robust partnerships that we're talking about here, not for swapping book blurbs but by asking soul penetrating questions about our love for Jesus and our affections for Christ. It's not gonna do us any good if we pack accountability boards with a bunch of buddies in big churches elsewhere. That does not provide any accountability. I'll never forget the pastor who told me, I can't learn from anybody who doesn't have a church as big as 10,000 people. I don't care that it took years for this guy to prove himself to the public to be who he is in private bur from that moment you know where this headed. This is not headed somewhere good. This is not Jesus. This is not what he wanted for His church. This does not sound like Him. 

All right, that's just the bad, now the ugly. All right, now we're onto the ugly. It is and this has come up as well, it's not all apparent how we're supposed to navigate issues of racial injustice. It is just not obvious at all. The institutional dynamics, the positive ones that I just talked about earlier make the problem worse cause we're trying to straddle big churches in denominations. In partnership where some people see no problem with racial injustice and other people see nothing but the problem of racial injustice. It is not obvious how this is supposed to work. Before Ferguson, I probably would have told you that racial issues would have been one of the top bright spots with Restless Reformed in the last decade, which I did cover in the book but not in depth. I would say one positive that we've seen is social media give voices to the discouraged and forced the rest of us to have to listen in. 

At the same time a lot of these younger voices are in the middle of identity crisis and some of those institutional dynamics of protectiveness for those of us who are trying to keep big institutions together and those people who are trying to carve out a niche for themselves through social media is bound to conflict in ways that I wish I could say I see the power of the gospel triumphing over but right now I see what we heard a little bit of last night, just a lot of friendships breaking up and a lot of confusion and a lot of pain and a lot of where is this going? How is it supposed to get better? How are we supposed to make any progress here? Really that's just in the church but obviously we know there's a lot of pressure coming in from outside of the church in terms of political and social climate these days would also say that coalitions don't last forever. Coalitions are not the church. These kinds of networks and partnerships are not the same as the church. They don't last forever. 

What you've seen with the Young Restless Reformed is starting out with a shared urgency about settling these issues on the doctrine of God as well as soteriology, the doctrine of salvation, but you've seen with the institutionalization in the last few years, increased focus on things like doctrine of the church, ecclesiology. So you see more focus and especially as the multi site movement has grown. There's been a lot of conversations. What exactly is the church and what is our responsibility to her? But now what you see is a huge focus on public theology. Public theology in the wake of black lives matter and President Trump and you find this, that some reformed folks find much more in common even with non Christians who share their political views, rather than with other reformed folks and this is key, it's on both sides of the debate. It's on both sides of the debate. Kind of bring in their constituencies to bear on other reformed Christians where they would share even the doctrine of the church or [inaudible 00:32:47] about, again, this is more observational than judgmental. I'm just trying to point out what I see in this. 

MIke: [inaudible 00:32:59]

New Speaker: I would say reformed African American Network, one of the challenges there is that they found there's a huge audience of people, Christian, non Christian, reformed, not reformed, who are really interested in their kind of their writing on public theology and public justice. Then they feel a much stronger kinship toward those people than they do with white reform people at Southern baptist Theological Seminary. So, that's one example. 

Another example on the other side though would be some of the white reformed people, especially in the south, who feel a lot more comfortable with people who have chosen their side on the Donal Trump question or the flag question or something like that. They feel like the reform movement is abandoning them by shifting somehow to the left [inaudible 00:33:46], so they feel more comfortable there. Anyway, so we can get into more of that in a second but thanks for asking that Mike. I can try and get more specific on other things too if you guys need to know what I'm getting at there but I would say when you think about the doctrines of justice and justification, they're just doesn't seem to be any consensus on how these are supposed to relate. How they relate in individual ways, [salvific 00:34:09] ways, how they relate in broad ways, in justice ways, in temporal ways, there's also no unified view on the role of the church in leading the cause against injustice in the fallen world or is our preaching the gospel the way forward or actually does it hinder through it's fostering of further individualism? 

These very problems in ways that we don't admit or realize. They are just completely open questions and I say that they're ugly because these debates do often get fairly hostile and fairly ugly and again at TGC we see this mostly from the, we mostly see this from the white side and the more conservative side of things. I don't even know how many of these people are readers of our website or even agree with us on theology. I'm not really sure but definitely the vehement come from that side and it seems like the last presidential election opened something. Like it almost gave permission or an opportunity or occasion or encouragement for people to be much more open about their anger on these things and now it gets overlaid with every political controversy that comes up every week. It's one of our major challenges at TGC. If you don't want to run a website that's merely in reaction to Donald Trumps Twitter account at all times. It's very difficult. 

So, also, I would say the last one is probably the most difficult and them most personally painful for me, sometimes we see some of the same problems in our own churches we've seen in others including the Roman Catholic Church, especially not knowing how to handle accusations of child abuse. Its been one of the biggest challenges. I think within the reformed movement the insularity and distrust of secular authorities doesn't help in this thing. It may be understandable in certain things but when it comes to child abuse it does not help. It makes things worse. I do thing there are things that have been unique to some people, some individuals within the Young Restless Reformed and that would be using their theology as a cover for their immorality and even as far as sexual predation. Using promises of grace and forgiveness to excuse abuse, which comes from inflating the gospel of grace with expressive individualism that exalts the self while claiming to exalt the savior but I would say this, one thing to be really careful of and that I've tried to thing through on our own congregation is to be careful when sin is only I don't mean that these are never appropriate. Be careful when sin is only as forgiving yourself or only as disordered love or idolatry or only as a defense against your neighbor. 

Primarily we see from Psalm 51 and other passages, primarily it's an offense against a holy and righteous God who sees all but in Christ by faith loves us and all of that through Christs sacrifice. SO, what we're looking for over all in the good, the bad, and the ugly of looking back on these ten years is where courage, compassion, and commission come together. The best churches and the best networks bring all these three things together. Not every church is going to be strong in every area. Churches will take on the personality and gifting of their leaders but networks like the Young Restless Reformed and Sojourn Network and partnerships do help to expose our blind spots by pointing us to the work of Christ. That reflection that Joel was talking about that mirror to see our own sins but I would say my encouragement is it's best when these partnerships and relationships are local and where it's still good, where you can pick up a phone or hop on a plane even to be able to see people face to face to work through these things and ask these real heart penetrating questions about our affections for Christ.