In the relatively short span of my lifetime the evangelical world has witnessed a resurgence of the doctrines of grace among Baptist in America and abroad. Among those who adhere to the five points of Calvinism has been a subset of churches who call themselves Particular Baptist, Confessional Baptists, or Reformed Baptist (I sometimes call them capital ‘R’ Reformed to showcase our confessionalism as opposed to “New Covenant Theology” Baptist who sometimes take the moniker reformed Baptist). When I speak of Reformed Baptist I am addressing those churches who hold in principal and in practice substantial agreement with the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith. Over the past 25 years I’ve been pastoring, I have seen the Lord bless our little ‘tribe’. There was a time when I think I knew the name of every Reformed Baptist Church in the US and at least one of their pastors. There have been so many churches planted and so many churches embracing not just Calvinism, but Confessionalism that I can no longer keep up. With these blessings have also come some concerns. I have not only witnessed churches birthed, but churches die. I have seen prominent men fall from their positions of esteem through gross sin. I have seen pockets of division (which I will address in part four of this series) erect walls of suspicion among brethren who ought to walk together. I’ve also seen some questioning the doctrines and practices they once proclaimed with power.
In part one I discussed the issue of leadership and the need to see young men not only raised up with gifts and graces for gospel ministry but also men with the Confessional convictions which have marked Particular Baptists for centuries. In this blog I want to address the issue of second and third generation fatigue. I mean this both doctrinally and practically. Reformed Baptist Churches have not only been marked by doctrinal convictions, but they have been marked, by and large, with a serious practical commitment of churchmanship that was expressed in ways that are increasingly out of step with our contemporary evangelical and even Reformed setting.
This tendency to fatigue over doctrine and practice among a second or third generation is something addressed repeatedly in the scriptures. One generation fights ‘for the land’ and a second generation is raised in the land. The new generation doesn’t remember the war. They don’t bear the scars. They didn’t feel the cost of church planting or even moving so that you could be in a setting where you could worship according to your convictions–it’s all simply been given to them. I see second and third generation Reformed Baptist who have embraced Christ and have, thankfully, been desirous to stay within the ecclesiastical framework of their youth. They want not only to be disciples, but Reformed Baptist. I bless the Lord for this. I also desire to see the fervent conquering, giving, self denying spirit that marked the previous generation grip them as well. Though the foundations may have been laid and the walls built up by their parents and grandparents, there is still land to conquer, enemies to defeat, and advances to seek after. Though I realize that the commitment to all the stated meetings (on the Lord’s Day and gatherings for prayer) and to giving can devolve into legalism, I saw firsthand these commitments embraced with love, zeal, and passion. Will the rising generation embrace both the faith and practices that marked their parents? The zeal that planted churches? The zeal that meant folks turned down promotions for the sake of the church? The zeal that birthed family conferences and various associations of churches?
I close with this question to all who read these words: If everyone in your church had your level of commitment would your church thrive or fold? Or to put it another way, if my folks had my commitment, would this church ever be here in the first place?