Theology vs. Business books…

Kevin DeYoung has a thorough review of James Emery White’s new book, What They Didn’t Teach You in Seminary, and while he doesn’t endorse or find the book all that profitable I think it raises some great questions about the difference between growth-driven churches and those defined more by the neo-Reformed movement.

I often find myself in the midst of the tension between the two. After all I work at a large church that could easily be categorized in the seeker model championed by White and others like Bill Hybels or Rick Warren. At the same time I care deeply for correct theology and am drawn to the clear and consistent expression of the gospel by those in the young-restless-reformed crowd. This is a tension I regularly dive into and I appreciate how DeYoung has outlined some areas of engagement and concern.

DeYoung recognizes some areas of change that all churches must evaluate and important among them for me are the raising up of new leaders and how we make decisions. Here is DeYoung’s take: “Churches get hampered by democratic notions of majority rule. They are incapable of acting quickly (and sometimes they really need to). Church decisions grind to a halt because everyone thinks his opinion/vote should matter as much as everyone else’s. But in reality some people are immature, divisive, and naive. They should be cared for, but their nay-saying should not throttle the decision-making process of the church.”

And on new leaders he says, “We need to be honest about what is going on in our churches and why. He notes that often times we fail to give young people ample space to lead and grow. We don’t platform them. We don’t include them in important decisions. We don’t hire them. If young people are nowhere to be found in leadership, they probably won’t be found much in the church.”

The dangers of the growth-driven church though are many. I commend the review to you to capture many of these but sticking out for me are the lack of good theology and a lack of deep discipleship. DeYoung says, “I sometimes wonder if seeker church pastors have heard theology presented so badly and seen it applied to real life so poorly that they’ve concluded that theology is the problem. But if you want to help people grow in their relationship with Christ, or make a difference in their communities, or have better marriages, or experience life change, or do anything else that these pastors want to see happen, don’t skip over theology. That produces shallow Christians with soft spines and small hearts. Press through the theology and see it explode in people’s lives with joy and unmistakable relevance.”

These are things I wrestle with but I agree with DeYoung’s final charge, “I encourage all of us to take a hard look at all the deep theological things we learned in seminary (or should have learned) and consider whether their seeming irrelevance is owing to the them, to our people, or to us.”

Read the review here.

4 Comments

  1. The term young-restless-reformed is a misnomer. The Gospel Coalition (which I’d argue guides alot of this movement) is largely comprised of middle aged men. I think theology is important to a wide range of age groups and even people groups.

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  2. As someone who is familiar with White’s writing/teaching, I appreciate the attenpt at a balanced and generous reading, but you are taking this particular work of his way out of context of his life, teaching, and other writings. Specifically, you should see his book “A Mind for God” and “Christ Among the Dragons” which, interestingly, share many of the concerns of this post. He has one foot in the theological/academic world, and one in the church world. Yes, while endorsed by Noble, Mellado and others, he is also endorsed by such academics as Timothy George, David Dockery and many others. Also, let’s retire the term “seeker church”, please. White himself has a blog on this very issue at churchandculture.org. It’s a dated term no one really uses anymore – not even Hybels.

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