A New Call in Ministry

This blog space has been rather silent the last few months. But the Lord has been at work. Perhaps it’s because He’s been doing so much in my life that I haven’t had any time to slow down and put together a personal update.

Today seems like a wise time I do so. For yesterday—Sunday, November 12—I was installed as the Senior Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church (PCA) in McKinney, TX.

Our journey to Redeemer has been a most surprising one.

Expect the Unexpected

When I resigned as pastor at IDC, we expected God would send us out of Texas for our next calling in ministry. There were opportunities to plant a PCA church in North Texas, but we didn’t believe planting another church was what the Lord desired for us. So, as no existing PCA churches in NTX were looking for a senior minister, I began the process of sending my information to a few churches in other parts of the country. Many of the contacts came through friends and brother ministers in the PCA. Over the course of six to seven months, several intriguing possibilities came to fruition. By August 1, I was a final candidate at a couple of churches, and we were spending most of our time praying through where the Lord wanted us to serve.

Then Redeemer’s search committee asked if I’d be willing to sit down and interview with them for their senior pastor position.

A Script Only God Can Write

At the beginning of this year, Bryant McGee resigned his position as senior minister of Redeemer after seventeen years of productive and healthy ministry. He ran his race with grace and fought the good fight in the Lord’s service. He’s now helping labor in a family business. A friend of mine submitted my information to the search committee at Redeemer sometime in the middle of the spring. The search committee decided to pass on considering me, which I wasn’t terribly surprising. I was, after all, still pastoring in a Baptist church—albeit in an interim/caretaker capacity.

As we transitioned away from life and ministry at IDC, we began attending, and ultimately joining, Redeemer. It is the closest PCA church to our home, we had many friends there, and we genuinely loved the church’s worship and ministry vision. Since May of this year, Redeemer has provided sweet rest to our family. As I wrote a few months ago, our children were baptized, I started helping to teach a Sunday School class and led a small group.

When the search committee called, I was at JFK airport, on my way to Scotland for some research on M’Cheyne. I spent almost every afternoon in Edinburgh walking around Arthur’s Seat in prayer. I pleaded with God for wisdom because there were so many wonderful opportunities before us; which one should we pursue? Each had distinct strengths and weaknesses. For several days I couldn’t find clarity. Then I came to Acts 18.

If you remember the story, Paul is in Corinth, and he’s preaching the gospel. The Jews oppose him, so he shakes out his garments and is ready to move on to a more receptive city. Yet, in 18:9–10 the Lord says, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” Paul thus remains in Corinth and sure

For reasons I still can’t fully explain, the Spirit used that text to pierce my soul as a ray of sunshine pierces through the clouds. While I wasn’t fearful of remaining in McKinney, I was unsure if it was what we should do. The previous year’s experience seemed to shout that the Lord meant to send us out into a new harvest field. But it was if the Spirit settled my soul with Acts 18:9–10 saying, “Do not be afraid to remain in McKinney, for I am with you and have many in this city who are my people.” So, I descended to my hotel that afternoon convinced that if a call came from Redeemer, we’d be staying home.

A Weighty Whirlwind

To shorten the story a bit, it was on Sunday, September 24th that I was announced at the Search Committee’s candidate. I preached a sermon titled, “Christ Alone,” on Acts 4:5–12 the following Sunday and then answered questions before the congregation for two hours in a Town Hall format. The church then voted on October 8th to call me as the next senior. The next step was to transfer my ordination into the North Texas Presbytery. I took five written exams (English Bible, theology, Book of Church order, sacraments, and church history) on October 18 and 19. On Friday, November 3, I met with the Theological Examinations Committee for a three-hour oral exam. The next day I preached a sermon before Presbytery and answered questions on the floor for about an hour. Presbytery voted to approve my ordination transfer and call to Redeemer.

Yesterday my dear friend Carlton Wynne, Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary, preached the installation sermon. It was one of the most joyful moments of my ministerial life. I’ve known Carlton for fifteen years, and he is the human agent God used to change my theological convictions on baptism. He is also the godliest man I know, full of humility and Christlike meekness. I often say, “I want to be like him when I grow up.”

Lots to Do, Lots to Pray

If you think about it, I’d appreciate your prayers. The work at Redeemer begins in earnest today. I’m still working on my M’Cheyne dissertation for SBTS; I’m through six chapters and have four left. I take my comprehensive exams for the Ph.D. December 4–7, and it requires no small amount of study. Our six child and fifth son (Boston Charles) is due on New Year’s Eve. Our plate is rather full, but God’s grace is superabundant. All glory be to Christ our King!

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An Update

My time as pastor of IDC concluded just over six weeks ago. Much has happened in the intervening time. We took our first-ever family vacation; a two-week jaunt to and from Muskegon, MI where my grandparents live. The kids loved Lake Michigan and the cool summer weather. We joined Redeemer PCA here in McKinney. Our children were baptized last Lord’s Day. I’m helping to teach a Sunday School class on the doctrine of Scripture this fall and leading a small group through Everyday Church. The shepherds and saints at Redeemer have been marvelous to fellowship and worship with.

But the overwhelming part of my life is spent in Ph.D. work. I am, for the first time, very much a full-time Ph.D. student.

Theology, Spirituality, and History

I wake up each day at 4:00 a.m. After prayer and Bible reading, I dive into my dissertation on Robert Murray M’Cheyne. I’m almost done with the second chapter. I often get asked, “What’s your thesis on M’Cheyne?” The broad answer is that I’m looking at how M’Cheyne’s Christology bears on his piety. A more narrow version is my assertion that, for M’Cheyne, personal holiness is the mature expression of love to Christ.

I initially thought of my work as a reinterpretation of M’Cheyne’s piety. I felt too few noticed the centrality of love to Christ as the animating passion in M’Cheyne’s spirituality. Yet, the more I research, the more I saw how many did mention the centrality of Christ. I’m convinced, however, that no one has yet adequately emphasized and demonstrated this focus. I tend to think it’s because most works have leaned on his private writings (diary and letters) to the exclusion of his sermons where the emphasis is undeniable. So, I now think of the project more as reorientation than reinterpretation. I’m contending that you cannot understand M’Cheyne unless you see his piety as laced with a romantic Christology. M’Cheyne’s passion for Christ humbles me every day.1

Around 10:30 a.m. I shift from the dissertation to studying for comprehensive exams. My major is Biblical Spirituality with a minor in Christian Worship. The respective study guides for comps have made it clear I need to know a fair amount of about all kinds of things in every era of church history. It often feels daunting—as it should. Studying for comps sometimes feels a climb up Mt. Everest while writing on M’Cheyne is a climb up Pike’s Peak.

Thus, from 4:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. I’m in the study. It’s taxing work for sure, but it has to be done.

If you ever think about it, I’d sure appreciate prayer for diligence and comprehension.

Off to the Archives

http://libraryblogs.is.ed.ac.uk/newcollegelibrarian/files/2013/09/divinity-library.jpgI leave this weekend for a two-week study trip in Edinburgh, Scotland. New College Library holds M’Cheyne’s papers, and I’ll be in the Funk Reading Room all day looking at them. I’m particularly interested in a collection of sermons and some theological notebooks he kept. Lord willing, I’ll finish my work in the library a couple of days early, which will allow me to spend the last two days taking in all the incredible sights.

If you ever think about it, I’d sure appreciate prayer for my wife and five children while I’m away.

In the Waiting Room

As I study Scripture, it seems the basic posture of the Christian life is one of waiting. We wait for God’s promises to pass. We wait for prayers to be answered. We wait for growth in grace. We wait for the conversion of friends and families. We wait for the Lord’s return.

Our family is still waiting for God to reveal what’s next for us. I won’t be a Ph.D. student much longer. We still believe Christ has commissioned me to preach the gospel and shepherd some of His sheep. We don’t know where—or when—He’ll open a call to ministry. So, we wait—imperfectly, but prayerfully and patiently.

If you ever think about it, I’d sure appreciate prayer for God to send us into a new field of pastoral labor. We are eager.

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  1. If you follow me on Twitter, this is why M’Cheyne’s quotes are my usual tweets.

A (Short) Bibliography on Covenant Baptism

Baptism copy

I’ve received many questions about my theological pilgrimage from “Believer’s Baptism” (credobaptism) to “Covenant Baptism” (paedobaptism). But the most common has been: “What book changed your mind?”

I’m always tempted to say, “The Bible,” because my move across the confessional waters is indeed one of sola Scripture. God’s word alone gave—and continues to give—authoritative instruction on baptism. But, it would be wrong to say the journey was one of solo Scriptura. None of us exist in such a vacuum. God places His people in the church to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus. He gives us teachers to guide us into and friends to help us hear the truth.

Many conversation partners joined me along the paedobaptist path. There were professors, mentors, fellow pastors, and ordinary church members. I also had a study full of books, many on the sacraments. I read every one I own on each position.

Maybe you are on a similar search for truth, or maybe you want simply to understand the covenant baptism position better. Here’s a short bibliography of what I think are the most helpful books representing the Reformed paedobaptist position.

Beginner

9781601781178Beeke, Joel R. Bringing the Gospel to Covenant Children. Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage, 2010.

Christian parents need to see that their children are in the covenant. They should also understand that baptism is only the start of covenantal parenting. There’s much work to do. Beeke’s little book gives wise counsel for Spirit-dependent, earnestly-evangelistic leadership of covenant kids.

1596380586Chapell, Bryan. Why Do We Baptize Infants? Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R, 2006.

Chapell’s booklet is most useful for those unaware of the reasons why a Reformed church would baptize covenant children. Incredibly pastoral.

9781935369127Hyde, Daniel R. Jesus Loves the Little Children: Why We Baptize Children. Grandville, MI: Reformed Fellowship, 2006.

An excellent and accessible defense of why Reformed churches baptize children.

087552429XSartelle, John P. Infant Baptism: What Christian Parents Should Know. Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R, 1985.

Sartelle’s booklet is similar to Chapell’s, but it a bit more rigorous in its theology.

Intermediate

9781596382183Chaney, J. M, and Ronald Evans. William the Baptist: A Classic Story of a Man’s Journey to Understand Baptism. Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R, 2011.

I’m amazed so few mention Cheney’s work. Sure, he downplays the reality of baptism signifying union with Christ, but he’s useful on virtually every other matter. The greatest value in the book, however, is its format. William the Baptist is basically a novel, saturated with pastoral dialogue, about one 19th-century man’s path into confessing covenant baptism.

9781601782826Fesko, J. V. Word, Water, and Spirit: A Reformed Perspective on Baptism. Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2010.

If you are looking for a “One Stop Shop on Covenant Baptism,” this is it. Fesko deftly works through the historical, biblical, and theological issues.

0875523439Murray, John. Christian Baptism. Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R, 1980.

The book short, but dense. Murray’s skill as an exegete shines through on every page.

Advanced

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Jeremias, Joachim. Infant Baptism in the First Four Centuries. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1960.

Jeremias’ goal is to “lay before the reader the historical material relating to the history of infant baptism in the first four centuries in as concrete and sober a manner as possible.” His study of the extra-Biblical evidence around the early church shows the historical rootedness of covenant baptism. He also makes valuable conclusions related to the issues of household baptisms and corporate solidarity.

MARCEBAPTIMarcel, Pierre Charles, trans. Philip E. Hughes. The Biblical Doctrine of Infant Baptism: Sacrament of the Covenant of Grace. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2002.

When it comes to the subject of baptism, Marcel’s work is one every scholar must consider. Not many of us are scholars, of course, but that doesn’t mean we can profit from his teaching.

If you want a longer bibliography that lists representative paedobaptist and credobaptist books, try this.

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The Year We Never Expected

2016-review

2016 will go down as the most surprising year of my life—so far.

Leicester City won the Premier League. Great Britain left the E.U. The Cubs broke Billy Goat’s Curse. Donald J. Trump was elected POTUS 45.

And I became a Presbyterian.

It Started a Long Time Ago

In 2001, I was a fledgling Major League Soccer player looking for a church to attend. I ended up at Park Cities Presbyterian Church on the suggestion of some extended family members. I loved the liturgy and meaty theological fellowship. But I found the baptism of infants altogether strange. Then I met David Rea (PCPC’s college minister and the RUF minister at SMU) and his intern Carlton Wynne. No two men, outside of my father and grandfather, have so decisively influenced my heart and mind. D-Rea and C-Man patiently took me under their wing, discipling me in Scripture and theology. In the process they made Presbyterianism’s distinctives plausible and logical—I just wasn’t yet convinced.

Eventually, I retired from soccer and became a Student Pastor at FBC Prosper. I didn’t have too much contact with David or Carlton for a few years. In God’s kindness, we’d soon reconnect.

I joined the pastoral staff at Providence Church in 2008. Soon I reunited with my Presbyterian brethren, catching up over Tex-Mex. I remember leaving that meal and thinking, “I want to be a pastor like those guys, yet I have so much to learn.” I was twenty-four, had no seminary education, little experience, and was the only pastor on staff (at the time) outside of the lead pastor. Responsibilities I’d never asked for just kept falling on my plate. Church members kept asking me questions I couldn’t answer. I didn’t have biblical convictions in areas where I knew I should. So, I emailed Carlton and said, “Would you be interested in regularly meeting with me to talk theology and ministry?”

He was up for the challenge. And so began several years of learning from an unusually gifted man of God. He convinced me to go to RTS and mentored me through a M.A.R. degree. With each passing year, I found subtle changes being made to my theology. I was becoming more and more Presbyterian—in a confessional sense. But I still wasn’t convinced about paedobaptism.

On Matters of Membership

In 2013, we planted IDC with an “open membership” practice.1 (I now wonder if that philosophy revealed more about my true baptismal convictions than I realized at the time.) God blessed the church in thousands of ways, right from the beginning. We had everything we’d dreamed of.

And then came 2015.

Last spring, some dear Baptist brothers initiated a conversation over open and closed membership. When they found out IDC was an open membership church, they began to poke and prod. “Jordan,” they’d ask, “if you believe infant baptism is valid for membership, then why aren’t you a paedobaptist?” Other logical questions confronted me. I proceeded then to do what I always have tried to do in matters of debate, pray more and read more.

When Everything Falls Apart

Over the next few months, I couldn’t stop studying the issue. I scoured Amazon for every relevant book on baptism and proceeded to devour it within days. No longer could I listen to audiobooks while running my 50-60 miles per week. Instead, I was listening to sermons, lectures, and debates on baptism. All the while I was increasingly terrified my view of baptism had switched. The very same arguments for paedobaptism I formerly took issue with, I now found my head bouncing in assent. I no longer agreed with the arguments I’d launched against Carlton for believer’s baptism.

I fully expected that my study would kick me out as a “closed membership” apologist. I came out of it, however, a fully convinced paedobaptist.2

God moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform.

Into the Fog We Go

A few months ago, we let our beloved congregation know about the change. I’m now helping IDC search for my replacement (words I never thought I’d write). I’m also searching for my next ministerial post (more words I never wanted to write).

The future is foggy, but we are heading into the mist with joyful trust in God’s sweet sovereignty.

If you think about it, say a prayer for IDC and the Stone family.

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  1. “Open membership” means we didn’t require believing individuals who’d previously been baptized as an infant to be rebaptized by immersion. “Closed membership,” the historic Baptist practice, would require baptism by immersion to join the church.”
  2. I’d already changed my mind on matters of church polity. Emily, my wife, joined me in the process and once said, “I think God made me to be Presbyterian!”

The End of *Regular* Blogging

Blogging Resignation

Back in the early 1990s a popular quartet of crooners sang, “We’ve come to the end of the road.” For some reason, that swan song rings in my ears as I tell you, my faithful few readers, that my regular blogging has reached its end.

Writing to Think

I began filling up this space with ruminations on all things related to ordinary ministry back in September 2013. The main reason for starting the blog was sheer selfishness—I wanted to write. Not necessarily because I thought I had any peculiar wisdom about praying, preaching, and pastoring. In fact, quite the opposite was true: I was eight months into my first senior pastorate and needed to figure out what I should be doing. I count myself among those who write to know. It’s only when I write that I figure out the logic and look of a particular truth.

And so I wrote. And certain convictions found a home in my ministerial heart.

Now, 649 posts later, I’m putting down the pen. Why?

In Search of a Ph.D. and Permanence

My essential reasoning for stepping away from this here blogosphere is due to requirements at The Institution. If I’m ever going to write a doctoral dissertation, well, I need to start writing one. For some reason—probably due to the exhaustive nature of research writing—I gravitate more towards writing in this space than in those hallowed halls of academia. Excising blog writing means gaining back several hours each week for dissertation writing. My family rejoices at the reception of those hours for, Lord willing, that means a husband and daddy will graduate sooner. And “The M’Cheyne School of Pastoral Ministry” rejoices because someone finally gives them the academic treatment they deserve (assuming, of course, the Lord or my advisor doesn’t change my dissertation topic).

Although it’s the paramount reason, writing about 19th century Scotsmen is not the only reason for this here notification of termination. I’m longing to finish the Ph.D. and direct my writing efforts to matters of permanence.

If I’ve learned anything over the last two-plus years, it’s that blogging is the quintessence of ephemeral writing. Like vapors in the wind do blog posts fly. That’s not to say blog posts have no merit. If Mr. M’Cheyne weren’t ringing at the door each week, I’d be happy to keep up the mutterings and the musings. But, we must admit, blog posts don’t—by their very nature—have the sustaining power of books. So when I speak of permanence I speak of writing more for the printed page.

Writing with [More] Permanent Ink

I have a folder full of book projects, and the first is—you may have guessed already—that lovely dissertation. The second one may surprise you, though: an autobiography. Yes, all you misters and madams, I’m writing an autobiography! And I don’t expect any of you will see it.

A long-offered prayer of mine is that the Lord would exalt His Son in unusually powerful ways through my family. I long for the gates of hell to quake at the mention of a Stone son or daughter rising with the gospel. I want the demons to say, “Jesus I know, and the Stones I recognize” (Acts 19:15). Four years ago I began an autobiography that I hope will not only encourage generations of Stones to “go and do likewise,” but will also show them where they should “go and do otherwise.”

Should the Lord be kind to let me finish the dissertation and catch up on my first thirty-one years of life, I hope to turn then my attention to a few topics and truths burning in my soul. The best writers burn from the truth and for the truth and strive not to burn out in the labor. I don’t want to burn out here and not be able to burn there. So, I tender my resignation.

A Ghost in the House

I imagine I will still haunt this space from time to time. As much as my routine-driven mind would like to tell you how often (like at least one post a month) my ghost will show up, I’ll refrain from any assurance lest I bind my conscience and have to add an addendum to my resignation. The only parting promise I give is that in the next 7–10 days I will offer a post on “Favorite Books of 2015.” Just today I finished book #182 for the year, and I’m eager to let you now which ones might be especially helpful for ordinary pastors.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Questions that Need Answering

Deviantart-please-stand-by-by-gxmew

I’m signing off the blog for a period of time once again. PhD assignments for the fall semester are reaching crunch time and need more attention than I’ve been giving them. Also, I have many theological and pastoral questions I need to wrestle with. They have nagged me for too long and must finally be confronted. Should you think about it in the next few weeks, I’d appreciate prayer.

I hope to be back around Thanksgiving.

A Taste of Greece

Late Monday night I returned from a five-day trip to Athens, Greece with Darren Carlson, the president of Training Leaders International. We went to find out what’s going on with the migrant church in the city and discover what, if any, ways TLI can serve the evangelicals in the city.

In no particular order, here are some things I took away from the trip.

first-greek-evangelical-church-athensGreeks Bearing Gifts

  • Although most people estimate there are 25,000 evangelicals in Greece, the number is probably closer to about 15,000. Which means there are about as many evangelicals in my city of McKinney, TX as there are in all of Greece. Great commission alert.
  • The refugee crisis has created a unique situation for the evangelical churches in the city. On average, 4,000-5,000 refugees are currently arriving in Athens each day (the city function like a major way station for these people into the EU). Those churches and ministries seeking to serve the migrants are facing the great challenge named, “Incredibly fluid.” Rather than staying many months in the city, provided evangelicals for an opportunity to evangelize and disciple, these refugees are in and out in just a few days.
  • Ministry to the Persians in Athens seems uniquely blessed of God at this time.
  • Pastor Giotis Kantartzis is the real deal. He’s the pastor of First Evangelical Greek Church in Athens and I’ve heard him called, “The Tim Keller of the Balkans.” The description seems most appropriate to me.
  • We must thank God often for the unknown missionaries doing God’s work among the nations. We met with one missionary whose missionary career reads like a CIA novel—seriously. He’s known spies, threats, and death for many years.
  • Unity among the missionaries and churches is something we should pray for. It’s easy for each ministry to be innately skeptical of all others.
  • Living in a urban European environment never attracted me when I used to travel all the time for soccer. It still doesn’t.
  • The walk up to Mars Hill and the Acropolis is much more a hike than you’d think. I have new perspective on Acts 17:16-34.
  • Gyros are awesome.
  • Encouraging pastors is a most noble and necessary task. How tempting it is for gospel ministers in Athens to look at their flock (usually only a few dozen people, who don’t stay in the city long) and fall into despair. Pray for them to know the comfort of Christ.
  • If my observation is true, it seems children are kept to a minimum in the average Greek family. I was reminded afresh how Christians all over the world need to rediscover, with wisdom of course, the joy of Genesis 1:28.

To Greece We Go

TLI_HomeHL-1

This morning I head out for a brief trip to Athens, Greece with Darren Carlson, the president of Training Leaders International. We go to do research on the migrant church movement and connect with churches ministering to refugees in Athens. If you think about it, pray for us.

Lord willing, I’ll be back next week.

Silent for a Time

please-stand-by

The blog is going silent for time. Between family responsibilities, pastoral duties, and PhD deadlines I’ve had to make a decision: let the blog go silent for a while or let my time daily personal time with God get pinched. I’ve chosen the former. Lord willing, the blog will resume its usual ruminations on ordinary ministry sometime in July.

Mainline Influence on Evangelicalism

20th Century Spirituality

Just as Catholicism influenced the spirituality of mainline Protestants in the 20th century, so too did mainline Protestants influence evangelical spirituality. The influences are many, but this essay will focus on the spiritual formation movement, increasing openness to the miraculous gifts, egalitarianism, and homosexuality.

The Spiritual Formation Movement

For most of the 20th century evangelicals had never heard of the phrase “spiritual formation.” Yet, by the turn of the century “spiritual formation” was a buzzword in evangelical denominations and networks. Many seminaries today not only offer spiritual formation classes, but even have departments of spiritual formation. What is it? Spiritual formation speaks of the shaping process by which a person’s spirituality is shaped, and is thus uniquely concerned with the dynamic means by which one grows in Christlikeness. Its main proponents are luminaries such as Dallas Willard, Richard Foster, and Eugene Peterson.

Mainline versions of spiritual formation often meant experimenting with a diverse array of practices. In the late 1900s mainline retreats for spiritual formation would adapt themes from medieval mystics and have workshops on the Labyrinth or Enneagram. Some spiritual formation proponents even encouraged Buddhist techniques to help spiritual growth. In a Christianity Today article from 2002 entitled, “Three Temptations of Spiritual Formation,” Evan Howard writes, “One popular retreat and spiritual [formation] training center in my region offers common meals, massage, inner healing, evening prayer, in-depth dream work, daily Eucharist, and “mandala explorations.” Mandalas (artistic, usually circular, designs) appear in a few religious traditions—in Native American designs, in Gothic rose windows, and especially in Tibetan practices.” It seemed as though much of the spiritual formation in the mainline was indeed “spiritual,” but hardly “Christian.”

Much of the evangelical adaptation of spiritual formation picks up on time-tested, ordinary means for growth in Christlikeness. Foster, in his Celebration of Discipline, provides a chapter each on the following disciplines:  mediation, [contemplative] prayer, fasting, study, simplicity, solitude, submission, service, confession, worship, guidance, and celebration. The mainline influence is particularly seen is in how some evangelicals stress greatly intuitive and individualistic notions of spirituality. Yet, whereas the mainline feels no great need to tether this intuitiveness to Scripture, many evangelical teachers of spiritual formation seek to submit the intuitive pursuits to Scripture and not neglect the reality of sin and the need for a Savior. Spiritual formation is thus not something done to simply promote spirituality, but something done to pursue godliness, as revealed in God’s Word.

The Third Wave

Quite possibly the greatest effect mainline Protestant spirituality brought to evangelicalism is “The Third Wave” movement. It was at the beginning of the 20th century that Pentecostalism began and quickly found a place in American—if not evangelical—life. Charles Parham taught that the baptism of the Spirit was subsequent to conversion and was evidenced by speaking in tongues. His young disciple William Seymour would eventually take the Pentecostal doctrine to Los Angeles where, in 1906, a revival broke out. This revival lasted for roughly nine years and led to the rapid growth of the Pentecostalism in America. Yet, for most of the first half of the twentieth century Pentecostalism found little respect among mainline denominations and thus had little effect on Protestantism as a whole. This began to change when Dennis Bennett—an Episcopalian priest in Van Nuys, California—claimed to have been given the gift of tongues. This event was a watershed moment for Pentecostalism. It eventually led to many Catholics and mainline Protestants to become “Charismatic” in their orientation. While Pentecostals teach a subsequent Spirit baptism leading to the gift of tongues, Charismatics accept a “baptism in the spirit” by faith without accompanying manifestations while later seeking to “yield to tongues,” not as “initial evidence” but as one of the authenticating gifts of the Spirit. Throughout much of the 1960s and 1970s, a Charismatic renewal swept through the mainline denominations and moved the continuation of all spiritual gifts to the forefront of much evangelical thought.

The great adaptation of mainline Charismatic renewal practices began to broadly happen in the 1980s. Peter Wagner, of Fuller Theological Seminary, coined the term Third Wave, saying, “The first wave was the Pentecostal movement, the second wave was the Charismatic movement, and now the third wave is joining them.” Third Wave adherents thus made it clear that while they were the natural succession to Pentecostal and Charismatic practice, they were distinct. What made the Third Wave proponents different from Pentecostals and Charismatics was they did not teach a subsequent baptism of the Spirit to conversion, but they did believe in the continuation of all miraculous gifts. A believer was baptized in the Spirit upon conversion and all gifts were to be pursued, but not all gifts would be received.

Third Wave belief and practice was typified by the Vineyard Movement, which went through astonishing growth under John Wimber in the mid-1980s–late-1990s. The movement was characterized by signs and wonders and swept up many notable evangelicals including Dallas Theological Seminary professor Jack Deere, as well as theologian Wayne Grudem, and Sam Storms. Another prominent evangelical Third Wave movement is Sovereign Grace Ministries.

Perhaps the greatest example of evangelicalism’s fascination with and adaptation of The Third Wave is John Piper. One can read Piper articles and sermons circa 1990 to see a pastor intrigued with John Wimber, while simultaneously being unsure of his teaching. At Lausane II in Manila Piper spent much time learning from Jack Hayford and John Wimber. In 1990 Piper took fifty-eight leaders and members from his church to investigate Wimber’s ministry further at The Vineyard’s “Holiness Unto the Lord” conference. Piper came back to Bethlehem Baptist Church with a series of “Kudos & Cautions” for Vineyard and Wimber. As one pays attention to Piper’s ministry, his public fascination with The Third Wave has diminished even if his Third Wave sympathies remain.

Piper appears emblematic of a large swath of evangelicals in our time, Christians who are open to all miraculous gifts, yet don’t pursue or practice all gifts with zeal. In many ways, it seems as though the rising evangelicals today are something of a “Fourth Wave,” which can be quantified in the statement, “Open to all spiritual gifts, but cautious in the use of all spiritual gifts.”

Egalitarianism & Homosexuality

Towards the end of the 20th century many mainline Protestant denominations reflected the larger culture’s changing attitudes towards the role of women and homosexuality. It became increasingly common for mainline denominations to ordain women to pastoral ministry and in time many would ordain a homosexual to gospel ministry. In the late 1980s evangelicals reacted to this growing change with the publication of The Danver’s Statement in 1989. From this public statement of complementarianism The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood began to lead the charge for a “regrounding” of evangelicalism on the Bible’s teaching on gender roles and sexuality.

The evangelical seminaries bear testimony to the war that raged during this time over egalitarianism and complementarianism. Many evangelical seminaries (Fuller Theological Seminary being among the most prominent) had faculty members that were either openly confessing egalitarianism or either on the way to egalitarianism. Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is probably the most visible seminary to go through an internal—yet, still quite public—battle over the matter and come out on the complementarian side.

It must be noted that many egalitarians would consider themselves evangelicals. They believe, from Scripture, that women can be ordained to the ministry but still hold to the inerrancy of Scripture and the urgent need for preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. Other evangelicals believe complementarianism to be “a gospel issue,” and thus egalitarianism is incompatible with a pure gospel.

In mainline Protestantism we saw many denominations confessing egalitarianism soon confess openness towards homosexual practice and in our time this is the greatest place of mainline influence on evangelicalism. Just as the matter of homosexuality seems to be the current dividing line in our broader culture, it seems to be the next dividing line of spirituality among moderates and conservatives alike.

Historical Appreciation

A final evidence of the mainline’s influence on evangelical spirituality can be seen in the unabashed appreciation of mainline figures like Deitrich Bonhoeffer and C.S. Lewis. In 2010 Eric Metaxas published Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. Metaxas’ book was something of a sweeping and sensational publication in our country, shooting up the bestseller lists and even paving the way for Metaxas to speak before President Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast. It’s success was a great indication of how many evangelical Christians are influenced by a mainline Protestant from Germany.

C.S. Lewis also continues to occupy a large plage in evangelical life. In 2013 Desiring God devoted their national conference to the theme “The Romantic Rationalist: God, Life, and Imagination in the Work of C.S. Lewis.” In addition to his Chronicles of Narnia, Lewis’ books The Screwtape Letters, Mere Christianity, and The Problem of Pain have exerted a large influence on the life and faith of evangelicals.