I’ve been around ministers and ministry my whole life. My dad was a church staff member then went on to be a senior pastor. My first church position was as a music and youth pastor (I was 17 years old when I started in this role.). I attended a Christian college to study for ministry then went on to get a seminary degree. My journey then took me to work for a denominational entity for ten years followed by nearly ten more years serving in the local church. And for the last ten years I’ve been doing God’s bidding as a church consultant. Ministers and ministry have been my life.
There have been various hot topic issues/debates that we pastor types have deliberated on through the years. Each of these issues has some word that accompanies the conversation. A few of those words… “women,” “authority,” “inerrant,” and in some traditions the term and idea of “elders,” created some ecclesiastical tension. At present it seems the word that comes up most is “reformed.” Over the last twelve months I’ve been reminded by at least four senior pastors upon arrival at the church that the church is “reformed.” And in most of these situations it seemed to be the term that gave the church her sense of identity.
Now please know that I have no concern at all whether or not a church is reformed. I never bring it up while working with a church. No need to disturb my primary reason for being there, to enhance the work of Christ through Christian community.
I must confess that for me, this is a topic whose bottom line is yet to be concluded. In fact, it may be one of God’s great mysteries. After all, one of the most biblically oriented denominations in the world, Southern Baptists, don’t agree on this issue. So mysterious is this matter that the presidents of two seminaries funded and accountable to the Southern Baptist denomination debated one another at their own convention. That is, Dr. Paige Patterson of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (who is a focused Arminian) and Dr. Albert Mohler of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (whose belief tilts tall toward Calvinism). Even the great scholars don’t come to the same conclusion on this one.
But I am reformed. You see, when you look at a thesaurus some of the words that are synonymous with the word reformed are “rehabilitated,” “transformed,” “changed,” “converted,” “renewed,” “new,” “improved.” Each of these words describes what God has done and is doing in those who are His followers. Upon becoming a follower of Christ we knew instantly that we had been rehabilitated, transformed, changed, converted, renewed, made new, improved, … reformed.
There seems to be Reformed with a Capital -R and reformed with a little-r. Reformed with a Capital-R would obviously be what the Holy Spirit has done and is doing through and in us. Little-r would be the debatable topic of predestination/Calvinism.
Small group leader, might I suggest that it is much more important when your group is together to discuss what it means to be reformed by the power of the Holy Spirit, reformed with a Capitol-R, than it is to debate reformed theology, reformed with a little-r?
The little-r debate will rage on, and in most instances lead to no final conclusion. The Capital-R conversation always leads to hope and help and healing. And isn’t that what we want for every person in our small group?
P.S… Please know that I am not suggesting that discussing this issue is out of bounds. In fact, your group members need to have some understanding of the two camps before the conversation erupts in a setting away from group life. But when it becomes the driving force behind most of the group’s conversations, it may become a disease in the small body of Christ you are discipling.