Todd Is Recovering The Reformed Confession

From the end of 2008 to 2013 I was the lead teaching pastor of a large non-denominational church in the northeast. During my time there I was told by various elders to lead the church in a more “broadly evangelical” direction. By others I was encouraged to lead the church to become more narrowly Reformed. I was told that our theological “tent” was too big and that it was too small. In those few years I understood the wisdom of the words of Dirty Harry, “A man has to know his limitations.” There are a few things I can do. There are other things I could probably learn to do. But one thing I will never know how to do is lead a church in two opposing directions simultaneously.

During that sojourn I came to the conviction that the entire project of “big tent” evangelicalism is failing. Whereas broad evangelicalism used to mean John Stott, now it encompasses Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, and Gregory Boyd. The tent pegs of evangelicalism’s big tent have been moved out too far. It can no longer support the weight of its own contradictions.

So, in August of 2013 I ran to confessionalism. Specifically my ordination was transferred to the Presbyterian Church in America and I became the Lead Pastor of a PCA congregation. The experience has been like finding an oasis in a desert. It has been like discovering a GPS after meandering blindly through an unknown country. Too dramatic? It does not feel that way to me. It is nearly impossible to effectively put down error and nurture unity within a church whose minimal statement of faith is only able to identify the grossest of heresies.

—Todd Pruitt, “Running To Confessionalism

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  1. Honestly I believe many if not most laypersons and leaders within evangelicalism are blind to its inherent faults. From the ground, some key “regime changes” at my own church convinced me of evangelicalism’s fatal flaw. Certainly, those influential persons in conflict may have specific views that clash, and that has certainly been the case at my church. But the masses see only perpetual change as these regimes come and go. One pastor, young and learning the ropes but a faithful student of Scripture, preaches the doctrines of grace from Ephesians and Romans (and is chastised by fellow leaders for it!); he leaves and the next guy, a gifted orator, is lighting candles and observing Lent. He is now gone due to a disqualifying failure, and what’s up next?

    The common person only can make judgments according to what he or she prefers. Even for those who crave Christ-centered preaching from Scripture, their growth is stunted but those who stay patiently soldier on, as they value the relationships they’ve built in their body and refuse to rock the boat by leaving. In their desire for social stability, they forfeit God’s biblical means of grace as their church gropes for direction similar to a favorite sports franchise saddled by a culture of losing and a revolving door of coaches and players. At such churches, recovering the Reformed confession seems a long way off if not impossible, because of the depth and richness of doctrine that, in my own estimation, requires some level of time and stability in church leadership to cultivate and practice in worship, preaching, catechesis, and other forms.

    But with God, nothing is impossible, correct? As a result, I celebrate, albeit with green eyes, when I read of a pastor like Todd Pruitt who sees the insanity of evangelicalism and determines to do something about it according to his convictions that have grown, budded, and produced fruit over time. I too am hopeful of bringing my own family along on that journey.

  2. On the one hand, a tent that is so broad so as to include Rob Bell and Brian McLaren is so broad and the tent is stretched so thin that it no longer protects us from the weather.

    On the other hand, we need to read, listen, and study why Bell and McLaren have pursued their current direction.

  3. Trent,
    I agree contingent on how we do so. We must admit that there is a possibility that despite the error of their ways, they have legitimate complaints. And we must fully address legitimate complaints and see if they can agree with how we resolve those complaints prior to kicking them out.

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