Having listened to all the talks now from the DGNC2010 conference, I think the best news is that there were no surprises. I mean, guess what: Al Mohler is still the smartest guy on the planet. John Piper can make you love God more and hate your pride -- he can help you see pride in places you didn't think you had a place for it. Francis Chan is still the Richie Cunningham of the Conference circuit. R.C. Sproul is still, as far as I'm concerned, the only guy who always gets Paul right from inside out. Rick Warren was commended by his hosts and, of course, criticized by all the right people (including me, before the torches and pitchforks come out).
So, yay team: nice one put to bed again. Jesus was praised one way or another, and we all got to go home edified. Some of us stayed home and were edified.
We all get to have our tidy theology and lives back, and we can go on reading Crossway with the right amount of humility and tranquility (that's not smugness, mind you: "smug" would be reading our Crossway on the subway or at Starbucks where people could see you reading Crossway, even if it's studying your ESVSB) to be edified that we are in the right place under God's sovereignty.
OK, I have to admit it: I did have a moment in listening to these talks and panels when I really, really felt like we had crossed into the surreal. There was one surprise. It was the first panel where Kevin DeYoung, Tullian Tchividlian, Burk Parsons and John Piper were sort of round-tabling with David Mathis soft-balling them with general questions about pastoral ministry.
The surreal part was not where John Piper called Rick Warren "an unbelievable communicator" in a completely-unironic way. It was the part late in that panel where he unironically said this (around 22:00):
Piper: I just think you should faithfully do what you love to do and are called to do, (I'm talking to Pastors now) and if it happens it happens. Now, I suppose Rick Warren would roll over in his, uh, not his grave but his study because that sounds so unpurposeful, but, I just, uh, it's just discouraging and paralyzing to take away specifics. There has to be a certain organic-ness to dreaming. Skill-sets and gifting and what he called SHAPE in his book Purpose-Driven Life are so crucial to the way you go about dreaming, the way you go about seeing what's not there. And you can just kill yourself trying to see what's not there that doesn't fit you at all. It doesn't fit your church, it doesn't fit your situation, and you may not know the dream God has planned for you, and so … you know, everyone speaks about their own trajectory … this is me talkin', not Rick Warren, and I just came to Bethlehem and I tried to preach the Bible faithfully.Now: why is that surreal? I mean, that's the reformed (small "r" intended) demographic schtick, right -- I'm just a simple preacher being faithful to God's word. That's how John MacArthur "did it". That's how Al Mohler "did it". That's how R.C. Sproul "did it". That's how Mark Dever "did it". And that, to put a fine point on it to keep our street cred, is exactly what Rick Warren said is unfaithfulness -- to be allegedly-faithful and unconcerned with fruit, to be more concerned with knowing the whole systematic ball but never leaving your study to take it out to the playground or the unreached people group.
And didn't have any other plans. I didn't. (in CEO voice) Oh, there's a 50,000 student University across the street - what's the strategy? (/voice) Well, they can come. If they want. [laughter] And there were a few other things thrown in along the way, but mainly I want to feed the sheep in such a way that the sheep love God, are so thrilled with God, they tell other people about him, and they come and worship and they love God so much, and yeah then you have to train some people and maybe a Tom Steller will join your staff and make something happen. I kinda want pastors to keep their focus clear and do a livable life, keep your wife happy, and your kids in the fold, and preach your heart out, and you really will do remarkable things. [ends at 24:25]
Somebody might say that's not surreal -- that's the kind of people we are striving to be, isn't it? But look at the underlined part there. In the midst of detailing the reformed schtick under the cover of "organic" dreaming and avoiding too-hard burdens, of all people on Earth John Piper says, essentially, that intentional evangelism is not his first concern. I mean, this is the guy who wrote Let the Nations Be Glad. This is the guy who penned Don't Waste your Life. In essence, in a very transparent and self-aware way, he admitted that he doesn't have at top of mind lost people.
That is something, I think, no one expected -- because nobody heard it. Or rather: they all laughed! Nobody squared up to it and said, "well, Dr. Piper, is that why you invited Rick Warren in the first place? Isn't that a pretty dangerous diagnosis for you, given that you're in some way a leader and mentor for the so-called 'Young Reformed' movement? It plays right into the stereotype of calvinism -- and not in a good way."
Listen: that's got to be a wake-up call for all of us. That's got to be something that makes us ring hollow on the inside. If John Piper can admit that evangelism is not on the top of his mind when preaching, then I think we are all suddenly caught with the same look on our faces that the Coyote has when he runs off the edge of the cliff.
You know what? Rick Warren has a concern for people who are going to hell. Maybe we're all correct, and he's so riddled with faults and errors and unrepentant pride in his accomplishments that his message is not what we, the well-informed, would preach. But his first instinct is, as he says, "Come and See." Come and See if this is the Messiah. Taste and see the Goodness of the Lord. Look: I see the Heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!
So maybe I don't like Rick Warren. I'm actually not going to defend Rick Warren. But maybe it's not Rick Warren who needs defending, or who needs someone to justify what he does. Maybe it's the rest of us who have a perfect Gospel which we never think about taking to lost people.
I'm sure you have a full day, and this is just a blog post. Shrug it off. But I'm headed out to the yard because there's a single talent I buried out there someplace, and I think I better go dig it up before the Master comes home and asks me what I did with it ...