TGC and the Local Church: Priorities

This past Sunday I preached at a local church in Minneapolis with a lot of 20-30 year olds. Preaching on Psalm 1, I mentioned how obedience and grace are inextricably linked, and one need only to look at the recent The Gospel Coalition events surrounding Tullian to highlight its importance.

After corporate worship, a young man approached me and expressed concern, even disillusionment, over TGC’s situation. “I love Keller and Tullian,” he said. “It makes me hesitant to commit to these groups when these sort of things happen.”

My encouragement to this young man was simple: hold on loosely to these affiliations, glean what you can, dismiss the dismissable. But remember: you’re not under these groups’ or men’s authority (unless one of these men serve as your local pastor). What’s primary is the local church. Ensure you’re committed to it and are someone who’s under their authority (i.e. biblical, loving, serving, protecting vs. domineering, abusing, unbiblical, etc.)

In the end, ministries like The Gospel Coalition can be very good things. But they should never replace or eclipse the local church as the primary means of grace, influence, honor and love.

The local church is where our priorities should ultimately lie.

Tullian, Mahaney, Harris and TGC: Some Thoughts

It’s been a notable 24 hours for The Gospel Coalition: C.J. Mahaney and Joshua Harris resign from TGC’s council. Then Tullian Tchividjian, one of TGC’s first and prominent pastor bloggers, was forced out after a week of escalating tensions over blog posts over Law and grace and their role in a Christian’s sanctification. Not quite the intensity of Jack Bauer’s “24,” but I’d call that a full day.

Six thoughts and/or observations:

  1. TGC clarifies: Joe Carter, an editor for TGC, provides extremely clarifying comments (in the comment thread following his post) about who officially speaks for TGC.
  2. ACE vs. TGC?: Rick Phillips, who wrote a strong critique of Tullian’s position at Reformation21 (the primary blog for the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals), is also a TGC council member. In other words, Tullian’s surprising departure is not simply a matter of ACE vs. TGC. Instead, it’s been brewing for some time, even confined to TGC’s not-always-clear borders.
  3. Simple, yet complicated: TGC ‘s homepage describes themselves as, “a fellowship of evangelical churches deeply committed to renewing our faith in the gospel of Christ and to reforming our ministry practices to conform fully to the Scriptures. We yearn to work with all who, in addition to embracing our confession and theological vision for ministry, seek the lordship of Christ over  the whole of life with unabashed hope in the power of the Holy Spirit to transform individuals, communities, and cultures” (emphasis mine)How easily we forget that’s ultimately what TGC aims to be: a fellowship of evangelical churches. And yet, it’s not quite so simple as that, is it? TGC has become so much more than a mere well intentioned “fellowship of evangelical churches.”
  4. A welcome shift: It appears that TGC is making changes to become less personality driven, and with fewer dominant voices. (This is shown in how many contributors they now have, as well as the layout of their website. You have to dig to find the once prominent blog.)
  5. A fractured coalition: The Reformed/Calvinist movement, which seemed more cohesive with TGC and T4G just five years ago, is facing greater fracturing and splintering in the days ahead. This is not necessarily a bad thing—but nor is it good. It will have lasting ramifications, and raises questions about how sustainable ministries such as TGC and T4G will be during the next few years.
  6. Be careful: Pastors or ministry leaders should be very careful what they wish for. We long to exert influence, have a high profile, have a seat at the table of the gatekeepers, movers and shakers of TGC-related ministries. But James’ council should be ringing loudly in our ears: “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” (James 3:1). Ask Driscoll, MacDonald, Mahaney, Harris, Tullian—heck, ask anyone who’s pastored for more than a few weeks and they could to the perils and pitfalls of pastoral ministry. What makes the present dilemma different is social media, which puts these men under greater scrutiny than most ordinary pastors. But we’ve been warned.