Monthly Archives: August 2016

What does it mean to be “Reformed”? part 1

I am guessing this will be a five-part series of posts. I could obviously go on and on, but I want to lay out a “laymen’s” guide for understanding what it means to be Reformed. My reason for writing this is at least two-fold:

  1. I want to be able to use that word more often as shorthand for what we are trying to do as a church at Kailua Baptist. So the more people who can wrap their minds around it the better.
  2. I want others to be able to use that word more often as shorthand for what a healthy church is in our day. And related to that, we should all mean the same thing when we use that word. Granted, “Reformed” is a large umbrella, but I want to define the umbrella, and discourage people not under that umbrella from using that word to describe themselves. Let’s stop confusing people by God’s grace.

Let me begin by sharing what the word “Reformed” does not mean:

  1. It does not simply mean “Calvinist.”
  2. It certainly is not to be equated with Presbyterianism.
  3. It does not mean we only read the Puritans or only sing hymns or do not evangelize or anything silly like that.
  4. It was not invented by Martin Luther and John Calvin.
  5. You cannot be personally Reformed and be in a consciously non-Reformed church very long (I always try to word my sentences carefully). That just means you are not Reformed yet.

Here is the first little tidbit of what the word “Reformed” means: it is a humble label. To call myself Reformed is (to at least attempt) to put a humble label upon myself. I would not have come to my theological positions without the help of the Holy Spirit working through the greater Body of Christ in church history. And historically, that label comes down to us today through hard fought theological battles, that we should not try to fight again. I would rather not just say “I believe the Bible on the doctrine of election” (or whatever doctrine we are talking about).  I would rather humble myself and say “I believe the Bible on the doctrine of election, and God has used Reformed theologians of the last 500 years to help me big time.” We stand on the shoulders of giants, whether we realize it or not. Why not try to have visible unity even with brothers and sisters of our past?

If you end up agreeing with all the doctrines over the next four posts, but refuse to call yourself Reformed, you are prideful. If you disagree with any of the doctrines over the next four posts, my contention is you are not Reformed. And that’s ok (for now), I just want us to not be confused about the labels anymore.

My first book!

Just to put this in context, it is very easy to publish books nowadays. This took two pastors in small churches to agree to work on this together (myself and Shane Sowers from Central Baptist Church, Oahu), and out came a book. Still, I am thankful God allowed me to do this, and pray He use it to sharpen churches for His glory.

If you know of Christians who are either wrestling with church polity issues or skeptical of either eldership or congregationalism, refer them to the ministry of 9Marks. They have lots of good articles and books on these issues. Only if they are still wrestling after that, or if they just want a quicker read, or just want to read a local Hawaii boy’s feeble attempt to weigh in on the conversation, then refer them to my book.

I did not put an Acknowledgements page and really wish I had after all. So I still might do it later, but for now, I want to acknowledge a few people:

Thank you to my wife, Natalie, and daughters, Grace and Leila, who are so supportive of me, and who let me work on stuff like this on top of all my pastoral duties. I love you, and thank you for letting me write, which is time away from you.

Thank you to Lauren Mell, a fellow church member, and Reid Honbo, one of my pastors, for proofreading. You really turned it into a book.

Thank you to Emily Komatsu, another fellow church member, for designing an impressive cover. God has truly gifted you, and you will probably be the main reason anybody buys the book.

Thank you to Shane Sowers (that other pastor I mentioned earlier), for countless hours of conversation, and for the work you put in to make this happen. May the Lord make your ministry “thrive”!

Thank you to John Tucker, another faithful pastor in the ministry, for giving valuable feedback and encouragement. Thankful for your friendship.

Thank you to my younger brother, Mark, for also giving valuable feedback, for being a constant encourager to write, and for being living proof of someone who can go from not knowing about these ideas to seeing them in the Bible and believing/obeying them.

Thank you to 9Marks, particularly Mark Dever and Jonathan Leeman, for influencing me more than any other parachurch ministry.

Thank you to Immanuel Baptist Church in Louisville, KY, for letting me experience these realities as a member of the flock.

Thank you to Kailua Baptist Church, for letting me experience these realities as one of your pastors. Related to that, thank you, Rocky, Reid, and Grant, for not just being my fellow pastors, but for actually being my pastors.