Over the years I’ve run into many people who love and embrace the Reformed faith. Everyone’s story is a bit different—some found out about the Reformed faith through books, others through ministries, such as Ligonier or the White Horse Inn, and still yet others have grown up in the Reformed church. One of the classes of people I avoid, however, is the loudmouth. As a pastor I’ve found that there are usually at least two types of people: people who quietly serve and others who tell you all about what they know.
There were a number of people over the years who were raised in the Reformed church, love the Westminster Standards, and knew their Bibles very well. The interesting thing, though, was that they never told me any of these things. When they came to church they were quiet and reserved, and when a sign-up sheet went around looking for volunteers, they signed up without fuss or muss. A number of these people served, for example, in the children’s Sunday School—a task that many avoid like the plague. As cute as children can be, being locked in a small room with toddlers can strike fear into the heart of the most stouthearted believer in the Providence of God!
On the other hand, there were people who came to the church and within the first few minutes of our conversation I knew the books they were reading and the theologians that they respected, as well as the theologians they disrespected. I also often knew of the theologians that these people personally knew—they’d be dropping names like rain in a noisy gutter. And one of the things that struck me was how desperate these people were to tell me how Reformed they were.
I think I can say that in every case, the loudmouth ended up leaving the church and in a number of cases caused significant trouble in the church. Why was this pattern true? I think that people who truly know their Reformed doctrine don’t have tell others how much they know or who they know. They’ve been gripped by the grace of Christ and want to serve the church. The people who want everyone else to know what and who they know, on the other hand, have yet to mature. They haven’t grasped what Paul has taught regarding knowledge, namely that it puffs up (1 Cor 8.1), though undoubtedly they will tell you that they know that knowledge puffs up.
Part of the danger with loudmouths is they haven’t recognized that knowledge divorced from love is empty; this is why they frequently cause trouble in churches. Their ultimate concern isn’t for Christ and his church but themselves. They are more interested in having everyone know how knowledgeable they are instead of simply serving Christ in quiet humility in the knowledge that our Savior, in the end, is the only one who truly knows. While it ultimately calls for wisdom, when in doubt, keep what you know to yourself and quietly serve in the church and pray that Christ would keep you humble.