Mark Driscoll: Good for Christians bad for Churches?

29 01 2009

picture-1Let me say from the outset this is not an attack piece on Mark Driscoll.  I like Mark and I’m very glad he is on our team (believes in the authority of the Bible, loves Jesus etc.).  But it is important  for us who study church practices to admit and grapple with the fact that Driscoll presents a way of doing church that is unrealistic, impractical and extra-biblical.

Mark has hit upon a church growth strategy that is a grand slam for attracting young men both Christian and non-Christian – two parts sex one part rebel Jesus (see latest news piece on Mars Hill).  Mark is going from being the Rush Limbaugh of Indy Christianity to being the Howard Stern of Indy Christianity.  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being either but let me ask this, if Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern were to become Christians today and church planters tomorrow what would their churches look like?  After 10 years I have no doubt both men would have mega-churches with satellite campuses and an explosive podcast subscription rate.

But let me take a step back and ask should these men plant local churches?  Should these men become stay-at-home pastors?  Should their talk show host personality become the center of a one massive church?  Let’s take this to its logical conclusion.

I’m more of strategist than a pastor so if I wanted to plant a church in Cincinnati and I felt Driscoll’s model was effective and biblical I would start a satellite congregation of Mars Hill here.  Why not?  I’ll never be a Christian shock jock with my personality and its already proven to work in seven satellite congregations around Seattle.  If he’s the best Indy Christian preacher why try to compete?

Ugh…but do you see and can you feel what “the church” is turning into?  This is NOT Mark Driscoll’s fault at all but is the inevitable result of a modern Christianity being celebrity obsessed and entirely without a biblical ecclesiology (understanding of church).

The church needs to be rescued.  Today it exists as a formless and void container ready to be filled with any strong personality wanting to shape it in his image.  But the Bible does define for us what the church is and that it exists in three forms – body (a house-sized group the lives life together), city (a disciple-making movement that worships as one) and universal (the bride of Christ on his mission to make disciples of all nations).

I continually return to these three church identities because embracing these biblical concepts will both rescue the church from being anything and everything anyone wants to make it into and it will release the Mark Driscolls of the Christian world from being pastors to being teachers and communicators with world-wide ministries.

The church (universal) needs Mark Driscoll but churches (body and city) must not form themselves around the gifting of any single person.  A massive restructuring is needed and Paul’s strategy still remains untried and ignored by modern Western Christians.





The Sin of Sheep Cloistering

17 12 2008

packed-sheep

As we go into cities and challenge people to make disciples in the city through the development of a city-wide training center, people with a deep commitment to one institutional church sometimes wonder if this activity is “sheep stealing”.  We believe every disciple and every body of believers needs access to the all the 5-fold gifts (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers) in order to mature.  Today, instead of receiving equipping from all five (as Paul commands for church maturity in Ephesians 4) we are led and equipped by only one of the 5-fold gifts (the teaching church, the evangelist church etc.).

Because institutional churches are often based on a strict hierarchy where everyone ranks under the Senior Pastor who has only one of those gifts, if I were to attempt to shift your allegiance from that man’s ministry to another man’s ministry, I would be considered a “sheep stealer”.  Under Paul’s apostolic structure this allegiance shifting was an impossibility.  Paul believed Jesus alone was the head of church and Christ’s under shepherds (elders) were over all the believers in that city.  So if you were a Christian and you lived in that city you were automatically under that group of elders and you were equipped by ALL the 5-fold ministers in the city and ALL the 5-fold ministers traveling through the city.

What Paul was dead against and preached against was the practice of sheep cloistering in a city.

1 Corinthians 1

10I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”

13Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?

Then later he writes in 1 Corinthians 3

3 You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? 4For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere men?

5What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. 7So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.

So the real sin and danger is that one man would cloister sheep into a single pen, under his ministry alone, and structurally and functionally cut those sheep off from the ministry of others in the city with equipping ministries.  Sheep instinctually want to be cloistered but the 5-fold during the 1st century (Apollos, Paul, Cephas etc.) continually pointed them to the one unifying head of the church, Christ.  In our day the 5-fold actually feed the sheepish desire cloister.

How have we drifted so far from the apostolic structure of the church that what is considered a sin today “sheep stealing” (equal access to equipping God’s sheep) was considered a virtue to Paul and what is considered a virtue today, sheep cloistering, was considered a unity destroying sin to Paul and the first century Apostles?

There is a structure that gives all the sheep in the city access to all the 5-fold equippers and aligns them under one unified head.  I pray for the return of the city church with one mission (making disciples), with one label (Christians) under one head (Christ).





Mark Driscoll’s Thorough Evaluation of the Emerging Church

13 09 2008

Wow, if you had only 1 hour to hear a contemporary critique of the emerging church I would highly recommend downloading the link below –

Mark Driscoll at Xenos on the Emerging Church

Mark identifies 4 streams of Emerging (I can’t remember Mark’s exact titles):

  1. Hipper Church (Dan Kimball)
  2. House Church (Alan Hirsch)
  3. Emerging Reformers (Mark Driscoll)
  4. Emergent Liberals (Brian McLaren)

Not sure where Mark would put me (City Church to Body Church to Apostolic Teams)?  I wouldn’t personally identify with any of the streams he’s listed.  Hopefully that means we’re not emerging. 🙂 (I much prefer to be Restoring).

Mark gives an especially detailed critique of the theology of both Brian McLaren and Rob Bell.

Mark’s serious and far more careful tone is very refreshing and his call at the end against reactions I thought was also important.

If you get a chance to listen let me know your thoughts.





God’s Growing Anger with my Generation

4 09 2008

I had a very unusual experience last week that I wanted to describe to you.

Every morning I ask the Lord to teach me and he usually gives me a passage of Scripture that we converse about.  On this morning I immediately heard “Numbers 14” so I read about how Moses interceded for the house of Israel when they refused to go into the Promised Land.  God promised that none of that generation would enter in.  He initially wanted to destroy them and make a nation out of Moses but Moses knew the heart of God and made an argument with God that, for His glory and His reputation, He should find another way.

Then I felt God turn to me and tell me to intercede for my generation.  And as I prayed I began to feel the growing anger.  I’ve never felt this before (except for a specific person) so I asked the Lord why he was angry.  This is the Word I felt He gave me –

“Fruitless has been my careful cultivation of this generation”

Now I’m not a prophet so I rarely get specific words from the Lord especially for others so this is new for me.  I took it to the Gathering of our Body and it was immediately confirmed as I submitted it to them.  I’m sure many of you are sceptical of this kind of thing (as am I) so lets just explore the possibility that our generation (I’m thinking of us Xers) have not born the fruit God intended us to bear.

Just think of the resources poured out on our generation in the 70s and 80s

  • Multiple Youth Pastors in every city and town
  • Flourishing para-church ministries like Young Life and Youth for Christ
  • Bible Colleges in every corner of the country
  • International Stability (none of us were drafted into any wars)
  • Financial Stability like no other time in history
  • Societal Stability where most of America was safe and justice visited upon criminals

So these were God’s astounding gifts to our generation and where’s the fruit?  We seem so caught up in our self-focussed conversations about what we want church to be that we can easily forget that God is an investor expecting a FULL return, many-fold, for all he has poured into us.  Where is the fruit?  Do we even care if we’re fruitful?  Have we forgotten that God demands a return?  Do we really think all of these blessings are simply for our enjoyment?

I get the picture that we are like a Judges Generation.  When God grants peace we run to our idols until God shakes things up (removes the hedge of protection and abundant blessing).

During the next 20-30 years many of us will be leaders of American Christianity.  Here are three things I think we should do –

  • Pray and stand in the gap (like Moses did) for our generation.
  • Stop ignoring or recasting the question about our fruitfulness so that we can be self-focussed.
  • Band together to see a world-wide movement of God bearing fruit for many generations to come

What do you think we should do?





Are we a People?

4 08 2008

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” – 1 Peter 2:9

I was listening to a speaker relay a conversation he had with a Jewish man where the Jew pointed out that the biggest difference between Jews and Christians is that Jews see themselves as a people.  They feel a sense of oneness and unity with fellow Jews and don’t immediately assume the fellow Jew they are meeting for the first time probably belongs to a different tribe.  Christians, on the other hand, have splintered into a thousand groups and look with suspicion on one another, not feeling any real sense of unity with their fellow believers unless they subscribe to their particular brand of the Christian faith.

So do you identify with other believers over a set of specific doctrines or does our oneness in Christ cause you to look at all the churches in your city and say, “we are all one people”?  I must admit this is a strange idea to me.  I have very little real faith in our oneness as a people and so I’m afraid I might be part of the problem.  What do you all think?

Our current attitude is perfectly summed up in the below joke that so ironically described the Christian attitude toward each other it actually won the funniest religious joke of the year.  Funny, but quite sad…

I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump. I ran over and said: “Stop. Don’t do it.”

“Why shouldn’t I?” he asked.

“Well, there’s so much to live for!”

“Like what?”

“Are you religious?”

He said: “Yes.”

I said: “Me too. Are you Christian or Buddhist?”

“Christian.”

“Me too. Are you Catholic or Protestant?”

“Protestant.”

“Me too. Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?”

“Baptist.”

“Wow. Me too. Are you Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord?”

“Baptist Church of God.”

“Me too. Are you original Baptist Church of God, or are you Reformed Baptist Church of God?”

“Reformed Baptist Church of God.”

“Me too. Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915?”

He said: “Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915.”

I said: “Die, heretic scum,” and pushed him off.





Learning to Walk with God

27 07 2008
  • “Have you had your quiet time today?”
  • “Are you spending time in the Word?”
  • “How is your prayer life?”

These accountability questions have, for me, betrayed a belief that a walk with God is ultimately a discipline at its core.  Even when we train people we focus such attention on consistency but we can easily skip the root issue.

In my life I’ve neglected walking with God because it felt like a chore.  It was toilsome and not life-giving.  But this is the opposite of the abudant life Christ came to give us.

Recently I’ve been seeking two things in my walk with God – joy and deep connection.  Now it’s almost impossible for me to imagine not spending time every day with him but its because I’m so filled with joy in his presence.  Temptations that used to seem attractive pale in comparison with what I experience every day in my time with the Lord.  When you worship what you were made to worship all the silly counterfeits fade away.

What a difference this has made.  I think I finally get what Piper was trying explain with “Christian hedonism” and our purpose in “glorifying God BY enjoying him forever.”  But I had to experience it myself, and so do you.

It takes an entirely different approach than the way I was trained.  The minutes and hours slip by as I worship him, listen to him, feast on his Word, pray in the Spirit and I know he is right here with me, directing my thoughts and filling my being with life in his Spirit.

Take an hour a day and just pursue joy in the Lord and deep connection with him using whatever helps you discover this.  I started with writing on a white board what I would do if I had an hour with my only goal being to connect with God.  If you go through the motions and haven’t connected with God you might have actually made the problem worse by draining your spirit of joy, entering your day with less energy and hope.  So start over, erase what stole life and dig into and expand what gave you life.

Connect with God the Father through the work of Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit and dwell in his presence, listening to his voice and glorifying him with all your being.  In a phrase – walk with God.

So let’s start asking questions like

  • “Did you connect with God today?”
  • “Are you experiencing the joy of the Lord?”
  • “Are you looking forward to anything tomorrow more than your time with the Lord”

We might then actually discover the real problem and so doing, discover “life to the full.”





Family Teams Podcast

27 07 2008

While in D.C. I presented the Family Teams philosophy to a small group of folks and wanted to get that on here and for feedback and thoughts as this is the first time I’ve recorded the big picture ideas behind my take on a biblical philosophy of family.

Family Teams Philosophy Podcast

Also, here is a conversation about sharing a Sabbath meal with your family that Gavin and I did last year.

Sabbath Meal Podcast

***Click on the title to listen or right click save target as (or save link as) to download