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.





Please define “Church”

19 12 2008

601751a-question-mark-on-stained-glass-postersWe need a clear consensus on the New Testament meaning of the word “Church”.

I’ve learned it’s possible, even common for two church leaders to talk for hours about “church” and be talking about completely different things.  Here’s my take (which is very simple) and please push back if you disagree even in small ways.  This is a very important discussion.

I believe the New Testament uses the word “church” (ekklesia) in three very different ways (and only in these three ways).

1. The Universal Church (Matthew 16, The Bride of Christ in Eph. 5 and Revelation etc.)
2. The City Church (Beginning of Epistles, Revelation 1-3, Throughout Acts)
3. The House Church or Body Church [small community] (End of 4 of the Epistles, Throughout Acts, the small body in 1 Corinthians 12)

Am I missing something?  Please show me places in the New Testament where ekklesia or “body” is used in other ways or if these categories don’t describe the church the way I’m interpreting it.

Clearly there are hundreds of implications you can draw from the above definitions of church.  Five that seem to come up a lot in my conversation are –

1. Every believer should be part of a small interdependent body (1 Cor. 12).
2. The city church is responsible for oversight (elders) and training (releasing the 5-fold ministry)
3. 99% of what people are referring to when they say “church” (such as “where do you go to church”) is an institution or 4th category foreign to the New Testament (kind of a sub-city church).
4. Every disciple must understand and engage in all three forms to grow and mature.
5. The 5-fold ministry (Eph. 4) is the primary agent for equipping and maturing the church and typically equips at the city church level.

All of these implications are my interpretations and are debatable but before you question them, please clarify what you believe “church” means in the New Testament and whether your understanding of church is biblically based and boundaried by New Testament usage or if “church” to you is something we can invent and reinvent in every new context.  It’s just more productive to know that, when we’re discussing something (like the church), we are actually talking about the same thing.





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.





Transitioning Pastors from Paid Positions to Released Callings Part 4 (how does this BETTER release my gift than a paid position?)

28 08 2008

Many of my friends in the house church movement refuse to deal with the issue of how to BETTER release 5-fold callings using a New Testament structure.  They are content to tell John Piper, Tim Keller, Mark Driscoll and Rick Warren that they should sit week after week as an equal member of a house church gathering and they wonder why gifted 5-fold ministers reject their model as an unrealistic step backward.

We need 5-fold ministers to be MORE released and for their influence to broaden not lessen.  So how does a New Testament structure that does not depend on the 5-fold endlessly maintaining individual churches, actually better release the giftings of those “called into ministry”?

Here are three ways –

Way #1 – Apostolic Teams. Instead of the modern phenomenon of teaching churches, evangelistic churches, pastoral churches etc. that arises from one member of the 5-fold leading one church, all of these should be on a balanced team.  This team would plant and shepherd many works resulting in each of the 5-fold always working in their area of calling and gifting while providing the correct gift balance to each work they are assisting.  This also eliminates the isolation many ministers feel as they will always go out in teams of 2 or more to do their work.

Way #2 – The City Church (Training Centers). The real domain of the 5-fold is the city church (that does not exist today).  5-fold ministers need to establish the city church (like Paul did with the School of Tyrannus) and then equip the whole church in an entire region from there.  Not only does this better release their gift in breadth (they equip the whole city) but also in depth (they refine particular trainings that they can impart better than any other).  Many 5-fold have specific teachings that they do better than almost anyone else (because of the depth of their faith and understanding in that area) but, nevertheless, they preach sermon after sermon hopelessly diluting the impact of the specific messages God has given them to impart to many.

Way #3 – New Works. Any city of above 20,000 people that does not have a city church where an itinerant 5-fold minister can come in and train the Christians in that city NEEDS A NEW WORK.  A new work is the process through which we establish a city church in a new region (beginning with a training center for the city).  Look around and see how many places, both in America and throughout the world, need a new work.  The 5-fold cannot be fully released without the re-emergence of the city church.  Of course not all the Christians are going to recognize your training center as the city church but over time hundreds and then thousands will see the fruit, and be trained there as you bring the 5-fold of the city together to disciple the city as a whole.

So this New Testament way of releasing moves 5-fold from –

  • Isolated Pastors to Apostolic Team Member
  • Using a Portion of their Gifting to Ministering from the Center of Their Gifting
  • Ministering to one fraction of God’s church in the city to Ministering to the City Church

Yes, they can be BETTER released in a New Testament model than in our current model.

So we’ve asked and answered the top 3 objections to making this transition from paid positions to released callings.  Now we need to have the courage and determination to make this shift happen in our generation.





Transitioning Pastors from Paid Positions to Released Callings

25 08 2008

When we feel “called into the ministry” we almost immediately, without thinking, get on a training track to hold a paid position in a church or ministry.

When we transition to an understanding that those “callings” are usually our first realization that we are one of the 5-fold ministry gifts given to the church (apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor or teacher listed in Eph. 4) we need to ask, is the best way to be released in a 5-fold gifting taking a full-time paid position in a church or ministry?  What are the alternatives?  Ephesians 4 describes these 5 gifts as equippers of the whole church (in context church here = universal church) and are not commanded to lead a single local church but to train many (read here and here for more on this).

Then we have a huge problem.  Once a pastor or paid ministry position holder realizes they are 5-fold and, therefore, they want to be released to minister to multiple bodies and multiple city-churches, they get paralyzed by three difficult questions –

  1. How will I make money (feed my family)?
  2. Who will take care for the people I’m actively caring for now?
  3. How does this BETTER release my gift then holding a paid position?

These questions must be given sound and realistic answers for those holding paid positions to want to transition out of them. In the next few days I’d like to think through and discuss possible answers to each of these questions.  But if you hold a paid position in a church please ask yourself this very simple question first – if you could be financially supported, your people could be better cared for, and you could be fully released with better opportunities to use your gifts and NOT have to hold a specific paid position in one church would you want to?  Many have said to me, pastors don’t want this (and some truly don’t) but I’ve discovered that MANY would love to make this transition if you could only answer these three questions well.





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.