This week, the name Mark Driscoll came up in my reading once again. I decided it was about time I found out a bit more about him, and about time I listened to one of his sermons. I figured that John Piper is a pretty good judge of a person, and if he had invited Mark to speak at his conference, then it was at least worth listening to him!
I really wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I turned on his sermon on 1 Corinthians 1 which launced his exposition series through this epistle- this sermon and others are also available via his podcast or his vodcast or via his church’s website – marshillchurch.org (see the downloads section).
What I found when I listened to this sermon is a biblically rooted exposition that also left people in no doubt about how they needed to act differently as a result of listening to the sermon. I found a passion and a gentleness rarely seen together. I found a sermon that was not aimed solely at the converted church member who has been there for ten years. In fact even an unbeliever would have felt included and able to gain something from the message. As I discussed last May, how can we expect to see salvation if we dont stop preaching only to the converted in our Sunday messages?
I even felt somehow personally included in the congregation in a way I rarely do when listening to another church’s preacher. I was inspired and challenged as a preacher to emulate this kind of preaching. In short, I felt that the kind of preaching that this sermon represents is precisely the kind of preaching we as a church are lacking. If all preachers were a bit more like Driscoll, perhaps a few more of our churches would have grown to 5000 in just ten years from starting as a cell group. . Now wonder there was over a million downloads of his sermons in the last year!
A little further examination of Marks credentials and you discover he is president of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network, which has planted over one hundred churches in the U.S. and internationally, and the Resurgence Missional Theology Cooperative. Driscoll is also one of the twenty-five most influential pastors in America according to The Church Report, and one of the most influential young preachers in America by Christianity Today, Inc, and one of the twenty-five most powerful people in Seattle by Seattle magazine. The Mars Hill website has a number of videos of mainstream news outlets who have covered the growth of this church.
Over on his blog Resurgence, Mark has an interesting page detailing his beliefs. He seems eager to clearly align himself with historic evangelical principles, but embraces the concept of being Missional. The statement includes the following:-.
- We believe that churches and Christians should be faithful to the content of unchanging Biblical doctrine (Jude 3)
- We believe that churches and Christians should continually reform their ministry methods to most effectively reach the changing cultures(s) to which they are sent by God as missionaries (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).
- We believe that Christians and churches exist for the redemption of both people and cultures in an effort to have everyone and everything subject to God.We believe that the continual planting of new churches is part of God’s plan to reach new peoples, new cultures, and new subcultures.
In an interesting development that I have not seen elsewhere there is also a section which makes it clear what Mark and Resurgence does NOT believe:-
- We do not believe that any form of revelation is superior to the 66 books of the Old and New Testament because they alone are the inerrant Word of God and our highest authority.
- We do not believe in Open Theism because we believe that God is sovereign over all of history.
- We do not believe in atheistic evolution because we believe that God created the heavens and the earth as well as man and woman with particular dignity as His image bearers.
- We do not believe in naturalism because we believe that miracles, Satan, demons, and other supernatural phenomena are real and subject to God.
- We do not believe in the essential goodness of human nature because we believe that our first parents sinned against God and that everyone since is a sinner by nature and choice.
- We do not believe in feminism because we believe that men should responsibly lead homes and churches with sacrificial love like Jesus Christ.
- We do not believe that salvation is possible apart from Jesus Christ because sin can only be forgiven through His sinless life, substitutionary atoning death, and literal physical resurrection.
- We do not believe in salvation after death because death is followed by judgment and conscious eternal life either in heaven or in hell.
- We are not polemicists who believe that it is our task to combat every false teaching but are passionate about preserving the integrity of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
As Justin Taylor puts it For what it’s worth, if more emergent-type pastors and churches were like Driscoll and Mars Hill, there wouldn’t be much to complain about. Theologically sound and missional minded. Why is that so hard?
The Seattle Times has a great article on Driscoll which is well worth a read their description of him preaching is gold-dust:-
Dressed in his usual black pants and untucked shirt, he strides back and forth, talking nonstop, arms waving. He’s raced through his views on how human beings got the Bible and why we should trust it. Now he’s giving his highly opinionated take on which of the many versions of the Bible are good
Before beginning one of his hour-long, off-the-cuff Sunday sermons, Pastor Mark Driscoll prays off to the side of the stage at Mars Hill Church in Ballard. “I study the Bible all week, pray to the Lord, and then I speak from my heart,” he says of how he prepares for his sermons
Mars Hill is one of those unique churches that is probably too emerging for some evangelicals to cope with, much too traditional for the emerging folks, too charismatic for the reformed folks and too reformed for the average Charismatic. It’s a wonder anyone likes the church! Actually, the more I read of Mark the more he sounds like he is making his home in the same kind of centre ground that my own church tries to occupy.
Mark Driscoll is described on his Wikki article as a charismatic calvinist, so we would seem
to have even that in common with him!
One emerging blogger said the following, which coming from such a critic makes me rejoice!
Yet, while I am aware of the good things that Mars Hill is doing, I have some issues with other things I observed. The church excludes women from leadership. This seems to be a good indicator/litmus test for where they are at theologically. The issue of women in ministry should be a non-issue for emergent churches. Mars Hill’s 7 pastors are all male [they also serve as the Elders of the church] 2 of the 9 Staff Deacons are women and 5 of the 9 Volunteer Deacons are women.
Mark also comes across very much as a black/white, I have the answers kind of guy. It seems that emerging church pastors should emphasize humility, simply walking alongside people, and the idea that we can learn much from each other, and that I (as pastor) certainly do not have all the answers. I just get the feeling that Mark feels like Scripture is clear, black/white on many issues and he is sharing those answers with people.
It seems like when it comes to certain of the emergent folk and Mark Driscoll the feeling is mutual. For those who missed his very public spat with Brian Maclaren, there is more here, here, here, here & here. On a different note, a blogger quotes from a letter claimed to be from Mark as follows and I will give the last words of this post to Mark himself (assuming it is indeed from him!) :-
Let me agree that much of the church today is incredibly frustrating. Personally, when I hear so many young guys denying substitutionary atonement and the like after drinking from the emerging church toilet I turn green and my clothes don’t fit. However, let me say though that we need to stay on mission.
Not to boast, but we have stayed on our mission and gone from nothing to 3600 in the nation’s least churched city. Meanwhile, the gay pastors are on their mission, the Republican pastors are on their moral mission, the Charismaniacs are on their prosperity mission, and the list goes on forever. What I’m finding is that if I stay on my mission eventually a platform gets big enough that you kind of just have permission to do your thing and others respect you even if they don’t like you.
Sure, some pastors and churches are angry that I’m not putting my weight behind their mission but in the end. I won’t stand before them for judgment and they won’t stand before me, so I just let it go and keep pushing ahead until I see Jesus and he can separate sheep and goats and hand out rewards to the faithful. In the meantime, I refuse to get off my ladder but keep my sword close by and if a wolf shows up in my flock then I draw my sword but not until then.