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More posts from this conference can be found on my TOAM08 label page. You can also download the mp3s of this week’s talks by subscribing to the new Newfrontiers podcast, which will be an easy way for you to get access to the mp3s for free.
Mark Driscoll began by thanking us again for having him, thanking us for the trust placed in him as someone we didn’t know, but who had a reputation for being proactive, for the reception and the new friendships, and specifically once again for Terry Virgo and Tope Koleoso, and for what he has learned.
Having been gracious, he then said, “And now I will hurt you . . .” with a twinkle in his eye. He says that he wants us to go beyond our goal of 1,000 churches and grow more quickly.
Our movement leader is Jesus. He interjected about his view of the apostolic. He briefly stated that he did believe in “capital A” Apostles whose job it was to write the New Testament. He also believes in “small a” apostles whose job it is to lead movements and church planting drives. And he believes in them for today. He also believes that Terry Virgo has such a gift and is therefore a modern-day apostle. Pointing at the crowd, he said, “This is good evidence” — meaning the movement of 600 plus churches represented in this room. Feel free to read one of my previous posts about modern day apostles if this all seems a bit strange to you.
Mark explained that the church exists because of Jesus’ desire to reach the ends of the earth. Paul was a leader under Jesus in this movement of Christ, and was responsible for the drive to the Gentiles. Paul completely ignored the rural areas and focused entirely on the cities. Mark strongly urged those of us in Newfrontiers to hear this if we want to grow faster.
If you plant a church in a rural area you will never reach the city. If you plant a church in the city you will also reach the rural areas. Everything hinges on the well-being of the cities. Cities are strategically important for two reasons. First, there are more people there, and second, culture emanates/flows from the city. City is upstream, and suburban and rural areas are downstream. The river flows one way. Culture does not come from the rural areas into the city. The only way to change culture is to transform the city.
Both Christian and non-Christian movements have always emanated from cities. It’s not the number of people, it’s the type of people. But today most cities are non-Christian and the rural areas are more Christian. So Christians become frustrated with the culture — films, music, books, art, etc. The only way to affect that is to be in the city. The key to actual change is to get upstream. We need to lead politicians, artists, musicians, etc. to Jesus. It’s not about getting a lot of people to make a difference. The degree of influence is not about the number of people, but their place upstream.
Christianity starts as an urban church planting movement. He described how he would go into a city and plant a church that could reproduce and plant out into the rural areas. Mark told us to pool our best leaders and resources into the key areas. Chief on that list is London. The world passes through London. Cities like Cape Town and Sydney and other such cities also need strong churches which will reproduce and plant more churches.
Early Christianity was a city-based movement. By 300 A.D. half of the cities of the empire were Christian while 90 per cent were still pagan. Pagan probably comes from a word which meant someone living on a farm. Urban church planting in strategic areas can become a center for a movement of its own. Multiple churches, multiple networks, multiple styles, but one mission—to obey the Great Commission.
Puritans were a movement. They were also very young—teens and 20’s. Methodism, the charismatic renewal—bigger than one denomination or network or one man. Young people tend to be at the center, at least early-on. By bringing in the students suggests that God was telling Terry, “I am planning more renewal.”
Spurgeon, Moody, Billy Graham, and others were all very young when called to ministry. What young people lack in wisdom they make up in zeal. If the older ones can make the transition from player to coach, they will do well.
Anglicanism isn’t having mass conversions right now because they are too busy fighting over who you can have sex with.
With a renewal movement going on, new churches are planted. New ways of doing things, new music, new styles, new ways of reaching out. Church planting requires new wineskins. The goal is not to plant churches, but to have converts such that it becomes necessary to plant churches.
Most movements are unaware of the scale of their influence.
Out of the movement comes supporting organizations—new songs, new books to write, etc.
Most movements come into being because of the coming of new technology. The Reformation was only possible because of the printing press. Evangelists like Billy Graham were only able to do what they did because of the newly invented amplified speaker systems, etc. The Internet is now spawning a new movement in form. We can preach the gospel to the nations with a click of a button.
Mark wants Newfrontiers to still exist when we are all dead, and to still be loving Jesus and planting churches.
Movements start as a simple organization that sees a need and a few friends club together. They come together to meet that need. God raises up a leader who the people recognize as the visible face, the one who God has called to lead them. The organization then grows and becomes a movement. Big interest is generated. More people come. The crowds grow. There is passion, purpose, mission, expansion. It can be fast and furious. Mistakes are made. Theology needs to be clarified. It can be a messy time, some people don’t fit.
During the time of growth there is pressure to become an institution. There no longer is courage, but rather a fear of failure. Founders and friends occupy all the positions of leadership. Those who have been there a long time have all the senior roles, and there is no room for the young. As soon as that happens the young guys leave to start another movement. The young guys of the past are in danger of becoming the old guys that they never used to like in the first place.
The question for every movement is — Will every seat always be filled by the founders and friends? Only this will stop it becoming an institution. Institutions guard previous change, they don’t pioneer new change. They stop lis
tening to anyone outside of the network they’re in. They only read books by, sing songs by, listen to teaching by people from inside their movement. A movement needs humility and discernment to listen to people from outside the movement.
Driscoll was shocked to be here. He sees how willing Newfrontiers is to bring in people from outside of Newfrontiers, bringing a gift to us. You receive it and consider it. That is one of the key ways a movement can avoid becoming an institution.
Once you have an institution, the next step is to become a museum. The remnant that is left behind exists solely to tell the story. In one generation a movement can transition to being an institution and then a museum.
Mark then outlined seven ways a movement can get off-track. He acknowledged that most of this was taken from Larry Osbourne.
An example of this is Vineyard. It started well, but then drifted and compromised on ecclesiology, introduced women elders, etc. and became too loose. A movement can also become too tight. A healthy movement does not debate doctrines such as the atonement, the Bible, heaven, hell, etc., but should be free to discuss secondary issues. The key is to define what you need agreement on in order to be in the movement and what you can safely differ on.
Mark has some concern for us here. People can love their circles of friendship so much that they are unwilling to break up their circles of leadership to make more room. It’s like Peter saying, “Let’s build tents.” Mission can become their friendship and not the Great Commission. It’s not that you shouldn’t have friends. But you tend to gravitate towards your friends. This affinity and love can exclude those who are new. This can be especially true in working teams. It might suddenly be time to break up a team for the mission. Again, Mark expressed a bit of concern for us over this.
There is a bit of relational resistance, and we should really be planting at least 70-100 churches a year from a base of 200 churches like Newfrontiers has in the UK. (Ed. There are another 400 or so worldwide.)
This is another concern Mark has for Newfrontiers. Everything is done initially through relationships and verbally. As time goes on, things must be written down, articulated, and defined. They move from the spoken to the written. If you are unwilling to make those adjustments you can become an institution. If the reason you don’t want policies, etc. is that you don’t want to become an institution, what you will become is a very poorly organized institution.
Some movements will not sing songs unless they have been written by them; they won’t read books that have not been written by them; nor will they listen to those from outside. Mark stated that he has no concern whatsoever about Newfrontiers on this front. There are times that every movement outgrows the counsel of their leadership and need wisdom from outside. He commends Newfrontiers for being so open to outsiders teaching them.
Chasing Potential Rather Than Calling
Movements can chase too many things at once. For example, Vineyard started as a church-planting movement and then became a renewal movement. They were involved in so many other groups that they didn’t really plant churches any more. Focus on the primary calling of the movement. Mark said that so far he hears that our primary goal is church planting, but 10 to12 churches a year is too few for a movement our size if we are truly pursuing this with all of our heart. He wondered what other things we were pursuing that were diverting our energies.
Movements Stagnate Because of Lack of Publishing
There is a need to do much, much more publishing. What is your doctrine of the Holy Spirit? What is your doctrine of church planting? What is your ecclesiology? Some of these things still need to be cleaned up. Actually he feels Newfrontiers is doing better than Acts 29 on some of these points. Websites, blogging, vodcasting, etc. More statements to safeguard the movement.
Mark warned us that the next point would be his most painful point, and he wasn’t wrong. By the time he had finished with us, I don’t think there was a dry eye in the hall.
Movements Get Off-Course Because They Fail to Simultaneously Honor the Founder and the Future
Some movements so honor the founder that they shipwreck the future. Some so honor the future that they shipwreck their founder. This is the defining issue for our movement. It will determine whether our movement a one-generation movement or many. At this moment do you believe that as a movement you would tend to honor your future or your founder? Which way do you feel Newfrontiers is heading?
For the first time in the history of a Newfrontiers conference, Mark proposed a vote. We don’t vote, but went along with it just this once. Of those who were bold enough to raise a hand, 80 percent said that they felt our tendency as a movement would be towards honoring our founding leader rather than running after the future.
Driscoll agreed with those who responded that we tend to honor our founder, and we should do so! We love Terry Virgo and we should honor him. Mark said that he was only just getting to know Terry, but that he also loves him. He is a great man. He truly loves Jesus, the Scriptures, his family,and Newfrontiers. And we love him. The question is, How can we best honor him? We can do that by making sure that Newfrontiers remains a movement with a future and builds on Terry’s life work.
Mark then explained that he felt that God had given him a prophetic word for us as a movement, and for Terry in particular. This was remarkable in a way because he had said repeatedly during the week that this was an area in which he was learning from us. In his own church he had said that although he believes in gifts, they don’t use them. For someone who said he had no real models of gifts, he was about to share one that packed a heavy punch.
Looking down at Terry, who was sitting on the front row watching, he said that God had said that Newfrontiers is like a daughter to you, Terry. You have birthed it, held it, guarded it, cared for it, tended to it, prayed for it, loved it. You have been an amazing father to them.
He felt God said that, while not in the immediate future, there will come a day when you will need to walk her down the aisle and marry her to a great man so she will have children.
Driscoll urged us to pray for Terry as he is to make that transition at some point in the future. God will tell him. Be ready for it when it comes. Regularly pray for him. He asked us to commit to pray daily about this point. He said we should ask that Terry would have absolute certainty when it is time to walk it down the aisle, certainty about which man or men he should entrust her to. He looked at the crowd and declared, “You think of it a lot, but speak of it very little, because you love Terry. And you don’t want to dishonor him.”
Driscoll also warned us that we must not swing towards being all about the future. But it is the epicenter of whether we will continue to be healthy or begin to die. Pray for Terry Virgo. Pray for him every day that God will reveal to him when and how and who so that this will remain a movement. London is full of museums. We don’t need another one. We don’
t need some of you to be just telling the stories in thirty years’ time. We want the praises of Jesus to still be sung.
Rick Warren once spoke on movements. He said there are six phases of renewal:
It begins and ends with personal renewal.
You keep meeting with Jesus. He is alive! Be filled with the Spirit, meeting him in the Scriptures, be overwhelmed with the grace of God. Be scandalized with the gospel. Personal renewal, enthusiasm, joy.
Next there is relational renewal
Love of God in your heart is shared. Concern for the well-being of others. Captures something of your heart. Improves marriages, children. Circle of influence. Life of Jesus by the Spirit flowing through you to extend the grace of God to others. People show up early and stay late, and they are talking. They love to sing together because they are a people. This is what happens in Newfrontiers. Personal, which leads to relational, and shows up when we sing. Again Driscoll spoke of being impressed by our worship.
Missional renewal is the next phase
As we are connected to Jesus and love one another, our heart expands. We want new churches to get planted right now. We are people of God. The Word of God and the Spirit of God sustains us and we have to get that out.
Leads to cultural renewal
Be passionate about living as a city within the city. Cultural change in our churches will then spill out to the community. Infiltrates the culture of the cities. Culture here in Newfrontiers, according to Mark, is beautiful, but it needs to multiply.
Structural renewal then needed
The way we do things is going to need to change. More systems, more policies. 70-100 plants a year at least. The measure of life in this room should squeeze out many more than ten children a year!
Institutional renewal is the ultimate goal
Changing Christian organizations that are dead. Do not give up on churches, networks, museums, colleges, even Anglicanism. We could be a source of renewal. Pour life into a dead seminary, a dead church, etc. How refreshing it is to be around renewed people! This could be a gift to the whole body of Christ. In joy, giving them hope that change is possible. He said that for the entire time he has been with us, he has been happy, which is very unusual for him. He feels his spirit has been renewed through being here. We should pray for the dead and dying places where the light of the gospel is dimming or has been snuffed out altogether. Bring hope where there is hopelessness. In Acts 29, their church planters are from many different movements and denominations. It begins with Jesus and ends with everything. Young men, you need to step up. If he asks, Who are the young leaders here? don’t point to men years older than Driscoll.
One prayer is for a bunch of 20 year old guys with hope who will plant churches and preach the gospel with hope. Be looking at all times for men in their 20’s. They will be arrogant, foolish, impetuous, critical, disorganized, and they will be perfect for the task God has for them!
At the end of this talk, we did something that in my memory we have never done in the 30 years I have been attending Newfrontiers conferences — we all stood as one man in a standing ovation to this fatherly yet direct, loving yet firm, respectful yet critical, emotive yet rational, talk.
Terry Virgo then stood at the microphone and said that there have been times in our movement that were historic moments. He spoke about the way Kreingsak changed us in the past, and when Simon Petit spoke on the poor that also changed us. He said that he knew God told him to invite Mark Driscoll, but that when he did, he had no idea he would feel “taken apart” by him.
Terry then closed with a simple prayer in which he thanked God for his care for us as a movement. He also thanked God for Mark Driscoll, who he called one of God’s most remarkable servants. He thanked God for the high privilege of having Mark Driscoll on this platform, and spoke of how we really are a FAMILY on a journey, with a God who is continualy expressing his love for us.