Dude, You’re Not Mark Driscoll, and Other Ways to Find a Pastoral Identity


9Marks just released its new eJournal on helping young pastors. I highly commend it to you–it looks very, very helpful.

I had a thought on this topic.  It strikes me that young pastors, which I hope will one day include me, need to emulate our leaders and heroes, but only to a point.  We need to proceed with care and caution in a way that men with outsize personalities and gifts do not, in many cases.

If you don’t have Mark Dever’s pastoral gifts, don’t purge your church rolls right away.  Be careful.  Build goodwill and trust.  Don’t think that just because Capitol Hill Baptist or Bethlehem Baptist or Mars Hill did something one way, that that is the only way to make change and growth happen.  The Lord works, but He generally works through personalities, all of which are different.  Knowing that might save a lot of us young guys a lot of needless heartbreak.

Everyone rightly fears the intramural basketball player who has the self-conception of Michael Jordan but the talent level of the waterboy.  So too do lay Christians rightly have concerns about the guy who thinks he’s John MacArthur but who, in God’s providence, is not.

There is tremendous and way underappreciated good in self-awareness.  Self-awareness is not in style right now.  Self-promotion is.  Self-deception, painfully, seems to be as well.  In a highly modifiable world, we’re all celebrities, we’re all noteworthy, we’re all talented, we’re all beautiful, we’re all deep thinkers, and we’re all worthy of lots of attention.  Most of this is not true, and this pattern of thinking harms us greatly as we prepare for our callings.

So we need to ground our identities not in Facebook profiles or Myspace images, but in Jesus Christ, who has made us new beings, who has literally redefined every atom of our metaphysical and existential existence.  Then, we need to take a good long look at ourselves, an honest, humble look, and assess where our gifts and strengths lie.  How much do people naturally follow us?  What is our best style of leadership given our personalities?  How can we contribute to kingdom work?

This kind of sober self-analysis, which comprehends the best of our strengths and the worst of our flaws, will set us up well to live, firstly, and to minister, secondly.  It will help us to realize what we should set out to accomplish, even as we remember that our God can do far, far more than we might initially think.

So that would help, I think, a lot of young guns who set out to be the next big thing.  That, and not talking like their hero.  How many guys do you run across who actually adopt the speech patterns of their heroes, and never realize it?  Yikes.  For such folks, copious amounts of self-awareness are recommended.

Don’t talk like someone else.  Be yourself.  Young would-be pastor, look yourself in the mirror in the morning before you start the day and gently intone these words: Dude, you’re not Mark Driscoll.

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  • Bill Pfister

    Dude, great word! My wife and I both read the ejournal this weekend and we thought it was so balanced and grounded. I was so happy to read it because so many guys (me included) want to have ministries like Dever, Piper, Mahaney, MacArthur, etc. but as you said, in the providence of God we are ourselves. May we be the best we can be according to the grace given to us.


  • ummm…so if I can’t be like these guys, what am I supposed to do with my life? my dreams were already ruined on the intramural courts, now they are being shattered in the church.

  • In all seriousness, good and sobering word. It also causes me to think of having a a strong community of other men who seek to follow Jesus closely and grow His church, men who will challenge me if I get too “me” centered. The danger is to be so focused on “my” ministry, forgetting the ministry of Christ and His body. Thanks for sharing that.

  • Owen,

    Great post. I have thought much about this issue as well. I think might of the problem can be diagnosed as laziness stemming from lack of faith.

    It’s much easier to look down the street at what pastor X is doing well and assume pragmatically that the same will work for me. Copying is much quicker and easier than actually getting on my knees and earnestly seeking God for what he is calling ME to specifically do.

    We quickly forget that the reasons why certain ministries “work” (whatever that means) is because of a variety of factors. One of the primary ones being personality that God has given. All personalities are unique, so we should not assume that I can simply copy another ministry pattern and expect it to work.

    This is not to say that we shouldn’t learn from others mistakes or take much advice from those who have greater experience and knowledge, but when it comes to our personal identity as a servant of God, I hope we are more shaped by our time in the Word and prayer than we are from listening to hundreds of sermons from our favorite preachers.

    I am preaching to myself here btw… Much more to say, but I have a baby to feed!


  • docdeer

    Great reminder for us as pastors to be ourselves. We can learn from our role models and influences, but we cannot be them. God made us who we are. He allows us to be shaped and mentored by our influences, but we are still who we are in Christ.

  • Good post. The flip side is that we are told in Hebrews 13:7 Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.

    Not only do we have a tendency to imitate them, but we are told to do so. Sometimes, I fear, if certain leaders themselves don’t emphasis where we should not imitate them, then the cult of personality can build to unhealthy proportions.

    Idolatry is so easy these days, but there are so many to choose from. 🙂


  • Ryan Hill

    This post made me laugh because that happens so often and I have seen different ways it has happened in my life with different people I admire. Great post and reminder.

  • owenstrachan

    Andrew, Zach, JohnMark, Ryan, and others, good thoughts. I think we’re on the same track here.

    Ryan, glad you’re still kicking around on this blog. You are one of the originals.

    Andrew, if you can find that jumper, those dreams might rise once more…

  • long ago i grasped the fact that i would not grow up to be an important pastor in the emerging church. im fine with that and i appreciate this post. trying to be someone other than who god made us will get us somewhere other than where god wants us.

  • Prad Georges

    right on!