Mark Driscoll has been causing fisticuffs again amongst British Pastors over a recent interview in the UK in which he, apparently, accuses British Pastors of not manning up and preaching the gospel boldly. He also accuses his host, Justin Brierley, known to many pastors in the UK (not to me), of being a liberal (if he believes what Driscoll claims he does then he is a liberal – end of. I don’t know the man so can’t comment). See his blog post here, entitled: ‘A Blog Post for the Brits’ in which he tries to clear up what he calls misquoting in the ‘name of publicity’. Some have gone for the quick response, such as Krish Kandiah here. Another source, that I trust (no offence to Kandiah), Neil Powell has responded with a more gracious posting here. At the outset can I hold my hands up to being a supporter of Driscoll and how he has wrestled Reformed theology back from the stereotypical tie wearing, religious, pharisaical zealots and put it back into the hands of a whole new generation. However, I want to respond as a ‘youngish‘ pastor (the same age as Driscoll I think) to his recent posting concerning British pastors.
Up until his recent posting I have kept my head down because people are blowing enough hot air on the issue to fuel the balloon trip for Richard Branson’s next ‘around the world’ venture! I just want to make some comments from a housing scheme pastor who is seeing little numerical growth in 4 years, but with cross cultural planting experience in Brasil with explosive numerical growth over a 12 month period. I also have many American friends involved in all types of churches, including mega churches, and had the privilege of spending 5 weeks in New York City with Redeemer Presbyterian and their ‘Intensive’ programme for church planters. It doesn’t make me an expert on these issues, but it gives me some perspective and a little insight.
So, here’s my blog to the American Mega-Pastor.
1. Keep in mind that passing through a city to teach is not the same as understanding a city. That requires concerted time, personal experience and observation. Getting the whistle-stop tour of some cities in the UK does not make you an expert on the ‘UK scene’ anymore than my 3 week stay in Disneyland, Florida (and experiencing the worst sermon I have ever heard), makes me an expert on the state of the faith in that place or your nation for that matter! If I was to judge American Baptist Ministers by the same criteria you judge British preachers then you all need to sort out your pneumatology and learn to preach sermons that have a little more theological depth than tracing the storyline of the ‘Cars’ movie. Also, Being regaled at a tea by ‘leaders’ of particular denominations (who don’t represent me or my demographic) does not mean you have a fully orbed picture of the UK and its problems. Have you ever even visited a housing scheme or spent a Sunday visiting a pastor or a planter in our context to appreciate our challenges and many blessings?
2. Just because a man can point to the word ‘penis’ in the Song of Songs does not make him (1) a great preacher at any level, (2) cutting edge and cool or (3) right about every other issue he decides to pontificate on. Speaking out on these issues does not make a man any bolder than the faithful pastor in the UK who doesn’t feel the need to talk about anal sex in his Sunday address. Getting stick for your position on sexual issues is not the same as being persecuted for the sake of the gospel. The real danger for young men here is, in an attempt to mimic you, they begin to make inflammatory statements to the media about sexual issues like fellatio or what scripture says about sexual positions on garden swings in an effort to drum up some controversy and publicity (and then complain about it when it bites us back). We’ll continue to preach Christ thanks – and God will give the increase. One man reaps and another sows – enjoy your season whilst we labour in ours.
3. Please, mega-pastor, do not compromise on doctrinal issues in an effort to keep your popularity soaring and your blog/twitter/congregation numbers up. Let me hold up a mirror for your own words:
Please do not shy away from talking about sin and allowing your preaching and teaching to devolve into vaguely spiritual self-help principles. Please do not be ashamed of the foolishness of the cross, where Jesus died in our place for our sins enduring the wrath of God we deserve. Please do not be timid to call people to repent of sin and trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation, as apart from him there is no forgiveness of sin and reconciliation with God. And please do not deny the reality of a literal, conscious, eternal torment in hell, because people are going there and lying to them it not loving them!
Being small is not an indication that we have compromised on anything, any less than being large means the same thing. Just thought I’d mention that because I am sure people like Rick Warren and James MacDonald know what it mean when it comes to facing that particular criticism.
4. Thanks for pointing out that we need to equip a new generation of new teachers, leader, pastor and planters. We’ve gotten so small that we have been distracted from attempting to do this. Perhaps, what we need are more 21-year-olds who finish a 9 month church planting course and then pitch up at a meeting of 15 global planters to boldly inform those of us who have been slogging in fields for a decade or more that they are coming ‘to teach and equip pastors’.
5. We do have courageous young leaders willing to lay it all on the line for the sake of the gospel in our land. I have a membership of 60 and a full-time team of 7 young people who have committed the best years of their lives to one of the poorest housing schemes in our country for the next 10 years. Thanks for implying me that they don’t really count unless you have heard of them or they have had a book published or been interviewed on a national radio station. We’ll work harder at our marketing and publicity strategies.
6. Thanks for reminding us that it is all about Jesus. Again, a mirror for your own advice. So stop blogging, twittering and posting about us in the UK who are fighting for the truth of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ just as hard, just as bold, just as fierce and just as uncompromising as you. We may not write best sellers and we may not see our churches grow into many thousands across 15 counties, but we love Jesus and his gospel just as much as I am convinced you do. What we need is partnership, prayer and encouragement not backhanded compliments and a lecture.
7. Let’s remember that biblical manhood is not (even) about drinking beer and watching cage fighting. If that were true then Niddrie is the most biblical place on planet earth!
So, how about you pray for us and we will pray for you. How about you bless God for what we are doing and what He is doing in our land, despite your comments, and how about we pray for you and what God is doing in your life despite our many misgivings.
Pastor nobody working in ‘nowwheresville’ for the glory of Jesus
NOTE: Let me repeat that I am a great fan of Mark Driscoll and have read all that he has written (apart from his recent marriage book – for time reasons rather than anything else). Despite the tone of this, I am actually in full agreement with Neil Powell and others in rising to Driscoll’s many challenges for the church in the UK. But his experience of some churches does not necessary reflect on the experience of all churches. Just because he has things to say about his blue collar culture in Seattle does not translate to my benefits culture in Scotland (or vice versa). Just because a man has a big gob and a loud opinion does not make him a prophet nor even close to being right (and I should know :z).
That’s it – I’m done.