Thursday, January 6, 2011

This is Not a Review, I Say!

"This book is about the church of Jesus Christ." So reads the first sentence in Mark Driscoll's most recent explanation of his ecclesiology in Vintage Church. My wife and I attended his church, Mars Hill, in Seattle last year and knew I needed a copy the moment I laid eyes on it. Immediately after finishing it I knew I would need a few days to sort out my thoughts. Rather than posting my official review on the book, I've decided to begin by writing out my initial impressions. There are two reasons: first, I needed to buy myself some time *grin*; and second, to more accurately represent what Driscoll has to say.

Mr. Driscoll explains in the introduction the general format for the book will be to define 3 functions of the church: "The result will be a church that is biblically rooted (prophetic/confessional), grace centered (priestly/experiential), and culturally connected (king/missional)" (Driscoll 11). I found myself pleasantly surprised by many of the things he writes, including recognizing some of the errors he made in the Emerging Church Movement. He provides a number of strong hints suggesting he no longer wants to be considered a part of the Emerging Church, and has evolved into something entirely new. Now Driscoll writes about "gospel contextualization" and "missional" ... terms that The Acts 29 Network is well-known for.

While I can honestly say that Mark Driscoll has matured in some of his theological and moral beliefs, his views about the purpose and function of the church have remained relatively the same. What do I mean? "Gospel contextualization" and "missional" are what I mean. He continues to believe that the primary gathering for local churches (the meeting that includes the sermon) should be overly focused upon unbelievers. Now what do I mean? He really does believe that the local church's culture and style ought to change to match the ever-changing culture of the world.

"Not far from my home is a small church that has struggled for years. Every time I drive by that church I pray for it because I love the church, in general, and I know that this church, in particular, has a long history of loving Jesus and believing in the Bible. But it got stuck in a cultural cul de sac, so it couldn't adapt as culture changed. Younger people couldn't connect so they didn't' come. The people died off so that virtually no one was left. The pastor was discouraged and struggled to know what to do. So I decided to try to meet the pastor to see what I could do to encourage and serve him. Thus far I have had no success, despite repeated efforts. Their lack of technology is part of the problem." (Driscoll 267).

Are we seriously expected to believe that the lack of technology within a church service will hinder the Holy Spirit's ability to save lost sinners, encourage the members of this congregation or connect young people to the church? As an example, my concern is not that a church decides to include the use of PowerPoint presentations (or lack thereof - as Driscoll now believes only the Baby Boomer generation enjoys PowerPoint) to aid in a pastor's sermon, but that this use of technology is an attempt to attract people to the church.

Yesterday I was reading in 1 Corinthians 2 and thought of Vintage Church as I read the first 5 verses: "1And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. 2For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. 3I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, 4and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God." (NASB). Paul, a tentmaker Pharisee, did not have the resources to put on a contemporary technological marvel for his audiences ... and I'm willing to bet that was the last of his concerns. He trusted in the power of the gospel to save through the foolishness of the message preached. It is not through our cleverness that saves sinners.

All this energy is spent in making the gospel more relevant for various cultures, when the gospel is already relevant for every person. All we need to do is clearly proclaim its message to every tribe, tongue and nation. The church is to go out into the world to proclaim the gospel as our primary means of evangelism. Yes, preach the gospel during the sermon-meeting of the local church, but most evangelism is done outside of the sermon-gatherings. This ... this is where Mark's focus is slightly off-focus.

Thanks for bearing with me in the introduction to Casey's thoughts on Mark Driscoll's latest,


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