This book had the interesting effect of making me laugh, wince, and take notes, sometimes all on the same page! At the end of the day, I could not put the book down. I was captivated by a transparent pastor’s heart who struggled day after day to put Jesus before his city in effort to see many converted.
The book chronicles the life of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington where Mark Driscoll has been the Senior Pastor since its inception. Driscoll takes readers through the various stages of growth from a small broken down Bible study with “Indie Rockers” and “artsy” folks to a thriving megachurch of over 4,000 impacting one of the most unchurched regions in the US.
In his narrative Driscoll explains, from first hand experience, some of the gestational development of the now prominent Emergent Church. Driscoll himself was involved, and in fact a leader in, a movement in the mid-90’s to mobilize missionaries to their culture, impacting them with the gospel of Christ. As this movement expanded and gained traction Driscoll had to separate himself from it:
“I had to distance myself, however, from one of the many streams in the emerging church because of the theological differences. Since the late 1990’s this stream has become known as Emergent. The Emergent Church is part of the Emerging Church Movement but does not embrace the dominant ideology of the movement. Rather the emergent church is the latest version of liberalism. The only difference is that the old liberalism accommodated modernity and the new liberalism accommodates postmodernity.” (p. 21)
So here Driscoll is distinquishing between Emerging and Emergent…himself clinging to the prevailing positives of the Emerging movement (missional, theological, active) while distancing himself from the atheolgoical wing of the movement (Emergent).
In many ways this book appears to be a living apologetic of the Emerging movement while distinguishing Driscoll as one of its most outspoken and able leaders. Perhaps this is why we see Driscoll speaking at a conference along with Brian McLaren, the outspoken leader of the Emergent wing.
In fact Driscoll references McLaren in Confessions:
“Although I sincerely love Brian and appreciate the kindness he has shown me, I generally disagree with many of his theological conclusions. Because he comes from a pacifistic Brethren background, such things as power and violence greatly trouble him. His pacifism seems to underlie many of our theological disagreements since he has a hard time accepting such things as the violence of penal substitutionary atonement, parts of the Old Testament where God killed people, and the concept of conscious eternal torment in hell. Curiously, it is also Brian’s pacifism that makes him such a warmly engaging person who is able to speak and write about theologically controversial issues while being gracious. Ironically, my love for and disagreement with Brian are both borne out of his pacifism. But I find it curious that, from my perspective, he is using his power as a writer and speaker to do violence to Scripture in the name of pacifism.” (p.99)
His point here about pacifism and violence to God’s word is worth the price of the book. That is the type of silent violence that characterizes the neo-liberalism named Emergent.
I love the resolve of Driscoll throughout the book. There were resistance and trials at every bend and still God graciously moved the church and its leadership through each. In fact, Driscoll regularly attaches the growth to the respective trials. On one occasion Mars Hill tried to do concerts and preaching outside by the river and were mooned and flashed by boaters going by. This, according to Driscoll, increased interest in the community and ultimately attendance.
There are so many pages that are outright hilarious. The following is a quote concerning a worship pastor:
“I really liked Tim because he is one of the few manly men whom I have ever seen leading worship. I am not supposed to say this, but most of the worship dudes I have heard are not very dudely. They seem to be very in touch with their feelings and exceedingly chickified from playing too much acoustic guitar and singing prom songs to Jesus while channeling Michael Bolton and flipping their hair. Tim was a guy who brewed his own beer, smoked a pipe, rock climbed, mountain biked, river rafted, carried a knife in his belt, and talked about what he thought more than what he felt.
We clicked because I drive a 1978 Chevy truck that gets single digits to the gallon and has a bacon air freshener and no functioning speedometer and because I fashion myself as the self-appointed leader of a heterosexual male backlash in our overly chickified city filled with guys drinking herbal tea and rocking out to Mariah Carey in their lemon yellow Volkswagen Cabriolets while wearing fuchsia sweater vests that perfectly match their open-toed shoes.” (pp. 146-7)
Mark Driscoll is definitely a guy that I would want to have at a barbecue but may be reluctant to have speak at my church…but ironically both for the same reasons.
Overall I really enjoyed the book. From a pastor’s perspective it was awesome; refreshing and encouraging. The positives for this book are found in Driscoll’s willingness to share the ecclesiastical lab that he has worked in for the last 15 years. Driscoll understands church, leadership and has a passion to reach and change culture for the glory of Christ.
At the same time I am reluctant to openly recommend it. Driscoll does use crass language throughout the book (which is alarming and curious in light of 1 Tim. 4.12 & Eph. 4.29), and so therefore I am not comfortable putting it on a top 10 list. At the same time, from what I have read in the blogosphere and its relative outrage of Driscoll’s language, I think they have, in large part, overreacted and missed the many of the great points and lessons of the book.
Driscoll also sympathizes with Rick Warren, even crediting him with significant pastorly influence on him. This is not surprising considering Driscoll’s continued affiliation with Robert Schuller and company at the Crystal Cathedral. This is curios and I do not understand why he is holding hands with these guys who are not straightforward about the truth of the gospel (Warren) and who deny the truth of the gospel (Schuller).
Driscoll also makes it clear that he is charismatic, even asserting regularly that he receives additional revelation from God, prays and speaks against demons (however, Driscoll does say that he does not speak in tongues).
As an aside, I look forward to the upcoming Desiring God Conference where Driscoll will be on the panel with conservatives such as John Piper, DA Carson & David Wells. I would love to be a fly on the wall when DA Carson and him chat about life and ministry and Driscoll mixes in a reference to Jesus as a dude….oh the diversity of the body… “Christ is all and in all” (Col. 3.11).
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