Deconstructing Driscoll – Lessons for American, Australian and UK Church Cultures.

After writing about my hopes of going to Australia Transported to Australia – Article in Evangelicals Now   I was sent this link about Mark Driscoll speaking to the Australians in Sydney on the subject of evangelism in 2008.  It is a fascinating document because I think it is a great lesson in how NOT to speak prophetically into a situation you do not know.  As it happens I interviewed Driscoll that year for The Record and even got into trouble for putting him on the front page.  My biggest concern at the time was a sense of arrogance and ambition which to my mind made it almost inevitable that he was heading for a fall.  Six years later that fall happened and I ended up writing about it for Christian Today – Dissing Driscoll – some lessons from the rise and fall of Pastor Mark

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So it was with great interest that I listened to and read Mark’s talk – and some of the responses.  The Australians were very gracious and humble in their response to Mark’s criticisms.  Perhaps they just wanted to reflect on what was true in what he said.  Perhaps they were a little less sanguine in private than in public.  But for me as a fellow outsider – I have no need to be so restrained – and now 11 years after the event I think its helpful to look in some detail at what was said.  Personally I learned a great deal.  It also made me fear for myself.  I see far too much of myself in Driscoll!  (I need to add here a necessary caveat – there are a lot of good things in Driscoll’s ministry – he is a brother – not the enemy.  Of necessity this article will be largely critical of his talk but please don’t assume that I am dissing all his work! Many have been helped by Driscoll).

How Not to Introduce a Talk

It’s unwise to announce beforehand that your talk is going to be your most controversial.  It draws attention to yourself.  Say what God has called you to say and don’t anticipate or attempt to set up the reaction.  And don’t do the passive-aggressive thing of anticipating how people will react and then state that ‘some of you will have automatic resistance’.  That’s a given.

Don’t Tell People It’s Not About You

In doing so – you make it about you.  Mark read the passage 1 Corinthians 9 – its not about me. But that is so hard when a church is based upon one personality – his style and leadership. It is about me even when I say it is not about me.

There was no exposition of the passage.  In fact the impression was given that Mark knew what he wanted to say and the bible passage was just a back up – rather than the other way round.

Eighteen Points

In terms of the 18 points there were several good things but these were largely negated by the truisms, generalisations and a cultural analysis of another culture that was based on ignorance.  Claiming to be prophetic is no excuse for taking pot shots about a culture and people you do not know.  (In what follows, Driscoll’s comments are in italics).

1.The Bible guys are not the missional guys, which leads to proud irrelevance – (Ministers are) less aware of the context of their ministry and more aware of the content of Scripture. It’s not enough to just be the faithful, you must be the fruitful

This is a gross generalisation.  And yes it is enough to be faithful – because if you are faithful then fruitfulness follows.  But it all depends what you mean by fruitfulness.  For Driscoll fruitfulness seems very tied up with numbers.

2. Your culture struggles with a lack of entrepreneurialism, due to the influence of Socialism and Great Britain. The British are not an entrepreneurial people – they play within the rules.   Socialism brings the concept that everyone must be taken care of, with resources given to the weakest pastors in the weakest churches rather than pruning. This means you are neglecting to send nourishment to new buds and branches in the name of socialistic equality. The British are not an entrepreneurial people – they play by the rules and operate within existing structures. This has caused Aussie culture to not be very entrepreneurial and new things are not highly embraced.

Again gross generalisation and caricature.  Most caricatures contain a grain of truth.  But Driscoll is here confusing his culture and politics with the Word of God.  He does not know what socialism is – although his definition “everyone must be taken care of” is actually quite attractive! And biblical.  He objects to resources being given to the ‘weakest’ pastors in the weakest churches – rather than pruning.   Driscoll here seems to be arguing for a combination of  spiritual social Darwinianism (the strongest survive) and American corporate capitalism – what he calls entrepreneurialism.  The irony is that this goes against the passage he was supposed to be teaching from.  To the weak I became as the weak says Paul.  He does not say I eliminated the weak!  Driscoll also goes directly against the teaching in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 – where the strong are urged to support the weak that there might be equality – not to prune them!      A third problem is that he seems to be encouraging lawlessness – apparently to be entrepreneurial you have to go ‘against the rules’.    Finally it is very dangerous to state something about a culture which you do not know.  Where did Driscoll get his idea that Aussie culture is not very entrepreneurial?  That’s not my observation.  But neither of us as outsiders are in a position to make that kind of pronouncement.  We can ask the question.  But Driscoll does not ask questions (presumably that would not be manly enough for him!) – he tells it how it is (or more accurately how he thinks it is).

3. There is a lack of merit-based reward in denominations.In the United States there are far more entrepreneurs. I’m not saying your culture is bad and my culture is good. I’m saying your culture is bad and my culture is bad differently. People are rewarded for tenure but not for fruit. A system of accountability that means someone can be demoted. Men can’t be demoted or thrown out of ministry for more than stealing money or falling sexually. Just because you’re doing ministry long-term doesn’t mean you should be guaranteed of a job. You all know that some churches are being led by men who are not the best men for the job.

Where does the idea of merit-based reward come from?  What does he mean by merit?  And what does he mean by reward?  He seems to be arguing that the bigger (and more successful) the congregation, the more you should be paid and honoured.  And again he is speaking out of ignorance.  In most denominations people can be demoted or thrown out of ministry for more than just moral failing.

4. Christian Australian men are immature.There is a lack of entrepreneurialism and a system which discourages the ambition of young men.  . Men are living with their mother until 25, getting married at 32, delaying the taking of responsibility for as long as possible. Denominational systems do nothing to encourage young man to mature. The fact is, there is not a denomination in the room that I’m qualified to pastor in. .I planted a church at 25 – could I do that with you? The answer is ‘no’.  What if there is a young man who wants to be responsible and plant a church… is there a system built to accommodate? The longer you delay responsibility, the longer you delay masculinity. Being in a Peter Pan lifestyle indefinitely is a sin. Jesus Christ had atoned for the sins of the world by the age most men become associate ministers. There are good godly men in their 30s leading big churches overseas, and you are flying them in to preach to you because you don’t have them in your system.

What gets me with this is the sheer breathtaking arrogance and hubris.   Driscoll talks of maturity whilst himself displaying an immaturity that would ultimately cause his downfall.   Driscoll’s version of masculinity seems tied in with a cultural testosterone, rather than a biblical paradigm.  Although I note in passing that suggesting to Aussie men that they are not macho enough is a bit like suggesting to Americans that they are not awesome enough! Or Scots that we are too English!

The fact that the denominational system would have prevented Driscoll becoming a pastor with them (again I’m not sure that is true) is actually a testimony to the efficacy of the denominational system – given what happened to Driscoll a few years later.   The fact that the Australian churches were flying in ‘good godly men’ in their 30-‘s who had large churches is indeed not a credit to the Australian churches – not in the way that Driscoll means (stating that they don’t have such men in Australia) – but rather in the sense of why fly them in at all?  If you confuse ‘godliness’ with having a large church and that is the reason people are being invited – then celebrity culture and entrepreneurial capitalism seem to be more your guide than Scripture.

5. Church planting is not widespread or welcome.The skills required of a church planter are very different. There is not widespread opportunity for young innovative men in this area. Young men who want to plant a church are left with a terrible dilemma – innovate and destroy the church or live within the parameters of the system and negate God’s call on their life. There is no less than 300 men have walked up to me and said ‘I want to plant a church and I can’t. What do I do?’ They need to be assessed and trained and only those who are fit should be released, but they have to be released.

Not a lot wrong with this – apart from the exaggeration (did 300 young Australian men really walk up to him and say that they wanted to plant churches but have been prevented from doing so?).  Is it true that the skills of a church planter are very different?   And why should it be young men?  Why not the experienced?  Is it really the case that in Australia as a whole church planting is not widespread or welcome?  I have come across a great deal of church planting.

6.You suffer from tall poppy syndrome.Through preaching, people must realise this is a sin. Having a church of 1000 as a high-water mark is unhealthy. You don’t want to rise up because people will think you’re proud – the fact that you’re thinking of yourself means you’re already proud. This is a sin. We should celebrate if God would allow a church to grow. My elders give 10 per cent of our money to church plants. Having a big church is not bad – it all depends on what that church believes and what they do.

Driscoll appears obsessed with numbers and success.  That is what is unhealthy.   No one sets a cap of 1,000.   And of course what matters is what the church believes and what they do – but you don’t judge that by the numbers.  Tall poppy syndrome is dreadful – often happening because of jealousy.  But pride is an even bigger danger.

7. Your teaching lacks three things: apologetics, mission and application.. (i) Anticipate the objections of your hearers and answer them. This will also encourage people to bring their friends. (ii) Ask the church what is our mission and how are we to live that? This is application for the whole church. (iii) Offer personal application for individuals, It’s not just enough to give doctrine. Application needs to connect life and doctrine.

Driscoll makes a declaration about the teaching in the Australian church that is again a gross generalisation based upon ignorance.  Some of the best apologetics in the world has been done in the Australian church, Sydney Anglicans have been outstanding in mission and I have never listened to a sermon by Chappo, Simon Manchester, the Jensons , John Dickson and many others, which did not contain significant application.  Perhaps it is a weak area for some?  And in reality who is going to respond to criticism of their preaching by saying its fine?   That would be like boasting of your humility when you are accused of pride!    But in this regard Driscoll needs to take the beam out of his own eye not the speck out of others!

8> Many of you are afraid of the Holy Spirit.You don’t know what to do with Him, so the trinity is Father, Son and Holy Bible. You are so reactionary to Pentecostalism that you do not have a robust theology of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit calls people into ministry. He also empowers people for ministry. You don’t have to be charismatic but you should be a little charismatic, enough at least to worship God with more than just all of your mind. The word charismatic here means prosperity, excessive, bizarre. In London, it means you’re not a liberal. Don’t get hung up on all the terminology. Do you love the Holy Spirit? Jesus says the Holy Spirit is a ‘He’ and not an ‘it’.” Ministry cannot be done apart from the Holy Spirit – I think that is in part leading to the lack of entrepreneurialism and innovation, because if it’s not already done and written down, you’re suspicious of it.

The finger-pointing continues.  It’s a cheap shot and caricature to repeat the liberal trope that the trinity is Father, Son and Holy Bible.  Could Driscoll name one of the Australian evangelical leaders who actually thinks that?  Or one who thinks that the Holy Spirit is an ‘it’ – thus denying the Trinity?   There is also a confusion of terms.  What is meant by charismatic?  worship?    It’s not just a confusion of terms.  Driscoll seems confused about other things – for example he seems to equate believing in the Holy Spirit with ‘feelings’.  ‘I feel called’ is not evidence of the Spirit calling.    But he is correct in saying that if it’s not written down we should be suspicious of it – or at least question it. “To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn.” Isaiah 8:20

9. Many of you are Anglican.The parish system works for some, not all. Less than half of those who live in this city own their own home and do their social networking online. So the parish system does not work. People have three places, where they work, play and live (the place where they play is the place they really like and would live if they could afford it). So what place is theirs? The parish model says we’ve drawn boundaries… but this makes evangelism in this society very difficult. People no longer organise themselves by geography, but by affinity. People are moving all the time. The parish system also makes church planting very hard. And the overseer may deny it.

There is an element of truth and insight in this.  However again Driscoll is confused.  Anglicanism is not the only group that uses a parish system – and geographical churches are still the norm in most places.  In fact if you are going to plant churches amongst the poor in urban housing schemes, then geography is central.  Bussing in people from outwith the area, or asking people to travel to your hip suburban church, or visit you ‘online’ is not the way to evangelise the poor.  When the megachurch, multi-site model espoused by Driscoll is used – it as often as not tends to sap local churches and hinders outreach.  Yes there is a place for large city centre or suburban churches.  But they are not the only model.  The parish system can be an aid, as well as a hinderance to evangelism.  Incarnational ministry is ministry in time and place with real people, by real people.

10. Denominations are built on an old paradigm that young men don’t understand. This is a paradigm of control – we control your benefits, your income, your tenure, we control you. Young men operate under influence – some young men are disrespectful towards authority and need to be rebuked. Not all young men are disrespectful, but they operate through influence – this comes through relationships and mentoring. “Influence comes up close and control can be maintained at a distance”. They need to be given encouragement and responsibility. Young men will increasingly avoid a system that’s built to control them and will increasingly work around the system to make their freedom.

This is, or can be true.  Denominations can be controlling, corrupt and restrictive.  But so can ‘influence’.  It is beyond ironic that Driscoll lost his church in Seattle because of his controlling and bullying behaviour.  The bottom line is that every sinner seeks to control and manipulate. It doesn’t matter the system so much as the people who are in that system.  Although to be fair, there are some systems which seem better designed to protect the bully and the manipulator – none more so than a system of ‘influence’ built around a powerful celebrity preacher who sees himself a prophet!

11.  There is a propensity to call the trained rather than train the called. People need to be tested and proved by church leaders but ministry needs to begin with a calling. There should be an innate sense of desire, rather than going to college, then being trained, then being called into ministry. Colleges that have alternative delivery systems, for example part-time options, will be more effective in training the called. Four years in college without sufficient practical experience can lead to idealism and self-righteousness, where young men critique older men who’ve done something. That then gives the young men the false impression that they themselves are doing something. Pastor Driscoll said Mars Hill had grown to 8000 by the time he finished his Masters degree in Theology. “Sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know until you’re doing ministry – and then you’re more teachable than ever.”

There is truth in this.   We do need more variety in training and an emphasis on practical training as well.

12. Churches need prophets, priests and kings, according to 1 Peter 5 where Jesus is chief shepherd, leaders are undershepherds under Him. Prophets do preaching and teaching, priests look after people (for example, hospital visits), and kings are concerned with systems, policies, procedures, real estate and the like. Most churches in Sydney are filled with priests and there’s a deficit of prophets and kings. There is a limit to how many people a pastor can care for… pastors can’t do all three. Kings are discouraged by systems that are already built. Talks about how most churches are not large in Sydney. There are not enough kings?

I note that this is now the 6th time that Driscoll mentions the size of churches and most of it seems to have the subtext ‘”my church is bigger than yours, so you had better listen to me!”.  There seems to be more about the size of churches, than the glory of Christ. This misuse of the classic Reformed three offices of Christ as prophet, priest and king is sadly all too typical if the eisegeis (reading into) rather the exegesis (reading from) of Scripture, which has become increasingly prevalent.  It is interesting that he cites 1 Peter 5 – a passage which warns leaders (elders) not to ‘lord it over those who entrusted to you’.  Driscoll here ‘lords’ it over the Australians and his doing so over his own congregation, ended up being his downfall.

13. There is a lack of missiologists – A missiologist evaluates the culture and uses discernment to find the idols, “so missionaries can be employed and churches can be missional”. “Theologians defend the truth of the gospel and missiologists then take it to the streets.” When you stack the team with theologians and not missiologists… lots of people still don’t know Jesus.

This is a neat distinction.  But not one that is found in Scripture.  Part of the problem in the modern church is the creating of categories and sub categories which go beyond Scripture.   All theologians should be missiologists and all missiologists should be theologians.

14. There is a proclivity to try to raise ministers before making them husbands and fathers.Many men delay marriage and children so they can enter college and ministry. They need to learn to be good husbands and fathers and shepherd a little flock. If they are not good husbands and fathers, they are not going to be good ministers. “In fact… being a husband and father trains you more for ministry than any college.” You should really press young men to take responsibility early, be good husbands and fathers, and then encourage them into ministry. Otherwise their priorities end up being God, ministry, wife, children, rather than God, wife, children, ministry. If you delay marriage for ministry, you are organising a paradigm that is dangerous.

Whilst there is truth in this  – it is too simplistic and seems to seek to create a rule for all, where there is not one in Scripture.   What about those who are single?  What is wrong with delaying marriage until theological training is done?

15. There is the doing of evangelism but not mission. Evangelism doesn’t belong just to the individual Christian, evangelism is something that belongs to the Christian church. Are we using all the resources at our discretion? Don’t ask, ‘what would a faithful minister of the gospel look like?’. Ask ‘what would a faithful missionary of the gospel look like?’.

I am not aware what the scriptural distinction is between evangelism and mission?  Are they not both the same?  There is a false dichotomy between being a faithful minister and a faithful missionary.

16. There are a lot of No 2 guys in No 1 slots.Number 1 guys are preachers, teachers, leaders, innovators. A No 2 guy isn’t bad, but he’s not the right one for the job. This is part of the issue of having a system based on tenure rather than meritocracy. No 2 guys need to have the humility to step back as John the Baptist did with Jesus – which is good to preach but hard to practice. When a No2 guy is in a No 1 slot, the church will survive, but it will not multiply.

Again this is talking the management speak of the US culture and seeking to turn it into biblical principle.  I don’t find this hierarchical structure of ‘no.1’ and no.2 guys, in the Bible. The John the Baptist comparison is dangerous.  Is Driscoll really saying that the ‘senior pastor’ is equivalent to Jesus?   Again the paradigm seems to be more about US management culture than it does the New Testament church – which always has a plurality of leadership. Maybe the Protestant Pope (celebrity preacher, leading apostle) model of leadership is not biblical?

17. There is not a great sense of urgency “I believe God has a sense of urgency for planting churches, and releasing young men” but this urgency is not evident. You’re not seeing a lot of conversions, and everywhere I go I’m having guys come to me and complain that they have no permission to plant churches. Urgency shows itself with new services and new churches. Lack of urgency shows itself with a lack of innovation. Not everyone is an innovator or entrepreneur – but is there room in the system for those who are? You can allow innovation without taking away from what is good.

I totally agree there is a lack of urgency.  But urgency for what?  Is it just planting churches?  Is it just about young men?  What about women?  What about established churches?  Should we not start with the urgency of seeking the glory of Christ in the salvation of lost sinners?

18. Movements have become institutions and museums.A movement is where God does what He always does, but in greater depth than we normally see, for example the Puritans, Methodists, Charismatic movement.

Defining variables of a movement are:

mars-hill-pastor-mark-driscoll-is-issuing-tips-this-christmas-to-help(i) Young people are often at the centre of a movement – everywhere but Sydney. I’m an older guy where I’m from – but here, I’m young. Young people are often at the centre of movements – most of the Methodists were guys in their 20s, Billy Graham was 19 when he first started preaching.

(ii) “Statistically I think one of the reasons your church is so small is that your young men don’t get to lead them until they are old” – and they run out of gas before they get there. You say, ‘but the young are irresponsible’ – of course they are! Young men say and do stupid things, but it’s good to get the losses out of the way early.

There is little evidence of the claim that the Australian church is so small (is it?) just because young men are not leading.    What about the scriptural injunctions not to appoint as an elder someone who is young in the faith?  What about the warning that not many should desire to be teachers because we will judged more harshly?  (James 3:1).

(iii) Movements are marked not just by birth, but by new birth. New churches have to be planted and you need new leaders so there can be new churches.

New birth is essential.  Not least THE new birth.  And yes new churches have to be planted and yes we need new leaders.  But again it is way too simplistic to state that we can only get new churches if we have new leaders.

(iv) A lot of movements are completely unaware of their influence – “I was shocked by the number of Aussies who download my sermons.”

Driscoll was (is?) obsessed with numbers – whether its numbers of people attending, or downloading sermons etc. Mars hill almost certainly was a movement – but was it a movement of the Holy Spirit in which there was a real revival?

(v) Movements have supporting organisations, such as theological colleges and publishing houses.

(vi) Usually, new movements come into existence when there’s new technology. For example, the Protestant Reformation happened at the time of the printing press, Billy Graham used the advances in amplification and radio at the time he was preaching. Today, we have the internet. Old systems were based on control, but today, there is no control. “You can sit on your Macbook and even if no leader approves of it, you could communicate to the world. That changes everything.” People spend more time looking at a screen than a human being. Mark Driscoll’s sermons are downloaded more than 10 million times each year. “That’s crazy – we could never have a meeting with 10 million people, we’d call it a country.”

Again there is some truth in this.  And again its too simplistic. Was Pentecost a time of new technology?  Or the American Awakening?  Or the Lewis revival?  Mark is getting confused again – putting two and two together and making five.    It is also not true that today there is no control.  The tech giants and governments actually have the potential to have even more control.  And no you can’t really communicate on your Macbook to the world!  As I write this article I could write under the delusion that I am sending this out to the whole world – but the reality is somewhat different.  Perhaps 1500-3,000 people will read it?   The trouble with Driscoll’s hyperbolic language is that there are those who will believe that as keyboard warriors they are really going to change the world.

(vii) The movement leader embodies the values and then tells the story of the movement so that the movement has integrity into the future. They are attacked and maligned and usually not appreciated until after they’re dead.

This longing to be loved and appreciated – is natural and normal – but if you are going to be a leader then you need to get over it ASAP!

(viii) Movements become organisations, which become institutions. Innovators don’t go into or come out of institutions. Institutions are marked by a fear of failure and a preservation of previous wins. “Eventually, young leaders realise that it is too cumbersome to get anything done and they leave.”

Yes – becoming institutionalised is very dangerous.  As is believing that just because your idea, or brilliant gifts, are not immediately accepted, then the movement has become an institution which can be written off.   We should hesitate before we rush to judgement.

(ix) If an institution doesn’t come back to being an organisation or a movement, it becomes a museum. “A museum exists to tell the stories of when God used to work.” A museum doesn’t exist to call future leaders. So you need to ask: ‘Are we a movement, an organisation, an institution or a museum?’ Do the best and brightest entrepreneurial young men want to partner with you, or are they unwilling to walk with you because they don’t want to be controlled by you?”

The choice is too simplistic.  It’s not just about being a movement or a museum. It’s not just about attracting the bright young male entrepreneurs.  What about God choosing the weak, the lowly and those who are least in the eyes of the world (not just the bright young male entrepreneurs!)?  What about being the church of Jesus Christ – which is for people of all ages and backgrounds?  What if we are not a corporate company (whether old school or new tech) but a family?  A family which remembers its past, lives in the present and looks to the future? A family which cares for its weak – not least because we recognise we are all weak.

Five ways you’ve gone off track:

For me – the arrogance…oh the arrogance!

  1. Doctrinally, you have too much or too little control. You define the world so tight theologically that you don’t give much flexibiliiy
  2. Relationships – people love each other and don’t want to walk away from the relationships they have with others in leadership – so the love of relationship means all seats (of opportunity) are taken.
  3. Organisationally, you have too much or too little control – too much, and ministry becomes too complicated, too little and people who don’t have good doctrine or character can come in.
  4. Pride or ‘Not invented here syndrome’ – not adapting something unless it was created by someone on your team. Your worship and service structure is painful and slow and frustrating – you need to have humility to learn from other people in other denominations and discernment to know what not to implement.
  5. Failing to honour founders and future. Issues of succession are difficult and significant. The key is to honour both your founders and your future. You need to do some things differently, and you need to be innovative in what we do.

This is the same ‘advice’ he gave to the New Frontiers people.  I think that Driscoll knows that he has a reputation of being edgy and shocking and so he plays to the gallery in that respect and tries to meet the expectations.  Its’ easy to be a ‘shock jock’ from outside.  But it’s not helpful and its not edifying.  His one size fits all mantra does not help,  His arrogance and formulaic structure mean that the good things he has to say (and there are many) get drowned out in the bombast of self-importance.    People usually walk away from a Driscoll convention talking about Driscoll, not about Christ.

I had hoped that after his fall from leadership he would have learned his lesson.  After all he is a brother and a gifted man.  He is back in ministry in Scottsdale Arizona and I hope is being blessed and being a blessing in his new church.  But his website is not encouraging -Mark has started up again with Mark Driscoll Ministries 

IT’S ALL ABOUT JESUS!
Pastor Mark Driscoll is a Jesus-following, mission-leading, church-serving, people-loving, Bible-preaching pastor. He’s grateful to be a nobody trying to tell everybody about Somebody.

 

But I just don’t get this.   If you are grateful to be a ‘nobody’  why have a website and ministry named after yourself?  If you have been found guilty of not leading well why delight in being called “Pastor Mark’ and have a series entitled “Ask Pastor Mark?” where the implication is that you are some kind of guru?     I understand that in todays world we need to use the internet and indeed sometimes we have to put ourselves out there – and be prepared to take the stick for it.  But if you have fallen, perhaps it would be wiser to be a bit lower key? Jesus can still use you….

For me the problem here IS a problem of culture.  Ironically Driscoll lambasted the Australians for their church culture and largely put forward a model which has not helped him.  He still sees himself as a spiritual entrepreneur, leader of leaders, writer and head of a movement.   When I met with him it was clear that he wanted more than anything to be a writer, but it was also clear to me that that is not his primary gift.  He is a superb communicator and evangelist, but not a writer (it’s why his books have had to have a ghost writer as well).

Ironically if he had been in a denomination and submitted to the oversight and leadership of others, he could have been of far more use than he has.  Instead because he has bought into his own paradigm of ministry, he has ended up making the same errors as before.  So much is about image and projection of success.   I’ve only been on his new website a couple of times (I used to be a regular listener to his podcasts) but it has disappointed me that whilst there is plenty mention of his successes (largely framed in worldly terms like debating Chopra on national TV) there is no mention at all of the failures – and especially Mars Hill.  Why?

Finally I guess it’s always easy for us to see the faults of others – Driscoll with the Australians (yours truly critiquing him for that – and those who will doubtless be able to critique me for doing the same).  There is a place for helpful criticism – faithful are the wounds of a friend.  But maybe the most important lesson for me in all of this is a sense of human weakness and sinfulness, when faced with the great task of proclaiming the word of God, and being involved in leadership of the Church.  Who is sufficient for these things?  If nothing else let this sense of weakness drive us to our bibles and to our knees.

let me finish with one of those written Anglican prayers (for the consecration of bishops);

“Most merciful Father, we beseech you to send down upon this your servant your heavenly blessing and so endue him with your Holy Spirit, that he, preaching your Word, may not only be earnest to reprove, beseech, and rebuke with all patience and doctrine; but also may be to such as believe a wholesome example, in word, in conversation, in love, in faith, in chastity, and in purity that, faithfully fulfilling his course, in the latter-day he may receive the crown of righteousness laid up by the Lord the righteous Judge, who lives and reigns one God with the Father and the Holy Spirit, world without end.Amen”

 

10 thoughts on “Deconstructing Driscoll – Lessons for American, Australian and UK Church Cultures.

  1. David,

    Very often it is not stated, but the essential requirement according to Peter is: ‘Diligently adding to our faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in us, and abound, they make us that we shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth’ (2 Pe. 1:5 – 12).

    There is no other recipe to make one’s calling and election sure and anyone suggesting that there is; evidently ‘is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins’.

    Yours,
    Edouard

  2. “Guilty of not leading well” seems to me to be one of the biggest understatements of the century so far.

  3. Driscoll is a great illustration of the American brand of Christianity where the cult of personality often plays a large part.

    There is nothing surprising at all about his eventual demise. Not surprising is that after his disappearance from view he eventually wound up preaching again. Not sure how else he could make a living.

    Driscoll also happens to be an outrageous liar:

    [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aVyFyauE4ig&w=560&h=315%5D

  4. This attitude partly explains why so many American pastors came to the UK to do right where we’d all (obviously) done wrong; and made shipwreck of their usefulness in the process. It seemed so clear back in the States: we were failing because we were not using tried and tested methods of evangelism or we were failing because we had the wrong doctrines. How many of them were warned not to talk to ministers who were already here, because of our supposed faithlessness? How many of them seized on every little bit of British politeness to give encouraging reports of interest where there was none? How many of them found themselves crossing the line into falsehood because the support — financial, not prayer — would be guaranteed to dry up if the truth were known?
    Of course our expectations were too low — at least mine were — but that was because of a failure to draw near to the throne of grace as I ought to have done. Some Americans came and thrived with a reputation as men who got things done so one wonders what would have happened if the others — and their supporters back home — had not been so ill-informed about the British churches.
    Yours,
    John/.

  5. I struggled with this whole article as I’m unsure what purpose it serves, (why now -other than David’s pending travel to Australia) and it was with a heavy heart I read it, or skimmed it, yesterday and with a heavy heart I write this.
    Yes, there is a need to call-out heresy, but this seems to go beyond heresy, as even the heading “Deconstructing Driscoll…”to me, starts on the wrong foot.
    His views on church, denominations, churchmanship, mission, leadership, planting have been replicated, in evidence in the church in the UK for some time, motivational methods and numbers. I recall hearing denominations mocked and “slagged-off” from the pulpit.
    Are we not too eager to wash the dirty linen of others in public, while at the same time indulging in, justifying, overlooking, some of the same sin in ourselves? I have not been, am not, above any of it even in a private or pedestrian Christian way myself, and without any responsibility of office in church. LORD have mercy on your bride: she is beyond blushing.
    Sorry, David.

    1. Thanks for asking the purpose. I thought it was self-evident in the article. I commented on it for the following reasons:

      1) I was sent the Driscoll article – in response to my comments on the Australian church -. and thought there was plenty in it worth commenting. on.

      2) This is not ‘washing dirty linen in public’. This is an article and talk given in public, still freely available. I was responding to, and answering it. The notion that what Driscoll says within it should not be commented on does not make any sense to me.

      3) It is precisely because this teaching is replicated elsewhere, including in this country, that it has to be dealt with. Many people have been influenced by, and damaged by this kind of teaching.

      4) Driscoll has started up again – not just in a local church – but with Mark Driscoll ministries – he shows no sign of repentance and he is again pushing the same teaching. The push back from his fans is both considerable and worrying.

      The bottom line is that if people don’t want to be criticised for their teachings in public, then they should not put them in the public arena. I would suggest also that its not wise to comment on an article when you have admittedly just ‘skim read it’…..skim reading results in skim comments. Best to read in a bit of depth and then your comments would be more help and constructively critical…

  6. David,
    Clearly, wisdom is not one of my strengths, nor was there any depth to my comment that warrants anything but a swift rebuff.
    I thought it wise not to get drawn into the article, to go through it with a captious, but fading, adversarial, lawyer’s eye and which could have had a semblance of “deconstructing David” rather than considering all the Christian theological categories raised (which would be beyond my competence). That would have been a substantial misstep, out of order and beyond edification and my place as a learner in the church .
    Wisdom reveals I’ve overstayed a welcome.

  7. One thought that arises is don’t we often fall into a similar trap as Driscoll? We all seem to think if we just follow the right formula then we will find success. Driscoll clearly had his formula but don’t we have ours too? I know you prefaced this by saying it was a gross generalisation but I worry that too often I hear in reformed circles “be faithful and you will be fruitful”.

    Clearly there is truth to that maxim. However, do we really think through what being faithful means? There is more to it than getting together on Sunday and sitting under the preaching expositionally through the Bible. I worry we do the latter in a somewhat mediocre fashion and assume that the Lord will eventually bless it.

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