Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Mark Driscoll - Book Review

Mark Driscoll
Confessions of a Reformission Rev. (Zondervan, 2006)

Who is the author?
Pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle which is among the 60 fastest growing churches in the US - currently having a congregation of 4000+.

The 'plot'
His story & general ruminations on how the church came into being and grew to current size. His aim was to reach 18-25yr olds in one of least churched cities in US - saw this group as a lost generation. The average age of Mars Hill’s congregation is mid-20's.

Book begins with '10 Curious Questions' – to assess your own church…
e.g. Will your church require ‘Reformission’ ?
e.g. Will your leaders work from guilt or conviction?

What is Reformission?
Mission not about missionaries going abroad but church members being missionaries to their local culture. The need for churches to start being culturally engaged (contextualization of Gospel outreach).

Sees churches as either:
'Traditional' / 'Contemporary Evangelical' / 'Emerging & Missional'
He sees latter as the way forward. Argues that others are stuck in past to lesser or greater degrees. Says the dominant evangelical model is middle category, which...
- still sees Mission as a dept;
- is still too consumeristic in its message;
- is still too much of a safe sub-culture for Christians;
- & whose worship styles are lagging a generation behind the culture in the 80&90s.

What is ‘Emerging & Missional’...
- every Christian is a missionary to local culture;
- the church expects no privileges in society - seeks common good;
- churches recognise challenges of post-modernism;
- hospitality seen as key to engagement.
Actually a list of fairly well accepted assessments of culture / challenges - but he puts them well – with a bit of bite!

Emerging – but not 'Emergent'...
That is, Mars Hill has a Contemporary format, is culturally engaged and consciously cool - but it is theologically reformed, orthodox, Neo-Calvanist. The distinction here is from people like Robb Bell & Brian McLaren who represent the 'Emergent' stream. The 'Emergent' church is seen as undermining historic evangelical belief in many areas in its attempt to be culturally connected and relevant.

So begins with a bit of analysis of culture & the church scene and explains what he sees as the new approach needed.

Writing Style...
Driscoll is very blunt, edgy and readable. He is a bit of a 'Marmite' personality – people tend to strongly like or dislike his style. Some of his questions and chapter headings give an indication of why...
- e.g. 'Are you prepared to shoot your dogs?'
- e.g. ‘Jesus, our offering was $137 and I want to use it to buy bullets’;
- e.g. 'Jesus, could you please rapture the Charismatic lady who brings her tambourine to church';
There 1 or 2 anecdotes in the book that make you wince - you wouldn’t want your mother to read them!

Book structure
Each chapter tells the story of a stage of growth: e.g. '75-100', '1000-4000', and then his plans to reach '10,000'.

Personal Reflections
There is a rough honesty in what he says – about his failures & successes. Although some I know found him a bit self-referential. There is good stuff for church leaders – e.g. treating your church as your mistress (always sneaking off to see 'her').

Crucially at the heart of the story is a real passion/commitment to the Bible.

Driscoll is a man who uses rock music & candles. He studies Stand-up comics for speaking tips and whose illustrations are as likely to come from the Simpsons as anywhere. But who can preach to 4000 young people for over an hour on Romans.

I suppose I found it a bit like Acts (very flattering I know)...
In Acts you get the highs and lows, the success & failures - the great sermons, the miraculous & the triumphs, but also the fall-outs, dishonesty, the theological conflicts. Likewise in COARR you get the wow factor, the miraculous at times, and the amazing growth. On the other hand it can be a bit self-referential, a bit off-hand, and a bit ‘my way or the highway'. But ultimately, like Acts, I found myself inspired - you want some of that action. It whets your appetite to be part of that kind of outreach and growth.

Danger of any ‘Blueprint’ book...
Is thinking this is the magic formula - we can just copy it and hey presto! Need to remember the different cultural setting – Glasgow is not Seattle! Crucially there is only one Mark Driscoll - and clearly much of the growth/attraction at Mars Hill has come about through his unique gifts and personality. But a good idea is a good idea and there is lots to get you thinking. Would recommend it - it will make you laugh and /or possibly irritated.

Here is someone not just analyzing / asking question’s: lots of books do that without offering any real answers. But here is someone who has got their hands dirty applying a solution. Someone speaking from on-hands experience not just theological theory.

Will have a big appeal to younger readers (20’s) – and that perhaps is the point!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Check out Jessica Hagy

Came across these links on David Field's (Oak Hill lecturer) blog - which is well worth checking out itself. Anyway thought you might enjoy...

Monday, February 05, 2007

The last call to prayer (?)

Some have asked me gently why I have not, for some time, issued strong challenges with regard to corporate prayer. My answer is this: it is my suspicion, founded on experience, that such diatribes and public invective do little good and are subject to the law of diminishing returns. Some listen in wonder and total incomprehension. Others merely become angry and resentful. Others depart laden with spiritual guilt. (Tom Swanston, Stranger in a Strange Land, p141)

The challenge has gone out in Greenview to be a people of prayer. There is a right anxiety that such a busy church as ours could muster only 27 at the last prayer meeting and that our annual prayer day – shall we say – felt a bit ‘flat’. But like the late Rev. Swanston we hesitate to press the issue further for fear of creating resentment and/or becoming a bore.

Ours is a culture, a Christian culture, that esteems the spontaneous, the informal and the ‘moment’. Unsurprisingly therefore some in the contemporary evangelical church see true liberty as casting off strictures and obligations – whether they be church meetings or spiritual disciplines. We want a faith that doesn’t need ‘warmed-up’ by personal effort but whose full benefits can be accessed instantaneously – we want gas not electric. The idea of labouring in prayer or faithfully attending meetings smacks of duty and legalism. We have been inculcated with the view that something can only be real and good if it lifts and excites your feelings.

Thus any talk about ‘needing to be at meetings’ can be quickly labeled as a return to the bad old days of dry formalized church-going. That of course is a danger. But I just fear more that our children may grow-up and look back at our evangelical generation with the thought – ‘did they really think they were suddenly in the C21 now so super-spiritual and enlightened that they could dispense with things as basic as the church prayer meeting - well look at the church they left us.'