In Memory of Andrew Lawson Johnston
Going All The Way Back

Is the Blogosphere Ready for Mark Driscoll?

UPDATE: March 27, 2006. Mark apologizes. Hey Mark - we love you. Don't lose that edge!

ORIGINAL POST: Up early this morning (4:30am) and i am taking a peek at the blogs. Its Saturday and Elizabeth had a sleepover for 5 of her friends last night as part of her 13th birthday party. I have to make some crepes for them soon but first i want to talk about The Driscoll who has now entered the blogosphere.

Mark Driscoll, in typical form, exploded onto the comments of a Leadership Journal's Out Of Ur blog post and has everyone talking. LJ even made a new blog post so people can comment on it. Mark is a dynamite communicator and I am sure he will make his presence felt in the blogosphere - perhaps not so much with his own blog, but during his outbursts on other blogs.

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First of all, I think everyone - especially The Driscoll - should be careful when speaking out on other peoples blogs because it is very, very, VERY hard to edit it later on when editing is no longer in your control. My rule of thumb is to be 3x more careful on the comments of other peoples blogs as i am on my own. One nasty sentence of Mark's comments about  Doug has been edited out of Out of Ur, which makes me thankful that I saved the full text yesterday . . . as one should always do when controversy of historical and posterical importance is afoot. And no, I am not going to publish it here, especially the thing about Minneapolis farmers locking up their  . . .  oh . . i cant say that!! And I don't have time to follow the story but Steve McCoy is on it, as is Lovely Carla, and Bob Hyatt has some thoughts for Driscoll that are getting response.

Secondly, to understand Driscoll is to appreciate [what Mark calls] Midrash, the understanding that comes from the violent clashing of opposing viewpoints. Driscoll is the King of Midrash and those reading him should not guess that he is holding personal grudges against the people in the other corner of the ring. He just likes a good fight. Its an Irish thing. Get used to it.

The Skinny?
I love Mark Driscoll and think he is one of the best orators in the country  - witty, smart. controversial, connected - as well as a really nice, hospitable, HUMBLE guy when you hang with him in his home town, which I have done on a few occasions, as opposed to the Mark you sometimes see on stage. He was never a fan of the house churches I was starting (he said they were not "real churches") but he cut me slack and we enjoyed each others company. He also loves my children so you will not hear me speak ill of him on my blog. (I will save my criticism of that Stubby, BigHeaded, Irish-Catholic Reformed Punk until i see him next . . . Hi Mark!)

I guess I am somewhat of a Driscoll fan. He is fantastic on stage. Funny and compelling. Give him a microphone and great things happen. People come back next week. He has built his ministry out of his strength and that is smart. Its not the kind of ministry I was involved in when i was church planting around USA - in some ways they are opposites - our little churches generally had no superstar and met in coffee shops while Mark's churches costed $100,000 to start (thanks to David Nicolas and Spanish River Church who believed in Mark enough to pay the bills) and needed a Driscoll-like figure to power them. Which, btw, is a problem. There is only one Mark Driscoll and he is one in a million. I have encouraged the Acts 29 church planters, both at their first conferences and at their locations, to try to diversify and decentralize, and NOT try to hold people's attention for an hour on a stage, which it seems only Driscoll can do really well. Yes, he IS that compelling.

But a team player Driscoll may not be. He fills the space he occupies and generally leads the groups that he joins. He owes a lot of his current popularity to Doug Pagitt who created conferences for him to speak at around the country and continued his allowance as a "Top Dog" (Mark's term) in the group. In the late nineties, Young Leader's Group (which became Terra Nova and then Emergent) was often criticized for rudeness and offensive remarks.  I never swore [HONEST!] even though people expected me to (I had the pony tail and weird clothes) nor intentionally offended people - although i was the snobbiest elitist in the group which was offensive. Nor did Rudy or Tim or most of the team swear. [Chris and Doug did] But Mark's humor, which was usually hilarious, was sometimes over the top, often caused offense and there were times when we cringed and wished we were not in the same room. [I distinctly remember pouring petrol over myself at one conference but that memory is fading now and may not be accurate] The shift to allow Brian McLaren to join the group (he was a few years older than us) provided a softer, gentler Emergent that allowed participants to ask questions in a safe space without fear of ridicule or rejection, especially if those asking the questions were of the female persuasion.

Did Brian help shift the image to the other extreme - that of a weak, soggy, namby-pamby quasi-liberal Christianity without bollocks? That remains to be seen. Brian is great at stimulating questions but can frustrate people by not arriving at answers for them in one sitting. He generally wants them to think through the issue before formulating a response which causes fundamentalists to pull their hair out. And Brian's background is not Reformed so his books will probably never be published by Banner of Truth. Emergent is now criticized, not for being sharp at people when they say the wrong thing, but for not being sharp at all. But then, Emergent is a conversation during a time of transition, and a conversation that needs to be hosted in a room without jagged edges. Or excess of bollocks. And the Co-ordinator of Emergent Village, Tony Jones, has a healthy bollockular balance in regards to all things controversial so I expect things to even out eventually.

I think leaders, ministries and churches should be appropriately convinced of what they believe so that they can speak and act with proper confidence. Such a confidence enables a leader to participate in ecumenical discussions outside their world because they know where they stand and are not threatened nor compromised by conflicting viewpoints but can enjoy a fruitful exchange of ideas. The discussion or conversation, which is what Emergent basically is, will be as diverse as the total amount of viewpoints in the room. But a diverse group will not be able to compose statements that speak for the group as a whole - only for themselves. Emergent can exist and prosper because it is a collection of Reformed, Evangelical, Baptist, Charasmatic, Ecumencial, House-church, [fill in blank ______] people who can speak for themselves and their ministries with great conviction and yet, for the sake of unity and understanding, choose to become less Reformed, less Baptist, less Pentecostal and more like Jesus.

Hey - for anyone interested in joining in - Emergent Village is an ecumenical conversation. There is guaranteed to be people who believe differently. Its like a Billy Graham crusade. Its as complex and as ecumenical as the songbook you use at your church. It may not be as ecumenical as the Wedding Supper of the Lamb that we are invited to but it is a step forward out of your own denomination into a bigger world. And if you cant take the heat from the encounter with alternative viewpoints then take off your dang apron and get out of the kitchen! Especially if you don't want your reputation muddied through identification with undesirables who have unclean lips. Like Isaiah. Or Jesus.

As for Mark, he has been so much a part of the history of emerging-missional church in USA in the past 8 years that it will be difficult for him to distance himself from the wider emerging church community and in particular, EmergentVillage which still has his fingerprints (ink, not paint) on it. If he doesn't like what he helped to create, then he shares a commonality with apostolic figures since the time of Paul. Welcome to the club!!! Although I don't think he will get the Fundamentalist vote for long, IF indeed he gets it,  I think it is great that he has figured out a way to stay Reformed, connect with the emerging culture in his town, put some more milage on the Constantinian/Christendom model of church, and give us so much high-octane pleasure when he gets on stage. And i would expect a few of those dangerous moments on his blog as well. Hopefully it will be driving adventure without the wreckage.

His blog is called Resurgence and you can download his videos, his sermons, his lucheons with Christian celebrities  [are you still reading this] and his sucessful life as an Emerging-Reformed pastor and his ongoing struggle to shake off some embarrassing ecumenical associations. Mark is also starting up a new group and a conference called Reform and Resurge. Those who want to follow Mark where he is headed should consider attending the conference. Tim Keller and Ed Stetzer are also speaking so it should be OK. I am looking forward to see what contribution towards a holistic trinitarian missiology the Reformed folk can bring to the table. We know they have stuff to offer and it will be good to see them tease it out of 16th Century Europe and offer it as a gift to the wider body of Christ.  If anyone can do it . . . I am sure Mark can . . . with pinache, humor, hair-raising offense and a statistical analysis of how many people it impacted.

Right. Where were we? Ahhhh yes. . .  Minneapolis!.

Now about that sheep. . .

No . . . really . .. I must stop here. Its 6:30 on Saturday morning and I have had my blog fun. Time to make crepes for the family and Elizabeth's friends who stayed over for her birthday party. And another birthday begins - my Son Samuel turns 15 today. My wife will be up soon and i am not supposed to be blogging on weekends so  . . . . have a great weekend everyone!


Mark Driscoll: The Skinny
Mark Driscoll Responds
The fat lazy blog-post that has let itself go.
Is the Blogosphere Ready for Mark Driscoll?