Saturday, August 30, 2008

Mark Driscoll - “All Things to all men... By all means?”

A Conference hosted by Queensland Theological College, University of Queensland
(Videos courtesy of Mars Hill Church youtube channel) 

On Thursday, I had the awesome privelage of getting to see one of my favourite preachers in person face-to-face.
In light of Hope Brisbane's 2008 Oceania Convention: "A Contextualized Church", I was exited about seeing Mark Driscoll upfront.
Those who follow this blog will already know who Ps Mark Driscoll is. For those who don't know, Driscoll is the founder and Ps for teaching at Mars Hill Church in Seattle. In the early days of his pastoral ministry, he along with others such Dan Kimball, was part of the early “conversation” on the issue of reaching Generation X along with evangelizing postmoderns. Eventually, others like Doug Pagett and Brian Mclaren also joined; the latter two openly embracing a postmodern worldview and questioning the relevance and authority of crucial Christian doctrines such as the virgin birth, the clarity of scripture, the exclusivity of Christ. As these liberal ideologies grew to become what is now the Emergent Church movement, Ps Mark promptly distanced himself. 

Today, Mark Driscoll is best known for his contemporary, yet theologically strong preaching while Mars Hill now has over 5000 congregants divided among six campuses in a multi-site structure in what has been called America's least churched city.

When I got to the Hawken Engineering building, I was shocked by the number of people crowded outside the lecture theartre. Those who know me well are all too familiar with the fact that I do not enjoy being in a crowd. But here there were close to four hundred bible-believing aussie Christians eager to learn about taking their involvement in the great commission to the next level. As I eavesdropped on the various conversations, it was delightfully obvious that despite denominational differences, everyone took scripture, theology and eangelism very seriously.
After I picked up my name tag, I bumped into Joshua Mitchell who leads the Gold Cost team of the Operation513 open-air preaching ministry. We had a great time of fellowship where we talked about evangelism, ministry and the doctrines of grace. Since Josh was on the P.A. team , he was able to usher me into the lecture theartre before everyone else so I could get good seating.

So without further adieu, here are my notes from the morning sessions:

Session 1: “Are we as a Church Operating as we should?”

19Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.20To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.21To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law.22To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.23I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. 1 Corinthians 9:19-23

The Corinthian church could be said to be one of the worst churches of the New Testament (the Galatians possibly being second)
- sexual immorality
- secularized, pluralistic society
- demonic influences
- excess of the charismata
- drunkeness

1 Corinthians 9 – Proclaimation AND contextualization

- Most churches tend to lean to one over the other
      - Fundamentalism = Strong Doctrine minus Cultural relevance
      - Liberalism = Excessive cultural relevance minus strong doctrine

- Our first priority is to preach the gospel
      - Continually preach the gospel within and outside the church
      - Never assume anything! As a leader, when you're among the Christians under
your care, never assume “they've heard it all before and don't need to hear it
again from me.”

      - Different generations bring about different assumptions and levels of knowledge
which in turn have brought about different ways of preaching the gospel that have had serious consequences upon the body of Christ
            - e.g., the Conservative Evangelical preachers of the 1950s (Billy Graham, J.I. Packer) who had a very strong emphasis on the authority of scripture, conversion as a tangible experience and the essential Christian doctrines
                        - The seeker-friendly model of the 80s-90s (Robert Schuller, Rick Warren, Bill Hybels) where in order to make non-believers feel comfortable and welcome, doctrine and the preaching of the full- gospel as done by the Conservative Evangelicals were deliberately undermined in favor of “felt-needs” evangelism and topical preaching related to a non-believer's everyday circumstances. As Bill Hybel's “Reveal Now” report revealed, the statistics show that as a means of long-term discipleship, this model actually does more harm than good and simply doesn't work.
                                    - The Emerging Church (2000-), who as the postmodern generation that follows from the seeker-friendly churches are led to adopt a liberal stance

- Your view of teaching is inevitably tied to your view of scripture
      - I.e., if you believe the Bible to be the inspired, infallible and innerrant Word of God, why on earth would you have a small-group discussion where everyone's views are equal to each other in the name of “dialogue”?

- Preach the gospel to both Christians and Non-Christians in the church

- Not all church-goers are genuinely born again, even if they may have responded to altar-calls countless times
- Preach the Penal Substitutionary Atonement of Christ's work on the cross. If there was anything the Calvinists got right, it was their view of propitiation:21But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.22This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference,23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—26he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Romans 3:21-26

Advice for Preachers, Pastors and Ministers

- As a minister, take advantage of holidays and vacations

- Due to the stress commonly associated with ministry, Ps Mark has used up all of the adrenalin his body could produce. Doctors told him last year that for the sake of his well-being, the best option would be to quit ministry.

- Know what you want to preach/teach/emphasise at least one year in advance so that you can have maximum time to prepare your expositions.

- When teaching, anticipate and respond to the objections that will be raised by those on the receiving end.
      - It encourages:
            - Deeper Bible study and Devotions among congregants; people won't do passive quiet time
            - Apologetics: You teach the church how to think through controversial issues
- What do you do with the nerd who's always critisizing you over what they see as theological and exegetical errors on your part? Why not take them on as an understudy who can help you with research, adding meat to your messages in such a way that it lightens the load of study upon your schedule while allowing them to grow as an asset to the teaching/discipleship sector?

- Guard your church!
      - Membership should only consist of those who are proven to be born-again and actively support the church's doctrine
      - Keep the bar as high a possible!

- Sync the small-group teaching with the pulpit preaching
      - Keeps the “pulse”

The Church must see itself as a missional outpost

- Contextualization is the precursor to evangelism

- Understanding the culture you're reaching out to

- Contextualization is an act of service

- New converts are a great gift, they keep us focused on the important things that matter

- Decision-making should be centred around what will lead people to Christ

- Cut out the things in your ministry that hold back contextualization
      - Can you name 10?
      - Focus on growing the fruit-bearers among your congregants; don't accommodate those who don't bear fruit because they're openly disinterested and hostile.
      - When evangelism is done as a coerced work, it fizzles

- Mars Hill Church does very little in terms of “deliberate” evangelism programs and activities because:
      - Christ-centredness is always a primary aim in preaching and teaching. The gospel is not just tacked onto the end of the sermon's conclusion, but rather it is at the heart of all messages regardless of text or topic.
      - At all Sunday meetings, believers and non-believers are welcomed as two seperate groups. Believers are encouraged in their freedom in Christ while non-believers are told upfront that they will be “preached at” and asked to respond to the gospel.

Two-handed ministry

- Timeless truth held tightly in one hand + timed methods held loosely in the other

- Hold tightly to your doctrine, your theology and the gospel, yet being as flexible with how you apply these practically

- A church that doesn't do this is disobeying scripture(Room went very quiet at that point)- Contextualization should be done by everyone

- Every church contextualizes, the question is “what year?”
      - e.g., Cassette tapes vs podcasts
            - Some churches still use reel-to-reel tape!

- Biblical contextualization is not about making the gospel sound relevant, it's about showing the relevance and concern of the gospel!

Session 2: Missional Churches
Brief autobiography from Ps Mark:- Born in 1970 (38 years old) to a Catholic family
- Came to know Christ at 19: “If you're an Arminian, that's when I made a
decision for Christ. If you're a Calvinist, that's when God saved me.”

A Missional church must practice and preach repentance
- If we [leaders] won't talk about sin, they [congregants, non-believers] won't want to talk either

- An unrepentant pastor shouldn't expect to have a repentant flock
- You disarm critics who will bring accusation against you

- You have to call both the sinner and the religious to repent of their sin and turn to Christ

- Don't just focus on the sins of the individual. But sins that were committed against them
      - e.g. Rape


A missional church practices cultural exegesis

- Observe the culture
      - Try changing your daily transport route so that you can explore the area
      - Watch TV (in moderation)
      - Talk to EVERYONE!
      - Read blogs
- Get RSS feeds for local news

- Be seeker-sensible, not sinner-friendly

- Consider making the church welcoming to singles, couples and families

- A missonal church has a pastor as a missiologist
      - Studies culture and people

- The goal of missiology is to see conversions, not just being trendy for the sake of looking cool.

- Missional Churches are reproductive
      - Multi-site structure
      - Acts 2
“...and the Lord added to their number daily those that were being saved.”
      - Keep track of numbers
      - Try not to allow a quasi-socialist mindset that tries to level everything and prevents innovators from rising up
            - There is declining enthusiasm among aussie Christians for evangelism and ministry as a result of “tall-poppy syndrome.”

- A missional church is young
      - Youth groups serve as the petrie dish for innovation within your churches
      - Train young leaders who know current trends
            - If you want to reach young people, don't teach the 67 year old senior pastor how to use a skateboard!
      - Stay a player until God calls you to be a coach

- Three kinds of leaders
      - Prophets (doctrine, teaching, discernment)
      - Priests (caring, compassion, charity and encouraging)
      - Kings (Admin and management)
      - The faithful pastor serves as all three just as Jesus does

- Evolution of denominations
      - Movement (launch; lots of momentum and excitement)
      - Organization (formality)
      - Institution (preserves the organization)
      - Museum-Church (only those interested in the traditions of the institution attend out of nostalgia)

Session 3 – Practical Applications (Q&A)

How are services at Mars Hill Church Conducted?
1. Praise and Worship
2. Announcements and Welcome
3. Songs that focus on the cross and repentance
4. Sermon
5. Call to respond
      - Christians pray for each other rather than walk down the ailse
      - Silent Prayer
6. Communion
      - Congregants approach altar to collect elements individually
      - Christians only

- Mars Hill is Calvinistic and Charismatic in theology
      - “Charismatic” tends tends to have different connatations in different countries

- Leadership modeled after the Presbyterian structure (plurality of elders as opposed to a single senior pastor)

How do you reach the 18-35 age group?

- Don't do church FOR them, do church BY them (use those you currently have)

- Australia is a permission-based culture rather than commitment-based

- Encourage regulars to get involved in ministry as soon as possible

- Statistically, the average aussie Christian only goes to church once a month

How do you avoid the trap of a Christian sub-culture?

- A healthy church is a “city within a city” that does things differently to those in the outside world.

- An unhealthy closed-community church is more like a bombshelter where nothing comes in or goes out

With all these new trends, how do we define what a “church” is?

- Technology has changed the scope of the church
      - e.g., the Anglican parrish
            - What is YOUR parrish?
      - Use of video technologies
            - Online gatherings
                  - Is it legitimate?

- People must meet together under the authority of qualified leaders

- There must be biblical church discipline

- If two or three drunks are on a boat out at sea and each shouts “Jesus Christ!”, are they immediately at church?

As a new leader, pastor or church-planter, how do you respond to criticism?

- Listen to your critics and be humble
      - Is there any truth in it or is it unfounded?
      - Sometimes you have to let your critic become your coach
            - e.g. Billy Graham

- Once a criticism of you reaches the internet, it can stay there forever regardless of your repentance and apology
      - e.g., in 2006 Ps Mark was invited by John Piper to speak at the annual Desiring God conference which had the theme “The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World.” Due to Ps Mark's former affiliation with the Emerging Church, news of his participation created a furor on the internet, not just against him, but also John Piper as well.

- Never respond to a critic when you're angry; wait on the Holy spirit

- Get backup from another leader

- Meet the critic on your terms, not theirs, or you might get ensnared in a trap.

Advice for Growing leaders

- Young leaders need encouragement, yet must come under covering

- Don't be quick to stumble an entrepeneur who has new ideas

- It's a calling, not a job

- Humility is always the most important lession
      - All leaders should remember the humility of Jesus
5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:5-11     

 - A young leader who isn't humble will only humiliate others and himself

How should a Church Hire staff?

- Try to avoid hiring the most “public” guy who already attracts enough attention
- Hire people into ministry who can train and appoint others

- The larger Australian churches tend to have a “professional” clergy

- Mobilise volunteers before hiring full-time paid staff

What should act as the basis for doctrinal unity?

- As a church, know what you will contend for (Jude 3)

- Most church faith statements, while written down, only represent a a minute part of the theology that Christians will be exposed to both within and outside the church. The less specific a faith statement is in light of the plethora of various doctrines out there, the greater the potential for deception to creep in. In this regard, the majority of a church's faith statement is actually left unsaid and subject to the rule of the mob.

- What are the non-essentials in your church that may divide?
      - music style
      - dress code
      - gender roles

Beating the “Dead Horse”

- You will have people who want to constantly argue and argue

- Sometimes you have to cut people loose when they kick too hard against the flow of the church
- At times you will have to help them find the church they want
- Listen to John Piper!

- The door to leadership in your church should be immensely smaller than the doors to members and visitors.

Operation of Spiritual gifts within the Church

- There are merits of the cessationist position in that it encourages focus on the authority of scripture  
      - e.g., B.B. Warfield's writings on the subject of Inspiration, which while serving as a
great defence against the rise of liberalism, layed down the foundation for
contemporary cessationist theology
             - John Macarthur

- Mars Hill's position: All Gifts (Tongues, prophecy, healing, miracles, et al) are for today and should be encouraged, however most cases within the church are probably not the real thing

- The true evidence for being spirit-filled is growing in love for Jesus!

- At Mars Hill, the operation of prophecy is restricted to elders and above rather than “open mike”

- Some Charismatics can be very individualistic and selfish in their worship rather than using the gifts to edify and encourage others as Scripture instructs (cf.Rom 12, 1Cor 12-14)

What should be the standard for Church discipline?

(Ps Mark asked how many people come from churches where they feel that Church Discipline is operated properly. Very few hands went up.)

- Should only be for members who have pledged submission to the authority to the church and not just casual visitors

- Disciplining a visitor must be done with extra care as it can actually be counter- evangelistic


After the conference:

I eventually mustered up the courage to break through the crowd and ask Ps Mark for an autograph (to understand how I felt towards the prospect of talking to him, think of the “WE'RE NOT WORTHY!” scene in Wayne's World when Mike Myers gets to meet Alice Cooper).
BV: “You must have been asked a hundred times already.”
MD: “That's okay, brother.”
I offerered the souveneir pen I got from Oceania Convention. He noticed that it had the “Contextualized Church” logo printed on it.
MD: “Hey, that's awesome.”
At that point I asked the question that motivated me to attend the event:
BV: “Ps Mark, I attend an international fellowship where local aussies make up less than 10% of the church body. We've been active for 15 years now. What advice would you give so that we can make the transition to being a church that effectively reaches locals?”
As someone who leads a church of over 5000 in one of the least churched cities of America in addition to supporting local churchplanters, I thought his answer had to be a good one.
MD: “I'm sorry, I've never heard of that kind of situation before. I honestly don't know how to answer. I must apologize.”
I thanked him for his time, and stepped aside so others could approach him.
I sat outside the lecture theartre to pray. It was not exactly the answer I wanted to hear, no doubt. I prayed and cried out to God, the Lord of the Harvest. It was then I realized the purpose of the conference: to raise up the harvest workers. There just may be hope for this generation living in Brisbane after all.

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