Thursday, January 2, 2014

A Call to Resurgence by Mark Driscoll

Mark Driscoll is a polarizing figure. When he is mentioned, people tend to gather on different sides. Many of my friends do not like him at all. They think he is arrogant and pushes the contextualization button a bit too hard. But then I have many other friends who have been greatly blessed through his ministry. They love his sermons and God has used his message of Jesus to change their life. I often feel I am one of the few that falls in the middle when it comes to his ministry. I have been blessed in the past, but certainly do understand some of the reservations. I do not know which side you gravitate towards, but one thing is for sure: I don't think Driscoll can or should be ignored.

A couple months ago, I noticed Driscoll Tweeted that he was giving away free copies of his new book, A Call to Resurgence, to a handful of senior pastors. So, I commented on the tweet and actually won. He sent me a free copy (even autographed) of this new book. So I thought I would read it. And I'm glad I did.

My response to the book fell in line with what I have traditionally thought of Driscoll. Much of the book I really loved. I particularly enjoyed his take on the difference between Christendom and Christianity. This is the message I have preached and strongly believe. We need to stop fighting for the morality of our country and fight for the message of the gospel. We need to preach Jesus. His take is that Christendom, the ideology of a Christian nation, is dead. He ends the first chapter with these motivating words:
"This is not a political book. This is not a reactionary book. This is a prophetic book. Christendom is dead. Jesus is alive. Stay salty. Fear not" (31).
I also appreciated throughout the book some of the insightful thoughts he shares about the nature of the gospel message. For instance . . .
"The problem is, the gospel cannot be shown; it must be spoken. Love, grace, mercy, justice, and the like can be shown with works. The gospel of Jesus Christ, however, must be spoken with words, because the gospel of Jesus Christ is not about our deeds but rather Jesus' deeds: his sinless life, substitutionary death, burial, and bodily resurrection for the salvation of sinners. And without the gospel of Jesus Christ, you may still have morality, spirituality, and charity, but what you don't have is Christianity. Real Christianity results in these things but cannot be replaced by them" (24). 
He continues . . .
"At the end of the day, we don't need more celebrities and more debate. We need more Spirit-empowered Christians who take seriously their call to witness to God's work in this world, and to do so in unity with other Christians, even if they don't agree on some secondary matters" (81).
And . . .
"To the preachers who read this, I say this: You need to preach. Don't be a coward; preach! Don't be a motivational speaker; preach! Don't cave in to your critics; preach! Don't share your feelings; preach! And if you won't preach, then have the humility to find someone who will, and go find a job where the eternal fate of people is not at stake" (221).
I love it.

Probably the most controversial aspect of this book comes when he identifies tribalism. And this is part of the issue of why I struggle with Driscoll. Now, it was helpful for him to label the different tribes (people who believe different things) within the sphere of evangelicalism. I think his point in this is to get people to be okay with working with others who do not believe exactly how they believe. As long as they believe the basics of Christianity, they are on our team. This is the traditional cliche that gets thrown around in many Christian circles:

Let's just major in the majors and minor in the minors. 

I understand the premise of this statement, but it just doesn't seem to work in the real world. Who gets to define what is major and what is minor? That's the problem. Driscoll makes an attempt, but what if I think his circle of the gospel is too wide? Or what happens if I think he is too narrow? Then what, am I part of the problem? I mean, even in his descriptions of tribal leaders under the banner of evangelicalism, he includes people like Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, and T. D. Jakes; all people I would put in the realm of false teachers.

I know he is trying to include as many people as he can under the banner of Christianity so we can go to war with them instead of against them. But are some people who fall under the banner of Christianity actually not Christian? I'm not saying I have all the answers. For on the other side of the coin you have people who make it so narrow that they cannot work with anyone that doesn't fully agree with them in everything. And we discern ourselves to death, creating a culture that is known for pointing out the negative in people, even when we know they have the gospel correctly.

It is a hard question to answer. I appreciate he has started the conversation. There are other aspects of the book that I struggle with, but not enough for me to make them a big deal. I appreciate that Driscoll preaches God's holiness, our sin, Jesus as our substitute, and the balance of faith and repentance for salvation. His gospel message is solid and that is why I appreciate his ministry.

Does he do things that make me squirm? Absolutely. But that doesn't mean I will dismiss everything about him.

If you have never heard of Driscoll, this book will give you a good idea of who He is. It is funny. Sarcastic. Filled with Scripture. Bold. And seeks to lift high Jesus Christ. If that is what you are looking for, this might be a good read. 

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