Am I a coward? My reaction to Mark Driscoll’s comments.

Last week Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle and author of many books, was quoted in an article as calling all British pastors cowards:

“Let’s just say this: right now, name for me the one young, good Bible teacher that is known across Great Britain. You don’t have one – that’s the problem. There are a bunch of cowards who aren’t telling the truth.”

A release of the audio interview that it was based on helped put some context around the quote. (The Driscoll bit starts about 34 minutes in). There was a bit of an uproar in the twittersphere, blogosphere and facebookosphere – many blogged about what he said, whether it was true, and the state of the church in the UK.

Pastor Mark then issued a blog post of his own which added more context, switched the focus to Jesus, blamed the interviewer but avoided any apology. (The interviewer, Justin Brierly has written a response here - I think the best thing to do is listen to the interview and make up your own mind)

Here is the best of what has been written about it.

Krish Kandiah’s immediate reaction with a later update.

Jon Marlow writes about why there may be no Bible teacher ‘known across Britain’.

TallSkinnyKiwi writes about the crucial differences between US and UK culture.

David Cooke asks if there is something we can take from his ministry and comments.

My initial reaction was to laugh it off – Here is Mark Driscoll going too far again.

My subsequent reaction was to mentally list all the excellent young British preachers that there are that I know of. They may not be famous across Britain, but they are faithfully working in their own contexts to demonstrate and preach the love of Jesus, week by week. Mark has surely misunderstood the culture. Read TallSkinnyKwi’s post for more about this.

Following that, was annoyance that he had sought to justify himself instead of apologising. I was feeling vaguely insulted by a man I had never properly met as he wrote off my ministry which he knows nothing about.

My next reaction was to ask if Mark Driscoll has some sort of point? Clearly he has gone too far in dismissing all British preachers as cowards, but is there a kernel of truth underneath this comment? After all, Mark planted a church in his living room which has grown to many thousands of people spread across many campuses in Seattle and beyond. He has personally baptised 1400 people and been key in bringing many to faith. This time he has gone too far, but is there a point of truth in what he said? Can we get past the bravado media front to hear what he was trying to say? Am I a coward?

There is clearly some truth in some of his comments which claimed that having guys in dresses (clergy robes) preaching to grannies is not going to encourage young men to come to church. Quite true. However, many churches dropped the ‘guys in dresses’ approach some time ago. Since moving to my new post, I think I’ve worn my robes twice, both times whilst visiting other churches.

Am I a coward? I genuinely engaged with this question wondering whether I am taking too much time before ‘preaching’! What I want to do is introduce people to the gospel – not changing any points of doctrine, bit doing it in such as way that the timing and approach means that they are most able hear the message for what it is, and so it is not encumbered with unhelpful cultural baggage. People in the UK are very distrustful of people they do not know who try to tell them what to do. Relationships need to be built first.

Early on, I did try to jump the gun and I asked a couple of people (who had previously mentioned some interest in Christianity) if they wanted to do an Alpha. It was too early, and they refused. They didn’t know me and didn’t know whether to trust me. The first thing is trust, the next is for their interest to be peaked by how I am living and what I am doing in the community. Only then will they be open to hearing the gospel.

I could just open my doors now and preach, but in this context, people wouldn’t come. A church which grows organically from the community is surely going to be more effective. There will be a time for a direct challenge and clear explanation of the gospel. That time is not yet. But it will come.

For more specific thoughts on my  day-to-day ministry, check out my Diary of a Pioneer Minister blog.

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One thought on “Am I a coward? My reaction to Mark Driscoll’s comments.”

  1. Thanks Andrew; balanced and refelective. I think the issue of cultural context is a key one. I think you are someone who is particularly alive to these issues and model it in your ministry. It is good to encourage one another to be bold and ‘unashamed workers’ (and perhaps we could do that more as fellow Brits?)- but that doesn’t negate
    cultural sensitivity.

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