Mark Driscoll, senior pastor at Mars Hill Church Seattle, has been in Australia for the past month on holiday with family and, more recently, flying around to the many speaking engagements he’s been booked for (30 in 11 days). His popularity and almost celebrity status was a great draw card to the many events he has spoken at. Not hard to imagine from a man who started Mars Hill Church at 25 (with only 12 people + his family) and now a decade later oversees 17 Sunday services at 6 different locations (via satellite feed) and almost 8000 people in attendance each week.

Whilst he has stirred up some controversies on the internet over various statements and tid bits in the past, Mark is better known in evangelical circles as the pastor who has been able to connect culture and faithful biblical doctrine. The great problem, as Mark sees it, is that churches too often have one or the other – they are either too culturally sensitive (and lose biblical faithfulness) or they are biblically faithful (but lack cultural awareness and are seen as old and outdated). Hence the problem with many evangelical churches is even though they preach and teach biblically sound doctrine, their service and their understanding of the culture around them is weak – so they are seen as irrelevant. The flip side has been the rise in the ’emergent/emerging’ church movement (for instance, Rob Bell and his unaffliated Mars Hill Church in Michigan) which has sought to be culturally relevant at the expense of biblical faithfulness.

Here are Mark’s own words in regards to being relevant, yet also being faithful:

There is a strong drift toward the hard theological left. Some emergent types [want] to recast Jesus as a limp-wrist hippie in a dress with a lot of product in His hair, who drank decaf and made pithy Zen statements about life while shopping for the perfect pair of shoes. In Revelation, Jesus is a prize fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone bleed. That is a guy I can worship. I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up. I fear some are becoming more cultural than Christian, and without a big Jesus who has authority and hates sin as revealed in the Bible, we will have less and less Christians, and more and more confused, spiritually self-righteous blogger critics of Christianity. (source here)

Biblically faithful? Certainly. Culturally relevant terms? Spot on.

So QTC invited Mark to come and give some lectures on both culture and missions. His lectures were entertaining, insightful and incredibly practical. I’m going to post some more thoughts at our Pastoral Apprenticeship Blog soon.

That evening Mark then spoke at North Side Christian College to a group of men from around Brisbane. The event was promoted initially as ‘300 Men For Jesus‘. A Michtelton Presbyterian effort to get 300 of their men to come and hear Mark speak frankly about biblical manhood. News of the event spread quicker than anticpated and a larger venue had to be found. In the end over 900 men turned up to hear what this biblically faithful and culturally relevant pastor had to say about being a man.

Initially the talk was titled, ‘Burn Your Plastic Jesus’ – which he had given at the Sydney Enternatinment centre the night before (to, apparently 10,000 people), but slightly more focused towards men. However he instead got up and preached from Genesis 1-3.

How was it? Well, some seemed to have been greatly impacted by it (eg, here and here – for my Asian friends who read this blog and know these people…). Others seemed to have gotten off on the wrong foot with Mark and didn’t quite enjoy it, to say the least (Note: a more balanced view from that last blogger has been recently posted and it would be worthwhile checking that out).

Rave reviews and criticism aside there were a few things everyone could agree on:

1. Mark spoke clearly and faithfully from Genesis 1-3.
2. His talk comforted those who were struggling and unsettled those who thought otherwise.
3. Like it or not, it was a challenging talk.

I personally found it challenging. Not primarily because Mark spoke abundantly about marriage, but because I’m sinful (with an overstated view of myself) and need to hear the hard word spoken to me directly. Mark’s talk to men was hard and straight forward. How we responded to it is probably more indicative of our heart rather than what Mark said. I also found the talk encouraging and as I left for home I found myself (as my recent facebook profile status announced) ‘slapped in the face, rebuked, challenged and given new energy to love and serve my sanctifying wife!’ I learnt so much about what it means to think of myself has head of the household and how to love and serve my wife and family.

I’ve ordered the DVD if you wish to see it (or re-watch it to see if there was anything you missed), let me know.

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6 Responses

  1. Hi Anon,

    Here is a well balanced review of Rob Bell’s ‘Nooma’ videos:

    http://sites.silaspartners.com/partner/Article_Display_Page/0,,PTID314526|CHID598014|CIID2396222,00.html

    And an article from CJ Mahaney on discernment (with reference to Rob Bell):

    http://www.sovereigngraceministries.org/Blog/post/Rob-Bell2c-the-Pastore28099s-Task-of-Discernment2c-and-My-Heart.aspx

    Essentially if Rob Bell’s books and videos are of concern in regards to their content, I raise a big question mark over the faithfulness of his teaching week in and out at Mars Hill, Michigan.

  2. Thanks for clearing that up.

    According to these reviews I would have to agree that Rob Bell’s message is not accurate to the gospel and hence I would have reservations about his church.

    I have seen some of his vidoes and agree that the language used is not clear and direct. Greg Gilbert does a good job identifying some of the grey areas. In an attempt to reach the lost Bell may have become lost himself.

    But I would say that Christians we must always be looking at how to contemporise the Gospel to reach out in our culture and societ … NOT CHANGE it but think of ways to convey it to others … accurately and truthfully.

  3. Hello again Anon,

    Yes you’re right re Christians being able to communicate the gospel in ways which are faithful and culturally relevant.

    Which is the beauty of Mark Driscoll’s teaching methods at Mars Hill Church in Seattle. Mark has written a few very helpful books on how to be both faithful doctrinally and culturally relevant. Check them out when you have the time :)

  4. Mars Hills attendance averaged less then 6000 last year and same for this year. I don’t know why Mark always feels a need to inflate the attendance numbers when he talks outside of Mars Hill.

  5. Hi Anon,

    Please accept my apologies if I’ve incorrectly stated the average attendance for his church :) I may have understood it in the sense that he has 6000 members, but in attendance he has approximately 8000… if I am wrong then I take that back! I don’t want to misrepresent Mark when he’s already been misrepresented elsewhere :P

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