When Heroes Let You Down

It hasn’t been a great couple of weeks for my past mentor/heroes.

First, there was Mark Driscoll. About 10 years ago he emerged onto the scene as a brash, unabashed Calvinistic young preacher. I don’t think it’s wrong to say that Driscoll rode the wave of the neo-Calvinist resurgence, and was at least to me an inspiring figure in looking into this recapturing of reformed theology. I count myself firmly on the reformed side of things thanks in part to his ministry.

But then it unravelled. His megachurch grew and grew, but so did the body count. A rising number of people were hurt by his church and ministry, and concerns rose. It came to head with some incidences that revealed a strange pattern of ministry/theology. Here are, from my perspective, some of the worrying moments:

  • The Elephant Room. Back in late 2011, Driscoll was a part of an interview in which he grilled concerning teacher TD Jakes. The subject remained firmly on the Trinity – so no discussion on his prosperity gospel preaching took place. The transcript reveals essentially nothing new, and you could boil it down to this: TD Jakes remains relatively vague on affirming the creeds and prefers heretical modalist language concerning the Trinity. That Driscoll (and James McDonald) could then embrace Jakes as a brother in Christ was concerning.
  • Strange Fire. John MacArthur is no friend of charismatic theology. In 2013 he held a conference titled ‘Strange Fire’ which took aim at unhelpful charismatic theology regarding the Holy Spirit and aimed at some specific false teachers (Benny Hinn in particular). Driscoll showed up at the conference with a squad and a bunch of his new, at the time, book ‘A Call to Resurgence’. The book itself takes aim at reformed folks who have problems with charismatic theology (and reveals the beginnings of a theological trajectory we’ll see in a moment). So, armed with this book and his friends he turned up outside the conference and was talking to delegates and passing out copies of his book. Security eventually got involved and reportedly confiscated his books and asked him to leave. Then there was a bunch of ‘he said, she said’ about the whole incident which was… strange.
  • Real Marriage. In 2012 Driscoll wrote another book ‘Real Marriage’ with his wife Grace. In 2014 it was revealed that Mars Hill Church had used some of its substantial church budget to purchase thousands of copies of the book in order to puff up its sales and make it onto the ‘New York Times bestsellers’ list – which would then give it the right to print ‘NY Times Bestseller’ on the cover and further increase the promotion of the book. Driscoll was never implicated in this, but it did strike a worrying note on the ministry culture of Mars Hill.
  • Mars Hill meltdown. Shortly after the Real Marriage controversy, there was another book controversy – this time plagiarism accusations were levelled and stuck. A few weeks later Driscoll tearfully told his congregation that he was going to take a leave of absence to deal with the negative fallout as well as address concerns about his (bullying) personality and how it had hurt people. That break turned into a resignation two months later. By October 2014 Mars Hill was shut down. It left a tidal wave of hurt.
  • New Church. Around 18 months later an announcement was made by the Driscoll’s that they were moving from Seattle to Arizona and starting a new church. Driscoll gave a teary and humbling interview with Brian Houston and appeared repentant. But…
  • Repenting… of Calvinism? In a recent interview the theological trajectory hinted at in his book ‘A Call to Resurgence’ has flowered into some ugly weed. In that interview Driscoll recants his former Calvinism (so what is he now?), and labelled those in the ‘young, restless, reformed’ camp (which he was willingly a part of) as young guys with daddy issues who love dead writers as mentors (because they won’t be like real fathers) and they love Jesus because he’s a brother and not a father figure.

I’m an optimist-realist and I’ll be honest and say that I was hoping for the best. Not just for Driscoll but ultimately for the Kingdom of God. I can now see that my hopes were misplaced. I had previously written to encourage caution and prayer and noted ‘Things went bad once. If they go bad again then we’re seeing really bad fruit that comes from a really bad place.’ Well, the smell of bad fruit is really beginning to waft – and it’s unsurprisingly disappointing.

The second fall has been less dramatic, but no less disappointing.

I became a Christian in 2001 at the rising fame of a guy called Joshua Harris. Harris had written a book a few years earlier, at the tender age of 21, on dating. Tim Challies has a helpful review on why this book took off the way it did – but basically, the Christian publishing machine was ripe for something like this book. And I jumped onto it. For various life reasons, I found his writing timely and helpful – modelling my own relationship and courtship on his.

[Some have questioned why we listened to a 21-year old on dating in the first place? In hindsight, it, of course, looks unwise and even foolish. Speaking from my own perspective I’d say that we listened to him because there was no other mentor figure who could help us navigate relationships in a Christian manner. Josh’s voice was speaking at the right time and engaging at our level. At a time before the internet made more voices, and better voices, readily available this was the best we could get.]

In the years since I was encouraged by where his ministry went. He understudied under CJ Mahaney, eventually became senior pastor of Covenant Life Church, and was a board member of The Gospel Coalition. For someone who had no theological training, or even an undergraduate degree, it was encouraging to see his trajectory into reformed theology from a distance.

And then things started changing.

In 2015 he made an announcement to step down as senior pastor of Covenant Life Church in order to pursue theological studies. He enrolled at Regent College, Vancouver and I thought this was going to be a good step. Some time to study, some time to grow and rejuvenate ready to pastor again.

A couple of years later there were murmurings that his views on his bestseller, and book that thrust him onto the scene, ‘I Kissed Dating Goodbye’, were changing. Shortly after a documentary came out re-evaluating his book’s main thrust, he contacted his publisher to stop printing it and released a statement online basically apologising for the hurt his book had caused. I thought this was a good step, and by now had not really promoted it as a good relationship book to read.

Around about the same time Harris made another move. I’m unsure whether he graduated from Regents College (it doesn’t look like it?), but he decided to step away from pastoring and into a new business venture as a marketing consultant. I felt saddened by this move – mostly that the Kingdom had lost another pastor to shepherd the flock, but I understood that sometimes life changes and people move onto different things. Hoping and wishing the best for him and his family.

Then a few days ago he announced with that he and his wife Shannon were separating. The announcement on Instagram is carefully worded, with all the right language you would expect of a crafted statement. This was deeply saddening. The reasons for the separation are vague – that ‘significant changes have taken place in both of us.’ But reading between the lines and noticing some posts on Shannon’s own Instagram profile – I think we’re going to hear of their deconversion stories soon enough.

It’s been a tough few days processing how these men have journeyed. There’s something about the public ministry of people that you feel connected with. Their teaching and lives weren’t just on paper. They were mentors when I didn’t have any, they were older men I looked up to and respected. And now I can’t help but feel a disappointment for them.

So how do we respond when the heroes and mentors we looked up to let us down?

Pray for Them

Pray for Driscoll to be truly humbled, and for the Spirit to work in him to awaken him to his error and call him to true repentance. Pray for the members of his church to be led well towards Christ. Pray that any future error would remain contained.

Pray for Josh, his wife Shannon, and his family. Pray for the Spirit to reconcile their lives not only to each other but also to Jesus faithfully. Pray that their past hurts would be healed by the gospel taking deep roots into their lives, and the Spirit would prevent them from swinging too far in the opposite direction of the perceived fundamentalism they are seeking to escape.


Pray for Yourself

Prayerfully reflect on your own weaknesses and failings. I don’t presently have a platform as big as Driscoll or Harris, but I am within my own limitations capable of failing as badly. So, I thank God’s grace in keeping me, and I pray to never presume upon his grace but to keep persevering in growing my own holiness and faithfulness in my life as a husband, father, and pastor.

The same can be said for us all as we look in on this situation.


Remember God is Sovereign

While God does gift his church with leaders and teachers to equip the saints for the work of ministry, God is not solely dependent upon them. The fall of Christian leaders has happened far too often, and yet God’s church has never been threatened because of it.

This isn’t to say that people aren’t hurt or aren’t going to be hurt. That is a profoundly sad reality when Christian leaders fall or walk away. But we must be reminded that God is sovereign, he remains in control, and so it is appropriate to pray that He would be at work in and through these circumstances to bring fresh healing and gospel-hope to his people.


Don’t Quit Church

When Mars Hill Church folded there were many people who scattered and didn’t return to church. Some stayed on at the various campuses. Some of the campuses closed and no doubt other churches were grown by the transfer of affected members.

With the divorce of Josh and Shannon Harris, I’ve already seen people commenting that they’ve had enough of evangelicalism.

I understand.

But please, don’t give up on church. It is imperfect – sometimes profoundly imperfect – and yet it is the gathering that Christ gave his life for. God loves you, warts and all, and he loves his church warts and all as well. In His wisdom, He has set out a plan to demonstrate His glory through gathering imperfect people to love and serve each other. The sometimes failure of his leaders is a powerful reminder that everyone who steps into a church gathering needs His grace.


Feet of Clay

I think these sorts of failings also need to remind us all that even the best men and women have feet of clay. My other heroes and mentors have all been and are imperfect in various ways. That’s not a bad thing! All our heroes have feet of clay. Let’s not expect more of them than we expect of ourselves.

It’s also a reminder that the only hero who will never let you down is Jesus. Having recently finished preaching through the Gospel of Mark I was unsurprised and gently reminded that everyone around Jesus failed him. Peter, probably the one with the greatest potential, failed spectacularly in the final moments. Yet through the story, there was one steadfast figure: Jesus himself.

So, it’s not bad to have hero and mentor figures in our lives. And it’s also good to remember they are imperfect as well.


Keep Trusting the Gospel

The failure of some does not mean the failure of the message.

We’re presently walking through the letter of 1 John at SLE Church. I’ve come to see that a major pastoral issue in this letter is that a group of people had upped and left the church and had fallen into error and false teaching. The remaining Christians were being tempted to pursue after them – partly because they looked so impressive on the outside.

In response, John points out the façade of the false teacher’s exteriors and exhorts his readers not to abandon the gospel they first heard, and for which he and the other apostles were eyewitnesses. Cling onto it because not only is the gospel true, but it is also where comfort, life and eternity are found. Jesus offers real hope. To walk away from that is to abandon hope. So keep trusting what you heard from the beginning – it will be worth holding onto in the end.


Mark Driscoll is… back soon

It’s been confirmed by the Driscoll’s themselves that they will be starting a new church plant within the next few months in Phoenix, Arizona. Those who have read this blog from the very beginning know that I have had some affection for the work and ministry of Driscoll and Mars Hill. I haven’t blogged too much on what’s happened in recent years, I’ve been more following along with my own concerns but not wishing to put them out there on this site. There’s plenty of others – well written, and awfully written – who have discussed the details of what’s happened much more.

The purpose of this post is to post up a few relevant videos I’ve come across to help shape our perspective on Driscoll himself.

First there’s this two part video – an interview with Brian Houston – with some reflections from the Driscolls and I think some hard hitting questions from Houston:

Say what you will about all that’s happened, I see in these videos a repentant and humbled man. Does this mean I think he should jump back into ministry? I don’t know. And actually, that answer itself says a lot.

The next video is some reflections from John Piper. There’s lots to be said about the ‘he said/she said’ on the details of all that has happened – what Piper strikes at helpfully is the larger bigger picture.

Some points from Piper worth repeating:

  • What has happened to Driscoll and Mars Hill is not unique. Lay people and pastors every day bring reproach upon the gospel. Who has not let Jesus down? Take care of the logs in our eye before we try to point out the specks in others. Ironically, we’re often so quick to notice the logs in other people’s eyes…
  • What has happened to Driscoll and Mars Hill is a colossal blow to relationships, Christianity, reformed theology, complementarianism…etc. It’s been a big victory for Satan. But the general – Jesus – is not shaken and out of control.
  • In the wake of everything that has happened – and the possible contempt that some may feel about this new church-plant announcement – don’t walk away from Jesus or the church. The choice of Jesus over the church is a choice of your opinion over the bible – you cannot have Jesus without the church.

So, what should we make of it all? To be honest I don’t really know. I’m about to preach on 2 Peter 2 and false teachers, and for Peter one of the hallmarks of a false teacher is not just their doctrine but their lives. How they live – in sensuality and following their own fleshly desires while leading others astray. I do believe there were some concerning aspects of Driscoll’s ministry at Mars Hill, but the elders report which came in late 2014 was that while Driscoll had some personality issues to work through he had not committed anything serious enough to disqualify him from ministry. I want to read that carefully and cautiously, but I also want to trust that the eldership of a church could not have gotten it totally wrong.

So I want to encourage caution and prayer. Things went bad once. If they go bad again then we’re seeing really bad fruit that comes from a really bad place. And I sincerely pray that it will not come to that again – not just for their sake but also for the sake of the gospel. So be cautious about the books that Driscoll publishes and the sermons that he preaches. I’m on the other side of the planet and my interest in Driscoll is an interest that wants to see the Gospel win. I want this church to grow well because I want to see the Gospel shine.

To that end pray that this new ministry will be fruitful, and that it will be marked by humility and repentance of such a kind that it will rebound to the glory of God.

Avatar Review – Follow Up

In follow up to my review of Avatar, I’ve recently come across a short snippet of Mark Driscoll’s thoughts on the movie (though the comments are quite old). Here’s a transcript of his sermon:

The world tempts you to sin, to use people, to disobey God, to live for your own glory instead of his own, to be a consumer instead of generous, that’s the world system.

And if you don’t believe me, go see Avatar, the most demonic, satanic film I’ve ever seen. That any Christian could watch that without seeing the overt demonism is beyond me. I logged on to christianitytoday.com and the review was reflective of Christianity today, very disappointing. See, in that movie, it is a completely false ideology, it’s a sermon preached. It’s the most popular movie ever made, and it tells you that the creation mandate, the cultural mandate is bad, that we shouldn’t, we shouldn’t develop culture, that’s a bad thing.

Primitive is good and advanced is bad and that we’re not sinners, we’re just disconnected from the divine life force, just classic, classic, classic paganism, that human beings are to connect, literally, with trees and animals and beasts and birds and that there’s this spiritual connection that we’re all a part of, that we’re all a part of the divine.

It presents a false mediator with a witch. It presents false worship of created things rather than Creator God in absolute antithesis to Romans 1:25, which gives that as the essence of paganism. It has a false incarnation where a man comes in to be among a people group and to assume their identity. It’s a false Jesus. We have a false resurrection. We have a false savior. We have a false heaven. The whole thing is new age, satanic, demonic paganism, and people are just stunned by the visuals. Well, the visuals are amazing because Satan wants you to emotionally connect with a lie.

I think there are some very good points made here. Namely – to get people to accept a lie you don’t give it to people for what its worth, you dress it up. Satan is terribly clever at doing this and I think Driscoll’s forthright comments are worth pondering. While I was suckered into the visuals of the movie I will admit that I found the storyline pretty laughable (and predictable).

Another good point he makes is that we must consider the spiritual affect of even a ‘work of art’ which has had such a profound influence globally. I heard the other day that even though James Cameron has only made 12 films they have grossed a total of +5 Billion dollars globally, making him, on gross earnings, the highest earning Director in history. So we must evaluate the spiritual and philosophical push his films make.

Finally, it may seem crude to some that Driscoll’s views this film is as ‘demonic and satanic’. I would challenge all of us to keep meditating on how close to the truth he might actually be. Anything which robs God of his true glory is both demonic and satanic. Whatever you think of Driscoll’s words, it’s been widely noted that Avatar pushes a particular agenda. And that agenda is not in line with scripture. Coupled with the fact that this is movie is one of the highest grossing movies of all time and we begin to see that its robbing of God’s glory affect may be more profound than we first think. What better, easier, and more glamorous way can Satan be at work?

Happy discerning-movie-watching. :)

Reformed Charismatic…?

I’ve heard this term bandied around a bit of late and recently it came to my attention that quite a few people feel unnerved by the phrase.

Eminent bible teacher and preacher Philip Jensen has a go at tackling the issue here.
Jensen rightly points out that classical Charismatic theology and classical Reformed theology are incompatible. His thoughts are helpful in thinking through these terms.
However, Jensen rightly points out at the beginning of his discussion that words can be redefined by just about anyone. While his discussion is helpful in considering the classical positions of Charismatic and Reformed theology, I cannot help but feel that Jensen hasn’t done quite enough to discuss the new wave of ‘Reformed Charismatic’ movements which appear to be coming from the US (with guys like CJ Mahaney, John Piper and Mark Driscoll as the common faces of the movement – though to my knowledge these men have not used the phrase ‘Reformed Charismatic’ to describe themselves). This new wave appears to happily use the term ‘Reformed Charismatic’ to identify themselves while at the same time disassociate themselves from ‘Classical Charismaticism’. Jensen speaks firmly, and I think appropriately, on the issue of whether classical Charismatic theology can be reconciled with classical Reformed theology – but he doesn’t speak on the issue of how this new wave of ‘Reformed Charismatics’ define themselves and their teaching.
At this point I defer to a blog post by CJ Mahaney who defines himself as ‘Reformed’ in his understanding of the doctrines of Grace (soteriology) and ‘Charismatic’ in his continuationist beliefs regarding the Holy Spirit’s gifts. Classical Charismaticism defined itself partly in the requirement that a believer demonstrate gifts of the Holy Spirit, in particular tongues (as a sign of baptism by the Holy Spirit). This position inevitably creates a tiered system of faith – those who are Christians but yet to experience the ‘baptism of the Holy Spirit’ and those who have had the experience and are more ‘complete/full/better’. This position, of course, is inherently unbiblical.
However does holding a continuationist position (that the gifts of the Spirit, those listed in 1 Corinthians 12-14 in particular, continue to this day) necessarily contradict holding a Reformed position? At this point I defer to the works of well respected Evangelical scholars such as DA Carson (Showing the Spirit: A Theological Exposition of 1 Corinthians, 12-14), JI Packer (Keep in Step With the Spirit) and Wayne Grudem (Systematic Theology edit: it has been brought to my attention by a trusted and more learned brother that Grudem comes from a slightly different theological background than Carson or Packer – so his material needs to be read with a little bit more discernment). Leading voices in Evangelical thought and scholarship who agree that the gifts of the Spirit continue to this day, but (and this is an important but!) with sanctions on their use as determined and restricted by Scripture (as found in 1 Corinthians 12-14).
Recently John Woodhouse, principal of Moore Theological College, had a go at answering the question. Here are his (brief) thoughts on the issue:
I think Woodhouse does a very good job at answering the question in an insightful and humble manner. Picking up on one of his points I’d like to close with some things we can do in response.
Firstly – know where things are coming from. Woodhouse rightly points out that the ‘Reformed Charismatic’ camp seems to stem from two different places – one founded in Reformed theology and one founded in Charismatic theology. Let me illustrate with this diagram…

The tension behind this debate is probably based in the unknown potential of where each theology is heading. Logically it works out, as the diagram shows, that those coming from a Charismatic background will more logically moved towards a stronger Reformed theology and vice versa. But this is only potential – it may or may not happen. But I think it’s helpful to know where someone is coming from to know possibly where they might move to next.
Secondly – be discerning. As Woodhouse rightly points out, this is a new “fad” (I use the term very loosely). Don’t simply jump onboard because everyone else is. Test the teaching that you are hearing against scripture and pray about it. If no warning lights come on then pray for your own heart, that what you are hearing or reading would implant in you a desire towards godliness, faithfulness and fruitfulness.
Thirdly – (carried from the last point) don’t be overly critical. Throughout the history of the church God has worked in waves of revival. We should welcome any such revival in the churches grounded upon God’s Word and work hard to ensure that the effects are long lasting.
Finally – don’t forsake the past. The tension of this debate threatens to drive a wedge between faithful older generations and faithful younger generations. The Reformed Charismatic movement is predominantly a younger generation movement. If you are caught up in the wave do your utmost to maintain unity within the body. It will be a terrible indictment upon the movement if its proponents forsake the fertile ground prepared for them by hard working older generations. Both generations need to remember that ultimately it is God who brings growth – one generation might do the sewing and planting, another does the watering – and both are equally important for the fruit of God’s Word to grow.
I am intensely interested to hear Woodhouse’s view regarding the cessationist/continuationist debate. No doubt he will be well thought out – but I’ll have to wait for another time to ask that question. Perhaps if I ever bump into him I’ll take him out for some coffee and ask!

A final word on Mark Driscoll…?

Ok, there are some who read this blog and may be thinking I’ve gone all ‘Mark Driscoll Groupie’ – this accusation is probably half true.

I was recently made aware that quite a number of Christians are beginning to get a little upset at bloggers. Particularly in the wake of Mark Driscoll’s arrival in Australia there were a number of bloggers, ‘Christian blogs’ and bloggers who are Christian (there is a slight difference), who raised concerns and vocalised criticisms. Being a blogger myself I’m aware of the danger one can get into regarding being misunderstood or writing something which stems from ungodliness on my part.

So it comes as no surprise to hear that people are getting fed up with reactionist bloggers. Even some of the blogs I read regularly (and promote via my blog roll down the right hand side) have come under fire for being too critical, defensive and…well…reactionistic.

So I found Philip Jensen’s latest post from St Andrew’s Cathedral, Sydney, to be both enlightening, fair, balanced and humble. He lists three points to reflect upon when considering Driscoll’s recent visit (and I think his comments apply very generally to anything we hear from a visiting/overseas guest speaker).

  1. Don’t be defensive.
  2. Don’t become an overnight groupie.
  3. Don’t respond with nothing.

You can find Philip’s post here.

I’d like to add to that list for the bloggers who may be reading this and are blogging themselves:

  1. Don’t blog (or email) late at night. Your thoughts will not be as clear as they will be during the day.
  2. Always think before you click ‘publish/send’. Take some time to think through what you have written and the reason you wrote it.
  3. Remember point number 2. The internet is a wonderful thing, but it can just as easily be used for ungodly and godless means.
  4. Remember point number 2! With broadband the way it is now the internet, blogging and emailing are instantaneous. Your thoughts, emotions and the possibility of being misunderstood (however great) will be published for the world to see, and it’s very hard to take it back once you have.

And as always, happy blogging :)

Driscoll, Grown Men & ABC’s

Part of Mark’s challenge to the 900 plus men who attended the ‘300 Men For Jesus’ night was for men to start taking responsibility over their lives. Mark cited recent Australian statistics to the effect that Australian men now live at home until the average age of 25 and do not get married until they are 32. His conclusion in relation to these statistics was that Australian men are delaying growing up and taking responsibility for as long as they can. To bolster his argument he said that by the time he was 25 he was already married with children and starting a church plant.

This challenge struck a particular chord with many of the guys I know that night. Some were challenged to find work to stop living off their parents. Others reacted strongly against the suggestion that men should not be living at home after the age of 18. Still, others took it with a grain of salt knowing that, culturally, it’s more acceptable for Chinese people (even Australian Born Chinese – ABC) to live at home until you are married (like I did).

But that got me thinking as to whether or not our (Chinese) cultural assumption is biblical at all. Certainly in scripture there is no defining point at which one becomes an adult. Ephesians 6 encourages the fathers to ‘bring up’ children in the discipline of the Lord, which leads to the conclusion that there is a point in which fathers no longer ‘bring up’ children. John Stott in his BST Ephesians commentary adds that whilst we don’t normally read our cultural understandings into the bible passages we are reading, he believes that because Paul’s word usage is so general that Paul would allow for culture to dictate how one defines a ‘child’.

I’ve heard it said that in Australian culture you are a ‘child’ until you turn 18, at which point your parents (historically) encouraged you to move out and get a job. With university and further education becoming increasingly popular that age has been shifted back a little – perhaps 22 or 23. Adulthood in an Australian context is achieved once you have a job and have exercised independence by moving out of home.*

For Asians, however, I’ve heard it said that you are a child until you get married. So adulthood is reached upon marriage. Adulthood is not thrust upon a child by the parents gentle (and sometimes not so gentle) prodding out of the family nest, but when that child reaches for the independence found in marriage.**

Which leads me to the thought as to what should an ABC be doing between the ‘just graduated from uni/starting a new job’ period in their life to ‘getting married’. Mark would say they should have a job, should have moved out, started looking for a wife and serving within their church. The longer you delay these steps the harder it essentially is for young men to be a part (let alone interested) of a church. The largest population of people who don’t go to church are young men between the ages of 18-35. The reason Mark gives: they aren’t growing up quickly enough to want to take responsibility. Men need to be encouraged to exercise godly dominion, in their lives, in their homes and in the church.

Let’s take a step back for a moment and examine this from our church perspective. How many single guys, aged 18-35, are there in our church? Now how many of them are actively serving within the church? How many of those who are not active still live at home?

But what if it’s culturally appropriate for a young, single, ABC man to be living at home even whilst they are working? Initially I’d say it is, however there are a few other excuses as to why some ABC’s continue living at home. Excuses which I’d say are characteristic of the type of man Mark Driscoll wants to hammer.

Excuse #1
I have everything I need at home – meals cooked for me, laundry done for me, cheap rent (if at all), bills paid…etc

This caricature is often a lot more subtle. It’s very hard work living on your own and doing things to sustain your life – doing the dishes, washing your own clothes, paying the rent/mortgage and the bills. The fear of these things is only quashed when a man decides to pluck up enough courage and get out there.

I saw a documentary once of a social worker who was helping a particular group of refugees. These refugees weren’t Asian, but their culture had left some devastating consequences for their men. The social worker was finding that even though the refugees were set up with a fridge full of food and a simple home to live in, after a week they were starving. None of the men knew how to cook or look after themselves because culturally they had been conditioned to learn that cooking and cleaning were women’s/wives jobs.

Are our men the same? I’m not expecting guys to cook like Jamie Oliver, but if you want to grow in taking up responsibility, cooking for yourself is one place to start.

Excuse #2
It’s too expensive to move out and buy a home.

Firstly, who said you have to buy a home? The issue here is not home ownership, but growing up and taking responsibility. If you’re single, working and on a wage of more than $35k a year renting is not going to kill you. Sure, rent money is dead money (as ‘they’ say) but if it means you’re getting out of home and growing in exercising godly dominion then consider it an investment into your godliness as a man.

Excuse #3
I’m not moving out because I’m not getting married yet. Why do I need to find a wife? I might have the gift of singleness…

I heard this one more recently – the idea that since getting married means moving out of home, not desiring marriage = not having to move out.

Gifts are always given to us for the good of the body. Marriage is a gift because, as Mark said, it is there to make us holy (not happy). Singleness is a gift also – but it’s not a gift purely for our own sake, it’s there to allow us to serve better and fuller. For instance, I was told recently that bible college students are told that if they are single more is expected of them. And it’s true – if you’re single you don’t have the cares and worries of this world (as Paul notes in 1 Cor 7). Jesus was single, the Apostle Paul was single, John Stott and John Chapman are single. But in each case look at what they did/are doing. The gift of singleness is not simply a lack of desire for wanting marriage. It’s being able to more fully devote yourself to the work of the Lord.

This last point I won’t call an excuse. It’s a valid reason for some to still live with their parents: my parents expect me to look after them when they are old/I have relatives I need to care for. I want to first say that this is a great exercise in responsibility for carers. It is very godly to take care of the elderly and there is much that the family of God should be doing to assist.

So what excuses do you have left?

* On a tangential note, whilst in High School (and bored) I picked up Bill Cosby’s ‘Fatherhood’ to have a read. It was quite an entertaining book with the wit that I became accustomed to listening to Bill Cosby whilst I grew up in the 80’s. Cosby is also a big fan of pushing the kids out the door (and never letting them back in!) when your children reach ‘adulthood’.

** This is probably the cause of most conflicts between OBC parents and ABC children. An ABC spends most of their waking hours learning how to reach for independence. An OBC parent expects their kids to remain submissive to their parent’s wishes until they get married. Conflicts generally occur at the later university stage of life when ABC’s start to exercise independence (going out more + spending less time at home) but the OBC parent considers this behaviour to be unruly and offensive to their parental provisions of home and food (ie – treating your home like a hotel: you only come back to eat and sleep). So you’ll often hear complaints that their ‘child’ is out too often and not doing things like seeking a job, finding a wife/husband and settling down. Who is right or wrong? No-one really. Both the OBC parent and the ABC child need to understand each other’s culture. The OBC needs to recognise that their culture is not exactly shared with their children and the ABC ‘child’ needs to ensure that they are home enough to respect their parents by showing love and honour.

More on Driscoll

A friend of mine recently “accused” (I use this in the most loose sense!) me of lazy blogging by referencing the blogs of others I had recently read. Well that’s partly to do with how good some of the other blogs are, and how good some of their recent postings have been. And this morning’s post will be no different :P

In the wake of Mark Driscoll’s whirlwind tour of Australia (or was it just Sydney and Brisbane?), some blogs of note have been feverishly putting down notes, thoughts and reflections. When Mark brought 10,000 people to the Sydney Entertainment Centre for one talk comparisons were made to the Billy Graham crusades back in the 60’s, and, just like Billy, Mark has drawn his fair share of criticism, revulsion and praise.

So here’s a bit more reflection upon his visit by the Sola Panel. Firstly a summary of Mark’s talk given to Sydney Anglicans on the ‘18 Obstacles to Effective Evangelism‘. Similar notes were taken by Gordon Cheng (one of the Matthias Media men) at his blog, but also including notes from both talks he gave that day. Also of note is Gordon’s posting on his reflection upon Mark the man himself.

But in response to the 18 points talk, Sandy Grant over at the Sola Panel posted these thoughts in reply. Sandy’s post is both self-effacing and humble in accepting the points Mark made which were accurate of himself (and just like a good preacher does, applies the message to himself in a very helpful and practical way) yet balanced in his critique of one of Mark’s other points.

Essentially Sandy’s point of criticism revolves around Mark’s challenge that ‘we are afraid of the Holy Spirit’. His point is summarised here (as copy and pasted from the Sola Panel site):

You don’t know what to do with it, so the trinity is Father, Son and Holy Bible. You are so reactionary to pentecostalism that you have reacted also to the charismatic. The Holy Spirit calls people into ministry. He also empowers people for ministry. You don’t have to be charismatic but you should be a little charismatic, enough at least to worship God with more than just all of your mind. The word charismatic here means prosperity, excessive, bizarre. In London, it means you’re not a liberal. Don’t get hung up on all the terminology. Do you love the Holy Spirit? Jesus says the Holy Spirit is a ‘He’ and not an ‘it’.” Ministry cannot be done apart from the Holy Spirit—I think that is in part leading to the lack of entrepreneurialism and innovation, because if it’s not already done and written down, you’re suspicious of it.

Sandy’s take on this is well worth reading. However I’d like to throw in a few thoughts of my own that I have been thinking through and experienced in our time as pastoral apprentices.

It has been my observation that most Chinese churches tend to hold to a cessationist view of the gifts of the Spirit, whether knowingly or just simply in practice. Mark holds a continuationist view which obviously runs counter to our practice and theology. Does that make him a ‘charismatic’? He would say, ‘Yes!’ But I would say, ‘Well, it depends…’

See, even in the summary statement above Mark points out that being ‘charismatic’ means different things to different people. For instance, in London it means ‘you’re not liberal’. In Sydney it means ‘prosperity, me-centred theology and tongues’. In our church it simply means ‘tongues’. However the biblical definition is simply ‘gifted’. That is, Spirit gifted for a particular ministry – the Greek word, charismata, is often translated as ‘gift’. So when Mark says we need to be “a little [more] charismatic, enough at least to worship God with more than just all of your mind” his critique in relation to my observation in our church is devestatingly accurate.

“But wait”, you might be saying, “isn’t the cessationist view biblically accurate?” Whilst there are plenty of arguments going around that it is, but I’d like to point out that it seems to me that Christian academics has resolved this issue in the negative – for further reading J.I Packer’s – Keep in step with the Spirit and Don Carsons’ – Showing the Spirit. Both Packer and Carson deal faithfully with the scriptural texts and both sides of the charismata argument. Both end up on the side of continuation, but with the ‘seatbelt’ of 1 Corinthians 12-14 to guide (that is, affirming the continuationist perspective whilst cautioning against excessive focus or devotion to the Spirit).

“But wait”, you might again be saying, “does it really matter in the end so long as people are loving each other and our churches are doing ok?” No it doesn’t matter so long as people are loving each other, and there are good books out there from cessationist views with very gracious views towards continuationists (for instance, Graham A. Cole – “He who gives life: the doctrine of the Holy Spirit“).

However, the more I reflect upon this issue the more I come to realise that the cessationist view has a pretty devastating effect upon ministry. Recently at a training meeting we discussed an article from ‘The Briefing‘ by Colin Marshall. In that article Colin discussed the ministry mind-shifts we need to make in order to better serve and minister to the people in our churches. Leading the way in his 10 point argument was that we need to focus more on people rather than on programs. We need to minister to the people and encourage their areas of giftedness rather than search for people who can slot into the programs we have already established. My reflections upon this issue has lead me to conclude that one consequence of holding the cessationist view has been that our church has geared itself towards thinking that the maintenance of the programs we run will bring about growth numerically and spiritually. Instead of seeing the areas in which people are gifted and finding/creating a ministry to build upon them, we squeeze people into particular ministries and expect them to flourish. As a result people complain that they are ‘burning out’ because ministry revolves around ‘doing’ rather than ‘serving with joy’. Serving becomes about doing what you can to maintain the ministry area you’ve been given rather than encourage you shape it according to your giftedness.

Hence, Mark’s last point in that summary statement, “Ministry cannot be done apart from the Holy Spirit—I think that is in part leading to the lack of entrepreneurialism and innovation, because if it’s not already done and written down, you’re suspicious of it“, is a devastatingly accurate and biting piece of commentary upon the way we operate. In what ways can the Chinese church be more innovative? Let’s put our heads together and see if we can’t come up with something.

Cyclone Driscoll has come and gone

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.