Thursday, July 06, 2006

A Review of Mark Driscoll's Confessions of a Reformission Rev.

Since things move at the speed of fad in the blogworld, I am very behind in reading and reviewing Mark Driscoll's Confessions of a Reformission Rev. Thank goodness I am a firm believer in the old adage "last is not least," I decided to give you my two cents on this book.

First, for those of you who do not know, let me introduce Mark Driscoll to you. He is the founding pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington. He began the church in the early nineties, and today it has grown to over 5,000. You can check the church out here. Pastor Driscoll is known as part of the "emerging" church, which is notoriously difficult to define. As best as I understand, the emerging church seeks to bring the gospel into the culture without compromising the gospel. At least, that's what Mars Hill tries to do. Some of the problem with Emergent churches is that they teach erroneous doctrine. Pastor Driscoll makes it clear that he does not agree doctrinally with everyone known as emergent. He puts himself on the conservative end of the movement.

It's hard to know where to begin, but I'll begin with the title. The most prominent word in the title is the word "Confessions." Personally, I did not feel like I was reading a confession. Certainly, Pastor Driscoll confesses mistakes he made, but not as one would expect from a confessional. The confessions were written more as, "Man, I screwed up here, and it almost killed me." This is not to say that it is wrong to write about sin as such, but a quality of humility about such sins was decidedly missing. Even a cursory comparison with Augustine's confessions will immediately demonstrate the difference I'm speaking of.

So, instead of calling this a confessional, I would say that this is more of an autobiographical book on Pastor Driscoll's struggles and triumphs in planting a church in Seattle. So the content is not necessarily meant to be doctrinal in nature. It's simply a story about a guy who loves Jesus and Seattle and wants to make a difference there. This is the story of how they are making that difference.

Let me talk about the writing style of this book. It is informal and conversational. If you have read Donald Miller's Blue Like Jazz and enjoyed that style, then you should enjoy this as well. The style makes the book and easy read; it took me about two days to complete the book, and I'm a fairly busy guy. You could easily finish this inside a week. It will not require deep thought to process Pastor Driscoll's points.

In analyzing the content of this book, I'll start with what I disliked and end on a positive note. The majority of what grated on me while reading this book was the humor. Pastor Driscoll is a funny guy; I admit it. While the humor bothered me at times, it was also one of the high points of the book. I'm not against funny. I'm against cruel funny. The first line of the book illustrates what annoyed me. Pastor Driscoll begins the book by writing, "The upstairs room at the fundamentalist church was so hot that everyone was sweating like Mike Tyson in a spelling bee." That's pushing the line for how humor should be used. In my opinion, humor should not be used to denigrate others for a cheap laugh. If one wishes to denigrate themselves, that's free game. When Pastor Driscoll tells the story of crapping himself during a sermon, that's fine and funny. But leave Tyson alone; he's got enough trouble. The examples of denigrating humor abound. For example:

The drummer used what appeared to be baseball bats instead of drunsticks and beat the kit as if it were Rodney King.

To this day, I twitch like a Vietnam vet just thinking about the mural.

You get the picture. I know that even reading this that some of you are trying not to laugh. Some of you are actually laughing. Quit it. Seriously, such humor will evoke laughs, but it is not good. Now these quotes are funny:

Preaching is like driving a clutch, and the only way to figure it out is to keep grinding the gears and stalling until you figure it out.

I'm glad that more people don't go to church in Seattle, because if they did, they would likely end up at churches led by pastors who are going to hell with their gay partners. Things are so bad that even two Baptist churches have gay pastors, and when the Baptists are gay, a city is officially lost.

Okay, so the second quote may be pushing the envelope, but I liked the part about the Baptists.

In a nutshell, Pastor Driscoll is sometimes a little vulgar and used denigrating humor. I can deal with it, but I don't find it wise. Some people were horrified with the language, but I wasn't. In fact, I found one particular episode of his supposed "vulgarity" refreshing. That was the part where he yelled at the men of his church about being perverts. I especially enjoyed that part. Frankly, if I pastored a church full of 20 years old porn addicts I'd probably yell at them too. Our median age is probably 50. I have to yell at them for not caring about the 20 year olds.

Let's briefly discuss theology. Pastor Driscoll is a reformed guy, and I like that. He's a credo-baptist, and I like that. Further, he has some good points once you get past the jokes. However, he is not a cessasionist by any stretch of the imagination. He believes that he has prophetic dreams, and that God guides him through these dreams. He also believes that Satan attacks him in his dreams. In short, believes that all of the sign gifts are still fully functional in the present day. In fairness, I am reduced to either believing that Pastor Driscoll is lying about the prophetic dreams, or that he is psychic. I hope he isn't lying, and if he's telling the truth, then I suppose he's having prophetic dreams.

I like Pastor Driscoll's emphasis in ecclesiology pretty well. (That's church organization.) He identifies types of folks in the church that are helpful and unhelpful, and he stresses that for a church to grow, you have to be willing to cut off the dead weight. If you don't, they'll anchor the church and refuse to let it move forward. He also believes in an elder ruled church, and he believes that congregational rule means letting the lunatics run the asylum. I think that's hyperbole, but then again he's in a different place than me.

I believe that this book is a help to young men, as long as they don't start trying to be funny like Mark Driscoll. He is a little vulgar at times, but a male audience will relate to what the man is saying. A woman will most likely be disgusted with some of what he says. Also, I imagine that if some pastor in Mississippi 50+ picked up this book and read it, he would probably die a thousand deaths at the way Pastor Driscoll does things. But most guys like that are ready to nuke Seattle anyway, and I can't imagine why they would want to read this book in the first place.

In comparison to the church I pastor, Mark Driscoll and I are living on two different planets. His town is filled with maybe a million people; I have a few thousand. There, nobody goes to churc; here, everybody goes to church....Catholic Church, that is. The average age of his church is mid-twenty, mine is mid-50's. He started from nothing, I have 100 years of good and bad precedent to deal with. His culture is "post-modern," mine is Cajun. His folks go to Starbucks for fun; mine go to the swamps to shoot things. But I was still encouraged to be more aggresive in doing the work of the ministry by him, and for that I am thankful.

In the end, I enjoyed the book. Go ahead, throw rocks at me. I liked it. I have been so deep in commentaries and "heavy" books lately that I needed a book like this. Plus, it did me some good to think about what Pastor Driscoll said. So, I would recommend that you read it if you are interested...but please, don't make it a habit of putting down others afterwards.


Jim said...

I'm glad that more people don't go to church in Seattle, because if they did, they would likely end up at churches led by pastors who are going to hell with their gay partners. Things are so bad that even two Baptist churches have gay pastors, and when the Baptists are gay, a city is officially lost.

Way too funny!

However, his usage of vulgarity to make a point really doesn't add up. The ends will never justify the means, and as people of God we are to let no corrupt communication out of our mouthes.

Even So... said...

I appreciate the balance, Brad. No I am not a fan of being vulgar, but casually creative isn't always crass either.

I have said some negative things about language and its misuse regarding Driscoll before, but in all candor, I think we need to let this thing play itself out... I better run, here come the rocks!

Mike Perrigoue said...

I agree with even so...the balance is nice. I'm no fan of Driscoll and his methods, but his heart seems to be in the right place: Proclaiming God's Word to lost people.

I can't help but wonder how Christian's grow at his church though. Seems like a great place to get started on your walk...but when the pastor doesn't seem to grow more mature...that could become a problem.

Now I'm gonna' run from the rocks too!

Alan said...

I liked it too - and I am nearly 50. He probably goes too far in his vulgarity at times, but he is a funny guy. We need to pray that God will shape him as he wants: he will be in John Piper's conference later this year along with Don Carson and Tim Keller: you have to think that if he leaves himself open to guys like these, he will learn what he needs to learn.

Jonathan Moorhead said...

Thanks for the review.

Matt Brown said...

I will also extend my thanks. Driscoll is an intriguing character, and I'm sure he is especially so to you pastors. Don't worry about being "late to the party" with this review - reviews are great no matter how long the book has been out.

Anonymous said...

I am a conservative, fundamental baptist and I've recently discovered Mark Driscoll's preaching. I haven't heard any vulgarity and find his teaching/preaching on spot, biblical, and yes - the E word.... Entertaining.

I know, worship shouldn't be entertaining but this man has a unique was of preaching very conservatively with a modern twist.

We have "mega" churches around here that house 4,000 - 9,000 people on a weekend and I'd like to think that if they were pastored by this type of a leader they'd actually be growing spiritually and not just in numbers as a social club.

Don't knock this man. He is simply using the principle of parables to reach the lost.

Anonymous said...

I have read and love Driscoll's book. To those that have read his book (if you like Driscoll or not) I would suggest you also read "Confessions of a Pastor" by Craig Groeschel--same idea, different approach. Both are successful churchplanters and are both brutally honest with their thoughts, shortcomings and struggles. These are two influential leaders in the church today and we should learn from their experiences.