Bless everyone and save many

My good friend Simon Jones writes some challenging words on his blog about the need to “bless everyone and save many”:

It means that we have to work at being good news on two fronts simultaneously.

The first is the obvious one of what we do to reach out and embrace people of all kinds, offer to bless them and bring good into their lives. It’s the ministry that Jeremiah urged on the exiles in 29:7: ‘seek the shalom (the well-being, peace, wholeness) of the city where I’ve sent you into exile and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its shalom you will find your shalom’. Everything we do should be good news, aiming to bless people regardless of how they respond to us.

The second is less obvious but equally essential: the community we build must be a place of wholeness and acceptance, a place where the barriers between people come down, where there is genuine forgiveness, where past hurts are not allowed to fester or ossify into stumbling blocks to one another. I think this is why Paul spends so much time in his letters talking about our relationships with one another. Time and again I come back to Philippians 2:1-5, 11-18 and see that this is key to being a missional people.

imageWhich I why I found Mark Driscoll’s Confessions of a Reformission Rev. a challenging read.  Mark Driscoll was one of the early leaders in what has come to be known as the emerging or emergent church. He is careful to define both terms, suggesting that he still believes in the principles upon which the emerging church was founded, but deliberately separates himself from the emergent crowd and such as Brian McLaren. He says that “the emergent church is the latest version of liberalism. The only difference is that old liberalism accommodated modernity and the new liberalism accommodates postmodernity.”

Driscoll is typical of the kind of church planter who is so focussed on the vision that God has given him, that he is prepared to make astonishingly hard decisions to fulfil it.  At times, Driscoll places the entire future of the church in jeopardy, dismisses key staff and alienates others to drive forward.  His openheartedness to the twentysomethings of Seattle stands in contrast to his pastoral firmness with those who stand in the way.

I had heretics calling themselves Christians and I had lazy selfish Christians calling themselves mature.  So I started meeting with people one-on-one and calling them everything from sinners who need to repent, to leaders who need to lead, to heretics who need to leave. It was a brutal season… Though our church was brand-new, we has already lost focus of our mission, and people were debating things … that were a waste of time.

One feature of Driscoll’s method is that he is prepared to see off the less committed.  Another is his view that not everyone is even welcome! Only those committed to the core values of the church can join. If people cannot commit, he says, “they are encouraged to leave the church and go elsewhere”, and between a quarter and a half of new people do just that.  In an exceptionally challenging section, Driscoll says:

I wanted a church filled with missionaries, Christians who were learning how to become missionaries, and lost people.

I would not accept a church filled with Christians who did not give, serve, or reach lost people, because they invariably make themselves and their selfish desires the mission of a church and kill innovation and momentum.

Driscoll is a theological beast — his material is filled with such good theology and good practical content. He is conservative, even Reformed, in theology.  Yet, in one of the most liberal and unchurched cities in the US, Mars Hill church has grown to over 4,000 people.  He is not shy about what the Scriptures say, even if it debunks what the culture in Seattle holds to! And his honesty about the trials and tribulations of ministry endear many to his struggles:

I feared that if we did not put our marriage and children above the demands of the church, we would end up with the lukewarm, distant marriage that so many pastors have because they treat their churches as mistresses that they are more passionate about than their brides.

There is much in this book that is very good. Driscoll has some great insights into culture, Scripture and human nature. Sometimes, however, Driscoll’s comments show the sarcasm and vulgarity for which he has something of a reputation. For example, describing some men in the church:  “Every one of them was older than me, a chronic masturbator, a porn addict, and banging weak-willed girls like a screen door in a stiff breeze…”  My guess is that this hardly raises an eyebrow amongst twentysomethings in Seattle or here, but will alienate him somewhat from a wider readership.

A good read!

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