A few days ago I read an interview with Covenant Life Church pastor Josh Harris, and he was asked what he had to say to young church planters. His answer: “Just keep saying to yourself, I’m not Mark Driscoll.”
From one standpoint, that’s good advice. Driscoll’s Mar’s Hill Church in Seattle is THE story among younger evangelicals these days. Everyone wants to say Driscoll is on their team. The Truly Reformed watchboys at Fide-o proclaimed Driscoll a “Fideo-ite” several weeks ago. (Note to Reformed friends: If you have problems with the “tone” of the BHT, DON’T get near this book.) Driscoll’s name is still tossed around by the Mclarenesque faction at Emergent, even though Driscoll has made his parting of the ways very plain (especially in the book being reviewed.) Fans of John Piper can legitimately say that Driscoll is one of their own, as Driscoll seems eager to get Piper in front of as many of his young pastors as possible. I won’t be surprised to see a story in Baptist Press that Driscoll is actually a Southern Baptist missions success story, and the Mars Hill sound system was purchased with Lottie Moon money.
In fact, being Mark Driscoll may not be what you want at all. In his new book, Driscoll narrates the story of Mars Hill Church and his leadership of the roller coaster ride from a few people in his living room to 4,000 and growing. If anything becomes clear in this book, it’s how many mistakes, screw-ups, blow-ups, sins, near and actual disasters litter the trail to Mars Hills’s success. I can’t think of a better book for any young minister, because Driscoll is bluntly honest about what a mess he’s been, and how his problems- small and large, common and unique- are part of the story of what God is doing. It’s the polar opposite of the polished pastor tale. It’s Animal House for church planters, with Belushi as the eventual good guy.
Driscoll could have made good money as a stand up comic. (In fact, he says the best homiletics lessons he ever received were going to see Chris Rock.) He writes with sass, sarcasm, wit, innuendo, crass humor, street language and little concern for the sensitivities of taste. If Lifeway wouldn’t sell a delirious record for saying “she’s as pretty as hell,” I can’t image what they will do with Driscoll’s descriptions of masturbatory behavior and various kinds of sex.
Some will say this is being cute, even immature, and they may be right. Mark Driscoll is unrepentant about his contempt for feminized evangelical men (some of these rants are priceless) and his determination to produce real guys with guy sensibilities. This is a pastor far more at home on “The Man Show” than the set of TBN.
What’s important here is a compelling, entertaining, educational, emotionally exciting story of a church and the people who make it up. Driscoll has a trademark of making missional conversions the forefront of what he has to say about the church. He’s ruthless in identifying the diseases that kill churches and turn them into museums and mental hospitals. He talks about choices in ministry and church leadership that you didn’t hear about in seminary.
In other words, this is a book with street cred as far as missional ministry is concerned. TR watchbloggers: read this book, and if you don’t freak out, you will once and for all understand what missional, emerging churches CAN BE all about. Please- if the TR blogosphere will read this book, it will save a lot of needless, wasted, hurtful ink. You’ll either hate it (“He lets people smoke at Bible studies?”) or you’ll love it (“He let people smoke at Bible studies!”) Either way, this IS the story of the shift that is going on all around you. It is proof positive that the most influential person in the emerging church is NOT going to be Brian Mclaren. Sorry!
This is a book so honest and so persuasive in its narrative that you could give it to a non-Christian and quite likely have a major impact on that person’s life. Yes, the story of a church and a pastor that describes the missional realities of the emerging church’s approach to culture so well that a person in that culture can feel the passionate love of Jesus Christ in every word.
Mark Driscoll is a diamond in the rough. He will certainly say many things that will make some people wince and he will probably be controversial as much as influential and inspirational. This is a book that makes a wonderful contribution to the current interest in church planting and missional ministry. Don’t give it to the old ladies in your women’s missionary circle. But give it to the people who dream about actually reaching the men of your city or town with the Gospel. They will appreciate every word.
A great book. And no one gave me a copy to say that 🙂