Mark Driscoll was, in many eyes, immortalized in Donald Miller's book Blue Like Jazz as Mark the Cussing Pastor. As pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Driscoll is a leader among "emerging" churches. His sermons are peppered with language not often heard in churches, and he attracts a young, stylish crowd. Culturally hip, but theologically conservative, Driscoll is the author of Confessions of a Reformission Rev. Christianity Today news intern Jason Bailey had a conversation with Driscoll via e-mail.
How will your book, Confessions of a Reformission Rev, help other ministries?
My hope is that it will point to Jesus and help others see that without Jesus as our senior pastor, we are doomed to fail. Confessions of a Reformission Rev is about how God took a broken Bible study with a dozen young people in America's least churched citywhere there are more dogs than evangelicalsand grew it to 5,000 people. In less than 10 years, Mars Hill has helped influence 100 church plants around the nation and gone to number one on iTunes for religion/spirituality. Jesus has been good to me and our church. I am also honest about the pain of pastoral ministryhow pastors are sinners too. I hope the book is funny enough to start to put the "fun" back into fundamentalism.
You say there are particular theologies attached to traditional, contemporary, and emerging churches? What are they, and what are Mars Hill's distinctives?
Traditional churches have either leaned toward being fundamentalist and separated from culture, which has led to legalism and irrelevance; or they have leaned toward being liberally synchronized with culture, which leads to compromise and irrelevance. Either way, many traditional churches are irrelevant, whether they lean to the Left or the Right theologically and politically. Most contemporary churches are not very theological beyond a few evangelical basics, because they are guided more by pragmatism and programming than theology. At Mars Hill Church, we are driven by Reformed theological convictions and emerging missional methods. I like to say we are theologically conservative and culturally liberal.
What are some of the major blind spots of megachurches?
The major blind spot of megachurches is that they tend to be very effeminate with aesthetics, music, and preaching perfectly tailored for moms. Manly men are repelled by this, and many of the men who find it appealing are the types to sing prom songs to Jesus and learn about their feelings while sitting in a seafoam green chair drinking herbal teathe spiritual equivalent of Richard Simmons. A friend of mine calls them "evangellyfish" with no spiritual vertebrae. Statistically, traditional churches are in steep decline, contemporary churches will dominate in the foreseeable future, and emerging churches are just beginning to sort out what the future holds for them.
Are young people becoming more sympathetic to Reformed theology?
The two hot theologies today are Reformed and emerging. Reformed theology offers certainty, with a masculine God who names our sin, crushes Jesus on the Cross for it, and sends us to hell if we fail to repent. Emerging theology offers obscurity, with a neutered God who would not say an unkind word to us, did not crush Jesus for our sins, and would not send anyone to hell. I came to Reformed theology by preaching through books of the Bible such as Exodus, Romans, John, and Revelation, along with continually repenting of my sin. I am, however, a boxers, not briefs, Reformed guy. I am pretty laid back about it and not uptight and tidy like many Reformed guys.
What do you think needs to be the relationship between church and culture?
The difficulty is that there are actually three ways that faithful Christians and churches must respond to culture:
RejectSome aspects of a culture are simply sinful and should be rejected by God's people. In our day this would include sexual sins (fornication, pornography, homosexuality, adultery), illegal drug use, and the pluralistic notion that every religion is an equally valid path to salvation.
ReceiveSome aspects of a culture are the result of common grace and should be received by God's people. Examples in our day would include stewarding and enjoying creation, building community, and acts of mercy for the poor, widows, orphans, sick, and elderly.
RedeemSome aspects of a culture are, in and of themselves, morally neutral but are used for evil, and can be redeemed for good. Examples in our day include using media portals (e.g., internet, podcast, vodcast) for the gospel, celebrating sex within heterosexual marriage, and spending money and using power in such a way that honors Jesus and demonstrates his love for people.
What authors have most shaped your life and work?
I appreciate John Calvin for his Bible teaching, Charles Spurgeon for his gospel preaching, Martin Luther for his insights on faith and grace, and Billy Graham for the witness of his life. I have thousands of books in my library and lean most heavily on dead guys for theology and modern stand-up comedians for preaching tips. In the end, I am an old-school, Jesus-loving Bible-thumper with a penchant for the portrait of Jesus in Revelation as an ultimate fighter with a tattoo down his leg.
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Confessions of a Reformission Rev is available from Christianbook.com and other book retailers.
More about the book is available from Zondervan.
More about Driscoll's Mars Hill Church is available from their website.
Driscoll's blog is at TheResurgence.