Tim Keller on Emergent

From Paul Martin's blog (TK = Tim Keller; JT = Justin Taylor):

TK: If you define evangelicalism in a John Stott kind of way, the seeker movement is inside evangelicalism. The emergent church is moving away from orthodoxy. In places like Yale, there is a post-liberal emphasis on the text that shows a distinction from old liberalism. This emergent group is really much like this group. Emergent will never really grow as they will not plant churches or build colleges. They may produce some writers… but that is probably about all.

JT: Is emergent growing?

TK: It is producing pundits, but not community and institutions.

This is for another day, but I think the legacy of the emerging church will not be to build more institutions but to do something that's been ignored by the existing church, and eventually to influence existing institutions for better (and for worse). But more on that another time.

Wish I was at this conference - almost went with my friend Ken Davis from up the road.

Resident Aliens

Just finished reading Resident Aliens for the first time after Jordon mentioned it a couple of months back. What really bugs me is that Hauerwas and Willimon wrote this back in 1989 and I'm only reading it now. Reading this book earlier could have saved me from making many mistakes over the past 17 years.

It's now on my must-read list of pastoral theology books, and it's one I'll return to often. It ties together some of the themes that have occupied me in the past few years (such as theocentric preaching and dying to ourselves as churches). If you haven't read it yet, it's worth picking up.

Pastors with half a notion of the gospel who get caught up in this web of buying and selling in a self-fulfillment economy one day wake up and hate themselves for it. We will lose some of our (potentially) best pastors to an early grave of cynicism and self-hate. What a pastor needs is a means of keeping at it, a perspective that enables the pastor to understand his or her ministry as nothing less than participation in the story of God.

To the extent that the church and its leaders are willing to be held accountable to the story which is the gospel, ministry is the great adventure of helping to create a people worthy to tell the story and to live it. The faithful pastor keeps calling us back to God. In so doing, the pastor opens our imagination as a church, exposes us to a wider array of possibilities than we could have thought possible on our own.

Confessions of a Reformission Rev.

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Mark Driscoll is a pastor who finds himself at the center of controversy in Christian and non-Christian circles. His most recent book Confessions is “the story of the birth and growth of Seattle’s innovative Mars Hill Church, one of America’s toughest mission fields. It is also the story of the growth of a pastor, the mistakes he’s made along the way, and God’s grace and work in spite of these mistakes.”

Why the Controversy?

Driscoll doesn’t fit in any category neatly. Tim Challies writes, “I am not the only one confused by Driscoll who is varyingly described as emerging, missional, Reformed, sarcastic and vulgar (all of which are true of him)." At times it looks like Driscoll goes out of his way to offend everyone. On the other hand, Driscoll is refreshingly candid and bold. I love it, but it seems to be too much for some.

The Book

The story of many “successful” churches have been tidied before going to print. Not here. Driscoll says, “I have made so many mistakes as a pastor that I should be pumping gas for a living instead of preaching the gospel.” He begins with “Ten Curious Questions” designed to help clarify the church’s identity, gospel, mission, size, and priorities. For instance, he asks which gospel we will proclaim: “a gospel of forgiveness, fulfillment, or freedom?” “Do you have the guts to shoot your dogs?” (He advises: “Dogs are idiotic ideas, stinky styles, stupid systems, failed facilities, terrible technologies, loser leaders, and pathetic people...Be sure to make it count and shoot them only once so that they don’t come back and bite you.” Now you know why he’s controversial.)

For the rest of the book, Driscoll tells the story of Mars Hill from its start to the present and even his hopes for the future.

Takeaways and Memorable Quotes

  • Foundational questions come before pragmatics. Some of the most important insights come from the ten curious questions at the start of the book. What is the relationship of church to culture? What is the gospel that we proclaim? Do we have our Christology and ecclesiolgy right?
  • “Attractional churches need to transform their people from being consumers in the church to being missionaries outside of the church.” (p.27)
  • “Leaders...must work from the conviction that comes from God and his Word instead of the guilt that comes from people and their needs.” (p.34)
  • “The more I read the Bible, the more deeply the Holy Spirit convicted me that I had grievously erred by trying to figure out how to do church successfully by reading a lot of books, visiting a lot of churches, and copying whatever was working. Instead, I needed to first wrestle with Jesus like Jacob wrestled with Jesus and then discover what Jesus’ mission was for Seattle and repent of everything else...” (p.44)
  • Developing biblical leadership to define, direct, and defend the mission is key (p.48). This requires toughness. “Sadly, the weakest men are often drawn to ministry simply because it is an indoor job that does not require heavy lifting.” (p.54)
  • “I had to focus all of my time and energy on growing Mars Hill as a missional church for Seattle. Therefore I had to stop doing all other ministry work that was not accomplishing this objective.” (p.52)
  • “What exactly had Jesus assigned to our church as our part in his mission to our city?” (p.50)
  • “Over the years, I have accepted that I’m not really much of a pastor but rather am a missiologist studying the city who leads a church filled with missionaries who reach the city and with pastors who care for the converts.” (p.51)
  • “Our church was not the people we had but primarily the people we did not yet have, and I needed to go to those people...Those people will never come to the churches, so the pastors need to go to those people.” (p.61)
  • “Not only was having a church that catered to people between certain ages narrow, it was also sinful because God loves the whole world and not just white guys between their teens and late twenties.” (p.64)
  • “I decided not to back off from a long-winded, old-school Bible preacher that focused on Jesus. My people needed to hear from God’s Word and not from each other in collective ignorance like some dumb chat room...There is enough power in the preaching of God’s Word alone to build a church from nothing” (pp.77-78)
  • “I have learned that sometimes the most important thing a leader can do is to create strategic chaos that forces people to pull together and focus on an urgent need, thereby subtly getting rid of all their other missions and complaints in a subversive way.” (pp.82-83)
  • “My answer to everything is pretty much the same: open the Bible and preach about the person of Jesus and his mission for the church.” (p.86)
  • “In his ‘Rule of 150,’ Malcolm Gladwell states that the highest number of people the average person can connect with is 150...Therefore, any congregation committed to evangelism and the expansion of its ministry should expect to find it difficult to grow beyond that number.” (p.93)
  • “We were deciding if Mars Hill Church was to be defined by the size of its mission to reach the lost or by the number of people we could gather at one time in one room.” (p.94)
  • In congregational ecclesiology, “The staff and the pastor are essentially seen as employees of the congregation, to be fired if they do not meet the expectations of their employer, the congregation. As I studied the Bible, I found more warrant for a church led by unicorns than by majority vote.” (p.103)
  • Spiritual attacks on missional churches and leaders are real.
  • “Over the years, I’ve just accepted that if I do not quickly open the back door when God is trying to run people out of our church, I am working against God by keeping sick people in my church so they can infect others. Indeed, the church is a body, and one of the most important parts is the colon. Like the human body, any church body without a colon is designed for sickness that leads to death.” (p.131)
  • “We learned that unchurched people tend to be the most traditional when it comes to church.” (p.132)
  • “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.” (p.133)
  • “Slowly, the church will begin a cycle of decline unless it intentionally reinvents itself missionally to continue to grow by taking risks in an effort to reach lost people for Jesus.” (p.141)
  • “The goal of the management phase is not to get the church organized and under control. Rather, the management phase is needed to eliminate the inefficiencies and barriers that are keeping the church from focusing back on the creative phase and creating a whole new set of problems to manage.” (p.142)

Bottom Line

This book isn't for everyone. I enjoyed it, and saw it as a friendly and encouraging kick in the pants. If the above quotes appeal to you, then Confessions is a book that will help you in your ministry.

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Monday and the pastor's blue screen of death

Contemporary pastors are expected to have "the entrepreneurial skills of Bill Gates, the counseling skills of Dr. Phil, the organizational abilities of Stephen Covey, the authenticity of Oprah, the compassion of Mother Teresa, the courage of William Wallace, and the humor of Jon Stewart. (Kara Powell, quoted in The Church in Transition)

Bob Hyatt has a post today on Pastor's Monday Syndrome. Love his image of the blue screen of death. I'm sure many pastors can relate.

Monday is post-adrenaline letdown day, especially tough for introverts in an extroverted role. That's one reason I work on Mondays. It's much better to do low-level brainless work and save your day off for when you feel better.

The good thing about Mondays for pastors is that you usually feel a little bit better by Tuesday. Be nice to your pastors on Monday. You can treat them normally the other six days.

Final chapter done

I realize this will seem like old news to many ("Weren't you done last month?") but I just completed the final chapter of my thesis, summarizing the feedback from last week's Theocentric Preaching Seminar.

I was encouraged by the feedback. This is an issue that seemed to connect, and despite running out of time, people seemed to engage with the issue and each other.

I mail the final chapter to my thesis advisor tomorrow, and to an editor friend who's going to help me tidy things up. If all goes well, I defend in March and graduate in May. Another step closer.