Tag Archives: mark driscoll

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Confessions of a “reluctant” “inner city church planter”

There’s a bit of a conversation happening in the Australian Evangelical Blogosphere (so about the smallest pool in the world) about inner city church planting. They’ve got me mulling over next year and life at Creek Road South Bank – a new church, in Brisbane’s inner city, that I’ll be serving as the Campus Pastor (note, I think just about any name/title for a ministry position can sound a bit ego driven, the emphasis here hopefully will remain on the “serving” not on the “Campus Pastor”).

Here are some of the posts I’ve read…

The answer to the question “do we need more inner city church plants?” is clearly a yes.

It’s the answer to any question about “do we need more churches?” Churches are like broadcast towers that send the message of the Gospel around Australia – we need something like the National Broadband Plan to ensure good Gospel coverage around Australia. We also need more workers to work in these churches, and we definitely need more Christians. Australia isn’t meaningfully becoming less Christian, Australia has never been particularly “Christian” – church attendance was high when we started because people were forced to go to church. Australian laws might have assumed or reflected a Judeo-Christian moral framework – but that was the default, it didn’t mean they were written by people whose hearts were owned by Jesus, even if some of our early colonists were passionate Christians, others weren’t. We need more churches in Australia because Australia is full of lost people. And so are our inner city areas.

Which is why, for want of a better understanding of the nuance of what the church I’m part of is doing (hopefully this post will clear this up a little) – next year I’ll be an “inner city church planter.”

I’m finishing college soon. I’m thinking about what life in ministry, post-college, is going to look like for me, and what I thought it would look like before college. So just indulge me a little with this poorly structured stream of consciousness response to the posts above. It’s more about me than most posts you’ll read here, but indulge me a little.

Why I do what I didn’t want to do…

I feel like this whole South Bank thing is forcing me to think through a whole heap of competing thoughts and passions of mine in a way that hopefully ends up being consistent and a healthy compromise on my youthful idealistic zeal.

Before college I was pretty outspoken and cynical about church planting (or church planters) – and what I meant was inner-city church planting. I was cynical about the guys who wanted to plant churches without working with an established church, in a hip, non-denominational way (or even in the denomination but not of the denomination) – they’re the guys who were a little bit too sure of themselves, a little bit too sure of their central place in God’s plan. Or so I thought (and still think). I was especially cynical about people who wanted to plant megachurches.

This quote I shared from a guy assessing church planters a few years ago still resonates with me… It’s still a problem.

It’s amazing how many young pastors feel that they are distinctly called to reach the upwardly-mobile, young, culture-shaping professionals and artists. Can we just be honest? Young, upper-middle-class urban professionals have become the new “Saddleback Sam”.

Seriously, this is literally the only group I see proposals for. I have yet to assess a church planter who wants to move to a declining, smaller city and reach out to blue collar factory workers, mechanics, or construction crews. Not one with an evangelistic strategy to go after the 50-something administrative assistant who’s been working at the same low-paying insurance firm for three decades now.

One of the problems Josh Dinale identified with the current crop of church planters is:

“1) pastors wanting to be the next Mark Driscoll

the more I connect with young pastors (yeah I know I am still generally young, having said that, I have been in Christian minsitry for 10 years, I have been around the block a few times) I am seeing guys who look like Driscoll, speak like Driscoll, act like him, teach like him. I am sorry to tell you, but you are NOT him. you  are fearfully and wonderfully made, God has a plan for you, and you alone. I am pretty sure it is not to be like Driscoll but to be the best pastor God has created you to be. Be content with where you are, minister out of your gifts not someone elses.”

Mike Bird also identifies a similar trend.

“I’ve come across many young men who seem to think they have some kind of destiny to become the next Mark Driscoll or the next Tim Keller. They have a church planting strategy from the movie Field of Dreams. Remember the motto of that movie: If you build it, they will come. But the reality is a bit more complex as church planters are not just battling against a secular culture, but competing with existing churches in their area and even competing with existing church plants. In addition, many church planters are abandoning their denominations to plant these new independent churches, leading to a kind of righteous remnant mentality, cultivating a very low ecclesiology without historic bonds to the past, and looking down disparagingly on pastoral leaders who decide to keep working within their existing denominations.”

The whole “thinking you’re the new Driscoll” thing is nothing new (see this post from 2009 – five years ago) – Driscoll has an incredible ability to create fanboys out of the disenfranchised. But I haven’t spoken to many Driscoll fanboys lately, most people in that sort of camp seem to be man-crushing pretty hard on Matt Chandler. And most people of the generation slightly above me seem to be keen to shave their heads, read CS Lewis, and be Tim Keller.

Part of my reluctance to embrace the inner city thing is that there’s a perception that to do this sort of ministry you have to be some sort of bleeding edge hipster. And while I score pretty well on the “Are you a Christian Hipster?” tests because I like specialty coffee and craft beer (and I have a decorative typewriter, and a beard), I don’t want to be that guy.

As soon as ministry becomes about the minister it starts being dead.

This is also my problem with Josh’s thoughtful corrective – I may have been fearfully and wonderfully made – but more importantly I’m being amazingly remade into the image of Jesus – and it’s him people should be thinking about when they go to church. Not me. Or any pastor. If we talk about something a pastor brings to the table, or the locale, and it’s something other than Jesus, we’re talking about the wrong thing. I’m not naive, I think there are good pragmatic reasons that I’m not a bad fit in the inner city, but as soon as I start thinking about myself being a good fit, or being in any way necessary, or the inner city needing me to come in and save it – the narrative is wrong.

I don’t want to be an inner city church planter.

I don’t want to target the yuppies with a trendy and edgy ministry.

I do want to play my part in God’s program of reaching people, including the yuppies, including people in the inner city, and the regions, and the small towns. Sacrificially, doing ministry that resonates with people of whatever culture is around me – a bit like Jesus did when he entered Jewish culture as a Jewish man who spoke the language of the people around him, and told stories they could understand… using imagery they were familiar with… everywhere he could.

I might be a pseudo-hipster, but I have good reasons not to want to be an inner city church planter. I love regional Australia. I grew up in country town New South Wales (after a few years in Sydney), I worked in regional Queensland after uni. And regional Australia punches above its weight on the evangelical scene. In my experience. I think, and still think, that the human resources we suck into cities would, in the providence of God, also produce great results in regional areas. Regional areas and regional people need the Gospel.

Plus. I don’t buy into the tendency to spiritualise “the City”. Cities are significant because there’s a high concentration of people there, but the whole “heaven is a city, therefore city” thing just strikes me as ridiculous. This is a quote from a Christianity Today article about Tim Keller’s philosophy/theology of City ministry from a few years back…

““Surely God’s command to exiled Israelites applied to Christians in New York: “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you” (Jer. 29:7). Long before that, God had designated cities as places of refuge when Israel entered the Promised Land. They remain so today, Keller noted—which explains why poor people, immigrants, and vulnerable minorities such as homosexuals cluster in cities. They attract people who are open to change. Paul did most of his missionary work in cities, and early Christianity flourished within them. Revelation portrays the final descent of the kingdom of God to earth as a city, although a garden city, with fruit trees and a life-giving river at its center. Keller suggests that, had Adam and Eve lived sinlessly and obeyed God’s directions, they would have made Eden into just such a city.”

I get the appeal of the vision of transforming a culture from the city out (ala Tim Keller), but having spent time in a parochial regional centre that wanted no bar of most of what came from a city, simply because it came from the city, I’m not sure how effective this nationwide campaign of transformation is going to be beyond the urban elite, and those who wish they were urban elite in regional cities – who never really gel with the culture of their town or regional city.

I do, however, think that cities are incredibly useful for producing dominant cultural narratives, that do filter out into the regions via the consumption of media and advertising. But if you’ve ever watched the ads on regional television, you’ll know that even the impact of these zeitgeisty narratives is limited, and watered down by being presented along with not so slick regionally produced media.

And I do think the Gospel is the best story there is going round, and it should be told more, and it should become part of conversations where different narratives compete – ala Peter Hitchens presence on Q&A last night. We need to get better at telling the Gospel story in the places where stories are told or presented professionally. And being crucified for it.

I like what Keller’s attempts to transform culture from the city, but I’m pessimistic about the impact of his method beyond the city. Though less pessimistic than Carl Trueman. I’m less Presbyterian than him too.

“And, to put it bluntly, Keller is the transformationists’ best shot today.   It does not matter how often we tell each other that our celebrity transformationists are making headway, such claims are only so much delusional hype.  A Broadway play and a couple of nice paintings do not help the man who cannot rent space to worship on the Lord’s Day.  Indeed, I wonder if any of these transformationists have ever asked themselves whether what we are seeing are not in fact transforming inroads into the culture but the modern equivalents of bread and circuses designed to gull the gullible — meaningless trivia, conceded by the wider culture, that make no real difference; where and when the stakes are higher and actually worth playing for, no quarter is, or will be, given.

Surely it is time to become realistic.  It is time to drop the cultural elitism that poses as significant Christian transformation of culture but only really panders to nothing more than middle class tastes and hobbies.  It is time to look again at the New Testament’s teaching on the church as a sojourning people where here we have no lasting home.”

I think the example we get from the New Testament church, especially from Paul, is that it’s incredibly unlikely that we’re going to change a city by producing cultural artefacts – the Roman Empire was eventually transformed by the sheer weight of Christian converts, but I think we produce Christian converts by borrowing or subverting cultural artefacts to tell the story of the Gospel. The early church grabbed hold of a bunch of terminology associated with the announcing and promoting of a new king, they used terminology and titles for Jesus that were identical to the terminology and titles used of Roman emperors, but they promoted a king who was crucified, which was a cultural anathema, and was never going to result in immediate wholesale change.

Paul’s Areopagus speech, probably the best strategic attempt at cultural change we see in the New Testament, ends in what many would suggest is a failure to transform… most people laugh at him, and only some are transformed… and yet his speech, which presents the Gospel in a culturally informed way, is recorded in one of the longest lasting transformative texts in the world.

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

“Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed.He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”

When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” At that, Paul left the Council. Some of the people became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.

Paul goes to the heart of the city, the best place to tell the story of the Gospel, and he tells it in a culturally engaged way. But it doesn’t instantly transform the whole city (Jonah might be a better story about a city being transformed).

Which is why I’m excited that Creek Road South Bank is telling this story, hopefully excellently, at the Queensland Theatre Company’s Billie Brown Theatre, every Sunday. And it’s why I’m excited that our band is aiming for musical excellence, and Creek Road Media is aiming to produce culturally engaging video that tells this story in excellent ways. And I hope this does result in transforming the lives of enough individuals so that the fabric of our city starts to change. Person by person.

I also get that inner city ministry is incredibly hard. Because of the Inner City Pressure (cf this Flight of the Conchords song).

It’s hard because people who live in places that tell incredible narratives that provide apparent satisfaction to deep desires are often pretty convinced that they already live in heaven, while simultaneously feeling profoundly dissatisfied because they are surrounded by lots more people who both are broken, and reveal one’s own brokenness through interpersonal interactions.

But ministry is hard everywhere. Because it involves gathering a bunch of people who naturally think about what’s best for their sinful selves – even while God is uniting them behind the cause of the gospel by his Spirit. Let’s not fall into the trap of hyper-spiritualising inner city ministry.

Inner city ministry – and by extension, inner city church planting, is important because there are people in the inner city.

And, in a city like Brisbane, it’s strategic because there is public transport to the inner city from just about every corner of the city – and evangelical churches in Brisbane are not well represented in the statistical breakdown of religious belief in our city. So if people from parts of the city where there’s no evangelical presence can get to a place where there is, because they’ve been invited there by people who work in the City, then that’s a good thing. The notion of place or a patch for churches is just culturally out of touch. We don’t live, work, and play in the same suburb. Our relationships are likely to stretch not just across suburbs, but across cities, states, and countries. Building a strategy for church planting based on geographic saturation is a bit old school. People travel. We’re better of putting churches in strategic hubs – in Brisbane this might mean places where there are major shopping centres, that people are already in the habit of travelling to…

Image: Relationship networks visualised using Facebook friendships and flight routes, Credit: Robot Monkey

South Bank is also exciting for me because we’ve got a burgeoning ministry to refugees in Brisbane, and many of them live around where this church plant is happening. We’re reaching the world from Brisbane. I’m not sure Iranians on bridging visas are going to be all that enthused about a pastor with a fixie, and a well manicured ironic moustache.

… to do what I do want to do (or rather, what God wants us to do)

Paradoxically, part of the reason I’m excited about being an “inner city church planter” is that I didn’t ever want to be an “inner city church planter.” The bigger reason I’m excited is that I’m not going out on my own as some gung-ho, got all the answers, inner-urban hipster type who is cutting all ties with pre-existing structures. I’m part of a team, that is part of a church, that is part of a denomination, that also has a bigger agenda in terms of church planting. That’s a great way for ministry to not be about me.

While it looks like I’m an “inner city church planter” because each Sunday I’ll be at a new church in Brisbane’s inner city, that’s not what really excites me about next year. As exciting as it is. I went to college as a Presbyterian because being a Presbyterian is a great boat to fish from in Queensland to do Gospel ministry, because I’m theologically pretty Presbyterian, and because I like the attachment to a narrative that has history, that unfolds and is deliberately linked to things that have happened in the past, rather than being deliberately disconnected. I think it’s a little disingenuous to attempt to start a church with a clean slate. With no ties. With no baggage.

I’m excited about being part of the Creek Road team for a few reasons. Mostly because I’m excited about what I think is a reinvention of “team ministry.” I’m excited about team ministry at least in part because I’m an extrovert, but I’m theologically excited about team ministry in terms of what it looks like for a church to function well as the body of Christ, where each bit of the body uses different gifts in complementary and sacrificial ways, that benefit a variety of congregations who are either part of Creek Road, or part of our network. The approach we’re taking at Creek Road has the potential to be incredibly scalable – with some of the benefits of franchising a business in terms of quality control, pooling of resources, and some sort of “brand identity” (which, lets face it, is part of the appeal of denominations), but also the flexibility to do things differently in different places based on who is there – both in the pulpit, and in the congregation.

I think if people in ministry are just thinking about their immediate patch they’re thinking too small. If we’re only thinking about the city, but not the regions, if we’re only thinking about reaching Australia, but not reaching the world, then we’re omnifocused to our detriment, and the detriment of the church’s mission. It’s possible to focus on more than one thing at once. Despite what certain personality types will tell you. Jesus was pretty happy to leave this mission global (making disciples from every nation), while providing a starting place that was geographically bound (first in Judea, then Samaria, then the ends of the earth). We not think global, and act local and global, simultaneously?

Physical presence is a big part of ministry, but the God we serve is transcendent and omnipresent. And prayer works. And prayer is ministry. And communication isn’t geographically contained anymore. Physical distance has collapsed into bits and bytes that can be fired through the skies. Why are we so keen to limit our footprint to our suburb? Using the incarnation of Jesus as a paradigm for local ministry is terrific and necessary, but we’ve also got to learn from the Apostles who used mediums that could be copied and spread, and fly through communication networks (like the Roman roads), whose relationships and span of care stretched across geographic boundaries.

I don’t think of myself as an inner city church planter because I want to serve the church and its mission wherever I can, not just in South Bank.

I don’t think of myself as an inner city church planter because I’m part of a team that is intentionally trying to create resources that will serve churches anywhere.

I don’t think of myself as an inner city church planter because, as part of the team at Creek Road, I’m contributing, with the rest of the team, to what happens every week in three different locations.

Mike Bird’s suggestion, in the face of this whole inner city church planting trend thing is:

“So I’m wondering, without disparaging church planting efforts, if we need to focus more on church rejuvenation over church planting in areas already well served with churches.”

I think this question presents a classic false dichotomy (on the back of a false premise – that there are areas well served with churches). And I don’t buy it. Why not do both? Why not focus equally on both?

Denominations are in a position to do that – so are bigger churches within denominations. Just about every objection to “inner city church planting” raised in those posts linked above is addressed by a model that sees big churches using their resources to serve and help smaller churches, be it starting them from scratch, or in partnership. And this is why I’m excited about the Creek Road model (you can read a bit of an explanation of this model here), and why I’ve signed up.

Big churches have an incredible opportunity to provide resources for small churches – in their own city, or beyond, that help in the rejuvenating process, they have the opportunity to start new churches that share the economies of scale and resources of the mothership. Whether or not regional churches take up the opportunity is entirely up to them, and there’s a gap between city culture and regional culture that needs to be carefully bridged. But Australia is full of people who don’t know Jesus. I’d really like more people to know Jesus. That’s why Robyn and I quit our jobs and left Townsville to go to theological college. It’s why I’m a candidate for ordination with the Presbyterian Church. It’s why despite myself I’ll be hanging out in a new church in Brisbane’s CBD next year with Creek Road.

We need more churches in the inner city because we need more churches everywhere. Brisbane will have a population of 3 million people in 2020. That’s heaps of people who need to know Jesus. That scales up the wider you cast the net – Queensland’s population is growing, Australia’s population is growing, the global population is growing. We need more churches. We need better resourced churches.

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Convergence and Conversation: When the main thing is talking about the thing, not the thing itself

Sacha Baron Cohen has a new movie out, and by all accounts it’s incredibly puerile and terrible. I’m not going to see it. Borat was enough for me. I’ve always had a soft spot for Baron Cohen and the way he used outlandish characters to highlight the outlandish traits in normal people, as uncomfortable as that became. But his kind of under the radar shock humour, luring unsuspecting victims into making fools of themselves, always had a limited shelf life as his notoriety increased. I reckon he actually peaked with Ali G. Who is, for mine, the funniest interviewer ever.

It seems though that to create genuinely funny humour of the type he had become accustomed, Baron Cohen had to create a terrible movie that then became the vehicle for catching people unaware and reproducing some of his shock comedy, in character.

So, we have examples like this train wreck on the Today Show. I’ll embed it. But watch it at your own risk, it’s crude and it’s simply here to illustrate a point. It’s some of the most uncomfortable breakfast television you’ll ever see.

Baron Cohen is maintaining his brand – people will still think of him as an edgy, and funny, comedian who puts people in awkward situations, this time journalists, because of the press circus surrounding the movie. The TV opportunities are now the vehicle for his comedy. I’m no more likely to see the movie because of moments like this, but at least it has generated the kind of response I’m sure Baron Cohen enjoys most. It’s where the art is now. I wouldn’t be surprised if his press appearances become the main reason people buy the DVD version of the movie, so it’s a tactic with a bit of a silver lining.

Here’s how a boingboing review (which contains a vivid description of the offensiveness of the movie in the opening para) describes what’s going on:

“This is what The Dictator was made for; to spew, into the world of the living, the fully-formed obscenity that is Aladeen.

Sacha Baron Cohen’s characters come into their own when they are put into contact with real people—and even chat show hosts are people—because, as Ali G taught us, the embarassing reaction and our own cringing is at least half of the humour, innit.”

This is an interesting theory – treating content creation as a launchpad for something more long term.

As a media strategy it’s not bad – particularly in the social media world where engagement and conversation are the big goals that lead to conversion. The idea is that you develop loyal fans of your brand who purchase your products and become advocates who talk about your product to their friends. You do that by producing content they want to share, or content that gets people talking. And the movie and associated interviews have ticked that box.

This has me thinking a bit about how this principle applies to church communication and social media stuff. I’m doing a bit of thinking at the moment about how the church I’m part of can use Facebook better, and get people being ambassadors not just for our church, but for Jesus, when they’re online (incidentally, there’s a great Church Marketing Sucks post/series on this).

This is one thing I reckon Mark Driscoll does really well. He’s phenomenal not just at scouting out opportunities in the press, but creating them. I have started to wonder if that is why he and wife Grace went so far and were so graphic in their marriage book – for the shock factor. It’s pretty much the Christian equivalent of the Dictator. The book flew up the best sellers list, fanned the flames of controversy around the Christian blogosphere earlier this year (seriously, google it), it certainly had people talking, and Mark and Grace Driscoll have been touring the US on the back of the book seemingly ever since – including this amazing stopover on CNN with Piers Morgan, who’s not a massively successful TV superstar, but still gets around 500,000 viewers a night.

This isn’t all of it – you can read a transcript here. It’s pretty much a mix of everything that’s good and bad about Mark Driscoll.

“MORGAN: But why was — why should it be one rule for her and one rule for you?

DRISCOLL: I think I was selfish and I think I was being a hypocrite. And I’m not going to defend things that I’ve done or said or thought that were wrong. No.

But I do believe — and this is where we’re going to get to Jesus — that he died, he rose, he forgives me, he helps me, and I hope to keep changing and doing better.

MORGAN: But for people watching this, you know, especially younger people, for example. They said, well, it’s all right for you. You know, you had all this sex until you were 19, then you get —

DRISCOLL: Well, it wasn’t a lot of —

MORGAN: Then you got born-again so you had sort of sown your wild oats and then — and then you’ve become a born-again virgin. But for them, you’re trying to punish them and they can’t have anything.

DRISCOLL: Well, I think, ultimately, sex is best reserved for marriage. And I think if you look at the statistics of sexual assault, sexual abuse, sexually transmitted diseases, there’s a lot of people that are suffering, too.

I mean you’re not your average pastor, are you?

DRISCOLL: I don’t know.

MORGAN: Saying stuff like that.

DRISCOLL: I have fun. Sometimes I get it wrong.

MORGAN: Do too many people in the world of religion take it too seriously?

Is that part of the problem?

DRISCOLL: I think we should take Jesus seriously. We should take the Bible seriously. We probably shouldn’t take ourselves nearly as seriously. And that’s how I approach it.

MORGAN: Do you think you’re a tolerant kind of guy?

DRISCOLL: I love people very much and it’s — it’s —

MORGAN: That’s not the same thing.

DRISCOLL: Well, it’s — how do you disagree, sometimes, with people that you love?

That’s a very difficult issue for everybody, but for a pastor in particular, because —

MORGAN: But do you preach tolerance?

DRISCOLL: I’ve preached that we should love our neighbor, that we should accept —

MORGAN: But tolerance — tolerance in particular.

DRISCOLL: Why — you keep hammering it. What — what do you mean by tolerance?

MORGAN: Tolerating people who may have a lifestyle or a belief that you don’t agree with.

DRISCOLL: Yes, we have to. And that’s — when Jesus says love your neighbor, you know, he knows you’re not going to agree with all your neighbors, but he wants you to love them, to seek good for them, to care for them.

However, like everything in life, shouldn’t it be dragged kicking and screaming into each modern era, and be adapted, like the American Constitution.

DRISCOLL: Yes.

MORGAN: Because, you know, my — my view about this is — is not that I don’t respect Christians or Catholics or whoever who — who absolutely swear by every word in here. It’s just that it’s — I just don’t believe anyone who is genuinely Christian should be spouting bigoted opinions about sections of the community for their sexuality.

DRISCOLL: Well, I think when it comes to the Bible, you’ve got three options. Take it, I believe what it says. Leave it, I don’t believe what it says. Or change it —

MORGAN: Or adapt — or adapt the wording —

DRISCOLL: Which would be the changing it.

MORGAN: If it was in — the majority of Americans believed in it, would you then go along with it?

DRISCOLL: Would I officiate same-sex weddings and things of that nature?

MORGAN: Yes.

DRISCOLL: I couldn’t, according to conscience, no.

I think the big issue for families in America is really men who walk out on their families. I mean, right now, the average child born to a woman under 30 is born out of wedlock —

MORGAN: Yes, but that’s why —

DRISCOLL: — with no father.

MORGAN: — see, that’s my whole point about this. There are so many feckless guys out there —

DRISCOLL: That’s really —

MORGAN: — right?”

I’ve gone a bit nuts with the quotes – but I reckon this is a great example of public engagement that is both Christ focused, and engages with social issues. Which is what Driscoll does best. This interview almost makes the (by all accounts justifiable) controversy around the book worthwhile. And like Baron Cohen’s work one wonders if Driscoll produced the book with half an eye on how things would play out past its release.

The third little example takes the form of a book review, a public discourse between critic and author, the book is Ross Douhat’s Bad Religion (which I’m reading on my bus ride at the moment), the discussion happened on Slate.com (starting here). It’s an incredibly gracious discussion which I think is probably more valuable than the book – and it was why I purchased it.

None of these cases simply involve the content producer reproducing their content – in each case there’s a development of the core concept before a wider audience, that adds value. It’s good stuff. And now I’m wondering how this works at the level of the local church – how we turn the content we produce regularly (sermons etc), into sharable chunks, or leverage the work on new mediums.

Anyway. That’s a long post about some stuff I noticed in some stuff I read.

Preaching Idol: How not to fill the vacancy on your mega church preaching roster…

Curiouser, and curiouser. Things are going further down the rabbit hole at Mars Hill. Mark Driscoll is having a holiday, and to figure out who will preach when he’s not, Mars Hill is holding “Q” School. Because it would be horrible to have each campus have a different preacher… you know… somebody there in the flesh.


Via Mars Hill’s Flickr

“Tuesday, November 15th from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., we’ll be hosting our first ever Preaching Qualifying School (Q School) at Mars Hill Ballard. This event will be a pressure-cooker preaching competition a la American Idol between 3 Mars Hill elders with the prize of being part of our preaching rotation to fill the pulpit on weeks Pastor Mark is out of the pulpit. “

Via the Facebook Event Page

It might be a joke, but if it’s a joke, it’s bad. It’s like the Pressy Church’s trials for license, but put on show, for everybody to watch, and it’s a meritocracy. They’re judging preachers by who the “best” is, and 1 Corinthians 1 says no.

10I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephasa”; still another, “I follow Christ.”… 17For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

It seems to me that filling that sort of gap in the preaching schedule should be done behind closed doors, and shouldn’t be done by pitting brothers in Christ against one another, whatever the “spirit” of the event is… turning it into some bad rip off of a reality TV show cheapens the pulpit, and cheapens the ministry of the losers.

Here’s some more on the day, from Driscoll’s blog… which contains some gems on preaching, and highlights just how bizarre Driscoll’s ministry is becoming – in many ways he’s a great model for how to engage with culture and point people to Jesus. But…

“Only three men will preach this round, but there will be other rounds forthcoming. This round’s contestants will be Pastor Thomas Hurst of Mars Hill Bellevue, Pastor Scott Mitchell of Mars Hill Everett, and Pastor AJ Hamilton of Mars Hill Albuquerque. They will have 30 minutes each with a shot clock and buzzer. They can bring only a Bible with them on stage.

This will be fun…for some of us. For our Mars Hill version of American Idol for preachers, I’ll play the part of Simon Cowell, minus the deep v-neck and British accent. Joining me on the judging panel will be Dr. Justin Holcomb who runs Resurgence, Pastor Scott Thomas who runs Acts 29, and Pastor Dave Bruskas, the executive elder who oversees all our churches. “

So you can only preach from a Bible? That’s guaranteed to produce some pretty tightly thought out oratory.

Some of Driscoll imposing himself on the process (the other 14 tips are pretty good), these ones are mostly good…

“Look like someone who has it together from clothes to haircut to overall presentation. You don’t need to be a model, but you should look presentable. If you have bed-head, your fly open, keep losing your place in your notes, your shoe is untied, your mic battery dies, and you say, “Um,” a lot because you’re unprepared, I may feel sorry for you but I’m not following you because you don’t seem to have a clue where you are going.”

I understand where he’s going with that one – our presentation shouldn’t be a stumbling block… but untied shoes? Seriously?

And of course, Driscoll’s Discern-o-meter will be the difference between a pass and a fail… he’s looking for preachers who have the X Factor. Who have “it”…

“It” is the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in you and through you. I’m looking to see if you have it. I can’t explain it, but I know it when I see it.”

How about “it” just be what was “it” for Paul…

20Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength…

1When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.a 2For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. 4My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power5so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.

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Phoenix sinking: Real life super hero arrested, unmasked…

Phoenix Jones has been featured here before. He’s a Real Life Super Hero in Seattle. This bio is fun reading.

He was arrested last night for assault (he claims he was breaking up a fight with pepper spray). Sadly, despite speculation, he is not Mark Driscoll. He is, however, an MMA fighter named Benjamin Fodor.

Here’s one of his four fights, on YouTube (contains mixed martial arts).

I can’t figure out how he gets his hair in the costume…

Driscoll or Nietzsche – a fun guessing game…

I was (don’t ask me why) reading some Nietzsche quotes online, trying to find a particular quote for a particular view of what motivates humans (the will to power).

Anyway, in reading some quotes, more generally, I noticed some worrying parallels between his views of weakness and the type of masculinity espoused by everybody’s favourite cage fighting preacher…

So here’s an exercise. Pick who said what.

1. “Everything that makes soft and effeminate, that serves the end of the People or the Feminine, works in favor of Universal Suffrage, the domination of the Inferior Men. But we should take reprisal and bring this whole affair to light and the bar of judgment.”

2. “The states in which we infuse a transfiguration and a fullness into things and poetize about them until they reflect back our fullness and joy in life…three elements principally: sexuality, intoxication and cruelty – all belonging to the oldest festal joys.”

3. “I don’t think there’s anything purer than two guys in a cage, no balls, no sticks, no bats, no help, no team, and just see which man is better.”

4. “The rights a man arrogates to himself are related to the duties he imposes on himself, to the tasks to which he feels equal.”

5. “Men are made for combat, men are made for conflict, men are made for dominion”

6. “For spirit alone does not make noble. Rather, there must be something to ennoble the spirit. What then is required? Blood.”

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Westboro v Mars Hill Church

Interesting times. Our favourite loopies (Westboro Baptist) have announced their intentions to picket Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill Church. How would you respond to such a threat? The sad thing is the media like to run stories on Westboro. I think this is especially likely because this appears to be two sheep fighting, rather than a sheep and a wooly wolf. So choosing a response is important, and an opportunity to articulate the differences and how different approaches to Christian belief are a matter of articulating a consistent message with the Bible, rather than a matter of choosing your own particular interpretation.

Here’s what the Westboro Baptists have said is their reason for targeting Mars Hill.

“WBC says the reason they’ll be at Mars Hill Church is, “To picket the false prophet and blind lemmings at Mars Hill Whore House where they teach the lies that God love [sic] everyone and Jesus died for the sins of all of mankind. You have caused the people to trust in lies to their destruction, and to your damnation. Shame on you for calling yourself the Mars Hill Church! False advertising doesn’t come close! Paul would turn over in his grave at your God-hating, Christ-rejecting lies! You have a form of godliness, but you deny the power thereof…WBC will speak the truth to you in love—as God defines ‘love’. We will tell you that, in fact, there is a standard God has set in this earth that He commands you obey. Your disobedient sin is taking you to hell, and you must repent and mourn for your sins. God does not love everyone—in fact, He hates the majority of mankind, and has purposed to send them to hell when they die. You would know these things if you would pick up a Bible and actually READ THE WORDS!””

Team Driscoll* is responding by offering Team Phelps some donuts.

Which is a brilliant display of grace and a stunning contrast between the two. Despite my reservations about some of what Driscoll does, the man is a smart engager

*”I’m on Team Driscoll” t-shirts would be an interesting product to produce, because the modern angry young contempervant church planter/fanboy is the Christian equivalent of a twi-hard. That’s a market. Right there. 10% my way please…

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Stop with the stupid statii: things that get my online goat

The plural for status is statii. Right? Anyway. I was talking to my buddy Mike. I have many buddies named Mike. And I won’t tell you which one he is. It’ll be more fun, and safer, that way.

There are two types of status updates on Facebook that are guaranteed to raise my ire, three types that I will respond to in anger. Well, passive aggressive snarkiness. Four that make my ears steam. Let me count the ways. Oh Facebooker.

This post should not be read as a personal indictment if you are the sort of person who does this. And if you’re reading this thinking that I’m writing about you specifically, I may well be, but I do love you, and I only want what’s best for you. Think of it as a Public Service Announcement that will hopefully help me to keep on liking you.

My hot wife says this post is a preachy know-it-all rant that makes it sound like I’m some sort of social media guru. I’m not, I’m just Joe Average. Your typical Facebook friend. But I have a blog. A voice. A platform. And I’m happy to use it to tell you what Joe Average is thinking, or at least what I’m thinking. And that’s loving. Isn’t it?

Here are the types of Facebookers that get my goat. And if you’re one of them – feel free to come back at me in the comments.

1. The “Facebook is out to get you” Rumour Miller.

Facebook is a company that makes money by selling its user base to advertisers. Deal with it. If you want to use the platform then you need to get with the program. You are the commodity. You are not the customer (unless you buy ads). Sometimes Facebook will change the way they do business. Businesses do that. They announce these changes. It’s not hard. If you hear a nasty rumour about how Facebook is out to get you and exploit you – it may well be true. But please go to google.com or snopes.com and do a little research. Just copy and paste your chain-letter style status update into google and see what comes up. Chances are it’ll be a hoax. 90% of the time it is. 9% of the time its something that some conspiracy nut has blown out of proportion – and the other 1% of the time Facebook is doing something to make a bit more money. That’s its job. There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

Two friends, possibly connected by mutual friends, who knows – posted the same status update tonight about a change Facebook made two years ago. A change that wasn’t even really a change, and certainly wasn’t the kind of change this conspiracy laden status suggested it was. Sure. Facebook is going to show you if your friends like or interact with a particular brand or advertisement. Newsflash. This is a social network.

2. The Megachurch Wannabe.

I get it. You are the minister, assistant minister, or student minister at a fantastic church. And you want your church to get Facebook attention. We all do. But this stuff sounds better if other people are talking about it. Not the person who is paid to. Here are some secrets. Nobody likes the overly pious memory verse machine. They get hidden. Nobody likes the walking church bulletin who advertises an event every time they open their mouth. You are not Mark Driscoll. You are not John Piper. You are you. Be you. Let Piper be Piper. Let Driscoll be Driscoll (or point out how bizarre his stream of status updates can be and get lots of hits on your blog). A stream of Piper imitators in one’s status feed is annoying and it dilutes the effectiveness of the original.

Don’t talk too much about your awesome prayer life, sermon, Bible Study, worship session, Bible reading, quiet time, anything a bit jargony that is going to make others feel inadequate or your non-Christian friends and family think you’ve joined a cult. Sure. We all want our non-Christian friends to read our statii and know we are ruled by the Lord Jesus. But not posting drunken pictures on Facebook will help with that impression, as will myriad other things. And a couple of updates per day or week, in proportion to updates about what you are actually thinking or doing would be fine. Thankyou.

There are a few subsets of the megachurch wannabe that almost became special categories in this rant. Don’t spread Christian chain status updates about how we want a million people to like Jesus on Facebook, or how if you don’t make something your status for an hour it means you don’t love God. I won’t copy your status. Almost ever. As a general rule. I don’t want to be some sort of status quoting robot. And I love God. I’m sure there are others like me.

The Christian superparent/superspouse. I get it. Your wife is hot. Your daughters are amazing and daddy date worthy (there’s an incredible cringe factor to that term). Your sons are growing up to be real men of God. That’s great. Show us some photos. That’s what Facebook is for. Tell us you’re proud of them. But don’t keep telling me how hot your wife is, or about your plans for an amazing daddy date (seriously. Creepy). We know you love your family.

If you do want to plant a megachurch just follow these ten steps to success.

3. The Oversharer.

I’ve been over this before. But it just keeps happening. Let me state this clearly. As clearly as possible, and with as much love as I can muster.

I DO NOT WANT TO READ ABOUT THE POO YOUR CHILD JUST DID.

Ever. And your child doesn’t want to google themselves one day and find out that their potty training produced wonderful shapes. Nor that they had a poosplosion on the carpet. In fact. Nobody wants to know. Especially if one day they are going to visit your house and sit on the chair that was once covered by infant defecation. We get that you love your child and that parenting can be a funny and frustrating process. But you don’t need to rub our virtual noses in it.

As a general rule most people don’t want to read about the minutiae of your daily life. There’s a point where enough information crosses over into too much information. Why straddle that line? Why not stay metres away from it. But try not to be so vague you’re completely boring too. That’s too far.

4. The Grammar Pest.

I’ve saved this one until last because it’s actually the one I find most annoying. I cringe at bad grammar, and bad spelling. I don’t understand how, with the advent of the in-browser spell check, anybody can post gibberish in their statii anymore. It’s not that hard. Come on people.

But. To publicly correct somebody, unless they are a professional proof-reader and you are their colleague, is just mean spirited and almost only ever designed to make the one doing the correcting look good. And it doesn’t. Nobody is buying what you’re selling. Nobody. We all see through it. People hated you as a child and scribbled on your face with red pen. We get it. Now there’s a grammar sized chip on your shoulder and you feel the need to make your contribution to every conversation a comment about somebody else’s mistake. Good for you. You will die alone. But your will will be immaculate. Error free. Leaving everything to your 18 cats.

People make mistakes. If you love them you should tell them in private. Not shout it out for the world to see. And if you do that – you better make sure that you cross every t, dot every i and catch every rogue apostrophe before hitting enter. Because if you don’t – I’m watching you. And I’m coming for you. Don’t be a grammar hypocrite for a moment. Grammar Pharisee is probably a better name for these people than grammar nazi – communication is about the spirit, not about the law. Shakespeare taught us that. As did anybody else who deliberately broke a rule for the sake of better writing. Because everybody likes to see a bully get their comeuppance.

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WJGTD: Would Jesus “Get Things Done”

I am a little bit sick of the Getting Things Done (GTD) evangelists pushing GTD as the only way to live. GTD does not fit with my personality type. And it’s not something that is Biblically mandated. At the very least it falls into the category of wisdom. But it’s possible to be productive without having a “to do” list with the methodological ticking off of checkboxes.

Here’s a Mark Driscoll sermon on the barren fig tree. Now, I don’t want to get into the finer points of Mark Driscoll’s preaching here, but I think it’s fair to say that what he does with the figs borders on allegory, and if he’s preaching as though he’s speaking God’s word to God’s people, then this is just wrong. I don’t need to conform to the GTD view of productivity to be doing good kingdom work. Here’s the passage he’s preaching from:

6 And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. 7 And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ 8 And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. 9 Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’

It’s bizarre that he opens up this sermon with this quote:

“That being said, I want to give you a few principles for interpreting parables in general and then we’ll look at today’s parable in particular. Now, when it comes to interpreting the parables, one thing I will say is that they are frequently abused and misunderstood. They are mistreated, misinterpreted, misapplied. So we have to be careful with them.

One way that this happens is that people will use the parables to teach doctrine. The parables are simple stories. They’re not intended to introduce new doctrines. They illustrate, illuminate existing doctrines, they’re extended analogies. So the Bible teaches a propositional truth claim and the parable illustrates it. It helps to expand it, illuminate it. It gives us new perspective on it.”

Now. Here’s where he starts veering into the “you must GTD” territory that I find pretty harmful, and based solely on what has worked for him, in his circumstances, with his personality. Here he starts with his conclusion, and then essentially begs the question. He defines fruitfulness before he says that God cares about fruitfulness. But who says his definition of fruitfulness is right?

“Here’s the question that is seeking to be answered by the parable: Does God care about results, yes or no? Yes, God cares about results. God cares about effectiveness. God cares about performance. Here the word that encompasses all of that is “fruit,” “fruit.” God cares about fruitfulness. Fruitfulness here is good works. Good works, obedience, a changed life, living a kind of life that makes a difference, that when your life on the earth is done, people miss you because you were a gift to them. You were a channel of God’s grace to them. You provided wisdom or generosity or help or service or rebuke or encouragement. That you were giving. That you were fruitful. That your life counted. That you weren’t just a consumer, you were a producer. You didn’t just take from everyone and everything, but you gave and they were blessed by you.”

He doesn’t tie salvation to fruitfulness – in fact, he explicitly says that we’re different from traditional religion that does do that, and that we’re saved by grace, but his exhortation to live wisely borderlines on mandating his personal approach to life as normative Christian behaviour.

“It’s not about just belonging to Jesus and going to heaven. It’s about belonging to Jesus, living a fruitful life, and then going to heaven for an eternal reward. Your life counts, your life counts, your life matters. God has fruit for you to bear. He has good works for you to do. He has things for you to accomplish. Not so that you can become a Christian, but because you are. Not so that you’ll become pleasing in his sight, but because through Christ you already are.”

Ok. With you still.

“And so, to extend the analogy, Mars Hill is a vineyard. He’s a tree, she’s a tree, you’re a tree, I’m a tree, we’re all trees. This is God’s vineyard. We’re all fig trees. And it’s a good time for us to look back on the previous year and celebrate and rejoice. Say, “You know what? Insofar as a vineyard goes, what a great vineyard Mars Hill Church is. So much to celebrate, so much to rejoice in. Biggest harvest ever, praise God. Look at all the figs.”

Hmm. Ok. So fruit is how big your church gets. One thing I will say about Driscoll is his opening, middle, and closing statements about Mars Hill are always on message and reinforcing the brand. They do this so well. Have a look at some transcripts. Somehow joining the City, the social network they use, signing up for a small group, and getting your life in order so that you can contribute to church life, is an application of every passage. Be part of us. Join us. Serve the community. That stuff is great. But before the end is some more middle – and we’re now being asked to hold two truths central to our interpretation of this passage. We’re building a syllogism baby. One – God wants you to be fruitful and effective, two we are to identify the figs that weren’t appearing in this parabolic man’s vineyard as our own works and productivity.

Here’s where we get a little bizarre. The application, well, one of them (and this is the tip of a pretty deep iceberg)…

“Some of you, your big problem is you don’t count your figs. You’ve got to measure, count. Some of you are naturally administratively gifted and organized. You’re so freakishly tidy, you actually need to calm down, okay? But some of you need to get a label maker and you need to get a plan, right? You need to put some plans together.

Let’s say, for example, you want to lose weight this year and you want to be healthy. First thing you need is a scale. “How many figs do I weigh? Okay, how many figs do I weigh? I got to count my figs.” And then you got to read the boxes and labels. “How many calories, how many figs am I eating?” You’ve got to track it.

Some of you say, “I don’t like numbers. I’m not good with numbers.” You got to learn to count your figs. You won’t make changes in your life unless you’re tracking it, keeping an accounting and a reckoning of it. That’s the point of the parable. He’s got an idea of where his figs are coming from and where there is fruitlessness.

And some more…

Number four, measure fruitfulness, not busyness. This one’s huge. Some of you say, “I’m busy! I’m active! I’m so busy, I’m committed to every—” but are you fruitful? There’s a big difference between busyness and fruitfulness. Some people, they are filled with coffee. They’re returning e-mails, talking on the phone, texting while they’re driving, doing their make-up and their hair while doing Pilates on their way to work. I mean, they’re multi-taskers, they’re busy, they’re active, they’re rushed. They’re always late, they’re not emotionally present when they’re there with you. They’re taking calls over dinner, I mean they—stuff’s falling through the cracks. They’re not sleeping enough, they’re stressed out and shaking. “I’m so busy!” And what they want is compassion. What they need is fruitfulness. Some of you need to learn to say, “I can’t do that, I can’t do that, I can’t do that. I need to see three things through to completion rather than seven things through to incompletion. I need to be fruitful, not just busy.

Then you have to get a mentor, like the guy in the parable did. And use your manure. Like the mentor in the parable said to – and the whole way through Driscoll is peppering his talk with examples from his own life.

GTD is the new prosperity gospel

If you order your life it’ll be better. That’s the line we’re being fed by those who’ve read and conformed to David Allen’s Getting Things Done. Mark Driscoll is a disciple, and one of his points of application in this sermon is basically the “capture everything” mentality of GTD. I can’t imagine spending my life trying to write down everything I think and do. So that I’ll do it better next time. Here’s my tip “Just do it”… it worked for Nike. All this reflection seems bizarre. And I don’t think Jesus spent each evening meditating on his day. He just kept doing the stuff he had to do. I’m not sure he was ticking off a list either. Because he was happy enough to change his plans and be distracted when people came up to him in crowds.

“So I spent a little time working on my life, not just in it, putting together my schedule for this year, my travel schedule for the next eighteen months, my preaching schedule for the next twenty-four months. Plans for Mars Hill, plans for my family, trying to tee it all up. Yeah, there will be adjustments, nothing’s perfect. I sat down with Gracie and we took a whole day, just us, laptops, paperwork, put it all together.

What’s an ideal week look like? What do you need from me? What’s working? What’s not working? How can we help? How do we need to adjust the kids’ chores? How did the holidays work? What do we need for vacations this year? What are we going to do for the kids’ birthdays? What about sports? You know the complexity of life. And Gracie and I spent a whole day putting the year together. We made a plan. We made a plan. And by the grace of God, we’ll take notes along the way and we’ll make adjustments and next year will be better than the year that we’re looking forward to right now, I hope and pray, by the grace of God.”

It’s great that GTD works for some people – but preaching it, from the pulpit, without any alternatives, is just a little too “conform to my way of thinking” for my liking. It’s wisdom, it’s not an imperative. There’s no 11th commandment.

This quote is pretty cool though, it may contain traces of ninja:

Soren Kierkegaard, a Danish philosopher who was a Christian, he had a great insight regarding parables. He said that parables sneak up on you. They’re like ninja stories. All right, you don’t seem them coming. Because if you’re confronted with the truth—let’s say for example you’re in sin and you’re confronted in the truth, you may bristle and fight and defend yourself, and a story, a good parable, sneaks up on you because you don’t see it coming.

I don’t think Jesus was a GTDer – what are your thoughts? Should I be breaking out the label maker and starting to systematise my life (my wife isn’t allowed to answer this question)?

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Someone at Mars Hill doesn’t hate video games

This is pretty funny.

There’s this old school universal cheat code from the days of the NES called the Konami Code.

up up down down left right left right B A Enter

Go to Mars Hill’s website and enter it – just hit the combo of keys above on your keyboard + enter – and you find an “Easter Egg.” Somebody there knows more about gaming culture than they’re letting on, because the code takes you to Driscoll’s ill-conceived rant about video games, posted and discussed here the other day.

H/T ChurchCrunch

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Mark Driscoll on Video Games: Not sinful, but stupid

Mark Driscoll doesn’t like nerds or geeks (neither do Westboro Baptist). He regularly bags out bloggers, now he’s having a dig at people who play video games. Watch from about 1:47 in this video… or just read this post on the Mars Hill blog.

“Video games are not sinful, they’re just stupid. And they’re stupid in this way: Young, particularly men, and now women are joining it, they want to get on a team, be part of a kingdom, conquer a foe, and win a great, epic battle. So they do it with their thumbs and it doesn’t even count. Nobody’s really liberated. The Taliban is not really conquered. Women are not really freed from oppression. Generations are not really changed. It’s all fake. It doesn’t count.”

No. It doesn’t count. Only the particularly deluded think games = real life. But games are entertainment, and like all culture and art, they are an avenue to connect with other people. You know. The type of thing you often encourage your followers to do when they’re engaging with culture.

In the first video, and the text in that first blog entry, Driscoll strawmans anybody who plays games – because we’re all motivated by wanting to fight a battle. That isn’t real. And doesn’t count. It’s just an odd little rant coming from a guy who at this point seems to be letting his prejudices against the nerdy types of people who sit in their mum’s basements and bag him out on their blogs cloud his judgment. It seems a little bit like he’s missing the whole fiction/non-fiction divide again a little (as he did with Twilight and Avatar).

Here’s what he said in an earlier post on the Resurgence blog about his approach to culture:

“What I’ve found over the years is that whenever I speak about something culturally related from a Christian perspective, a debate rages. This has been the case since the earliest days of my ministry. This is because I consider myself a missionary in culture. When we started our church we did so in what was among the least churched cities in the nation, seeking to reach the least churched demographic—young, educated, single, urban men. The truth is, these kinds of young men are generally missing from the American church. One thing these men of all races are doing is listening to rap music.”

Now, I want to know what the difference is, in his mind, between games and music – so far as looking to engage in the subculture in a missional way. I don’t get it. If it’s about escapism – then why is he ok with watching movies and television. And he is ok with watching movies and television. I assume he’s also ok with reading novels.

Games are interactive stories. They are movies that the gamer takes part in, novels that the gamer helps write, entertainment that is active rather than passive, and increasingly they are art (though Roger Ebert doesn’t think so) and social commentary. Like music. Like movies. They’re culture. They’re not stupid, or sinful. But, like anything, the way people use them can be. And like anything, there are always a bunch of Christians looking to Christianise (or, to use one of Driscoll’s Rs, Redeem) this stream of culture. Though this one is satire:

Here’s a post linking to a good essay on the subject of games as art that I put up a while ago, here’s the one that Call of Duty image was originally featured in, here’s a couple of posts about Christian games: post 1, post 2

Now, excuse me while I go to shoot some Mexican bandits on Red Dead Redemption.

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Seattle’s Real Life Superheroes: In the News

I bet one of these guys is Mark Driscoll. If you get to 2:30 – I reckon he’s the one on the right.

“We stand for a message. And the message is that we are against violence and we are against the crimes you are going to do”

Red Dragon carries a wooden sword. That could be Driscoll too.

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Driscoll on Christianity in public

Say what you will about Mark Driscoll – but the man is sharpest (I think) when he’s talking about how the church should interact with the surrounding culture. I like this video because we are almost completely in agreement.

Christianity, society and politics from CPX on Vimeo.

He talks about how we can learn from Calvin’s approach to Christianity and Politics, avoiding anachronistically suggesting that any imposition of Christian government is wrong, and suggesting that it’s not appropriate today because you’d need everybody in a country to be Christian in order for that to be appropriate.

“Change often times comes from the bottom up. And I think one of the great myths is that politics changes culture. Politics doesn’t change culture, it represents culture. Politics represents the views of the constituency.”

“My efforts particularly in our city have not been politically active, I’m quite frankly not, I mean, we don’t talk about politicians or issues, much, I mean as I’m teaching through the Bible there might be some corollary between a social issue and a biblical teaching, but for the most part our goal is to love and serve people, to serve the city, to be people who really do love and are committed to our city and want to see the benefit to all people in the city, not just the Christians, and I believe that as more people share that ethic that will help to turn the culture of the city over and that will lead to political change.”

Watch it. It’s good.

This is the sort of post that is eventually going to migrate to Venn Theology (in fact, it’s cross posted there).

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Social media strategies for churches

I was talking to some people yesterday about churches and social media strategies. I’ve followed a bunch of people who are involved with ministries, and churches, and promoting ministries and churches on Facebook. And I think they’re doing it wrong… but what would I know.

The wrongness was the spirit of my speculative posts “Has John Piper ruined Twitter” and “Has Mark Driscoll ruined Facebook” – most churches rely on their minister posting pithy one line updates to Facebook and Twitter generating an echo effect where people retweet and like and share to their hearts content. Which is only part of the social media story, and is usually pretty lame. Blowing one’s own trumpet is never cool. No matter how good your faux-hawk is, and no matter how much you’re able to make grown men cry in your sermons. Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate Desiring God and Mars Hill, and Piper and Driscoll, and I think they contribute greatly to the global church and use the Internet brilliantly. But you’re not (unless they’re reading this) Piper or Driscoll. And if you’re a minister of a church and you’re filling my Facebook or Twitter news feeds with how much God is moving in your church, or how great your sermon was, or how great it was to spend time with your church family  – and that’s all your doing – then that’s really not why I’ve added you Twitter in particular, or probably, being really honest, on Facebook. I’ve added a person, not a ministry PR machine. I want your reflections on stuff, and if you’re a minister then that will doubtless include stuff about your church and your ministry, and how much you love your people, and how awesome they all are… but please, don’t be a two dimensional caricature. You are not your church. Get a Facebook page for your ministry – but even then, don’t be lame about it. Don’t just spam people with endless things about how good the stuff they were already at was, and don’t spam them with things about upcoming events.

Social media is social. It’s meant to be interactive. The best social media strategies do what is called “seeding” content. You don’t blow your own trumpet. You get others to blow it for you. If you run a church Facebook account, or Twitter account, why not ask a bunch of tech savvy people at church to post their own thoughts, advertisements, photos or reflections to TwitFace? Why not ask people to live tweet certain events, or go home and serve their brothers and sisters by posting the thing that struck them most about the sermon. Don’t do it yourself. Why not get people to post photos of your events, get them to make them their profile pictures. Get them to talk to each other (that’ll show up in the news feed of mutual friends). Get them organically promoting events and inviting their friends personally, rather than sending out some form email.

Social media works best when it is social media – when people are participating in the production and distribution of content – rather than just contributing to the noise side of the signal to noise ratio on the internet. People’s inboxes (in all virtual forms) are so full of rubbish and spam – why not contribute some meaningful content and interactions to their lives instead of just trying to be an ever present presence online.

And if none of that seems to work, if you can’t get people saying stuff about your church online, then maybe consider this webcomic (via ChurchCrunch)…

You gotta love this city…

The Whitlams were on to something. I don’t think they were thinking about ministry when they wrote Love This City. But I think it’s a great idea for churches. It’s Biblical too (see Jeremiah 29).

This is one thing I think the Mars Hill/Acts 29 movement does really well. And when they speak about it, I listen.

So check out this post. Four ways to know your city.

Here’s one way:

“Ask your neighbors and fellow citizens lots of questions. Don’t interrogate them but show sincere, intentional interest in them and the information they possess. Anecdotal information about your city and fellow citizens is unbeatable.
Ask them the What, How, and Why questions: What do you think is broken in our neighborhood or city? What gets you excited about life? What do you think should be done about economic decline in our city? Anything you would like to change about your neighborhood?
Are you fulfilled in what you are doing in life? Why do you drive across town to do X? Why do you dislike traditional Christianity?”

The last question is based on a startling assumption. Maybe they don’t dislike traditional Christianity.

Some Driscoll

Have you ever googled Driscoll Fanboy or Mark Driscoll Fanboy the result is somewhat pleasing.

Izaac was listening to a Driscoll sermon on Nehemiah recently (and even though I’m his number one fanboy I haven’t listened to it myself), he had this to say… (it won’t surprise some of you to know that Nehemiah was actually a church planter).

“This is where it ends. The following 49 minutes reads Nehemiah as a church-planting manual. Keep a diary like Nehemiah, do research, align yourself with supporters, appoint administrators, don’t be surprised by enemies like Sanballat and Tobiah (a.k.a. bloggers) etc.”

Anyway, Driscoll has also been in the news (or the blogs) in the last couple of days because the writer of the Shack called him out over these comments (which I think represent Mark Driscoll at his best, his comments on Twilight and Avatar, not so much)…

Here’s Paul Young, The Shack guy calling MD out, he’ll be speaking at an event in Seattle next weekend.

“Mark Driscoll has leveled some serious charges against my writing and by extension against me. He has publicly called me a heretic. I’ve decided to ask him to meet me in Seattle on Sept 10th, from 1-3 PM, and have an open discussion in front of a public audience about the different ways he and I view scripture.

I have asked my good friend Jim Henderson to host this conversation. It will not be a debate but a discussion about our differences and because we are both Christians about the places we are in agreement. The audience will be able to ask questions of both of us.

Mark seems quite fond of telling his congregants to “man up” and I guess I am really asking him to do the same. I would like him to say to my face what he has spread around the world via Youtube, and you can be sure I’ll have a few questions for him as well.

I’m sure many ‘non-Christians’ wonder why someone like Mark can say things like this with impunity. When someone is able to garner 350K views on Youtube, or for that matter has sold almost 20 Million copies of a book, I believe the conversations have become public property.”

I propose they settle it cage fighting style.

Here are some other “interesting” Driscoll rants…