Mark Driscoll - Community & Culture ~ BitterSweetLife

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Mark Driscoll - Community & Culture

I haven’t finished Confessions of a Reformission Rev. yet, but I’m making fast progress. In Chapter Zero, which is a kind of preface, Mark Driscoll lays some groundwork for the subsequent chapters, which come up fast and furious, in-your-face autobiographical style. Lindsay, who has finished the book, says that Chapter Zero is like the enjoyable click-click-click or a roller coaster ratcheting up to the starting point before the white-knuckle terror and tension of the real ride begin. Nice.

Here are a few thoughts from the pre-roller coaster phase. For starters, I like Driscoll’s approach to culture and theology. On page 22 he writes:

The emerging church* welcomes the tension of holding in one closed hand the unchanging truth of evangelical Christian theology (Jude 3) and holding in one open hand the many cultural ways of showing and speaking Christian truth as a missionary to America (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). [emphasis mine - see below]

Note that Driscoll isn’t saying that Christians should desperately run after the culture in an attempt to make Jesus relevant. Culture here, if I understand Driscoll correctly, becomes a delivery system for Christian truth—which is no insult to culture.

Later, Driscoll posits the question: Will your church have a mission of community or be a community of mission? He explains (page 32):
Without a clear definition of what a missional church community is and does, tragically, community will become the mission of the church. Consequently, the goal of people will be to hang out together in love, like the family they never had. While this is not evil, it is also not sufficient.

I think Driscoll nails a common misapplication of “community” here. A sincere delusion about church family results in a group of ingrown people (i.e., Christian subculture) who fail to realize they must make inroads into their surrounding culture and communities as missionaries (i.e., “missional church community”). The upshot? A defining “missional” vision, not a repetitive focus on “community,” is what unites a church.

This principle could be illustrated in virtually any setting. A hoops team deeply focused on cutting down the nets in March will very likely become united. In the same way, a church committed to Christ’s mandate to “love your neighbor as yourself” will find themselves learning to live and work as a cohesive unit, like a body with many parts (Paul). Driscoll sums up these thoughts by saying, “Community is an effect of mission but not an effective mission” (page 33).

There are other points of interest in Chapter Zero (tough leaders, “shooting your dogs”), but I’ll let someone else mention them, or bring them up later, since I have a feeling that they’ll be recurring themes.

So, any thoughts on Driscoll’s culture and community stances?


* In Driscoll’s book, “emerging church” should be understood as referring to “a growing, loosely connected movement of primarily young pastors who are glad to see the end of modernity and are seeking to function as missionaries who bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to emerging and postmodern cultures” (page 22).

As noted in the quote above, this movement is committed to biblical, orthodox theology, while engaging freely with changing culture to convey Christ’s unchanging gospel effectively.

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e-Mom said...

Hi Ariel,

I’ll be reading Driscoll’s book this upcoming week. (My daughter will be picking up a copy at MH tomorrow.) May I come back and comment again then?

I’m intrigued by your thoughts on the book so far. Lindsey’s “click-click-click” analogy has really heightened my curiousity! As to Driscoll’s preaching style, yes, he can be very direct and also quite funny. As you’ve observed, we do need to tailor our speech to our audience, as Jesus did with the Pharisees. Jesus also used parables (story) effectively to zing past the defenses of the masses. Obviously, Driscoll uses speech purposefully and effectively with his audience at MH.

From the few times I’ve been in church at MH, I’ve observed that Mark is a “left-brained” B&W thinker. From the pulpit, he freely acknowledges his need for “grace.” In fact, he made a joke about marrying a woman by that very name!

Will your church have a mission of community or a community of mission?

I don’t think it’s an either/or. I believe it should be both/and. I’ve just read (theological) book by Stanley Grenz called Created For Community. His drumbeat is community, community, community, citing the Trinity as the ultimate community of love, and our example to follow. I tend to agree.

On the other hand, we also have a mandate from Jesus to “go to the ends of the earth with the good news.” I believe we need to do both, simultaneously.

As Christians, I believe we need to be inclusive not exclusive, setting the example for culture, even as we engage it. “In the world but not of it” and “wise as serpents but innocent as doves” come to mind. I’d like to comment more culture after I’ve read Driscoll's book.

For a small sampling of at what goes on in MH community groups, take a look here:

Also, Driscoll now has his own blog. Go here:

Thanks for visiting Chrysalis!

Many blessings, e-Mom

Ariel said...

My daughter will be picking up a copy at MH tomorrow. May I come back and comment again then?

No need to ask! Absolutely. Thanks for the supporting links, too. Both good stuff.

Driscoll: "Will your church have a mission of community or a community of mission?"

E-mom: I don’t think it’s an either/or. I believe it should be both/and.

If I can play the devil's advocate concern with beating the "community" drum is that it is often self-defeating, because the vision of the church becomes myopic.

Which is to say, if you want community, work for Christlikeness (which is similar to saying, "If you want peace, work for justice.")

I think community is something we are usually forced to achive indirectly, by looking to a stronger, unifying force (Christ), not our own feeble efforts to "unite!"

Matt Christenot said...

Hey Guys,
Thought I'd jump in here with a thought about community. It seems to me that there is very little that brings about a true sense of "unity" as being united in a common purpose. We see it all the time in our everyday lives, whether it's in sports or music or some other area of life. Here's a musicians analogy for you: in my band (or any other band) we all tune our instruments to a tuner. We do this rather than tuning to one another because the tuner provides a constant point of reference. A.W. Tozer said something similar in his book, Whatever Happened to Worship but it involved pianos and it's to late at night for me to find it now. The point I'm trying to make is that perhaps a church coming around one singular, missional purpose will create authentic community where efforts at trying to create community for community’s sake often fail.

Having said that, I think there’s one more point to be made. I really don’t think community around a common purpose is enough in and of itself. Driscoll nails this one on the head when he compares the “Babel Community” with the “Pentecost Community.” Both are genuine communities of people (both united in common purpose no less), but “the Pentecost version of community exists for mission, not for itself.” (33) For churches to experience true community they must be united under a missional purpose fueled by a passion for the exaltation of Christ in the hearts of people. Unless I’m wrong (a tribute to Dr. Devine). Your thoughts?

e-Mom said...

Book and daughter just arrived. A quote from Driscoll in church today: MH is "charismatic with a seatbelt."

I'll be back to comment more later. In the meantime take a look at this post:

Also, Ariel on community and/vs. missions. It would be interesting to see you post on the so-called "feminization" of the church. Your thoughts on its relationship to the above?

Ariel said...

"Also, Ariel on community and/vs. missions. It would be interesting to see you post on the so-called "feminization" of the church. Your thoughts on its relationship to the above?"

Man oh man. (That's not my answer.) I'd really like to get into this...latent thoughts manliness and phrases like "wild at heart" are rising to the surface. (I'm not showing my hand by saying that, either.) Great question, e-mom. As it is, I'm about to leave for Colorado, returning next weekend, and I'll look forward to talking on this point then...

BTW, please do come back and comment often on the Driscoll posts. You've got an up-front perspective. In fact, if you'd like to contribute to the Driscoll discussion by posting here on BitterSweetLife, shoot me an email.

Matt, great points. I like the analogies.

e-Mom said...

Ha! "Man oh man."

Right, "Wild at Heart" and so on. Thoughts about gender come to mind every time I think about Driscoll. I notice there is no shortage of men at MH... a very good thing.

Thanks for the invitation to post on this topic at BitterSweetLife. An honor indeed. Let's take the week to ponder. Enjoy your trip!

Ariel said...

"For churches to experience true community they must be united under a missional purpose fueled by a passion for the exaltation of Christ in the hearts of people."

I reread your comment, Matt, and had to say that you nailed it. It's not enough just to have a common purpose (i.e. Babylon). Only one purpose is strong enough to transcend age, race, gender, culture - Christ. Thus, Driscoll's "Pentecost" community.


Culture. Photos. Life's nagging questions. - BitterSweetLife