John Halton of the Boar's Head Tavern asks for some reasons to like Mark Driscoll.
I can't tell you why you should like him, but I can tell you why I like him, and moreover, why I think what he's doing is very, very important for those of us pushing reformation of the discipleship culture of the evangelical church.
First, some things that rub me the wrong way, just to demonstrate I'm not a drooling Driscoll fanboy:
1. He frequently leads with attitude. I actually like Driscoll's attitude, which I will expound upon in the next list, but too often his attitude is not merely an affectation or tone in his preaching, but becomes the context or subsuming quality of it. There is a difference between having attitude and leading with it, and I think Driscoll occasionally, if not frequently, steps over this line. (Perhaps I do also.)
For instance, I just listened to the audio of his joint presentation with Capitol Hill Baptist's Michael Lawrence in the "Mentoring Young Pastors" workshop on the Gospel Coalition website. There is a lot of good stuff in this presentation, from both pastors, lots of good meat and practical tips. But in the Q&A, one attender asked about having single men serve as elders. Lawrence said his church allowed it (although they only had one or two, I think), and Driscoll said he wasn't absolutist about being against it, but he didn't like it and Mars Hill didn't have any. But he didn't stop there; he ragged on Lawrence for having single elders. And when Lawrence began to explain the situations, to explain the single men and their qualifications, Driscoll got hung up on the fact that they were 40 and single. He asked Lawrence, "Honestly: You don't think that guy's weird?" and then said "At my church we'd make fun of him."
Nice. I felt really uncomfortable for Lawrence, who clearly wasn't interested in exchanging barbs, and if images are telling in any way at all, you can see from the photo from the workshop that the two pastors there look very different. I think Driscoll was out of line. It got some laughs. And I'll admit it was pretty funny. But I cringed too, because that is Mark Driscoll. I understand, and actually think I agree, with his stance on single elders, but "At my church we'd make fun of him" means a lot more than just getting some pastors to laugh.
Even if it is not really true for Mars Hill, it demonstrated an abrasiveness in the environment of pastoral camaraderie that should not have been there.
This relates also to Mars Hill's multi-site expansion, which features his sermons on video screen. I fear this contributes to a celebrity quotient in their growth which is only facilitated by his larger than life personality.
2. On a similar note, I think Driscoll overplays the masculinity thing. Do I think church men ought to "man up," take their responsibility, stop giving in to the feminization of the church, lead their families, lead their churches, stop making excuses, etc.? Absolutely.
I am unclear as to how becoming Ultimate Fighting-watching quasi-jerks really meets this need. It's not the need he overplays, to be clear. It is the way he characterizes meeting that need.
In my mind, it is not cultural masculinity that is needed, but biblical masculinity. Our men aren't failing us because they aren't like William Wallace enough; many of them are failing us precisely because they look to the culture for examples of manhood.
In this same vein, I think Driscoll tends to trade one caricature of Jesus for another. No, Jesus was not a gay hippie with product in his hair (an amalgamation of a few of Driscoll's favorite phrases). Neither was he Jack Bauer. I'm sorry, he just wasn't.
Jesus was a perfect man, which means he was tough when he needed to be and tender when he needed to be. Making all of Jesus about the sword-wielding asskicker of Revelation is just as narrow as making all of Jesus about being a mama's boy.
3. And on that note, I think Driscoll gets hung up on pet phrases and rhetorical tics. This is more of a style thing. If I had a magic wand, I'd cut out all those "uhhhh"'s he utters after every joke in his sermons.
This is a cheap shot, of course, because even as I listen to my own message audio, I notice, with much discomfort, I am prone to repeating the same pet phrases and concepts ("Jesus stamp" is a big one, "what Bible are these people reading?" is another).
This just occurs to me as someone who listens to him every week with enjoyment and profit. I know I am not fit to shine his homiletical shoes.
And on that note, here's why what Driscoll and his church do are very important:
Firstly, he's proof it works. This is what the not-yet-convinced want to know. "Does it work?" It's not the best question one can ask about worship and ministry, but, you know, baby steps. In calling a pragmatic church culture to reformation, they are naturally going to want to know if what we're calling for works, and Mars Hill Seattle is proof that it does.
Now, obviously you can't clone it, any more than a Willow Creek or Saddleback can't be cloned for other metro cultures exactly and work the same way. People are still trying, but the ones that "work" are the ones that use those churches as models and then adapt for their surrounding communities. Same deal for Mars Hill.
Here's a church that went to a majority unchurched area (a very unchurched area, hostile perhaps even to the notion of church) and with a clear, blunt approach to preaching Jesus and the Gospel has grown tremendously.
Now obviously this has as much to do with the community of the church, the missionality of their approach to ministry, and of course it all is dependent upon God's unique blessing and anointing upon them to be who they are. But if you want proof that you can preach expositionally a Jesus-heavy, gospel-centered message about sin and hell and grace and blood for close to an hour and actually attract people in heavily unchurched areas, Mars Hill Seattle is the proof.
They also do communion every week.
They also do the sermon before the music.
Driscoll routinely takes upwards to 15 minutes to update on church business and announcements, announcing firings and hirings, expansions and withdrawals.
And they are planting more of the same sort of churches like crazy.
None of this is very seeker sensitive. None of this is stuff you'd plan to do to reach unchurched people if you are coming out of the culture of consumer-driven evangelicalism from the past 20 years.
And so here's why I like Mark Driscoll: Not just because he's a good preacher I learn and profit from who preaches Christ crucified, raised, and glorified, who teaches theology to the biblically illiterate, who is honest about sin and grace, but because he is doing what few non-denominational, attractional churches do and proving that God's Word faithfully taught and lived will not return void.