The Principled Missional Church

Mark Driscoll is something of a controversial figure at the moment. On the one hand, he is loosely associated with the Emergent/Emerging movement and has upset a number of bloggers with his somewhat vulgar style (see what Challies, Jollyblogger, the Blue Fish, and Cawleyblog thought of his book Confessions of a Reformission Rev). On the other hand, he’s been invited by John Piper to speak at the “Above All Earthly Powers” conference alongside such speakers as Don Carson and David Wells. In other words, he’s not someone who can be easily pigeon-holed.

I hadn’t had a chance to read or hear anything from him until recently, when Desiring God put a few video interviews with him online. I was particularly interested in what he had to say in the “Seeker vs Missional” and “Biblical Principles and Cultural Methods”, as it ties in very closely with what I was trying to say yesterday on the Results Driven Church. There’s another installment of Seeker vs Missional up now that I’ve yet to listen to.

Anyway, I thought they were good enough to warrant transcribing (apologies for any mistakes, emphasis mine etc) …

Seeker vs Missional (Part 1) (Watch Video)

I think part of it is [that] the seeker sensitive church begins with the assumption that the church is a business that produces goods and services to a market. Therefore the demands of the market in large part determine the message and ministries and mission of the church. A missional church doesn’t start with the assumption that the church is a dispenser of goods and services but it is God’s kingdom representative on earth; it’s a counter-cultural entity, so it’s not just cultural relevance, it’s counter-cultural in nature and it begins with theological assumptions and then it’s asking, “how do we translate those theological assumptions effectively to a culture?” but the seeker movement is more asking “how do we win more market share or gain a larger following” which then can change your theological convictions, can change some of your leadership type of decisions. You say, “well, the majority of people who aren’t Christians don’t like to be preached at [so] let’s not do preaching, let’s do sharing. The majority of people that aren’t Christians think that women should be pastors, therefore let’s have women pastors.” It’s beginning with a business mindset of meeting a constituency as opposed to a theological mindset of working from a biblical series of convictions and just trying to articulate that in the most effective way possible. So it’s a distinction – do you lead with your theology or do you lead with your pragmatism? That’s the difference I see.

Biblical Principles and Cultural Methods (Watch Video)

In the Bible I see for the church, I see lots of principles. The church needs to have male elders, the church is to gather regularly, the church is to be involved in caring for the needs of widows and orphans, and about preaching the gospel, about planting of new churches, about teaching sound doctrine, about worshipping of God together corporately, partaking the sacraments, those kinds of things. There are principles in Scripture, and then we have methods that we use to implement those principles.

What I see is when you put everything in the open hand – both your principles and your methods – you’re a classic liberal. If you put everything in your closed hand – your principles and methods are both unchanging – you’re a classic fundamentalist. And these tend to be the two teams. “Our theology is open and our practice is open” or “Our theology is closed and our practice is closed”. What I would argue for is a two-handed approach. There are principles in the closed hand [that] we don’t negotiate [and] we don’t change, but our methods are flexible, culturally contextualised, open to change.

Some would call that cultural capitulation but they’ve already done it. They’re speaking English, not Greek and Hebrew. They’re singing, but they’re not singing the Hebrew Psalms. They are working out of an English translation of the Bible, they’re wearing American clothing and they’re driving a modern day vehicle, speaking over a contemporary sound system and recording onto modern technology. So the question is, does anyone have the right to actually say that cultural contextualisation is a bad thing? I think no. There is faithful and unfaithful cultural contextualisation but as long as we keep our Biblical principles, then that gives us a lot of freedom for our cultural methods. So what is our music look like? That can vary. What is our style of our printed material, of our architecture, of our pastoral dress, of our service order, all of those things are flexible. The New Testament actually gives no criteria for what those things should be. So I think there is a lot of freedom, if you have sound doctrine in the closed hand, and the Biblical principles are well established.

My fear is today, lots of people are only using the open hand, and their doctrine, their biblical principles and their methods are totally flexible. That’s very dangerous. But its likewise dangerous to have dead orthodoxy, where you have a Bible-believing solid Jesus loving church that nobody can relate to because you don’t speak the language, you don’t articulate the heart-cry of the culture. Your architecture, your printed materials, your vocabulary is so insular that you’re not doing what Paul says in 1 Cor 9, that by all means I communicate the gospel to as many as possible in an effort to bring them to the love of Jesus, so Paul says “I become all things to all men” – to Greeks I work this way, to Jews I work this way, therefore faithful not just to the theology of Paul but to the example of Paul we’re going to be pretty flexible and have a lot of diversity in methodology.

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