Driscoll’s 18-point critique: Sydney responds

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Mark Driscoll's 18 obstacles to effective evangelism

Dean of Sydney, Phillip Jensen points out the mistakes we can make about Driscoll in the first of a three-part series of his reflections on Mark Driscoll's visit. The remaining two articles in the series will be posted on sydneyanglicans.net in coming weeks.

John Sandeman's Verdict of Driscollmania.

Earlier this month American mega-church pastor Mark Driscoll delivered a stinging 18 point critique of evangelicalism in Sydney. This week Sydneyanglicans.net asks a panel of six Sydney Anglican church leaders for their response.


Bishop of South Sydney

Most importantly, Mark Driscoll has given permission for the conversation we have had to have. It is quite remarkable how much discussion his 18 points are creating. So many people have made comments to me like "Driscoll has said exactly what I have been thinking for years, but I have been too afraid to speak out." Now there is no excuse, whatever one may think about individual criticisms.

Secondly, Driscoll's words and the interest they are creating send an important message to those just like me in the Diocese's senior leadership. Although we labour hard for real change and revitalisation, Driscoll's sharp criticisms are a wake-up call that perhaps there may be still more in the old adage "the more things change the more they stay the same' than we want to realise. He certainly makes it hard to avoid hard questions about the reality of how we are going.

Thirdly, in Driscoll the Diocese is hearing the first sounds of the voice of the new generation that will be taking leadership in the coming decades. I don't think we should put him on a pedestal. He certainly isn't the Messiah, but he is more than just a naughty boy.

Bishop of Georges River

The one thing that people should really do in response to Mark's critique is listen to his sermon on Acts 17. This was far more important than his 18 points. In this sermon we hear how Driscoll puts together the gospel to reach out and connect. Seeing our Bible teachers learn Mark's model of culturally relevant preaching will be critical for the success of our Connect09 campaign.

My advice to those who feel stung by Mark's criticism is don't throw the baby out with bathwater. I think it is extremely important to listen to our brothers in the Lord. The moment we are not able to take seriously a brother's constructive criticism then we are in big trouble.

As I have looked over Mark's 18 points, the one we should really focus on is understanding what being missional means. I guess you'd expect that response from an old missionary! But in truth, our habit in Sydney is to replicate the same old models. Yet just doing the same old thing somewhere else just isn't going to work any more. We all need to look and listen to our local contexts, even before we get ready to preach. Being missional is understanding how to be relevant in our ministry.

Bishop of Wollongong

Proverbs 27:6 says, "wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”

Mark Driscoll spoke some hard words to our Diocese and those of us in leadership, but in the context of him being a friend.

We can no doubt find areas where we can show he was not exactly right, but he was using a broad brush and speaking in general principles. The perceptive outsider will be able to see our blind spots, which by definition we miss. 

I think we should continue to think about many of his key points, for example: point 5 on the need to welcome or embrace church planting; point 16 on getting the right guys in the right leadership positions; and point 17 on a sense of urgency and willingness to change.

But more than that I just think we need to ask God to show us where we need to change and give us a willingness to do it. 
I would welcome continuing positive discussion and action on this important speech. I thank Mark for having the courage to say some hard words to us.



Rouse Hill Anglican Churches

Driscoll had lots of helpful ideas and advice about thinking outside the box and being creative.

So many of his points were on the money that it left me wondering if he had been fed information. He was either really well briefed or a very good listener.

The only main point that I could not get my head around was his claim that we lack entrepreneurialism because of the influence of "socialism'. According to Mark, we think everyone must be taken care of, with resources given to the weakest pastors in the weakest churches rather than pruning. There should be a place for supporting ministry in tough areas and I don't he is right that successful ministries are not rewarded in Sydney.

What I really valued about Mark's presentation is that he put church planting at the core of ministry.

I really liked that Mark made church planting part of his application of his evangelistic message to 10,000 people [at the Sydney Entertainment Centre event]. That struck me as very different. I have never heard an Australian evangelist say that before.

Starting a network like [Driscoll's] Acts 29 movement has been on my mind for three or four years. After Driscoll's visit, hundreds of people have contacted me " from across all denominations and all parts of the country " saying they want to be part of the network.

I also think that he is right that the parish system stops people from taking up opportunities. On paper it says that church x has suburb y covered, but that is not always the case. 
Driscoll is very brash. He has a fire in his belly. Afterwards, you go away thinking ‘I don't think he is quite right about this or that’. But such quibbles are beside the point. We need people like him to stir us up a bit.

In Sydney we are too triumphalist. Even when people say we could be doing better, we are ready to be defensive about any criticism.

Church by the Bridge, Kirribilli

I found Mark Driscoll's comments very refreshing and very stimulating. I’m really thankful to God for his ministry here in Sydney.
I think he challenged us to be more entrepreneurial.

One of the great strengths of Sydney has been the way we have trained and raised up excellent Bible teachers. But perhaps we need to encourage people with skills in business and people management to think about different opportunities for ministry.

I think he is right that we are too safe. We still want to wait until we have 60 people and thousands of dollars raised before we go out and start a church.

As a single man who planted a church, I found Mark’s warning about the dangers in relating to women in the parish a refreshing and timely reminder. However, I disagree with him that single men can’t plant a church! Scripture, and 1 Corinthians 7 in particular is very clear on the opportunities singleness brings for gospel ministry. So I want to hear the warnings, yet be guided by the Scriptures.

I also don't think he fully understands the culture of Sydney.

So here in Sydney we need to be raising up a generation of people who can pastor and plant new smaller churches (rather than the 10,000 strong mega-churches that we see in Seattle and other American cities).
St Marys Anglican Church

Driscoll said lots of helpful things about thinking through the cultural context for mission. We live in a city that is very diverse, and we need to see a whole lot of different models of church planting. We just can't look at a one-size-fits-all model.

In Sydney, we have too much empire building and not enough kingdom building. Hopefully Driscoll's analysis will change some people's minds about the dangers of someone else starting a new work in their neighbourhood.

Networking will be important to help counter this kind of thinking, and I am hopeful Driscoll's visit will be the catalyst we need.

I have just got back from long service leave in Africa and my time visiting churches and talking to pastors there reminded me that we have great bishops and great structures in Sydney. We also have too many armchair critics in the Diocese who analyse the umpires and the players but never get around to doing anything themselves.

Things in Sydney are a lot better than a lot of places around the world. Yes, there are frustrations" but we can make too much of those rather than just get on with it.

We planted a church in North St Marys about 18 months ago [and] I am working on plans for another church based in the new suburb of Ropes Crossing" Driscoll has been stimulating for the ministry staff, but in terms of Driscoll raising enthusiasm on our local level there has been no impact.

It's a different demographic here: computer usage is not high; people are not downloading sermons. It's up to us, not Driscoll, to provide the enthusiasm for the gospel on the local level.



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