Reflecting on Driscoll, The Inauguration & State of Evangelicalism Today

I really wanted to avoid posting about Driscoll and his condescending tweet about President Obama during the Inauguration but when your fingers touch the keys and these words keep coming out – well you got to let them out. Here’s the tweet.

What??  I don’t follow Mark but when I saw this RT pass through my feed, again and again, I was so embarrassed and decided to give up on social media for the day.

First, let me admit my bias – I am not a “Driscoll guy” in any way. Aside from having a post entitled, “Why We Shouldn’t Make Fun of Mark Driscoll By a Guy Who Likes To”  I rarely talk, gossip or hate on him. I may roll my eyes at times but I really try to avoid his name (among a few others) in conversation. My experience is that it brings disunity to some of my brothers and sisters in the Lord.

Second, I could never understand why some of my good friends who are intelligent, relational and have access to better minds would embrace Driscoll. I heard everything from, “I like that he says it like it is- he’s a real dude!” to “Yeah, he’s raw and rough around the edges, so you filter some of that stuff but he hits some stuff out of the park.” Must be a really small park because I’m not seeing it.

Third, I’m not really an Obama guy but may God be judge, I support my President. Scripture teaches us to love our neighbor, our enemy, and pray for those in authority. Let me be clear, I do not regard my President as my enemy though I differ from some of his views. He is not responsible for advancing my vision of the Kingdom of Jesus, he is responsible for the common good of the American people, that is what he should be held responsible for and those two things are different. Some do identify him as their enemy, that’s their prerogative, but those who call Christ their Lord must settle in their conscience that they are disobeying this teaching and whether  they are praying in a way that truly glorifies God. We as Christians cannot vilify the President. More on that below.

So for a good while, here’s where I ended up landing. I couldn’t have another debate on who was more helpful Brian McLaren or John Piper. Nor could I handle another conversation about Jones/Pagitt and Driscoll. There was so much else to read (Wright, Newbigin, Hirsch, Barth), so much else to think about, (our ecclessiology, our missiology, hermeneutics, origins, social justice) and so much else to actually do (love, serve others, learn, follow Jesus). I was very content to allow the conscience of my brother and sister in the Lord to trust they were being led by the Holy Spirit too and may some learn from Paul while others learn from Apollos as we all follow Christ. As you can see from that long and painfully wordy sentence, there were moments that it was plain exhausting.

Fast-forwarding – Having gone through my own season of deep disenchantment with the Church, I’ve come to fall back in love with Christ’s vision for it and am committed to that calling. Among other reasons, I believe the New Testament’s charge for the gathering in Christ’s name can do the most good for our world. And as the road of life would lead, I would find myself identifying with the “evangelical church.”

So today, I am trying to figure out what it must look like to be an evangelical to those outside the evangelical church the week after the President’s second-term Inauguration. I also wonder what it looks like to those inside the evangelical camp – especially the many that I serve here in the Northeast who:
A. are very tired of the relationship between the Church and politics.
B. find themselves in a “Blue State” context and many of whom have contributed in some way to that context.
C. are either ambivalent or in support of the President and find it bizarre that “evangelical leaders” despise him so openly and brazenly.

Driscoll describes himself as an evangelical as well … which pains me on weeks like this. But until now, it felt like he could be dismissed as a weirdo in the sub-culture. Yeah I know he wrote a book on marriage and did the talk show circuit, and from what I caught, like an interview with a very concerned Dr. Drew, it was what it was. He returned back to Seattle and if his book helped some people’s marriages and his ministry helped bring people to God, then who am I?

Well today let me tell you who I am. I am a thirty-something evangelical pastor who is extremely concerned with this brand of fundamentalism in a corner of my tribe. I am shocked that his clearly judgmental tweet was RT, Favorited, Liked and celebrated thousands of times which speaks to his influence. I am the guy who wants Paul to grab Apollos by the cloak and rebuke him the way he confronted Peter in Jerusalem.

Please realize, this is completely different from idiots like Fred Phelps who have no real influence – they are merely caricatures for media hype. Believe me, no rational person outside their small tribe is influenced by them nor inspired by their drivel. Driscoll on the other hand, leads a large church with many congregations in their network, he’s a best-selling author, he’s a major conference speaker, he has a sizable online presence and most importantly to me, he has captured the attention of many sincere young Christians who believe that he’s just a no-nonsense guy who preaches straight from the Bible. He’s not. He’s saturated in non-sense and is extremely inconsistent with the love of Jesus’ message.

Here’s where I am today. I used to think he could be ignored, that smart and sincere people will figure him out and he’ll be left with a band of supporters that continue to hail him as their hero but he would become irrelevant for the most part (kinda like Pat Robertson but without the CBN Network).

But that was wrong of me. He needs to be brought into the fold by those nearest his tribe. So I’m wondering can Tim Keller sit him down and have a “Come to Jesus” moment? He needs people he trusts like the articulate D.A. Carson to teach him how to speak with greater wisdom. He needs Rick Warren to tell him, “Sometimes I say dumb stuff too but I’ve learned to apologize” and he needs to stay away from John Piper. I’m not joking. These are all middle-aged white men of course, it would only serve him well to also seek Christian friendships and wisdom from female leaders and leaders from various ethnicities and traditions.

This isn’t political on my part as if I am afraid that if the President believes he is hated by evangelicals that he will persecute us. Umm, he’s Obama in America in 2013, not Nero in Rome in 64 AD. I’m concerned of the further weakening of the evangelical church and how that affects the global church and whom we interact with in society. We do interact with others in society right?

I want Mark Driscoll to wake up, shed the security blanket of all his butt-kissing followers, walk out of the shadow of his ego and humbly serve the Kingdom of Jesus with his ability and platform. Did that sound judgmental because “Yo I’m just saying it like it is.” I know it doesn’t feel right to me either.

Seriously, I do not want Mark to fall in some type of sexual, financial, power scandal (although some of the reports coming out of Mars HIll borders on scandal of power).  It’s not what him or his family needs, what his church or what evangelicalism needs, nor the Kingdom. I do not want to see him hurt or disgraced by shame and scandal but if he’s going to call himself a Christian pastor, then he needs to get with it.

Now so much of this is beyond the control of you and me and blog posts, reactionary tweets (even the awesome ones), conversations between our friends only go so far really. Write, tweet, talk but but consider the limits and let us channel our energy towards something greater.

There’s a real legitimate chance that Mark is not really going to change, that he will continue to embarrass evangelicals, that he will continue to preach and tweet ridiculous statements. But here’s the thing – if evangelicalism cannot survive the awkward tweets of Mark Driscoll, it was doomed to begin with.

And so may the evangelical church be known for its love in spite of the awkward moments. May the evangelical church unmistakingly be known for its unconditional love that mirrors God, may it be known for its counterculture that offers society a better way through Jesus and its relentless commitment to die to self to exalt God and others.

We can say this about any part of the Christian church and that’s exciting. Progressives can continue to rally their tribes and say similar, Mainliners, Baptists, Orthodox, Catholic, insert your favorite expression here) can all humbly follow Jesus in word and deed. In fact, it’s here where labels, lose their significance. I may describe myself today as an evangelical but these are just labels of convenience.

What I really desire, like you probably do as well, is that the Church will fulfill the calling that Christ placed on it. If the Church in all its expressions can follow and proclaim the hope of Christ, leaders will be blessed, citizens of all nations will be reached, hurting souls will find peace, we sinners will find redemption and God will be glorified. May the Lord give us strength and grace for the road ahead.

You can read some other excellent posts here:

“The Changing Face Of The Christian Faith (Or Why Mark Driscoll Tweets & John Piper Blog Posts Matter)” on the American Jesus blog.

“Responding to Mark Driscoll with the Bible”  on Tony Jones’ blog.  His post is brief but some of the comments are really on point.

“I Hate Loving Mark Driscoll” by Christian Platt on Red Letter Christians

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Great post, Tim. Whenever I see something like this from him, I find it difficult not to point the same vitriol toward him as he is pointing at his target of the week. But I think you said it well… this stuff SHOULD bother us to some level. We have someone in our tribe shooting people with a gospel gun and we need to call him out in a wise and firm way. Without shooting him.

    (Though one of those Nerf power guns might get the point across, and it would only sting a for a few minutes if we shoot him at close range.)

  2. Thanks Jason, Lol – on the Nerf power guns.
    Yeah, I’m with you, there seems to be a balance between ignoring and overreacting. Reconciliation and accountability (rooted in Christ’s love & unity) seems to be a good place to aim.

  3. Great post. Kind of seems like two posts, really – one on, “how to handle a dumb a$$ ‘evangelical’ loose cannon rolling around the decks of social media” and a second post on the difference between evangelicalism as a political construct and evangelicalism as a movement of Jesus followers. Driscoll makes it harder for everyone who’s trying to relationally evangelize others by making us look like judgmental twerps.

    Ignore what I said earlier about it wandering in the middle. It didn’t, I did.

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