Mark Driscoll recently addressed 600+ Christian leaders at St Andrew’s Anglican Cathedral (1 September, 2008) about ‘18 obstacles to effective evangelism in Australia’. Below is a summary of the address taken from Gordon’s blog (after me cleaning up the text a little):
The Bible guys are not the missional guys, which leads to proud irrelevance.
What can happen is that we believe that if our theological systems are faithful, then we will be fruitful.
Your culture struggles with a lack of entrepreneurialism.
Two things are wrong here: one is socialism. The other is the influence of Great Britain. They are the main migrant group in Australia. They are not entrepreneurial. Aussie culture is not very entrepreneurial as a result. The concept of socialism means that we fail to prune what we should. We are sending resources to poor churches and poor pastors on the grounds of social equality. We are not sending resources to new buds.
There is a lack of reward based on merit within denominations.
You are rewarded for tenure, not fruit. There needs to be a system where a man can be demoted or even taken out of the ministry for reasons other than things to do with money or sexual impropriety. Jobs should not be guaranteed just because a person has spent four years in a college.
Australian men are immature.
Christian Australian men are immature. They have a lack of entrepreneurialism and are entrenched in systems which discourage initiative. The average Australian male lives with his mother until he’s 25, he is married at 32, and delays taking responsibility as long as possible. Denominational systems encourage this immaturity. Training begins at age 28 in our denominations. What if a young man wants to get married young, plant churches and have a family? There is no way that our denominations allow this. The longer you delay responsibility, the longer you delay manhood. It’s the indefinite Peter Pan lifestyle. That is a sin. Jesus Christ had atoned for the sins of the world by the time most pastors take up their first associate pastorship. There are churches in the US with megachurches run by men in their 30s. You don’t have them here so you fly them in to give talks.
Church planting is not welcome.
Sydney is one of the weakest cities I have visited with regard to church planting. With church planting, the skill sets needed are different, and institutions here don’t appreciate them. There are few independents because of socialism. There is not widespread opportunity for men to start new things. This leaves a terrible dilemma: work through the system, and either destroy it or blend in. Both are bad options. Driscoll has had 300 people come up to him and say they want to plant churches but they can’t.
You suffer from tall poppy syndrome.
You need to work this into your preaching and teaching so that people see that the tall poppy syndrome is a sin. Thinking that 1000 people in church is a high water mark is unhealthy. The culture generally chops down people who rise up, and the church does the same. That’s a sin. My church gives 10% to plant churches—$1.2 million this year.
The preaching here lacks three things: apologetics, mission and application.
Apologetics means anticipating and answering the objections of those who are listening. If you do this, it will encourage people to bring friends, and it will train them. Second, your preaching lacks mission. What are we here to do? Thirdly, your preaching lacks application for the church as a whole and for individuals. It is not just enough to give doctrine. Paul tells Timothy to watch life and doctrine. Application is where you connect them.
Many of you are afraid of the Holy Spirit. Your Trinity is Father, Son and Holy Bible.
Because you are too reactionary against prosperity doctrine, you have reacted badly against all things charismatic. The Holy Spirit calls people into ministry and empowers people for ministry. You don’t have to be charismatic. But you should at least be a little bit charismatic, and worship God with more than your mind. Pentecostals plant churches, care for the poor, and sing well, and they are more feverent in their service for God. What I have found is that the word ‘charismatic’ means different things in different places. Here it means ‘prosperity’—bizarreness. In London, it means you’re not liberal. Don’t get hung up on the terminology. There is a fear about the Holy Spirit; there is an uncertainty about the Holy Spirit. Do you love the Holy Spirit? Jesus says the Holy Spirit is a he, not an it. The Holy Spirit is sent to anoint the church for her ministry. Ministry is not possible without Holy Spirit. Do you love the Holy Spirit? This, in part, is leading to the lack of entrepreneurialism and innovation, because if it is not written down, it is not trusted.
Many of you are Anglican.
The parish system works for some, but not all. The parish system was built for when people lived in community. But today, less than half of the people who live in this city own their own home. So they are mobile, and network online. In addition, people have three places: the place they work in, the place they live in, and the place they play. The parish system says let’s draw boundaries and stay here. But all your people are going to move, and they all have three places. People no longer organize themselves by geography but by affinity. The concept was invented before cars. The parish system makes church planting very hard.
Denominations are built on a paradigm that young men don’t understand.
Denominations are built on control. Young men operate by influence. Control systems work like this: we control your wage, we control your workplace, etc. Young men don’t understand these systems. Some young men are disrespectful and need to be rebuked. Other people are not disrespectful; they just don’t understand control, they understand influence. Influence operates up close, through teaching, rebuke, instruction and example. The old culture is of control; the newer economy is of influence. Young men will find new ways to avoid the system, working alongside it so as to be influenced by it, but not working in it so as to not be controlled by it.
There is a propensity to train the called [to ministry] rather than call people to train.
Ultimately, it is God the Holy Spirit who calls people to ministry. There should be an innate sense of desire: “If anyone desires …” (1 Tim). With Moore College, the four years of residency only works for some, not for all. Four years with insufficient practical experience leads to idealism and a tendency to criticize others who are doing something. People are writing papers to criticize those who are doing something, and this gives them the false impression that they are doing something. I planted my first church at the age of 25, and, by God’s grace, I finished my theological education last year. You learn as you do, because that is when you are most teachable.
All leaders are under shepherds under Christ: prophets, priests, and kings.
Prophets are good at vision setting, preaching and leading. Priests love people, hospital visiting, small groups, and so on. Kings love control and systems. There is a shortage in Sydney of Prophets and Kings. The system discourages Kings because it doesn’t allow people to set up their own systems and structures.
[NB: Driscoll is using the categories ‘prophet, priest and king’ as three broad categories of leadership style exemplified by Christ, rather than in any strict theological sense. That was the vibe, anyway.]
There is a lack of missiologists.
Missiologists are people who discern what is going on in the culture, and find the idols so that the missionaries can be found and deployed. What there are plenty of are theologians. They are incredibly important. They defend truths. Missiologists put the truths into practice. Penal substitutionary atonement can get nailed down, NT Wright can get nailed up—and lots of people still don’t know Jesus.
There is a proclivity to try and raise ministers before making them husbands and fathers.
This is about the immaturity of Australian men. Many people delay marriage and children in order to go to college. But if people are shepherding their little flock of home, then you test them to see whether they can be elders of the church. So much of ministry deals with marriage, sex, gender, responsibility and children. Being a husband and a father trains you more for ministry than any college. It trains you to love, serve, evangelize, disciple, endure and organize. You should really press young men to take responsibility earlier to be good husbands and fathers. Once they have some success at that, if they do this in the wrong order, then their priorities, I fear, will be God, ministry, wife, children. But it should be God, wife, children, ministry.
There is the doing of evangelism but not mission.
But does the church see itself as the primary evangelistic tool that God has used to reach the city? It is not good enough to just go and share the faith, as important as this is; the church needs to use every means at its discretion to reach its culture. What does a faithful missionary of the gospel look like in Melbourne/Perth/Brisbane/Sydney? Start a new church from nothing. Churches need to be missional.
There are a lot of Number 2 guys in Number 1 slots.
Number 2 guys are not bad guys; they are just not good Number 1 guys. Number 1 guys are teachers, leaders, and innovators, but because of the system of tenure, Number 2 guys stay in Number 1 slots. Number 2 guys in Number 1 slots need to step back like John the Baptist with Jesus. Stepping back requires humility, a devotion to see all things—all means—for the salvation of some. When a Number 2 guy is in a Number 1 slot, a church will survive, but it will not multiply, and so there is no sense of necessity to do anything with any haste.
There is not a great sense of urgency.
You have cultural values, not biblical values.
Movements have become institutions and museums.
A movement is where God does what he always does, only more so. There’s a greater sense of urgency. Puritans. Methodists. Charismatics. Not all movements are good. Every movement has its strengths and weaknesses. Young people are the key. I’m a young guy, but here I’m an old guy. The Puritans were roundly criticized for just being children. Jonathon Edwards was 19 years old. DL Moody was 21. Charles Haddon Spurgeon was 19. Billy Graham was 19. Statistically, it takes 25 years or more to build a megachurch. If you don’t even give the leader the keys until he’s 40, he’ll run out of gas before he gets there
I’d love to hear what the other Sola Panellists think of all this, but here are my comments:
I reckon Driscoll’s diagnosis is pretty accurate. We can sit around and pick the eyes out of this analysis saying stuff like “That’s not always true” or “That’s too simplistic”, and so on, but the bottom line is that his summary is essentially correct.
The big challenge now is to do something about it. Despite the accuracy of the diagnosis—despite the difficulty of facing up to our evangelical foibles—I want us all to remember one thing: (actually, blokes under 40, I want us to remember one thing!) Driscoll’s diagnosis may be accurate and his critiques timely and poignant, but we must remember one thing! And that is to honour our elders as per 1 Timothy 5:1. It’s a lot easier being a Christian now than it was in the 60’s and 70’s. They fought some very tough battles. Our challenge is to kick forward from here on in, making the most of the ground our elders won.