Monday, 20 July 2009

Raw Driscoll-Vintage Church

Driscoll- Warts and All
I have just finished reading Vintage Church by Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears and this is by far the best book from them yet. Driscoll receives a hard press from some conservative Christians because of his immaturity but this is a little unfair. Driscoll presents himself warts and all, we know his failings because he is happy to share them. He is happy to share them because he wants to show that in this world only Jesus is the good guy and that even pastors are in need of grace. I find this refreshing as too many mature believers wear a mask pretending to themselves and everyone else that they don't sin anymore.

Driscoll reveals his maturity in the chapter on discipline-firstly, just by including a chapter on church discipline as very few books on the topic would include a whole chapter on this vital subject. Driscoll reveals that rather than lacking any sense of sanctification, as his critics claim, he has a high regard for the holiness and purity of Mars Hill Church and for the body of Christ as a whole. Secondly, he shows a concern for those who are the victims of someone who is in need of church discipline and sets out Mars Hill's practice on discipline. He also shares how they can come back and his disappointment at some churches who take in members who are under discipline. His pastoral hope for those who are under church discipline is that they would repent and be restored to full fellowship. It is his desire to protect the disciplined believer's family from the consequences of the discipline as much as is possible. He also argues that whilst the believer is under discipline we shouldn't treat them as before but neither should we avoid them when we see them rather we should be seeking to urge them to repentance and restoration.

Driscoll has also been accused of being too culturally affirming yet he is faithful to scripture arguing for male elders only- in spite of this being unpopular in culture at large and in large sections of the evangelical church. He points out at one point whilst we might aim to be cool, we are called to follow Jesus, share the gospel and warn people about the judgement to come so we will not be perceived as being cool.

The Missional Church

A currently in vogue phrase which few people seem to understand, Driscoll points out that a missional church is not some church where there is no pastor or the pastor is a young dude who doesn't shave and has a couple of tattoos but no understanding of truth or mission. Rather a missional church is concerned with mission both on a global and local stage. Therefore a missional church seeks to train disciples to be missionaries to their unreached neighbours. They do this in the same way missionaries in far flung places do, by dressing the same and speaking the same language. It seeks to make disciples through a word centred ministry therefore it also preaches and practices repentance. A missional church is aware of the community and seeks to be a community within the community. A missional church wouldn't encourage what happens in so many places where believers drive for miles to do church and then drive miles again out of that neighbourhood back home. A missional church seeks to be a blessing to those on the outside, Driscoll shares how one bus driver spoke to a visitor to Mars Hill and said that Mars Hill was a force for good in the city.

Finally in the early chapters Driscoll sets out what a church looks like, he speaks in general terms before narrowing down what Mars Hill looks like. In this section he argued very briefly for believer's baptism and I for one was very convinced :-).

This book is a good example of a warm hearted Bible centred theology from a pastor in the reformed tradition for the C21st.



Saturday, 11 July 2009

Calvin and his children

Yesterday was the 500 anniversary of John Calvin's birth, Calvin was a frail and fallen human who loved his Lord and saviour. He was also sanctified and tireless devoted to serving God in Geneva. The sales of his books were used to support the french protestant refugees who had fled France. Calvin is one theologian amongst many throughout the history of the holy catholic church (catholic with a small c). He also preached almost every day and during periods of sickness and towards the end of his life would preach either from his bed or be carried to church. He is not original in some sense because he proves in his institutes that he stands in the tradition of Augustine and many others. He did not start the reformation that honour goes to Martin Luther. He is not the only classical trained theologian of the period, so why are those of us who are reformed or "predestinarian" called Calvinists? I think the answer in part is because Calvin's Geneva produced many little Calvin's as both English and Scottish pastors and theologians sought refuge in Geneva and then took the theology they had learnt from him back home. This was then transported to the New World as the Puritans took that Theology with them. While Luther's theology stayed pretty much in Germany following his lack of interest in the theology of the Swiss reformers at the Marburg debate.
A second reason why we are called Calvinists is because he wrote a lot more his commentaries are still in print and still readable, these have been used and delighted in for centuries. His institutes whilst not a systematic theology are a complete guide to his theology and you don't find the same sort of writing from any of the other reformers. I enjoy Calvin's commentaries and think the Institutes are a wonderful example of a warm hearted theology and I am glad to be one of Calvin's theological children.

Friday, 3 July 2009

a citizen of a faraway country

Our daughter Hannah (now 6 months old) received her American passport in the post yesterday. She is now officially an American citizen and the paper work says that she 'acquired United States citizenship at birth.' What is unusual in Hannah's case is that she is now a citizen of a place that she has never been to. She has a passport and will be allowed entry as a citizen but as yet she has never even visited the States. What makes her a citizen is not where she was born or anything else that she has done, she is a citizen because her mom is a citizen. She acquired American citizenship at birth because one of her parents is American. This reminds me of salvation if we are born again even though we have never been to heaven we are still citizens of heaven. Our citizenship was acquired at the cross and we received it when we were born a new. We will be welcomed in because we are citizens and not through anything we have done but because as I Peter chapter 1 says "The Father through His great mercy has caused you to be born again". We are aliens and strangers in this world because we are citizens of a faraway home.
As I am writing this on the 4th of July may I take this time to wish all my American family and friends a happy 4th of July (although I don't understand why you would celebrate not being part of Great Britain) :)

God Bless
Stephen <><