Posts Tagged ‘Mark Driscoll’

Todd Wilken reviews Mark Driscoll’s sermon on the Church of Philadelphia

I wanted to refer readers to a recent sermon review by Todd Wilken on Issues Etc. [link] in which Wilken spends about forty-five minutes, net of commercials, ripping into Driscoll from a number of directions. Among other things, if I heard him correctly, he accuses Driscoll of having a crypto-Roman-Catholic soteriology.

I like the fact that Wilken does sermon reviews; for those of us looking for a tradition to call home, these sorts of things are very helpful for underlining what the differences in the various traditions look like in practice. It’s also helpful to hear how a sermon sounds to someone else. That being said, I think Wilken’s definition of what constitutes a good sermon is way too narrow, and would, when facing many passages of Scripture require a preacher to skip them altogether or do such violence to them as to leave them meaningless.

That being said, this message from Driscoll, at least as edited down from its full hour-plus, is a mess. If anyone has a link to the full-length sermon I’d love to hear it. I am not a big fan of taking sermon time to talk about the expansion (or contraction) of a church network; it’s something I’d put on my list of warning signs when visiting a church, because it suggests that the growth of the church is part of its message. And it’s the sort of thing that’s fine in a bulletin or a business meeting or an annual report, or even the announcements, but it just doesn’t belong within the sermon.

I think it’s interesting that Driscoll is apparently not Reformed enough for some of his Reformed kin; he was apparently Reformed enough to be considered Young, Restless, and Reformed by Collin Hansen, but he’s apparently strayed far enough out of the circle of light that it’s okay for Wilken (and James White, for that matter) to be critical of him. Go figure.



Mark Driscoll sees things, etc.

August 17, 2011 3 comments

Let’s just take it as read that I’ve seen this five-minute clip:

Because I have; and I owe Michael Newnham [link] the usual debt of gratitude.

I’m reserving judgment until I can see the clip in context; it’s five minutes from an unknown source. It looks like it was shot with a single stationary camera, and Driscoll was speaking to a small audience; I couldn’t even tell you what his source text was. So until I can see the source (hour? half-hour? whatever) I’m going to reserve judgment.

Well mostly. I am a pretty poor New Testament scholar, but I couldn’t identify which of the Pauline gifts Driscoll is referring to here. Surely he’s not going off-text and inventing a gift out of his own experience, etc.


Categories: Media Tags: ,

a quick note about Mark Driscoll

August 15, 2011 1 comment

Congratulations on local pastor Carlos Montoya for getting his blog article “Real Men Repent” distributed on the Mars Hill website [link].

Carlos was the youngest pastor at Calvary (Chapel) Santa Fe back in 2001-2002 when everything came unwound, and I’m happy for him that he’s managed to stay in the ministry and find another church organization to be part of; that being said, I have to hope that picture of him is meant to be ironic; he just doesn’t look right in a plaid shirt and a Mark Driscoll haircut.

Speaking of real men repenting: did Driscoll ever apologize for his “most effeminate worship leader” gaffe? I’ve been out of circulation for a while, so he may have and I may have missed it.


Am I missing something re: Mark Driscoll?

July 15, 2011 1 comment

I read the commentary by Sarah Pulliam Bailey at Christianity Today [link], and went back and re-read what is mooted as “Driscoll dealing with the issue” at his blog [link]. Am I missing something, or did Driscoll respond to an opportunity for repentance by

  1. reiterating that he’s only responsible to his elders and
  2. plugging a forthcoming book?


this just in: Mark Driscoll is a bully

To my eyes the problem with this:

Thanks, Rachel Held Evans

has less to do with gender than it does with a “leader” not knowing how to treat fellow Christians.

Seriously: what does it say about the American church that Mark Driscoll is a celebrity pastor?

I have to admit I don’t understand why “worship leader” replaced “choir leader” or “music leader” as (as they say ) a thing, and I don’t understand why the men who lead music are so much more likely to have product in their hair than say the pastors, etc. I’m inclined to chalk it up to the influence of some form of entertainment (television, maybe, or theater) on church services, and churches generally getting richer and more middle-class. But that’s not what this is about; it’s about Driscoll belittling people he shares the stage with and/or his employees.

(Thanks Brian Daugherty [link]).


Mars Hill Albuquerque

January 25, 2011 2 comments

I guess one of the things I was wondering when we visited Mars Hill Albuquerque was whether or not and the degree to which the sermon we would hear would be a “Mark Driscoll sermon” somehow. Meaning, on the basis of what I’d read about Driscoll, whether the sermon took a particular interpretive tack, so to speak, on the sermon text, consistent or otherwise with a plain reading of the text. And I would have guessed this would be more sensible, given what I knew at the time, because I was expecting a Driscoll video sermon rather than a live one from Dave Bruskas. I was mostly looking for a focus on one or more of the following:

  • “Community” or even “living in community,” consistent with what I’d read in Donald Miller
  • Gender roles and Complementarianism, given what I’d read in Beaujon and Sandler
  • Reformed themes, given what I knew about Driscoll’s theology generally
  • Muscularity and masculinity, given Molly Worthen’s take on Driscoll from the York Times

One of the perils of reading other people’s accounts of anything, particularly trained journalists (everybody in the list above except Miller and me), is that they tend to less report what they saw and heard than fit what they saw and heard into an existing narrative. This is a recurring theme in Terry Mattingly’s visits with Todd Wilken, especially when he’s doing a “top religion stories” piece; Mattingly repeatedly warns that reporters generally fit what they see into an existing narrative, one that may not actually be appropriate for the facts or events at hand. That was my recurring problem with Sandler in particular, but that’s another topic for another post.

So the sermon text (Remember the sermon? This is a post about a sermon.) was Isaiah 9:6:

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace [link].

I’m quoting the KJV here because as per usual I like the way it reads and also because this is the punctuation I’m accustomed to: Wonderful and Counselor are two different names here. This reading is apparently out of fashion, and now reading “Wonderful Counselor” as a single name is preferred.

We read the verse off the screen; this is either another contemporary evangelical flourish in use at MHA, or a concession to the poor light in the theater. I’m not sure which. Bruskas connected the verses to the previous week’s sermon (this being the second week of Advent) by recapping the previous sermon, in which he discussed the fact that we are “enemies of God:”

  • You and I (meaning Bruskas and his audience) are enemies of God
  • We are still prone to treason against God
  • Jesus must conquer us

The current sermon is devoted to the first name: Wonderful Counselor; this is one of four military terms in this verse (the other four being “mighty God,” “everlasting Father,” and “Prince of Peace”). A “wonderful counselor” is a clever and/or effective strategist. What is Jesus’s strategy for conquering us?

And that was the last mention of the sermon text; Bruskas spent the rest of the hour in 1 Corinthians and Romans, without referring to Isaiah again.

So I guess I’d have to say this sermon pretty comfortably into at least one of the categories above and partway into another:

  1. It’s definitely a “muscular Christianity” reading of the verses above. I’m at a loss to explain how “everlasting Father” and “Prince of Peace” are military terms, and while I can see how a wonderful counselor would be an effective strategist, I’m not sure Bruskas’s reading here is intrinsic in the text.
  2. Reading a text out of context and using it as a pretext for jumping into Paul’s letters is pretty standard fare in conservative churches of a certain stripe, and sermons that aren’t done until we’ve gotten to Romans seems to be more a mark of Reformed leanings than of conservatives generally.

So yeah, it looks like this is pretty consistent with what I guess I should have expected visiting a church with ties to Mark Driscoll.

In the next post or two I’ll deal with the rest of the sermon. It’s theologically orthodox, but it isn’t really an Advent sermon. Hint: he doesn’t mention, much less delve into, the meaning of the Incarnation. I don’t know what to make of this; it’s something that puzzles me considerably about contemporary conservative churches generally: they tend to treat Jesus as someone who was for the most part defined by Paul as a theological concept but was beyond understanding in any other way. I won’t say “Reformed types are Docetist” or any nonsense like that, but I think I’d have to argue that Advent isn’t primarily about well-defined Pauline concepts. It’s about Incarnation.

Mars Hill Albuquerque

January 11, 2011 1 comment

During the opening, after the short video of Mark Driscoll, campus pastor Dave Bruskas told us that the giving target for Mars Hill Albuquerque (MHA) was $78,000. This was part of the giving narrative we’d heard in the video, so it wasn’t totally unexpected, but one rarely hears this sort of candor from the pulpit. In fact I can’t remember the last time I heard the pastor of a local church say how much money he expected of us from the pulpit for general operations. I typically only hear this kind of detail for a “special offering.”

I’m more accustomed to seeing line items in the bulletin; in Baptist churches and in one independent church I’ve recently seen a breakdown that includes the monthly budget, the amount given so far, the number of donors, maybe the corresponding figures for the week or month the previous year, or some combination of the above. These collections of numbers have gotten more common in the last couple of years, and they typically tell one of two stories: either 1) our church is growing, or 2) we’re not meeting budget numbers.

At MHA the $78,000 number for December was pitched as kind of both: the church is growing, and so the December budget number was a big number. I took this to mean that expenses were up, or they’re making plans to spend more money in the future, or something like that. It wasn’t entirely clear what it meant: whether it was meant to be a measure of giving capacity, or a number related to expenses, both, or neither.

Does $78,000 a month sound like a lot of money to you? Let’s do a little analysis.

There were four Sundays in December 2010, so that’s $19,500 per Sunday. MHA draws 600 people a week; I’m going to take that to mean that 600 different people attend some combination of their three Sunday morning and evening services. That works out to $32.50 per person. If we take that to be the “cost of service per attendance” or something like that it seems kind of high; I mean, would you pay that kind of money to spend a comparable amount of time in a movie theater to see a movie? A play? Some other kind of arts programming? I’m not sure what’s a fair comparison here.

On the other hand, if everyone at MHA tithes 10% of their gross income it suggests the average person makes $15,600 a year. That might be reasonable for a church of mostly students; in New Mexico the minimum wage is $7.50 an hour, and with 2080 hours in a working year (52 x 40) that’s again $15,600. Of course not everyone at MHA tithes 10% of their gross, and not everyone who goes to church there makes minimum wage (or works 40 hours a week 52 weeks a years) so it’s just an estimate. The studies I’ve read suggest that roughly 5% of churchgoers under 45 tithe; if that’s true at MHA their average tither makes more than $300,000 a year. Yeah. More likely they have a higher than average percentage of tithers, or have a small handful of rich donors.

What does it suggest about the salaries of paid staff? Well, MHA lists four people as pastors and staff: Bruskas, A. J. Hamilton, and deacons Donovan Medina and Matt Wallace [link]. If their staffing expenses are commensurate with Mars Hill’s reported 2009 numbers [PDF] they’re paying the average staff member the December 2010 equivalent of $120,616.80 in 2008-2009 dollars. That seems kind of high; I have to assume they have other staff positions (secretaries or band members, say) or are spending proportionally more on facilities (a historic theater in Nob Hill can’t be cheap) or utilities.

So I really don’t have a feel for whether MHA’s budget figures are high (meaning that either pastors are making huge salaries, the ministry is wasteful with money overall, or both) or low (meaning that they’re a lean efficient organization staffed by starving servants of God, etc.). With the kind of transparency Mars Hill offers in its annual report it’s hard to say.