missing the moment

The third of the reactions posted by Timmy Brister that I found particularly interesting is a longer read that gets to the heart of why I think this fight matters and why it is even occurring.

An article at Baptist Twenty One is titled “The Generation Gap in the SBC: Interactions with Nathan Finn and The Baptist Press Article on Mark Driscoll (Pt. 1)”

First, take a look at the authors of Baptist Twenty One and their brief biographical blurbs. Who do you see? Do you see twenty something bachelors living in their parents’ house blogging all day or do you see productive young men in service to God with a presumably bright future ahead of them?

Now read the article by Nathan Akin and Ronnie Parrot. Here is a longish excerpt, but go read the whole thing in context.

Nevertheless, there seems to be a rift developing between these two sides, and we are now seeing young pastors who look at their ministries and say “I don’t have to deal with the pettiness, political ambitions, and traditionalism that is not gospel-centered to change the world for Christ.” Why should they waste their time in a denomination that in some circles reject them because of the way they do ministry, the clothes they wear, the music they listen to, and the people that influence them?

The recent article by Baptist Press on Pastor Mark Driscoll from Mars Hill Church in Seattle is an ironically timely illustration of this trend. Mark Driscoll’s track record over the last 10 years is staggering: 8,000 attend his church, 7 campuses, hundreds of churches planted through Acts 29 (with a 100% success rate), etc. Driscoll’s heart to reach as many people as possible for the glory of King Jesus is clear. What is also clear is the influence he has on millions of believers and especially young seminarians.

Some in our denomination believe that God is doing great things through Driscoll and that connecting with such a leader is beneficial for those training for ministry, young pastors, and even for current leaders in the denomination. Others have distanced themselves from him because of past occurrences of sin that, for some reason in their minds, can never be forgiven and still stain his current biblical, theological views. Not only have they distanced themselves from Driscoll, some have attacked his Acts29 network (like Missouri), and others have been critical of those who have allowed him to be involved in our SBC entities.

The article in the Baptist Press criticized Driscoll in an inaccurate and unfair way, and it gives an illustration of why some in the younger generations disengage. These kinds of things only aid their decisions to leave. Bombing raids on Gospel-centered brothers (who are not the enemy) turn many of them off. Baptist Press and others continue to castigate a man who has repented of past sins, and we as redeemed sinners must believe that the Cross takes care of sin. We should value repentance, not ignore it. We also continue to berate a man who preaches more gospel-centered sermons in a week than most pastors (including much of the SBC) preach in a year. We acknowledge that Driscoll is by no means perfect, nor is he always accurate. Some of what he does and says is edgy, radical, and stirs up controversy, but most of the time his approaches are not unbiblical. We in no way intend for this to be an endorsement of all things Driscoll, but we do believe he is doing valuable gospel work and he is not the one we need to launch our grenades on.

emphasis added.

The authors then begin addressing the Baptist Press article in a very specific way. you really ought to take a look.

my point when I even referenced the presence of this fight yesterday morning is precisely this. The SBC leadership seems to be missing completely the moment we are in historically, culturally, theologically. They are losing the next generation of leadership in their own convention and they don’t seem to care at all.

It is an interesting phenomenon, but it is also sad to see.


18 Responses

  1. […] to the Baptist Press article on Mark Driscoll have referenced a generation gap.  See here, here, here, here and here (and don’t miss the comments) for […]

  2. I apologize if you would rather not discuss the matter, Keith. If not, I understand and I will not mention it again… If you are willing to help me, then I confess that I am having trouble seeing what so many others perceive. I find the backlash confusing. The links you provided have been helpful, to be sure, but the way in which they handle this matter is less than, well… careful.

    The BP article has been attacked vociferously in certain circles. Alright, perhaps it really deserved it. Perhaps it was a “hit piece” and written out of pure envy or a hatred for Calvinism. I didn’t perceive it that way but that hardly means that those who did are wrong. Perhaps I have been blind to it through some sort of myopic optimism.

    On the other hand, John MacArthur, a man I suppose is not without as much legitimacy as Mark Driscoll, believes the latter’s ministry has been shameful. What is more, even Ed Stetzer who is a friend of Driscoll’s, wrote: “yes, some people won’t like frank talk about sexuality (or they will think it is too frank). And for them, that in itself is sinful. And that is a fair conversation.” From this point of view, the main contention of the BP article turns out to be at least a “fair” thing to bring up for discussion. From my own point of view – and I think this can demonstrated Biblically – there is more danger in the way pastors handle sexual topics than the way they handle profanity. That is to say, “cussing” seems far less serious, Biblically, than the deadly nature of sexual immorality.

    BP, it seems, is hardly alone in its sentiments, so in order to think clearly through this matter, I wanted to see what the responses would cite as the negligence of the BP article on a number of important questions. I’ve read through virtually every response listed at the links you provided, but I have chosen to use the Baptist-21 reply as representative because it was more thorough than the others in addressing the issues and because you cited it especially in your post.

    First, one of the most deplorable things I noticed was the BP article’s mention of a link on the Mars Hill blog to christiannymphos.com. In response to this, I noted that Baptist-21 lamented the fact that the Baptist Press had not “felt it necessary to post the disclaimer that Driscoll does with his link to this site.”

    So, Driscoll posted a link to christiannymphos.com with a disclaimer. Alright, I checked the site to appreciate the nature of this disclaimer and, after performing several searches for the link, I came across a single page each time: a brief answer to a Q&A about anal sex. The answer written by Driscoll and his wife was concluded with the following sentence:

    “. . .if you want to read some commentary on the issue from Christian married women, you can go to Christian Nymphos” – No warning and no disclaimer was appended, save for the NC-17 warning that the BP made clear at the top of its article. I couldn’t find any disclaimer on the rest of the Mars Hill blog. Just click on the Christian Nymphos link and look at some of the articles and tell me that it is a healthy way to spend your time, even if you’re married. Would you invite young men and women to learn about sex there? Is that the fruit of godliness?

    So, it appears that the BP article was correct. There are no disclaimers and the link is there even now.

    Next, the BP article argued that Driscoll addresses very private sexual topics in very public forums when such things should be kept within the confines of private counseling with married couples. Let’s face it, what young man or woman really needs to know most of these things before marriage when he or she cannot do anything with this information but struggle with lust?

    But, perhaps I am wrong… So I looked again at the Baptist-21 site and their response was simply that, yes, Driscoll does this and no, it is not wrong because the church should be the one to address such matters. Of course, no one disagrees that the church should address these questions. The controversy is over how they are handled in the church. There is no attempt in the B-21 article to deal with the question of counseling privately rather addressing these topics in a public forum. In fact, quite apart from any supporting argument, the Baptist-21 article simply insists that young people “moving toward marriage,” which they very broadly define, need information on issues of sexual positions, masturbation, and every graphic topic imaginable (so that they are prepared?).

    Once again, to my genuine surprise given the apparent disgruntlement of many, the BP article seems to be on target. I honestly expected to find more serious distortions, misquotations or outright erroneous conclusions which provoked the dramatic ire of a lot of people. So far, as I’ve read through each response to the BP “hit piece,” what I have found was a lot of agreement that there are aspects of Driscoll’s ministry that are problematic and that the author does not agree with Driscoll everywhere, but that we must simply drop all of this and ignore it because Driscoll is apparently very theologically orthodox and has attracted a large following building up a number of successful churches. An added bonus is that he allows the rest of us Calvinists to take pride in a pastor driven to evangelize who is, at the same time, devoted to the doctrines of grace (take that, Arminians!).

    Of course, this all renders the matter sufficiently vague to avoid having to answer the harder questions, and it finally misses the point. It really doesn’t matter how grand a following a man may have or how theologically sound he may seem to be where the question of Spiritual qualification for pastoring is maturely considered. In fact, as Scripture teaches, there really is no such thing as theological soundness and wisdom where there is an impoverished practice of holy living. I find Driscoll interesting and appreciate his unabashed profession of controversial Calvinistic teachings in public, on the news, etc., but I cannot honestly say that Driscoll is much like the godly men of history whom I would encourage a young pastor to emulate. In fact, I would not emulate him as a pastor, myself… and I am quite sure that Christ’s shepherd should be able to call others, as Paul did, to emulate his faithfulness before them.

    In the end, we might say that this is really not our fight, anyway. Driscoll is a pastor of a church in Seattle and it is that church’s business alone whether he should be pastoring as he does. Neither the BP nor anyone else, if that were true, would be entitled to criticize any pastor at any time. Yet, the Scriptures are clear that even the private sins of Christians affect the true Church at large everywhere. What Driscoll does affects my life and my witness, especially as he chooses for himself a life of grand publicity.

    When a man decides to launch a very public ministry, he has taken upon himself (whether he knows it or not) the mantle of representing Christianity for the rest of us. He has chosen to stand up before the world and say, “Look at what we’re doing!” and even, “Look at what Christ is doing!” Is Christ sending people to Christian Nymphos as though self-proclaimed “nymphos” were an authority on anything? Is Christ holding public forums on sexual topics to help the younger generation better appreciate their own sexuality? If this is not what Christ is doing, today, then perhaps Mark Driscoll’s ministry should reject the limelight because, let’s be honest, these are very often the reasons he attracts it.

    The concern behind bringing up Driscoll’s past is not to slap him for past sins. It is to ask the very relevant question whether the same lack of discernment and discipline and holiness and maturity is driving his ministry today. Driscoll did not want to be known as a pastor with good theology, but a bad temper and a foul mouth. Yet, these are merely the effects of a deeper problem inside of him which must first be resolved before he can properly shepherd and father the people of GOD in his care. A spiritual father cannot be as immature as his children, and a pastor does not suddenly become fully capable and mature – any more than a sick man is made healthy and fit – simply because the symptoms of a once serious concern have vanished.

  3. My apologies and a note of editing…

    I wrote the comment above and read through the rest of the comments on the B-21 site. I found what they were referring to as a “disclaimer” and it was the first portion of the sentence I quoted from the Mars Hill blog. The blog sends others to Christian Nymphos after explaining that “We do not endorse everything on this website. . .”

    I want you to know, Keith, that I did not intentionally leave this out. I suppose I was looking for something more familiar to me as a clear disclaimer rather than an exceedingly vague remark that would be just as true and applicable to any website that Mars Hill might link to. That phrase means virtually anything and therefore, nothing.

  4. Hey Benjamin,

    You make good points. Like I said before, Mark Driscoll will be held accountable for his words and deeds. I am not going to be his advocate or defender.

    My point in bringing it up is that he has a position and influence with young christian men. The Southern Baptist Convention leadership is alienating those young leaders with this article as well as other moves over the last few years.

    The leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention could make measured criticisms of Mark Driscoll like John MacArthur did or they could make lurid accusations like they did.

    As always, it is the manner in which something is said as well as the package in which it is contained that can spell the difference between a destructive word and an edifying provocation.

    I think the Baptist Press chose spite over charity in this instance.

    I think this choice further alienates their future leaders. That’s just what I think, so feel free to disagree.


  5. Amen, Benjamin, amen. You’ve described the problem in a very careful and comprehensive way that perhaps no one else has, at least not that I’ve seen.

    Keith, I don’t know you obviously and it’s unfortunate that we have to “meet” under these circumstances. Unfortunately, it seems to me that your response to Benjamin is just more of the same, saying the critics may have a point, but ultimately dismissing the concerns, blaming the messenger, and warning that the “young leaders” are upset by all this fuss and if it keeps up, might just want to pick up their toys and go play elsewhere.

    I’m 35. I hope that still counts as “young.” The dismissals of concerns like mine and Benjamin’s drives me further away from the SBC than perhaps anything else could. Lurid accusations? They printed the truth, plain and simple, regardless of what the motivation behind it was. But instead of dealing with that, it appears that the SBC “young leader” bloggers just want to shoot the messenger. When “young leaders” are more alienated by editorial judgment than they are by Driscoll’s actions, then I submit that it isn’t Baptist Press who has the problem.

    I wonder how many people will visit a site like the one Mars Hill has linked right now, and once they’ve had their fill of that and find that it doesn’t satisfy them, will eventually move on to harder core sites? Depravity being what it is and the fact that we are never free from sin in this life, it’s not much of a leap for some to go from a site like the one Driscoll linked to one that allows one to gratify their lusts to the full.

  6. Thank you, Keith, for taking the trouble to read my lengthy meditation. I appreciate your thoughts and the concern you’ve shown. I shall ponder these things in my heart when it turns to the question of my own public assertions. May GOD grant it that I should show great patience and wise deliberation. Amen…

  7. Hey Chris,

    Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate your work and heart as expressed in this comment, the ones on Timmy’s blog and your own blog.

    I think you misunderstand my response to Benjamin and my position on this particular fuss. I am certainly not “dismissing the concerns” and I am not “blaming the messenger”. I am taking issue with an uncharitable, unfair, one sided, innacurate critique of a Christian brother that I think has the potential of harming the organization sponsoring that critique.

    If you have a problem with Mark Driscoll, then please go tell him about it. Write him a nice letter/email. Cross post it as an open letter on your blog.

    If the Baptist Press has a problem with Mark Driscoll, then by all means write a news story about it. Go interview him and ask him the questions that need answers. Don’t just write a piece of muckraking yellow journalism.

    Why spend time trying to tell me what Mark should or shouldn’t have done? Why should I try to explain/justify his actions?

    I find critiquing/defending others in their absence to be a particularly unfruitful form of discourse.

    I do happen to like Mark Driscoll. I don’t spend a lot of time reading his stuff or listening to him, but when he says something valuable, then I will certainly link to it. Does that mean that I am cast as his defender? I hope not. Just like I wouldn’t expect anybody to defend me just because they like some of the things that God permits me to do or say.

    I will give an account before God for my words and actions just like you will and just like Mark will. But don’t forget that the people responsible for leading the Southern Baptist Convention and who publish the Baptist Press will also be held accountable before God.

    That is the way this thing works.

    By the way, don’t let anything I say influence you to stay with or leave the SBC. I am not one of their “young leaders.” I already left. If you don’t like the way the Baptist 21 folks are approaching the issue, then go tell them.

    I would just implore you to do two things. Number one, be constrained by love. I Peter 4:7-8 says that the end of all things is near and that we need to be fervent in our love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Number two, keep Ephesians 4:25-32 uppermost in your mind throughout your discussions. Think specifically about the edifying purpose of your communication before it leaves your mouth or keyboard.

    I am not meaning to imply that you don’t do these things, I am just asking that you continue to do so.

    Keep up the good work. Contend for the faith. Be marked by love.


  8. […] here for a careful and comprehensive assessment of the issue. __________________ Chris Poe Member, […]

  9. No wonder Driscoll is so popular. I had no idea he was so influenced by charismaticism.

  10. Well, I just read a quote from a section of his book, Confessions of a Reformission Rev (published 2006), which I give below. If you don’t want to read the kind of vulgarity for which Driscoll is famous and which he still feeds his popularity upon, then I encourage the reader to skip this beyond it…


    This was drilled home for me one night when the church phone in our house rang at some godforsaken hour when I’m not even a Christian, like 3:00 a.m. I answered it in a stupor, and on the other end was some college guy who was crying. I asked him what was wrong, and he said it was an emergency and he really need to talk to me. Trying to muster up my inner pastor, I sat down and tried to pretend I was concerned. I asked him what was wrong, and he rambled for a while about nothing, which usually means that a guy has sinned and is wasting time with dumb chitchat because he’s ashamed to just get to the point and confess. So I interrupted him blurting out, “It’s three a.m., so stop jerking me around. What you have done?”
    “I masturbated,” he said.

    “That’s it?” I said.

    “Yes,” he replied. “Tonight I watched a porno and I masturbated.”

    “Is the porno over?” I asked.

    “Yes,” he said.

    “Was it a good porno?” I asked.

    He did not reply.

    “Well, you’ve already watched the whole porno and tugged your tool, so what am I supposed to do?” I asked.

    “I don’t know,” he said. “You are my pastor, so I thought that maybe you could pray for me.”

    To be honest, I did not want to pray, so I just said the first thing that came to mind. “Jesus, thank you for not killing him for being a pervert. Amen,” I prayed.

    “Alright, well you should sleep good now, so go to bed and don’t call me again tonight because I’m sleeping and you are making me angry,” I said.

    “Well, what am I supposed to do now?” he asked.

    “You need to stop watching porno and crying like a baby afterward and grow up, man. I don’t have time to be your accountability partner, so you need to be a man and nut up and take care of this yourself. A naked lady is good to look at, so get a job, get a wife, ask her to get naked, and look at her instead. Alright?” I said.


    That is filthy and ungodly and hasn’t the faintest stamp of a Christian, much less a pastoral, character and concern to it. Whatever this man is, today — and I seriously doubt it — his superbly proud heart was assuredly not called to an office wherein one becomes a “slave of all,” and I would have been convicted to speak lovingly to him of his salvation, warning him at the very least of the dark road he was travelling.

    This resolves a good deal for me in regard to this man. I had not received this sort of taste of what he used to be and I am sorely convinced that he should never have been a pastor. In studying the nature of the deceitfulness of the human heart, I have noted too many times to count that an obvious problem in any man’s life parallels in one sense the experience of finding a cockroach in one’s house. If you see one, you can be sure there are without any doubt a hundred hiding just out of sight.

    This is important to remember when counseling anyone because it is far too common an experience that a person’s problems are merely symptoms of a much deeper issue that is necessary to resolve if those symptoms are not merely to reemerge in some other form. When Driscoll was this sort of man, even after repenting of all of this — if he truly has — he should have been required to resign and humbly submit to being closely pastored himself.

    I am sure this is still vital to his character and anyone who loves him and the Church that Christ has built truly will not compromise with Driscoll on this.

  11. Hey Benjamin,

    Thanks for the excerpt, but I have to wonder again why here?

    I had heard of this episode before, and while it was handled differently than I would have handled it, I don’t see anything substantively incorrect. In addition, (probably revealing my own cockroaches here) I found it to be funny and honest.

    The honesty, bluntness and yes, earthiness are what I find refreshing about Mark Driscoll’s ministry. These characteristics that you find so repugnant are why he has the ability to speak to young men and be heard by them. He isn’t some namby pamby whitewasher of ugly things and that gives him credibility with the young men who are the ones to whom God has called him to minister.

    Moreover, it isn’t Keith or Benjamin’s approval that Mark has to worry about. There is a much more important Judge who will weigh these things perfectly.

    So I am sorry that I like him and that you don’t like him, but in the larger scheme of things, what we think about him and his ministry matters very little.

    By the way, before you write him off altogether, give this message a read, listen or watch.

    just sayin’ that is some powerful stuff.

    UPDATE: here is the Challies review of the book where I had seen the quote before. just for a bit of context.

  12. Thank you, Keith, for your patience… I saw the Challies review, which is where I first saw the quote. I’ve also listened to Driscoll’s message, “How Sharp the Edge.” I’ve thought seriously about critiquing it as it achieved quite a bit of popular publicity, especially given its venue. I was also very interested in what he had to say because this is a question I’ve pondered for some time after first evaluating the ministry of Vincent Cheung.

    I encourage you affectionately, brother, to always be just a little suspicious of simplistic descriptions of Biblical categories and qualifications such as one finds in Driscoll’s message. He certainly ignores a lot of context and, on occasion, either seems to contradict himself or flatly misses the point of a passage. Of course, that doesn’t mean I believe he is completely wrong but then, no matter how bad, what ever is? Even Satan is never completely wrong.

    Beloved brother, I hope you would not count me as a “namby pamby whitewasher of ugly things,” but it is not credibility with anyone that is of primariy concern to me, nor is gaining “cred” in the eyes of today’s youth of real, lasting value to the Church. Every Calvinist should appreciate that. It is Christ and not my edgy methods that will draw all those who are being saved.

    I know that Driscoll can sound appealing and can say things that seem to militate strongly against all the weak theology and “seeker” compromises out there. I know that he has a strong following and is very popular right now. I know that he is not afraid to say what he feels. His tongue is rather liberated and perhaps that is inspiring to many…

    But this makes him, even in the best light, merely a man given to spread the gospel in some capacity outside of pastoring. This is not merely my opinion and it has nothing to do with what I ‘like” or “don’t like.” What I feel or personally prefer is very boring to this subject. It has no bearing on anything.

    I am talking about GOD’s requirement that a shepherd not only be blameless but that he should be above suspicion and must be above reproach. He must be holy. Whether you think Driscoll is admirably gutsy or challenging, he remains more like David as he strolled along his rooftop at night than like Christ washing the feet of Judas. Driscoll is, in other words, not even qualified to be a deacon according to Paul, much less the most Christ-like group among us.

  13. […] Here is a careful and comprehensive take on the issue. […]

  14. Benjamin –
    This subject has engaged me for some time over the past two years. Thank you boldly saying what must be said of Driscoll’s disqualifying exploits.

    I’ve not found a single ardent defender of Driscoll who deals with any biblical texts with clarity and precision. Most of them don’t even discuss pastoral qualifications, let alone the biblical standard of holiness for all believers. I am grateful for your lucid analysis.

  15. You’re very welcome, Mr. Wragg… I’ve been considering this as something of an “outsider,” as much as any brother or sister can be, and have nothing personally against Mr. Driscoll. I consider him a Christian, of course, one who is an ardent defender of Christ in many ways but whose insights into Scripture are in many ways quite shallow. I know that this sort of thing would garner a lot of criticism in my direction, but I am prepared to defend it.

    I plan on writing a more useful piece on this subject in future which will incorporate different insights and arguments than I have otherwise contemplated here. Thank you for the encouragement of the knowledge of another brother who has not been so long out of the Word that his tastes have migrated into areas rather foreign to the perfections of Christ.

  16. […] HollywoodIs God for us or Himself?Deacon OutlineMarriage and HappinessMoralistic therapeutic deismmissing the momentthe LieRick Santelli goes offspeaking of […]

  17. […] read the whole post. Then go read the comments to this post and tell me what you […]

  18. […] beating recently, it seemed to me like his critics were missing the main thing. That is why I wrote this post. And it is why I wrote this post as […]

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