Friday, January 04, 2008

Leadership for What Purpose?

The whole "Mark Driscoll" has certainly proved profitable for my thinking patterns! Obviously Scott was the first off the mark to write his post; "Mark Driscoll: The reason I'm not going to Brighton 2008". I was determined initially to keep my peace until after Newfrontiers gave more details about themes and seminar titles and other speakers - but the contrast between Driscoll's humour and the Holy Spirit's power became too much and so I wrote; "Humour versus Holy Spirit". I have just added about twenty or so quotes to the "Pentecostal/Charismatic Post-it Notes Blog" and I was amazed at how each quote seemed to be relevant to this whole issue. For example; Andrew Walker in his excellent book; "Restoring the Kingdom" had some interesting insights on Terry Virgo himself;

"Looking at the uniformity of belief and practice within Terry (Virgo's) churches prevents us from being lulled into a false sense that Terry is a soft man. He tends to get what he wants".

Let us not deceive ourselves that blog discussions can always change the affairs of church movements or nations! They are useful for their purpose but there are limits to what they can achieve! So some of these quotes I posted helped me to come up with some questions about the conferences that we go to and the speakers we chase around the country. And believe me - I am the champion speaker-chaser! Just think of this Sunday! These questions may not be relevant for a full-time person in ministry with a large conference budget who can afford to get a wide sweep of the conferences available and the desire to do so. But for me - on a limited budget, with limited time and holiday - these 3 questions are necessary limitations and "grace diets" that I want and must go on.

1. Does the Ministry of the Speaker Add Anything to the Concept of "Grace and Glory" that is otherwise lacking?

Over the last two years I have seen the two glorious strands of Christian life come together. "Grace" - the wonderful, freeing, liberating work that Christ did for us on the Cross and then subsequently victoriously rising from the dead has been brought to life so powerfully for me in the last 2 or 3 years or so. This is mainly thanks to Terry Virgo and his wonderful teaching on "God's Lavish Grace". I always thought that the Cross was just the "entry point" into the Christian life and that was it. Yet Terry Virgo's wonderful grace teaching allowed me to see that the wounds on the Lamb are still fresh.

Yet grace teaching alone without a Kingdom vision surely leaves us in danger of a selfish mentality and an inward perspective which leaves us suspectible to talk of remnants of sin and sinful inner men. Furthermore it can surely lead to dangerous passivity. I have always loved Ern Baxter and his view of the Kingdom of God - particularly his teaching on "The Land". But I only heard snatches of such Kingdom teaching today - mainly from Terry Virgo and from David Devenish. And then along came Rob Rufus! Rob's key sermon for me marrying these two concepts of "Grace and Glory" - was one he preached at CCK in Brighton in July 2007.

So there for me - are the two wonderful glorious concepts and for the first time I saw them married in experience in Hong Kong. What I want to know from other conference speakers I hear is this; what will they add to that? Will they further expose me to the glories of the grace of God? Will they lead me further into the glory cloud of His manifest Presence? If not - can I really spend the money and the time going to that conference for the pleasing of my ears alone?

Ern Baxter said; "The greatest force in evangelicalism is not the gimmicks and all that goes with it in modern evangelicalism ...". Yet Luke Wood wrote; "It is wonderful to have people ... engaging with their culture or in growing massive churches". I must ask - is that really our call? I am not saying there is any glory in delighting in being "uncultural" and singing old hymns with a pipe-organ. But is engaging with culture really our highest call? Growing massive churches? All I know is that God told Rob Rufus;

"Son - you fill buildings with My Presence and My glory and I will fill the buildings with people".

Yes it is great that Mark Driscoll has built a church of thousands very quickly - but can we really attribute that to him or to the grace of God? If we agree it is the grace of God then why then do we need to hear what he says in the possible hope that we too can build churches like him? We are not Mark Driscoll! We do not live in Mars Hill! I don't even live in the USA! Borrowing Mark Driscoll's principles and speaking like him from the pulpit simply CANNOT guarantee the same results as he has accomplished.

2. Will the Ministry of the Speaker impart the Holy Spirit in power to us, so that it is ESSENTIAL that we are there in person - or are the speakers teaching information we can gain equally easily and more cheaply from the CD's?

I remember one of the things Rob Rufus said that made me think so seriously about going to Hong Kong - was that you would not receive the same degree of glory by simply listening to the CD's as you would be being in person in Hong Kong. Up until then I had been looking forward to getting the CD's and hearing what went on. I understand now what he meant. Just so at "Together on a Mission 2006" and "Together on a Mission 2007". It's very hard to explain what it is like sitting in conferences like that to someone who has never been there.

One of the best working definitions of "Apostles" that I have heard was given by David Holden at a Brighton Conference in 2003. The point that most grabbed my attention was this;

"4. To impart the Holy Spirit. This could be introducing people to the baptism in the Holy Spirit, or enabling a church to have fresh encounters of the Holy Spirit. It may also be signs and wonders. Apostolic ministry is far more to do with impartation than administration".

We don't talk much about impartation in Western conferences. I am the most guilty of this! It's a very dizzy thing to come to a conference and know that a brilliant mind like Wayne Grudem, or Don Carson, or John Piper or Sam Storms are going to be there. Those men are all my heroes and I love listening to tapes of them. But the question is this; Impartation or Information?

Personally I am greedy and I want both! There is nothing more thrilling and up-lifting and encouraging that to sit hearing the Word of God expounded with power and feel the Spirit come and settle upon you. I remember this vividly when Terry Virgo was preaching about Gideon at "Let the Nations Be Glad" in 2005. He started to speak about the Spirit "coming upon" Gideon and applied it rightly. I felt dizzy and drunk as I sat there and heard the Word of God opened but the Spirit verifying the Word with power. Just so with Rob Rufus. I refuse to accept that there is some sort of imbalance in Rob Rufus's ministry that needs to be balanced by Mark Driscoll. Why have to choose? Why not both!?

Terry himself said it in 2002!

"It had been my longing that the conference would welcome the Spirit and honour the Word. Why is it so rarely that we are privilidged to experience at the same time the manifestation of the Holy Spirit's power and true respect for the Word of God? How sad that we so often have to put up with a lack of one or the other".

Finally - 3. Is the life example of the leader one I want to follow? Is he a man who walks ahead of me into the glory cloud? Is he a man dancing free by grace or is he bound up with rules and regulations? Will he make me hungry for his intimacy with God?
The observant among you will have noticed that Pete Day has been added as a contributer to this blog - "Life on Wings". The reasons for that is that we are writing a post together on leadership - linked to a comment I left on "SGM ... Uncensored". There are some questions we feel that need to be asked about leadership today and whether it truly is New Testament - and furthermore whether it truly is equipping the Church to be a royal priesthood, a holy nation.

Andrew Walker made some interesting observations about leadership in his book; "Restoring the Kingdom". I think we have to be honest and admit that sometimes Christian leaders are their own worst enemy;

"He is a mature, secure person who does not feel the need to use his apostolic authority to get his own way, ride roughshod over others or make impossible demands on members ... in the fact file I have collected on discipleship abuses, authoritarianism and insecure personalities is a dominant theme".

And again;

"The more insecure leaders were, the more they would invoke heavenly backing for their advice".

My heart is to see Christian leaders released into true freedom themselves - and to be freed from the over-bearing burden that has been placed upon them to act as Old Testament priests and mediate between God and the Church. A burden they should never have to bear! Why are Christians today flocking to their pastors asking for God's will and God's guidance when they are more than able to hear God themselves? Why are Christians today (worst still) going to psychics and mediums because they feel let down by their pastors for getting the guidance and the words from God they seek?

"SGM ... Uncensored" is dealing with a lot of accounts of excess and hurt and sadness - but such excess doesn't take away from the fact that the ministries accounted in Ephesians 4 are GIFTS from the Ascended Christ! And gifts are good. ALL gifts from God are good!

But that being said, leaders do have a responsibility to walk out in front and model a life of intimacy with God. It is common knowledge that we become like the people we spend time with. I'm told that some churches in the UK are very taken with Mark Driscoll's style of preaching and talking - even to the extent of telling smutty stories and jokes during the sermons. So obviously Mark Driscoll is becoming a model whether he likes it or not. But what of his personal walk with God? Has he ever been baptised in the Holy Spirit? Has he ever prophesied or seen visions? Has he encountered the glory of God? I would be interested to know and hear this - probably more than hearing what a macho man he is.

So ... I really do urge you to watch out for this forth-coming post. We really believe that the principles that Rob Rufus has been teaching into so faithfully about the difference between Old and New Covenant need to be applied here in leadership as well. May these posts explore in some what how leaders can be freed by the true lavish grace of God so that the Church can take another step towards becoming the glorious end-time Bride that she is meant to be!


thebluefish said...

I don't know what the right call on this is. Maybe the language of balance wasn't helpful - it shouldn't be either/or but always very much both... that said, perhaps judging a conference six months before it happens is a bit premature? And isn't it good to honour leaders - for whatever reasons, Terry Virgo has decided that Mark Driscoll is a good person to have at the conference. And leaders get shot down vastly more than encouraged... having been to the Brighton conference twice and heard Bones, Terry, David Devonish, CJ Mahaney, Stephen van Rhyn and a few others preach I think Terry has a track record for getting it right in who comes to speak - from a fairly wide spectrum.

I know Driscoll has a reputation for being the cussing pastor, from being given the tag and from the odd comment that his highly scrutinised preaching reveals, but I want to ask - do we ask: "But what of his personal walk with God? Has he ever been baptised in the Holy Spirit? Has he ever prophesied or seen visions? Has he encountered the glory of God?" of all the people who preach, and of ourselves... with the exception of prophesying they're all very good questions to ask of a preacher but we have to be consistent!!

Dan Bowen said...

Hey Dave, thanks for the comment - I didn't realise you still stopped by! ;) I hope it doesn't come across that I'm "judging the conference 6 months before it happens". I guess I am thinking aloud about the implications of such a decision? Maybe I phrased it badly. I'm still very hopeful and interested as to what themes will be chosen for seminars and what other speakers will be selected (maybe the balance will become evident there?).

Agreed with the questions - we do need to be consistent and apply them as rigorously to ourselves as to the leaders we hear?

PS: Who's Bones?

PPS: Why is prophecy exempt from the list?! 1 Corinthians 14 does seem to imply it's THE spiritual gift to desire?!

Ben W said...

I think this is an interesting argument and there's definately more at stake here than simply whos the main speaker at Brighton Conference. You're very brave calling into question the whole "way" that the Church has been doing leadership for the last 2, 000 years! Kudos.

As per Bluefish, I would agree that maybe the choice of language on the part of Virgo wasn't the best. Not either/or but both. However like Bluefish I think I would agree let's allow the jury to just wait a bit until we write the whole conference off.

I'll be interested to see your article that comes out. It's encouraging to see to me that you've added your best friend as a contributer. It shows some loose holding on your blog. No desire to guard your territory per se. Good stuff and healthy.

Food for thought!

Luke Wood said...

Gosh you are really thinking this through! (in answer to your question to Dave, Bones is Mbonisi Malaba from Zimbabwe)

I have a few comments!

"I am not saying there is any glory in delighting in being "uncultural" and singing old hymns with a pipe-organ. But is engaging with culture really our highest call? Growing massive churches?"
I do believe there is a prophetic call over Newfrontiers in the UK, to not only have thousands of churches, but that many of those will become churches of thousands. So growing massive churches isn't your bread and butter 'what it means to be a Christian' (it doesn't have its own module on a church membership course!). But it is a call of God on this family of churches. So the fact that Mark Driscoll has led a church from very small to very big is not irrelevant to us.

"Yes it is great that Mark Driscoll has built a church of thousands very quickly - but can we really attribute that to him or to the grace of God? If we agree it is the grace of God then why then do we need to hear what he says in the possible hope that we too can build churches like him? We are not Mark Driscoll! We do not live in Mars Hill! I don't even live in the USA! Borrowing Mark Driscoll's principles and speaking like him from the pulpit simply CANNOT guarantee the same results as he has accomplished."
I absolutely agree. And I would go further to argue that we don't want the same results as he has accomplished. We are our own people in our own country seeking to follow the call of God on us where we are.

It's important to remember the distinction between good and bad parachurch. Technically speaking Newfrontiers is a parachurch organisation (it is not in itself a local church). Bad parachurch says to churches "please support us by doing x, y and z." Good parachurch says to local churches "how can we serve you?" - and it is in this vein that the conference is hosted primarily. Yes, it's also a shop-window to people looking in, but mostly it's to equip our own churches .... to shrink? No! To grow!

Bearing that in mind that the Holy Spirit has supernaturally spoken to us about churches of thousands, and that this is one of the things we are believing GOD will do with us in this generation, AND that one of the purposes of the conference is to launch us into further growth, what can we learn from Mark Driscoll?

The question is really: if God brings the growth, what's our part in it? To receive the growth he gives and to further prepare for it, and to steward it responsibly. But how do we receive growth of thousands? I don't know! How do I plan for my church of about 100 to get to a thousand within the next ten years? I don't know! Perhaps these are some of the benefits having Mark Driscoll at the conference will bring to us. We cannot manufacture growth but we can learn from those who have gone before. A bit like going to visit a revival really - gaining an exposure to something you've previously been unable to visualise in the Spirit.

Not all of us can go to loads of conferences so we do need to bear in mind the points you make.

We can't manufacture growth any more than we can manufacture the glory of His presence! But we can learn how to receive each of those things and I remain hopeful(!) that Mark Driscoll will help us receive growth from God (recognising it is purely part of our specific calling and not a fundamental for everyone) in the same way that Rob Rufus helped us learn to receive the Spirit (which is a whole lot more fundamental to say the least!).

Dan Bowen said...

Really excellent comments Luke! One of the benefits of blogging is that you can throw concepts and questions such as this Mark Driscoll out and hope for some comments that will bring some clarity on the situation. It's a shame that sometimes one needs to make more objective statements than ask concept questions to get the answers in comments I was looking for!

I think the particular reason why I appreciate your comments is because they come from a true Newfrontiers perspective. It's as close to asking Terry himself in my book! So I really do appreciate you taking the time - it's given me real food for thought! :)

"So the fact that Mark Driscoll has led a church from very small to very big is not irrelevant to us".

Amen - I can see that point, but the question I would come back with is pointing to the prophetic call over Newfrontiers to build such churches of thousands and thousands of churches. If such a vision was birthed in the prophetic, then doesn't it hint that there will be a supernatural element to how these churches of thousands come about? I am not saying that the supernatural was involved in Mark Driscoll's large church at all. But I am not aware of a prophetic promise over him or his church pointing to the growth.

Could it be a legitimate concern on some Newfrontiers leaders that John Kpipi gave that prophecy back in 1999 at Stoneleigh and some are asking "Well we are almost a decade on and we haven't seen it ... yet?" - so let's see what Driscoll has to say?

Whereas if a prophetic promise stands and is true (which I know we both believe it is) then shouldn't our call to remain passionately open to the Holy Spirit and trust that He will bring the growth in floods of revival and signs and wonders? Obviously I am not endorsing passivity until that revival comes! But do we need the techniques to build?

I think one of the most helpful things you said was that maybe we should be looking to Mark Driscoll to learn how to STEWARD the churches of thousands!! That's an excellent point! Can that be (maybe) why God isn't sending in the thousands yet, because the wineskins simply can't cope with the new wine and maybe the leadership of our churches wouldn't know what to do if the thousands came in? Yes! I can really see the help of having such a man in, in that situation!

"A bit like going to visit a revival really - gaining an exposure to something you've previously been unable to visualise in the Spirit".

I LOVED that point! I haven't really thought about "visualising something in the Spirit". That was one of the most powerful things that happened to me in Hong Kong - that I saw an atmosphere of the Holy Spirit like I have never seen before. Now I have seen it, I will recognise it when it arrives in this nation!

And I guess your point is - just so with "visualising" big churches aka Mark Driscoll. But surely Mark Driscoll isn't the only "big church leader" in the USA that we could have learnt from? As I gather far bigger churches are being grown across the Third World (which does seem to be truly in revival) - why not invite one of them? Just wondering!

"We can't manufacture growth any more than we can manufacture the glory of His presence!".

I am not sure that it is impossible to manufacture growth. Risking a flood of angry comments - from what I see the seeker sensative/Emergant methods of adjusting church to meet the culture seem to be somewhat manufactured. My home church similarly is very different to what it was when I knew it, and they are growing numerically.

But I think we would agree there is a big difference between numerical growth and growth in depth, in releasing ministry, in anointed, in intimate walk with the Holy Spirit.

Just some thoughts that came to me! Thanks again Luke - a comment like that reminds me of how much I miss you while you have been quiet!

James B said...

Yes a fair point - there are surely better men to learn off on how to build and manage churches that one as colourful in his choice of language and views on women as Driscoll!??!

Anonymous said...

I have been attending Driscoll's church in Seattle for the last few months. After he publicly apologized a few weeks ago for his past arrogance, I have not heard him use unnecesarily foul language from the pulpit.

I have heard him say he is tempted to "go Old Testament" on his critics. You have to understand, though, the kind of opposition he faces as a leader of a large church in a city like Seattle. He literally had to fight off a knife attack while preaching. His opposition is that strong. He has amazing courage.

Dan Bowen said...

Thanks for that input anonymous. The trouble with conference speakers who travel internationally is that we don't see them week in week out. It's unfortunate maybe that I happened across Driscoll's more "colourful" quotes!

I am sure he is an inspiring leader for you and I really pray that Mars Hill will be a source for you to meet with God, encounter Him and be equipped to go out and reach the lost as we hear is already happening.

Every blessing on you.

thebluefish said...

I exempted prophecy because it isn't the chief mark of those qualified to teach God's people (which seems to be just character and convictions and ability to teach) - unless I've missed something somewhere. That is unless you're doing what many conservative evangelicals do and saying prophecy IS equivilant to preaching... which seems to me to be unwarranted biblically.

Prophecy IS however, the big gift to want to have so we can strengthen the church. And so once more I'm called to believe God's command in 1 Cor 14v1 and desire it more eagerly.

I do still stop back here often as it happens!!

Dan Bowen said...

Ah thanks Dave - yep I see your point exactly! Alas no - there I would differ from the conservative evangelicals and NOT see prophecy as preaching! As I am sure you would agree, I am persuaded by Dr Lloyd-Jones argument that the "immediacy" factor in the prophetic is TOTALLY seperate to that of preaching where surely preparation and prayer is key.

But if that is the case and prophecy is the gift to be eagerly desired among the non-leadership - the royal corporate priesthood - then there is a shift in mindset needed. We need to stop seeing those who prophecy as "more spiritual" just because they are prophesying. ("Lord did we not prophecy in Your Name? ... Depart from Me") Prophecy is a grace-gift to build up the church and should be desired more and more!

SGM Pastors Wife said...

Yes good points both Dan and Dave ... but can it be that is the reason why prophecy is so vital is BECAUSE any priest can do it! Anyone! You don't need to have gone to a Pastors College and gained qualifications to prophesy! As Kathryn Kuhlman said;

"God is not looing for perfect vessels but YIELDED vessels".

It leaves me wondering then why prophecy receives so little attention within SGM and in my church. :( I fear it's because prophecy is threatening.

Ellie said...

So anonymous...has Mark D. decided to respect women now?

thebluefish said...

I thought you probably weren't in the cons-ev view! The irony is that view surely has to admit that women can preach, since they're permitted to prophesy in 1 Cor 11...

Agreed - no person is more spiritual than another. Whilst there is gradation of gifts to some extent that doesn't make the person with the gift more or less special. Prophecy certainly is a gift needed by the church.

I still don't think I agree with you boycotting a conference because of Driscoll. But neither is there any compulsion to go to any conference. Why not go, and see what God might do despite your reservations...??

How is prophecy going to be threatening? Surely it's strengthening? It'll ring true with the gospel, it'll grow faith, exercised in love, clearly understood, and always tested by scripture/elders, in an orderly and limited quantity. At least I think that's how 1 Cor 12-14 puts it. In my experience the problem is that it's rarely exercised alongside any of those requirements, let alone all of them.

Dan Bowen said...


Yes you are absolutely right in the inconsistency of the cons-ev view! The popular John MacArthur (in SGM circles) writes this about prophecy;

"A prophet of God therefore is simply one who speaks forth God's Word and prophecy is the proclaiming of that Word. The gift of prophecy is the Spirit-given and Spirit-empowered ability to proclaim the Word effectively".

Yet as you said so rightly, under that definition surely then we could expect to seeing women joining the platform team at the next Shepherds Conference!? ;)

Thanks for your opinion about Brighton. I'm still in two minds although I must admit the recent more detail about the other speakers and themes (and lack of mention of the Presence/power of God and the Holy Spirit and so on) hasn't helped. I think it's not so much "boycotting" Brighton BECAUSE of Mark Driscoll. It's more I can't find a driving good reason to pay up the money and sacrifice the time and holiday from work. I wish I had the time and the money to "just go and see!". I really do! If I did, then I certainly would go to a lot more conferences - especially more conservative ones like Word Alive and the EMA.

But being a nurse - time and money is precious!

But as I say - I am still not decided! I am very open to God breaking in and telling me to "go" like He did with me in Hong Kong! :)