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".
"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!