In one of his sermons (readily available from the church’s website) Mark Driscoll, pastor of the Mars Hill Church in Seattle, remarked that people could be separated into two categories: Those Who Were Offended by Him and Those Who Had Not Yet Met Him.
As an interested observer of the emergent church scene, I’d heard Mark’s name in a variety of contexts but had never bothered to Google him or learn any more about him than I had heard, until recently. After having watched a couple of his sermons (Mars Hill video podcast rocks!), I believe it is possible to separate people into three entirely different categories: Those Who Love Him, Those Who Hate Him and Those Who Have Not Been Exposed to Him.
I love the guy. Of course, I don’t know the man beyond the image on the computer screen. I’ve not read his books. I don’t keep up with his blog (although I might start). I don’t know anyone who knows him…or perhaps I should say that I don’t know that I know anyone who knows him; but I might. So, what’s the deal? Have I been charmed by his charisma? Have I been duped by slick video production and a purposefully cultivated image of “hip-itude”? For the sake of humility, I should say that those are possibilities…but here are some other possible reasons that I love Mark Driscoll.
I “get” him. Mark and I are the same age. We belong to the same generation. When he makes a fleeting reference to Ren and Stimpy in the sermon, I know what he’s talking about and I’m amused.
Mark is serious about God and Jesus but not about himself and Christians. I tend to think of myself as being like this. (It’s like Erwin McManus said, “We like people because they’re like us and we like ourselves.”) As insiders to the church, we know how ridiculous we can be and how it’s a good idea to “take the piss out” of some of us from time to time. He’s good at it too!
He’s brave. In the two or three sermons that I’ve watched, he has liberally used the word “repent” which is a churchy word that I’ve not heard preachers use from the pulpit in probably a decade or more. In this time when so many churches are striving to get away from “churchiness”, which includes churchy language, Mark pulls out the word “repent” and puts it to good use. Not only does he tell his audience, “If you are X, then you need to repent” but he also tells them, “I am guilty of Y and I repent.” The man is not afraid to call folks to repent and he’s not afraid to repent before them.
Finally, he’s good at his job. Thanks to podcasting, I listen to a lot of sermons over the course of year. I’ve heard preaching since I was about five years old. I’ve developed a taste for it, I guess you can say. Mark is a good preacher who obviously takes great care in preparing his lessons. He can go multimedia or he can do it “old school” (sans gadgetry) and it’s good either way.
Last night, my wife and I watched his sermon on Predestination and I seriously disagreed with his opinion of what the key questions are and his choice of analogies. He’s a Calvinist and I’m not, and that’s okay. Like he said, the debate over Predestination is a family discussion. We belong to same family, which is in itself reason enough to love the guy.