Anyone who knows me will know that I don’t tend to like the faddiness of modern evangelicalism. It was not always so, but I think I have learned something from previous mistakes. Call it experience, call it age, whatever you like. I don’t like fads.
For that reason I have been suspicious of the emergent thing. Yes, I like the community emphasis, all the relational, missional, U2, Starbucks feel about it all. Yet I find myself mostly going in the opposite direction. I don’t like what they seem to see as optional and debatable, things which I now see as vital.
Last Thursday, while taking a break from my exam prep, I had a poke around the net and came across the website of Mars Hill Church. The last time I had come across it was while it was being flamed on the emergentno blog, so I have naturally classed it as “emergent”. However, being a shallow sort on occasions, I lingered on the site because generally, to use the lingo, emergent sites rock (i.e lots of flash media stuff).
In turn this led me to the Acts 29 Network site, which rocks even harder. Acts 29 is a church planting network which was spawned out of the phenomenal growth of Mars Hill.
Now, look. I’m worried about myself already. Seduced by cool websites? That’s something to worry about, is it not?
Then I discovered that Mark Driscoll, the pastor at Mars Hill, was formerly of the emergent church but had distanced himself from the movement after having become concerned about about the theological drift that was becoming apparent in the emerging leaders of the movement. As a result Acts 29 has developed a strong theological foundation. This becomes clear from Driscoll’s talk on Theology at the 2005 Acts 29 Boot Camp for church planters.
I listened to a few of the presentations during my 6 hours travelling last Friday and was quietly impressed with Driscoll himself, though some of the others left a bit to be desired. (One of the other speakers spoke about the church as a “relational delivery system”!) He was strong scripture and christology, adopts a calvinist soteriology (i.e. accepts TULIP), in no doubt that preaching is “where it’s at” (as opposed to e.g. drama), and clear on male headship in the home and church.
Having listened to some of his preaching I am impressed with the simplicity with which he preaches, without apparently watering anything down. On top of that he unashamedly preaches for an hour or more and still people come to the church!
There is an area of concern for me. Churches often seems to find difficulty working out the relationship between public worship and mission. Since Acts 29 and Mars Hill put mission as top priority I believe that public worship must inevitably suffer. It seems to me that worship is for believers but that non-believers get to look in on this new creation activity. So many churches that try to put mission as tops make worship services as for non-believers at which believers get to look in and have to make do. I have gained the impression that latter happens in Acts 29 services, though I am willing to be corrected.
However, with this reservation, I am reasonably impressed.
Now some of you are worried. I can tell. Don’t. Just trying to play nice. 😉