Mark Driscoll is at the center of much discussion today—partly because he is difficult to pigeon-hole. On the one hand he is a powerful preacher who holds to Reformed theology and has spoken at John Piper’s annual conference. On the other hand he is crude, admits to cursing and is prone to anger and sarcasm (Driscoll manages to insult and make fun of virtually everyone). I am often told that Driscoll is a work in progress (aren’t we all?) and has greatly matured in recent years. That may or may not be, but as a reviewer I must review the book at hand which was published only two years ago (2006).
On a positive note, Confessions reveals a man who holds nothing back. Driscoll passionately and aggressively pursues what he believes is best for the Lord’s work. He defines reformissional as “seeking to determine how Christians and their churches can most effectively be missionaries to their own cultures” (p. 15). Would that more of us seriously considered being reformissional by that definition. Driscoll also is an entrepreneur and visionary (e.g. pp. 60-61). Although he is the pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, his heart lies in evangelism, not pastoring. His preaching is intense, doctrinal and in your face. He is not a man who pulls punches. There is much commendable in Mark Driscoll.
But there is also much that should disturb us about the man:
• He is crude. From barnyard words (pp. 67, 94, 128, 129, 134) to the gross description of the affects of the stomach flu (p. 177), to sexual innuendos (pp. 59-60, 94-96, 128), to repeatedly referring to “God the Ghost” (pp. 7, 26, 34, 47, 74), Driscoll’s language is often shocking.
• He is an admitted curser (pp. 47, 50, 71, 97, 99, 128, 130). He is known as the cussing pastor in Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz (pp. 96-97) and there is no indication in this book that Driscoll has reformed his foul language.
• He is also ruthless. Driscoll has a mission (to ultimately grow a church of 10,000 attendees – p. 164) and any who does not fit into that mission is dispensable (pp. 45, 63, 112, 131, 135, 148-150) or fired (pp. 146-147, 196). As Mars Hill grows to megachurch status, one has to wonder what has become of the multitude of people harmed in the process, especially as Driscoll admits his fits of anger when not pleased (pp 99, 128, 130).
• Separation from worldly activities does not fit Driscoll’s missional strategy. He speaks often of drinking and frequenting bars (e.g. pp. 51, 131, 146), buying lottery tickets (p. 58), admiring and learning from foul-mouthed entertainers such as Chris Rock (pp. 43, 70), stealing a sound system (p. 62) and setting himself up for sexual temptation (which he resisted) (p. 128).
• Purity in the church is inconsistent. While Driscoll certainly desires to see Christians live morally, he is willing to use unbelievers in ministry, especially in his worship and concert bands (pp. 68, 158) It is one thing to reach out to those involved in such sins; it is another to use them in ministry.
• He has an unbiblical understanding of demonic activity and recommends the books of C. Fred Dickason and Neil T. Anderson on spiritual warfare (pp. 122, 123, 184).
• He is totally open to charismatic-style leading from the Lord through voices, dreams, visions and words of knowledge (pp. 39, 74-75, 85, 121) as well as tongues (p. 190). This is perhaps the most concerning issue related to Driscoll.
• His church has grown on the back of questionable activities such as non-Christian rock concerts (p. 40), hip-hop and punk-rock worship (pp. 93, 100, 126).
• While Driscoll has distanced himself from the more radical emergent movement (pp. 21-23), he is still associated with the Leadership Network (pp. 7, 82) which promotes emergent.
I found it interesting as well that Driscoll claims emerging churches reach out through relationships not programming, yet the whole book is about programming. Even the chapters are arranged (and titled) around the size of Mars Hill at various times. Nothing (or at least very little) is really said about relationship style evangelism; the emphasis is on what brings people to church services. Nor is there any discussion of the biblical model of the church. The implication is that the church is more shaped by culture than Scripture (pp. 21, 73).
Mark Driscoll is much admired today because his strategy is working—that is, his church is growing (p. 155). But there is much need for careful reflection here.