Mark Driscoll at Morling College

I am not sure how many people are aware of this, but Mark Driscoll is in Australia for a few weeks and today I managed to make it out to Morling College with another mate, Mark Falson, to here him speak. And do you know what? I was surprised. In a good way.

You see, while I have not had much exposure to Driscoll before, what I have seen and heard was not overly endearing. Not that I haven’t appreciated some of what Ive seen, but the general impression was: waaay too testosterone fuelled and aggro. Yet, that was not what I saw today. What I saw was very missional, very thoughtful and very encouraging.

What Driscoll spoke on was the relationship between preaching and contextualisation.

Here is a sample of what was said:

  • “Proclamation should proceed contextualisation … BUT both should work together”
  • Content of the gospel is not what we do but what Jesus has done (he differentiated between the gospel of the kingdom and the gospel of the king in a way I would not but I get where he was coming from)
  • “Our goal with the gospel in never innovation but faithfulness” (Driscoll affirmed innovation in other areas)
  • The gospel is about Jesus (its Christological) who died for our sins (substitutionary atonement) according to the scriptures (its biblical) who was buried (he really died) and rose again on the third day (resurrection) and if we have faith in his work we are saved (whilst I would place more weight on the resurrection than Driscoll, and see atonement theology as a bit more complex and multifaceted, I substantially agree with what was said)
  • “Contextualisation is not capitulation”
  • “Emerging Churches in my country don’t have converts” (I am sure some would contest that so feel free to speak up, but this does disturb me)
  • In commenting on the more syncretist end of the emerging spectrum, Driscoll said: “If you’re thirsty I would recommend not drinking from the toilet.” Less than generous, but amusing all the same. Basically making the point that if you deconstruct the gospel so much that you’re no longer sure what it is, then should it be any surprise that you’ve got nothing left to preach about.
  • It’s all about timeless truths (preaching) and timely methods (contextualisation). If you only go for the former you’re a fundamentalist, if you only go for the later you’re a creative innovative heretic. (This is basically what I have said too, though I find invoking the ‘h’ word unhelpful even when accurate)
  • We don’t make the gospel relevant, we show the relevance of the gospel
  • Seeker sensible not seeker sensitive. Not refusing to talk about sin and hell but taking the time to define the terms well. Assuming people have objections and taking time to try to answer them.
  • Contextualisation takes time. May mean longer sermons.
  • We all contextualise, the question is what era. 1800s, 1900s, 1980, 2008
  • Amused to be given a taped copy of his sermon by a church with a tape ministry. Doesn’t own a tape recorder.
  • Ministries led by proclamation but wont have conversions without contextualisation. Gotta have both.
  • Contextualisation is not about fitting Jesus comfortably within other religions.
  • He had a mild stab at extremist greenies (LOL I was waring a greenie t-shirt)
  • Jesus is not a mirror.
  • Noted the different meanings of charismatic in US, UK and Australia (he did his homework before coming here). Observed Aussies afraid of Holy Spirit except for the prosperity guys. Prosperity guys treat the Holy Spirit like a piñata (awesome comment, LOL).
  • Said, “I am not a cessasionist.” Not that surprised me. I am not used to Reformed guys not being cessasionists.
  • Charismatics chasing after signs and wonders. Jesus says its a wicked generation that chases after signs and wonders. Beware manipulation. But if we follow Jesus signs and wonders will follow us.
  • He seemed mildly disappointed / surprised that we Baptists were not more aggressive with our questioning in the questioning time – obviously his research wasn’t extensive enough to pick up the major differences between us and our US counterparts 🙂

So to sum up, I was encouraged that he placed so much emphasis on contextualisation and evangelism working together. It was genuinely refreshing. Its something I think more leaders need to be talking about, Emergent leaders especially. I still have some reservations – particularly with respect to his well publicised views on women in leadership – but I was pleased that he delivered and stayed gospel focussed rather than going down that path in his talk.

And you know what, I think I am beginning to see why he seems to attract this love-hate response. The guy is incredibly sarcastic. Sarcasm flies well enough in Australia, where ribbing is a national past time and where its not unusual to call your mate “You bastard” as a sign of affection. But I can well see where that would backfire with some people, particularly back in his homeland. Get’s me thinking.

11 thoughts on “Mark Driscoll at Morling College

  1. Thanks for posting this summary Matt. What jumped out at me most was the first statement that preaching preceeds contextualization. I did not hear the context or fuller explanation for the remark, but it strikes me as curious. Isn’t the message received and then proclaimed already contextualized, and then recontextualized (Lord willing) from the moment is then proclaimed anew? Musn’t proclamation and contextualization alwasy proceed together simultaneously? Seems to me.


  2. Yes he explained that further: proceeds in terms of priority, not necessarily in terms of time sequence. I suspect mark would say both medium and message are important, but its about the message.


  3. Actually this leads on to other thougths i have been having about ecclesiology.
    On the one hand, there has been much talk in missional circles about closing the church-culture gap and how bad it is. On the other hand, there have been peace advocates like John Howard Yoder who have highlighted that one of the critical failure of Christendom was lack of church-state gap.
    So what is it, is a church-world gap a good thing or a bad thing? Well, potentially both. The church should not be distinct from the world in terms of its language or dress or food, but it should be distinct in terms of its core stories, heroes, values. This is where I liked his comment that contextualization is not capitulation.


  4. According to Robert Weber (Webber?), a respected theologian who died last year, ‘RE-capitualtion’ is very important in terms of the Ancient-Future church story in which we as Christians participate. i.e. bringing everything back into alignment with the headship of Christ! I like how you put it about the church should be distinct in terms of its core stories, heroes, values… in that way Christ is supreme and centre. However in terms of Mike Driscoll, I have been a bit amused by the advertising for the rally at the Entertainment Centre (funny enough that this is the name of the venue) to which we are all invited to come to “burn our plastic Jesus-es”… As I wrote on another blogspot, “I suspect that the radio advert which features an impassioned American accented voice exhorting us to come for the purpose of burning plastic Jesus-es would highly amuse some, and highly annoy others, whether they knew what he was talking about or not. Personally, I am all for re-instating the image of Jesus to the phenomenal status he deserves (both immanent and transcendent), but I can’t help wishing that there had been a little more Aussie cultural contextualisation homework done for the promotional campaign.”
    Would have loved to have known about the Morling gathering. Do you know of anything else he’s going to be at?
    Lucy J


  5. Thanks for the write-up. I’m not a fan (anymore) of Driscoll, but I do agree that when he talks about contextualisation, he is at his most compelling (or almost compelling).
    I was interested about your comments on sarcasm. Wit is often a sign of deep intelligence and the ability to see under the surface of things. To that extent, a healthy dose of cynicism and the ability to point out irony can be really be a really useful, not just for Christian speakers, but also for thinkers and leaders.
    But sarcasm often has a brutal edge and destructive edge grounded in mockery and scorn. It’s goal is frequently to wound and hurt. That’s the danger of the “Australian sense of humour,” that it can be a cover for bitterness, resentment, and jealousy.
    There is good in that humour when it helps keep us grounded and honest. But, there is also quite a bit of harm in that as well. I’ve never heard a church leader really address it, or help put healthy boundaries around it, which worries me.
    Driscoll’s comment about drinking from the toilet is funny and not knowing the comment, it might well have been apt. But, those kinds of coarse throwaway lines can also be a cover for coarseness of thought and a lack of desire to really look deeply into the nature of the culture in which we are trying to speak.


  6. Hey Matt,
    Good that you got to hear Mark speak. I was at the ent cent last night for the Burn Your Plastic Jesus event…it was awesome to have so many Christians in one place at one time. Mark has researched and diagnosed our culture very accurately, so much of what he said last night was right on the money.
    Re: people’s views/impressions – Having listened now to probably every sermon of his available for download (300+)I can say that many people unfairly tend to take snippets and snapshots of what he says and characterise him by those. If you listen to his sermons, you realise he is a plain and simple bible guy who is REALLY into Jesus – more than anyone I have ever known in fact. It doesn’t surprise me he didn’t get into the women in ministry issue…he doesn’t really talk about it very much, but because it’s such a hot-button issue, whenever it is mentioned it gets quoted (and blogged about) extensively.
    I know some people are offended by his humour. In all honesty I am not. Perhaps I forgive anything scatalogical as his bible exegesis and uncomprimising call to repentance is way better than the flaccid preaching we can get locally.


  7. Any idea where all the Christians @ the ent cent came from? I’m quite curious but guess I’ll never know the statistics. I really like the term “scatalogical exegesis”. I know a few folks who specialise in it. Yeah, it seems like sometimes ya hafta hunt in cyberspace or a good library for some good theological meat. On the subject of sarcasm… I must confess that during my high school years, I made sarcasm an artform, and have since truly repented, as the Lord convicted me personally of the cruelty threshold it can sometimes cross. Perhaps if we don’t get any warnings from preachers, we can trust that the work of the Holy Spirit in people’s lives will prevail!
    Lucy J


  8. I have backed off using sarcasm and satire myself in the last year. I still believe it has its place – I find it very effective for blasting through indifference and apathy – but it is a blunt instrument and has all the problems that go with that. What is more, the line between being prophetic and being judgmental can be a fine one so more and more I try to remind myself, in your sarcasm do not sin. So, I am more cautious these days and use it more sparingly.
    Back to the talk Mark Driscoll gave at Morling, I thought the “drinking from the toilet” comment, funny as it was, went too far as it implied there was nothing of value in the teaching of the people he was critiquing. Now, I always look for something of value even with people I most strongly disagree with, so, well, I wasn’t so with him on that. The pinata comment however, now that was good, and I still find myself chuckling over it. Yet, well, if that was closer to home maybe I would be uneasier there too. I suppose the problem is, sarcasm and satire often rest on exaggeration and the problem with exaggeration is that it is never quite fair. But, on the other hand, exaggeration brings to the surface things that might otherwise remain hidden. Maybe the question needs to be, once you’ve shattered the apathy and have people’s attention (with the blunt instrument), are you willing to shift to a more generous and nuanced critique (using sharper instruments)? Hmmm, this is good, you’ve got me thinking.


  9. Sounds much more moderate than I expected.
    Like you I have not been a Driscoll fan, but I am a fan of those who don’t pull punches.
    We just seem to differ on the thinsg we would go in hard on


  10. Mark also turned up at Moore college and did a similar talk on preaching. In contrast he spoke about was for Moore people as ‘the bible guys’ to ‘be more cool’, he figured that we did not have a problem with preaching so much as being boring. He really encouraged Moore students to do the work understanding their context rather than just proclaiming the message. I thought he was really helpful for the folks at Moore, and he provoked considerable discussion.
    You can see some of the broader ‘Sydney Anglican’ interaction with his stuff on at:


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