I don’t usually keep up with Mark Driscoll and his Mars Hill Church, but today I read a tweet that led me to this recent video from his Resurgence ministry.
In the video, Driscoll tells Christians that they need to learn from each other, rather than criticize each other. He’s speaking to Evangelicals. He claims that Evangelicalism has been “tribalized.” In order for these tribes to be effective they need to cooperate and learn from each other.
This talk of “tribe” is trendy thanks to guys like Seth Godin. Mark Driscoll has always been a trend follower.
He claims that the tribes of Evangelicalism manifest themselves through “magazines, publishing houses, blogs, social media, conferences, and schools.” These tribes are led by tribal chiefs. How do you know if you’re a tribal chief? Driscoll has four characteristics. 1. Tribal chiefs determine who’s in and who’s out. 2. Tribal chiefs have convening powers. 3. Tribal chiefs practice clumping. 4. Tribal chiefs endure a lot more criticism than average.
I don’t find any of these ideas particularly remarkable. It’s the idea that he’s left out which I find truly remarkable. He talks about magazines, publishing houses, blogs, social media, conferences, and schools, but he never mentions the church. What role does the church play in his “resurgence”?
Throughout the history of Christianity, the local congregation, often partnering with other local congregations, has been the primary vehicle for accomplishing the things that Driscoll wants done. He wants more people to hear about Jesus. Why would he ignore the biblical and historical instrument which delivers Christ’s gospel to the world? A blog and a Twitter account can’t do the work of the church in either its local or universal manifestations.
I also think his emphasis on “tribal chiefs” papers over another hole in his discussion. As I look at his four characteristics of a “tribal chief,” I am reminded of a different job title. It sounds like Driscoll is describing a pastor. Have pastors suddenly become irrelevant to Christianity? Obviously not because most of Driscoll’s name dropping concerns prominent pastors. But he’s marginalized the church, so its leader must be recast as “tribal leaders.”
I find this distasteful. The church is the body of Christ. From the church’s institution, the office of pastor has been of central importance. Christianity has its own traditions, language, and culture. Why would Driscoll jettison those things in favor of trendy jargon? Tribes and tribal chiefs. Sounds decidedly pagan to me.
Driscoll’s right. Evangelicalism needs a resurgence. But it needs a resurgence because its leaders embrace the ephemeral and neglect the depths of the church’s traditions and culture. In a world where pop culture has such a short lifecycle, people desire something with roots. Churches and their leaders need to offer something distinct.
I’ve criticized Driscoll quite a bit in this piece. I suppose that I’ve just solidified his position as a “tribal chief” by fulfilling his fourth characteristic for him. Let him have his tribe. I’m rooting for the church.