I listen to Driscoll’s sermons, read his books, watch his Youtubes, and benefit from them. The first Driscoll sermon I heard was his sermon on the Trinity and I thought, “This is the best sermon on the Trinity I have ever heard. Come to think, this is the only sermon on the Trinity I have ever heard.” Nevertheless, there are aspects of his sermons that younger preachers who are mesmerized with Driscoll should not emulate.
Here is what McArthur says about Driscoll’s language: He is a very effective communicator—a bright, witty, clever, funny, insightful, crude, profane, deliberately shocking, in-your-face kind of guy. His soteriology is exactly right, but that only makes his infatuation with the vulgar aspects of contemporary society more disturbing.
For examples of Driscoll’s crudeness that should not be mentioned in public see Tim Challies’ review of Confessions of a Reformission Rev. Here is part of Challies’ review after a quote from Driscoll: I cannot understand why he feels this type of quote is necessary. While this book is filled with confession, the one thing Driscoll does not seem to regret is his reputation as a loose canon and a man whose mouth is often filthy. In the end analysis, I really did enjoy Confessions of a Reformission Rev.. There is much in this book that is edifying. It helped me understand Mark Driscoll and showed how he grew a megachurch in a largely unchurched city in only eight years. He is clearly a passionate, focused man who is genuinely seeking hard after God. He has much to offer the church. I wonder, though, how long his message will be heard as long as it is wrapped in a sometimes vulgar, always sarcastic, package. It may endear him to some, but it will surely alienate him from far more. See 9Marks’ review of Driscoll’s Confessions of a Reformission Rev.
Even the New York Times writes: Mark Driscoll’s sermons are mostly too racy to post on GodTube, the evangelical Christian “family friendly” video-posting Web site. With titles like “Biblical Oral Sex” and “Pleasuring Your Spouse,” his clips do not stand a chance against the site’s content filters.
This is another example of the culture impacting the church. Driscoll sees three major views of the contextualization of culture. Driscoll rejects the syncretistic contextualization of Doug Pagitt who advocates changing the message as well as the delivery of the gospel to reach the postmoderns. “We must pursue new practices as well as new messages: the two are inseparable. It won’t suffice to put new ideas in the trappings of old practices. When we offer a new message through a practice designed to propagate a different message, we may well lose both” ( Pagitt. Preaching Re-Imagined, 80).
These have two open hands. One hand is open to Scripture and the other is open to culture, as Driscoll likes to illustrate.
Driscoll also rejects sectariansism or fundamentalism. The fundamentalist has two closed hands. The fundamentalist holds tightly to his doctrine and his culture of traditional views of music, drinking, and dress. The fundamentalist is Driscoll’s whipping post throughout his writings. Certainly, too many of our fundamental churches are known for their cutting edge ministries of the 60s and 70s. With one hand, we must hold tightly, like a vise grip, the doctrines of God’s Word but with the other hand we can loosen our grasp on culture and like Jesus be a friend of sinners in our cities and communities. But Driscoll is over the top when he constantly compares the fundamentalist to hypocritical and unsaved Pharisees of Jesus’ time (Driscoll, The Radical Reformission, 142-143).
Driscoll is subversive as a Reformissionist with one hand holding firmly to doctrine and an open hand to culture. “Reformission churches have to continually examine and adjust their musical styles, websites, aesthetics, acoustics, programming and just about everything but their Bible in an effort to effectively communicate the gospel to as many people as possible in the cultures around them” (Driscoll, 100).
We agree that we must adjust these areas of ministry and some of our churches are in fact becoming more current and engaged. For example, conservative churches are using video and movie clips as sermon illustrations, blogs, websites, face book, and simulcast to communicate the message. Others are helping the poor and needy through servant evangelism, etc. These are changes not true in the 60s and 70s. We would agree with Driscoll, who says some things in culture are wrong such as homosexuality and extra marital sex. But some of us would disagree with all he accepts.
The solution and our response to EC is for believers to “earnestly contend for the faith (the doctrines of Scripture)” (Jude 3), love God with all our heart and our neighbor, and speak the truth in love in our culture where God has placed us. Yet realize that not all of culture is neutral. In 1 John 2:15, the command is to “love not the world.” Certainly our more traditional churches need to be cutting edge in the 21st (not 20th) century ministries and involved in the lives of the unsaved in order to win them. Our churches can be more meshed with the cities we are seeking to win by helping the poor and hungry in order to win a hearing of the gospel. Thankfully some of our conservative churches are ministering to alcoholics, abused women, and orphans. We must be engaged as friends of sinners but distinct as the people of God. Each local church must determine where it draws the boundaries on these issues without selling out to culture. But there must be boundaries.
In order to effectively obey the Great Commission, we must “preach the Word.” We cannot substitute discussion sessions, stories, or the experiences of the community for the propositional truths of the text. For sure dialogue, illustrations, and interactions can be part of our sermons without sacrificing the text. While important they are all handmaidens to the explanation of the text in preaching. Our preaching must be “public hermeneutics” ( Richard L. Holland. “Progressional Dialogue and Preaching: Are They The Same?” The Master’s Seminary.17/2 (Fall 2006) 207).
“Walter Kaiser, a leading evangelical scholar, issued a simple but striking statement in his commencement address at Dallas Theological Seminary in April 2000….When a man preaches, he should never remove his finger from the Scriptures, Kaiser affirmed. If he is gesturing with his right hand, he should keep his left hand’s finger on the text. If he reverses hands for gesturing, then he should also reverse hands for holding his spot in the text. He should always be pointing to the Scriptures” (Steven J. Lawson, The Pattern of Biblical Preaching: An Expository Study of Ezra 7:10 and Nehemiah 8:1-18, Bibliotheca Sacra 158 October-December 2001: 451).
While Kaiser spoke metaphorically of the importance of keeping the text central, many in EC have their finger on the pulse of their community and are preaching thus says my community. Preach is the Word is the divine imperative.