Mark Driscoll Resigns: What Can We Learn?

On Tuesday, October 14th, Mark Driscoll submitted his resignation as lead pastor of Mars Hill Church. The story has been covered by CNN, Huffington Post, Christianity Today, and the list goes on. One of the best things I have read is the sagacious little piece by Trevin Wax, in which he focuses on what churches can learn from Driscoll and the Mars Hill mess. Here are the four excellent points he raises:

1) What we can learn: Leadership matters. Church members need to know what spiritual abuse of leadership looks like, and church leaders need to be trained well, enthusiastically supported when they walk in line with Scripture, and held accountable when they abuse their position of authority.
2) What we can learn: Polity matters. Know your church’s structure of authority well and do your best to empower godly people to lead well through times of crisis.
3) What we can learn: Don’t dismiss people outside your theological circles who exhibit the fruit of a vibrant walk with Christ. Also, don’t overlook or excuse character flaws from leaders inside your theological circles, as if doctrine matters more than life.
4) What we can learn: Look for wisdom and maturity more than glitz and glamor. Be willing to ask tough questions of the popular leader no one wants to challenge.
You can read the full piece here.

There and Back Again

10641040_10152732384471972_5921206948559689171_nTomorrow we bid farewell to the beautiful land of the long white cloud. Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, we will arrive in Birmingham, AL on Wednesday night. Below is our itinerary and a few prayer requests. We are excited to see family and friends very soon. And heaps of thanks for the prayers!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014   

Out of Dunedin 6:00pm (Tuesday 1:00am Birmingham time)

Arrive in Auckland 7:45pm (Tuesday 2:45am Birmingham time)

Out of Auckland 9:30pm (Tuesday 4:30am Birmingham time)

Arrive in Los Angeles 2:45pm (Tuesday 4:45pm Birmingham time)

Tuesday Night, September 16, 2014

Holiday Inn Express Los Angeles International Airport

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Out of Los Angeles 1:35pm (3:35pm Birmingham time)

Arrive in Houston 6:55pm (Same in Birmingham)

Out of Houston 7:30pm

Arrive in Birmingham 9:05pm

Prayer Requests

Please pray for Dillon and his wife, Jamie. Specifically, ask the Lord to give them patience, kindness, and gentleness as they endure the long journey with two wee boys.

Please pray for Aidan (age 5) and Cullen (age 3). Especially, pray that they will be able to sleep (for a long, long time) on the flight from Auckland to LA.

Please ask God to place polite people at key points of the Thornton’s journey, people who will help them get six checked bags, four carry-on bags, and two children through the numerous check points and across the various airports.

Please pray that the Thornton family will arrive safely in Birmingham, with suitcases and sanity intact.

Port Chalmers: The Place We Have Called Home

Insiders Dunedin has put together a great little video on Port Chalmers, the place we have called home for the past three years or so.

Port Chalmers is a vibrant community with a population of 3,000. The village lies around 15 kilometres northeast from Dunedin’s city centre. Port Chalmers has a strong cultural scene and is home to a number of artists, potters, musicians, jewellers, designers and sculptors. The people who call Port Chalmers home come from all walks of life; from Port workers, creatives, teachers, farmers, business owners and more. This diverse community coupled with the area’s natural beauty and historic buildings makes Port a particularly interesting place.

The video has some beautiful aerial shots of Port. Check it out.


God’s Grace is Greater Than All Our Sins

Lyle Dorsett, Billy Graham Professor of Evangelism at Beeson Divinity School, has written an excellent article for Christianity Today. In the article, Dorsett celebrates the “unbroken chain of God’s grace” in his life. In short, Dorsett shares his testimony. It’s powerful. At one point, he writes:

During the first six years of our marriage, I taught full-time and pursued research. Promotions came quickly, as did publications and grants. But despite the blessings of a lovely wife, two children, and professional success, no rest came to my soul. To fill the void I began to drink heavily. Although most people didn’t know it, I became an alcoholic. I never missed classes and seldom drank during the week, but I often binged on weekends.

Mary continued to pray. And one of my favorite students spent money he couldn’t afford to buy me a copy of G. K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy, then challenged to me read C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity. Simul­taneously, my car radio malfunctioned and stuck on a gospel station. I kept the radio on because I needed noise. Gradually the programs began to warm my soul.

Still doubting, I received a year’s leave to write a book. When I finished it early, I rewarded myself with a binge. One evening when Mary implored me not to drink around the children, I stomped out, found a bar, and drank until closing time. I left armed with a six-pack, drove up a winding mountain road, stopped at an overlook, and blacked out. The next morning I found myself on a dirt road next to the old Pioneer Cemetery in Boulder with no memory of the drive down.

Despite the hangover, I realized I had experienced a miracle. In utter desperation I cried out, “Lord, if you are there, please help me.”

You can read the article here. Or, if you prefer, you can watch Dr. Dorsett share his story here.

Teaching My Boys the Apostles’ Creed

We have devoted part of our family worship time in recent months to learning the Apostles’ Creed. If you are unfamiliar with the Apostles’ Creed, I recommend Alister McGrath’s book, “I Believe”: Exploring the Apostles’ Creed. McGrath writes: “[The Apostles' Creed] is the oldest and simplest creed of the church. All Christian traditions recognize its authority and its importance as a standard of doctrine. To study the Apostles’ Creed is to investigate a central element of our common Christian heritage. It is an affirmation of the basic beliefs that unite Christians throughout the world and across the centuries” (14). Here is a video of my sons reciting the Creed (with only the slightest bit of coaching from dad).




A Lesson from Jesus’ Use of Illustrations

In his Lectures to My Students, Charles Spurgeon compares illustrations in preaching to windows in a house—they “let in light.” A house made of windows is unstable. A house with no windows is just plain dull. Somewhere between these two extremes is where I try to live.

I recently listened to Richard Bauckham give a lecture on becoming “fishers of people” (Matt 4:19; Mark 1:17). Toward the end of the lecture, Bauckham made the interesting point that, though Jesus was a carpenter, we find no carpentry illustrations in Jesus’ teaching in the Gospels. He went on to suggest that this is precisely because Jesus made an effort to find illustrations in the lives of the people he was trying to teach. I think there is an important point for preachers and teachers here. It’s easy for me to think of an illustration about running, because I like to run, and I know a decent amount about the subject. But do I have any other runners in my congregation? In a rural church, would I “let in [more] light” by using an occasional farming illustration? If I have a number of architects in my congregation, would an illustration from their domain be more effective? I might not know anything about farming or architecture. It might require a bit of research, a little more effort on my part, to craft a quality illustration that comes from an area of life with which I am fairly unfamiliar. But it seems to me it would be worth it. We pastors probably should spend more time thinking about the people we are trying to teach when crafting our illustrations.

And if I’m right about all of this, if some of the best illustrations come from the lives of the people in our own congregations, then this is one reason why we pastors should not—not even for all of Spurgeon’s cigars!—use a book of generic illustrations.

Just a thought for your Saturday morning.

Challies Says “Character is King”; He’s Right

I have a lot of respect for Tim Challies. Without a doubt, his post is the best thing I have read on the events that have transpired recently within the young, restless, and Reformed crowd (i.e., Driscoll, Acts 29, etc.). I commend the post to all the young guns in ministry out there. Challies writes:

When the Bible lays out qualifications to ministry, it is character that rules every time. The Bible says little about skill and less still about results. It heralds character. And from the early days, Mark Driscoll showed outstanding natural abilities which led to amazing results. He knew and proclaimed sound theology. But he also showed an absence of so many of the marks of godly character. A hundred testimonies from a hundred hurt friends and former church members shows that what we saw from the outside was only a dim reflection of what was happening on the inside. The signposts were there, but we ignored them.

The entire post is worth reading; you can find it here. And concerning the biblical qualifications for ministry, see my post here.

Remember Jesus Christ

Today was a sad day for me, Jamie, and the boys. It was our last Sunday at our church, Owaka Grace Fellowship. Our time in New Zealand is quickly coming to an end. We will greatly miss this beautiful country, and especially those caring and generous folk in Owaka. They have made New Zealand feel like home for us. It has been a tremendous blessing serving alongside each of them.

For those who are interested, I have provided a copy of my sermon manuscript below. What does a pastor do on his last Sunday? He points the people to Jesus one last time.

Remember Jesus Christ (2 Tim 2:8-13) – August 17, 2014




Is ISIS Beheading Children?

This article by TGC editor Joe Carter is worth reading. He concludes that, while there is no doubt ISIS is persecuting Christians in Mosul and in other parts of Iraq, there are good reasons to question the claim about ISIS “systematically beheading children.” Carter writes:

As Christians, we have a duty to champion the truth. We should avoid spreading unsubstantiated claims and inflaming dread and panic by playing on people’s natural disgust of harm to children. ISIS is an organization that has committed heinous acts of violence and violated the human rights of many of our fellow believers. But we must not partake in the spreading of lies, even if it is against our enemies.

And the C.S. Lewis quote at the end of the article is worth its weight in gold!

Hopefully, the situation is not as bad as we have been led to believe. But our brothers and sisters in Iraq still need prayer. Pray with me for the persecuted church.

Acts 29 Removes Mark Driscoll

I’m sure I don’t know the full story, but based on what I’ve read and heard from Driscoll over the past few years, I think this is the right move.

Hoping that “the name of Christ will not continue to be dishonored,” the Acts 29 church planting network founded by Mark Driscoll has removed the Seattle pastor and his Mars Hill megachurch from membership.

“It is our conviction that the nature of the accusations against Mark, most of which have been confirmed by him, make it untenable and unhelpful to keep Mark and Mars Hill in our network,” said Acts 29 in an online statement signed by Matt Chandler and other board members of the network of 500 churches.

Acts 29 came to the drastic decision “with deep sorrow,” according to the statement. “In taking this action, our prayer is that it will encourage the leadership of Mars Hill to respond in a distinctive and godly manner so that the name of Christ will not continue to be dishonored.”

Mars Hill is no longer listed on the Acts 29 church directory page for Washington state. Acts 29 declined to comment further to CT.

In an expanded letter reportedly sent to Driscoll and Acts 29 pastors and obtained by Driscoll critic Warren Throckmorton, board members explain that the church planting network has received “countless shots and dozens of fires” over the past three years for Driscoll’s “ungodly and disqualifying behavior.”

Thus, even though Acts 29 remains “eternally thankful for what [Driscoll] as a man and Mars Hill as a church have meant to our network,” board members decided to remove Mars Hill churches from the network because the association “discredits the network and is a major distraction.”

“Based on the totality of the circumstances, we are now asking you to please step down from ministry for an extended time and seek help,” board members told Driscoll.

You can read the full Christianity Today article here.