Search Results For "discipleship"

This post is from Imbi Medri-Kinnon (though the title is from Bill).


Discipling / Catechesis, depending on your faith tradition, are words that are out of fashion. The church is seemingly into all things missional in this generation. (Even if “missional” means a hundred different things.)

Yesterday’s sermon reminded those of us gathered that indeed the Acts 1:8 call is to each of us – we ARE witnesses (because of the Holy Spirit in us).

But of what?

Substance has been an ongoing discussion in our household, and last week Kaili used a phrase and particular word that is still resonating – conversion is (necessarily) followed by TRANSFORMATION… Discipleship / Catechesis ….

What we are becoming matters!

I’ve been encouraged by various writers including Richard Foster, and the classic Oswald Chambers, but also John Stott, NT Wright and Dallas Willard among others who are calling us back to integrity, indeed transformation. And Christopher Wright who reminds us that we ARE disciples, before all else.

For far too long in the evangelical North American church, we have offered a form of cheap grace where simply saying the sinners prayer, or reciting the creed(s) on a Sunday morning is apparently enough. But 1/2 way around the world, in Kenya, the phrase ‘Christianity in this country is a mile wide and an inch deep’ came up several times in conversation with local brothers and sisters, suggesting that it is not just a localized phenomenon, but rather a generational issue.

Rich Mullins wrote one of my favorite song lines ever, saying “Faith without works is like a song you can’t sing, 
It’s about as useless as a screen door on a submarine”
. What a rich image, summarizing such depth, (no pun intended). (Watch song. May need to go to 4:28 in on iPads, iPhones, etc.)

Roy Williams, quoting Christopher Isherwood, says relevance (does this matter?) and credibility (is it true?) are essential to actual communication with this generation. Persuasion follows.

Who are we persuading, and to what?

Does our relationship with Jesus matter? And is He real, in my / our life?

Discipleship / Catechesis — TRANSFORMATION — is necessary. And more than possible with the Spirit and seasoned believers invited to speak into our lives, on an on-going basis. Indeed transformation goes far beyond what we hear in sermons and say on Sunday mornings.

We are witnesses.

Without on-going transformation, we simply live out ‘a form of godliness’ in any number of ways, making us irrelevant and incredible to a world longing for truth and integrity …. about as ‘useless as a screendoor on a submarine’ ….

I know I need to be being transformed – especially on Monday mornings, not to mention Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday …

Mark D UK Interview

You know, I probably would’ve been better off going to church this morning, rather than listening to the UK interview that Justin Brierley conducted with Mark Driscoll late last year. An interview that created an interweb brouhaha this past week and prompted my previous post.

So at 9:30 this morning, with the 1st cup of coffee brewed in my Aerobie Aeropress, I sat down with the interview. Three cups of coffee and two hours later, I began fixing the notes below. (NB. The first 5 minutes of the podcast linked to are Justin talking about said brouhaha.)

The reason I went through this interview is not because I have any particular bone to pick with Mark Driscoll. I don’t know Mark personally, but I do recognize the impact he is having on a particular population of the church and some of that impact is cause for concern. (I should note that I am the father of a 25 year old son, a 23 year old son and a daughter who turns 21 on Tuesday— all three of whom are practicing Christians.)

As well, Mark plays fast and loose with the truth in his blog response to the brouhaha created by excerpts from his interview. Those excerpts first reported by Christian Today (and their contextual veracity supported by Christianity magazine who originally requested the interview) which, after listening to the interview, were reported accurately and without prejudice.

Mark writes,

The interview in question had nearly nothing to do with the book or its subject matter, which in my understanding was supposed to be the point of the interview. My wife, Grace, was almost entirely ignored in the interview, and I felt she was overall treated disrespectfully. The only questions asked were about any controversial thing I have ever said in the past 15 years with a host of questions that were adversarial and antagonistic. It felt like a personally offended critic had finally gotten his chance to exercise some authority over me. 

Justin’s interview with Mark and Grace Driscoll begins with him explaining what Christianity magazine wants to do with the interview. This includes not just talking about the book Real Marriage, but also talking about Mars Hill, “using it for a profile interview for yourself, Mark€.” Driscoll responds, “Yeah that’s great,€” happy to do so.”€

And in terms of Grace, who Mark claims was disrespected, Justin says, “and Grace, just feel free to put your voice forward whenever you like in the course of the recording.” As Grace has the same communications degree as Mark, one would think Justin’s statement would be license for full participation on her part.

In the 1st part of the interview, Mark responds to a question about complementarianism with what might generally be called “a soft-complementarianism” response. But what I find interesting in this is that he doesn’t talk about the need for young men and young women to be properly discipled — they simply need to be preached at.

I recognize that this may be projection, based on my own experience with leaders like Mark, but he seems to suggest that if guys would just listen to his preaching and do what he tells them to do then things would be right with the church.

Mark responds to the question on sexual practices, when he is asked whether he’s in the position to make the statements he makes, by saying,

“€œI’m a Bible teacher, and if anyone wants to disagree with me, they can argue biblically and I’ll be glad to do so.”

At this point I would strongly state that if anyone’s being adversarial and disrespectful in this interview, it would be Mark. He accuses the interviewer of being adolescent and immature,

€œ”You’re not being fair, you’re being sort of scandalous and being immature about the issues. You’re going for one or 2 pages in the book where we answer very common questions that Christians have and you’re trying to put a little shock around for the radio. And, as a pastor, I’m trying to answer the questions people have.”

I hear Mark responding like a bully, in rather condescending tone. He insults the interviewer rather than accepting the legitimacy of the question. Who exactly is disrespectful here? (This happens at approximately the 17:20 min. mark of the podcast.)

Mark suggests later in the interview that most Christians don’t think biblically — they think emotionally or culturally. <Snark on> But, of course, Mark, with the correct exegesis of the Scriptures, does think biblically. So really you shouldn’t question what he has to say if you claim to be Christian. It’s not that Mark believes the Scriptures are inerrant, he believes his interpretation is inerrant. In my not humble opinion, of course. <Snark off>

As the interview continues, I note that Mark tends to go on at length, rarely allowing the interviewer to get a word in edgewise.

In response to a question about Ted Haggard and this story, Mark claims in what can only be heard as rather bald-faced prevarication, that he never said anything about the Haggard situation,

“€œI didn’t say anything about the Haggards, and I regret what happened in their marriage and I grieve for that woman.” (At the 20:30 mark of the podcast).

By this point in the podcast, Mark has completely dominated the conversation. Justin finally directly asks Grace to respond at the 23 min. point. If anyone has disrespected Grace in this, it was Mark. He could have easily at any point in the first 18 min. of the interview said quite simply, ‘€œlet me get Grace to respond to that.’ (Note again that the actual raw interview begins at the 5 min. point of this podcast.)

It’s at the 25 min. point of the podcast where Justin asks the question that triggers Marks response of ‘guys in dresses preaching to grannies’, etc.

A particular bizarre point from Mark in this section is the suggestion that most men either don’t have or haven’t had “a father. Really?!

This after Mark has pointed out that UFC is something that attracts men — not guys in dresses preaching to grannies. When Justin suggests that ‘isn’t this simply appealing to culture’, Mark says that he takes on the role of “father or “drill sergeant“. And this is done from the platform as he says, “I speak for an hour+”.

This, to me, is more of the rather bizarre and simply destructive idea that discipleship takes place from the pulpit. Let me be blunt. It doesn’t. Discipleship is one-on-one or at the very least one with a few. Not one standing before 16,000 live and via satellite.

Let me take a moment to confront this as Mark is not the 1st person from whom I’ve heard this kind of nonsense. At a Canadian church where I was once a senior staff person, the person who was in charge of an exploding youth ministry told me how he was informed by the senior pastor that discipleship programs were unnecessary for new believers. To grow they only needed to come hear him speak on Wednesday evenings and Sunday mornings. The fallacy of pulpit as discipler. (I deal with this issue at length in a blog post called Sermons Don’t Make Disciples)

Further along in the podcast, Mark admits that perhaps he goes too far, but in his words most leaders are “timid and fearful”. Mark sets himself up as the antidote to what ails the church. I find this simply sad.

Mark states categorically that “what you are doing is not working” after saying that “you don’t need to do what I’m doing.” And Mark’s prescription for ‘what’s not working’ is the need to have a young, celebrity-preacher preaching in the UK. Someone like Mark himself, no doubt.

There’s little doubt in the interview that Justin is asking questions that deal with Mark’s history. He’s doing it lightly and with a smile and it almost comes across as playful bantering. This is nothing like what Mark claims was adversarial and it is typical for a journalist, Christian or otherwise. (I also have a degree in Radio and Television Arts from “one of the top” schools in the world or is that, universe.)

And in light of Mark’s whinging blog post about this interview, might I rudely suggest that if anyone needs to ‘man up’ its Driscoll.

Justin brings up Mark’s comments about not being willing to worship “a €limp-wristed Jesus“. Mark responds by saying that the whole reason he is on Justin’s show is because he says “€œthings that are interesting.” Is it too much for me to suggest that Mark reveals his heart here. He says ‘interesting things’ for their notoriety or more accurately his notoriety.

Is this the heart of the celebrity-driven pastor or more accurately again, a celebrity-driven church leader because where exactly is he acting as a shepherd? (This at the approximately 30 min. point.) As Justin so succinctly puts it, “€œis there not a danger of you becoming the sort of Shock Jock of the Pulpit.”

When Justin confronts Mark about the fact that Jesus did not put up a fight at the Cross and in fact he was beaten up, Mark deflects the question by talking about how Jesus will return in the 2nd Coming — looking to the apocalyptic visions of John in the Book of Revelations.

Does Mark struggle with Jesus, the Lamb of God? What does this say about Mark’s own understanding of what a man is? Incredibly Mark translates Jesus returning as “€œnot to take a beating, but to give a beating.” Must be from the UFC translation.

It’s at times like this that I almost agree with Martin Luther and question whether John’s apocalyptic vision should even be in the Scriptures, when it is abused in this manner.

In one of those peculiar, particular Markisms that leaves one scratching one’s head, Mark compares himself to Hudson Taylor, the great China missionary of the 19th and early 20th century. Although no doubt he’ll deny that’s what he meant. Perhaps English isn’t my 1st language.

At about the 39 min. of the podcast, after being confronted with quotes from John MacArthur, Mark says that he’s always willing to publicly repent, to be corrected, and it’s important to model humility. Oddly this doesn’t go far in explaining his blog response to this actual interview. Humility? Not so much.

Mark in his blog post says that, based on this interview, he and Grace now have new requirements for people who are interviewing them. He doesn’t want to go through this again. 

With the release of our book, Real Marriage, we have now done literally dozens of interviews with Christians and non-Christians. But the one that culminated in the forthcoming article was, in my opinion, the most disrespectful, adversarial, and subjective. As a result, we”€™ve since changed how we receive, process, and moderate media interviews.

This seems to suggest Mark can’t handle the heat but he’s certainly willing to bring it — as long as he’s in control.

Justin does try a bit of a ‘gotcha moment’ when he asks Mark about a husband who has a wife who is a church leader. He asks Mark about ‘issues of authority’ in their relationship. Mark gives a typical Markian response about confused headship and church discipline problems — with Justin only then revealing that Justin’s wife is a church leader.

Mark’s immediate response is to ask about the size and the growth in Justin wife’s church and how many young man they have. Further asking what “kind” of young men they have — suggesting this kind of church would only have effeminate men with a female leader.

At the 51 min. Mark states, “You look at your results and you look at my results and look at the variable that is the most obvious.” Mark claims that the church Justin’s wife leads is small because it’s led by a woman and Mars Hill is big because it’s led by a man. It’s amazing how important penises are for church growth. (And here I thought Calvinists believed that it was exclusively the Holy Spirit who awakened people to Christ – only a select few, of course.)

Hellish Portion of Interview

To say I’m stunned probably wouldn’t be accurate but €”at a certain point one becomes innurred to the bizarre way that Mark’s brain seems to work. As the interview begins to wind down around the 53 min. point, they are continuing their discussion of women in leadership, with Mark now interviewing Justin. Mark suddenly asks Justin where he stands on Eternal Conscious Torment and Justin’s understanding of Hell. Justin, taken aback by the comment, asks what this has to do with the discussion of women in leadership. He sees no connection. Mark strongly suggests ‘of course there’s a connection’. Because, ‘moms are nurturing and dads are strong and disciplining’. 

Thus, if you see God calling a woman to be a leader then you have a more feminine view of God’s nature and therefore you don’t believe in hell. Pretzel Logic, n’est-ce pas? Good grief.

Mark goes on to berate Justin on Penal Substitutionary Atonement. Even when Justin is willing to say he believes in it — but that there are other orthodox ways of viewing the Cross. Mark insists Justin must commit solely to P.S.A. Driscoll is simply obnoxious on this point. Mark brags on his book that he has written on this topic. One might simply wish that rather than expound on his understanding of this particular theological topic he might read a lot more N.T. Wright — or if he finds N.T. confusing he may want to read some Tom Wright, instead.

At the 54.5 min. point in the podcast, the interchange goes like this, Mark: “But do you believe it” — “it” being penal substitutionary atonement. €”Justin responds, “Yes I do”€. Mark says, “You sound like a coward when you say it.” Once again one wants to ask the question ‘Who’s being adversarial?’

And in the closing comments, Mark, who claims in his whinging blog post that it was an “adversarial and antagonistic” experience, says, “It was fun for me… I hope you recover.”

Justin laughs in response. Mark appears to be laughing as well, and then Justin apologizes to Grace by saying that he’s sorry they didn’t bring her in more. She says, “That’s all right.”

I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions.

UPDATE: But do read this post on Leadership Immunity from Lance Ford – which he published earlier in the New Year – it’s prescient. 

The tagline for this website is “the issue isn’t leadership, it’s discipleship”. It’s the result of a video that Imbi and I shot with Chris Wright 14 months ago. This was shortly after he lead the Lausanne Conference in Cape Town, South Africa.

I believe that video, embedded at the bottom of this post, is particularly appropriate in light of my previous post — Sex, The Missional Position. And even more appropriate, in light of Pastor Mark’s recent interview with a British journalist for the UK magazine Christianity, noted on the British website, Christian Today.

Mark is quoted as saying,

“Let’s just say this: right now, name for me the one young, good Bible teacher that is known across Great Britain. You don’t have one – that’s the problem. There are a bunch of cowards who aren’t telling the truth.” [emphasis added]

And refers to many British church leaders as guys in dresses preaching to grandmas”.

Those quotes lit up the Twitterverse and blogoshere — primarily in the UK — demanding that Mark be accountable for his words. Jason Clark, a church leader and blogger I respect, said this,

“I have to infer that either my bible teaching friends are too old, or are just a bunch of ‘cowards’. Part of me just sighs and thinks move on and ignore this, don’t give air time to what seems such crass pusillanimity.”

Krish Kandia, who Jason refers to, says this,

“The church does need people who are able to speak bluntly, I am sure the apostle Paul knew how to be blunt and direct. But there is no doubt he knew about humility, partnership, working together despite not being on the same page on every detail.”

Eddie Arthur, a missionary and Bible translator with Wycliffe Bible translators UK responds,

“Mark Driscoll did a good job of identifying some of the symptoms of the British church, but sadly, he failed completely to diagnose the disease. This isn’t a surprise, identifying what is going on in another culture, is really difficult. Even someone with a good deal more cultural sensitivity and understanding than Driscoll would struggle to do so. This is why missionaries need to invest a huge amount of time an effort in studying culture and gaining an understanding of what is really going on, before they open their mouths.”

Might I suggest the biggest issue here is actually that Mark Driscoll is a leader who has never been properly discipled — again referencing what Chris Wright says in the video below. Mark’s understanding of the church is based on the North American model of big leaders with even bigger platforms. To him that’s the only sign of the Spirit working. It’s a model where strong male leaders solidify their control of the church as they believe they are the only ones with the god-given vision.

As I note in this blog post on sheep and shepherds, Mars Hill once had a large elders board until Mark decided to solidify control with a triumvirate of two others and himself. When two of the previous large group of elders complained, Mark quotes a UFC fighter suggesting he ‘break their nose(s)’. Not the sign of either a well-disciplined or well-discipled leader. And in Mark’s version of leadership, people who challenge him at Mars Hill “are sinning through questioning”.

With his latest friendly-fire attack, this time on the UK church, Mark has had to go into defensive mode once again. Actually I’m wrong. He goes into offensive mode.

Rather than apologize for having said what he said, Mark decides that it would be better to attack the interviewer while claiming that he has been “taken out of context“. Mark needs to establish his bona fides by talking about how he and his dear wife are both graduates of Washington State University’s communications program.

Mark knows how media communications works. He accuses this Christian media organization of simply trying to increase advertising revenue by creating controversy through selectively editing what he and Grace said.

What chutzpah!

This from a man who constantly appears to court controversy at every turn. All the better to get more butts in seats listening to him live or via satellite. His communications degree has served him well. His theology degree, not so much.

Mark whinges,

“As is often the case, to stoke the fires of controversy, thereby increasing readership, which generates advertising revenue, a few quotes of mine have been taken completely out of context and sent into the Twittersphere.”

One might imagine how much easier this all might have gone had Mark simply said, ‘Yes you’re right I screwed up. I spoke without thinking. I’m an opinionated kind of guy and I need to learn to control my tongue.‘ But that’s not going to happen, now is it. In fact, Mark’s defense begins to sound like what one might hear from someone suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

He states that the interview was, “in my opinion, the most disrespectful, adversarial, and subjective.” Justin Brierley responds to this by saying, “I beg to differ, but you can be the judge when the full article is released and the audio goes up.” (See Justin’s Twitter feed for links.)

And the editor of Christianity magazine, Ruth Dickinson, says this,

“Justin’s interview with Mark Driscoll was robust and fair, and I utterly reject the claim that it was adversarial, disrespectful or subjective. We took great care to ensure that his quotes were in context, and gave him the opportunity to talk about his new book, as well as his life and theology.”

Mark operates as a power unto himself. He gets away with saying the things he says or writing the things he writes because it appears that no one in his immediate or extended circles are truly willing to take him to task. It’s too often left to those of us ‘living in (our) mother’s basements, writing in (our) pajamas’ to ask him to live up to the qualifications of being a leader in the church.

As he claims to be a charismatic Christian who hears from the Holy Spirit on a regular basis, Mark needs to be reminded that the only sign of the infilling and empowerment of the Holy Spirit is the fruit of the Spirit — love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (And yes I realize, that “snark” is not on this list and who am I to call out anyone else on the fruit of the Spirit. So noted.)

Let me leave the last words in this post to my blogging friend and Wesleyan pastor, Dave Faulkner,

“…what sticks in my throat is the way I see the word ‘Pastor’ in front of his name all the time. It’s Pastor Mark this, it’s, and so on. What exactly is pastoral about this behaviour? We all slip. I do. But Driscoll has been called out as a bully before, and his elders have taken him to task. I think it’s time for a repeat. And a look at why this kind of behaviour keeps recurring.

UPDATE 2: Read my post written after listening to the full interview that prompted this post. 

UPDATE: Wenatchee the Hatchet weighed in on this yesterday. You should read his post and put him in your RSS reader.

In light of my previous posts on the on-going Sovereign Grace Ministries calamity, allow me to reference this earlier writing of mine on leadership “authority.” These thoughts are from a discussion of Hebrews 13:17

Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.

Too many “leaders” see authority as a position attained via title. They translate the word as “the power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience”. It’s a power word – submit or else.

Mark Driscoll in a January 2009 NYT article title, Who Would Jesus Smack Down, was famously quoted as saying that people who dared challenge his authority were “sinning through questioning” – this during the church process of consolidating the power in the church to “Driscoll and his closest aides“. It would appear that MD would translate authority as the right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience – “break(ing) their nose(s)” if necessary.

But authority can, and in my not humble but accurate opinion, should be translated as the power to influence or persuade others because of one’s recognized knowledge about something and experience practicing it with a high level of efficacy. (Note that this is a Kinnon translation based on a number of others.)

Unfortunately it is both via experience and research that I can write that the church seemingly overflows with narcissistic leaders who live to exert power and control. (Follow Alice down the rabbit hole that is the People Formerly Known as discussion if you’d like to do your own research.) It matters little what cheering section of the theological pool these people are in – they are in it for the power. Let me reinforce this: because I use a Driscoll example does not mean that I believe his particular section of the theological pool has any higher percentage of narcissists than the mainline, emerging, RC, EO or the 90,000 variations of the evangelical church. (One of the positions people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder – extreme narcissists – are attracted to is church leadership. It is one of the best places to practice irrational authority unchallenged – as these leaders convince you they are on a mission from God. If you learn best via pictures – this might help.)

GuyMegaphoneOnChair Perhaps it is a knee-jerk reaction then, when I read or hear church leaders insist on authority – and use terms like discipline rather than discipleship. Who speak of themselves as shepherds and their followers as sheep. (Though technically, biblically correct – too often this is twisted into stupid, smelly sheep being owned by their respective “shepherds” as this attests. I should note that Pastor is the Latinate translation of shepherd.)

But Matthew 20:25-28 is still the true test of Christian leadership. You are a leader with authority if you serve, rather than are served and value your position as last rather than first amongst the sheep – of which you are one.

Authority is earned. Respect is given – rather than demanded.

James MacDonald responded in the comment section to the 2nd of my two posts on his hyperbolic Congregational Government is from Satan post. I trust he won't mind me copying it here and responding to it below:

You seem like a pretty funny guy and I like that. You also seem pretty comfortable with overstatement etc. to make your points, I like that too. Yes I can be bombastic at times, does that make me the kettle or the pot? 🙂 My son pointed out your blog to me, Apparently he left a comment and has been following you with appreciation for some time – blog and twitter.

My post had nothing to do with WBC and we surely do trust the Lord in the outcome. There was much division in the church but hardly a word against Harvest's willingness to help when invited. Though we have six campuses only one is a former church that joined with us. We frequently have churches coming to us in their struggle to survive, direct them elsewhere and move on. We have never approached one ourselves, ever. 5000+ churches in North America close every year. I was in a meeting last week with a number of pastors in Chicago trying to discern how best to deal with this crisis in our own city. How do you believe this best handled?

I grew up in a congregational church in London Ontario and my first two churches were congregational. My convictions against that model are not new or recently inflamed. We are working with another church right now on the same issue and learning how best to serve their need while allowing them freedom under whatever system of government they use to determine their own future.

I appreciate celebrity bloggers, I realize you did not gain your level of influence without a lot of hard work and that your passion was probably content related with the greater influence you have coming as an unintended byproduct. I hope you steward your influence well and use it always for the benefit of Christ's great kingdom. Please pray the same for me,

James MacDonald

PS feel free to email me if you want to talk more – maybe God in His sovereignty wants me to have an Arminian friend


Thank you for taking the time to respond here in the midst of what, I'm sure, is an always busy schedule. I've followed your blog for a number of years, cheered with you when you successfully battled cancer, enjoyed a number of your posts – and had my blood pressure raised by others. No doubt as fellow Canadians, our sense of humour (note the correct spelling, eh!) is similar. I'd be the kettle to your pot.

I take you at your word that your post had nothing to do with WBC. Note that I have struck through that text on the previous post and added a link to this one.

Oddly enough, as the former elder of a once thriving / church-planting Baptist church that sits 60 feet from my loft – where now less than four dozen folk attend on an average weekend – I don't disagree with your opinion regarding the congregational model of church governance. But I do believe, in both our cases, it is opinion based on our experiences – rather than a church polity designed by the Enemy or with no support in the Scriptures. (Note that I affirm episcopal governance with the caveat that real discipleship is taking place in that church environment.)

I also stand behind what I said at the end of the first post,

In my never humble opinion, the bottom line problem with the church in the West is not church governance. As I have pontificated here ad nauseum, the problem is discipleship and the lack thereof in the church.

The Great Commission is to “go and make disciples.” It isn’t to build big churches or large platforms for big egos. Nor is it to command and control the congregation for the “sake of the church.” Disciples are made in direct personal relationship with the discipler. If the church was creating actual disciples I wonder whether we would need to worry about church governance.

To answer your question about 5,000 churches closing, I'd point you at my post, More Disciples, Fewer Leaders, Please, where I quote your fellow Chicago import, Scot McKnight. McKnight is responding to a question about what leadership books he'd recommend. He says this,

…I want to put my idea on the line and see where it leads us. We have one leader, and his name is Jesus. I want to bang this home with a quotation from Jesus from Matthew 23, where he seems to be staring at the glow of leadership in the eyes of his disciples, and he does nothing short of deconstructing the glow:

But you are not to be called “Rabbi,” for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth “father,” for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Instead of seeing myself as a leader, I see myself as a follower. Instead of plotting how to lead, I plot how to follow Jesus with others. Instead of seeing myself at the helm of some boat—and mine is small compared to many others—I see myself in the boat, with Jesus at the helm.

Again, in my never humble opinion, the crisis in the church is not leadership; it's discipleship and that is the reason those churches are closing. Watch this video from Chris Wright who says it far better than I ever will – he's being interviewed by my wife and business partner, Imbi Medri:

Later in the More Disciples post, I quote Scot again,

…leadership too often places the pastor or some person in the front and having others be guided (and following) that person, and that, I dare say, distorts the entire gospel. Jesus was willing to say that his followers didn’t have a rabbi of their own, didn’t have a human father in a position of ultimate authority, and they didn’t have an instructor who was their teacher. They had one rabbi and one instructor, and his name was Jesus, and he was Messiah. They had one father, and he was Creator of all. They were to see themselves as brothers, not leaders. That’s straight from the lips of Jesus. [Emphasis Added]

The Celebrity-Driven Church may build big buildings filled with smiling people but as Willow's Reveal study showed, it appears not to build disciples. I'll unpack this more in my upcoming series on the C-DC. My words from the quoted post on disciple making,

How did Jesus make disciples – he lived with them for three years, through thick and thin, through their thick headedness and their moments of great clarity, through their closeness and their rejection of him. He didn't set up a training school for leaders, or preach from an elevated pulpit or bring in Roman business and political leaders to advise his disciples how to lead.

Jesus lived in the midst of his disciples and the impact of that still resonates. Globally.

In closing, a couple of my Calvinist buddies (and I have many who put up with me) thought your "celebrity blogger" line was rather amusing. I confess that it reminded me of Brian McLaren when he called me a "Master Blogger" in response to my critique of his New Kind of Christianity. His was a little more double entendre than yours.

But trust me, as my 20 year old daughter, Kaili said to her mother when she read your comment, "Dad's not a celebrity? He has fewer than 700 500 followers on Twitter." We will all be hearing more about and from that girl. Assuming I don't ground her forever for her impertinence. 🙂 (And I do have under 700, Kai!)

Let me just say, right up front, I’m pretty sure the Devil made me write this post. (In fact, he almost made me wright “right” for “write” just to discredit me further. So. All spelling and sintax errors are the devil’s fault.)

William Blake once beautifully asked,

And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark Satanic mills?

But no rich poetic metaphor from our brother, James MacDonald.

No. For him, simple hyperbolic prose, “Congregational Government is from Satan.”

He advances his argument under the sub-headings, “Congregational Meetings are Forums for Division,” “Voting Is Not Biblical,” “Eldership Is Sometimes Unpopular,” “Congregationalism Crushes Pastors,” and “Priesthood Not Eldership of All Believers.”

And, of course, what “biblical” argument for authoritarian leadership structure would be complete without a quick prooftext shout-out to Hebrews 13:17 – Obey your leaders and submit to them…

Searching his blog, it appears that Brother James is not quick to exegete Mark 10/Matthew 20 – no doubt that whole “servant leadership” thing is so social gospelish.

I have neither the time, nor the inclination to take apart what appears to be a largely proof-texted eisegetical argument on James’ part but perhaps an “…is from Satansynchroblog might be in order.

Let me suggest some possible titles – all biblically prooftext provable,
The American Megachurch is from Satan.
The Executive/Business Pastor Position is from Satan.
Celebrity Church Leaders are from Satan. is from Satan

I’m sure you can come up with more.

In my never humble opinion, the bottom line problem with the church in the West is not church governance. As I have pontificated here ad nauseum, the problem is discipleship and the lack thereof in the church.

The Great Commission is to “go and make disciples.” It isn’t to build big churches or large platforms for big egos. Nor is it to command and control the congregation for the “sake of the church.” Disciples are made in direct personal relationship with the discipler. If the church was creating actual disciples I wonder whether we would need to worry about church governance.

And. Just for the record. In my late middle age, I would have to say that, assuming real discipleship, I'm most comfortable with an episcopacy.

UPDATE: Please read what is effectively Part 2 of this post, The Devil's Advocate.

UPDATE 2 : Please read WTH's post on this James MacDonald story.


For further reading of my thoughts on some of what's covered here, you might like (or intensely dislike):
Jesus & MegaChurch Pastors, A Few Questions
Why Aren't Big Name Christian Leaders Decreasing
Confronting Idols & Making Discples (video with Chris Wright) 
More Disciples, Fewer Leaders, Please
More Disciples, Fewer Volunteers, Please
Leaders Lead, Disciples Disciple

One of the more popular posts from this tiny corner of the interwebs was one I wrote in September of 2005, A Better Word than Volunteer. In that post, I wrote this:

The American Heritage Dictionary definition for volunteer is "To perform or offer to perform a service of one's own free will." [Emphasis added]

That sounds noble and selfless, doesn't it. So why does the word "volunteer" bother me as much as it does when it comes to the church.

At a very basic level, those of us who profess to be believers in and followers of Jesus are called the Body of Christ. The Apostle Paul uses this imagery to explain how we function.

A body isn't just a single part blown up into something huge. It's all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together. If Foot said, "I'm not elegant like Hand, embellished with rings; I guess I don't belong to this body," would that make it so? If Ear said, "I'm not beautiful like Eye, limpid and expressive; I don't deserve a place on the head," would you want to remove it from the body? If the body was all eye, how could it hear? If all ear, how could it smell? As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where he wanted it. (The Message)

If our understanding of who we are is that we are all a part of (rather than a part from) a single living entity, how do we invite different parts to volunteer to be involved.


January, 2011

In October of 2010, Jamie Arpin Ricci wrote a post called Disciples, Not Volunteers. Jamie speaks more powerfully to the impact of the word "volunteer" on how we function (or don't function) as the Body of Christ.

Volunteering has become the primary way in which Christians are invited to participate in the work and mission of God & His Church in the world. While much good has come of this (and I am not suggesting the eradication of Christian volunteerism), I truly believe that we have crippled and compromised our missional capacity by making it so central and foundational to our approach to mission/ministry.

It has been since planting a church that I have seen it most clearly. Initially, the passion and vision for a new missional community in our inner city context was received with great enthusiasm and participation. However, as the initial fervour cooled, as it inevitably must, we realized that discipline and commitment were then necessary to keep the community healthy and growing in maturity. Again, all of this is expected and natural. However, despite how many affirm that we want to be a community of leaders who share the responsibility of the work of mission equally, functionally people still assume hierarchical leadership, leaving it to the few (or the one) to get things done when they are not able.

As I’ve dug deeper, I began to see a common thread: we all too often view our involvement in missional church community through the lens of volunteerism. In other words, we love the vision and reality of ministry and want to be involved, as long as it fits. We have discipled entire generations of Christians to see missional engagement as a voluntary opportunity they can add to their lives when it works or isn’t too demanding. This isn’t to say that many people don’t live sacrificially, but rather that the general trend reflects an attitude of optionality. [Emphasis added]

Let me unpack my thoughts further with a family example.

One of our three adult children is considering "volunteering" for the kids ministry in the church we attend. He is particularly gifted with kids – he loves them and they love him back. He has had this gift for as long as I can remember.

This church loves its kids and does a good job with them on Sunday mornings. And I know they could use the assistance my son would willingly provide.


I also wonder whether the need for making disciples of the childrens' workers ever enters into the equation. Is part of the focus of the ministry leader(s) on discipling the ministry workers – or is that seen as a responsibility of the ministry that is focused on adults. (And when, how and where does that take place? I don't ask this in accusation – I have great love and respect for the leadership team at this church. )

I could have used the example of another one of our children who works with the teens ministry at another church in town. And I can guarantee that there is little to no focus on discipling the ministry workers in that example.

In a volunteer culture, I would strongly suggest that making disciples of those engaged in whatever ministry of the church is not even on the radar. Most volunteer-driven church ministries are happy with warm bodies. And those warm bodies are committed to "that ministry" for as long as it is convenient.

With Jamie, I believe we need to move away from asking for volunteers and move towards calling people to be the part of the body that they have been designed to be – and then to intentionally disciple them as they function in their calling, by walking with them in the manner that Jesus walked and taught his disciples.

As Eugene Petersen paraphrased Paul,

A body isn't just a single part blown up into something huge. It's all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together.

The call to discipleship is a recognition that we have been God-designed to be a functioning and fruitful part of the Body of Christ – and we must be discipled into that fruitfulness.


More of my posts that work their way into this discipleship discussion:
Confronting Idols and Making Disciples – Chris Wright interview excerpt
More Disciples, Fewer Leaders, Please
Diss-Missional Discipline or Missional Discipleship
Sermons Don't Make Disciples – Missional Discipleship Part 2

Review by Imbi Medri-Kinnon. In North America, the book is known as After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters. (Rylan Kinnon brought the book home for his parents, from the U.K.)


Tom Wright's – Virtue Reborn – is a book that should turn our heads. From the past and present swirling conversations and (re)alignments, and the positioning that we find ourselves in at this time – as Christians in the church – to the point that we should be focused on; the future hope and glory of the Kingdom of God, through our present reality within the life of Christ.

Bishop N.T. Wright does a masterful sweep of ethics and its various roots and streams, calling us back to working at Christian virtue – identifying and then avoiding the extremes of grace and works – those two polarizing positions of Christian history. In fact, the book gives us a broad enough and thoroughly orthodox way forward – to begin to become who we already are, in Christ – doing so framed within the church, communally, for the sake of the world, missionally.

The fundamental answer we shall explore in this book is that what we are "here for" is to become genuine human beings, reflecting the God in whose image we are made, and doing so in worship on the one hand and in mission, in its full and large sense, on the other; and that we do this not least by "following Jesus." The way this works out is that it produces, through the work of the Holy Spirit, a transformation of character which functions as the Christian version of what philosophers have called "virtue." This transformation will mean that we do indeed "keep the rules" – though not out of a sense of externally imposed "duty," but out of the character that has been formed within us. And it will mean that we do include "follow our hearts" and live "authentically" – but only when, with that transformed character fully operative – like an airline pilot with a lifetime's experience – the hard work up front bears fruit in spontaneous decisions and actions that reflect what has been formed deep within. And, in the wider world, the challenge we face is to grow and develop a fresh generation of leaders, in all walks of life, whose character has been formed in wisdom and public service, not greed for money or power.

The heart of it – the central thing that is supposed to happen after you believe, the thing we call a virtue in a new, reborn sense – is thus the transformation of character. (Virtue Reborn, Page 24) [emphasis added]

Bishop Wright calls us to action at many levels – to become who Christ says we are/will be, that is sanctified, and like Him. And to do so in a context that displays the virtues of the Kingdom – that is within the church community so that the world is "compelled" to ask us about the hope of glory they see through how we choose to act, to love, and to grow deeper into Christ-likeness. So that when this age has passed, we are ready to rule and reign with Christ in His kingdom, as his priests and kings. This dual capacity orients us both to the world and to God.

…a glad and unworried trust in the Creator God, whose kingdom is now at last starting to arrive, leading to a glad and generous heart toward other people, even those who are technically "enemies." Faith, hope, and love: here they are again. They are the language of life, the sign in the present of green shoots growing through the concrete of this sad old world, the indication that the Creator God is on the move, and that Jesus' hearers and followers can be part of what he's now doing. (Virtue Reborn Pg 94)

This is a serious call to look to the future and to begin to do the character formation work required of us as individuals (not because we are not already saved by grace, but simply because in the words of the Apostle John, "we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.") There are decisions to be made in character development, that lead to us becoming virtuous. It does not happen magically, nor does it happen overnight. The Apostle Paul speaks of "pressing on" towards the goal.

This book gives us a rational way forward, growing in character, which leads to virtue that behaves as it is meant to – loving communally -, because we are doing the work and the spiritual growth necessary that will, by what it produces, cause the world to stand up and take notice. It clarifies and recenters all of us to the way of discipleship that Eugene Peterson years ago called" A Long Obedience in the Same Direction" – a title that sums up what Bishop Wright is drawing together for us out of the many threads, indeed the tapestry that makes up the holy catholic church.

Interestingly, Wright extends his conversation with ethics and character beyond just the church audience to include anyone in the western world grappling with ethics – he believes that Christian ethics and virtue are not an end on to themselves – allowing me to become proud of what I have accomplished, in the manner of Aristotle. But rather, Virtue Reborn is always directed towards the good of the body of Christ, and the good of fellow man – we are, after all, alive in the Christ who gave up everything for each of us. Are we the people that will know how to rule and reign as a royal priesthood in Christ's Kingdom, because we have been willing to grow up into all that He means for us to be? Does the world "know we are Christians by our love?"

The Christian walk is often portrayed as a journey. What Wright does with this book is suggest that just like the barricades on sides of highways which keep us from falling into ditches or crossing into oncoming traffic, grace and works act as safety barriers. As proficient drivers, we steer a clear course on the road, not careening off one side or the other. Neither do we stand in the ditches (or in the side aisles) and lob stones at each other, or indeed at the traffic going by. But, on this journey, we are going somewhere, and preparing to "be perfect" . Of course, each of us is at different places – the key being that we are actually meant to be on the journey.


I watched the winning goal in the men's final hockey game at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics where we won the Gold in "our game" – speaking as a Canadian, of course – as I was finishing Virtue Reborn. In explaining what happened afterwards, the sports commentator mentioned having waited and watched for better playing from Crosby and then said something to the effect of "and we got it when we needed it."

Crosby had prepared for that moment for years – and he took the shot because that was what he had been training for. The "luck" involved was in the thousands upon thousand of hours of practice in preparation. So that it had "become natural" to know what to do when it counted. Nobody was expecting it at that point in the Olympics, and yet his prep work snuck it in …

When asked about it, Crosby spoke of not even knowing at first that it had been his goal. "I was given chances and eventually it was going to go in……… !"

What a call for each of us as the church – to work at this life of character building – leading to virtues that will cause us to do the right thing, when the moment comes, as it will for each of us. Where and when only God knows, but when it truly matters will we know it in our bones, marrow, hearts and brains – and do the right thing, make the right decision, becoming Christ-like in our character.  Are we the signposts and beachheads of God's future kingdom in this current world? It is not just a matter of "luck" (grace) but rather preparation and work and decision-making so that doing the right thing becomes automatic.

COURAGE: One last Olympic moment; an example from the selection of a winner of the Terry Fox Award. There were so many examples of grace under fire – and examples of the cost and preparation to be an Olympic athlete. Such a wealth of stories to encourage us to develop, to work at being who we already are – so that we might be ready to rule and reign with Christ. More importantly, that people ask us about the hope that we have, and the love that we function out of.


I leave you with the words of the Slovenian cross-country skier, Petra Majdic, who fell down a hillside and had to be helped out, obviously injured. She finished her race, winning the bronze! And then discovered that she had several broken ribs – and had probably further injured herself in continuing the race – talk about character, talk about perseverance.

Christie Blatchford, Bill's favourite columnist in the Globe and Mail, quoted her as follows:

"If you make your best", as she put it in her absolutely lyrical English, "it will be worth it."

And that, friends, says it all.

I'm finding it hard to post this week. I've begun a number of posts and abandoned them for good, or for a more appropriate time.

I'm still troubled by things from last week that need further discussion. I'm missing the sane voice of my good friend, Michael Spencer. (Please keep praying for Michael and his family.) And the Haiti Earthquake puts the brokenness of this world into forced focus.

You can find me commenting 140 characters at a time on Twitter: @kinnon. You will also find brighter Kinnon lights in the Twitterverse if you follow @liamkinnon and @kailikinnon – Imbi's and my oldest and youngest, respectively.

A couple of quick comments then.

First, the BHT's illustrious Matthew Johnson (Twitter: @revmhj) tweeted about this post from Oak Leaf Church, Selfish Christians. Matthew liked it. I didn't and commented there. Discipleship has got to be the biggest problem in the Western Church (and probably the Church universal.) This story, More U.S. Christians mix in 'Eastern,' New Age beliefs, in USA Today from last December (that I believe Ed Stetzer pointed to) strongly makes that point.

The second comment is about Mark Driscoll's Tweet (Twitter: @PastorMark) about his plans coming together to go to Haiti with a film crew "to help raise awareness & money for the church there." Now, I don't want to question Mark's heart in any way. But I do need to ask the question of why it's necessary for anyone, other than those who are going to work on the ground, to take a camera crew to Haiti right now?

There are probably more than 50 crews already there. Producing more tragic visual impact than one could ever possibly need. Do you really need to be there to raise awareness? (Look at this post of Jordon Cooper's alone.)

Resources are already so scarce, does Haiti need any more attention-tourists arriving at this point to tell anymore stories of the horror and trauma? (@TimmyBrewster points to the fact that the FAA is not allowing anymore planes into Haiti as there is no where to put them and no fuel available for them. UPDATE: Moments after I posted this @NPRNews says aid flights have resumed.) World Vision, World Concern, the Red Cross, Oxfam and every other credible agency is there working there tails off – with people shooting what's going on. And every network is covering this tragedy as the biggest story of this still young new decade.

I doubt another "film crew" is necessary.

UPDATE: And one final thing. If you want to give X% of sales this month to Haiti, that's very cool. But do you need to make it part of your marketing communications. I find that kinda "gross" in the words of @jaredcwilson.

What is What?

kinnon —  November 24, 2009 — 14 Comments


Last week, I had a long chat with someone I hadn't spoken to in years. He's a well known leader in the wider church world – one who has become tired of consumer church, sounding almost post-evangelical. He reminded me of the above statement – one he remembers a seminary professor sharing with him almost four decades ago. It's no less true today.

Last night, the iMonk shared this video on the Boar's Head Tavern, The Christian Side Hug. This is what masquerades as discipleship in youth ministry. A steaming pile of gangsta-style from middle-class white kids singing suspect purity theology. And we wonder why the 18-30 segment are leaving the church in droves.

Yet, we will use the same nonsense in an attempt to win new "converts." Brad Boydston points to this good post from Dan Whitmarsh, Anything to Make a Sale:

… the strategy is: do something fun/cool/outrageous to get people in the door, then tell 'em about Jesus.

Let's be clear about one thing: the motivation is great. Telling people about Jesus is our highest calling. Creating opportunities to tell people about Jesus is a wonderful task.

But there was a dark side that very few people really wanted to talk about: this 'wow 'em and tell 'em about Jesus' strategy doesn't do much in the way of creating disciples. Instead, it creates instant flash with no long-term impact. The fact that even 70-80% of Christian kids leave the church after high school ought to tell us we're doing something wrong. That we're not growing Followers, that we're not raising Disciples. Instead, we're creating Consumers who will always chase after the next big fix, wherever that comes from. We're not raising young people who understand such basic tenets of Christianity as sacrifice, service, humility, forgiveness, love, grace and mercy. We are, in fact, temporarily distracting young people with smoke and mirrors, sneaking the gospel in there, assuming that, since they 'said the prayer' following the pizza and root-beer gorge, they're 'in.'

And here's today's problem: those raised in this world are leaving their youth ministry days behind and moving into senior leadership in churches across America. . .and they're using the exact same strategies in the larger church.

A case in point, this painful video at Out of Ur. I have no doubt this young man basically has good motives. But he's not interested in hearing any critique. Entertainment is good because it gets butts in seats – "cuz, it's all about the numbers, baby!" And this young man's church has the numbers to show – so the rest of us just need to shut our festering gobs.

But, in line with Whitmarsh above, do those numbers reflect the raising up of people who are disciples of Christ – whose lives exhibit "sacrifice, service, humility, forgiveness, love, grace and mercy."

Tony Robbins attracts huge crowds. He has loyal followers who hang on his every word and buy his every product. Actually, Tony has loyal consumers. And that is what much of the the entertained pew fodder are in North American megachurches and megachurch wannabees – loyal consumers. If we can keep them entertained, providing them with the "tools" to be better whatevers (husbands, fathers, mothers, wives, children, students, employees, employers – you name it) then we can guarantee growth.


What we win them with, is what we win them to. Win them with entertainment, and you've created customers – who expect to be continually entertained.

Picking up our crosses and following Jesus is not particularly attractive. Buying into a worldview where the last are first, and the first are last doesn't win us any earthly popularity awards – and seems antithetical to the North American Dream.


Please allow me to suggest.

If you insist on bragging about your church, don't tell us about the numbers. Tell us about how the Kingdom has come to your community. Tell us of the lame who walk, the blind who see, the debts that have been forgiven, the reconciliation that has taken place at personal, generational & racial levels, how the poor and the outcast are loved and taken care of, how widows and orphans are grafted into the church family, how your community is experiencing the Year of Jubilee – because of what the Spirit is doing in and through your church.

But if all you can talk about are your numbers, then, please…

…just shut up. It's long past old.

[NOTE: If you click on the image at the top, it will take you to a larger version, which you are more than welcome to use. It was created in Adobe Illustrator & After Effects CS4.]