Monday, May 22, 2006

Book Review - Confessions of a Reformission Rev

Leadership Network was kind enough to send me a copy of Mark Driscoll's book Confessions of a Reformission Rev in exchange for a blog review after I volunteered on Mark's blog. So here it goes.

Mark Driscoll has written a very fun book to read chronicling his adventures as the pastor of Mars Hill Church, outside of Seattle. Overall, the book is a fun read. Mark's writings are very down to earth, witty, and hmm how shall I put it, blunt. Mark says it like it is. I've heard that his sermons are sometimes blunt in the same way.

Most people interested in leadership and/or ministry would enjoy his book. He shares some very valuable leadership lessons, and if you are involved in leading and mentoring people, you would probably find these lessons helpful. Mark also shares some wild stories about Mars Hill and its growth from a living room into a church of thousands. One of the subtle elements of the book, and I think this hits you a little while after you are done with it, is the passion, humility and sacrifice that Mark approaches to his life as a pastor. Undoubtedly, the man loves Jesus and the Church, and is willing to sacrifice so that his community of faith is a group of people that live for Jesus' mission.

Here are a few of the leadership tidbits I particularly enjoyed.

- On Community:
Will your church have a mission of community or be a community of mission?
The buzzword community is so often bantered about that it is nearly devoid of meaning. But since the church is a community, it is important to define what kind of community the church should be. Without a clear definition of what a missional church community is and does, tragically, community will become the mission of the church.

- On working for a church:
Believing I worked for Jesus and not the church, I decided to spend my time with Jesus, prayerfully investigating the city like a missionary, trying to figure out what Jesus' mission was for our city. Over the years, I have accepted that I'm really not much of a pastor but rather am a missiologist studying the city who leads a church filled with missionaries who reach the city and with pastors who care for the converts.

- On communicating:
I began reading biographies of legendary preachers and learned that anointed preaching can only flow out of an anointed preacher who spends time along with God in prayer and Scripture. I also started studying stand-up comedians because, besides preachers, they are the only people in our culture who stand on a stage and speak to an audience for an extended period of time. In my opinion, Chris Rock is the most skilled comedic communicator alive today, and some years later, my wife bought us good seats to see him live, which was a better study in homiletics than most classes on the subject.

- On limiting the size of a church:
I explained to them that in Acts 1 the early church was about our size and was meeting together with great unity and gladness. Then in Acts 2, the Holy Spirit dropped on Pentecost, 3000 people were saved, and they never again met as a little church of 120 people in the upper room. I explained that if the early church had the same attitude that our church had, the gospel would not have spread and we would have never heard about Jesus. I made it clear that limiting the size of the church for our convenience was a sin and that we should be a church that always exists more for the people who are not yet saved than for the people who are.

- On how to lead a church:
In congregational ecclesiology, the congregation holds the highest authority in the church. Practically, this means that the congregation votes on church matters and that some form of majority rules, basically like a democracy. The entire concept seems to be taken from a secular volunteer organization that is run by volunteers but hires a small staff and a full-time director to run the day-to-day operations.
The staff and pastor are essentially seen as employees of the congregation, to be fired if they do not meet the expectations of their employer, the congregation. As I studied the Bible, I found more warrant for a church led by unicorns than by majority vote. Practically, it seemed obvious that a congregationally governed church would not be led but would instead make decisions by compromise to appease all of the various interests in the church. Moreover, it has been proven statistically that while congregationally governed churches tend to have longevity, they cannot grow very large because they lack a clear leader. And the thought of all our young, newly saved, chain-smoking, unemployed porn addicts outvoting me on Jesus' will for our church sounded like the lunatics taking over the asylum. So I dismissed the congregational government option rather quickly.

[I think the unicorn sentence was my favorite from the whole book.]

- On staffing with the right kind of people:
I had no one who could possibly fill this role but felt compelled to wait until God let me know, so I just left a gaping hole in our leadership to create a crisis that would force a leader to emerge.

- On the idea of church:
I decided to never view our church as a church but rather always to view it like a church planter with a core group launching out to reach the city. Now we simply had a core of one thousand instead of the original twelve that began in the living room of my home.

- On assistants:
I also hired a male executive assistant, like Joseph, to work closely with me, in an effort to not be yet another pastor with a sick story about getting entangled with his assistant.

- On good advice:
Larry talked openly about some hard days in his church over the years and kindly asked me to build a church that I could pastor as a healthy man with a healthy family for the rest of my life. He said that as my children got older, they would need me at their games and activities and that my energy level would diminish as I got older, thereby not allowing me to keep the frantic pace I had set for myself in my twenties.
Larry counseled me not to start the Saturday evening service that I was planning. His reasoning was that in a few years, my five young kids would all be in school during the week and I would be at church preaching all day on Sunday. This would leave only Saturday as the one day each week that our whole family could be together. If I preached a Saturday evening service, I would spend the day preparing and would give away the only day I had with my family. Additionally, since most of our church leaders were getting married and having children, they too would be sacrificing their family time, and we would end up with a large church marked by leaders with neglected marriages and children.

- On sacrifice
I wish I did not feel so completely alone, especially when I am in a crowd. I wish I was not a target for critics who seem to put me on a pedestal only to get a better aim. I wish I did not have the responsibility of standing before God to give an account for the church that I lead. I wish I did not have to continually weep while watching people I dearly love shipwreck their faith and lives through folly, rebellion, sin, hard-heartedness, and deception. I wish I never had to climb on another airplane to go preach the gospel, because the picture of my children crying as I drive away haunts me while I am away from them. I wish I knew the future and how Jesus will prune me next so that I could wince to lessen its sting before the blow lands. But Jesus has called me to trust him by faith and to endure more pruning so that more fruit can be harvested for the kingdom. And for this reason, it is my deepest wish that Jesus keep pruning me, because I love him, want to be with him, want to be like him, and enjoy being on mission with him more than anything.

What you won't find in this book are any easy and pat answers to leadership and loving people. Driscoll is also rather blunt, like I mentioned before. There were a few occurrences that might cause some to be offended. I wasn't, so its probably not that bad.

The book is a good collection of stories and principles taken from a leader that grows other leaders, lives a lifestyle of faith and risk, and sacrifices so that others may hear about Jesus. Student, leader or mentor; pastor, missionary or church planter? You will enjoy this book.

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