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January 24, 2013

Do you like this?

There’s something attractive about Mark Driscoll to Methodists in a Clint Eastwood (pre-chair-incident) kind of way. We often see our denomination’s attendance decline as punishment for our unwillingness to “stand up for the truth,” “call sin a sin,” use words like hell and Satan and wrath in our sermons, etc. We’re surrounded by independent evangelical megachurches whose preachers have booming baritone voices that tell it like it is, which is why they’re growing faster than any tower Babel ever built. And then Driscoll tweeted a message on Inauguration Day that lit up the Internet (see accompanying photo).

Wow Pastor Mark, when you say things like that, it’s like pitching a 60 mile an hour change-up to every Sammy Sosa in the blogosphere. I guess when you’ve got a big tree, your fruit hangs low. It seems tacky even to comment on this tweet, and I wouldn’t if it weren’t the fruit of a tree that many of my fellow evangelical-ish Methodists are pining after (see the comments on this piece).

Central Texas Methodist Bishop Mike Lowry wrote a glowing appraisal of Driscoll’s ministry, which he saw as “vibrant and courageous in the way in which it engages the city.” To be fair, Lowry did say that Mark’s “theology is more Calvinist and hard-core evangelical than I embrace.” But maybe if we Methodists were “hard-core” enough to accept the sober truth of Pastor Mark’s tough God, then we could have “vibrant and courageous” congregations too. How many of us secretly think that?

Charismatic hubris is not only attractive; it’s Biblical. Jesus impressed his synagogue audiences “because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law” (Mark 1:22). There’s something compelling about leaders who know that they’re right and act on their convictions. Others are reassured by their self-assurance so they tend to draw lots of disciples. Self-certainty is a very attractive vision to cast, particularly if your version of what’s wrong with the world resonates with a sizable demographic of people and especially if you prove that you’re willing to say politically incorrect things aloud that your disciples have felt shamed into not saying.

Self-certain heroes are very different than “teachers of the law” who trudge around with their Books of Discipline and the open-minded nuance expressed by their inability to avoid resolving every disagreement with a “both-and” statement. We want a hero who speaks the truth with clarity, not a confusing web of committees and boards that crank out long reports nobody reads and resolutions emphatically asking our government to please do something about poverty and climate change and tomatoes picked in Immokalee, Florida.

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January 24, 2013

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