Thank You Mark Driscoll

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Some of you reading this blog will have never heard of Mark Driscoll before, though many of you will have. Few men have succeeded in polarising evangelical opinion quite like this guy. So when Mark Driscoll resigned as an elder and Lead Pastor of Mars Hill Church on 14th October, some wept and some celebrated.

To many, Driscoll’s was a refreshing voice – bold, brash, uncompromisingly biblical and uncomfortably prophetic. He could engage culture, especially the hard-to-reach secular 20-somethings of Seattle, like no one else. He was passionate, uncompromising and…irresistible. To others, however, Driscoll was to be avoided at all costs. He was toxic. A dangerous maverick and a tyrannical leader. For the months prior to his standing down there was all sorts being said/blogged/specualated about him. Some of it was true (he openly acknowledged that). Some it was probably untrue.

For what it’s worth – I was gutted…but believe that it was the right decision.

The reason that I haven’t written anything up to this point is that I didn’t want to add my voice (either positively or negatively) to a conversation that was fast degenerating into an online lynching. Rather than blogging I chose to pray (a lot) for Mark, his family and his church family. I continue to do so.

However, I have decided to write this post because I feel that the time is right. Before I get stuck in, however, I just want to be honest about a couple of things. Firstly, I am not going to comment on the allegations aimed at Driscoll because, frankly, it’s none of my business. Secondly, I am not the kind of man that wants to stick the boot in or stir up gossip – so if you’re expecting me to come out swinging pixelated punches then you’re gonna be disappointed!

So what’s this post about?

Quite simply, it’s to say “Thank you Mark Driscoll”.

Few, if any, men have affected my life and ministry quite like Mark Driscoll has. Is he a sinner who has made big mistakes?

Yes.

As have I.

But I can’t deny the ways that God has used this man to bless, build and encourage me, and I believe that it’s still appropriate to honour and thank him for that. I mean, I still love the Psalms that David wrote even though he stuffed up big time with Bathsheba. In the same way I’m still thankful to Mark Driscoll.

Here’s 6 reasons why:

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The Cyprus Files: Part 3. The Wedding

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Without doubt the biggest blessing and the most beautiful memories that I took home from Cyprus all came from the purpose for me being on the island in the first place – the wedding!

I’ve been to a lot of weddings in my time but it’s fair to say that I’ve never been to one quite like this! However, it wasn’t the beautiful cliff-top setting overlooking the mediterranean sea that made it so special. Neither was it the venue (quite possibly the poshest hotel I’ve ever been to!) Or even the epic wedding buffet that was laid on (physically couldn’t finish it all!) No, what made this wedding so beautiful, so memorable and so…gospel…was the guest list!

As I mentioned in the intro post J works with women who have been rescued out of sexual exploitation, many of whom have been trafficked onto the island for that very purpose. And J’s really good at her job, which means that there are a lot of women (and children) and their lives are being remarkably transformed by grace. Anyway, there were scores and scores of these precious ladies invited to the wedding and it was a privilege to stand at the back of the wedding ceremony and recognise as I looked out across the congregation that J’s girls made up 50% of the guest list!

Stunning!

However, it was only afterwards during the post-buffet disco that the true beauty of this wedding party hit me. There on one sweaty little dance floor were atheists and former prostitutes dancing alongside pastors and children…and even a nun! It was INCREDIBLE!

And it caused me to look in 2 different directions…

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The Cyprus Files: Part 2. The Pace

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After landing in Cyprus we were collected and taken straight to our hotel in Aiya Napa. We finally arrived about 1am, grabbed a cheeky McDonalds then hit the sack.

Mellow Morning
The next day myself, my mate Neil and the groom’s brother, Rich, went out to grab some breakfast. We enjoyed a full English sat in the sunshine, then went for stroll to find the sea, which didn’t take long. We walked the coastline until we found a little beach-side drinks shack and there we decided to stop. The boys enjoyed a cold beer, whereas I opted for a fruit smoothie (see picture above).

And as we sat there in the beautiful sunshine, looking out over the mediterranean sea, enjoying good food and drink with some chilled beats playing in the background something struck me with profound force…

I was relaxed!

Literally, I didn’t have anything to do! Nowhere that I needed to be. Nothing to stress my head out. I was…relaxed.

We must have sat there for several hours, chatting about all sorts – work, football, faith…the conversation was totally natural, unhurried and…relaxed.

Eventually we rose from our table and ambled the 20 metres or so onto the beach and into the warm sea for a paddle. Lovely!

That evening we went for a meal at Japanese restaurant (best meal experience I have ever had!) We then went down to a Mexican bar and enjoyed watching Wales beat Cyprus 2-1 in the European Qualifiers.

Went to bed happy and contented and…relaxed!

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The Cyprus Files: Part 1. The Journey


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The journey to Cyprus was…emotional!

The Coach
The madness began right away. My good friend, Neil, picked me up from my house at 7:15am thinking that we had plenty of time to get back to his house in Cwmbran to pick up his luggage and travel documents before catching the coach from Newport at 8:15am. And we would have had plenty of time…if indeed the coach was leaving at 8:15am. However, a quick check of the confirmation email told us that the coach was actually set to leave at 7:45!!

We were stuffed!

Neil phoned his wife, Cayte, and asked her to wake up their sleepy 3 year old and bomb down to the coach station with all his stuff in the vain hope that we’d somehow make it in time.

We didn’t.

We missed it by a minute and had to suffer the agony of seeing it drive past us just as we were pulling up to the coach station. Cayte, however, had (miraculously) managed to get there in time and had been informed by the driver that our only hope of catching the coach was to get to Chepstow before the coach did, as that was the last stop before Gatwick.

We ‘dumped’ Neil’s car at the nearest McDonalds and literally chased the coach all way down the M4 in dense fog. By the time we finally made it to Chepstow we still hand’t seen the coach and feared the worst. However, a few moments later the coach pulled up and we gratefully climbed aboard.

But the drama was far from over!

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The Cyprus Files: Intro

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I’m finally back home with my family after 5 fantastic days in Cyprus.

My reason for visiting this Mediterranean tourist hot-spot (Aiya Napa to be precise) was to see 2 very precious friends, P + J, get married. J works in Cyprus rescuing women from trafficking and prostitution and P has been a great encouragement to me and the RED Community guys over the last year or so.

The chance to see them tie the knot on the island that I have prayed so much for was too good to miss, and the fact that I got to hang out with good friends and make new ones along the way was also sweet.

However, while I went to celebrate the marriage of friends and enjoy a break in the sun as part of the deal, it seems that God wanted me there to learn a few things. Oftentimes God will take us out of the ‘normal’ and ‘familiar’ in order to get our attention and speak into our lives and situations.

And that’s exactly what happened this week, only the lessons started long before I arrived in Cyprus…

Coming soon: ‘The Cyprus Files: Part 1. The Journey’

IF I WAS GOING TO PLANT AGAIN… (PART 3)

THIS IS THE THIRD PART OF A SHORT CHURCH PLANTING MINI-SERIES. YOU CAN READ THE FIRST POST HERE AND THE SECOND POST HERE.

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If I was going to plant again…

>> I would be far less bothered by what others are doing

I think it was Theodore Roosevelt who said that “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

For what it’s worth, I agree with him!

This is especially true when it comes to church planting. I’d like to think that when I planted Hill City 7 years ago I was a man so gripped by God’s plan that nothing and no one could distract or discourage me from the task in hand…but that would be far from the truth!

In reality, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing and everywhere I turned I seemed to be surrounded by leaders who were better than me, churches that were bigger than mine and ministries that seemed far more fruitful. On top of all that were the countless books I read that were written by theological gurus and missional masterminds. The podcast preachers who felt the need to tell me (along with their thousands of online listeners) about the hundreds of new converts they were baptising every month. The church plant down the road that, despite being even newer than mine, seemed to be growing twice as fast and was the new talk of the town! Websites that were more impressive. Ministries that were knocking out awesome media content for fun. Churches that had a worship band (not just a dude with a guitar!) In truth all those things got to me. I started thinking things like:

“If we had a band, we’d have far more people coming”

“Video guy…we NEED a video guy!”

“If only Piper could hear me preach right now!

Comparison had crept up on me and, just like Roosevelt said, it was robbing my joy.

The crazy thing is that for a church plant that had started in a house with just myself, my wife, our daughter and a dog, we were doing OK! The growth wasn’t explosive, but neither were we haemorrhaging folk. Our website wasn’t spectacular, but it was certainly functional (and we were one of the only churches in the valley to even have a website!) My preaching was quite strong, creative and above all – faithful to the gospel. And Michelle remains one of the most anointed worship leaders I know. So why was I allowing myself to get so distracted and discouraged?

I guess it’s a bit like what sprinters have to deal with.

When you see those 8 men/women lining up on the start line you see 8 athletes with steel-eyed focus staring straight ahead. They are not concerning themselves with what is happening in the 7 other lanes – they are focussed solely on executing their game plan in their lane. How many times have you heard the winning athlete say something along the lines of “I just got in the zone and ran my race”?

I think that’s what the Apostle Paul was getting at in 2 Timothy 4 v 5 when he charged his young protege, Timothy: “Fulfil YOUR ministry”

Timothy had a unique calling on his life. Sure, he served the same Saviour as Paul, was called to preach the same gospel as Paul, was filled with the same Holy Spirit as Paul and had plenty to learn from the wiser, more experienced apostle. BUT, when all was said and done, he still had to fulfil his ministry. He had to forget all other distractions that surrounded him and focus on running his race in his lane.

There’s a lesson in there for all of us church planters! It’s taken me a lot longer than it should have, and I confess that I’m still prone to glance across to the high-profile preacher podcasting on one side of me, or the pastor of the bigger church planted on the other side. But God has given me a unique game plan to execute. Those guys have to fulfil their ministry. I have to fulfil mine.

I’m likely never going to influence as many people as John Piper or Tim Keller. And that’s OK. They’re likely never going to move to Trevethin and seek to make Christ known in this beautiful, broken valley.

That’s my call.

My lane.

My race to run.

I’m done with making joy-sapping, faith-wrecking, ego-stroking comparisons. God bless all them other runners. I pray that we all stay in lane, give it our all and that we all get safely across the finish line.

And I’m thankful that when we do cross that line we’re not going to be asked “how many were in your church?” “How slick was your website?” Or “How rocking was your band?”

All we’re going to hear is “Well done, good and faithful servant…Enter into the joy of your master.” And that’s good enough for me.

If I was going to plant again… I’d like to think that I would be far less bothered by what others are doing – I’d just get my head down and crack on!

Stay tuned for If I was going to plant again…(Part 4)