Friday, 12 September 2008

Sydney lack of evangelism down to 'Socialism and Britishness'

Just came across this online. I don't know who Mark Driscoll is, but I was fascinated by this, which is part of a critique he was invited to give of 'Sydney style' religion:
"Your culture struggles with a lack of entrepreneurialism, due to the influence of Socialism and Great Britain. Socialism brings the concept that everyone must be taken care of, with resources given to the weakest pastors in the weakest churches rather than pruning. This means you are neglecting to send nourishment to new buds and branches in the name of socialistic equality. The British are not an entrepreneurial people – they play by the rules and operate within existing structures. This has caused Aussie culture to not be very entrepreneurial and new things are not highly embraced."
Oddly enough, I've been making the same point myself recently. I've suggested on several occasions that as a result of what is happening in the Church of England, young Conservative Evangelical men will stop putting themselves forward for ordination (and in fact numbers at Oak Hill are significantly down this year, thought this may be a 'blip'). 

Some people have suggested that they will simply go into pastoring 'church plants' or 'independent' situations, but my response has been that the UK, unlike America, doesn't have an 'entrepreneurial' culture of church creation - either in the churches or in the wider culture.

Instead, we treat church like the National Health Service.  We may complain about it, but most of us rely on public, not private, medicine, and we are suspicious of 'independent' doctors. In the same we, we are comfortable with 'institutional' churches, but suspicious of 'independency'.

There is much else in Driscoll's comments on obstacles to evangelism which is worth reading. 

When posting your comments please give a full name and location. Comments without this information may not be posted.


  1. Mark Driscoll: edgy Reformed pastor of huge church in Seattle that started only 10 years ago. Mixes complete orthodoxy with tattoos. Has repented of coarse language, although many Christians still accuse him of it. Has become a pall of Piper, Keller and other Reformed US gurus. Founder of Acts29 - an excellent church planting network now making inroads into the UK (together with the Porterbrook Network started by the Crowded House guys in Sheffield). I wish us Anglicans had more of his passion, and I agree with your comments totally.

    Tim Vasby-Burnie, Stone (Staffordshire)

  2. Mark Driscoll is pastor of Mars Hill church Seattle (not to be confused with Rob Bell pastor of Mars Hill church in Grand Rapids (?)); also author. He is currently on, or just completed a speaking tour in Australia (friends of mine have heard him in Brisbane and in Sydney). He is generally regarded (at least Down Under) as 'conservative orthodox' within the band of emerging new generation North American church leaders (Rob Bell, by contrast, seems to raise some questions).

    Peter Carrell
    Nelson NZ

  3. Driscoll is an advocate of the Complementarian position, associated with emerging forms of church, Mars Hill and some controversy, particularly over his words about pastor's wives having let themselves go so that unfaithful husbands should not be blamed for infidelity - this could be spin of course. He is most likely a conservative baptist!

  4. (Chelmsford)

    Thanks for linking to Driscoll's great article. I rather like the guy although I have been critical of his complementarianism, which sometimes borders on sexism, and his inflammatory take on the Atonement which includes the statement "God hates you". But in this article he has mostly good things to say (I'm not sure about encouraging early marriage), many of which are just as applicable to British evangelicalism as they are in Sydney.

    On the extract you quoted, the problem is with the alternative to what he calls "Socialism ... the concept that everyone must be taken care of", which is that the weakest go to the wall. I understand why he thinks that about churches, how can he reconcile applying the same principle to individuals with Christian compassion?

  5. One wonders whether a lack of evangelism in Sydney is due in some part to the point of view of John Dickson and others who say that proclaiming the gospel is for those who have the gift, while the rest of us are just supposed to 'promote'...

  6. "I don't know who Mark Driscoll is..."

    Where have you been for the last 2 years?

    For a catch up, it's worth listening to him at the New Frontiers conference -

  7. Hughbo,

    Not Seattle (nor Sydney, come to that). ;-)

  8. Daniel Hames, I'd take issue with you there on behalf of my friend John Dickson - you misunderstand him. And in any case, his is a minority position in Sydney, which on the whole holds to an 'every-member evangelises' position.

    On my blog yesterday I wrote about the parallel between ENglish cricket and the C of E, which I think is a better way of thinking about the issue. It isn't socialism, per se; it is the clubbishness.

  9. Just to be clear, I didn't link to these comments by Mark Driscoll so as to have a poke at Sydney! On the contrary, I think he's right - at least about 'Britishness' holding back evangelism.

    The CofE is not an evangelizing organization, nor does it have an entrepreneurial culture.

    It is quite happy if evangelism happens, but that is not its own raison d'etre, unlike the early church. (The book to read is The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, and the Causes which Hinder It, by Roland Allen, which explains that the early church didn't have missionary societies, it was the missionary society.)

    Similarly, it is quite happy to encourage initiative, but not at the expense of structures and rules. If people don't get reached with the gospel as a result, that does not cause grief and heart-searching amongst the leadership.

    Finally, it does not question outcomes, but feeds failure as much as success - and I do mean 'failure', not 'hard work that produces no fruit'.

  10. Driscoll is right about the British fear of being entrepreneurial. We started DNA Networks as a church planting movement in 2001. I'm operating with a licence from the Bishop of Chelmsford. Since then, missionaries from Singapore, Taiwan, Sri Lanka and USA have applied to join us on staff......but no Brits!
    Where are the well-trained, gifted and competent anglican British evangelists who want to plant new churches on the edge of the institution? I think God is calling, but people from overseas seem to exercise a bit more faith.

    David Beales (skipper of Chelmsford Clergy Cricket Team- anyone want a game of cricket next year??)

  11. Isn't it interesting that Sydney Diocese invited Mark Driscoll to do this?

    When we have quite tame criticisms English get very defensive.

    Darren Moore