Mark Driscoll is, hands down, one of the most talked-about pastors of our time. As the founding pastor of Seattle’s Mars Hill Church—one of the fastest growing churches in America—Driscoll has never shied away from discussing the issues that matter most to him—regardless of how controversial they may be. Driscoll is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller, Real Marriage, a frequent contributor to the Washington Post and Seattle Times, and was named one of the 25 most influential pastors of the last 25 years by Preaching magazine. His latest book, A Call to Resurgence: Will Christianity Have a Funeral or a Future?, provides a revealing look at today’s church and what it needs to survive in the post-Christendom world.
1. What was your inspiration for writing A Call to Resurgence?
I love the church, and I want to help. More people need to meet Jesus so they can enjoy new life today and eternal life in the future. It kills me to see Christians wasting time on silly arguments and petty infighting while there are people dying and going to hell. At the same time, the church’s role in society has been greatly diminished. We need unity and single-minded focus more than ever before, but sadly it seems we’re content to argue ourselves to death. I’ve been guilty of this as well and this is a message I’m preaching to myself. I want to give Christians a vision for passionate, active ministry that’s all about Jesus.
2. Your new book opens with a chapter titled: “Christendom is Dead: Welcome to the United States of Seattle.” Why did you start your book this way?
Many Christians in America live in places where it looks like Christianity is alive and well—the suburbs, the Bible Belt—so many don’t realize the seismic cultural shift that has taken place in the past ten years. As I use the term in the book, Christendom describes a society where Christianity exists as a “civil religion” that provides a common moral and social framework. We don’t live in that world anymore, and we need to face facts and adjust in order for ministry to be effective in this new context.
3. What does Seattle represent to you in regard to Christendom?
It’s a bit of a case study for the rest of America. Seattle represents the destination where the rest of the nation is heading, ideologically speaking, and this change is happening very, very quickly. In general, people here are very excited about sex, spirituality, and same-sex marriage, but not so excited about children, chastity, and church. Any talk of absolute truth and sin and repentance is rejected as hate speech. Of course, this presents a number of challenges for faithful Christians who want to see more people meet Jesus, and these challenges are no longer limited to Seattle.
4. In your new book, you say that our society is fundamentally at odds with Christianity—what positive opportunities does this present for Christians?
For generations, Christianity in the form of civil religion maintained a false sense of health thanks to padded stats, which included large swaths of the population that professed a faith they most likely did not possess. If we can learn anything from the life of Judas, it’s that not everyone who identifies with Jesus is actually on the team. Christianity used to come with certain social benefits—politically, financially, and relationally—and there were great tangible incentives for those who claimed to be Christian, attended church, contributed financially, etc. Now the opposite is true. Nobody’s going to pretend to be a Christian because the cost is higher and increasing by the day.
We can view this as a positive development for a number of reasons. For one thing, Christians that remain are more likely to be genuinely committed to Jesus. Also, as culture drifts away from Christendom and toward a worldview that is in many ways antithetical to the Bible, the message of the gospel will appear more scandalous, unique, and clear than at any other time in the history of our country.
5. How do you define “evangelical tribalism,” and what dangers does it pose to the church?
We aren’t one big group anymore with one key leader. We live and worship in tribes, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But because tribes have a tendency to circle the wagons and fight against one another rather than mobilize together for growth, we’ve unknowingly contributed to the rapid demise of Christendom in America, in spite of ourselves. We’ve lost sight of what’s really important, and the priority of the gospel has gotten lost in the shuffle as each tribe tries to shout the loudest to make its own particular point about something else. Meanwhile, Christians are a minority in an increasingly hostile host culture, and the sooner we accept that reality, the better off we will be. We have to stick together around the big issues, stop wasting our energies on infighting, and start investing our energies in evangelizing. Bible-believing, Jesus-loving, sin-repenting, mission-serving Christianity is not just about what we believe, but also about who we get excited for and what we emphasize: Jesus!
6. What’s next for you?
My priorities are 1. Christian, 2. Husband, 3. Father, and 4. Pastor. I’m always seeking, by God’s grace and with wise counsel from others, to keep these in order in very practical ways. With our five kids now ages seven through 16, we are in very crucial years where I have to be focused and present. This window of opportunity is not open forever. Also, our church continues to mature and expand, which requires a lot of time and energy. I’ve handed off a lot of my other duties to focus on these priorities for the next season, as I want to stick close to Jesus, Grace, our Fab Five, and the church family. In 2014, I’m very excited to preach through James, learning about Jesus from his bold little brother. I’m asking Jesus to allow us to baptize more people than ever, and we’re opening new churches in three different states: Washington, Arizona, and California. There are many other wonderful things I could be doing, but for now I want to do a few things well by God’s grace as I grow and learn along the way.
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Take a deeper look into the realities of the modern church: download Driscoll’s latest book, A Call to Resurgence: Will Christianity Have a Funeral or a Future? for 40% off on Vyrso!
Then check out his other best-selling titles, including Real Marriage, Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe, and Who Do You Think You Are? Finding Your True Identity in Christ.