It’s time for me to come out and just say it: I like you, Mark Driscoll.
I like you a lot.
This isn’t exactly a piece of groundbreaking news for those who’ve known me for any length of time, but it feels good to say it out loud. For some, I just made a dangerous confession, which is odd considering we’re talking about a guy who has gone to great lengths to avoid sugar coating and watering down the truth for a world who needs the gospel in its purest form.
Still, the jury will always be out on Driscoll. His sharp, sarcastic wit and dry, humorous delivery of God’s Word will undoubtedly preserve his reputation as a polarizing figure in the evangelical world for years to come. And that’s what I like about him. I like that he has taken our sanitized, processed, lovey-dovey art of modern day Bible preaching and turned it a little on its head. I love hearing a guy blessed with the same bluntness as guys like Elijah, John the Baptist and Jonathan Edwards bless us by being faithful to the gift he’s been given.
Not everyone feels this way. Although some may agree with Driscoll’s clear proclamation of the gospel, they disagree with his style of contextualization. In regards to Driscoll’s tendency toward “crude” language, some feel that there are things that gospel ministers never need talk about.
Never need talk about? At what point does the gospel preclude us from talking about any and all things related to the experience of fallen, depraved human beings? In other words, if we believe the gospel has implications for every facet of our lives, shouldn’t ministers of the gospel feel compelled to saturate and apply it to every facet of our lives without trying to “pretty it up”? Do we silence our mouths over uncomfortable questions and gross realities for fear that what comes out may be too raw and uncensored?
Most importantly, can we be abusing grace in the process?
We tend to think of grace as something that is soft, smooth and soothing, like the sound of ocean waves breaking delicately over the sand at dusk. Sometimes it is, and for that we rejoice and say amen. But grace is also what exposes the deathly horror that our sin truly is. It’s the bluntness of grace in our lives that shocked us into seeing Jesus as our only hope against the ravages of sin, death and despair. Jesus gently healed a blind man, violently overturned tables in the temple, and was savagely beaten and bloodied before being hung on a cross. In all of this we see God’s love and grace displayed in all of its bright and blunt glory. If it was anything less, our hope would be, too.
By all means, let’s have wisdom and discernment. Let’s make sure our speech is gracious and seasoned with salt when ministering to the diversity of people God has given us to care for, but let’s be careful about being too careful. We rightfully criticize Joel Osteen for his sickly sweet smile, power of positive thinking ethos and prosperity soaked gospel. We’re disgusted that he not only dodges the truth in his preaching, but that he speaks in a language completely disconnected from the gut wrenching realities of life. Do we do the same thing by the way we package and present the true gospel of grace? Are we dodging issues the church has deemed “untouchable”, instead of being more honest, courageous and bold?
Are we losing crucial ministry opportunities because protecting our image is more important to us? We like to say we fear God, but is it the fear of man that’s actually giving us the shivers? These are questions we need to ask boldly and answer bluntly if we want the gospel to saturate every facet of our lives, and the lives of others.
So what’s stopping us?
It’s far easier to attack someone like Driscoll for his blunt honesty, while failing to see the impact he’s having on a generation that is leery of big churches skirting the big issues. I appreciate that he’s using his gracious gift of bluntness to further the gospel and bless many who need sharp answers for hard questions. I wish I saw more of it.
Whatever our calling, this scandalous truth remains: while we were yet sinners, Christ came and died for us.
Let us not be any less blunt than that.