She’s done the impossible

Pastor_Mark_Driscoll

This weekend, Mark Driscoll broke the Internet in half. Again.

It wasn’t because he put his foot in his mouth (this time)—but because of a rather heated interview on The Janet Mefferd Show where the host spent the better part of 15 minutes accusing him of plagiarism due to insufficiently crediting Dr. Peter Jones for his considerable influence on portions of A Call to Resurgence (reviewed here).

And then things got a bit crazy online. Some Driscoll defenders declared Mefferd a liar. Some of his critics seemed ready to form a lynch mob. (Incidentally, probably the most balanced piece of coverage has come from Jonathan Merritt.) I found myself in a weird place listening to the interview. Here’s what I mean:

1. I was glad to hear someone willing to ask a high-profile Christian author challenging questions. Too many interviews I’ve read (and even conducted) have been full of softball questions. They don’t really get to the heart of a concern, but come across as the sanitized questions of someone hoping to start a bromance. Or maybe the questions you’d ask on a first date.

As interviewers, we need to do better—and a big part of that is asking meaningful questions. Let’s stop with the silly platitudes and actually deal with concerns. The benefit is you may give the interviewee an opportunity to correct himself if he’s said something in error, or you might receive beneficial clarification.

There also appears to be a disturbing lack of accountability for some pastors and authors, which desperately needs to change, something Carl Trueman points out well. Regardless of whether or not there’s an issue in their churches (and in some cases I wouldn’t be surprised if there were), those of us on the outside must be careful not to treat high-profile people as untouchable, if for no other reason than it reveals we may have a nasty case of idolatry on our hands.

2. I was surprised Driscoll lasted as long as he did on the call. Mefferd says he hung up. Driscoll says he was still there. Regardless of who is right, if it were me—and I say this as someone who has appeared on Janet’s show and had a very positive experience—I likely wouldn’t have stayed on the call as long as he did. While I get, and even agree to some degree, with Mefferd’s concern in addressing the citation (I think he could have been far more clear than a single footnote), he did something pretty unexpected: he said he’d look into it and correct the error if one was made. In fact, he said he’d do it four times.

After the first time, you’d think they could’ve moved on. Instead, it went on far longer than it should have—and I don’t believe either side will come out looking better as a result.

3. Sometimes it’s just easier to think the worst of Driscoll. This is the thing that was most troubling to me—there are a lot of people out there who, no matter what he did, no matter how sincere his apology, nothing Driscoll could say on anything would ever be enough. Some people just want to see him as the villain.

Driscoll’s done himself no favors in this area. He’s said and done, and continues to say and do, some pretty bone-headed things, even in this book (I noted some of my more significant concerns in my review). But you know what I found myself struggling with listening to this interview? The temptation to write off his comments as mere platitudes, instead of taking his statements as genuine. And that’s not okay. If Driscoll is a brother in the Lord, shouldn’t we be willing to give him the benefit of the doubt?1

At the same time, it’s clear not everyone has this reaction. In fact, I’ve been surprised to see a number of folks, not exactly rush to his defense, but show sympathy toward him. I think Joe Carter summed it up well in one of the many debates I saw (and the only one I engaged in), when he said Janet Mefferd “has done what many people would have thought was impossible: She makes people feel sorry for Driscoll.”2

In the end, I’m not entirely certain the “did he or didn’t he” question is even the right question to be asking in the whole Driscoll/Mefferd dust-up. Instead, maybe our question should really be: how do we fix the problem of “celebrity-ism” that’s seeped into the church?

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Here are a few Kindle deals I’ve found for y’all:

The First Stone

Julian Freeman:

It still amazes me how little the church of Christ can sometimes actually look like Christ. And I say that as a leader of the church, myself bearing the brunt of the blame.

The hypocritical media and self-appointed moral police of our city have brought a man before us who has been caught (on video) in sin. Death threats, drunken stupors, and binges of crack-cocaine — all from a man who should be an example and a leader. They have set this man in our midst. They are testing us, as a society now. It’s clear how the majority of our city feel. As a church, how will we respond to Mayor Rob Ford?

Why a Spurgeon doc?

Nate Smoyer interviews my pal Stephen McCaskell about his Kickstarter campaign for Through the Eyes of Spurgeon. Here’s an excerpt:

Why is Charles Spurgeon so important to make a film about him?

Charles Spurgeon has written more than any author, living or dead. His passion for the gospel in every aspect of his life is something to be admired and imitated. In his lifetime he preached to over 10,000,000 people the good news of Jesus’ loving sacrifice for sinners. This timeless message is the same hope that we as Christians have today. In discovering and unpacking Spurgeon’s life my hope is that others will be encouraged, challenged, convicted and brought into a deeper understanding of the gospel.

How to live in a secular culture

Dave Bruskas:

Christians are a minority in our secular culture, which largely doesn’t honor Jesus. That’s not going to change, but there’s an ongoing debate among Christians about how we approach a secular culture that doesn’t agree with us about Jesus.

As we think about our relationship with our society, it’s important to remember we too were once far from God, but he saved us through his grace. It’s with this grace in mind that Paul teaches us, through his letter to Titus, how we should respond to a secular society.

Train Your Leaders: A Conversation with Barnabas Piper

Trevin Wax:

Trevin Wax: In my experience, it seems like many pastors and church leaders think in terms of programs, and then they look for volunteers who can run the programs. Why is it important to train the people who serve in our churches, and how can this overcome an overly programmatic mindset for ministry?

Barnabas Piper: Programs can serve as valuable frameworks within churches, creating avenues for people to serve. But just as often they can limit a person’s effectiveness, kind of the way a menu tells what you can order at a restaurant but also limits your choices. Churches that have created a limited “menu” have essentially ruled out many people from using the unique gifts God has given them.

By emphasizing training – the development of gifts and calling to serve – churches are moving toward becoming a healthy body. Instead of having a limited number of pieces doing most of the work, it becomes a healthy whole with each person doing what God designed him or her to do.

Ministry Grid exists to help churches train every person and to do away with that limited menu of ministry options so that the whole church becomes a true body serving one another and ultimately serving Christ.

Sit in Front of Your Savior: An Interview with Author Nate Palmer

Nate Palmer is a husband, father of three young kids from Dallas, TX. In addition to working for the software firm SAP, he pursuing his M.A. in Religion online from Reformed Theological Seminary and has had articles published in Modern Reformation and Reformed Perspectives Magazine.

Nate’s new book, Servanthood as Worship, is now available from Cruciform Press. He graciously agreed to take some time and answer a few questions about the process of writing the book, why you should read it and what’s next.


1. What led you to want to write on service as worship in the first place?

As I wrote in the opening chapter, after an initial burst of excitement after being saved I began to really struggle with serving in the local church. I knew something was wrong and that I couldn’t continue like this. Around that time our church in California decided to send a church planting team to Texas. My wife and I felt God calling us to go with them. I knew this embryonic church would need people to serve a lot more than in an established church, but I questioned if I could do that. I knew I couldn’t serve in the condition I was in. I felt as if I would be a dead weight to the church and a liability to my pastor. So I went to my pastor and told him how I was struggling. We talked, prayed, and read some scriptures. As I was leaving his office, I asked him if there was a more in depth resource I could read – to which he replied that other than a few chapters in various books (he wisely pointed me to a chapter in Donald Whitney’s book) that he didn’t know any. So I decided to write my own – I guess the old saying “necessity is the mother of invention” applied in this case.

2. When Cruciform Press picked up the book, what was your initial reaction? Your family’s?

I was absolutely thrilled, shocked, and scared all at the same time. I mean I am a nobody – no platform to speak of, just an ordinary guy who wrote a book on something he stunk at – and here a publisher was picking my little book. My wife, who has been really supportive during the 5 years of writing and rewriting this, was proud and excited for me.

3. What challenges did you find writing this book, if any?

The challenge is to fully cover such a deep subject and feel like I have done it justice.

4. You write about the shift that happened in your own life and attitude toward service, that you from “thrilled to ambivalent to resentful to selfishly ambitious,” all in the span of a few months. Would you say this is a unique experience to you or is it something that’s far too common?

From what I have seen and heard, my experience is not so unique. My attitude shift may have happened faster than most, but everyone at some point feels the same frustrations. It is so common that we even have a term for it called burn-out. [Read more...]

"I Must Never Again Let the Resurrection Become Something I Assume" – An Interview with Adrian Warnock

Adrian Warnock is a longtime staple of the blogosphere. His website, AdrianWarnock.com started in April of 2003 and is home to more than 3500 articles. Married with five children and a medical doctor by trade, Adrian is part of the leadership team of Jubilee church, a multicultural church in London, England, where he has preached regularly for more than ten years.

His first book, Raised with Christ: How the Resurrection Changes Everything, was published by Crossway in January 2010.

A few weeks back, I had the opportunity to read and review Adrian’s book and he has graciously agreed to come by and answer a few questions.

You’re a husband and a father. You serve on your church’s leadership team. You’re a doctor. You preach. You write. How on earth do you manage to balance everything in your life?

I think that one of the main reasons is that I have a very hard working wife who frees me up to focus on all these things. To be honest I also get a lot of help from various people. I am not sure that many books have more acknowledgments than mine. In particular, I have a volunteer editor who helps me with many of my writing projects before they see the publisher or the light of day.

Similarly at church, most of what I do is encourage other leaders to serve God’s purpose. Good team work at home, at church, and at work goes a long way towards getting a lot done. I do work from home, so I don’t have the burden of a daily commute. I also try to use things more than once, so that sermon prep also becomes blog fodder, for example. I don’t watch very much TV either, and to be honest, when things are really busy, sometimes I sleep less than I should.

But I am not sure I do manage to balance everything very well at all times! Someone once said, “If you want something done, ask somebody who is already busy.” I do feel sometimes that I am trying to do too many things, so am trying to learn to say “no” more often.

You’ve run a blog for a number of years now and written a number of book reviews. How does it feel to be on the receiving end, as it were?

It is a real privilege that anyone would want to read anything I have written. When they not only read it, but comment on it, that is so helpful. In fact, even the few that have been a bit critical have helped me. I really believe that our critics serve us more than we realize. Sometimes they say something that helps us see either a weakness in our argument or realize that something we said in one way is being interpreted in an entirely different way! [Read more...]

Signing Bibles and Sweating to Avril Lavigne: An interview with Matthew Paul Turner

Matthew Paul Turner is a blogger, speaker, and author of Churched: One Kid’s Journey Toward God Despite a Holy Mess, The Christian Culture Survival Guide, and several other popular books. His latest, Hear No Evil: My Story of Innocence, Music and the Holy Ghost, was officially released yesterday by Waterbrook Press (read the review here). Turner attended Nashville’s Belmont University, where he received a BBA in music business, and is the former editor of CCM magazine. Turner has written for Relevant, HomeLife, Christian Single, and other magazines.  

Online, he’s perhaps best known for his blog, “Jesus Needs New PR,” where he regularly pokes fun at some of the more silly aspects of the Christian subculture, as well as his running commentary on shows like The Bachelor and American Idol on Twitter. Love him or loathe him, Turner gets people’s attention (and a laugh while he’s at it).  

Today’s a special day, because he’s joining us over here for an interview, and I’m giving away a copy of Hear No Evil (provided by Waterbrook Press)! The giveaway details follow the interview. Enjoy!  


 AA: I’m not from a Christian background, so it’s been interesting/bizarre to read about your experiences in such a conservative setting. Because you’ve quite obviously gotten out of the bubble, how do you navigate the tendency to “overcorrect” that can happen?  

MPT: Though it might come across this way to some, I don’t write in hopes of “pro-actively” correcting my past (though it has helped me heal), I write to simply tell my story. Of course, that’s not to say that some people don’t read what I write and “see” that written in the context. I suppose if I’m tempted to “over correct,” it’s in my desire to not exclude anybody from God’s story. And to protect and defend those who most often get excluded. I spent years hating a lot of people and excluding them from God’s story, and I’m certain I probably go too far once in a while in hopes of making that right.  

Did you seriously have people sign your Bible?  

Yes. Mostly evangelists. After they would speak, there’d be long lines of people waiting to get their Bibles signed.  

Have you ever found an answer to why Dylan has a career?  

Sure. He’s a fantastic thinker, poet, and champion of ideas… but I still don’t think he’s a good singer. :)  

What’s the weirdest song you have ever seen co-opted for a church service?  

Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated”– to make it worse, there was a guy who was interpreting the song with sign language. And I am not lying, when the girl finished singing and he finished signing, HE was covered in sweat. Forehead, shirt, armpits–all wet from attempting to translate a Christianized version of Avril’s song to the three hearing impaired people who were at church that day. [Read more...]

Craving More of Jesus: A Q&A with Chris Tomlinson

Chris Tomlinson is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Acadamy and the UCLA Anderson School of Business. He lives in North Virginia with his wife, Anna, and is the author of the newly-released Crave: Wanting So Much More of God.

But if there’s one thing you need to know about him, it’s that he really loves Jesus and wants you to love Him, too.

(Okay, maybe that’s two things.)

Chris and his publisher, Harvest House, were kind enough to include me in the blog tour in support of the book, and he has graciously agreed to take part in a short Q&A.

Enjoy the interview and look for the review tomorrow.


What was the greatest challenge you faced writing this book?

Writing this book was a tremendous joy and an enormous challenge. I think there are two ways to get at this, and there’s nuance to both.

In one way, the actual writing was both easy and hard—easy because the words often just seemed to flow onto the page, and hard because going back and putting those words into their final form for the book was a slow, painful process. I once heard that the hardest part of writing is in the re-writing, and I’ve found this to be true. So the two years it took to rewrite the book (twice) posed a huge challenge to my ability to be a good disciple, husband, worker, and friend.

In another way, the writing of this book opened up the sinfulness of my heart in entirely new ways. I never knew how much I longed for affirmation from people rather than God. I never knew how hard it would be to accept praise on God’s behalf for the gift He has given me to be used for His glory. I never knew how self-absorbed I would become during the promotional phase of the book. Dealing with this kind of sin has been a challenge as well, but one I am embracing, through confession and meditation, as a means towards greater Christ-likeness. [Read more...]

A Real Alternative Lifestyle: Petra

This week, A Real Alternative Lifestyle continues. This week, we hear from Petra, a 24-year-old woman in Ontario, Canada.

Aaron: How did you become a Christian?

Petra: At an Acquire the Fire Conference when I was fifteen.

Aaron: What does it mean to have a biblical worldview?

Petra: I try to live as Christ has taught me to live. I take the moral of the stories that he told his disciples, the character of God, the complete Word, leaving nothing out, and the commandments and apply them daily to the way I live. I don’t accept everything I am told by the world as truth but rather listen to what the Lord and the Bible tell me is true. There is absolute truth that exists in the world, and so as long as I allow the absolute truth to guide my worldview: God is good, He cares for me, turn the other cheek, bless those who curse you, etc. then everything else can be relative. It’s easy for me to be counter cultural, because I’ve never enjoyed doing what everyone else is doing. But what I’m realizing more and more is that the thought pattern of the majority of the world is upside down. I cannot cling to the changing nature of society. It’s too transient, too mutable, and unstable. So, I try to change my thought pattern and listen to the Word. [Read more...]