I listened to Mark Driscoll's — what would you call it? Not a sermon, exactly. Nor an address. Sort of a talk. Really, more of a vent, or a catharsis. Anyway, whatever it was, he gave it at The Gospel Coalition, it is online, I listened, and I shared my impressions here.
Now I have one more thought which, I think and hope, will be instructive for us all.
I was reflecting on the talk/vent/rant, and I imagined another conference. By a multiple-miracle, this is another convention, featuring John Calvin, John Knox, Charles Spurgeon, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and Mark Driscoll. They all can speak English, and they all present sermons.
When Calvin finishes, all the others say "Amen. Glory to God. Christ was exalted."
Knox finishes, and all say the same. Spurgeon, the same. Lloyd-Jones, the same.
Driscoll then gets up to speak. He offers the exact talk he just gave at the Gospel Coalition.
When he sits down, there is silence, and blinking. After a moment, John Calvin leans forward, a finger raised. He wants to ask a question. Driscoll nods to him. Calvin clears his throat. His question is:
"And you are...?"Now I know what you're thinking. I would think exactly the same. You are thinking, "Phillips... dude... you don't think they'd say the exact same thing to you?"
I'm glad you asked that question!
No, you are absolutely right. They wouldn't know me from Alley Oop. And here's my point: my prayer would be that it wouldn't matter.
My prayer would be that I would preach Christ (Colossians 1:27-28), that I would preach the Word of God (2 Timothy 4:1-2), in such a way that it didn't matter who was doing the preaching. That they would not have to know all about me — my temperament, my trials, my sufferings, my gnarled life — in order to understand what I was preaching. That I would preach not myself, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and myself as their servant. (And so, that anything they did know of me would not detract from my preaching.)
And that is what sticks with me and troubles me about Driscoll's talk. It was about him, to a large degree. He was the backdrop, context, and refrain.
I think about the others I've heard. Keller? Preached Christ as the idol-smasher. I didn't have to know anything about Keller. M'man Lig Duncan? Preached Christ's grace and power. I didn't have to know anything about Lig Duncan. Ditto John Piper. Ditto every other I've heard from the conference.
Or take D. A. Carson. Now, there's a man who's had a positive, constructive Christian life! Pastoral work, academics, world travel; towering international scholar, evangelist. And what did he do when he took the podium? Brief word, then dove right into the text. At the end, he illustrated the text with a few vignettes from his life.
Now, here's the thing. You don't know my heart, most of you. The Driscoll Defense-Squad will say I'm bashing, attacking. Honestly I don't mean to. I know this is a hard word, I've hesitated about sharing it, and I say it reluctantly.
I pray for Mark Driscoll. I think he's taken a really worrisome, dangerous turn. I think he was offered some very credible, loving, necessary, sober, mature, Biblical criticism that he really hated to hear. Instead of humbling himself like a wise man, taking it to heart, dealing forthrightly, and being the better for it, he's built Fort Driscoll, and I don't think everything's happiness and light inside. If he doesn't deal forthrightly, I just don't see good things ahead. In that scenario, nobody wins.
The First Rule of Holes is: when you're in one, stop digging.
Now, I wish honesty didn't compel me to say this, but I can identify, though from a vastly smaller arena, and not one in which everyone in the universe seemingly was watching and holding up score cards. One pastorate was particularly difficult for me. I felt myself embattled. When you're under fire, you come to see the text through the filter of your battle, and you run the risk of producing pesher instead of exposition. You and your pain color everything, and that's not good in any language. So yeah, I pray for Driscoll. You should too.
And now I say this: brothers, pray for yourselves, too. Pray God that He fill your eyes and heart with Christ and His word. Go up there to preach Him and it. Preach so that Calvin or the others wouldn't care that they didn't know you. Preach so that no one has to know much of anything about you, in order to know Christ and God's Word better as a result of your sermon.
Otherwise, really, what are we in it for?