Although I am always interested in most things Mark Driscoll writes or preaches I had no intention of purchasing Vintage Church. But after a recent course in Missiology I’ve been thinking much about church planting and missions, and have had many questions as to the “how’s” and “where’s” and “why’s” of the subject in general. To be specific, if I were ever to plant a church in a city in the U.S. or abroad, where would I begin? How would I (and some close friends Lord willing) start such a thing? Knowing that Driscoll has successfully planted a church (and continues to plant more), and after reading an endorsement for the book by Driscoll himself, I decided to give it a try with hopes of learning from Driscoll’s experience at Mars Hill. I picked up the book from Lifeway, quickly discarded the dust jacket (very annoying), and dove in.
Vintage Church is part of a series of works by Resurgence Literature (Re:Lit) and published by Crossway. The first book to appear in this series was Vintage Jesus, which I skimmed but have not yet read. As the titles suggest, “Jesus” and “Church” are timeless and timely; that is, although ancient they speak the same truths to our culture and generation. Yet whereas Vintage Jesus sought to provide timeless answers to timely questions, Vintage Church seeks to combine timeless truths with timely methods in order to provide a biblical, attractive and influential model of “doing church.” Like Vintage Jesus and Death by Love (see my review here), Driscoll co-writes with professor Gerry Breshears of Western Seminary. Driscoll writes the bulk of each chapter and Breshears provides answers to expected and common questions at the end of the chapters, which are listed below:
1. What is the Christian Life?
2. What is a Christian Church?
3. Who is Supposed to Lead a Church?
4. Why is Preaching Important?
5. What Are Baptism and Communion?
6. How Can a Church be Unified?
7. What is Church Discipline?
8. How is Love Expressed in a Church?
9. What is a Missional Church?
10. What is a Multi-campus Church?
11. How Can a Church Utilize Technology?
12. How Could the Church Help Transform the World?
As you can see, any seminary student can answer the first 8 or 9 questions, or at least I hope they can. In this sense there is nothing new to learn in Vintage Church. Driscoll is clearly influenced by reformed theology and most matters of church polity and practice follow suit. Throughout the book he quotes from Grudem, Piper, Erickson and Calvin, which is to be expected. There are, of course, the open-handed differences that distinguish one denomination from another, such as credobaptism over paedobaptism, complementarian over egalitarian (maybe not so open-handed), male and female deacons (Driscoll holds to both), and the expressions of the Spirit in tongues and prophecy (also held by Driscoll). But for the most part his ecclesiology is thoroughly evangelical and God-honoring. The only unique material comes from Driscoll’s anecdotes and personal stories, which are always enjoyable, and from the final 3 or 4 chapters. To that end I don’t necessarily recommend the book, mostly because I don’t see the necessity of another book on ecclesiology. Certainly the church must change and adapt to the culture around them, that is agreed. But why waste 300 pages regurgitating what has already been written? Moreover, don’t we already have enough books floating around about missional, multi-campus, technologically advanced churches? Perhaps I’m being overly simplistic. I’ll leave that up for you to decide. Maybe I’m not “vintage” enough.
In the end, I had more fun reading the many “driscollisms” splattered throughout Vintage Church than the rest of the book. The man has an uncanny ability at turning a phrase. Here are some highlights:
“The people who showed up [in my early church plant] were generally non-Christians, new Christians, legalistic Christians, anti-Christians, and bitter, burned-out, de-churched maybe-Christians who all wanted to be in authority over themselves and do whatever they wanted in the name of community, which was code for mini-riot anarchy.”
“I once visited a church that gave me a free copy of the pastor’s sermon – on tape – even though I have not seen a tape player since the days when Michael Jackson was male. Looking around the room at the obvious lack of anyone younger than Methuselah, it seemed obvious that their traditionalism had run off emerging generations, thereby dividing their church into the two groups of BT (before tapes) and AT (after tapes).”
“The fact is that when our church was small, I, like many jealous, petty, and ill-informed young buck who know everything but have done nothing, liked to take my shots at well-known pastors of large churches. Now that I am one, I must confess that I was much like the out-of-shape guy with a bowl of chips sitting at home on the couch watching television and criticizing trained professional athletes, which is far easier than actually playing the sport.”
“Admittedly, churches do some incredibly goofy things when they pursue relevance for the sake of being uber hip and ultra cool. one pastor I know go so many piercings that he looked like a rack of lures at the Bass Pro Shop and started skateboarding, despite the fact he was a grandfather.”