January 16, 2021

Review: Confessions of a Reformission Rev by Mark Driscoll

Confessions of a Reformission Rev.: Hard Lessons from an Emerging Missional Church (The Leadership Network Innovation)For those who dream of seeing the gospel take new root in a postmodern, pagan America, Mark Driscoll has written a superb, exciting and impressively helpful book.

A few days ago I read an interview with Covenant Life Church pastor Josh Harris, and he was asked what he had to say to young church planters. His answer: “Just keep saying to yourself, I’m not Mark Driscoll.”

From one standpoint, that’s good advice. Driscoll’s Mar’s Hill Church in Seattle is THE story among younger evangelicals these days. Everyone wants to say Driscoll is on their team. The Truly Reformed watchboys at Fide-o proclaimed Driscoll a “Fideo-ite” several weeks ago. (Note to Reformed friends: If you have problems with the “tone” of the BHT, DON’T get near this book.) Driscoll’s name is still tossed around by the Mclarenesque faction at Emergent, even though Driscoll has made his parting of the ways very plain (especially in the book being reviewed.) Fans of John Piper can legitimately say that Driscoll is one of their own, as Driscoll seems eager to get Piper in front of as many of his young pastors as possible. I won’t be surprised to see a story in Baptist Press that Driscoll is actually a Southern Baptist missions success story, and the Mars Hill sound system was purchased with Lottie Moon money.

In fact, being Mark Driscoll may not be what you want at all. In his new book, Driscoll narrates the story of Mars Hill Church and his leadership of the roller coaster ride from a few people in his living room to 4,000 and growing. If anything becomes clear in this book, it’s how many mistakes, screw-ups, blow-ups, sins, near and actual disasters litter the trail to Mars Hills’s success. I can’t think of a better book for any young minister, because Driscoll is bluntly honest about what a mess he’s been, and how his problems- small and large, common and unique- are part of the story of what God is doing. It’s the polar opposite of the polished pastor tale. It’s Animal House for church planters, with Belushi as the eventual good guy.

Driscoll could have made good money as a stand up comic. (In fact, he says the best homiletics lessons he ever received were going to see Chris Rock.) He writes with sass, sarcasm, wit, innuendo, crass humor, street language and little concern for the sensitivities of taste. If Lifeway wouldn’t sell a delirious record for saying “she’s as pretty as hell,” I can’t image what they will do with Driscoll’s descriptions of masturbatory behavior and various kinds of sex.

Some will say this is being cute, even immature, and they may be right. Mark Driscoll is unrepentant about his contempt for feminized evangelical men (some of these rants are priceless) and his determination to produce real guys with guy sensibilities. This is a pastor far more at home on “The Man Show” than the set of TBN.

What’s important here is a compelling, entertaining, educational, emotionally exciting story of a church and the people who make it up. Driscoll has a trademark of making missional conversions the forefront of what he has to say about the church. He’s ruthless in identifying the diseases that kill churches and turn them into museums and mental hospitals. He talks about choices in ministry and church leadership that you didn’t hear about in seminary.

In other words, this is a book with street cred as far as missional ministry is concerned. TR watchbloggers: read this book, and if you don’t freak out, you will once and for all understand what missional, emerging churches CAN BE all about. Please- if the TR blogosphere will read this book, it will save a lot of needless, wasted, hurtful ink. You’ll either hate it (“He lets people smoke at Bible studies?”) or you’ll love it (“He let people smoke at Bible studies!”) Either way, this IS the story of the shift that is going on all around you. It is proof positive that the most influential person in the emerging church is NOT going to be Brian Mclaren. Sorry!

This is a book so honest and so persuasive in its narrative that you could give it to a non-Christian and quite likely have a major impact on that person’s life. Yes, the story of a church and a pastor that describes the missional realities of the emerging church’s approach to culture so well that a person in that culture can feel the passionate love of Jesus Christ in every word.

Mark Driscoll is a diamond in the rough. He will certainly say many things that will make some people wince and he will probably be controversial as much as influential and inspirational. This is a book that makes a wonderful contribution to the current interest in church planting and missional ministry. Don’t give it to the old ladies in your women’s missionary circle. But give it to the people who dream about actually reaching the men of your city or town with the Gospel. They will appreciate every word.

A great book. And no one gave me a copy to say that 🙂


  1. Michael,

    I loved this book too. It was very informative. I went to Mars Hill’s website and listened to a few of Driscoll’s messages. I was surprised at how “normal” the guy was. Thanks for the review.

  2. I actually just recieved this book at the Reform and Resurgence up at Mars hill last week. I started it and have found it good so far. Where the difficulty lies for me is in the exact words of Josh Harris whom I also heard speak, “Remember you are not Mark Driscoll”.
    You see I am in sales therefore marketing for me is a way of life. This methodolgy right or wrong is just what it takes to grow a big church these days. I spent a lot of time talking to people at the conference who go to the church and found a cult like following of Driscoll. He is a VERY COOL guy and easy to like, which I am sorry to say made me respond adversly.
    I hope the best for Mars Hill and I know a lot of people will be challenged by this book. We all need to be challenged

  3. I think it is a bold step to say that Mark Driscoll is going to be a large voice in the emerging church movement. His perspective on women in ministry, the bible, and Calvinism, all tend to go against what a lot of emerging churches are trying to do. When I attended the emerging church conference most people where not talking about that Mars Hill, they were talking about the Mars Hill in Michigan, Rob Bell’s Church, or the seminary in Seattle (not tied to the church). However I do think he will sell well to the “we want to hip and emerging, but women pastors freak us out crowd, or we want Calvin, or the bible needs to be the three I’s (infallibly, inerrant, inspired) or it isn’t the word of God, or we know who’s going to hell, crowd. These groups will have a harder time switching over to a more modest (humble) Post-modern emerging church theology (Dare I say a less generous orthodoxy). Even the idea of beaming in sermons seems to be opposite of the community the emerging church is trying to form. Or perhaps if you read his comments about the faith Doug Pagitt & Karen Ward you might see his lack of humilty on issues (He did aplogize which is great, and I do think higher of him for that.) I think the larger voices of the Emerging Church will continue to be McLaren, Doug Pagitt, Scot McKnight, Rob Bell, and Tony Jones.

  4. Scott Eaton says

    Does it really matter if Driscoll has a voice in the emergent movement? He has a voice in the Christian movement. He is a voice for truly biblical Christianity. He is a voice for sound theology and biblical fidelity combined with missional relevancy. Big whoop if he runs with Pagitt, McKnight, Bell, Jones, or McLaren. They may have larger voices, but are they faithful voices? I think Driscoll would do well to continue blazing a new trail whether it is called emergent or not. Younger leaders and progressive thinkers who are also concerned with biblical fidelity will follow.

    By the way, when did hard hitting and confrontational speech become an indicator of a lack of humility? The apostle Paul was a bit forward when he told the Galatians to cut it off! Does Driscoll need to learn some humility? I’m sure he does (he who is without sin cast the first stone). Was he wise in all of his comments about McLaren? Unfortunately no. But God help us if he stops speaking truthfully and boldly about social and moral issues which are clear in Scripture. Surely we need one “emergent” leader who is not confused.

  5. On smoking in Bible studies…my son smoked and struggles with it.

    Instead of encouraging him, a “smoker’s Bible study” would make it more difficult.

    It’s just a thought.

  6. Scott,
    You are exactly right about Driscoll in so many ways. The sad part (or happy depending how you look at it) is what you are right about is the same reasons a lot of younger people don’t want to listen to him. And you are right about him being a voice for christainty the problem is why does someone who dislikes the emerging church movement so much consider himself part of it. Why is it whenever he writes an article about it (see Criswell Theological Review) he divides the emerging church into a us vs. them (liberal vs. conservative), when most of the emerging churches are trying to overcome those basic labels by being in community with each other regardless. He has plenty of people who love him, love his books, and love his view of “truly biblical Christianity” and always will. Just as Pat Robertson has people who will always listen to him, and so does McLaren. The choice comes to what type of leader you want to follow, and what type of issues are worth alienating people over, and whether we should take humility in light of the whole bible, or be bold on a certain moral issue (I don’t say social because I am not sure I have ever heard him talk about some real social issues ie the Darfur, AIDs Crisis in Africa. unfair trade). But aside from that I am sure he is a great guy and a great pastor, and I wish his minstry the best.

  7. GerryBreshears says

    There are three legs to any good church stool: confessional (faithful to the biblical witness in theology and world view), experiential (Community of the Spirit who regenerates and unifies) and missional (following the mission of Jesus to reach lost and hurting people).

    A good thing Mark does, following a suggestion from Dan Kimball, is give McLaren and friends the term Emergent (as in Emergent Village who are generally theologically unplugged) and use the term Emerging for those who want all three legs in their churches.

    Significant difference in any of these three areas will make it hard to associate in anything more than a superficial way, it seems to me. So I think Mark is right on target.

    Gerry Breshears

  8. Mark has something in his nature, his character, that too many pastors try to create and manipulate with methodology; Mark has credibility. He has credibility because he speaks plainly … sometimes a little too salty, and I consider that a weakness, not a strength … but younger people in the real world can relate to him. He’s unapologetically real about his business, but sensible enough to remain grounded in the tradition of reformational truths. That’s a powder keg of a combination.

    In a world with so many people under 40 getting their news and political opinions from Jay Leno, David Letterman, and Jon Stewart, a pastor like Mark Driscoll makes total sense to me.

  9. Love Driscoll’s book.
    It’s time we come to grips and accept that our pastors are really just regular guys like us. We shouldn’t expect them to be anything but; so they struggle and have weaknesses and sometimes get pissed off and cuss? Well so do I. Get over it.

    Another ‘confession’ book from a pastor I recommend is “Confessions of a Pastor” by Craig Groeschel–unrelated to Driscoll’s book but just as effective in tearing down our foolish misconceptions of what a pastor should look like.


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