Let me preface what I'm about to say:
I love Mark Driscoll and admire his ministry. As a preacher, I admire how the man pulls no punches when he speaks. As a pastor, I listen closely when he speaks on effective pastoral leadership. As a Christian, I thank God for the man's podcasts and Bible teaching that feed my life (sure, there's the issue of Driscoll's Calvinist theology that I strenuously disagree with, but hey . . . no one's got absolutely perfect theology, right? Except perhaps Luther. And LC-MS Lutherans. But I digress . . . :) )
But in this article from FoxNews, I think Driscoll's got just one thing--one rather small thing--wrong.
Driscoll, in my opinion, is spot-on for his region of the country and where he routinely ministers. In those places (and in others), the long-useless brand of nominal, culturally-influenced "Christendom" (his term) is indeed dead. Where Driscoll serves, I believe that there is a strong distinction between authentic Christ-followers and people who formerly would have been mere church-goers . . . people who have not had a life-transforming relationship with the living God
But that's not quite as true in rural mid-America.
The Scriptures speak of people who are hearers of the Word, but not doers. In other words, people to whom the Word is preached, people who are in church regularly, but people for whom (for one reason or another) the Word has just not made a transforming impact on their lives. They consider themselves Christian, but in their minds the word means something other than what it is intended to mean: One who follows Christ. Who learns from His words. Whose life is constantly being shaped and molded, day in and day out, to resemble His.
It's these "hearers" that Driscoll calls "Christendom America." And he--rightfully so, in my opinion--rejoices over the fact that the number of people in that category are apparently diminishing nation-wide.
But again, it's a bit different story in rural mid-America. Here "Christendom America" is far from dead. Coughing, wheezing, and spluttering perhaps . . . but the beast is far from dead. Here in mid-America, far removed from cultural and urban centers, Christianity-as-culture still lives on.
There's good points to that, of course. It means that terms like "traditional morality" still mean something. That one-man, one-woman marriages for life are still kind of expected, that we're all still kind of shocked when our teens experiment with sex and/or drugs, that a good, honest day's work is still viewed as the best way to get a good, honest day's pay. Rural mid-America still has solid echoes of the simpler, easier times of the USA.
But where "Christendom America" fails, it does so completely. Because "Christendom America" uses religion and morality to innoculate people against the genuine repentance and faith of the transformed Christian. It believes that because it has the former, it can substitute it for the latter . . . and, in fact, it tragically sees no difference between the two.
So where Driscoll has the blessing of proclaiming the risen and ascended Christ to a proud and willfully pagan people, here in mid-America the pastors often fight a different battle. We fight the battle of apathy. We fight the battle of a lack of urgency. We fight the battle for souls that casually say "Lord, Lord" on Sunday, but who are woefully inadequate in Biblical knowledge, in spiritual growth, and in Christian maturity. All because they still believe that the religion and morality of "Christendom" and the transformational new life of "Christianity" are one and the same.
Yes, of course even in rural mid-America we see some of the same cultural shifts that Driscoll talks about. The fruits of the god "tolerance" and the shifting sands of relative truth impact us, as well. We do see signs that "Christendom" is dying off and that perhaps one day soon we'll be able to minister to people who at least know they are not Christian. Soon, perhaps, we'll also have the blessings that Mark Driscoll enjoys: we can stop trying to convince the casual church-goer that there is real power to be had in Christ's name and instead boldly proclaim His offer of life and salvation to those who sit in the darkness.
And I, for one, hope that day comes soon.