Thursday, July 17, 2008


Mark Driscoll had been most gracious and helpful in his previous sessions and would on his final main session drop a bombshell. It would seem the phrase that really caught our attention was "And now I will hurt you..." This talk would end in a very personal way to the family of Newfrontiers churches.


Mark addressed the issue of the progression of movements and it would soon be evident that his observations would be most direct as it relates to Newfrontiers as a movement. He began by challenging the UK Newfrontiers churches to think beyond the goal of 1000 churches and that we should be growing much more quickly than we presently are. He addressed his view of apostles today with a statement that he did not believe in apostles today with a capital "A" as the original Apostles wrote scripture. However, I would point out that it is important to note than not all the Apostles wrote scripture and the apostle Paul who was not one of the original twelve wrote much of the New Testament. Of course, we in Newfrontiers would agree with Driscoll and also see that the original Apostles stand in a different category from present day apostolic ministry. Driscoll stated his belief in present day apostles who lead movements and plant churches. He was clear that Terry Virgo was apostolic and noted the five thousand leaders present was good evidence of that fact.


Mark then made a strong case for reaching the major cities by seeing Paul as an example of this strategy. Mark challenged us that a strategy for the city was crucial as their are more people there and culture is made and flows from the city. He used the illustration of a river in that cities are upstream and therefore everything flows downstream into the rural areas from the city. If we want to transform culture we must start at the headwaters of the river which is the city. He determined that it is the type of people found in the city, those who have influence, the arts, the music, publications, the universities, the politicians, the academics, the students, and therefore reaching cities is vital to the transformation of culture in rural areas. Newfrontiers in the USA has a goal of planting one hundred reproducing churches in the top one hundred cities in the United States, with this view that these churches would multiply and be an instrument in affecting our nation and beyond.


Movements begin simply with a few "friends who club together." Then God raises up a leader who becomes the visible face that God has called to lead them. This then becomes the beginning of a movement. In this primitive state growth takes place, their is much zeal, a clear sense of purpose and mission which leads to even more growth. Soon their is a clarification of doctrine, practice and values that express a mutual vision.


A movement then experiences pressure to institutionalize. The Founder and his friends will occupy all the senior leadership positions. Ultimately those who are emerging young leaders may feel their is very little room for them and therefore the danger that those who feel marginalized may begin to leave the movement. It is at this stage that those in senior leadership positions must address whether they will make room for emerging young leaders.

Another danger is that the movement may close ranks and refuse to listen to others outside of the movement. A movement will have it's own style, publications, familiar and tested leaders and then attempt to guard what they have become secure in. Making room for other less mature, less tested and younger leaders will assist in avoiding the almost irresistible pull toward institutionalism. Actually, while those original founders and tested leaders of the movement are in place provides the best opportunity to father, coach and make room for those who now want a seat at the table. Driscoll commended Newfrontiers for their willingness to take risk and receive those outside Newfrontiers to speak into and receive seriously the input of those form the outside which is a key to avoiding institutionalism.


Following from institutionalism will result in becoming a museum. Now the emphasis is on history and conveying the story. Driscoll pointed out that this transition from institution to museum can happen in one generation.


1. Theologically

A drift that leads to compromising ecclesiology. Their is a ditch that derails on both sides of the road and therefore a movement can move to the left and become to loose or liberal. They can also move to the right and become far to tight and conservative. It is vital to never debate the primary sound doctrines of scripture but be very open to debate issues of a lesser importance. The difficulty comes when secondary issues become primary issues and therefore there is no room for debate and adjustment. However, the primary doctrines of the historic Christian faith are not to be tampered with.

2. Relationships

While Driscoll commended Newfrontiers on the above issues as being very healthy he noted that the issue of relationships was a concern. Relationships can become an end rather than a means to an end. We get derailed in the area of mission and maintaining our friendships becomes the mission. Mission as our primary function must not be sacrificed on the altar of friendship. I have had to face this issue with the tremendous friendships I have enjoyed on my own leadership team. Would I be willing to break up our team in order to send my friends to other places for the sake of the Great Commission? Of course, the Newfrontiers churches in the US are fully aware that we have been willing to do this for the sake of our mission. It is a very real joy to see these same friends flourish in the distant places of our nation and beyond into other nations as well as to note the progress of the gospel. Therefore it is paramount that local churches and our movement avoid the danger of relational resistance to the primary mission of planting churches and going into all the world to make disciples.

3. Organizational structure and systems.

While movements begin through relationships and personal verbal communication there comes a time when we must embrace systems and structures as a vehicle for communication. This would include publications, papers and written forms of defining values, practices, and policies as a way to define us. It is not the abandonment of relationships but the addition of infrastructure that more greatly facilitates our mission.

4. Pride and elitism

Only reading our own publications, singing songs that have only come from us, and a refusal to listen and embrace those outside the movement is an issue of pride. Their will be times when it is necessary to receive the wisdom of those outside Newfrontiers. Their are limits to the wisdom and giftedness of the movements leaders therefore in order to be healthy we need to embrace the deposit God has placed in others outside our family of churches. It is crucial that we not see our uniqueness as superior to what is happening outside of Newfrontiers. Nor should we so honor our founders that we are unable to receive gifted leaders outside our stream. Mark commended us for our willingness to receive outside leaders such as himself.

5. The need to focus on our primary calling.

Movements lose their way when they when they begin to run toward areas that are not their primary calling. He then illustrated one movement that began as a church planting movement but shifted to more of a renewal movement and have now lost their way. They then ceased to plant churches being dissipated by to many other emphasis. Newfrontiers is a church planting movement. However, Driscoll felt that we ought to be planting more churches than we presently are and therefore he questioned if their were other non-essential areas in which we are spending our energy.

6. Movements flatten for lack of publications

He challenged us in this area of needing to publish more. Publish our doctrines, values, practices, I.e. doctrine of the Holy Spirit, Church planting, etc. Next comes the Mark Driscoll bombshell.


7. Movements lose their way because they fail to simultaneously Honor the Founder and the Future.

One danger is that a movement has so much love and honor of their founder (and who doesn't love Terry Virgo) that they will risk their future. However, the opposite is also true in that a movement can be so eager to move into the future that they fail to honor their founder. Mark believes that this is the most crucial issue facing Newfrontiers. He then had us vote as to which danger we were most prone to and a vast majority raised their hands stating that we would be most prone to so honor our founder that we failed to move into the future. At this point the entire conference were absolutely fixed in rapt attention. Mark was in perfect agreement that this was an issue for us. However, he was quick to state that we should honor our founder but challenged us as to the best way we could honor Terry by remaining a movement that honors Terry's passion by building upon the foundation Terry has laid.

At this stage Driscoll announced that God had spoken to him and he had a prophetic word for our movement and Terry. He really had our attention. Mark looked directly at Terry and began his prophecy. He told Terry that "Newfrontiers was like a daughter to you. You have birthed it, held it, guarded it, cared for it, tended to it, prayed for it, loved it. You have been an amazing father to them." Mark said that while at Terry's home he had noticed all the family pictures. In particular he had noticed a picture of the wedding of Terry's daughter and a picture of Terry walking Anna down the aisle to give her away. He felt that God said, while not in the immediate future, "there will come a day when you will need to walk Newfrontiers down the aisle and marry her to a great man so she will have children."

Mark then urged the Newfrontiers leaders to begin to pray for Terry as he prepares to make this transition. He stated that God would tell him and we should be ready for it when it comes. He admonished us to begin now to pray daily for Terry that he would have absolute certainty when it is time to walk Newfrontiers down the aisle, that Terry would have a certainty when it is time to walk down the aisle, an absolute certainty about which man or men he should entrust her to.

Mark then addressed the delegates at the conference "You think of it a lot, but speak of it very little, because you love Terry. And you don't want to dishonor him."

He then urged us not to move to aggressively towards being all about the future. However, this is central to whether we will continue to be healthy or die. Again Driscoll urged us to pray for Terry, to pray daily that God would reveal to him when and how and who so that Newfrontiers will remain a movement. He mentioned that London is full of museums and we don't need another one. We don't need to be just telling the stories in thirty years. We want praises to Jesus to still be sung.

Driscoll then reviewed Rick Warren speaking about movements.

Following Driscoll's message it was evident he was deeply moved. The entire conference was in tears but spontaneously stood on its feet and began to applaud. At which time Terry came to address the conference. Terry was visibly moved as he stood at the microphone. He stated that there had been a few times in our movement that were historic. He mentioned Kreingsak and Simon Petit who gave us an apostolic mandate to care for the poor. Terry said that he knew God had spoken to him to invite Mark Driscoll, but that he had no idea he would feel so taken apart by him. Terry prayed and thanked God for His care of newfrontiers. He thanked God for Mark Driscoll and stated that Mark was one of God's most remarkable servants. He prayed thanks for the high privilege of having Mark Driscoll on the Brighton platform and of how we are really a family on a journey with a God who is continually expressing his love for us.

Of course, the question will be on everyones mind as to the speed and pace for such a transition. Mark and Terry have spoken about this and we believe this issue will be evident during the course of the next five years.

In my next blog to follow I want to address you in a personal way.


  1. John
    I share your passion for planting churches and see the great need here in the US for not only church plants; but church re:plants. Meaning, churches that are dying for lack of leadership that need some faithful pastors to invest in once again.

    A dear friend of mine who was an associate pastor of a church of about 600 left it about a year and a half ago to become the senior pastor of a small dying church in a rural community in central Illinois. The church had dropped down to 15 people. But he knew God had called him there to be their pastor and took a step of faith in investing and walking with them.

    To the praise of the Lord Jesus alone, 18 months later, the congregation is healthy and strong and running about 110 each Sunday. And this in a community of only 3,000 people.

    Now that small town will not show up on any list of any significance population wise, but the Lord needed a godly man to shepherd His flock there. I share this story with you to encourage your organization that there are wonderful churches out there that are dying and need pastors. Church re:plants maybe something that more should possibly consider in their zeal to serve Christ.

    Lastly, to change gears a bit, please be careful brother of calling Driscoll's words "a word of prophecy." Mark knows how to promote himself and this is precisely a technique he would use to be viewed as one who speaks for God to other organizations. This is Mark just being Mark. Terry and Newfrontier don't need "a prophetic" word from someone like Driscoll to know what the future may hold for them. They just need to continue to honor the Word of God faithfully, mirror the Lord's biblical plan for His church, and follow the leading of His Spirit according to His Word as he has done faithfully for many years. Mark is neither a contemporary Spurgeon,hears the audible voice of God, or is one that whose pulpit demeanor and unbiblical antics should be followed.

    If anything, the opposite should be true. Mark should demonstrate humility and submit to proven godly men such as Terry - not the opposite.

    Please be careful here brother...

    Grace and peace to you,
    2 Cor. 4:5-7

  2. Dear Steve, by your words you seem to imply that Mark Driscoll's speech was a 'false' prophecy and you yourself show obvious contempt for him in your last paragraphs. I am very aware of Mark's immaturity at certain levels but inferring he is a false teacher/leader/prophet is over the line. Obviously Terry had good reason to invite Mark to NewFrontiers and in community with those who were present acknowledged God was among them and that He had used Mark to speak to them. Mark, who is an elder/pastor leading several very large movements and respected by men such as John Piper and DA Carson taught no false doctrines, was not involved in immorality, came to where he was invited and gave an encouraging word that built up NewFrontiers. He encouraged them to 'honor' their founding leader and embrace the future that God has for them. Personally, I find your warnings out of line with Biblical teaching and perhaps demonstrating a lack of humility toward successful leaders whom God has called. I am sure you believe your warning to be well-intentioned but it betrays your own conscience and spiritual state. In my estimation, and the estimation of greater men than I, Mark Driscoll may be immature but God is certainly calling hm and using him to further His Kingdom. Your warnings seem to me to cause more harm than good and you should apologize for a careless accusation (it is strongly implied) made against an elder.

  3. From John to John

    Thank you for sharing this. I will seek out this audio and listen to it.

    I wanted to tell you that as a pastor in a church planting movement that has done exactly what you are describing I must say that Mark gave you a warning that could not be more timely.

    I am in a movement that lost its leader a little over 10 years ago. That movement was in a position to be one of the most influential movements in church history. But for years they kept reflecting back to the good old days. Two years ago at our national conference the congregation of leaders were asked to stand if they never heard this leader speak. 2/3 of us stood up and a gasp went through the audience.

    Ironically, this same conference was held after the new leadership made a national decision to become egalitarian in nature. This was completely and utterly in contrary to the former leaders beliefs and foundation.

    I am currently ending a two and a half year attempt to plant a church in a very hard area (mainly due to personal finances due to the real estate crisis). As I am distancing myself from this plant with this group I am wondering if I should distance myself from the movement that has lost its center.

    Mark's words were truly a significant warning. Don't worship your leader, but by all means don't forget what he has planted in you.

    What is so amazing is our national leader had some influence in Newfrontiers. And now I see your leadership more aligned with his teachings than I do my own.

    Pray for me and this great movement going bad.

    Serving Together,