Vintage Church: Acts 29 Church Plant Manual (Sort of)

 Update: In recent weeks (Nov-Dec 2011) Mark Driscoll has gone on record with some explicit claims of continuing revelation. We appreciate Driscoll’s ability to formulate and teach a few aspects of Reformed theology quite well, but we do not in any way agree with the notion that God continues to reveal himself to us apart from His word. Driscoll’s “visions” sound like divinations; we believe this is a dangerous element in his teaching. See THIS POST for more information.

I’ve been to several Acts29 church planting lecture sessions as an observer, and though I’m not 100% on board with it all, I appreciate their “missional” emphasis and I’ve met some great Christian pastors in the network.  Because of this, and because I’m a “student” of the church broadly speaking, I grabbed Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears’ Vintage Church: Timeless Truths and Timely Methods (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008).  It was a worthwhile read.

In Vintage Church, Driscoll and Breshears ask and answer the following questions: what is the Christian life, what is a church, who leads, why preach, what are the sacraments, what is discipline, what is love and unity, what is a missional church, how do you utilize technology and run a multi-campus church, and how does the church transform the world.

To be sure, I don’t agree with the authors in quite a few areas.  I’m not a Baptist, so I wasn’t convinced by the classic anacredo– and immersion-only baptism discussion.  I hesitate to draw the sharp line between Israel and the church, and I differ in my millenial views.  They list 8 marks of a church, I’d stick with the reformational 3.  I sort of cringed at the thought of “bapto-cams” for multiple baptisms and I’m not a huge fan of something like altar calls and occasional healings in worship.  Since I’m a Presbyterian, I question multi-campus churches and all that goes with them.  Finally, I’m skeptical of cultural transformation.

It may sound like I should hate the book because I disagree with a bunch of it.  However, since the authors right away explain how they’ve utilized different traditions through their biblical lenses, I’m a bit less critical.  They don’t claim to be Reformed, Presbyterian, Baptist, or Methodist, though they are more Baptist than anything else.  (Side note: I think Driscoll said they were like a NASCAR church – they wore quite a few different church stickers, so to speak.)  Because they were honest with their methodology, I enjoyed the book even though I disagreed with parts of it. 

I did like their critique of the “American Church” and the postmodern Emergent Village.  I did love their strong emphasis on the gospel and the solas.  I loved their emphasis on how Christians should be “missional” minded.  They took church leadership seriously and emphasized preaching and discipline.  They spent a chapter on love and one on church unity, topics more churches need to discuss.  In short, the good parts of this book were outstanding and well worth reading.  Speaking of, here are a few quotes in closing.

“The importance of the cross to the church is that apart from Jesus’ death on it in our place for our sins, the church does not exist and has no good news to tell” (p. 21).

“Traditions are not a bad thing necessarily.  However, they become bad when a method is elevated above its intended function and basically worshiped so that its function is sacrificed for the sake of the mummified method” (p. 145).

“Too many churches are built solely to accommodate religious people, even though their culture and cultural methods of ministry are not welcoming or hospitable to those outside their Christian culture” (p. 228).

“A living church must change in the same way that a living person grows and changes, hopefully toward maturity.  Any church that does not change is more like a museum than a people on a mission” (p. 147).

On a similar book note, I see Driscoll has a new huge book on doctrine (like a Systematic Theology) that Carl Trueman recommends.  Looks interesting!

shane lems

sunnyside wa

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