Although it wasn’t the first book I read on vacation, I’m going to start with Vintage Church: Timeless Truths and Timely Methods by Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears.
I have grown to thoroughly appreciate the ministry of Mark Driscoll, and am consistently thankful that he preaches the gospel faithfully to his church, as well as faithfully ministering through the international platform that God has given him. This book is the result of his biblical study of ecclesiology and the 10 years of practice in “doing” church at Mars Hill, in response his experience that so many practitioners of church he was surrounded by had very little biblical basis/knowledge of what they were doing.
The book is broken into chapters by a series of questions posed about the nature of the church, from which you can understand the gist of what Driscoll and Breshears are teaching:
- What Is the Christian Life?
- What Is a Christian Church?
- Who Is Supposed to Lead a Church?
- Why Is Preaching Important?
- What Are Baptism and Communion?
- How Can a Church Be Unified?
- What Is Church Discipline?
- How Is Love Expressed in a Church?
- What Is a Missional Church?
- What Is a Multi-Campus Church?
- How Can a Church Utilize Technology?
- How Could the Church Help Transform the World?
- Appendix: Sample Church Membership Covenant
The book is essentially a reformed baptist understanding of the mature church (the right preaching of the Word of God, the practice of the ordinances/sacraments of communion and baptism, and the exercise of church discipline under qualified leadership – elders and deacons) applied to our immediate context of American Evangelical Christianity. Toward this end, the book is an excellent synopsis of the theological positions which Mars Hill church has adopted (as well as The Austin Stone, my home church). It is far from comprehensive, however, and if you desire a robust reasoning and biblical defense for the positions, or a historical understanding of the development of these doctrines, you will be left wanting.
There were three particularly helpful sections in the book for me to read. The first, on a practical note, is talking through the concept of first among equals in eldership, and that effective leadership from an elder team requires recognizing unique giftedness of individual elders and the practical leadership within a team of equals. They do an excellent job of fleshing out the nature of positional leadership as an elder, and the varying degrees of influence as an elder, and how the dynamic interplay of positional leadership and influence can easily be skewed in one direction or another. Their model of eldership does a great job of balancing both ideas, and maintaining room for leadership within a peer team.
Secondly, I am tremendously thankful for the practical insight into the development of multicampus church, and their honest presentation of what has and has not worked for Mars Hill. As our body continues to move toward multisite, the chapter within this book will be immensely helpful as we think through leadership structures, technology, and where/when we extend into new campuses. If you are a multicampus church, believe God is moving you toward multicampus, or are simply interested in the practicality of multicampus, then I suggest you read this chapter.
Thirdly, chapters 7, 8, and 9 on unity, discipline and love are an excellent discourse on the essential nature of the body of believers, and the biblical perspective of the local church as a body. I am thankful that they spent as much time working through these issues as they did, because so often the focus on ecclesiological discussions drive toward leadership, government, and sacramental theology. These three chapters together provide a pastoral and practical understanding for everyone in the church as to how the body should function biblically and practically to display Christ’s magnificence to the world around them.
On a final note, I continue to be thankful that everything Driscoll writes includes the Gospel and Christ’s atoning death on the cross. He never fails to hold high this central truth, keeping it rightly at the center of all applied doctrine. He very much understands that what becomes assumed often becomes forgotten, and it is always encouraging he doesn’t assume the Gospel.
Has anyone else read the book? Care to share your thoughts?