So, two days ago I wrote a short blog post that ended up getting linked to, tweeted, and passed along – bringing about 40x the normal amount of readers to my blog. The post struck a nerve, it seems. But it was misunderstood by many, and because of that I need to clarify a few things. (And let me be clear, the misunderstanding is not the fault of the reader, but 100% mine – I did not choose my words carefully or wisely, and as a result was unclear).
The main reason I’m writing this is because of caused pain and frustration to some of my brothers in Acts 29. Gentlemen, I am deeply sorry. Let me try to explain…
I wrote this post as a young Acts 29 church planter. Five and a half years ago, we planted Kaleo in the heart of the fourth largest city of our country – Houston, TX. Acts 29 has been my lifeline during the difficult times – the brotherhood, coaching, and friendships that I’ve gained there have supported our church through the good times and the bad. I think Acts 29 is being used by God in a unique, once-in-a generation way to spread the Gospel through the planting of new churches.
I write all that to say this – I believe strongly in planting churches in major cities (after all, that’s who I am) and I love and respect Acts 29 in a way that words can’t describe. In an attempt to ask some difficult questions of myself and the tribe I run in, I wrote something that was interpreted by many as divisive and derogatory. What in my head sounded like questions that are important to think through for all young church planters came across cynical and jaded. For that I am sorry.
In writing on Wednesday, I took a general thought that was floating in my head and posted it – and it was full of inaccuracy and broad generalizations As was pointed out in the comments, Acts 29 is becoming more and more diverse all the time – with great churches being planted by faithful men in all kinds of settings: cities, college towns, rural communities, smaller cities.
I’m afraid some also read in what I wrote an incorrect version of the A29 assessment process – that we are looking for only “cool guys” and that your hipster level is one of the assement categories. Nothing could be further from the truth. Acts 29 has one of the best assessment process out there, examining as Scott Thomas pointed out: 1) Personal walk with God, 2) Theological Clarity, 3) Strong Marriage and Family, 4) Leading a life as a missionary, 5) Emotional Maturity, 6) Disciple-Making skills, 7) Leadership, 8) Calling and 9) Relational Health. Our great assessment process is what has allowed us to see the highest viability rate of churches planted in any current church planting network that I know of.
In addition, in my writing I unintentionally called into question the calling of guys focused on reaching the young culture-makers in a city. I implied that it’s likely that they are only doing this because they want to reach people like them. I judged motive, and that is absolutely unacceptable. Every single planter I know personally, including all of my Acts 29 brothers, are planting in their context because they have discerned a calling from God to reach that particular area. If you fall into that category: I was wrong. I am sorry, and I ask for your forgiveness.
My last paragraph was the most unwisely worded of all. It is what got picked up and quoted by a number of people linking to the article, essentially saying something like, “Aha! See! Even someone on the inside admits it. Movements led by Keller and Driscoll are just the next version of seeker-sensitive, church growth pragmatism.” Let me be clear: this is absolutely not what I intended to communicate, and it is simply not true.
When writing, I thought of Hybels and Warren as two guys who both have seen very visible success and who started church planting movements 20 years ago. Both said clearly: “Don’t copy us. Learn what you can, but don’t try to photocopy what we’re doing.” But that’s exactly what church planters did in the 90s – there were scores of guys planting churches in the suburbs donning khaki pants, deck shoes, and Hawaiian shirts. Many copied vision and purpose statements, programming ideas, and ministry strategies wholesale, trying to duplicate South Barrington or Orange County in environments that were completely different.
In writing my last paragraph, I was trying to communicate my concern that many of us young pastors who scoffed at what happened in the 90s (as many of us served on staff at these kinds of churches) are in danger of doing the same – trying to replicate the unique ministries of Mars Hill and Redeemer. From dressing like Driscoll to trying to preach like Keller to adopting their visions, programs, etc. That was the comparison I was trying to make – not at all intending to say that Mark Driscoll or Tim Keller were establishing themselves or being established by their networks as Church Growth Movement 3.0
I meant no disrespect. Mark Driscoll is the reason I am a church planter – it was in a Youth Specialties seminar in 1999 that Mark was teaching that God dropped a passion for church planting in my heart. He has led Acts 29 with grace and strength and has served as an encourager and example to so many. The same is true for Tim Keller. What God has done in NYC is nothing short of miraculous, and far from trying to be cool or trendy he has modeled faithful, confessional ministry that is true to his context. Combined, these two men have done more for church planting than anyone else in our country, and have accomplished more for the expansion of the Gospel in the last year than I will likely accomplish in my lifetime.
Mark and Tim, I am deeply sorry that my words were taken as disrespectful towards you. I love both of you as brothers and have nothing but the utmost honor for you as godly men, pastors, and movement leaders.
I’ve decided (after a lot of feedback) to leave the original post up to give context to the discussion.