Thursday, October 26, 2006

who to listen to?

There's a real hot post by Phil Johnson at Pyromaniacs about Rob Bell and Mark Driscoll. While I agree directionally with Johnson, I think that he has not sufficiently deconstructed what is said by these guys. However he did good by linking to their stuff to allow the reader to judge for themselves.

For me, as I hear Bell and others, if I presume nothing, their message is "blah" and certainly not what I'd call preaching. If I make just a few assumptions, then I can easily get to where Johnson is because guys like Bell aren't positively saying the right things.

The reason for this post is that I have gone through the gamut. I've listened to Rob Bell, Erwin McManus, Mark Driscoll, Rick Warren, etc.. In the end, I stopped listening to each of them after just a short time. They simply aren't Christ-centered with Holy Scripture as the base in their preaching. Unlike their critics, I think these guys could be Christians [the hesitation is because who am I to judge?] and I have found nuggets of gold in each of them. But in the end, my time here is limited and at best, these guys are just good christian counselors/coaches/speakers.

I've attended church after church with preachers that are similar but lack the communication skills possessed by the aforementioned and some are worse, they aren't even good coaches or counselors or whatever. Talk about leaving church feeling empty.

So where have the good preachers gone?

In contrast, years ago I belonged to the John MacArthur tape club. I even got a high speed cassette player so I could listen to more faster. I don't know how many sermons/lessons that guy put out but it seemed I listened to thousands of them. Why was I able to stick with him and not the others? He was Christ-centered and his focus was Biblical exposition. Sure there was a story here and there but he built on the foundation of Scripture. And, if memory serves, he even told a joke or two but these weren't the basis of what he was about.

Why did I quit him? Well I just couldn't take his frequent railing against Charismatics and some other points like that. I think he made his critique fine but after that he just kept hammering away. Much of that became warnings of what could happen, attacks against straw-men, misrepresentation of views, etc. - and he was vehement about it. And most importantly, when he was off on one of those tangents, he wasn't doing Bible exegesis, he was just ranting. Too bad, he lost me.

So, who am I liking these days? Two guys - John Piper and Richard Nathan. Oh, and I see potential in the senior pastor, Matt Massey, at the community we just connected with, NSV. Fortunately my reading list is longer but I need help. What are your recommendations regarding who to listen to? Someone help me.

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b: said...

will agree with you re: piper. the guy is solid. i haven't heard the richard nathan guy, but will check him out. i'll also agree with you re: bell and mcmanus being a bit "motivational speaker-ish," but i must say that i find mark driscoll to be thoroughly biblical and christ-centered. i'm also a fan of tim keller's preaching, as i think he's remarkably gospel-driven.

rick said...

Bill - thanks for the comment. Believe it or not, on the way to the office today I was thinking that I should amend this. You are absolutely correct, Driscoll is not in the same category. I grouped him as one that I dropped because his entertainment value was higher than the informational/life-change value. And I'd put Warren in a similar category.

In the end however, when it comes to sharing a life-change message, there's a gap between them and the MacArthur, Piper, etc. group.

So in retrospect, I should have made three categories and I apologize for the misrepresentation.

Anonymous said...

i would agree with b. tim keller is a great preacher.

i was also wondering about the driscoll comment. i read the pyro post yesterday and last week i listened to the driscoll sermon to which they linked. i agree with them on some points. driscoll takes things a bit far in some situations but i am not sure that i would present it as such a danger. i do, however, believe he is quite Christ-centered in his message. your assessment of it being too entertainment driven may be right but Christ-centered he is.

As far as Bell - I have never listened or read anything by him. I have seen the Nooma videos and they are well done. not deep, but well done cinemetographically (is that a word?) speaking.

You point out some interesting things about Mac. In general I would agree with your statements. He is a great expositor of the Word and the things I don't like about him are the exact things Driscoll has going for him. Mac seems to go to extremes in his criticisms of what we may call "Christians," that is, people who hold to the foundations of the faith. Driscoll seems to go to extremes in his criticism of what we may call "heretics." There aren't many people who are as outspoken (sometimes inappropriately so) as Driscoll is about those who are destroying the faith. He doesn't water things down.

I'm not sure that I like discussing all of these people in one blog post or comment. It's too much to think about and too many varieties.

that's all.

rick said...

I really screwed up categorizing Driscoll in with the others. Again, my issue with him is depth of content versus many of the others it's more of absence of content.

Here is Driscoll's current sermon series which clearly supports his Christ-centeredness.

10.08.06 - Is Jesus the only God?

10.15.06 - How human was Jesus?

10.22.06 - What did Jesus accomplish on the cross?

10.29.06 - Did Jesus Rise from death?

11.05.06 - Where is Jesus today?

11.12.06 - What will Jesus do upon His return?

11.19.06 - Why should we worship Jesus?

11.26.06 - What makes Jesus superior to other saviors?

12.03.06 - How did people know Jesus was coming?

12.10.06 - Why did Jesus come to earth?

12.17.06 - Why did Jesus' mom need to be a virgin?

12.24.06 - What difference has Jesus made in history?

Chris said...


re: bell, much like vince, I don't have too much exposure to bells sermons and such. Have watched 3 nooma clips and found them to be good discussion 'starters'. The 'velvet elvis' book in my opinion was also well written. The pages are not flooded with verse after verse, which each will have their opinion on. In the end I see Bell as one who is almost sitting with you asking the questions... a small group setting... asking the questions nobody else either has the guts to ask, or could care less about asking because 'we're all way beyond that'.

In the end, as I read various authors, hear different speakers I pray that God will reveal HIS truth through them. If persons are 'preaching' untruths, or damaging the church...God will do his thing in his time. Look at all the 80's Evangelists. I still need to be responsible in what I hear or read as truth...and yes, if scripture is taken out of context, or not used... I need to determine if it's truly from God.

In the mean time, I just wish the 'not a christian' calling would stop. Unless Pyro is the gatekeeper here on earth....which I'm pretty sure he's not.

rick said...

I'm with you Chris. I have 10 of the Nooma's and love them as discussion starters. And I have found several of Bell's "sermons" to be thought provoking.

But in the end, as a preaching or teacher, he falls flat. And, although I don't have a lot of data, those that I know that are taught by him, while they seem to have good hearts, they tend to fall into error on some doctrinal issues that I would have thought they should know.

Chris said...

And that is my struggle with the church of today. Not all churches, but the 'supposed' direction. There are a lot of 'discussion starters', or 'newly invented parables', but it really doesn't go anywhere from there.

Maybe not completely related, but there seems to a lot of 'go team go' with very little action.

And the 'very little action' stems from us (the church) not having a strong understanding and knowledge of the scriptures. I'm in the boat just like a lot of others. Why use it when we either don't know it or feel comfortable with it.

I recently took a two day course from the Billy Graham Association on 'Christian Lifestyle and Witnessing'. The one thing that was 'stressed/encouraged/driven home' is knowing God's Word. Memorizing it, understanding it, feel comfortable in it, and then using it. If we don't know it, what good are we?

Preaching/teaching in a lot of churches today falls short with the use of scripture. And eventually it just becomes a 'talk'. I love a good talk, but as writer/speaker incorporates the scripture it just comes alive.

The living Word of God