Emerging church

Mark Driscoll and the Emerging Church

Is Mark Driscoll part of the emerging church movement? While Driscoll has claimed to distance himself from Brian McLaren and the left wing of the emerging movement, he stands in the theologically conservative wing of the movement.

According to Driscoll: “In the mid-1990s I was part of what is now known as the Emerging Church and spent some time traveling the country to speak on the emerging church in the emerging culture on a team put together by Leadership Network called the Young Leader Network. But, I eventually had to distance myself from the Emergent stream of the network because friends like Brian McLaren and Doug Pagitt began pushing a theological agenda that greatly troubled me.”

Yet Driscoll has a lot to say about the emerging church in Radical Reformission (2004). He writes for the furtherance of the emerging church:

“Now that the time has come to write, I am presenting this book as a contribution toward the furtherance of the emerging church in the emerging culture.” (Radical Reformission, p17)

“I invite you to turn the page and begin a radical journey with me as we explore what life in Christ can mean in the context of an emerging church in a changing world.” (Radical Reformission, p23)

And what is it that Driscoll so likes about the “gospel” of the emerging church?

“The emerging church proclaims a gospel of freedom.” (Confessions, p25)

In his book Confessions of a Reformission Rev. – Hard Lessons from an Emerging Missional Church (2006) Driscoll says that he studied to find “the most effective structure for the mission of an urban emerging and evangelical church like ours… I became acquainted with the Gospel and Our Culture Network (GOCN). This network is a denominational think tank of sorts wrestling with what it means to do mission in America. One of the leaders, Dr George Hunsberger, taught at a conference we hosted in Seattle for Leadership Network… I began wrestling with his [Alan Rosburgh] and came up with the following emerging and missional ecclesiology.” (Confessions, p108]

The two organisations that had a large impact on Driscoll’s thinking are part of the emerging church movement. The Gospel and Our Culture Network is a network that promotes the emerging church movement. The Leadership Network: “The mission of Leadership Network is to accelerate the emergence of effective churches by identifying and connecting innovative church leaders and providing them with resources in the form of new ideas, people, and tools. Churches and church leaders served by Leadership Network represent a wide variety of primarily Protestant faith traditions that range from mainline to evangelical to independent. All are characterized by innovation, entrepreneurial leadership and desire to be on the leading edge of ministry.” (A New Kind of Christian by Brian D. McLaren)

In Confessions of a Reformission Rev. Mark Driscoll writes of his admiration for Rick Warren: “The changes brought about by Warren are revolutionary and very important. His ecclesiology has become the standard for the contemporary evangelical church. God has used Warren’s insights to bring untold numbers of people to Jesus, and Warren has become one of the most important Christians in our generation. Sadly, there was a time when, as an arrogant young punk, I was critical of his work.” (Confessions, p107)

Clearly, Mark Driscoll places himself firmly in the Rick Warren camp. He regards Warren as having set the standard for the contemporary evangelical church. How doctrinally sound is the doctrine of Rick Warren? How sound is the doctrine of Mark Driscoll?

The Tangible Kingdom: Creating Incarnational Community (2008) (Jossey-Bass Leadership Network Series) by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay has been endorsed on the back cover by both Brian McLaren and Mark Driscoll. The mission of the book appears to be to discredit the entirety of the Christian faith. The authors claim that “…most of the Church is stuck, and has been for 1700 years”. Clearly, the emerging message of The Tangible Kingdom has a great appeal to Driscoll.

Cathy Mickels draws attention to Driscoll’s association with the Emerging Church movement. She writes in her memo to church leaders: “According to Driscoll, his innovative ideas on how to grow a church put him in the spotlight. He wrote, ‘A buzz got out about our church, and Christian pastors and leaders from around the country and the world began dropping in to check out what we were doing.’ This publicity put him in contact with Bill Hybel’s Willow Creek and the Leadership Network, which with Mark Driscoll’s help planted the seeds for the Emergent Church. Although Driscoll has since challenged and distanced himself from some of the teachings of his emergent friends, on his websites he has recommended books by contemplative writer, Richard Foster, Dallas Willard and a book called The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. It is also interesting to note that the Leadership Network is a major promoter of emergent leader Brain McClaren and other liberal innovators such as Bill Hybels. Mark Driscoll has nothing but praise for this group, which he uses to this day to promote his books and ministry. This subject alone is an entire chapter of a book.”

See the assessment of the Missouri Baptist Association on Driscoll’s Act 29 church planting ministry:


You can learn more about Mark Driscoll’s ministry in the book, The New Calvinists (2014), published by The Wakeman Trust and Belmont House Publishing. The book is available from belmonthousebooks.com/