What I think of the “Uncool People” article

Posted: March 6, 2010 in Uncategorized

When I initially started to write this post it was to give an unfavorable critique of this article, then I found a link by the author that said “click here to read the update”. Below is the original article, and below that is the authors update.

Uncool People Need Jesus Too

UPDATE: This post was ill-advised on not written well. I’ve written a follow up to it that explains more of what I was trying to say – please go read it first and then read the original post.



Through my work with the Acts 29 Network, I get the privilege of assessing a number of potential church planters each year. I also get to hear about dozens more from fellow pastors as well. When I guy comes in to get assessed, by the time he gets to the interview stage he’s already submitted a lot of paperwork. Resumes. Plans. Budgets. Demographic Analysis. Dental history. (Ok, just kidding on the last one).

And as I’ve looked at some amazing plans from church planters, I’ve started to notice a trend. They all sound the same.

It seems as the unique vision that God’s given so many church planters is almost identical. Phrases like “gospel-centered”, “missional”, and “cultural renewal” are littered throughout their proposals. It seems that the phrase “In the City. For the City.” or some variation of such has become church planting boilerplate.

Not only is the language the same, but so is the target group. It’s amazing how many young pastors feel that they are distinctly called to reach the upwardly-mobile, young, culture-shaping professionals and artists. Can we just be honest? Young, upper-middle-class urban professionals have become the new “Saddleback Sam”.

Seriously, this is literally the only group I see proposals for. I have yet to assess a church planter who wants to move to a declining, smaller city and reach out to blue collar factory workers, mechanics, or construction crews. Not one with an evangelsitic strategy to go after the 50-something administrative assistant who’s been working at the same low-paying insurance firm for three decades now.

Why is that? I can’t offer a definitive answer. It could be that God is legitimately calling an entire generation of young pastors to turn their focus to a small segment of the population that happens to look very much like they do.

Or it could be that we’re simply following in the footsteps of the church growth movement that we’ve loved to publically criticize while privately trying to emulate – we’ve just replaced Bill Hybels and Rick Warren with Tim Keller and Mark Driscoll.

Just thinking out loud…

So ends the first article.  There was a whole lot I disagreed with in this article.  Thankfully, the author saw his own errors and basically retracted them in the next article posted below here:

UPDATE: What I Actually Meant

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.

Right now, I’m leaving the original post up only because there are still people going to it from links out there, and I want them to find this post instead. I’ll be taking the original post down next week. Thank you all for your grace and encouragement.

  1. Rusty Tatum says:

    I know next to nothing about Acts 29 (other than Mark Driscoll’s name), so I didn’t even know their focus was large cities and was therefore in the dark that he was insulting his own kind. I still prefer his original post. I just get incredibly frustrated with this new cult of personality that exalts “the city” as the golden calf of ministry. That’s the part that resonates with me. Don’t get me wrong, I fully understand the city is where the people are that it is a strategic location and many people are certainly “called” there…nevertheless, there is a definite exaltation and overemphasis on the fact that God loves the cities more (if you’ll allow me a moment of exaggerated melodrama). I just don’t see it as biblical that God loves the cities more than the suburbs or rural areas. So that’s why I liked it.

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