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16 January 2012

The UK Church: Big shots, wimps or just humble servants?

Recent comments by American pastor and author Mark Driscoll regarding the state of Britain's church leaders in a Christianity magazine interview have spawned a barrage of protests, but also a few defenders, from Christians on this side of the pond. Many think Driscoll doesn't 'get it', while others claim he has a point. To get to the heart of the debate, we asked two British pastors to answer this question: Do we really need more well-known, influential Bible teachers in Britain?

Matt Hosier: "The Church militant has been replaced by the Church hesitant"

matt hosierI have a real appreciation for 'anglosphere' culture. I like the pioneering, positive, aggressive attitude of many South Africans and Australians and Americans, compared with which we Brits can appear a little wan. Whatever the mistakes of the colonial era, arguably the most dynamic part of the British gene pool abandoned these shores leaving timid DNA behind.

Recent comments by Mark Driscoll play to this stereotype. Compared to our more brazen American cousins, with their mega-churches and mega-ministries, are British pastors just a bunch of wimps?

I'm not much interested in the comments (misquoted or not) that have stirred up this little contretemps, but I am interested in whether the British Church is doing what Christ has called us to do. And it would appear to me that the reason clergy are invariably portrayed as wishy-washy characters in the media has some basis in fact. The Church militant has been replaced by the Church hesitant. Whether it is the Church becoming little more than a building in which to hold jumble sales and coffee mornings, or a concern for theological 'nuance' that leads to a terror about holding any orthodox belief with clarity and conviction, much of the British Church is lacking in muscularity.

But - and this is a big but - I also see increasing evidence of a different kind of church with a different kind of leadership. These are pastors who might not spend their recreation hours watching cage fighting and driving jeeps, but who are resolute in their beliefs and determined in their commitment to the gospel. These leaders might not get national media attention (for which we should probably be thankful) but they are faithfully doing the work of the gospel.

My confidence is that the harshness towards the gospel that Driscoll identifies in the UK will lead to the weeding out of the wimps and the emergence of the bold. The new world we now face is sifting our DNA.

Matthew Hosier is pastor of Gateway Church, Poole. He studied zoology at university before entering church work and has an MA in Christian Ethics from King's College, London.

Twitter: @matthewhosier

Cris Rogers: The Church needs fewer big-shots and more humble servants

Mark Driscoll's comments have left me thinking about this issue with great passion. cris rogersThe reality is the American Church simply doesn't understand the UK and the complexities of ministry here. Do we need more young preachers? Yes, if we want to reach a lost generation. Do we need a handful of well-known and influential speakers and writers? No, I don't think so. Yes, we have seen the likes of John Wesley and Charles Spurgeon who had this kind of ministry, but maybe what we need for this next move of the Spirit isn't more influential preachers but a Church that is becoming more like Jesus. We need more locally ministering passionate people who teach the good news of Jesus. There is no point in having more national speakers if they can't engage with people locally day in day out.

In a world that has gone celebrity-mad and sadly rubbed this off on the Church, the last thing we need is more well-known church leaders who perpetuate a culture of big celebrity as the masses hang on their words.

What we do have in the UK is a generation of Christians that are more passionate than ever to seek Jesus and his ways. We are firmly moving away from denominational divides and working together for God's Kingdom. We have many passionate preachers, many of whom never get a podcast, many of whom are still too young to be seen as credible; but they do exist. What we need is a Church that is stepping up to the challenge to be the good news of Jesus in tangible and practical ways. We don't need more preachers but more disciples who desire the Kingdom, people who seek to be the practical outworking of Jesus' ministry. Influential Bible teachers in my opinion don't inspire more preachers, but they often de-skill others from developing their God-given gifting. What the Jesus movement needs is fewer big-shots and more lovers, more partners and more humble servants.

My dream would be to see many more young people locally preaching. Let's equip the young people we have to do the stuff of the Kingdom rather than having a few well-known speakers doing it for us.

Cris is a writer, pastor, speaker and church visionary. He has written a number of books including 'Practising Resurrection' and 'The Bible Book by Book'. In September 2010 Cris planted a church in the heart of the poorest area of London. His dream is for the Church to be an explosion of joy within the tower block estate he works.