Friday, July 25, 2008

Without doctrinal clarity movements become bad institutions...

One of Mark Driscoll's penetrating observations of Newfrontiers is that as a movement it needs to nail it's doctrine. He observed that when something is small it can get away with verbal communication and unwritten assuptions of what the doctrine of the movement is, but that if it's to grow beyond 'the founder and his friends and family' then these things have to be written down. This danger lurks for newfrontiers a movement devoted to honouring Terry Virgo and those gathered around him - for the movement to really honour him it needs to grow well beyond those relationships and out live him.

Driscoll notes rightly identifies a suspicion in newfrontiers that if you write things down you become an institution - (I'm guessing grounded in the old Baptist roots of some of the founders?). Driscoll however says that if you don't write down tightly your doctrine it's not that you avoid becoming an instution, it's just that you become a bad institution. To stay as a movement and to grow doctrine has to be nailed down.

Personally, I think this is part of what has sustained UCCF for 80 years, that we've established from the outset our core doctrine. Since UCCF isn't doing church planting but rather acting as a partnership of churches it doesn't need to pin down any more than this core statement, and the theological foundations of its methodology (like CU & Church). Where Acts 29, SGM and Newfrontiers are Reformed-Charismatic, UCCF limits it's defining at Evangelical which is a wider subset into which Reformed-Charismatic sits, along with non-Reformed-Charismatics, non-Reformed-Cessationists, Reformed-Cessationists... and many more who wouldn't particularly define themselves by either of those distinctives.

Newfrontiers has begun the writing down with a responsive paper from John Hosier Mick Taylor on the atonement but clarity on doctrines of church, atonement, Bible, The Holy Spirit will be necessary.

Acts 29 has clearly done work on it's doctrinal position. It's doctrinal basis sits comfortably with the UCCF statement. Interestingly in addition to positively defining themselves they also give a negative definition of what they're not. Always necessary theologically to state the case both ways. The other Reformed Charismatic church planting movement Sovereign Grace Ministries also lays out its doctrine in more detail.

I'm keen to see where we in newfrontiers go with this particular challenge from Mark Driscoll. I'm excited to be joining the family at a time when this live issue has the opportunity to be hammered out. It's a weakness I've observed but I hope it can be addressed so that the doctrinal foundations of this movement can be set down deeply which will free it to grow beyond the founder and his friend to 1000 churches and beyond.