Anyone who hasn’t had their head in the ecclesial sand has probably heard a thing or two about the kerfuffle caused by Mark Driscoll’s dismissive denunciation of British churches as full of “cowards” in a recent radio interview here in the UK. Driscoll’s attack on UK Christianity followed similar lines to those favored among the Christian Right in America—the churches over here are dying because they’re wimpy and womanish, and they need to man up, stop wearing robes, and start speaking out without worrying about how offensive they’re being. As an American Christian in the UK, this kind of attitude has often disheartened me. I mean, let’s not deny the fact—much of the Church here is in shambles, and a few godly courageous men could make a world of difference. But sensitivity is not an un-Christian trait, and perhaps only an American could be brash enough to think that being wilfully insensitive is a good way to make UK Christians less sensitive and therefore, apparently, more Gospel-preaching.
So I was very encouraged to read this essay by D.A. Carson today (thanks to Peter Escalante for the link), in response (but very obliquely and judiciously) to Driscoll’s accusations. Carson patiently points to the impossibility of generalizing about the UK as a whole, and to many of the really excellent things that are going on in portions of the UK church. And he ends with a powerful and much-needed reminder that faithfulness is not measured by success. A church can be faithful, courageous, and shrinking, and if this is the case, it needs all our admiration and support, not contempt. “We must not equate courage with success, or even youth with success. We must avoid ever leaving the impression that these equations are valid. I have spent too much time in places like Japan, or in parts of the Muslim world, where courage is not measured on the world stage, where a single convert is reckoned a mighty trophy of grace.”
Finally, he reminds us that, even where rebuke is needed, “the Jesus who can denounce hypocritical religious leaders in Matthew 22 is also the one of whom it is said, “He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.”