Downloads of sermons by Mark Driscoll, (the preaching pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington), number more than 100,000 each week. More than 10,000 attend his Church and the majority are young people. Driscoll is intelligent and not afraid to tackle deep subjects. Yet he is mostly known for his controversial, no non-sense, in-your-face preaching style.
So why would large groups of young people who have been force-fed large doses of tolerance want to listen to a preacher like Driscoll? Is it his raspy voice, black skateboarder’s jacket and white T-shirt? Perhaps it’s his fearless willingness to talk about anything in public? He openly rejects the image of “weepy worship dudes” and has little patience for those who “sing prom songs to a wussy Jesus who took a beating and spent a lot of time putting product in his long hair.”
Is it possible that Driscoll connects with so many young people because they have a deep sense that truth matters? These “kids” have lived under the social demand, “Be nice, or else!” Their education has been in a context of imposed tolerance (with no exceptions tolerated!). They’ve endured a required civility prohibiting them from being too passionate about anything that upsets others. Yet all along they were smart enough to see through the agenda-driven, political correctness that celebrated only the approved perspectives.
Although forced to check their religious beliefs at the school door, they weren’t fooled by what was happening. They saw through the hypocrisy that made some information and areas of discussion off-limits. They knew what was going down when only one perspective was permitted for public expression and discussion?
Perhaps they’re just fed up and Driscoll offers a kind of “I’m fed-up with it!” style and tone that resonates. He’s a “Cut with the crap and be real!” communicator. The previous generation would have responded to Driscoll with more skepticism. But the “whatever” generation has been forced to ride through storms without an anchor. They’ve watched their families and communities disintegrate while being socialized to put on a facade that says: “We have no disagreements with anyone and everybody likes everybody.”
Not surprisingly, The Office became one of their favorite television shows. It takes the ultimate “whatever?” approach to all things political, social and moral. The main characters use low-key, sarcastic humor on every imaginable issue of political correctness. Race, gender, sexuality, class association, religion, all is fair game for humor! After years of being forced to affirm all religious, moral and political viewpoints, it makes sense that they enjoy the genre of The Office. Most of them are tired of having the boundaries of passion defined for them by politically approved beliefs. Humor simply became their language of dissent, and perhaps, their means of detox.
Most of these young people have come up through an educational environment that assumes the physical universe is all there is, was, or ever will be. The only real world, as the assumption goes, is the world of the five senses. This is a version of reality without transcendence, mystery, and especially — without God.
For more than 26 years of ministry in a college town, I’ve worked closely with this age group. Each Sunday, I teach their class between our two worship services. In the last decade, I’ve noticed some clear changes among younger singles. I see a growing hunger for what is real, lasting, hopeful and spiritual. Unlike many of the stodgy, self-appointed intellectual custodians of the academy, these students are tired of being forced into the culturally mandated, narrow little world without windows.
Truth matters to this group and I think this is partly why they like to listen to preachers like Driscoll. More importantly, it’s why so many of them have decided to follow the one who said, “I am the truth” (John 14:6).