Welcome to the United States of Seattle

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The following is an excerpt from the first chapter of Pastor Mark Driscoll’s forthcoming book, A Call to Resurgence: Will Christianity Have a Funeral or a Future? (available November 5). To receive a free copy of Chapter One in its entirety—and other gifts—pre-order the book at theResurgenceBook.com.

I have spent the last twenty years of my life ministering in one of the least-churched and most liberal cities in America.

In many ways, Seattle is not just post-Christian; it’s pre-Christian. We never had a Christian heyday. The Puritans landed on the other side of the continent. The Great Awakenings did not touch my hibernating hometown. The evangelical church-planting movements, the denominations, the publishing companies, and the theological institutions spread to the South and Midwest but never to the Great North Left.

The county I live in voted enthusiastically for gay marriage and marijuana legalization, which means I can now smoke a joint while marrying a dude. The Netherlands decriminalized marijuana; Jamaica overlooks it; we legalized it, so I guess we’re to the left of Amsterdam and Kingston, if you can believe it.

I have spent the last twenty years of my life ministering in one of the least-churched and most liberal cities in America.

When I first planted Mars Hill Church out of a college ministry in Seattle in 1996, we were a small group of broke, newly converted, single indie rockers trying to reach a city that was home to more dogs and cats than children or evangelicals. Today a growing majority in the United States, Canada, and Europe—especially young people and urbanites—think and act pretty much the same as the people I’ve been trying to reach.

In the providence of God, I was granted, along with other ministers in cities like mine, the great honor to plow new ground and scatter gospel seed early—with all the birds, rocks, and thorns that Jesus promised (Matt. 13:1–23).

A tsunami of cultural change

Of course, the rest of the country and the world are not destined to become just like Seattle. But I am convinced that what my church has seen become normative in our city will soon become normative elsewhere. The tsunami of cultural change hit our beach first, which puts us in a position to help others learn from our fruit and our failure. Maybe our little church plant was like Noah’s dove, sent to explore the landscape of a new world.

I have been hated, protested, despised, lied about, threatened, and maligned so many times and in so many ways I could not even begin to recount them all. I have made mistakes, committed sins, failed, and said things in ways that should have slowed down the forward progress of the gospel.

Yet while we started with about a dozen mainly broke, single, arty people in the living room of our rental home with literally nothing but an open Bible and open hearts, we’ve seen God graciously build a church one changed life at a time. We’ve become one of our nation’s largest and fastest-growing churches, based upon an hour-plus of Bible preaching every week.

What my church has seen become normative in our city will soon become normative elsewhere.

It truly makes no sense. But every time the media ask me what the secret is, I tell them the same thing: it does not matter what is against you if Jesus is with you.

Jesus said the fields are “ripe for harvest,” and he was not exaggerating (John 4:35, NIV). For multiple years in a row we have baptized over a thousand new Christians. Many if not most of them are young, single, college-educated non-virgins who have spent more time with porn than with Paul and who represent the first generation of faith in their families, breaking decades of unbelief, perversion, addiction, and folly.

All of this is happening in what some affectionately call The People’s Republic of Seattle. Our run won’t last forever, and not every church will experience exactly what we have, but there are reasons for hope.

A call to resurgence

For those Christians concerned that culture is trending more hostile to the faith, I assure you after two decades on the front line that this is not a time of retreat but rather resurgence. This is not a time for compromise but rather courage. The fields are ripe. And as Jesus says, “the laborers are few”—in part because the prophets of doom are many (Matt. 9:37).

I’m frankly sick of all the books and movies trying to predict when Jesus will return and we’ll get to start our eternal vacation at his all-inclusive resort called heaven. I’m also sick of the nerd parade of books and conferences that approach the Bible like scholars whose mission is to get a master’s degree rather than soldiers who are on mission with their Master.

This is not a time for compromise but rather courage.

We’ve got work to do. There are lost people to reach, churches to plant, and nations to evangelize. Hell is hot, forever is a long time, and it’s our turn to stop making a dent and start making a difference. This is no time to trade in boots for flip-flops. The days are darker, which means our resolve must be stronger and our convictions clearer.

One nation under God?

If you don’t believe me that evangelical Christians’ days are getting darker, consider the spirituality of our 2012 presidential candidates. Unlike in past elections, candidates proving themselves to be born-again Christians is no longer seen as helpful for campaigning. The loser’s beliefs were clearly Mormon. The winner’s beliefs were clearly unclear.

On January 21, 2013, Barack Obama placed his hand on a Bible he may not entirely believe to take an oath to a God he may not entirely know. Jesus alone will judge his soul one day, but in the meantime we are free to be confused by a man who says he’s a Christian while ending his speech to America’s largest abortion provider with, “Thank you, Planned Parenthood. God bless you.”

Visit theResurgenceBook.com to get the rest of chapter one from A Call to Resurgence—and more free stuff when you pre-order the book.