Thursday, March 19, 2009

Interview with Tom Shaw

Last week I was in Seattle, WA to attend the Acts 29 Bootcamp hosted by Mars Hill Church (led by Mark Driscoll). There were several other pastors from Newfrontiers from the UK and Africa who also attended the conference, one of those guys was Tom Shaw. Many of you would know Tom from Mobilise this year and he spoke at Jubilee in 2008. I had the opportunity to sit down with him at the airport before our flights out so I asked him a few questions about Acts 29, Mark Driscoll, and what's going on in the UK.

Bryan: We just finished a few days with the Acts 29 guys and Mark Driscoll. What's your overall impression with Mark Driscoll and the whole Acts 29 network?

Tom: I've been very impressed with the humility of Mark Driscoll and the whole way that they conduct themselves is very strongly emphasizing repentance, emphasizing of humility. I think, to be honest with you, many people wouldn't necessarily when they think of Mark Driscoll immediately think humility, and that was one of the most immediately interesting things I think. Great humility, obviously huge intentionality and focus on what they're doing which is fantastic. Just an extrodinary series of leadership gifts both in Mark and many others around him. I think he's a blessing, not only to America and Seattle, but to many movements. We, I know have been hugely helped in the short hours we've had together in terms of what Newfrontiers can take away from a time of such a 'king' in terms of his love for systems and processes and that kind of thing.

Bryan: So what would you say is the top thing we (Newfronters) can learn from them (Acts 29)?

Tom: Passion for the cross, a passion for mission, and contextualization. I would say they're brilliant in terms of organization. A thinking outside of the box in terms of how a church grows, for example, their use of old quirky buildings, which I would have ruled out, they've used. And obviously a huge emphasis on men, which I think is very much in need in the evangelical world. So that would be just a handful of things.

Bryan: Mark Driscoll gets a lot of criticism. What criticism do you think is unfair?

Tom: Most of it I guess, I think that most of the criticism against him would be primarily in arrogance and a sense of lack of grace but I think that he is just a man who is very intelligent so often I think he's several steps ahead of the average person, myself very much included, so I think he's frustrated why people don't get what he's saying because for him I think things are very obvious. For example, various patterns in scripture about male government, or the passion of the cross, or mission, and therefore I think he's often frustrated. That might sometimes appear as arrogance, but I don't think he's arrogant. So I think that would be one major thing. Another unfair criticism is I think there's a huge openhandedness to them and a huge generosity and a real humility to learn and also to become far more internationally effective which I think is outside of their comfort zones and I think that takes a lot more humility, but I think they would want to be open to all that God would have for them. So I guess that all ties in with a wrong presumption of arrogance and I think they're not. I think they're growing in that.

Bryan: We have a lot of young people who listen to Mark Driscoll podcasts. Nobody's perfect. What are some things you would hope our young people DON'T pick up on?

Tom: What I wouldn't want them to pick up on is if Mark Driscoll says it's true, it's true because I think he does exaggerate and I think he's still very young, and he still overstates things. Therefore, I think you still have to maintain still a holding of it loosely. So I hope we don't have a lot of angry people who think it's justifiable to be angry or very confident that they've always got it right, when actually I think often we're still learning.

Bryan: Let’s switch gears here. Tell us what's going in Newfrontiers in the UK?

Tom: Things are going really well. We're church planting about one church a month. Recently, Dave Stroud of the UK team launched a vision for our next step to get to 400 churches. There's a great level of intentionality in terms of church planting, in terms of parachuting people in, but also wanting to see churches reproduce themselves more and more in local areas. So I think there's a great momentum, to be honest with you. Something I'm particularly passionate about is the student conference Mobilise which is hugely important for what is happening in the UK, because, as of everywhere, we are in desperate need of more leaders and a summer gathering of a couple thousand students and 20's is a key area where we can actually grow leaders and see them released into all that God would have for them. So I think things are going well. There's a huge transition happening at the moment, new leaders coming through. The ongoing question about whether apostolic work should be regional or whether it should be relational, hopefully it should be both, but that means that things get messy. That's another ongoing thing that's happening. I think a lot of movement, a lot of change. Generally growth. And a lot more marketable services which is a huge thing that's happening as well.

Bryan: You've come to us for two years in a row now and really owned what we're doing here. If you were to return in a 3-5 years, what would be your hope for us?

Tom: I know you're living with church planting in the 100 most influential cities, I think I would hope that God would give you steps in that overall hundred, some key cities that God has really underlined. I would want to see a whole raft of new leaders emerging. Thirdly, massive student works because you've have the biggest student population in the whole world in your country so I would want to see massive pumping student works and that flowing into a faster catalytic leadership production all over America and breakthrough into church size so some churches into the thousands and church planting from America overseas. Church planters being raised up here who are going to church plant all over the world!