November 23, 2009

Church Experiment #47: Oaks Community Church

If my relationship with the Acts 29 movement were represented on Facebook, it would be listed as, “It’s Complicated.” [Nice 2009 reference.]

I used to listen to Mark Driscoll’s podcasts. Driscoll is smart and he likes to tell people about it. Our core beliefs (somewhat) align, but his perceived arrogance pushed me away. Matt Chandler was another Christian leader I admired. Again, an intelligent dude. Less arrogant than Driscoll, but Chandler likes to yell at his congregation … a lot. Someone never learned to use his inside voice. (By the way, as I write these words, Matt Chandler is still recovering from surgery that removed a tumor from his brain. Please pray for Matt and his family as he continues the recovery process.) [And as I write these words, Matt is doing well and now leads the Acts 29 organization.]

I am a huge fan of Tim Keller. He’s not part of the Acts 29 network, but most of the Acts 29 guys worship Keller. Their beliefs mirror one another, but Keller is a very humble man. Most people aren’t the smartest person in the room, but they want you to think they are. That’s Driscoll. Keller actually is the smartest person in the room, but he doesn’t advertise it.

There aren’t many Acts 29 churches in the Cincinnati area. I knew Middletown was home to The Oaks Community Church (, led by Kevin Jamison at the time of my visit. I had never met Kevin in person, but we hung around each other’s blogs a couple of years ago. I had heard many good things about Kevin, and I was hoping he leaned more toward Keller than Driscoll.

To finish reading about this experience or any of the reflections from my 52 visits, please purchase the full book here.


Daniel Wilcox said...

Hi Steve,

The problem I have with Keller and Driscoll is they deny the Good News is for most people. They claim a "limited atonement" where Jesus died only for a limited number of humans (not everyone) and an "unconditional election" (where most us are born hopelessly preordained to eternal damnation).

I personally don't see how such news is good. They are powerful speakers but conveyors of bad news for most people:-(

Daniel Wilcox

Micah said...

I'm glad to read this. My sister has started attending an Acts 29 church near her, and she's conflicted about it. There's plenty to disagree with theologically (especially since she's a single woman) but the church is a really good church and she's connected really quickly and well.

Ah, well. No perfect churches, right? I'm just glad she's landed somewhere good.

Rohmeo said...


I'm curious to know why you think Driscoll and Chandler come across as arrogant instead of boldly loving? I believe those 2 are being used of God in a way that is bringing many 20 and 30 somethings to Christ or back to Christ in a way that we haven't seen in awhile. I have even felt a little uncomfortable a couple times but that's more of an indictment on me...not them. The more I have seen their total ministries I actually think they are very humble at the same time (they joke about the depravity of men in a way that to me shows an irreverance to humanity NOT an irreverance to God....though some people look at it that way...BIG difference). I praise God that we have such diversity channeling out the truth of the Gospel through Christ alone. It's helped my walk for sure. I love Keller as well...I've read his books. Keep in mind his personality is different plus his target audience in Philly is a little more yuppy city folks (as well as all walks of life) whereas Driscoll and Chandler are challenging different segments. Driscoll is challenging unchurched 20's and 30's and Chandler is challenging the "churched" 20's and 30's.

I live 20 minutes from Oaks Community and attended there a few months back to check it out. Looking for a more local church since moving to Northern Cincy (Lebanon)...(currently go to Apex in Dayton which is phenomenal). Jamison was excellent in his teaching. Great seemingly young core of Christ followers for sure. Highly recommend it. I've planned on going back there again.

Rohmeo said...


Actually check out Driscoll on the Mars Hill Church website when you get a chance and look in their media section. Driscoll puts it a little more understandable for me...he actually calls it Unlimited Limited Atonement. He explains it well.

Bottom line is...Since God is Sovereign he knows all yesterday today and forever. We finite beings are I don't think we need to get hung up on the doctrine too much. Either way we still don't know from our end so it should not change the Good News...we should be sharing it regardless. The Good News is that Christ died for the sins of the world and yes when He comes back some day it will have only been accepted by those who are saved.

Eric Russell said...


Thanks for including our church in your experiment, and thanks for the gracious words towards us!

I want to say that I came to this church as someone with enormous needs, and they lavished upon me gifts of community and provision because of gospel centered and driven hearts. If you ever have the opportunity to return, I'd love to sit down with you afterwards and tell you even more.

I'm excited to be following your experiment!

Cyndi said...

Our church is in North Dayton in a troubled neighborhood. We have homeless come into our services along with a few that we have to constantly set boundaries so that they're not completely disruptive.

Yesterday one of the neighborhood men came in completely drunk and kept raising his hand and yelling "hey pastor!" Our pastor handled it well, though he teases that seminary never prepares you for that sort of thing. There are days that I feel like we're babysitting these people and neglecting those that truly want to be fed (spiritually). But then I realize that how we treat the problem people shows ALL people how we love.

I must admit that I struggle some days to not go find a "normal" church. But then I'd probably be the weird one that everyone avoids. :)

ylmurph said...

without debating Keller or Driscoll...or Acts 29 (which I don't think was your point, or your hope for discussion) I'd have to agree that the Oaks folks are great (I have no word that rhymes...blokes?). I'm a big Kevin Jamison fan, and have always appreciated his uncompromising character and good nature.
I do, however, wonder about his choice of music and penchant for fishing.
Having said that - I loved the way you described your experience and am glad you liked it.
ultimately this one seemed to inspire you in a direction that many of these have not.
and isn't that what it's all about?

RA Cook said...

Watch out for Dan McIntyre at the Oaks. He's a bad seed.

Steve Fuller said...


I used to listen to Driscoll and Chandler a LOT. Every week, every message. Sometimes I would go back into their archives and listen to two or three per week.

I loved the content. But their personalities always rubbed me the wrong way. Finally, I had to stop listening to Driscoll because I couldn't ignore what I perceived to be arrogance.

I could be wrong, but that was my experience. That has also been a couple years ago, so maybe he has been humbled.

aneal said...

hey man,

like eric said, i appreciate you stopping in at The Oaks and seeing what we're all about. I'll be praying for your journey and for the Lord to be moving in big ways man.

There's a sermon Kevin Jamison gave last December 7th, and I think you would enjoy it and get a lot from it. I know I did. thanks again man

Austin Neal

aneal said...

that sermon I was talking about is titled "Marks of a Gospel-Centered Community" in case you were interested in looking it up

Judy in Indiana said...

I have never heard of an Acts 29 church before, so I am off to google it.

Rohmeo said...


I think the "godfather" of the Reformed group John Piper has really come along side Driscoll as well as CJ Mahaney and probably even Keller have rubbed off on him. He has grown a lot over the last few years and will tell you what his struggles have been (namely humility). I find that refreshing when a pastor is transparent from the platform. His exposure with these guys and willingness to learn from others is evident. He has a unique gift of putting people in their place for sure and I can see how it can sometimes come off to others but I also think his passion and love for Jesus and introducing others to Jesus comes across as dominant from my point of view. We all have different tastes but I'd give him (and Chandler) a chance to challenge/encrouage you again.

James S Russell said...

I'm not sure God meant for everything to be so complicated as it sounds in this article. Simple truth: Jesus died as a sacrifice for all of our sins. Just knowing that does not get us to heaven. Commiting yourself to Jesus in all the ways he taught in Matthew chapters 5, 6, & 7 as well as asking for forgiveness of our sins, and living for him completely, as a child would believe, gets rid of the viscious attacks the devil slyly confronts us with daily. The saduceses, Sanhedron, & Scribes all believed and obeyed the Laws of Moses(10 Commandments), but they were called hypocrates because of the Larceny in thier hearts. Thats the key Folks! Believe, live according to His word, and above all, obey the first commandment. Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and soul in so many words.

stephanie said...

"If you surround yourself with people who tell you what you want to hear, you're doomed to stunt your growth."

Reminds of a tweet my friend Carlos sent out the other day, "Surround yourselves with those who haven't drunk your koolaid". It's still with me, that tweet. It's a harder way to live, but I see the wisdom in it.

Anonymous said...

Chandler recently gave an interview to Leadership weekly in which he said this about the new reformed movement
"I'm unapologetically Reformed, but nine times out of ten I cannot stand the Reformed community. I don't want to be around them. I don't want to read their blogs. They can be cannibalistic, self-indulgent, non-missional, and angry. It's silly and sad at the same time. Reformed doctrine should lead to a deep sense of humility and patience with others. How it produces such arrogance baffles me.

New Calvinism is a young movement, and young people are often arrogant. Life hasn't had a chance to beat the trash out of them yet. I'll tell the young people in my sermons, "You can't get into theological battles while you still live with your mom." Or, "You can nail your 95 theses to the door once you own one." Before these 20 year olds begin passionately defending their view of Scripture, I want to see that they are being obedient to it."

I judge by fruit. Love wins - It is not all about being right. The A29 movement seems to be filled with arrogance around being right and everyone else being wrong. "Great sermons" but so arrogant and self-righteous doesn't win in my book.

Alex Green said...

See, I LOVE that Chandler yells. I think it's just frustration and passion coming across. But, different strokes I guess.

It's nice to have you rub the wrong way sometimes Steve, because I get to learn from you in those moments. But hey, can I ask, since you're calling this a "Church" experiment, why are you going to an atheist meeting? Since the Church is supposed to be the body of Christ?

I know you went to other non-Christian gatherings and it is all really fascinating, but will you have to change the title?

Jen - Mom of 4 said...

Maybe it's because I have not heard of the Act 29 church, but the one section that grabbed me the most out of this week entry was: "I have a plan for my life, and I'm working like hell to make that plan work. If God wants on board the Steve Express, great. If not, I believe I can make my life work without him."

I think it struck me so hard is because I have have recently realized that my plan, the plan that I thought was pretty darn good, was nothing without letting God determine the ending. I had a similar notion that you have - my life is fine, I'm doing good deeds, I acknowledge and love God, but (isn't there always a but) if things start to go in a way that I'm not happy with or comfortable with - well, God can get adjust and walk with me down the path that I will choose.

I realized that my paths, while they were comfortable and good, were not fulfilling. I was missing a major piece - Peace. Peace of mind, peace of heart, just peace. By truly opening my heart and path to God I have found true Peace. The path has become more difficult recently, but I know that He would not lead me down a path that would lead to my destruction. Remember, He never promised it would be easy, just that He would always be with us.

I am now off to research Acts 29! Thank you for an insightful week!

Rohmeo said...


I think you have to look at Matt Chandler's comments as more of a reminder about what's important. His doctrine if you will happens to match up to the new Reformed or New Calvinism and he happens to be an Acts 29 church and very involved with it so I think he loves these folks like crazy.

Chandler is not one of these "against the establishments" kind of bent like the Emergent Village group but knows that being pegged into a corner is what we all naturally do and probably shouldn't. It's all about Jesus and not a "click".

He has a gift of getting "churchy" folks to repent of religion. He is so passionate about it, it sometimes comes across as "screw this and that"....I happen to think it's refreshing and challenging.

Daniel Wilcox said...

To Rohmeo, Wes, and others,

No, I don't think everyone will be saved because God is love--truly loves everyone, and thus gives all humans a choice whether to love him or not.

Driscoll and and Keller's bad news isn't the Good News because they claim(like other Reformed leaders) that no human has any choice. We were either preordained to eternal damnation or heaven and Jesus only loves to save some of humankind.

All of the rest of us are without hope--were born to damnation:-( incapable of knowing God. Jesus didn't die for us:-(

That is the worst form of religion I've ever heard of, and rather ironically, it is the same message as Islam--one of theological determinism. In Islam, too, God is so sovereign that no one has any choice.

Such determinism is not the Good News of Jesus who died for the sins of the WHOLE world (I John, etc.)

Theological determinism not only voids most of Scripture, but as John Wesley so wisely pointed out, it makes God a tyrant rather than Eternal Love and Holiness. I further agree with Wesley's statement that he would rather be an atheist!

Daniel Wilcox

Anonymous said...

eh. good style )

rhymeswithplague said...

Hi Steve,

It took me all the way to Jan. 5th (2010) to get this far, but I'm still with you. You have changed a bit for the better since I last commented and said you seem to be getting shallower as the weeks went by.

Maybe I watched just a little too much of Joan of Arcadia and a decade ago Della Reese and all her friends on Touched by an Angel, but I was absolutely delighted to see that Jesus came and sat next to you at Oaks Community Church. Old, black, homeless, mentally challenged, that would be just like Him, wouldn't it? And you sort of got it but you seem to have missed it for the most part.

Better luck next time.

I am really enjoying your posts, by the way. I don't always agree with you and sometimes I am even shocked by you (I am 68, after all), but I am nonetheless really enjoying your posts.

Bob Brague

P.S. - I am in the Atlanta area, but my oldest son lived in Clifton in the early 90's while attending the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music.

Keep on keepin' on.