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by Mark Driscoll
Mark Driscoll Interviews Mike Wilkerson on His New Book
I’ve known Mike since he and his wife, Trisha, arrived at Mars Hill when our church was very small. They immediately began serving faithfully, and Mike became a pastor in 2004. Two issues we continually deal with are sexual abuse and addiction. God led Mike to develop what we call Redemption Group ministry. Over time, this culminated in the Redemption curriculum on which his new book, Redemption, is based. Today, the content of this book is the basis for biblical counseling at Mars Hill and other churches around the world. We’ve seen the gospel insights Mike has developed used by the Holy Spirit to bring real change to many people. I asked him to write this book and greatly appreciate all the effort he put in to do so. And, we are very grateful to his wife and four kids we love very much for all the support and insight they give Mike.
What events in your life and ministry led to the writing of this book?
Mike Wilkerson: Having grown up as a “church kid” somewhat isolated from the world and people “out there” with broken lives, it was a shock when I found myself in the grip of sin, enslaved to pornography. I learned that we all are in desperate need of God’s mercy and forgiveness. Later, as a pastor in groups and counseling sessions with men and women broken by past abuse, I observed how much we have in common in our suffering, even when the particular ways we’ve suffered vary in kind and degree.
A few years back at Mars Hill, we realized we had a problem with some of these groups. We had several different kinds of recovery groups for different issues. Some of them were bearing good fruit; others weren’t. On the whole, we didn’t have unity and theological consistency across these groups. We were also spreading our resources too thinly as a church by trying to keep so many different kinds of groups running. I led a team of pastors to explore solutions to those problems. What emerged was a vision for replacing our many issue-specific groups with a single kind of mixed-issue, gospel-oriented group that would immerse people in the Exodus story, the Bible’s paradigm for redemption—freedom from slavery. Redemption is the curriculum for those groups. I go into more detail on the story of how this all came to be in the preface of the book.
What are some friends and influences who helped to shape your thinking for Redemption?
MW: My fellow pastors James Noriega and Bill Clem were there from the beginning, influencing the initial concepts about the ministry and curriculum that would eventually give rise to the book. Gerry Breshears, now my adviser at Western Seminary, introduced me to the idea that the Exodus is the Bible’s pattern for redemption. The faculty at CCEF (the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation), especially David Powlison, in their various books, articles and lectures, most significantly shaped my thinking about people, their problems, and how to connect God’s Word to people’s lives deeply and practically. Tim Keller’s teaching on idolatry was huge. Graeme Goldsworthy’s work helped me read the Bible better. And for a couple of the chapters, I even gleaned from some friends’ dissertations.
What are you hoping the book does both for individuals and churches/ministries?
MW: For individuals, I want them to see that there is hope in Jesus, however troubled they may be. The book is full of brutal reality; stories of people whom Jesus has truly redeemed from the pit. In one sense, that makes for a dark, serious read. In another sense, though, those same qualities lead to great hope, because it shows how God’s grace and mercy really do reach down into the deepest darkest pits. I think that reflects the mood and movement of Exodus, on which the book is based: from darkness to light. We even tried to visually capture that movement in the book cover.
The Bible offers much deeper waters from which to draw wisdom about the human condition and God’s even deeper work of redemption.
For churches, I hope it will serve as a tool for catalyzing a culture of redemptive community. I’ve talked with a lot of pastors and church members who are eager for resources to help their churches talk honestly about deep sin and suffering in the light of the cross. Many of them have already benefited greatly from the book, as you can see in some of the book’s pastoral endorsements. I would love to see more churches experience the richness and depth that comes with walking in the light as a community.
How is the approach you are taking in the book different than other Christian teaching on life change?
MW: Thankfully, there’s a lot of great Christian teaching out there on life change I could draw upon. But there’s also a lot out there that is unfortunately shallow in dealing with sin and the gospel. My wife and I were just looking over a book the other day, for example, that basically amounted to baptized self-help. The Bible offers much deeper waters from which to draw wisdom about the human condition and God’s even deeper work of redemption. That’s one of the motivations for writing the book from a biblical-theological perspective based on a narrative like Exodus. It’s still practical—I’ve received lots of feedback from different readers who’ve been greatly helped by it. But it’s probably more theological than your typical book on abuse or addiction.
How has God worked in your life as you’ve taught this content and written this book?
MW: One of the great personal benefits of having spent so much time in a book like Exodus, which lends imagery and background to so much other Scripture, is how it makes the rest of the Bible explode with meaning. My times alone immersed in God’s story while writing were some of the richest times of worship I’ve ever known. It has also deepened the significance of many of the songs we sing in gathered worship. In particular, the theme of God’s abounding steadfast love has captured my attention; first, because I’m amazed by his love for me; but also because it moves me to want to love others more like he does.
Mike Wilkerson's book, Redemption: Freed by Jesus from the Idols We Worship and the Wounds We Carry, can be purchased from Amazon.