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The Mark Driscoll Situation – An Accountability Reminder

The official news is out – Mark Driscoll has resigned from being lead pastor at Mars Hill Church.  SHOCKER!  Who didn’t see that coming from 6 weeks of leave away?  I’m about to weigh in on this because I feel I’ve kept my thoughts to myself for too long about this church stuff.  I want to start by making it perfectly clear that my main motivation is seeing God and His kingdom lifted up, but you’ll have to hear me out.  I also want to make it very clear that I have no power to gain, no agenda to advance, and I find it very ironic when I hear statements that label anyone willing to speak up as “power hungry” or otherwise unworthy of voicing a concern.  Keep reading and that might make more sense too.

As a brother in Christ, a very gifted communicator, and a brilliant mind – I love Mark Driscoll.  I don’t know him personally, but what I do know of him I really do love.  When he was at our home church my wife and I attended a marriage conference Mark and his wife conducted.  We read the book and loved it.  But that’s about as far as that love can go – what we’ve seen and read from a distance.  (I truly do pray the best is yet to come for Mark Driscoll).

Too many people in church today are too infatuated with stage personalities while too many pastors are shielding themselves from criticism to the point that they’ve surrounded themselves by cowards and conditioned them to be “yes” men.  Trust me – I know all about why some protection from criticism is necessary, but going to the other extreme leads to situations like Mark Driscoll is in right now.

“Church People” – that’s what the “new” churches call guys like me that have been around church our entire life, at the “old” or “traditional” churches.  I attend a “new” church – it’s great.  But by some stereotype I’m sure I fall in the bucket of “church people” used with negative connotation from time to time.  Call us what you want – there’s something we’ve learned along the way – people suck!  Faith in man sucks.  Trust is earned through personal relationship, but when personal relationships are cut off and people of influence aren’t kept in check bad stuff happens.

Not all “church people” are power hungry narcissists that expect pastors and staff to bend to their every demand or else…  Some of us just truly care about what’s best for the kingdom and know that people get in the way of what’s best all the time.  When we “church people” see red flags sometimes it’s for good reason.

A while back when I read the facts about what was going on with Mark Driscoll I was shocked, but I knew then that resignation was bound to happen.  So now that the resignation is reality – I’m not shocked at all.  Am I saddened by it – definitely.  But shocked by it – not at all.  As preachers kids my wife and I (and our siblings) have been subjected to more church crap than most people can imagine.  We can honestly say that for every pastor you hear about being “done wrong” there is at least one bad pastor that is still getting away with doing wrong.

Am I saying that pastors are supposed to be perfect?  Not at all.  None of us are perfect.  We’re going to make mistakes.  In fact – I think preachers are at their best when they are transparent enough to be real about areas where they are imperfect.  I know I’m most challenged to step up my walk with God when the preacher is genuinely real about their own struggles.

I don’t expect pastors, church staff, board members, or whatever to be perfect.  Being imperfect is not the problem I’m getting at with this post.  The problem is the arrogance to act in a way that makes it ok to stay not ok.  The saying I’ve heard says, “It’s ok to not be ok, but it’s not ok to stay that way.”  When imperfect people are given the power to surround themselves with worshipers and ignore questioners they are setting up to make it ok to stay not ok when there might really be something imperfect that needs to change.

If there’s no selfish motive to what I’m saying then it must be that I’m just a judgmental person.  Valid challenge.  (I, unlike other narcissists I know, am willing to accept challenging questions and perspectives.)  It really isn’t my place to judge, but I’ll tell you who my flesh wants to cast judgement on in this situation.  If I were a member, or “owner” as my home church puts it, I’d be questioning the leaders that were around Mark Driscoll as much or more so than I’d be questioning Mark Driscoll.  In my opinion those people are just as responsible for the damage being done to the kingdom right now.  So far though I haven’t heard or read anything that questions those guys.

Exactly how do I hold those guys responsible?  They were put in a position, by God, to make a choice when it would have been a tough choice to make.  When Mark Driscoll was having his worst moments they were in the position to call him out, take action, stand up for what was right – and they didn’t.  They let it slide, took little or no action (weak), and covered their butts – probably out of fear.  Am I saying they are ultimately responsible for Mark’s actions?  No.  But I’d say it is arguable that they are responsible for letting it reach epic proportions.

Despite my belief that the fault for the situation should be shared, I have little sympathy for anyone involved in the leadership at Mars Hill because they are missing an opportunity to model humility to the church body.  Parts of the resignation letter from Mark Driscoll might as well say, “I haven’t done anything THAT wrong, but I’ll leave anyway.”  It almost cracks me up – the classic narcissism in the well-worded but hardly humble tone.  I wonder how many revisions they had to do to avoid “sounding guilty” or actually admitting that he HAD to resign – as in he was forced out.  I don’t know if that is a fact, but this case wreaks of that being the real truth.  There is even reference to the things (minor things of course) confessed in the past.  But a little research on what those minor things were proves pretty alarming.

This is all very sad to me, and I’m no one to judge, and we’re all imperfect, and we all should forgive each other and accept forgiveness for ourselves.  But what I don’t see anywhere in anything I’ve read about the Mark Driscoll case is an acknowledgment that there are consequences for actions and behaviors.  It does not matter how long ago something happened or whether it was confessed and repented.  There are consequences for poor choices and bad behaviors, and the thing about consequences is we don’t always know when they’re going to happen.  I don’t know all the details and don’t need to know, but I hope Mark doesn’t completely miss the opportunity to accept the current circumstances as appropriate consequences he had coming for the bad choices he admittedly made.  And I truly do pray the best is yet to come for him.

Let this whole scenario be a strong reminder to us all that it is not unreasonable for us to question one another, even “leaders”, in loving yet challenging accountability.  Anytime I hear statements that communicate disdain for people who might have legitimate questions I have red flags waving and my mind is wondering – what is being hidden.  It is not unreasonable for church members, much less “owners” who have responsibilities, to expect transparency from the leadership.  It is not unreasonable to want some sort of evidence that there aren’t potentially destructive issues being covered up behind the scenes.

Whether we’re on the stage or in the congregation – we’re all imperfect.  But if Christ is in us His spirit and wisdom is with us – ALL of us.  No one, not even those on stage, should ever prevent us from listening to that voice inside that wants us to speak up.  Because we never know when our speaking up might be God using us to build and strengthen His army.

Comments

  1. I appreciate this post, especially coming from the perspective of a pastor’s daughter who’s father IS, in fact a narcissist, and has separated from his family, continuing to pastor a church without his family and under condemnation from other ministers. He is in sin. Because of this, the Mark Driscoll situation has been interesting to watch play-out to me because while I can’t agree with maybe exactly the tone or approach MD took in his resignation letter, the fact that he is resigning and being public about some faults is encouraging. Like I said, my own father refuses to do any of that and I know other ministers who do the same. The way you brought up the leaders of the church being almost as much to blame as MD? Brilliant. Also, like you, I have been a huge fan of Mark. I don’t feel like any of this negates his previous good work (messages, books, etc.) but rather brings to mind, again, our humanity and God’s willingness to use our imperfections to perfect the church.

    • Thanks for sharing your insight, Charity. It’s encouraging to know someone relates and understands exactly what I’m thinking and trying to say. Your comments are spot on – I agree completely.

      Regarding the situation with your father – I’m so sorry your family is enduring that, and my thoughts and prayers are with you all. I’m glad the MD’s willingness to do the right thing and step down is encouraging to you that your father could follow that example. God has a plan for all things, and works in mysterious ways we can not always comprehend, so my prayer is for God’s will to be done in your family’s situation and for everyone to have peace through faith focused on Him.

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