Monday, August 11, 2014

One sentence says it all

Tim Challies weighed in, as I knew he had to as one of the most widely read bloggers around, especially in the "Young, Restless, Reformed" or "New Calvinist" circles, on the firestorm around Mark Driscoll. At the outset let me say that I have never been a big fan of Driscoll. Even though he has largely been on the money on issues of theology his manner always struck me as a school kid trying too hard to get the cool kids to like him. I know a lot of others really admire him and I think secretly like his pseudo-tough guy machismo talk about cage fighting and stuff but not me. Anyway Tim put up a post (and probably wisely made a bogus excuse as to why comments were closed) titled Character Is King. His point is that in the New Testament what we see emphasized in calling elders is character rather than education or success. What grabbed my attention though, and why I think this public disaster was inevitable, is captured in one sentence (emphasis mine):

both he and his church have been removed from Acts 29, the church-planting network he helped establish.

That is the problem right there. Mars Hill, The Resurgence, etc. were all about Mark Driscoll. It is a common problem in the church and it is a cancer. Many pastors refer to the church they serve as "my church". Local churches pastored by well known pastors are known as "so and so's church". Most churches put the name of the pastor on the church sign. It is especially pronounced in "reformed" churches and ministries. Grace to You is all about John MacArthur, Desiring God is all about John Piper, 9 Marks is all about Mark Dever and Lignoier is all about R.C. Sproul.

Of course not every one of these ministries ends up like Mars Hill seems to be going. Combining the man exalting nature of our religious culture with a personality that craves it was a combustible mix. However the culture itself that makes ministries an extension of the personality of one man is a dangerous one, dangerous for the men involved and their families and dangerous for the church when the inevitable fall comes.

If your church or ministry is about a man, it cannot be about Jesus no matter how much you say it is or how proper your theology. We need a lot more people who make much of Jesus and lot fewer man-centered "ministries" that collect money from the church to provide a platform for one man and his personality.


Anonymous said...

I resonate with every word however the outcome begs the question whether his (Driscoll's) Theology was right, in a broad sense. The idea of "taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ" was absent in Driscoll's behavior.

Arthur Sido said...

Fair point, I would say that if you asked him a question about theology his answer would usually be spot on, but when he got off script and was living out what he thought is when he went haywire.

Goblin said...

I do think that Mark Driscoll's theological understanding of eldership is at the root of many of his problems. He believes that elders RULE the church and have authority over the church. That system is so open to abuse. It inevitably ends up with a Lead/Senior Pastor who appoints the other elders, but can also fire them if they disagree. In the end you have a senior central figure who is unaccountable to no-one, except people whose jobs depend on their agreement with the central figurehead. In effect this is the situation at Mars Hill and, coupled with Mark Driscoll's aggressive, celebrity, authoritarian and unChristlike approach to anyone who questions him, you have the perfect recipe for the disaster that has gone on for many years and has finally gone mainstream. A very sad day for the cause of Christ.

Neil Braithwaite said...

Our rights end where the gospel of Christ begins.

"DO NOT BE CALLED LEADERS; for ONE IS YOUR LEADER, that is, CHRIST. But THE GREATEST AMONG YOU SHALL BE YOUR SERVANT. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted." Matthew 23:10-12

Obviously, by his parting remarks, 3 year personal example,and quote from Jesus ("It is more blessed to give than to receive)" Paul wanted to leave no doubt in the minds of the elders at Ephesus that, by any worldly definition or example, there are NO "leadership" positions within the Ekklesia - only positions of service. And that any "leader" identified within the Ekklesia should embrace their service as a sacrificial gift to God. While it is not wrong to use the term "leader" within the Ekklesia - as one would lead another to the truth of the gospel - the term leader is NOT a title or position to be used to distinguish someone as greater or above others within the Ekklesia. In fact, Jesus clearly said "Do NOT be called leaders." Unfortunately and also sadly, the position/term of "pastor" today within the corporate church system IS synonymous with the worldly model and definition of "leader," and that's the foundation to most of the problems in the Ekklesia today. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be any way out of this mess because worldly leadership is wholly embraced by the majority of Christians as a professional vocational career with expected financial compensation, benefits and a retirement package.

They will extol the name of the Apostle Paul in almost every sermon, but what "pastor" do you know that would EVER embrace Paul's ministry example regarding compensation? NONE - when it affects their income!

And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothes. You yourselves know that THESE HANDS MINISTERED TO MY OWN NEEDS and to the men who were with me. Acts 20:29-34

If your ministry isn't about monetary rewards, but you still expect to be paid for your services, there's only one logical conclusion - it's about YOUR rights.

Arthur - If you get a chance, please read my revised post: "The Apostle Paul on Personal Rights and the Gospel"

Arthur Sido said...

Goblin, valid points. I would say that his interpretation of elder "rule" is really the norm in most of the church, but in his case it is on steroids. In many ways Driscoll is a visible manifestation of the inevitable result of a top down clerical model based on hierarchy and control rather than fellowship among equals.