Why Driscoll’s Resignation is Good and Bad for the Church
Few people in modern American Christianity polarize people like Mark Driscoll. He is a man who was unashamed, bold, and confident in his preaching. While these are certainly characteristics to admire behind the pulpit it appears that he at times was just as bold in his interpersonal relationships as he was from the pulpit. This obviously caused some…situations. Now I am not going to give voice to any of these concerns…not because I don’t sympathize…or because I don’t understand (believe me I have had my fair share of experiences) but the accusations and events that transpired have been covered in such breadth that it takes little effort to research the events yourself. This post is about figuring out the situation…assessing it…and seeing if what was done was within the spirit of the gospel. In this post, I will make people angry…people will disagree…and I am fine with that. But, know what is about to be said here has many hours of prayer, contemplation, and research (in other words if I make a strong statement…I mean it…there is no ambiguity and no apologies for speaking the truth) behind it. I have taken this situation seriously and see it as a case study for similar situations across the country so that we can assess how situations are being handled.
First I would like to start by saying to those who have been hurt that I do understand their pain…I understand how betrayal from a spiritual leader feels and I definitely empathize. What was done to you is wrong, sinful, and completely unacceptable. Make no mistake…I am not going to be arguing for Mark or Mars Hill’s innocence here. They are guilty of practices in church discipline and cultic behavior and have been rightfully condemned for it. In many ways, the sin that Mark and the leadership of Mars Hill are guilty of is now the sin that some Christians are perpetrating against Mark seems just…or is it? I think we need to be VERY careful here. Each of is guilty of sin…and each of us is deserving of justice to God…Christ has taken that penalty for us…but he has also taken that penalty for Mark. In many ways I struggle with where to start in this…I am admittedly irate with Christians right now who speak without thinking, who divide in the name of “truth”, while completely ignoring Scripture and its commands for how we are to conduct ourselves in moments of difficulty.
Mark has been pastoring at Mars Hill for almost 20 years, starting the ministry from scratch and working his way up. By the mid 2000’s he was one of the most popular pastors in America and was pastoring the fastest growing church in America. With growth and success however comes pride…and this has been Mark’s undoing. Many pastors with larger churches especially ones that have grown quickly acquire a certain…arrogance attributing their success to their activity and not to God’s grace. While none would ever willingly admit this…it is true of most (as can be seen when someone disagrees with an approach they take and are either ignored or pushed down to get out-of-the-way). This is essentially, what has occurred here, along with many other issues. Now, it is necessary to state that I do not believe that any of this disqualifies a person from ministry…it certainly affects your effectiveness and might for a time keep you from conducting ministry in a healthy fashion…but it does not disqualify on any kind of permanent basis.
This being said, Mark’s resignation was a good thing for the church…why? With all of the hype and with all the divisive language going on between Mark’s supporters and detractors. Mark must have decided that he might be able to “win” but that it would come at the cost of unity in the body of Christ. This was not a cost Mark was willing to pay and instead of fighting it out…he decided to resign. This is wise and selfless…especially after submitting himself to examination, discipline, and repenting (profusely I might add) for the wrongs he has committed towards others while in the pastorate.
Now, for why we should be mad about it. What is astounding…I mean truly mind-blowing to me…is how even after this there is still a visceral hatred for Mark and apparently his family (as they have received several death threats). This is beyond inexcusable…it is a travesty…and any person daring to identify with Christ and hold this kind of animosity towards a repentant brother in Christ is destructive. To not offer reconciliation…to not offer forgiveness…to be unwilling to offer a helping hand…is to spit in the face of Christ while he hangs on the cross for the very sin they are currently committing. I wish that I could say that this is an isolated incidence…I really do. But people I respect and admire have even displayed this animosity and judgment even after repentance. They scoff and mock Mark and his failures in ways that make me beyond broken, not only for them (as they speak judgment upon themselves in the process) but for Mark and his family as well. I cannot stress enough how urgently we need to stop taking part in this behavior. By taking part in it…we dishonor God in almost every conceivable way and discredit our own witness.
Now some are also criticizing Mark for his resignation (many of which are the same people who called for his removal), stating that his intention behind resignation was to prevent correction and submission to a restoration plan. Why would they criticize a man for willfully resigning from a position that they suggested just 2 weeks earlier he should be removed from? How do they expect God whom they violate daily to forgive them for their sins when they so readily and easily hold others sins against them regardless of their repentance? They make themselves a hypocrite more concerned with the speck in their fellow Christian’s eye and unconcerned with the plank in their own. Think on this for a moment…they have seated themselves on a seat that does not belong to them, regarding a man they do not know, and a situation that they are not even remotely effected by…how is this wise?
Many people who were most vocal…are people with no affiliations with Mars Hill or Mark. These people have spoken against Mark for close to a decade…people who see his theology and teaching as “dangerous”. Now I am not going to sit here and point fingers…those reading this know who they are…there is no need for me to name drop. In reality, these people disagree with Mark on social issues and how they are applied theologically, such as; the role of women in the church and in marriage, what sex means for a Godly marriage, and so on. So these critics have been looking for an open door and when they saw it, they assaulted it.
As a result, a repentant man has left a ministry that he started. Has had his character flayed and exposed to the prying eyes of the public regarding issues that he apologized for in 2006 (the William Wallace fiasco). And lastly has had his family’s lives threatened repeatedly. Those who have stirred up this animosity and hatred are now guilty of an attack on a repentant brother in Christ and have put his family at risk. This is the real world…with real consequences…and if you are in Christ…you WILL reflect this call for repentance by those guilty of this. For in their “seeking” for truth they have perpetrated a sin just as grievous.
Those who are truly deserving of continued scrutiny are the leadership at Mars Hill. There has been no admittance of wrong doing on their end when they are the guiltiest out of all parties involved. They set up this culture that lacked accountability, and themselves took actions (like the firing of pastors after some expressed their displeasure with Mark’s leadership) that were intent on oppression and concealment. Mark was guilty of much…but he has repented…we should now turn our eyes to the leadership at Mars Hill and be sure that those guilty of just as guilty come to justice over the wrong that was done, BUT let us do it in a way that is loving, respectful, and gracious. It is time we stop disgracing Christ and begin to reflect his nature in our dealing of this situation, being humble in approach but persistent in resolve. I pray that those reading this take what has been said and apply it. Nothing is more dangerous to the church than people bent on divisiveness over disagreement…such people are wolves attempting to tear the bride into pieces. Luckily, for us all…the bride groom comes and the wolves will not survive it.