"Martin Luther, in his commentary on Galatians, says that to add any religious work to the gospel of grace seems to be a trivial matter, but “it does more damage than human reason can imagine. Not only does it mar and obscure the knowledge of grace but it also removes Christ and all of his blessings and it completely overthrows the gospel.” Kangas Commune
US Sheepherding Experiment- US Gov.
TWW would like to thank the Gospel Coalition for posting a link to “A Response Regarding Church Discipline" here. We almost overlooked it. We will include some excerpts from this response in case it disappears like a few other things in the past.
Today we were going to discuss a new post over at 9 Marks dealing with church authority titled “What Are the Keys to the Kingdom?”here. This post makes the following provocative comment “The local church has heaven’s authority for declaring who on earth is a kingdom citizen and therefore represents heaven.”
As you can well imagine, we are not necessarily enthralled with such a statement. However, we draw your attention to this statement because, for the two of us, this defines the problem with today’s hyper-authoritarian churches. They get to declare who is saved. By default, this means that, if they do not do so, said individual is outside of the kingdom. This is a statement that could be interpreted as hubris in the extreme. We will look at it more in-depth next week.
However, such declared authority is becoming more and more the norm in Calvinista circles. We believe that adherence to such convictions can be misused by pastors who believe that they, as a group, have some special authority to “do” whatever. How they get around their own personal sin problem is left unspoken.
With this in mind, we head over to Mars Hill whose head pastor, Mark Driscoll, has a tendency to be perceived by many as an intemperate bully. We will look at several sections of this “explanation” which we believe raise some interesting issues. You may read the entire response at the previously provided link.
Mark Driscoll, as the face and founder of Mars Hill, is problematic.
Driscoll has lurched from controversy to controversy, acting more like a monster truck whose steering wheel has broken, crushing everything in its path. TWW has extensively listed the problems, with corroborating evidence over the past years.
- Song of Solomon
- The firing of pastors who disagreed with him
- Consolidation of power with him as authority
- Threatening to punch out some pastors who disagreed with him
- Foul language
- An overemphasis on sex
- Cruel jokes-(vote for the most effeminate worship leader)
- Insulting the entire Christian community of the British Isles (as an aside we have received permission to reprint a fascinating post by a Scottish pastor who looks at the Driscoll mess).
In fact, we do not have enough time to go into a litany of his pronouncements that many find offensive and concerning. We have a question for the Gospel Coalition leaders who posted this response. When will the Christian leaders in this group admit that Driscoll is a problem? Why the silence?
In the meantime, Mars Hill pastors should be aware that Driscoll has made so many gaffes in his ministry that the entire organization is colored by his personality of arrogance and immoderate speech. So don’t be surprised that we find your explanation less than satisfactory.
Mark Driscoll is hiding behind the proverbial clerical gowns of his underlings.
This “response” states:
“Our central leadership, which includes Pastor Mark Driscoll, is not involved in the discipline process, as it is handled at a local level.”
This, more than anything else, demonstrates that Driscoll is not a real man (something he prides himself on). Harry Truman had a sign on his desk that said “The Buck Stops Here.” A real leader would have stood up and taken the hit for the embarrassing revelations. Not Driscoll, he is protected by his pastors, as well as his security guards. Mark Driscoll put this church together and put the procedures in place. He needs to man up and stop getting others to clean up his messes.
Why didn't we contact Mars Hill?
Here is what the pastors said.
“ With the exception of the recent Slate article, we were not contacted by the authors to verify the facts or seek explanation regarding those cases prior publishing their articles.”
However, they then said the following.
“Out of sensitivity for all involved, and a biblical mandate to handle such matters within the church, we do not wish to comment publicly on those specific cases and drag into public what should be private.”
They said it themselves. This is a “confidential" issue and they would not comment. Are they trying to have it both ways? Call, but we won’t answer? Would they really spill their guts to two women? Baloney. It was, and is, a useless proposition. They know it and so do we, so we need to stop playing games.
How much “discipline” is applied at Mars Hill?
Here is their statement.
“It is also rare. Out of 5,417 members, we currently have nine church discipline cases in process, which represents 0.17% of our members.”
One must raise the question about what constitutes formal discipline versus informal discipline. From Andrew’s account (and we will get to why we still support him in a minute), he underwent a number of meetings, confessions, and so forth over a period of time BEFORE he was put under formal discipline. It was after all this that he was presented with the discipline contract that he was to sign. So, there seems to be a fair amount of confession, etc. prior to getting down to the official stuff.
From Sophia’s story (the founder of MarsHillRefuge) we learned that emotionally abusive tactics appear to be used on people who have been at the church for a short time, even if they are not members.
So, only a few people are being disciplined severely? Jesus said that He would go after one sheep that went astray. If even one person is wounded by a discipline process, that is one person too many.
Mars Hill appears to have a confusing view of sin.
Here is what they say. Read the first sentence very carefully.
“The goal of the process is to not just to address a sin issue but to explore the roots of sin in our lives and to discover why the sin is present in a believer’s life. Part of being repentant is being willing to explore the depths of our past behavior to discover why we struggle with certain sins today. The goal is not to get past the sin as quickly as possible through confession but to explore past patterns of behavior and find healing through Jesus from our past as well as our present sins.”
TWW has news for everyone at Mars Hill. All of you, including your pastors, have chronic sin in your lives. Everyone who is reading this should stop and contemplate this next question. Let’s say that we are able to attach a video screen to your brain. We could then broadcast your thoughts to the entire congregation. Which of you would not need Mars Hill discipline??? I am including your pastors and, especially, Mark Driscoll.
Here is the problem. The pastors, along with everybody else, are sinning just as much as Andrew. But, he had the guts to confess his sins. The rest of us (I include myself) all cleverly hide them under a pious exterior. Who’s the real man here? I say Andrew.
Why is sin present in a believer’s life? It’s really quite simple. We are positionally holy but functionally struggling with sin. This is why we need grace. Martin Luther said to “Go and sin boldly.” He understood this reality. When we set up punitive measures for dealing with sin, we cause people to “fake it.” Frankly, I wouldn’t say one word about my struggles to a church like this. Imagine getting served with a paper that would make you list every sinful thought and deed you have done? And then you get to have that list judged by someone who is “faking it” himself?
Now here are two statements that we find very interesting. It does appear that Andrew’s story is being partially corroborated.
1. What appears to be the discipline/shun letter did appear on a message board, albeit not the entire Mars Hill board.
“In one of the cases, regrettably, a letter that was meant to be privately read aloud to a small group of about 15 people in close community and friendship with Andrew was instead posted to that group’s private online community page. There was never a letter sent to the church as a whole.”
What goes onto the internet, stays on the internet, forever. This form of communication for such intensely personal issues is unwise. Also, why should we trust that his “close community” would keep this private? It is very easy to cut and paste this to an “accountability” partner, isn’t it?
I believe that all churches dealing with people must take steps to protect personal information. I am a nurse and am familiar with federal regulations designed to protect the identity and diagnosis of patients. Things like this should NEVER be posted on the Internet, code or no code.
2. Why did Mars Hill FIRE some paid staff?
Here is the statement.
“before they were ever written about in a public setting by bloggers and journalists, Mars Hill leadership stepped in to investigate. As a result of those investigations, it was determined that the leaders involved had a pattern of overstepping their authority. As such, they were released and are no longer on paid staff or in formal leadership in any capacity at Mars Hill Church. Again, these actions were taken months ago, prior to any public exposure.”
Is this an admission that something very, very wrong happened in Andrew’s case? Even worse, could it be that this sort of thing has happened on a frequent basis (“pattern of overstepping their authority”)? Why would people have been canned or removed from leadership? This statement alone says there is something amiss in this situation and gives credence to Andrew's concerns.
TWW has a different spin on this whole situation.
Recently, a blogger wrote that he was contacted by a “friend who is a pastor” at Mars Hill who said that there was more to this story and alluding to problems on behalf on Andrew and, perhaps, Bent Myer.
Suddenly, many bloggers backed away from the story, automatically assuming that the “pastor” is telling the truth. Yet, let me repeat this, people were fired from the staff! Why???
Even more importantly, and this gets to the crux of this issue, why would anyone assume the pastor is telling the truth and Andrew is not telling the truth? Let me share a story of pastors gone rogue. This is not an uncommon occurrence as we have learned in our years of blogging.
There is a young man who, along with his parents, reported an incident of abuse to a group of pastors who are very much a part of this current Neo-Calvinist crowd. Their concerns were ignored and there were insinuations made that the young man was either lying, exaggerating or, even worse, may have had a mental problem.
A year later, his concern was brought to light when the abuser was discovered in another situation.. The family asked why they weren’t listened to the previous year. Now get ready for this. The pastors denied the meeting ever took place! This denial continued even after one of the pastors confessed (it was recorded) to remembering the meeting. Everyone, including that pastor, backed off the confession, saying “no comment.”
That young man told the truth. His assessment was spot on and subsequent events proved his veracity. To this day, the pastors deny the meeting and confession occurred.
Folks, pastors are as prone to sin as anyone. We must ask ourselves if we show preference to a pastor’s word over that over that of a “lowly” church member. Do we understand that all men have fallen short of the glory of God? Why do people in the church act shocked when a pastors is caught in some sin?
Why would one assume that a young person has less character than a pastor? Deep down inside, do we rate people based on their position in society or a church? Did Jesus do this? It seems to me that he was far more concerned about the little guy who was consistently disenfranchised from the church by the leaders. The Pharisees liked to hang around with each other. Jesus preferred the company of the tax collectors and prostitutes.
In the movie, Ghostbusters, one of the characters (somewhat untrustworthy) kept repeating, “Trust me, I’m a doctor.” Who do we trust? I say that we trust Jesus and then we are very, very cautious about trusting people just because they spent some time learning Hebrew. As we look at the history of Mark Driscoll, we raise the question “Why should we trust him or his pastors?”
Of course, many will jump to Driscoll’s defense. He is a celebrity pastor, after all. How many will speak on behalf of the “no account sinner” who is getting hammered by well placed innuendos on the part of those who have something to lose?
Well, we stand for, and with, Andrew. No matter how this situation turns out, Andrew was brave enough to confess some embarrassing sins. In fact, we would wager he is braver than many people at Mars Hill who are sitting back and saying “I hope they never find out about me.” Even more, he is braver than Mark Driscoll who is the king of excuses when it comes to his flippant mouth.
We believe that everyone attending Mars Hill, along with the pastors should read The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse The: Recognizing and Escaping Spiritual Manipulation and False Spiritual Authority Within the Church by David Johnson and Jeff Van Vonderen link Be careful. You might see some things in this book that remind you of church.
Lydia's Corner: Isaiah 57:15-59:21 Philippians 1:1-26 Psalm 71:1-24 Proverbs 24:9-10