We’ll keep this brief. Not much more needs to be said about the Mark Driscoll/Mars Hill situation. Just three quick items for consideration as we’ve had a few days to consider some of the responses.
- It’s necessary to pause in all this and think carefully about what we can learn.
It’s no more unloving to do so than it was unloving of God to use the Israelites as an example for the NT reader to learn from (“these things happened as examples for us…” 1 Cor 10:6) or for God to use the over-grown-vineyard-broken-down-wall guy (Prov 24:30-31) as an example for us of what not to do.
In a spirit of love for others and humble teachability, there is much to learn from things like our own sin, the Israelites’ sin, broken-down-wall guy’s sin, and Driscoll’s sin. Those are opportune times to stop and grow. Challies did an excellent job demonstrating this yesterday.
- Before we affirm a Christian leader, it’s a good idea to make sure he’s affirmed.
Regarding pastoral qualification, Challies said this yesterday:
“As the situation comes into focus through scandal after scandal, it becomes increasingly clear that there are, and always have been, systemic issues at Mars Hill. Many of those issues are directly related to the sins and weaknesses of the church’s founder and leader.”
It’s widely known that Driscoll entered ministry on the basis that God spoke to him and told him to, among other things, preach the Bible, train men, and plant churches. And to be fair, he also mentioned a few years ago that he was not ready to plant a church at the age he did.
Nevertheless, there appears to have been a problem from the start, namely, the lack of biblical affirmation to pastoral ministry. Therein lies much of the problem.
Imagine, for example, if we approached the world of brain surgery with that kind of subjective, unverifiable way as it pertains to qualifications: “Hello, doctor. I’m all ready for you to open up my cranium and crank out that tumor. By the way, what are your qualifications for brain surgery?” “I had a vision one day and heard a voice which told me this is what I need to be doing.”
If we would not approach surgeons or doctors in such a way, why would we in something as weighty as pastoral ministry?
Driscoll’s launchpad into ministry seems to have been a subjective, unverifiable experience apart from the careful examination from existing biblically qualified elders. But a man cannot qualify himself. Supposed visions or dreams of God speaking our qualification into existence have no biblical grounds. This is a form of self-qualification, which is insufficient qualification.
Paul, for example, exhorted Titus, not to find men grounding their qualification in visions and dreams, but those whose lives corresponded to a long list of objective, verifiable criteria (Titus 1:5-9). Doing so required careful examination of potentially qualified men in transparent community under the care of at least Titus. The full weight and authority of Scripture (alone) was brought to bear on the man before he would be considered qualified for the sacred task of eldering. This is where it starts for every man considering pastoral ministry. This is how God helps us know who we should and should not be following.
I understand that many godly men affirmed him later in his ministry through indirect means (i.e. ministry affiliation and conference invites), but they probably should not have. And it would not have been less loving, but more to go back to the start and examine if there ever was a sound biblical affirmation for pastoral ministry.
Ordination is not everything, of course. But pursuing pastoral ministry without some form of biblical affirmation and ordination means we are likely off from the start. That becomes practical in thinking through things like, “Who should I follow, be influneced by, sit under, and be shepherded by?” Before we affirm a Christian leader, it’s a good idea to make sure he’s affirmed.
- We greatly need discerning people who can say to us, “I told you so.”
Let’s think back for a moment to how we got to where we are. As we do, we will notice somewhat of a cycle in all this. First, Driscoll came on the scene and began making waves about ten years ago. He conducted himself in some questionable ways. Sound men began warning us and expressed necessary concern. Many YRR’s and others plugged their ears and cried foul. Commenting on those warnings, Challies humbly admitted, “At the time I was tempted to take this for pessimism or a curmudgeon’s spirit.”
As time passed, the waves would settle a bit, sort of. More questionable situations would arise with Driscoll. Those who had more discernment than many of us—who could see things as they were in a way that many of us could not—continued to expressed concern. Many of us continued to plug our ears and immaturely play the “that’s-unloving” card. And the cyclical slide continued to where we are now. Many of those who previously plugged their ears are now saying things like, “OK, I don’t really agree with Driscoll, but how dare you say that we should’ve listened. Whatever you do, you must not say, ‘I told you so.’”
But something is amiss. What has been peculiar, though not surprising, in all this is that response. It’s profuse enough that it almost seems like the cardinal sin to say, “I told you so.”
Now, if what one means by this is something like, “Do not fill your facebook and twitter posts with a narcissistic horn-blowing call to self so that all would applaud you and say, ‘You were right, you must be a prophet,’” then point taken, received, and amen.
I could have my head in the sand, but I haven’t seen much of that. The warning almost seems like a boogeyman. Many of those blogosphere warnings seem to have another odor to them.
Why is a huge chunk of the responses to the scandal filled with warnings and exhortations against affirming and reminding us what was true all along? Why the many warnings against the truth? Are we not to be a people of truth? Are we not to be a teachable people? Are we not to be a people of humility, eager to receive sound correction and change?
“A scoffer does not like to be reproved; he will not go to the wise” (Prov 15:12).
Perhaps there has been a little cyclical scoffage going on. But as many ironically scoffed at the needed warnings, let’s remember: This is not the world, it’s the church. We are to operate differently; humbly. It is a mark of godliness to admit when we’re wrong. The kingdom into which we’ve been saved is an upside-down kingdom by world standards. That means things like seeing, grieving, confessing, and turning from sin are good things, though ego-shattering. If we have been scoffer-like over the months or years in response to reproof in all this, then we ought to humbly address that.
As Challies said:
Some of [the men who have had long and faithful ministries] said, with regret, that they were convinced his ministry would eventually and inevitably explode into scandal at some point…then Driscoll’s ministry exploded into scandal. Now I have to see it as wisdom—wisdom that comes from many years of observation and many years of searching the Scriptures. These men knew what we overlooked: Character is king.
So, let’s flee the “I-told-you-so” warnings. They did tell us so. And they were right. We should be thanking them right now. The church’s response to this should be a loud, “You were right. Thank you for telling us so. Would you please tell us so more from here on out? And pray that our good God would help us to listen when you tell us so and give us discerning ears to hear and humble hearts to receive it. Thank you for loving me enough to tell me so. That’s what you are called to do as leaders and shepherds and Christians. Do not stop telling us so.”
To all of you out there hard-working enough and discerning enough and loving enough to tell us so, thank you. Thank you for telling us so. And may God so love his church and the world that he would give more and more sound men and women like you who will tell us so.