Over the past few years there have been many posts by high-profile pastors and Christian leaders about the importance of the Church in the Christian life. Specifically, the subject is the goodness of church membership over against the perceived “just Jesus and me” trajectory of younger believers.
I’ve agreed with much of what they have said. I love my church. I feel I need the community for my good and my family’s. They are the epitome of kindness. So all things being equal I’ve agree in principal if not always in tone.
But all things are not equal.
Take Mars Hill Church in Seattle where Mark Driscoll is the “pastor” as an example. Paul Tripp has called Mars Hill “the most abusive, coercive ministry culture I’ve ever been involved with.” He didn’t say “only,” he said “most.”
Mars Hill was pointed to for years as a beacon by me and all the high- profile Calvinist leaders involved with The Gospel Coalition and Together for the Gospel. And all of them talked about the value of the institutional church and still do. And now in the wake of increasing scandal, the only thing we have heard is that we should pray for Mark Driscoll and his family.
I want you to think about that.
I am what you would call a conservative evangelical Calvinist. This is my tribe. But all the writings on the importance of the church will be met with skepticism without the acknowledgement of specific abusive systems. In other words, if you’re gonna applaud a leader and his church and point others to him and his ministry when things are fine, you will lose your credibility if your only public reaction is to call for prayer for the leader of the abusive ministry and offer none for the those abused. Because those are the ones who are most likely to question the value of the church in their life.
I know this because I’ve heard from them. And I’ve tasted it myself.
The credibility of the church will rise and fall on how it treats the weak and wounded. Mark Driscoll called former friends and former pastors “bodies under the bus” and was hoping for a mountain of them. I know of no high-profile pastor who has publicly called for prayer for those bodies.
I read a comment on Facebook or a blog a couple days ago, that said something to the effect of, “this is why I left church behind, not Jesus, just the church.” I gotta be honest, it’s hard to blame them. Once pastors start systematically wounding people, they are no longer shepherds but wolves. And the American Evangelical Industrial Machine is protecting the wolves with silence and PR firms. And God help us, calls for prayer. None for those on receiving end of the abuse, though.