Mark Driscoll, High-Profile Pastors, and Credibility

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.

That’s it.

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.

32 thoughts on “Mark Driscoll, High-Profile Pastors, and Credibility

  1. Pam Burns August 30, 2014 / 10:36 am

    I can’t agree more.

  2. Adam August 30, 2014 / 11:22 am

    Well said, Matt.

  3. Judy August 30, 2014 / 12:55 pm

    Jesus loves the weak and helpless, the orphans and widows. He makes it clear that we are to heal the sick, clothe the naked and feed the hungry. Maybe the church should get back to really doing that, rather than building big empires that make big men stand out as big leaders. I’ve been a Christian for 43 years and I am so utterly sick of these big ministries whose emphasis is to be the big empire and get big numbers and yet they fail to produce true disciples. A disciple is not a stupid sheep who gobbles up everything the pastor says and follows him. A disciple is one who grows in Christ, obeys Christ, knows His voice (can we say that of many in MHC right now?) learns his Word and his ways, loves what He loves, hates what He hates. The church really ought to stop being a fraternity led by men. It’s time for men to get out of the way and let Jesus lead his church. If they do not allow God to do this, he will separate His people out of those churches. It’s been happening for years and those people were called the church hoppers but there are now millions of them and they are TIRED of the American way of doing Christianity. It is sometimes a real sham. I’m not directing this at you personally, just the system. The system stinks to high heaven and I do believe that God is very, very tired of it.

    I have to say, too, that when you talk like this some Christians can get very upset with you. I know because I’ve done it. It makes you look like an agitator or a disgruntled Christian. God help the person who screams the truth or brings light where the church is cloaked in darkness.God help them because in the American system we act like roaches who scatter and head for the dark when the light is turned on.

    • Susan Raborn September 6, 2014 / 4:58 pm

      Judy, you are so right….and please pray for me and my daughter. As a single mom and her, a fatherless child, what we have endured at the hands of the godless in the church has been a nightmare.

  4. Allison Lee Redd August 30, 2014 / 1:31 pm

    You make quite the point. I’ve thought about it this way for OTHER people as victims, but never before specific to me. We had a leader in our local church who hurt and took advantage of many people over the course of his time as an elder, and the entire congregation by default since he systematically also stole $.5 million dollars over the course of a decade. We prayed for him and his family in our bulletin, for the church as a whole, but there were no official “prayers” for the people that he hurt or wounded or mistreated during his time there. And that is really, really sad. We have a new pastor now, and last year he called for reconciliation and forgiveness, but also for healing for those wounded. And he was very respectful of that. I am grateful for his leadership and for his compassion. Because I can see how we get into these places where we hail a leader as almighty and perfect and give him the keys to the kingdom, and then when he abuses that, well….we shuffle him away and feel sorry for his family and their shame. But the victims of the abuse (in whatever form)? You have given them a voice. Thank you.

  5. May August 30, 2014 / 2:23 pm

    THANK you for speaking up. I am not from your ‘camp’ as you identify it but I greatly appreciate and respect you for posts like these.

  6. Seeking truth August 30, 2014 / 2:38 pm

    I am a bit blown away after reading your post. I can’t tell you what it means to read the words above. I hope it is okay to reply with something I wrote a few days ago as I was trying to sort through all that I have been seeing…

    What is Christianity?
    
Recently, I have been looking out at the world of Christianity. I was under the impression that Christians are Christ-followers, so it would make sense that followers of Jesus would be a reflection of who he is. That seemed and still seems logical to me. I have no illusion or expectation that any person can be a flawless reflection of him as we are people who struggle through our weaknesses, struggle through temptations, etc. We are all a bit broken. All of us struggle with something, illnesses, memories of abuse, fear, depression, anxiety, pride, the loss of loved ones. None of us who call ourselves Christians are immune to life struggles, so it would seem that living a Christian life means being a follower of Jesus right in the middle of those struggles.

    As I looked around at the more vocal leaders in the Christian world, my faith came up empty. The more I looked around, the more I feel that I want nothing to do with Christianity. Closest to home is the Christian university I attended. There are churches all around me connected to this university. For over two years now, the school has been confronted with the way they have addressed sexual abuse victims. I have personally encountered their response to sexual abuse, and the spiritual and emotional damage still affects me many years later, yet the offender is freely serving in full time ministry, protected by his church and other Christian ministries. When law enforcement attempted to question him about his crime, his ministry ensured that he remained protected and out of the reach of any criminal consequences.
    I still struggle to untangle who God really is from the harsh, hopeless God they all presented and continue to present to me.
 During the investigation into the university, many have defended the school, either stating that we (the public) don’t know all the facts or that we shouldn’t judge, as all of us are equally sinners before God.
    First, though of course I don’t know all the facts, I know many of them. I know how sexual abuse was handled it as I myself witnessed it on more than one occasion. So far, I have not seen the slightest hint of humility or repentance on their part. Can I see into their hearts? No, but what is in a person’s heart leaks out a bit in speech and actions. The speech and actions that I have witnessed have reeked of denial, justification, and self-defense. I can say for certainty that their version of Christianity is not something I am interested in.
During these past years, many other Christian organizations, organizations that I have had connections to either from my childhood or recent past, have gone through their own scandals – Vision Forum, Hyles Anderson College, Pensacola Christian College, Mars Hill/Driscoll, Sovereign Grace, etc. Some of them I expected, but some of them I did not expect—and they really, really shocked me. So far, I have not seen any of them respond in humility, transparency and/or with any hint of repentance. The public stance has seemingly been a stance of arrogance and pride, self-defense, denial, dismissal of the victims, etc.
    Is this Christianity??

    I have been wrestling through this for weeks, fearful of what conclusion I would come to. I fear coming out of these questions with no faith in God. My childhood was very religious. The outside looked very good, very innocent, very godly as measured by the standards of that religion. The cost of that godliness was the ministry children – the children of pastors, missionaries, deacons, Christian school teachers, etc. I can’t describe to you the fear, the shame, the terror of being a child of those in ministry in that culture. Mostly I can’t because truly stepping back and remembering what it was like is just too painful to face myself.

    While seeing all of this public Christianity going on around me, I have been trying to sort through verses in the Bible, trying to understand who God is. Is he the God that is okay with children’s lives being destroyed on the altar of ministry? Is he the God who demands flawlessness, sinlessness, as I was taught in my childhood? Is he the God who demands that children be “living sacrifices,” giving up their rights to those who would abuse them any way they choose? Is he the God who exalts powerful leaders to lead ministries because of their leadership skills even when they rape and abuse those who are weak?
    I don’t know yet. Some say to look at God and not at his followers, but I can’t see God. Wouldn’t his followers show at least some hint of who he is??

    • Forrest August 31, 2014 / 3:13 am

      Those you have described are not followers of Jesus, Seeking Truth. There are those who recognise the problem and there are those who are only just waking up to it. If you would like to share more of your story, then I can recommend sites like http://cryingoutforjustice.com. Your experience will be recognised by many if those who participate on that site.

    • Heather August 31, 2014 / 3:17 am

      Seeking Truth,

      Oh how very sad I feel right now. I understand some of your feelings. In the end you answered your own question. They are not of God. They don’t reflect Jesus. They are wolves. They are to be exposed and condemned.

      I believe we are seeing the rotten cancer we have known as the “church” and anyone who is a true sheep will be grieved. We know that sin is in the world. We know that God will not cross the boundary that He has imposed on himself. And that hurts. We so long to be freed from the atrocities of the world.
      I know that my long journey has been helped by the understanding believers at sites like A Cry For justice, Spiritual Sounding Board, and Joe Pote’s Redeemed. Please know that you will find compassion and true believers there. They also have Facebook accounts.

      You are not alone. 🙂

  7. livingliminal August 30, 2014 / 6:49 pm

    This is what makes me so angry! It seems the ‘christian’ response to abuse is to insist on forgiveness and grace for the abuser. The victim is at best ignored; at worst further abused by being shunned as a trouble-maker, and labelled bitter and unforgiving when they make it clear they no longer trust the abuser. There’s something rotten here…

    • Angela Wittman August 30, 2014 / 10:01 pm

      It is rotten and this is why the church is in such disarray! We have lost credibility because we have little or no love for people. Instead we practice idolatry by worshiping charismatic leaders instead of the one true Living God.

  8. 2samuel127 August 31, 2014 / 1:29 am

    Seeking the Truth – thanks for sharing your heart. I am praying for you.

  9. eternallyalive August 31, 2014 / 7:45 pm

    God bless you Matt. Thanks for a perfectly said post.

  10. cuzinjules September 2, 2014 / 10:39 am

    Dear Sweet Jesus…., praying for those like ‘Seeking Truth’ above. Those who have been abused and mishandled by folks claiming your name. More than comfort…, do I pray for them…, but VICTORY in truly SEEING YOU in their hurt and allowing themselves to experience the abundant life that you promised.

    Healing was…, and is…, your idea dear Jesus. Heal them all…, in such a way as they no longer look to any man to ascertain who YOU are! It was you who said ”do not call anyone ‘master’ or ‘teacher’…, ”for One is your Teacher.”

    Bless each one, soul-smashed by errant leadership and inappropriate leading, with the Grace and Love that only You can convey. Deeply heal each one with understanding of what you are…., and what you accomplished in the New Covenant. In Your Holy and Matchless Name I pray. – Amen

    ************************************ Wouldn’t it be good if ‘leaders’ subscribed to what Jesus said here in Matthew 23?*****************************
    Matthew 23: 8″But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9″Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.…
    ****************************************************************************
    How many in the world…, have equated our loving, heavenly Father…, with the deeds and words that have come out of the mouths, the doctrines, the dogma and the liturgies of pious religious types!?!

    Thank God for Jesus and Who He really is…, and what He really did. There has been a change…., and He calls us Holy and Righteous! Exchanging His righteousness for our blackened souls and dead spirit! hallelujah! What a Savior!

  11. Jason September 2, 2014 / 7:06 pm

    Would you mind linking to the page where you picked up the Paul Tripp quote (if it is in an article/blog online)? I have been wondering about his thoughts on this subject…

  12. Siva September 4, 2014 / 5:18 pm

    Matt,
    I am blessed to hear what we should hear from the T4G, TGC, and pastors who really care about the glory of Christ. I hear more of this from rank and file Christians than any pastors I know. I am really concerned about the health of churches and the leaders who are in charge. Even now, we do not hear anything but prayer for the abuser and not the abused. I am glad you are sending out a call. I hope people in churches would send out a call in the name of Christ.

  13. Joe September 5, 2014 / 2:34 pm

    The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. – John 10:12-13. Something to think about.

  14. cheryl September 5, 2014 / 5:19 pm

    Serious. I can’t believe how the upper echelon of the reformed community seems to be no much different than TBN under the surface of the theology they teach. I feel so disenchanted with ‘new Calvinism.’ I see better now how much pride I have walked in since being introduced to this movement. The theology is good, but I want to be united now with all Christians, not just all Calvinists. Thanks for this post, and prayers going to the church in Seattle.

  15. Pingback: Ministry Idolatry
  16. LT September 6, 2014 / 9:50 am

    Matt, Is I spoke pror to you being able to approve the comment, my apologies. Please forgive me. When I looked this morning, the comment did not show that it was awaiting moderation. Now, both comments show that they are awaiting moderation.

  17. Teresa September 10, 2014 / 7:50 pm

    Do you think it is possible, based on scripture, that wolves repent? I have been pondering this lately. It does not seem to me that we are ever warned about wolves in the church. Everyone always rushers to make excuses for the ministers when they are exposed and the possibility that they did things on purpose because they are wolves never seams to be a possibility.

  18. mattbredmond September 18, 2014 / 6:01 am

    Yes. It is bigger than Driscoll. But he created it. You just reduced this down to a he said she said situation. If you think that is the truth and it’s just about ministry styles, feel free to suggest that over at one of the blogs like “Musings from Under the Bus” or “Joyful Exiles.”

    As far as being in the inner circle, true I’m not. But I am in a circle that has seen this. A circle exported by Driscoll, Inc. through Acts 29.

    It is clear you are not paying attention to the full story. If you would like to learn more, feel free to ask. There’s Google too.

  19. mattbredmond September 18, 2014 / 10:14 am

    I cannot point you to “objective.”

    On anything.

  20. Misheck Triumph March 15, 2018 / 10:39 pm

    May God build His church. It’s His church and not man’s. Pastors should not forget that.

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