At the intersection of writing and life with the author of the Cameron Ballack mysteries

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

An Open Letter to Mark Driscoll

To Mark Driscoll, preaching pastor of Mars Hill Church,

An online letter is not the place to uproot all the controversial matters that have exploded on the Internet recently. Plagiarism assertions, using church funds to place a book on the New York Times bestseller list, and strong allegations of abusive and narcissistic behavior from many respected allies are much to deal with in a lifetime. You've had to deal with them in less than a year. No need to re-live them in detail here.

Also, I've never attended your church. So I'm not speaking as an inner critic. But then again, you don't need to be elected to public office to share political critique.

I was a pastor for fifteen months and we managed to have a fantastic Scottish revival, which means I grew the church from 75 down to just under 40. So I'm not speaking out of any measure of worldly success.

But I'm a fifth-generation Presbyterian clergyman. And I know a good bit of what makes for a great pastor because my father and grandfather were both great pastors, because they were humble, godly men. Their words were their own, not others. They were content to let God lead their churches and not overwhelm their parishioners with the force of personality because they knew in the long run (and even the short run) that not letting God do things would harm the Gospel.

So while I was disheartened with the using of church funds to secure a bestseller spot, with the plagiarism, and the autocraticism, bombasticness, and blaming a wife for a husband's shameful sin, I was hopeful this wasn't it.

And while it was fourteen years ago, I wasn't expecting to see you go vulgar-heterosexual-Little-Boy in the blogosphere. 

A pastor. Doing this. Six years into his pastorate. Holy smokes.

Look, Mark. You'll probably never read this. In case it runs across your laptop monitor or your Smartphone screen by sheer accident, I just think it's fair to say the following:

(1) I want you to minister well. Being a pastor of any church, any size, is tough. It's excruciating. And that's on a good day. My heart goes out to pastors everywhere because I know how the terrain is. When St. John Chrysostom said, "My work is like that of a man trying to clean a patch of ground into which a muddy stream is constantly flowing," he was lowballing things. So I understand that your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual innards get seriously frayed.

(2) I have more in common with you than I don't have in common. I'm an intense believer in the complete trustworthiness of the Bible. I want men to be leaders. I want people to be excited about Scripture applied to their lives in all its fullness, in hard-won community, and the spread of both of the above to others. I'm not inclined as you are to the silent, subjugated female gender. I like the fact my wife has discovered a biblical balance of being "submissively feisty". And I think you can call homosexuality a sin without screaming at the sinners. 

(3) Sometimes, before you say something or do something, it's helpful to ask (as David Gill suggests in Doing Right) questions like:
      (a) Would Jesus do this or question it?
      (b) Does it violate clear biblical teaching or Christian tradition?
      (c) Would you like it done to you?
      (d) Could someone be harmed?
      (e) Would you never want to do this in public?
      (f) Is it illegal?

(4) Above all, this is a letter with an intense suggestion, as close to a command as I could make it: Resign for two whole years. In fact, things are so deep for you that I would say offer your demission from your ordination and become a layperson once again. The litany of controversy is too strong to be effective. Here's what I'd suggest. During these two years, attend church elsewhere. Don't preach. Don't teach. Don't write. Don't speak at conferences. Chill. Hang out with your kids. Go for long walks with your wife, Grace. Travel on your own expense and go meet with older, seasoned pastors, both well-known and more obscure. Ask them about how to be rooted in humility, in what the Cross has to do with that rootedness. At the end of two years, ask yourself, "Am I ready to see everyone I encounter as Jesus sees them? And am willing to have God be in control of my tongue, first and foremost?" If the answer is anything less than 100%, you need to steer clear of the pastoral ministry.

God will always provide for you, my man. It doesn't have to be at Mars Hill.

Believe me, I'll pray for you.


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