Mark Driscoll’s Resignation is the Best Possible Outcome Until …

image from Paul Wilkinson’s blog

This will likely be my last post on Mark Driscoll for a while. As one who has critiqued him, called to stop making fun of him, and in a recent post, called him a cautionary tale, this feels like an appropriate time to close this loop for a while.

If you haven’t heard, earlier this week Mark willfully resigned from being the lead pastor of Mars Hill Church. It’s been a big deal for some of us for a while and you can read up on the details here and elsewhere but there’s been a significant abuse of power, a series of inappropriate actions and years of inappropriate conduct.

While it’s always awful to hear this type of news, I’m grateful for Mark choosing to resign and see this as a best possible outcome to this scene for at least three reasons:

  1. No one wants an ugly scene of a church removing their pastor from power. Mark choosing to resign contains more dignity for him, his church, and us as onlookers. This also removes the need for all the gritty details and the endless rebuttals and counter-rebutalls. Resignation makes much of this significantly less relevant
  2. In the eyes of people like me, Mark was abusing his power. It’s a poor testimony of Jesus to allow this sort of behavior lead any church as it communicates that leadership is more about talent, success, and protection from the right people and less about character, accountability and the leading of the Holy Spirit. It’s the story of Saul again.
  3.  It also speaks volumes to all those that say something to the effect, “Mark was preaching the gospel straight up!!” and somehow this  justified misogony, homophobia, and the abusive words/actions that has unfortunately marked his career.  Christian leadership is far from perfect but this sentiment is blatant pragmatism at its worst. There simply is no such thing as a “Bully for Jesus” and that needed to be communicated.

So where does that leave Driscoll defenders? Aside from being prayerful, I’m not sure really. But now that he has resigned, I find myself sympathizing as well.

I’m praying for Mark, his family and Mars Hill. But I’m actually praying for them. I’d like to personally avoid and kindly caution the use of prayer as a polite “high road” sympathy tactic. You know that story of Annaias and Saphira in Acts 5 when they told Peter they sold a piece of property, kept some of the profit but said they gave away the full amount (“Wow, that’s so generous!”). Yeah, I think it relates sorta.

I’m certainly not saying that God is going to strike you dead if you say you prayed for someone and didn’t. But I do see this story as God’s clear warning against spiritual posturing. I get that prayer is a convenient catch-all basic sentiment but for those of us who know what prayer is, if we say we are praying for Mark, let’s actually intercede for this man, his family, and the people affected at MH (including the many who have been hurt by this ministry). I really believe in the power of God and it’s in this power that hearts can be healed and lives be changed.

Mark is likely in for a tough stretch. I imagine he’s not going to know what to do with his Sundays for a while. His phone will have different callers and his inbox, different senders. He will feel the loss of authority, influence, prestige, and decision-making. Things will quickly move on without him and this and more will bring him some hurt. But his resignation is the best outcome until he finds himself in a significantly healthier mindset. I’m not talking about a comeback, I’m talking about redemption.

And so, I hope he surrounds himself with a Christian community that loves on him and his family, encourages him, challenges him and helps him move forward in the most redemptive of ways. I hope he continues his counseling as it’s apparent that he must confront his control issues,  address his chauvinism, put the tough-guy thing to rest and discover the virtues of sensitivity, listening, yielding, sharing and perhaps uncover his hidden relational skills.

Everyone’s story is different but I hear that Mark is an intelligent individual. He’ll likely read, hopefully a wide spectrum to inform his perspectives. Maybe he’ll travel some. Stretch out a bit and chase his curiosities. I hope he will resist the urge of writing a tell-all book and having it published in the next couple of years. Though it will garner much attention and though it will sell, it will also likely leave him dissatisfied and short-change this whole road to redemption.

In my strange imagination, I’d like to think it would be the Rob Bell’s and his old friends like Tony Jones and Doug Pagitt that would connect with him again (link is from Tony’s post a few weeks ago that mentions him reaching out again). Not for an “I told you so,” (from what I can see, they are not spiteful people) and not for a cheesy photo-op for us, but because all in their own way have experienced the spotlight and backdoor of popular evangelicalism. These and a handful of others could actually relate to what he’s feeling right now. In re-reading this paragraph, I’m only being speculative but we shouldn’t assume that it will only be the Keller’s and Ttchividjian’s and the Carson’s and Piper’s reaching out. I mean, from the little that I know, our assumptions would likely surprise us. In any case, may Mark be surrounded by people seeking to help in the most honorable and Christ-like of ways.

I also hope all this provides time and opportunity for Mars Hill to reach out to their staff that has been unceremoniously dismissed and to members of their congregation who have been hurt for one reason or another. I hope this is not strange imagination but an outworking of the Biblical principles of reconciliation and pursing unity that we often read/preach/and attempt to apply.

The story is never over for us as believers, Mars Hill is  certainly not an exceptions and nor is Mark. I’d like to think that when the time comes, Mark will re-emerge.  My hope is that he’ll be more relationally, emotionally and even theologically generous. People always want to see the transforming power of the gospel of Jesus truly at work and if the gospel can change Mark, the gospel can change me and you.

To be clear, I don’t need Mark to come back more like me (or you, even though you’re likely pretty awesome). Like all people, Mark needs to become more like the person the Lord has called him to be. And alongside, all the redemptive practices he’s already put into motion, his resignation helps usher him further in that direction.

Thinking About Ebola and the Various Threats of Life

Ebola – the newest of the scariest words we have today. We regularly get new ones to add to the lexicon: Isis, recession, Obama, Republicans, drones, identity theft, and many more. These words mean different things to us in different times. Their power fluctuates from harmless to seemingly all-encompassing to “I hope it doesn’t affect me or those near me.”

It’s customary to blame the media. “They’re always trying to get the public riled up about something!” Despite the hype (and there will always be hype), there is often good reason for the concern.

The Ebola outbreak is real. The World Health Organization reports there have been 4,493 deaths while others estimate the number to be closer to 12,000. Today’s reports are filled with the two nurses’ travel and current care as they treated the Dallas man who died after his trip to West Africa. And like all disease, this is tragic and worth grieving. 

It’s normal after every plane crash, terrorist attack, school shooting, even after hearing of a drunk driving accident to wonder if it could happen to me. We know that we are not exempt from tragedy. While we should never panic, it’s perfectly normal and fairly wise to [Read more...]

I Have a Chapter in a New Book Called Father Factor

 

Father_Factor_Cover_200dpiI’m so grateful to announce that I have a chapter in a book that will be released next       week: Father Factor: American Christian Men on Fatherhood and Faith published by White Cloud Press. It’s Book 5 of the amazing I Speak For Myself Series. 

Here’s how we’re describing the project:

Father Factor explores the intersection between faith and fatherhood, probing the resonance and dissonance created when men examine fatherhood in all its permutations, and how it is informed by and informs their faith.

There are a wide variety of Christian faith perspectives represented in the book and many ethnicities. The contributors include ministers, professors, a real estate agent, an actor, nonprofit leaders, stay-at-home dads, and a call center representative, from locations as far apart as Honolulu, HI, to Paris and all points in between. They each have a compelling story about faith and fatherhood.

Fatherhood is quite the complicated subject for all of us. For obvious reasons it transcends culture, generation, social class, and more. Biologically, we all have a father, but the relationship we have with that man differs for each of us. And so it took  quite a number of voices to speak into such an important, complicated and potentially painful/beautiful subject.

I’m in a season of life where many of the people I have known and loved throughout my life have gone from talking about the realities concerning their fathers to actually now being a father. I find it really interesting to contrast the conversations we had at 15 about our dads and now about being one (and now what we think about our dads). Interesting times.

From what I’ve been able to access, our idea of fatherhood is changing constantly. Among other sentiments, we may feel unprepared but when we see our children, we wouldn’t pass this opportunity to father for anything. I’ve been seeing from my fellow contributors that we’re all trying to find some clarity on the amazing calling of fatherhood.

My chapter is entitled, “Fatherhood Has Changed You” which is a comment one of my friends from seminary said to me. I was a bit surprised by her observation and found myself spending most of my two hour drive thinking about how the last two years had changed me. Infertility and long unanswered nights filled with hurt, angst and what felt like futile prayers were quickly replaced by two healthy, happy, crying boys that got us up in the middle of the night and got us out of bed early in the morning. Only fatherhood (and motherhood) can understand the incredible beauty of this.

One of my favorite aspects of the project is being included with some pretty amazing writers/bloggers/thinkers like main author and project editor, Anderson Campbell, Christian Piatt who wrote the foreword, a new book called Post Christian and writes one of the most provocative blogs you can read), Jason Boyett (Author of many titles including O Me of Little Faith), Andrew Marin (Love Is an Orientation), Micah Murray of Redemption Pictures, Steve Knight and friends of mine like Daniel Haugh and Drew Hart. Here’s the full list of contributors and the short bios.

I was also thrilled when I saw that some of my favorite thinkers/writers/bloggers like  Sarah Bessey (Jesus Feminist), theologian Richard Mouw (the link is his Wikipedia page), Jamie Wright (The Very Worst Missionary) give kind endorsements. I think Matthew Paul Turner (Our Great Big American God), summed up the project very well when he said,  “The essays in this book will make you laugh, bring you to tears, and at times, cause you to rethink your approach to parenting. But most of all, Father Factor will fill you with hope.”

The Awesome Andy Campbell

A HUGE special thanks to our main author/project editor – Andy Campbell. He brought so much goodness together. And grateful for our publisher Steve Scholl and the good people of White Cloud Press.

To share as candidly as possible –  I’m really grateful and proud to be a part of this. There is so much to be gained in the conversation of fatherhood and I’m honored to contribute to it.  So I hope you consider picking up a copy, liking our Facebook page, and spreading the word. AND if you know you will make a purchase, it would be a huge help to us if you pre-ordered (you also get a 35% discount).

The Father Factor Website

You can order it here.

Should We Still Love/Watch the NFL?

For those who are already disinterested or dislike the NFL, it’s easy to see all the recent events as yet another reason to turn off the NFL. But what do real NFL fans do with what’s happening these days?

Confession: I like(d) Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson. “Mighty Mouse” and “All Day” have been great athletes to watch play football. Further, up until now, their off-the-field personalities have been likable. Yeah, Rice has always been cocky but it’s “little-guy in the NFL syndrome” and it works. And though AP preaches a different type of Christian faith than I do, I did appreciate that he trusted Jesus and desired to share his hope with others (Did you see him “preach” at the ESPY’s last year?).

So when news broke out that Rice knocked out his then-fiancé and the images of him dragging out Janay, I was very saddened. Like many, I balked at the two-game suspension Roger Goodell gave and when the video in the elevator was released, wow! I along with everyone could not believe what I saw (I don’t doubt he lives in deep regret of that moment too). Then when the news of Adrian Peterson broke of him beating his four year old in the manner he admits to, my stomach turned again. The pictures and the report are enough, though however unlikely, I hope no video ever emerges of the look of Peterson’s face as he did what he did to his young son.

These high-profile incidents and many others are making us all wonder what is going on, how much is enough and what can actually be done? What does it mean to keep watching/following/cheering? What does it mean to stop?  How does this correlate to every other scandal in the entertainment industry, the political sector, the church world, and all the missteps that my friends and family members make in my own private world? There’s the big picture view of society, the closer ones, and the one in the mirror – what about him/her? And for those of us Christians, how does our faith inform this?

The point is often made that sports is a microcosm for life and I resonate with some of that. I find it to be partially true [Read more...]

My Review of Fail: Finding Hope and Grace in the Midst of Ministry Failure by J.R. Briggs

One of the books I enjoyed reading over the summer was Fail: Finding Hope and Grace in the Midst of Ministry Failure by J.R. Briggs. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book exclusively about failure. I have read leadership books that discuss  aspects of failure and how to overcome it. I’ve read book about discovering success in the midst of various circumstances including failure but again, I’m not sure I’ve read anything exclusively on failure. After all, who would want to voluntarily remember, dissect and process the nature of their many personal failures? Well, it turns out I would. And you might want to also. 

Here’s what I found helpful: 

J.R’s voice. Authentic, raw, bordering on over-sharing, wounded with a hope of over-coming (A nod to the editors for letting him go). He’s bold but not rude. It’s the true North-easterners’ mentality – Honest, mostly-polite, a bit sarcastic and articulate. Is there really any other way to talk?) [Read more...]

On Failing

One of the books I read this summer was called Fail: Finding Hope and Grace in the Midst of Ministry Failure by J.R Briggs. I still need to write my review of how much I enjoyed this book but failure, success and the fears and trappings connected and everything in between is always on my mind – and likely on yours too. It’s safe to make the assumption that everyone has felt the fear of failure at some point. For many of us, it’s a relevant, in and out thing. Maybe right now you are doing exactly what you want to be doing, maybe you’re doing the opposite, whatever and wherever, the fear of failure always lurks.

On good days, we know we will experience failure and success and we’ll live and learn. On the not so great days, we over-fixate, we grieve the loss of something prized, we let it consume and we let it spill-over in other aspects of our lives.

I’m sure you have read countless quotes on failure and have read numerous insights about overcoming it.

“Everything you want is on the other side of failure.” – Jack Canfield

“Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement.” – C.S. Lewis

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can achieve greatly.” – Robert Kennedy

and of course, an obligatory Winston Churchill quote:

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it’s the courage to continue that counts.”

Sometimes the words make you want to fail so you can experience the joy of triumphing over the failure. But if I’m being honest, if I have to fail, I only want to fail at the things that are inconsequential or reserved in front of an audience of those who will [Read more...]

A New Ministry Year, “Here We Go Again …”

For us ministry types not following the liturgical church calendar, these are a different type of intense days as the new church ministry year begins. The over-all vision has been worked on and prayed on for months, the supporting themes/ministries need to move from ideation to practice and among the many other pieces to move into motion, there is the volunteer search (Please read last year’s post “There Aren’t Enough Volunteers This Year and There Never Will Be”). In addition to all that, there is still the need and your own personal desire to meet with people in the hopes of listening, counseling and serving. As you know, no one goes into the ministry because they love Excel and calendaring.

It can be easy to lose track of the original reason of serving others during this ramp up as often you hear the phrase “Here we go again” with a sarcastic grin. I’ve heard it and said this countless times over the years and it feels like a statement worth unpacking.

“Here we go again” is likely asked by a broad spectrum of people in a variety of contexts. In the church world, staff, lay-leaders, and volunteers of all kinds.

“Here we go again” can be another of way of asking, “Will any of this matter?” We all have limited time and energy and it’s logical [Read more...]

What We Learned From Mark Driscoll and What We Can Pray For Next

Image from Mars Hill Church

On Sunday Pastor Mark Driscoll announced to his Mars Hill congregation that he will be stepping back for six weeks as the elders examine the charges against Mark and determine the appropriate next steps. It’s hard for me not to see this as a good thing as I’ve discussed him on this blog a few times and he’s come up in countless conversations over the years. Too much has gone on for too long and Mark needs to be held accountable.

Being a pastor and in this space, an amateur blogger, I know how this can look. I’m another kicking a guy when he’s down, another example of the church eating their own and clearly motivated by jealousy, etc. I am also well aware of Jesus’ warning of judging others as you will be judged by the same measure (Matt 7:1-2). May the Lord judge my heart here but I hope to communicate as “Christianly” as possible of where I am coming from.

It’s actually healthy to talk about this in loving and restorative ways. It’s not only ok, it’s actually necessary because this scene in Mark Driscoll’s life is a cautionary tale for all of us. Further, hopefully some goodness can be found in the mess of all this. And lastly, should the day come when my personal behavior has become such a distraction to the Christian mission, I hope my faith community would be courageous enough to ask me to step down. May God give the Church the wisdom to discern between judging, rebuking and enabling.

In the meantime, here are three lessons learned.

Good, acceptable, conservative orthodox doctrine does not give you license to do whatever you want. In so many words, Mark has acted like a jerk. Like many, I had heard of Driscoll more than ten years ago. He was the “cussing pastor” out of Don Miller’s soul-worthy [Read more...]

A Christian Response to the Death of Michael Brown

I echo the words and spirit of John Perkins when he was interviewed by Christianity Today.

“As Christians, we know that our problem always is sin. In the case of the shooting in Ferguson, I don’t know who is right because I don’t know who initiated  this. But I know that the sin of racism, which goes back to the sin of enslavement, is what makes it escalate so quickly.” (I encourage you to read the rest of the piece, remains among the most helpful of the week).

After reading, I too wondered about the Christian response to the death of Michael Brown. After a few days of reflection, here’s where I am today: Lament – Pray – Listen to What the Lord Leads You to Do Next.

Lament

I lament the death of Michael Brown and all that it represents.

I lament what is meant by “… another unarmed black man …”

I lament for Officer Darren Wilson.

I lament for what will get lost in the moment.

I lament the sin of racism.

I lament all the pain that everyone in Ferguson  is  going through.

I lament that so many throughout our country and our world can relate to this scene.

I lament all the stories this connects us to: violence towards minorities, violence towards law enforcement, violence in between, blatant racism, abuses of authority, intentional criminal behavior and the carnage this leaves behind.

I lament that there is so much to lament.

When you start adding up all the laments, you find yourself a bit irrational. I am sure everyone, especially those involved, wish they could go back in time and somehow take action to avoid this tragic scene. Another loss of life, a lot of damage that is either nearly or completely irreparable. Some will say that we can learn from this so it never happens again but unfortunately, that’s part of the irrationality. Part of the pain of these laments goes beyond regret but also found in the mourning of a terrible reality that a similar scene will happen again.

Enter the hopelessness.

For some, this is where they like to insert the line that all hell is breaking loose, society is spiraling further out of control into moral decadence, [Read more...]

Reflecting on the Complicated Middle East

The black lettering reads “We are all Christians.”

Israel, Gaza, Isis, Iraq and all things Middle East are on many of our minds these days.

In respect to the Israeli-Palestianian conflict, we often ask, “Why is this conflict so complicated ? Among the reasons is its long history and each party telling its own version of it. We also know Iraq carries with its own complication. While the moral atrocities conducted by Isis are obviously evil, we again find the long-term solution to be weighty. Today we see a persecution that is bordering on holocaust that must be stopped.

The Middle East is certainly a topic that punishes you emotionally the more you read and learn. Sheer brutality, beheadings, sexual violence, children used as shields, missiles fired from churches, broken cease-fires, the perception of no mercy and brutal retaliation, and countless human rights abuses leave us extremely angry and frustrated. What is going on here? How do we stop it? How can we make things better? How can do it now?

Easy questions to ask, extremely difficult to answer and deliver. Our anger takes another step forward. What most of us want is to understand what’s what. When you don’t have access to the classified information and lack the power to mobilize an army or a peace delegation to stop the pain one way or another, you just feel powerless.

In the meantime, we try to read/scan/pick through all the content. There’s a lot of rehash, a lot of bias, and personally, I find more frustration. Frankly, I don’t really know what’s going on, there’s a lot of eye-witness accounts, a lot of opinion – some much better than others. There are images taken from other scenes and used for support, and all these other “snapshots” that don’t quite fill out the big picture. I even find some of the good guys and villains switching roles and it’s difficult to figure out who we can trust.Then because no one really knows, we attach the word “allegedly” to everything.

Then like with everything, there’s our own bias and perspective. This informs not just our starting points but our potential emotional investments, among other things. We could continue comparing perspectives but the point really is everyone has a different one. Further, no one can or should assume too much of the other perspective. Like we said, it’s complicated.

So what can we do?

Today, I’m feeling practical, strategic and spiritual and frankly, none of this seems that complicated. They may not lead to the short-term results we want today, but if enough people did them, it feels like things would change for the better.

[Read more...]