Fodder for “Ask Pastor Mark Driscoll Anything”

Too bad we can’t text Mark the questions raised here! – PH

“In preparation for our church’s annual meeting tomorrow, I’m sharing another quote that has given me something to ponder. This was a comment I read on another blog in response to their church leadership:

“Why do so many of you feel a church leader is entitled to privacy in church dealings. This is not a secret society. It’s a group of people with a leader, teacher, instructor, not a dictator. Every single church matter should be an open, public event. If you are honest and sincere, that shouldn’t make you uncomfortable. And if it does, so what? Deal with it. The reverse consequences are too enormous. It is not isolated occurrences for pastors to embezzle, lie, cheat or molest. Everyone I know, myself included, who was molested as a child was forced to keep it a secret to “protect” the sacred image of a church. Don’t think it can happen to you or yours, you are very naive. One secret breeds another. It has made me angry my whole life that image to outsiders is more important than content. Do you know how many times I’ve seen pastors, leaders, elders, etc. suddenly relocate with no explanation given. This needs to stop. The only reputation that matters is God’s.

My own parents refused to take a stand against my childhood church. Example showed them that those who dissent are ostracized and shunned. It was better to be quiet than have all your peers abandon you. How sad. Betray a child rather than take on a grown man who is fully capable of defending himself.

Again, I ask, why do so many of you become alarmed, sad, shocked, outraged that the leaders are being questioned? As opposed to examining the content. What are you afraid of? That you might have been mistaken about your worship of a man over God.

And don’t think I’m in favor of gossip or innuendo. Or that I’m implying anyone is a molester. I’m describing what can and does occur when things are shrouded in secrecy and unquestioned trust…”

There’s a great deal of mistrust in churches, leaders, and pastors – both fair and unfair. But regardless, all leaders should be mindful about how they can build a culture of trust and transparency in their leadership…”


(our “neighbor across the bridge” as PH has heard them referred to).


8 Responses to Fodder for “Ask Pastor Mark Driscoll Anything”

  1. Jennifer says:

    I am so glad you posted a link to this PH.

    I am a former MH member, and now attend the church you linked in this post. It has been such a restorative thing to attend a church where conversation really is safe – even when its on difficult subjects of disagreement. It’s not a perfect place, but after a terrible expereince at MH, it has been so good for me to restore my hope in the church there.

  2. centuri0n says:

    I think you have made a serious error in your assumptions. There is no place in Scripture where every church dealing must be a public event. Particularly, in dealing with matters of church discipline, often privacy is in the bets interested of those under the magnifying glass — even when they are actually disciplined and removed from ministry.

    You guys at MHC are essentially baptistic in practice — with a big, wide reformed mohawk on your head. That means that your church government is going to be one of a handful of models: congregational-ruled, cong-ruled/Elder-lead, Elder(plurality) ruled, or Pastor (singular) ruled.

    What you all seem ot want — now that there’s a disagreement with the Elders — is a Congregational ruled system — but MHC is an Elder-lead church, and it has been since its beginnings. These are the breaks. It’s what you signed up for when you joined — and this form of church government is not in itself unbiblical.

    You linked me here from the comments section at my blog, so here’s my 2 cents: I think you need to read up on what it means to live in an elder-led community, particularly what it means to abide by the decisions of the elders when it comes to disciplining the body. Consider 1 Corinthians, both letters to Timothy, and Titus.

    Your elders may have made a bad decision — I honestly do not know. However, it seems to me that your group of dissenters wants to play it off as a sinful decision because they disagree with it, and I think that sounds a little bit too much like the way fundamentalist rabble-rousers talk in my neck of the woods. Every error is not sin, but assuming your elders are sinful when the Bible calls us to assume they are men of good character veers into what I would consider dangerous territory.

  3. Army81 says:

    Actually, we were pretty darned happy with the plurality of elders model that we signed up for. The problem is that in one fell swoop, the plurality was changed to an executive model, from 22(ish) elders to 5 plus 17ish deacons.

    Simple disagreement is not the issue here. Maybe Paul and Bent actually did sin, maybe not. The problem is first the process used to find them guilty (note: not “guilty OR innocent…based on the process used it is painfully obvious that the purpose was a determination of guilt)…and then the ensuing lies about what actually took place and the slander and lies about the individuals chucked.

    Many of us have assumed good character despite warning flags…but there comes a time when even our own denial can no longer give us comfort and we must speak out.

    By the way, I thought that ALL had sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. If that is the case, should we not point out sin to even those of good character? Especially to elders, who, in the words of the Mars Hill Elders discipline paper are “held to a higher standard.

  4. Stan says:

    Army says it well…

    It kind of reminds me of the old Reagan quote re: his former membership in the Democratic Party “I didn’t leave the Dem. Party – they left me.” And that is what happened at MH – a former plurality of elder rule (among 20 – some men) was changed to 5 men, self-appointed and it ws deceptively presented in “reasons for” and “effects of”. It begs the question: if the changes were legitimate why were the elders so opaque and misleading in it’s presentation?

    Now, of course, the “plurality of elders” did vote to abdicate their own authority (and I think, they were hoping their responsibility) – and so demoted themselves. There is a kind of subconscious truth to the event – apparently they didn’t feel up to the responsibilities of eldership so they elected to divest themselves. The honorable thing to do would have been to resign and nominate themselves for deaconship.

    Re: error v. sin – the irony is that is precisely the difficulty with the firings and “trials” of Paul and Bent – differences in organizational preferences were escalated by the Executive Elders to heretical / sin status and this power play was carried out in such an unseemly manner as to create this present maelstrom.

  5. Stunned says:

    “You linked me here from the comments section at my blog, so here’s my 2 cents: I think you need to read up on what it means to live in an elder-led community, particularly what it means to abide by the decisions of the elders when it comes to disciplining the body. Consider 1 Corinthians, both letters to Timothy, and Titus.”

    I am not sure that is worth 2 cents. Elders serve. They discipline ACTUAL sin with gentleness and kindness. All of us at Mars Hill happily embrace the leadership of elders. But we will not accept sinful bullying, misuse of the pulpit, unfair trials, rash firings and calls for shunnings based upon the unfair trials nor a clamp down on any open questioning of the events.

    If that what you mean by elder run then you have an incorrect understanding of what an elder is called to be.

    This is the only forum we have.

  6. jennifer says:

    As someone who has been through this sort of church situation myself I have to say that I disagreed with Centurion’s comments, and thought that Stunned’s answer got to the heart of why.

    As one extra point – Centurion said that the bible says that we are to “assume that our elders are men of good character”. I respectfully say that the Bible tells us that elders are to BE men of good character, and are to be judged on their behaviour to be such. (Timothy & Titus give detailed instructions on what characteristics are to be portrayed in their lives). There should be no assuming about it.

    Paul also warned the Ephesian elders to watch out for savage wolves that would rise up from among them. They were not told to assume all elders would be of good character, but to be on the watch.

    If a church asks for elder-led rule they are not asking to be bullied. 1 Peter 5:2 says that pastors are to shepherds are to be “eager to serve, not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock”.

  7. grieved says:

    Jennifer, thank you for your insightful comments. Speaking of elder rule (and as another ex-MH member) I believe an elder led church is very good for a congregation, because it implies a group of Godly individuals who are overseers of a flock rather than one minister who has all the responsibility. Before MH I attended another mega-church which was elder led and things were really good. There was a major problem that surfaced and the church suddenly went from elder “led” to elder “controlled”. I was caught in the middle of it and had to leave. Actually I was told to leave and I was an ordained officer. I won’t go into particulars, but I was calling for senior pastor accountability because members were being harmed (there was sexual misconduct). You really don’t know what your pastors are made until they are faced with adversity in their church. If a church such as MH is being elder controlled (and it is) it is reflecting the reality that there is little to no accountability. If there is no accountability then members are in danger. This fact is being presently played out now at MH.

  8. Stan says:

    Jennifer’s comment about watching out for “wolves” prompted me to remember and think about a warning Mark D used to speak to the church: Because MH is having an impact – spiritual beings at war with Christ will attempt to bring down the church from within. He went on to explain how thankful he was for the elders – how pure they were and how godly they were and it was these qualities that would protect the church from “wolves in our midst” that sought to do harm.

    Well, I think Mark was focused on the common/popular, obvious sins of sexual misconduct, ery or theft that are simple and straightforward. It is my observation that the weaknesses being exploited are the sins of pride, belligerence, covetousness and greed (power / control seeking) that are more nuanced and slippery but equally or more damaging. Because he is clever he has insulated himself from accountability and protection by brothers and sisters in Christ.

    As mentioned elsewhere the elders have essentially “elected” not to be elders leading some members and ex-members to ask who is left to deal with the “wolves…”?

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