In the name of love, should we just keep quiet?

A “gift” of teaching, a gift of pastor and a gift of apostleship as church planter. And now is being shown the unknown. A convergence? Or a man who has discovered that he isn’t just a pastors (sic) or a shepherd or a teacher or an apostle, no he is a prophet as well. This is the slippery slope that men find themselves standing on when surrounded by worshipers and admirers and when they are lifted up to idolatrous levels by their congregations. Certain species of pride radically magnify into something dangerous.
from “Re.Generation:  My Experience Inside the Cult of Mars Hill”

image courtesy thegospelblog.comFor months now, I’ve been wanting to blog about Mark Driscoll. When he invited people on his Facebook page to mock “effeminate” worship pastors, I wanted to blog. But I didn’t. When he preached about God hating people, I wanted to blog, but I didn’t. When he and his wife, Grace, released their book “Real Marriage”, I wanted to blog, but I didn’t. Then were were the excerpts from a radio interview he did in the U.K., in which Driscoll went on the attack, not against the interviewer, but against the entire Christian community in England. I wanted to blog about that, but still, I kept quiet. When the full interview was released online, unedited – oh, I really wanted to blog. Especially in light of Driscoll’s clumsy attempts to discredit the interviewer before the audio of the interview came out.

Still, I didn’t blog. You know why? Because every time I write critically about a Christian leader, I hear that I’m in the wrong. “That’s your Christian brother, and he’s doing great work, and souls are being saved, and who are you, by the way? You’re a tiny no one with an ax grind.” Okay, they don’t actually say that last part. That was poetic license.

Well, now we’ve had a grim look at the inside of Mars Hill Church; at their disciplinary procedures (aka spiritual abuse) involving harrassment, public shaming and alarming amounts of control. The church is very good at quoting Scripture, but I happen to think they’re misusing it, to weigh people down with burdens they can hardly carry (See? Anyone can quote Scripture).

Matthew Paul Turner has to get some credit for being willing to take on the bombastic, locker room bully that Mark Driscoll has shown himself to be (over, and over, and over again). Naturally, he’s hearing some of what I’ve heard in the past, from commenters eager to defend a Christian celebrity. But one of my favorite comments came from the other side, from a commenter frustrated over what we let our leaders get away with: “In the name of love, should we just keep silent?” I read it and thought I could almost hear the voice behind that question. How long, oh, Lord, how long do we let someone spread their toxins unchecked because they’re “successful” as the world defines success? How long do we pretend that they matter more than the people they demean, abuse, manipulate and control? How long do we pretend that it’s okay for them to corrupt the gospel, little by little, if they’re still bringing in big numbers?  Should we speak?  Or should we remain silent? I know, some of you are reading this and thinking, “Well, Sharon, in your case, the answer to that question is obvious.  You speak.  You always speak.  Have you ever not spoken?”  Yes, I get that.  I’m always tilting at some windmill or another.  But Mark Driscoll has years and years of this behavior behind him, and the situation calls for more than righteous indignation from an infinitesimal blogger

It’s time to speak, church. Mark Driscoll is enormously influential. His church is planting offshoot congregations all over the country, and while I’d like to be happy about that, not every church plant is good news for the gospel. Not if “another gospel” is being preached, one that emphasizes power and control over the way of Jesus (Mark 10:42-45). Driscoll is also involved in leading the Acts 29 Network and The Resurgence, shaping countless other church leaders. For the love of God (seriously!), it’s time that wise, mature leaders in the Reformed movement exercised some discipline in Mark Driscoll’s life. For too long people have assumed that his main problem was youthful immaturity. Well, guess what? He’s in his 40′s now and he doesn’t seem to be making any headway.

I have agonized over this post. Even if only 9 people read it, at least one of them will think I’m a complete jerk because of what I’ve written. And, oh, I do so like to be liked. But I am heart sick over the state of the church in the U.S., where as long as you keep “biggering and biggering” you get a pass for whatever you say and do as a pastor.

And now I commend you to other bloggers who wrote the posts I chose not to write, and did a better job of it than I would have, anyway.

On Driscoll and “effeminate” worship leaders

On Driscoll and how much God hates some people

On what’s troubling about “Real Marriage”

On the interview with Justin Brierley, so well covered you need to read this and this and this.  And listen to the interview.

For insight on what it’s like “on the ground” in a Mars Hill church plant, consider reading this post

Note:  I’ve just realized that my link to the radio interview was the wrong one.  Apologies to anyone I confused, but I think I’ve got the right link in place now.

And finally, on church discipline gone out of control at Driscoll’s church, please read MPT’s posts.

About Sharon Autenrieth

Wife, mom to 5, homeschooler, Christian Education Director, idealist, malcontent, follower of Jesus.
This entry was posted in blogging, Christian Ministry, church, religion, spirituality and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to In the name of love, should we just keep quiet?

  1. kevin b says:

    Wow and more wow. After the last year, the problems with Rob Bell, and now this, you have every right to say what is on your heart. After reading the Mars Hill letter to people about Andrew I wanted to vomit. Somebody has a “god complex” in leadership and they need to be admonished. If my head did not hurt I would write more, plus it is our busy day here in Springfield government, so maybe more tomorrow.
    Thanks for the post.

  2. I, too, thank you for posting these timely thoughts – even if they seem overdue to you.

    I’ve done more commenting than posting on the subjects of spiritual abuse lately, due to time constraints. The past few weeks, the theme of my comments has mostly been this: *No one gets a “virtual pass,” no matter how much their “leadership” is online through sermon downloads, podcasts, blogging, etc.*

    In fact, as “citizen journalists,” we need to be posting credible interpretations of the online presence and persona of christian celebrities like Mark Driscoll. They willingly put themselves more into the spotlight for critiquing when they created a virtual cloud of online evidence … and, ironically, not only can the cloud not hide them, it provides a fairly permanent track record of their attitudes and actions, beliefs and behaviors. And in the case of Mr. Driscoll, the weight of the evidence he himself has provided has long since been indicating a disqualification from public ministry. Maybe he cannot be censored, but surely he can be censured for his flagrantly abuse of spiritual authority.

  3. Thanks for blogging on this, Sharon. I had a spiritual abuse episode in my own past with a ‘house church’ group in the ’90s.

    And just one other thing: Matthew Turner mentions at one point in his posts that the “discipline” Driscoll dishes out sounds like “the Roman Catholic Church in the Dark Ages”. For the record, this sort of thing has happened/happens in all sort of human communities – ancient and modern, religious, secular, political, educational, what have you. It’s a situation that demonstrates two facets of original sin described by Chesterton (sorry, don’t have the verbatim quote): namely, that man (using the term generically, cut me some slack) has to struggle against two very strong ingrained tendencies. The first is to make other men his slaves. The second is to become the slave of some other man – thus relieving him of the duty to exercise his freedom.

    My $0.02.

    • And a good two cents, too. The Chesterton quote touches on what puzzles me most. That people in leadership will abuse their power – well, sadly that makes sense to me. That people willingly submit to abusive authority….what’s behind that? It’s hard for me to wrap my head around it.

  4. Judith Anstine says:

    Sharon, I do not know this person, but I have wondered the same thing about some other “leaders” I HAVE read or heard about. Keep on! Say what you can where you can! Spread the “Good News”! Point to God’s word! Speak out against wrong thinking,speaking, and leading! Share Christ! May God Bless your efforts to honor Him!

  5. Joe Church says:

    Mark Driscoll is doing what he does because of specific points of view he has theologically and also practically in his specific context. When I read your post and the posts of the others you have linked to, I see lots and lots of emotionally charged barbs, but I see very little critique of the ideology behind Mark Driscoll’s points of view (unless you could mindlessly saying – “thats bad”). It reads more like “I don’t like this”.

    I think its high time Driscoll’s critics stop with the emotional rhetoric, wipe off the steam from the mirror and look past the surface stuff. Lets get to the meat of the issue. Which in your particular case I would think would be the philosophical and theological framework of feminism, egalitarianism and post-modernism. Those are the core issues at play here, not just that Driscoll says stupid things now and then. Lets stop the ad hominems and deal with the real issues. Lets see some Scripture, lets see some facts, figures and evidence to either challenge or defend these views.

    From an outsider to the Christian faith, all of this back biting and name calling and holier-than-thou criticism is really off putting. I wonder how many people turn away from Christianity because of all the in-fighting and lack of unity and peace.

    • Joe,
      I was just having a conversation with a Driscoll-defender who was agreeing with on two points: 1) It’s really about theology; and 2) It’s time to stop the personal attacks.
      This is complicated, and I hope you’ll hear me out and believe I’m telling the truth about my motives (as much as anyone is capable of understanding their own motives). I’m not a Calvinist, and I am an egalitarian….and I’m more post-modern that Driscoll. You’re right about all of that. Are you familiar with Tim Keller? I’m usi him as my control sample in this conversation. He is the pastor of a megachurch in New York City – Redeemer Presbyterian, and has authored several books. Like, Driscoll he’s widely known. Keller is also a Calvinist, and a complimentarian. I disagree with his theology, but I don’t have a problem with him as a Christian leader. He’s thoughtful and reasoned in what he says, and demonstrates a gracious spirit. That, alone, is a HUGE contrast with Mark Driscoll. I really respect Keller; I own one of his books and would gladly read more. I can and do hold people in high regard while disagreeing with them theologically (to a certain extent).
      But Driscoll….he’s another case entirely. My post only skimmed the surface of what could be said, and that was intentional. There’s already plenty of material out there, for those who are motivated enough to want to learn more.
      I completely agree with you about name-calling and personal attacks. I’ve done it in the past, and I was tempted in this post to be much harsher than I was. I did call him a bully, and if you’d like reasons for that…well, let me know. Because honestly, he’s got a record a mile long of abusive and threatening language and behavior. He HAS bullied, publicly, many, many times.
      Your last line is taking me back to the title of my post. Does being a Christian mean that our leaders are not accountable – that we should just keep quiet, make nice, and hope the problems go away? A lot of people’s lives have been damaged by corrupt leadership, because NO ONE would say, “Something is horribly wrong.”

  6. Joe Church says:

    Sharon, I appreciate your reply and your desire to be more charitable. As for the title of your blog post, I agree that leaders should also be held accountable. We are encouraged to check all things against Scripture and so there is at some level accountability because the individual listener has the ability to check things for themselves.

    Also, Driscoll does submit to the elders at his church and he also publicly repented and apologized for the times when he’s actually crossed a line. I think this brings up a number of interesting questions. Such as why do people feel they have a “right” not to be offended? Once an offense has occurred whether intentional or not, who gets to decide what is an appropriate resolution and if action is required or not?

    Scripture comes to mind where it talks about Christians addressing grievances with each other directly, not internet bashing and virtual rioting. It just seems to me that while there may be doctrinal or theological or ideological differences that all the criticism and “hate speech” would best be replaced by a more gracious approach, based by charitable interactions involving Scripture and discussion. Far too often I see hypocrisy and self-righteousness and arrogance flying around in these discussions. Do we not see the log in our eye as we attack a brother?

  7. Skjaere says:

    Thank you for writing this thoughtful post. I know it feels like swimming upstream. Those who like Driscoll seem unwilling to hear any criticism of him. He is human and imperfect, and I hope his followers acknowledge this. Occasionally he apologises (although some of these apologies are a bit weak), but what he doesn’t seem to do is change his patterns of behaviour.

    Spiritual abuse is serious business. Those who have been hurt by MHC have ever right to have their voices heard. They should not be dismissed out of hand, just because Driscoll is successful at what he does. He and his church should not get a free pass just because some of what they do is good work.

  8. Aaron says:

    Last Saturday, we got a call giving us a heads up that our church’s pastor had chosen to resign after being asked to by the church. Of course we got very little details past that and were very unhappy at first, but thankfully I knew someone that was willing to sit down and give us at least a rough overview of events that made it clear enough he wasn’t “secretly fired by a small group unhappy with him” which was good (there’s all sorts of stuff that it’d take a while to sum up that I’ll skip). Now that we’ve had that and more formal discussions of it to digest we’re kinda in a quandary as far as the former pastor goes, but I do believe it was an example of the church body as a whole Getting It Right. Approaching him more than once one on one with genuine grievances, and then at the end of a several year escalating process, approaching him with pretty much all the leaders and attempting to work with him toward a resolution before in the end due to inability to make any headway there, asking him to resign. It still kinda hurts because he’s a great guy that neither of us ever had personal grounds to really butt heads with, but apparently we were oblivious to those who he was hurting (well meant though he was). Anyway, the church seems to be pulling together fairly well but its still a fragile time in a church whose membership has already seen a lot of depletion over the last few years. So, I guess a praise and prayer request all neatly wrapped up into one jumbled thing.

  9. Sharon, I would hate to think that there are believers who think that we should literally keep quiet and not criticise this sort of thing when we believe such is called for.

    The very real and appropriate concern that I have seen raised – and have raised myself – is how very easily those supposedly brotherly and sisterly criticisms accelerate into mere abusiveness. The names that have been thrown around and the tone taken in many of these attacks, as I’m sure you’ll agree, is not becoming of followers of Christ.

    • I think I’ve had an epiphany today. We’re making no headway. You mean what you say, and seem be misunderstanding me. I mean what I say, and you have told me that I’m misunderstanding you. The more people argue, the more entrenched they become in their own positions. it’s pointless. Of course, this makes much blogging seem pretty pointless, too, including my own. Meaningless, meaningless, all is meaningless, and striving after the wind. I’ll end up posting funny cat videos again.

      We agree in principle, and yet when it’s down to cases, we seem to disagree. So what can I do, except wish you well?

  10. Holly says:

    SPEAK, Sharon. Always speak. That goes for everyone. Never be afraid to say what is on your mind and in your heart.
    I don’t know this Driscoll character, but I already dislike him.
    I don’t call myself a Christian, so I don’t feel the need to censor myself. (much) I find that the guys that bring the huge crowds and get their name out in the media tend to be…there really is no other word….wrong.
    No one should hesitate to challenge another’s words or ideas because of their status or reputation.

  11. mom says:

    sharon, I just read your blog right now. Last night one of my friends used a Gandhi commercial to put down christians and this is not the first time she does this. I was like you before. Let it go and let it go but last night, I felt like to pose something; not to attack but to make my point. I prayed while I was writing. I made sure that I was not judging or defending but focussing on why I am still a Christian. I did mention about my own salvation and eternal death and God will judge one day but in the end. I said Jesus loves everyone evne though you don’t accept Him and this gift is always there for you but it’s your choice. However, one person commented saying that my friends post is an opinion but mine is a hypocrite action. I don’t plan to reply anymore because i made my point. I hope I am doing the right thing. I think this is the first time I tried to make my point publicly. i hope most of the people don’t think I am a hypocrite. And really, In the old testament, it said God will fight for us, we just need to be still. I really don’t know when to speak up and when to be silent. Or shodul we always be slient?

  12. Speaking means opening yourself up to criticism, that is certain. As I said in one of my recent posts, if I dish it out I have to be prepared to take it. So to the question of when to speak and when to be silent? I don’t usually feel the need to defend myself. I guess I tend to speak more when I see others being mistreated – in word in or deed. And maybe I sometimes get it wrong, speaking when I should be silent. But no, I’m sure that always being silent is not the answer. We’ve got plenty of examples in scripture to illustrate that.

  13. Raven says:

    Paul opposed Peter to his face when Peter was living in a way that was not in line with the Gospel. This was an apostle he was criticizing, and one who had actually walked around with the Lord. If Peter wasn’t immune from failure (or criticism), then who is?

    I think part of the problem stems from how we define “repent”. It doesn’t just mean that someone regrets what they’ve done. Repentance involves, by the grace of God, turning AWAY from the sin you’re repenting of. If a man caught in adultery says he has repented but keeps seeing his mistress, wouldn’t we rightly be skeptical? If a man caught being verbally abusive to others says he has repented but repeats the behavior–for years–why is that different?

    This is not something *Scripture* is silent about. 1 Timothy 3 says an elder is to be “not…pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable”. At the very least we can agree that someone with what appears to be an ongoing problem with anger should step back from the ministry of an elder.

    It is not loving to keep silent about a sin that is hindering a brother’s prayers. If that brother happens to be a public figure, it is not loving to keep silent about teaching that may (and has) harm the sheep that sit under him.

    • Your reference to the 1 Timothy 3 is exactly on point, and yet we’ve still got a subset within the church that thinks that pastors get a pass on verbally abusive those in their care. And ironically its sometimes those who address that behavior that are seen as unloving or divisive.

      Thank you for reading and commenting!

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