Monday, August 25, 2014

Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll

Surprisingly I find myself heartbroken and sad for both the people of Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll himself.

For those who are unaware Mark Driscoll is the founder of a mega church in the Seattle Washington area.  The church was founded in 1996 and has grown to over 6,000 official members and 15 locations that fill the need of roughly 14,000 people weekly.

I have never been a huge fan of Pastor Mark. I’ve read his books and I have definitely gotten some great things from them. I honestly believe that he has a lot to teach.

The way he does it however does not appeal to me and sometimes I worry that while I am a pretty grounded Christian Marks statements, language and general attitude may lead new believers to not actually put on the new man as Paul says in Eph 4:24 but rather assume that their old self is good enough. This brings us to a new breed of Christian, a more punk version that wants to and actively seeks to argue the merits of drinking and having bible study in bars, swearing and such more than they seem to want to remove themselves as a stumbling block to others 1 Corinthians 10:23.  
A generation that would rather us argue amongst ourselves so in my opinion they can feel better about their choices.  Turning to personal apologetics of which they know only the buzzwords and key phrases or reference for their views in order to establish themselves as a more progressive Christian.    That is a post for another day however.

That is how I first encountered Mars Hill and its Pastor.  I had friends that fell into a group of Driscoll followers and changed. Started doing things they normally wouldn’t do. Not because it was biblically wrong but because they had no interest in it. Drinking, foul language and such. 

I had sermons presented to me, I read a lot about him and his church. All with a suspicion that was jaded at the very least.

Since it was Pastor Mark that they were listening to at the time I guess I blamed him for my friends new self.  It wasn't until a 6-8 months ago When my Pastor suggested I read another one of his books that I was able to lay that down and actually hear Pastor Mark for what he could speak to me rather than the way he said it or what I saw others getting from his messages.

My friends have since moved on to the next big thing in the mega church scene and I lost track of Pastor Mark.

That was until the recent brew haha that erupted.. It feels like a bunch of stuff just coming to a head and just happened to spill over the edge as of late.  

While I can’t defend his language or ANYTHING at all that he said under the pseudonym William Wallace II on message boards. A pseudonym that he later admitted to. Statements I will not repeat here or link to but has since apologized about via Christianitytoday.com on August first

Pastor Mark stands accused of several things.

Misuse of church funds, there was a special “global fund” for one reason or another that fund was eventually moved into the Mars Hill General Fund.  Since people gave the money to one fund they suggest that moving the money into the regular coffers mean that their donations are not going where they wanted them to thus they are being misused.  
To me this is bunk because you give your tithe and offering to the church and they distribute it.  It’s not of us to tell the church where to spend Gods money providing that money isn’t used in a way that will hinder the kingdom.

Plagiarism, a charge that after a 3 week review by the lawyers at Tyndale it was decided that Pastor Mark cited his use of another idea enough that the charge could not stand.

21 people so far have joined together to charge Pastor Mark with Abusive Conduct

People such as Kyle Firstenburg who left the church after serving as deacon posted a letter he wrote to the Mars Hill Board of Advisors and Accountability which he posted on his blog and said Pastor Mark was mean and petty and cites one occasion in his letter where Pastor Mark told Mr Firstenburg that there was another person in the employ of Mars Hill that Pastor Mark was going to fire because “he didn’t fit the mold you (Pastor Mark) needed for that position”.    

Rebecca Kvenvolden  posted July 31st on a website called RepentantPastor.com said she left the church because 1) the drive time to attend was too much and 2) that she received a harsh email from Pastor Mark when she questioned the church’s support of the book To Train Up a Child. A book that was published in 94 by Michael and Debi Pearl. According to Rebecca Pastor Mark told her  “my (Rebecca’s) kids were going to go to Hell if she didn’t beat them”.

Honestly? You left the church in the late 90’s and you post in 2014 that you left the church because of Pastor Mark?

Another issue of alleged abusive conduct has to do with a tweet from Pastor Mark where he tried to start a hashtag or conversation via the social network twitter by posting
“So what story do you have about the most effeminate male worship leader you’ve ever personally witnessed”

Now while this was immature and ill-advised lets not call it abusive.  

All of the examples abusive behavior I've come across and I've read extensive material on this story has only served to make me feel bad for Pastor Mark
This seems like a witch hunt.  
These 21 (of which Rebecca is not one) are all ex employees and family of ex employees that were let go for one reason or another.  It’s been my experience as the person in charge of hiring and firing at several businesses that even when you let some one go and give no reason as is acceptable in Missouri an “at will” state you still get hard feelings.
People genuinely do not like getting fired and the more high profile the job or company the harder the feelings.

Being on staff at a mega church such as Mars Hill I would imagine would make you feel pretty good and being let go in a leadership position might cause hard feelings that may make that person feel they need to leave the church as a member of the congregation as well. Leading to feelings of ostracism.
I can’t imagine it would be easy.

It’s not the ignorance of these claims or the timing that make me profoundly sad. Its the fact that they are coming form Christians.
These people claim to be fellow followers of Christ. Still they have dedicated time and money to build a website  around their dislike and slander of another believer.

Jesus in Matthew 18 talks about how to handle this stuff and it in no way mentions running your mouth to anyone that will listen.
Take the problem in private. If that doesn't work then take another with you. If that fails as well then take it before the church. If again the problem is not resolved you can wash your hands of it.  
These people wrote letters to the church board of advisers and accountability. The church sided with the Pastor as churches are oft to do. 

The church is the end of the line. After that you can treat the offending party as a tax collector or pagan.  
In this case the offender was in their minds the church.  At that point you leave Mars Hill and have nothing more to do with it. This includes websites and facebook fan pages built on hate.

You can leave. You’ve tried your best right or wrong the church decision is the end of it. Don’t try to take others with you and don’t spread a campaign of hate.  You move on. 

Not every church is a good fit for everyone. The bottom line is that Mars Hill was started by Pastor Mark and regardless of the size you would expect the founding Pastor of a church to have a certain large amount of control. After all the church is his vision not yours and you can either get under it or away from it.  

There are church in my community I don’t agree with their Pastor, or with their governing bodies decisions.  Churches that have hurt me deeply and personally.  I moved on to that place God wants me and I try to at least let the hate and hurt go.

If I still felt that bad after 10 years or more in some of these cases I’d look inward instead of around.

The over 6’000 members of Mars Hill are the ones being hurt in this obvious vendetta.  These are old and new believers.  Some are people who just found a relationship with Christ. People that were attracted to Mars Hill in some cases because of Pastor Mark. People that look to him for his teaching and his vision. People that will be deprived of that and scrutinized for their decision to love their church and support their pastor.

As of Saturday Pastor Mark stepped down for at least 6 weeks while he works on himself and on his vision.  

Pastor Mark will never read this post.  If he did I’d want him to know that he is just a man. A man that is trying. A man that has the guts to get up in front of thousands each week and talk about Jesus.  While I don’t always agree with how he does it I marvel at his dedication. A man that has to at times make decisions and shouldn’t be expected to always make the right one.  I sincerely Pray that he returns to Mars Hill after his sabbatical and takes the reins again. There are people who need you there and countless more that WILL need you sir.

Please pray for Mars Hill and for the Driscoll family


At Your Service

Alan