”Rather than having Mark preach or teach, I am excited about interviewing Mark and his wife, Grace from our main platform during our Hillsong Conference 2015… I am looking forward to having this opportunity to speak openly with the Driscolls about life and ministry, as well as recent events and lessons they’ve learned through personal and ministry trials during the past year… My aim is to have an in-depth conversation that gives insight into their hearts… Mark has been candid about mistakes he has made, and if we can, through our conference, help others through his life experiences, we think that will prove valuable.”
What is being communicated here is this:
1. Driscoll made some mistakes;
2. He apologized;
3. He is still a Christian leader.
When Driscoll was told by his church that he needed to take a sabbatical and take some time for personal healing… for example, for his domineering spirit… he quit instead. He signed himself out of treatment.
In his resignation letter, he admits he is an “imperfect messenger of the gospel of Jesus Christ”. In the same paragraph, he insists that he has confessed to “past (emphasis mine) pride, anger, and a domineering spirit”. He also suggests that there was simply a conflict of personality or style between him and the church when he says, “Other issues, such as aspects of my personality and leadership style, have proven to be divisive within the Mars Hill context.” He continues to claim that he did not do anything criminal, immoral, or heretical and that he should not be disqualified from pastoral ministry.
If I wrote the above paragraph, what I would be communicating to the church is:
1. I’ve apologized;
2. you have an unforgiving spirit;
3. you can’t handle my personality;
4. you don’t appreciate my style;
5. I’ve not really done anything seriously wrong;
6. I’m going to keep being a Christian leader.
Do you notice how identical the messages of Driscoll and Huston are? Other Christian leaders have delivered the same message when one of them falls.
This is the spin:
1. they’re only mistakes;
2. he’s apologized;
3. this is not enough to disqualify him from ministry.
They are being dismissive. They are dismissive of character. Character doesn’t matter anymore. In fact, it seems to me that no matter what you do, if you follow the Christian essential and apologize, even poorly, you can start with a clean slate immediately. Repentance used to mean transformation of character. Now, it means a non-apology for superficial mistakes.
In fact, with the ongoing saga of Tony Jones, I find it fascinating that he and his friends can dismiss his narcissism and allow him to continue as a Christian leader unchecked. But as Driscoll and Huston show, this is not unique to Jones. It’s happening everywhere all of the time. It is the modus operandi of Christian leadership today.
By their fruits you will know them. Fruits reveal the roots. We have become obsessed, distracted, and wowed by fruit. Roots are out of sight and out of mind, so we don’t bother with them. Ever.
Being a bully is not a mistake, it’s a flaw. Having a domineering spirit is not a mistake, it’s a flaw. Being abusive is not a mistake, it’s a flaw. Being narcissistic is not a mistake, it’s a flaw. A flaw in character. A flaw that needs serious and extended attention. Flaws can be repaired, but it takes a lot of work. These may not all be curable, but they can all be manageable.
Instead we quickly dismiss these flaws, diminish their import and impact, sweep them under the carpet, and move on with the program. There will always be enough fans, followers, and customers to keep the enterprise going and the industrial complex alive. Of course, these fans turn into fodder, fuel, and aftermaths. But so what? There are still more people out there. The show must go on!
What if we changed the spin to a healthier model? Like this:
1. your mistakes betray serious flaws in your character that hurt people;
2. repentance means a complete turnaround which may involve an extended sabbatical with therapy, accountability, and time;
3. we recognize your gift, and will trust you with the lives of people once you’ve proven you’re healed by managing your character in ways that doesn’t harm other people.
This would be better for the church and for us all, would it not?
Are you a survivor? Meet a bunch of other survivors at The Lasting Supper! We’re a riot!