…And, like clockwork, another heated debate explodes to stir up the pot which is the Christian blogosphere.
This time involving Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle–no connection to Rob Bell and Mars Hill in Grand Rapids. In fact, this one of only a few things that these two pastors have in common: controversy. While Bell’s issues seem to err on the theological side, Driscoll has been known for stirring the cultural pot with his statements.
I wrote in a previous post about how God has really taught me a lot about pastoring, teaching, and preaching through Pastor Mark recently. I hold him in high respect because of the energy and force in which he presents Jesus. He has no fear of stepping on your toes when preaching the Bible. It is truth and does not back down from a challenge.
Like most things, this is good and bad.
Good because he confronts sin as sin. Issues are not sidestepped or tip-toed around. They are confronted head on, always with the Bible as the foundation.
Bad because his abrasive, hyper-masculine personality comes across as arrogant and pushy. The first reaction is not to reconsider; it is to push back harder.
Most recently, this has gotten him in trouble concerning the issues of gender and the implications thereof in the church. Driscoll is known for highlighting the masculine qualities of Jesus. He challenges young men (20somethings+)–who he calls nothing more than “boys who can shave”–to step up and be a man. The testosterone heavy sermons are preached at his congregation week in, week out. But recently, Pastor Mark posted a status on Facebook prompting stories of the “effeminate anatomically male worship leader.” Needless to say, this was not the first status that caused bickering, problems, and disagreement from the Internet, but it seemed like it was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
I find myself standing in the middle–again–of a debate raging across the four corners of the Christian blogosphere. And this is not rhetorically speaking. I actually find myself straddling the line on this one. The reason is I respect Pastor Mark. He preaches the Bible with a fierce conviction–many of which line up with what I believe. God has used his sermons, although being 2,700 miles away, to convict my heart of my idolatry, religiosity, and sin. I cannot fault the man for being assertive when it comes to sin because the Lord knows I need someone to step in and slap some sense into me sometimes to wake me up.
On the other hand, I understand the uncomfortable situation Pastor Mark puts many people in when he preaches. He preaches with a lot of enthusiasm and yells more than the normal pastor. He does not back away from tough topics and does not always say the most politically correct things. I can see why people are calling for checks to be put in place. I believe pastors should be held accountable for everything they say in public, from the pulpit or via social media outlet. So, yes, the bloggers do have a point that Pastor Mark should reign it back and/or provide context into which he is speaking.
As I have read posts and thought about the situation a few things have come to mind:
- Mark Driscoll is a man. He is not perfect and will never be until the other side of eternity. He is still in the same sanctification process all Christians are going through. He will make mistakes. Our job, unless you the offended party or an elder of the Mars Hill community, is not to lash out with the same tones as Mark does, but to respond in love–however that is best shown.
- Do not idolize anyone. This is more of a personal realization than a global statement. In the past six months I have seen two pastors I have followed for some time hurled in the midst of controversy. As human beings, we hold onto these people as people we aspire to be like and follow after. I feel like it is worse in “church world” because it can be filed under the guise of “mentorship.” Nonetheless, I have once again been taught that no one is perfect except Jesus. Therefore, HE should be the one I am trying to pattern my life and ministry after–not Rob Bell, Mark Driscoll, Steven Furtick, or Matt Chandler.
- Know when to admit you have done wrong. Pastor Mark is undoubtedly aware of the riot he caused because of his post. But, I admire his response in a recent post on the Resurgence. He admits that it was not the best use of social media nor the right place to post such a comment. It takes a lot of guts to admit to the internet community that was almost ready to crucify you that you were wrong. For that, I respect Pastor Mark.
- Know your audience. Driscoll was born and raised in the greater Seattle area. For years, Seattle was the least churched city in America. Not that there were not any churches there, it just was not a thriving bed of Christianity. Since Mars Hill began in 1996, Seattle is no longer at the top of that list. I am not attributing the sudden reversal solely to the efforts of Mars Hill, but they have been a huge driving force in this reversal. With this new-found faith in the upper-Northwest, there are new Christians who need to hear the truth. Paul did the same thing with the new churches he started. Just look at the book of Romans. It is some deep, theological stuff that dances all over everyone’s toes even today! Bringing in a theologically-educated, clean-nosed, freshly-graduated, southern-gentleman, seminary valedictorian is not the kind of person who will reach these people. It takes someone who has lived there and knows what makes the people tick. They need someone who speaks their language–even if it is loud and abrasive sometimes.
Once again, the Christian community is at war. The focus has changed and the lines reshuffled. Digital ink is being spilt like blood, and there are only two parties that are happy: Satan and Rob Bell.
Satan because he can just sit back and watch Christians lose their credibility as they shoot their own wounded.
Rob Bell because the focus of controversy has been lifted off his shoulders for a few minutes so he can bandage his own wounds for the time being.
There is always a silver lining, right?