Recently we have seen the mega Church Mars Hill come under some serious trouble and attacks, and more specifically we have seen Pastor Mark Driscoll come under attack. I don’t think I need to recap that entire event, so for the sake of brevity for this post I want to focus on one single topic in relation to the Mark Driscoll “saga” as it were. That topic is grace, or what I am seeing as graceless Christians.
Let me first say that I have in no way condoned or approved in any respect the sins that have been committed by Pastor Mark. The issues that are within his interpersonal relationships and leadership styles, as well as the allegations around his book deal, finances, and generally “totalitarian” ministry that it appeared he was trying to build are all things I will gladly concede if they are true.
What frightens me more than Pastor Mark, is everyone else. The Christian response, generally speaking, is to crucify him where he stands. Now he has hurt many people but where is it in any Christian teaching to take vengeance into your own hands? We are to forgive him (Ephesians 4:32 & Matthew 6:15) for what he has done. When we think about forgiveness, it is not subject dependent, but object dependent. That is to say that it is not dependent on Mark Driscoll to earn the forgiveness of the Church and even those he has hurt. It is the responsibility of us as Christians to forgive (or pardon) his sins whether or not he repents or seeks restoration.
If we are honest about our own sins against Christ, we know that we are unworthy of his forgiveness, yet he still forgave us. “As God in Christ forgave you” would be exceptionally true here. We don’t forgive him because he earns it. Furthermore, hating him does nothing for you except keep you consumed in a cycle of hatred. It doesn’t assist your life or repair what was destroyed. All that it does is keep a cycle of anger going continually.
Now recently I was in a fairly lengthy Twitter conversation with multiple people who seem to want to crucify Pastor Mark for what he has done, and also forevermore disqualify him from ministry. First I want to address the crucifying and then his qualification for ministry.
First of all, lets all keep in mind, someone was already crucified for us. Christ went to the cross for sins past, present, and future. We don’t need to, nor should, vilify a man who is no better or worse than you. We all have grave sins that need forgiving and under significant fame would only be magnified if not kept in check. For me personally, I can be very pretentious and condescending and if I was in a position of influence like he was, I cannot say with absolute certainty how I would handle myself. None of us can do that and so to say that we “would do this or that” in that situation is foolish at best and horrible to say at worst. We don’t know. A sad reality is that everyone has a price point or a breaking point.
It’s an interesting observation that Christianity is the only army that shoots it’s own wounded. He is wounded. He is hurt. He is a victim. Now, I don’t say he is a victim in regards to what he did to hurt others and for his mistakes. He is a victim in that he is being attacked and having to run for his families safety. This is not the type of reaction we should be showing towards a brother in Christ. He is not evil and he is not unable to be redeemed. Instead of showering him in distant condemnation and hate, we should be doing what Christ calls us to do; forgive him and show him grace.
Now, regarding his ministry. Let me be clear, I absolutely believe he should step down and out of the light for a season. He needs to protect his family and rebuild his relationships. He needs to seek Christ to find forgiveness and help. He needs to improve via wise council and sanctification. This is something we all need and he is no better or worse than any one else. However, do I think that he should be excluded from ministry indefinitely? Not in the slightest. Do I think it could be potentially better for him to not return, yes. However, I will not say he should stay out forever. Here is why.
The qualifications for elders and leaders in the church are both extremely high in standard and also applicable to those not in pastoral roles. Now, I am no Biblical Greek scholar or anything like that, but when you read the qualifications in English, and more so in Greek, you see that they are present tense qualifications. This means that as long as a pastor is in that position, he is held to a much higher standard. His disqualification comes from repetitive transgressions or being unrepentant. Now, that does not say that if he is to become disqualified, which I believe Pastor Mark to presently be, that he is forevermore disqualified from pastoral ministry. Quite to the contrary, I believe that pastors can be restored.
Now, let me say briefly that while I believe that he can potentially be restored to pastoral leadership, that does not mean he should be restored. The character traits that have to be addressed, and the accusations regarding finances, leadership styles, and the people he has hurt, could be absolutely resolved. In that case, it still may not be a wise idea to allow him into pastoral ministry again. That is not a Biblical concern, but a discernment concern.
Finally, I would like us to consider one hypothetical idea. Lets consider a man who was a wretched atheist (wretched is qualifying atheist not derogatory) who hated Christians, denied God, and was anti-theism and suddenly, by God’s grace, became a Christian! Let’s also say that this man went into a Seminary pastorate program to become a pastor. Do we have to disqualify him on the basis of his sins pre-Christ? Do we have to disqualify him because he made terrible decisions as a lost sinner? No, we don’t. We allow the redemption he receives through Christ to redirect him and give him a new heart. In regards to Driscoll, is it sad that he fell so far? Yes, but at the same time we need to do for him, what we would do for anyone else. We need to pray for him and show him grace. Is he presently disqualified from pastoral ministry? Absolutely, but the present tense position he finds himself in does not negate him absolutely and indefinitely.
Before we become graceless and vilifying towards a brother in Christ, we should first ask ourselves this question: If I would have fallen as far and as hard as he did, would I expect to be crucified for my failure or would I expect love and grace in my greatest time of need?
“My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9