I am no longer astounded by the number of people — purportedly “good people” — who willingly go along with evil being perpetrated in the church. The specific evil of which I write is that of the easy destruction of peoples’ lives when they dare to question spiritual authority. (The previous post points to the practices of a particular leader who gets a pass from other leaders in supposed relationship with him — to their shame.)
I’ve written at length about the problems with the authoritarian style of Mark Driscoll and what I believe are the problems with his ministry. Contrary to the opinion of many, I do not hate Mark Driscoll. I do, however, hate the leadership style he has been allowed to assume and to teach other men to practice (and it is gender specific). I believe it to be so far from the biblical model of servant leadership as to be almost antithetical to what the New Testament teaches.
In 2007, two pastors, Paul Petry and Bent Meyer, who disagreed with changes to the leadership polity of Mars Hill were subsequently dismissed with apparent prejudice. They dared question the desired direction of Mark Driscoll in terms of his power and authority. Until very recently, these two men remained virtually silent on what they and their families had experienced.
Jonna Petry’s “My Story” is more than worthy of your time to read. It is a powerful story of excitement with something they believe to have the potential for much good in Seattle — that gets turned into one man’s personal ministry. A ministry where those who dare disagree with that One are discarded at best, or destroyed at worst.
From the full document,
…we started attending regularly, heard a number of the pastors preach (because in those days they took turns preaching), listened carefully to what was said and mostly delighted in what we experienced. Mark Driscoll stood out then, as a persuasive speaker with a strong attitude but, we had confidence the leadership team, Mark included, was committed to the distinctive of biblical eldership. Though Mark was young, he was surrounded by a group of godly older men – Bent Meyer being one who also had years of pastoral experience behind him. This was very reassuring to us.
The church was growing and we became completely immersed in loving, serving and teaching. My father (who had not been in church for almost 40 years) and my sweet stepmother joined us monthly and then weekly for worship services – ferrying over from Poulsbo, Washington, to spend the day with us. Mark often used the expression that our church was “family” and we rather believed it – so effective in building a sense of belonging.
But those things began to change,
Mark pressured all the elected executive elders [with the exception of Jamie Munson] to resign their posts, saying a new structure was necessary. Mark also decided that Lief would no longer function as the pastor of the Ballard campus (the primary and largest campus where Mark taught mostly in person) and as a result the two of them had a horrible falling out. This was an ominous sign for me because Mark had often spoken about his love and appreciation for Lief’s willingness to go “toe-to-toe” with him and how this was vital for the health of the church. (Pg 4)
What had begun as a multiple teaching leadership, elder-led church devolved (and I use that word intentionally) into one man rule. To the point where Jonna writes,
What started with a beautiful beginning – three families sent from Antioch Bible Church in Kirkland to plant a “daughter church” in Seattle that would be authentic and relevant to reach the lost – has turned into the personal ministry of one very ambitious man. Although it is still called a church, I think a more honest and accurate name might be “Mark Driscoll Ministries,” not unlike the name for Billy Graham’s organization, a man who Mark has said he greatly admires. I think what we are seeing demonstrates a confused ecclesiology and I fear this is also being taught to many other young church planters through the Acts 29 Network who want to “have” a church just like Mark’s. (Pg 13) [emphasis added]
Jonna acknowledges her own mistakes in allowing the Mars Hill church system to grow in it’s dysfunction,
I have my own sin in all this. I contributed to the dysfunctional system. I acted in pride, idolatry, fear of man, people pleasing, cowardice, and favoritism. I am truly sorry for all the ways I personally hurt people by my words, my actions or inactions, directly or indirectly, during my time at Mars Hill Church from 2001–2007, especially as a part of leadership. And now, I am also very sorry for how my years of silence regarding the spiritual abuse that I suffered have indirectly contributed to the abuse of other precious people. Though truthfully, I don’t think I could have written about it any sooner. (Pg 13) [emphasis added]
Jonna ends her story powerfully,
If Mark and the organizations he leads do not change, I fear many more will be hurt, Mark and his family included. To not speak is to not love or care and shows no thought or consideration for those who have been wounded and those who will be in the future. We are witnesses. There is a pattern. There is a history. There is an ethos of authoritarianism and abuse. Mark is the unquestioned head of Mars Hill Church and the Acts 29 Network. His elders have no way to hold him accountable. Those under him likely fear him and want to garner his favor so they don’t dare say nor do anything that might anger him. This is tragic.
Perhaps at some point, with enough outcry and exposure, Mark will come to his senses, own his harmful behavior, and get the help he needs to change. I hope so. Our common Enemy can make terrible use of our weaknesses and blind spots. Our Lord’s harshest words were for leaders who used their status, power, the Scriptures, and God’s people for their own self-aggrandizement. Surely this is not what Mark meant to do.
A Christianity which perpetuates the exaltation of mere men to god-like status, while belittling and wounding so many of God’s children in the process, is completely antithetical to what Jesus taught and is just as harmful to the leaders as it is to those who follow. Sadly, this is not the love of Jesus Christ or the power of the gospel we are called to demonstrate to one another and to the world. (Pg 14) [emphasis added]
To which I can only add, a loud AMEN!
Please read the entire document, and the full blog of Paul and Jonna Petry, Joyful Exiles. If this doesn’t cause you great concern with the Celebrity-Driven Church culture in North America, nothing will.
Side Note: Imbi and I are on the road in the EU working on a number of projects. This is the primary reason for my blog silence. The introduction of Paul’s and Jonna’s blog was well worth me taking a moment to write this new post.