Archives For Celebrity-Driven

Today, Messengers (the term used for those sent from their SBC churches) at the Southern Baptist Church Convention gathering in Houston, SBC 2013,

passed a resolution calling on all Southern Baptists to report allegations of child abuse to authorities.

Commenting on this, Christianity Today’s Gleanings blog noted,

The resolution, filed more or less in response to the high-profile lawsuit against Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM), was amended to ask that “SBC leaders and employees practice the highest level of discernment in affiliating with groups or individuals that possess ‘questionable’ policies and practices in protecting children against sexual abuse,” according to Baptist Press (BP), which live-blogged the morning’s votes. [emphasis added]

As much of a no-brainer as this really should have been, it is rather a strong slap in the face to Southern Baptist Celebrity leaders, Al Mohler and Mark Dever — who less than three weeks ago, along with PCA Celeb, Ligon Duncan were busy strongly supporting their buddy, C.J. Mahaney — SGM controlling stakeholder during the multiple alleged abuse cases at Sovereign Grace Ministries’ churches including the one where Mahaney pastored. Dever going so far as to preach at Mahaney’s fledgling new church plant on June 2nd, 2013 in Louisville, KY — telling the gathered few how wonderful Mahaney is,

“So you all who are here in this church, and particularly if you’re visiting or if you’re sort of new to Sovereign Grace, you have a privilege in having this man as your pastor that you don’t fully grasp, and that’s absolutely fine,” Dever said. “Just thank God for him and enjoy the word of God as he brings it from a life and a heart full of the gospel, and know that I am delighted to be here. It’s a privilege to address you brothers and sisters.” [emphasis added]

The original resolution did not come from one of the many other SBC Celebs sharing the platform at the Houston event, but rather from the cheap seats, via an SBC Messenger from Georgia, Pastor and blogger, Peter Lumpkins. (“Cheap seats” is used affectionately for we, the little people) — with much support from folk outside the gathering, including SNAP’s Amy Smith.

Amy experienced her own SBC rejection because of the stand she’s consistently taken for abuse survivors — in spite of the spin attempted by an associate pastor on staff at Amy’s home church — where the pre-SBC13 Pastors Conference was taking place. (Quick synopsis: this pastor communicated that it would be best for Amy & her husband that they no longer volunteer in that SBC church’s youth ministry — because of her work with SNAP.)

While all of this was happening, there was another interesting development in the CJ Mahaney/SGM Abuse public relations debacle. The 2nd Mahaney-supporting leaders’statement which originally appeared to be from the corporate entity, The Gospel Coalition, and written by three of its key leaders including founder Don Carson, had this quietly added to it:

This statement reflects the views of the signatories and does not necessarily speak for other Council members, bloggers, and writers for The Gospel Coalition. [emphasis added]

In response to a Tweet where I wondered,

Perhaps Carson, DY & Taylor received some pushback from other TCGers“,

Boz Tchividjian, who with the ministry G.R.A.C.E. supports abuse victims  replied,

Internal pushback has occurred.’

There is a scene in Paddy Chayefesky‘s Academy Award-winning film, Network where the lead character, news anchor Howard Beale declares,”I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore.”His audience soon joins him, stating “We are mad as hell, and we’re not going to take it anymore.”*

At this point in time, there are many Christians who are “mad as hell” at what has happened to far too many “little ones” in the church — and are no longer willing to be lead in silence by Celebrity leaders. These “little ones” have been hurt, damaged and even sexually abused without warranting more than a passing sentence or two of care from these “Church Celebrities”.

What these Celebrity Leaders effectively communicate is that properly held doctrine by big-time church leaders is far more important than a few broken people. (Who was it who said, ‘to make an omelette you have to break a few eggs‘?)

But God, as He so often does, has chosen to raise up prophets from the “lower classes” of the church. (No disrespect intended.) Dee and Deb at the Wartburg Watch, Michael Newnham at Phoenix PreacherMatt Redmond, Julie Anne Smith, Amy Smith, Peter Lumpkins, Chris Hubbs, Zach Hoag and many others.

No doubt the Celebrity leaders are not only stunned by how these little people have spoken up, but also that their voices have been and will continue to be listened to.

To God be the glory.

UPDATE: Read this post at TWW. I’m singing from the same songbook.

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*Note that this becomes irony as it morphs into a tag line, rather than conviction, in the film.
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Edited a 2nd time for clarity at 12:13 AM Thursday, June 13, 2013.

(This post was prompted by a Twitter conversation between Aaron aka @culturalsavage and moi from earlier this afternoon, Nov-15-12.)

In the 20+ years that Imbi and I owned a post-house in Toronto (an editing, graphics and post-audio facility called Scene by Scene®), we worked on thousands of interstitials for broadcast clients including Canada’s two largest private television networks, CTV and Global. These were the on-air promos for “Coming up Next”, or “Thursday at 9pm”… you get the drift.

5, 10 and 15 second attention grabbers meant to keep you connected to the network, or anticipating future viewing pleasure. (Forgive me for having participated in promoting prevarication.)

Interstitial image KTV

On-air promos/interstitials are the primary way networks reinforce their branding.

Our company was paid well to produce high quality brand promotion for broadcasters. (As an aside, I will always remember when the 1st Gulf War started, as I’d just finished creating 36 CTVNews promos for the Gulf Crisis when Imbi went into labour with Kaili. The day after Kaili’s birth, I was back changing them all to Gulf War.)

At one level, Twitter is a broadcast medium. Depending on the ratio of following to followers, it mimics the one-to-many communication of a TV network — primarily seen in the every-moment-tweeted Kardashian/Beiber/Kutcher inane celebrity universe.

LOOK AT ME, LOOK AT ME, LOOK AT ME — their tweets demand. They aren’t interested in a 140 character-at-a-time conversation — they simply want followers — ones who will buy what they’re selling.

I don’t tend to follow these Twitterati. They add next to nothing to my social media engagement. Their tweets simply reflect the dominant pathology of celebrity — narcissism.

Twitter to me is most engaging as way to discover new ideas and arguments — as well as new production software and technology. :-) My particular bent.

I have no problem with writers who point to their own writing — as long as that’s not all that they point to.

What I find particularly odd in the Twitterverse, are Christians who view Twitter like CTV viewed on-air promos — as a place to simply promote their wonderful brand.

We are told to “stay tuned for a big announcement.” Or ReTweet to win prizes — their books or tickets to their speaking events. They highlight every great thing someone else has tweeted about them. They let us know exactly where they’ve shared their great wisdom — to the applause of the gathered multitudes.

But, sorry, they really don’t have time to engage with anyone who hits reply to one of their tweets. (Followers really need to learn their place.) They’re on to bigger and better things that they’ll tweet about momentarily.

So.

In my never humble opinion, when the primary focus of one’s Tweet output is you and what you are doing, then Twitter has simply become interstitialed narcissism.

[The image above is from the rebranding we did for Global when they went from KidsTV to KTV in the previous millennium. Scene by Scene® is a registered trademark of Medri Kinnon Productions Limited.)

…is for good people to do nothing. (This quote is often mis-attributed to Edmund Burke. I have little doubt he would have agreed with it, whether or not he actually stated it.)

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.

Bent Meyer spoke out first on The Wartburgh Watch. And Paul and Jonna Petry have responded with their blog, Joyful Exiles.

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.

Over the weekend, I read an article written by Don Carson and Tim Keller called Carson and Keller on Jakes and the Elephant Room. Then on Monday, Scot McKnight wrote a post called Why? In that post, he wondered why people react to John Piper, Mark Driscoll and Al Mohler, but not to Tim Keller, when they all espouse, effectively, the same views on theology and ecclesiology.

So those two posts are the primary triggers for this post of mine where I do want to ask, the gospel according to whom?

Carson and Keller were writing from the platform of The Gospel Coalition. Note the definite article “The”, at the beginning of what they call their network. It isn’t A Gospel Coalition. It is The Gospel Coalition. We can deduce from the title that the men involved with TGC believe they represent The Gospel. And it is men, not women, in The Gospel Coalition. So it’s safe to assume that the only leaders in what they understand to be “The Gospel” are men.

What else do the men of TGC believe? Well, they are all either neo-reformed as Dave Fitch’s designates them or neo-Puritan in Scott McKnight’s descriptor, so the men of TGC would identify the gospel with a form of Calvinism. (Fitch would note that this would be Calvinism from within a North American context.) Is it fair to say that there are no Arminians involved with TGC; male nor female? Were they alive today, neither of the Wesley brothers would be welcomed to the TGC table, though it would be okay to sing a few of Charles’ hymns… as long as the worship leader was male, of course.

This is what they say about themselves,

We are a fellowship of evangelical churches deeply committed to renewing our faith in the gospel of Christ and to reforming our ministry practices to conform fully to the Scriptures. We have become deeply concerned about some movements within traditional evangelicalism that seem to be diminishing the church’s life and leading us away from our historic beliefs and practices

And later,

We want to generate a unified effort among all peoples—an effort that is zealous to honor Christ and multiply his disciples, joining in a true coalition for Jesus. Such a biblically grounded and united mission is the only enduring future for the church. This reality compels us to stand with others who are stirred by the conviction that the mercy of God in Jesus Christ is our only hope of eternal salvation. We desire to champion this gospel with clarity, compassion, courage, and joy—gladly linking hearts with fellow believers across denominational, ethnic, and class lines.

But is it not fair to believe that this example of “a true coalition for Jesus” is one limited to truly reformed and patriarchal Christians? Which either means they don’t believe the rest of us are Christians or we simply don’t understand what the gospel is — if only we’d agree with them, then we could join. These dear men claim to want to gladly link hearts with fellow believers across denominational, ethnic, and class lines, (but not gender), but can we surmise that that would only be as long as you agree with their theological and ecclesiological positions?

So, it would seem, “the gospel”, in The Gospel Coalition is masculine and truly reformed. Their table is limited — much like their view on The Atonement.

But let me return to the 1st trigger for this post, Carson and Keller on Jakes and the Elephant Room. Now Keller & Carson’s primary concern is with where TD Jakes stands on the Trinity. This has been written/spoken about ad nauseam in the days since James McDonald’s ER2. Jakes claims to be Trinitarian and it seems Carson and Keller don’t believe him to be Trinitarian enough.

They then go on to express concern about the prosperity gospel which they write Jakes preaches. How odd that it’s a concern when Jakes preaches it, but not when Stephen Furtick does. Note that Furtick has been a part of both Elephant Rooms.

So, here’s what I want to ask Carson and Keller; if a poor Trinitarian understanding and the prosperity gospel are hindrances to relationship, where does blackmail fit in?

No, that’s not a non sequitur.

You see one of the celebrity pastors who is a part of The Gospel Coalition is CJ Mahaney. Mahaney and a number of his fellow leaders in Sovereign Grace Ministries stand accused of blackmailing the original cofounder of SGM, Larry Tomczak. This was, apparently, done in order to stop him from publicly disagreeing with SGM’s move towards a Calvinist theological position. (This happened over a decade ago, but was only fully revealed in the last year). One of the men involved with Mahaney at the time has publicly admitted it, asked for forgiveness and revealed the others’ complicity.

This is not news.

I wrote about it in this post, C.J. Mahaney & Semper Reformanda or …Not So Much. And it’s been covered in depth all over the blog universe. Just Google “CJ Mahaney blackmail” and you can read to your heart’s content.

And yes, I realize that SGM’s board has approved Mahaney’s return to SGM leadership but I also realize they did this before the real investigation report from an outside party has been completed. One might wonder whether this was done so he and his right hand man, Dave Harvey, can appear as speakers at April’s Together for the GospelT4G. (Read the linked-to above BHT post from an SGM member.)

This video of Mahaney with his three T4G co-founders made me sick to my stomach, when I viewed it this morning. These men should be ashamed of themselves. But they apparently don’t know what “shame” means… or “research” for that matter. When the CJ-Stepping-Down scandal first erupted last summer they chose to believe Mahaney over the hundreds hurt by his ministry. Isn’t that typical for the celebrity-driven church.

So back to Carson and Keller. Perhaps they can help me with my confusion; if a poor understanding of Trinitarian theology and the preaching of prosperity are cause for concern (and I don’t disagree that they are), should not one be concerned about a significant leader in your movement who uses blackmail to get his own way. (Trust me, there are many, many more reasons to question Mahaney’s fitness for church leadership, but this one will suffice for the moment.)

The fellows of TGC and T4G are more than willing to call out anyone they believe to be doing harm to their understanding of The Gospel.

Except, it would seem, if it’s one of their co-council members. (And I haven’t even mentioned a certain West Coast church leader, also on said council… well, not in this post, anyway.)

UPDATE: Todd Littleton adds to the discussion with Komen, Lifeway, SGM and T4G Or, Maintaining the “as is” Structure

Lord of the Flies Religion

kinnon —  January 26, 2012 — 24 Comments

I woke up early this morning with my brain still buzzing about the latest from Seattle’s answer to the Western church. And in that buzzing, was the sense that what I had been reading was a modern-day retelling of the book, Lord of the Flies.

The stories here, here, here, and here are stories about power and control. They are stories about young men being taught that to be a leader in the church means to be hard, strong, quick to judgment, domineering, and at all times, in control. Nietzschean will to power is the driving force. And if you won’t be led, they will do everything in their power to destroy you, vainly believing that they are following Jesus in Matthew 18.

This is what happens when a young man becomes a Christian and then starts his own church without ever having been effectively mentored by an older-in-the-faith person. This is what happens when a new believer with a charismatic personality and practiced stage technique is never properly discipled and ends up with significant church authority.

But here’s the rub. The leader of this church is part of the neo-reformed tribe… or is that team. And yet that tribe or team, so quick to judge and respond to anything they think is outside the realm of their understanding of Christianity, is strangely silent as lives, perhaps thousands of lives, are damaged by a truly undiscipled leader. (The size of his church does not provide him with a Get-Out-of-Jail-Free pass for his actions, as only an ahistorical student of humanity would believe the number of one’s followers justifies one’s actions.)

DA Carson and Tim Keller accepted what appears to be the forced resignation of James MacDonald from the neo-reformed Gospel Coalition because he was associating with TD Jakes—believed to be a Oneness Pentecostal. (There is a letter floating around the interwebs that unpacks this. I won’t link to it here.)

But where do they stand on the actions of Mark Driscoll?

I realize that Driscoll is not a member of TGC. But. He is a part of their tribe/team. Driscoll is a Council Member of TGC (as pointed out by Deb in the comments.) So… when one of TGC stars, Kevin DeYoung, can write thousands, if not tens of thousands of words at the drop of a hat, on any particular topic that offends the Gospel Coalition world — is it fair to surmise that Driscoll’s actions are not problematic for them.

To further my point, I’ve noticed that most of the reviews of Driscoll’s book, Real Marriage by the neo-reformed have been almost obsequiously fair. (This doesn’t apply to Tim Challies’ review of the book but I would suggest that Challies is more neo-fundamentalist than he is neo-reformed.) Yes, most of these neo-reformed reviews have had issues with certain sections of Driscoll’s book but they can’t quite bring themselves to say, “Don’t buy it!” or, at least, “This isn’t a complementarian position — it is simply misogynist.”

David Fitch asks the question whether Driscoll is an outlier or an actual representative of the North American neo-reformed position. Might I suggest, that with crickets being mostly what we hear from this camp/tribe/team in regards to Driscoll, it appears he’s a representative. And that makes me profoundly sad.

Or, to return to the title, the island is on fire but where are the adults?

UPDATE: Read Wade Burleson’s post from today - Our Problem Is Authoritarianism and Not Legalism and then my buddy Jared Wilson (of recent TGC fame and fortune) from last November, 5 Leadership Signs Your Movement is Dying. And make a point of reading Fitch’s gentle caution in the comments, please.

In this post, what I’d like to do and is riff a little on Imbi’s post from yesterday—one prompted in part by conversation with our now 21-year-old daughter, Kaili. (Happy Birthday, Kaili!)

Kaili has been reading books by J.I. Packer and John Stott on catechesis and discipleship, respectively. In her discussion with her mother, she said the word that is most important to her in this, is the word “transformation.”

Pres. Obama campaigned under the rubric of “Change You Can Believe In.” It’s truly questionable how successful he has been, and I guess our American cousins will decide that later in 2012. But I’d like to talk about “change you should be able to believe in.”

One of the standard rejoinders from mega-church pastors to any critique is to mention the size of their church and the number of people they have baptized. To them the sign of the effectiveness of their ministry is simply in the numbers and the numbers baptized. (Note that in the UK Interview by Justin Brierley, Pastor Mark makes a point of mentioning the size of “his church” and the size of Acts 29.)

And now I’ll probably offend a large number of people when I question this kind of reporting.

Allow me to chase a rabbit for a moment or two. Certain organizations, fraternities, clubs, etc have weird initiation rites that one must perform before one can join them. Otherwise intelligent people are willing to swear blood-curdling oaths or perform silly or even danagerous actions in order to join… to belong. The need to belong, wired into the human psyche, will often allow us to suspend our better judgment while swearing oaths or performing meaningless actions in an effort to join a community.

What can this possibly have to do with “change you should be able to believe in”? Especially in light of baptisms.

I’d like to posit that for many people getting baptized is simply their initiation into fellowship with other people. They have a natural longing for community and baptism is their initiation rite into that community. It may be done for spiritual reasons. But in mega-churches where there is little to no emphasis on discipleship, baptism is simply your way in.

Let me say that I hold the sacrament of baptism in high regard. But I confess that I don’t see that this “high regard” is particularly the case in many Celebrity–Driven, consumer-focused mega-churches.

So, when I hear of the great numbers being baptized in North America mega-churches I ask this question, “Where is the fruit?” Is it simply in bringing more members into the mega-church – more butts to fill up the pews or comfy theatre seating.

John Wesley said, “The Church changes the world not by making converts but by making disciples.” He was known for rigorously examining people to discover whether they had really become believers. It could take up to two years of intense discipleship before Wesleyans actually accepted a person’s conversion. And though I come from a line of Wesleyan preachers on my mother’s side, and identify myself as predominantly Arminian in my theology, I’m not suggesting this kind of rigour.

But.

There must be more than simple crossing a line from darkness to light and then sitting just past that line for the rest of one’s days.

I am suggesting that we should and must have an expectation of real transformation in the lives of new believers. This doesn’t happen by having them sit on their butts in comfortable pews listening to sermons on Sunday morning and, perhaps, occasionally on Wednesday evening. It happens with older-in-the-faith believers walking alongside younger-in-the-faith believers —teaching them the historicity of the faith, the power of prayer, the longing for the infilling of the Holy Spirit, what the fruits of the spirit are, compelling them to read the Scriptures and become like the Bereans who Paul lauded, and to learn to be makers of discipler themselves. (Note that the older and younger references are not meant to suggest chronology but rather people who have been Christians longer than the new believer.)

Let me point you to a post from Andrew Jones earlier this month, Practices of a new Jesus movement. And what are those practices; Bible study, open houses, fringe focus, simple habits, good business practices, a system for rehabilitation, native flavor, daily rhythm, not outreach TO others but outreach WITH others, something for the whole family and prayer — with the ministries characterized by Grace. Andrew says,

…they were wonderfully generous. Being poor, they made many rich. Including our family who were treated like royalty. We left with our backpacks filled with gifts and our hearts filled with a sense of overwhelming debt of gratitude.

Also, the intentionality of the movement was focused on impacting people’s lives with the gospel and NOT on creating community or starting churches which they saw as a natural outgrowth.

Sitting in pews, staring forward (or off into space) is not high on the list of the new Jesus movement – where the fastest growth of the Church is taking place in the world. Make a point of reading Andrew’s post.

Mark D UK Interview

You know, I probably would’ve been better off going to church this morning, rather than listening to the UK interview that Justin Brierley conducted with Mark Driscoll late last year. An interview that created an interweb brouhaha this past week and prompted my previous post.

So at 9:30 this morning, with the 1st cup of coffee brewed in my Aerobie Aeropress, I sat down with the interview. Three cups of coffee and two hours later, I began fixing the notes below. (NB. The first 5 minutes of the podcast linked to are Justin talking about said brouhaha.)

The reason I went through this interview is not because I have any particular bone to pick with Mark Driscoll. I don’t know Mark personally, but I do recognize the impact he is having on a particular population of the church and some of that impact is cause for concern. (I should note that I am the father of a 25 year old son, a 23 year old son and a daughter who turns 21 on Tuesday— all three of whom are practicing Christians.)

As well, Mark plays fast and loose with the truth in his blog response to the brouhaha created by excerpts from his interview. Those excerpts first reported by Christian Today (and their contextual veracity supported by Christianity magazine who originally requested the interview) which, after listening to the interview, were reported accurately and without prejudice.

Mark writes,

The interview in question had nearly nothing to do with the book or its subject matter, which in my understanding was supposed to be the point of the interview. My wife, Grace, was almost entirely ignored in the interview, and I felt she was overall treated disrespectfully. The only questions asked were about any controversial thing I have ever said in the past 15 years with a host of questions that were adversarial and antagonistic. It felt like a personally offended critic had finally gotten his chance to exercise some authority over me. 

Justin’s interview with Mark and Grace Driscoll begins with him explaining what Christianity magazine wants to do with the interview. This includes not just talking about the book Real Marriage, but also talking about Mars Hill, “using it for a profile interview for yourself, Mark€.” Driscoll responds, “Yeah that’s great,€” happy to do so.”€

And in terms of Grace, who Mark claims was disrespected, Justin says, “and Grace, just feel free to put your voice forward whenever you like in the course of the recording.” As Grace has the same communications degree as Mark, one would think Justin’s statement would be license for full participation on her part.

In the 1st part of the interview, Mark responds to a question about complementarianism with what might generally be called “a soft-complementarianism” response. But what I find interesting in this is that he doesn’t talk about the need for young men and young women to be properly discipled — they simply need to be preached at.

I recognize that this may be projection, based on my own experience with leaders like Mark, but he seems to suggest that if guys would just listen to his preaching and do what he tells them to do then things would be right with the church.

Mark responds to the question on sexual practices, when he is asked whether he’s in the position to make the statements he makes, by saying,

“€œI’m a Bible teacher, and if anyone wants to disagree with me, they can argue biblically and I’ll be glad to do so.”

At this point I would strongly state that if anyone’s being adversarial and disrespectful in this interview, it would be Mark. He accuses the interviewer of being adolescent and immature,

€œ”You’re not being fair, you’re being sort of scandalous and being immature about the issues. You’re going for one or 2 pages in the book where we answer very common questions that Christians have and you’re trying to put a little shock around for the radio. And, as a pastor, I’m trying to answer the questions people have.”

I hear Mark responding like a bully, in rather condescending tone. He insults the interviewer rather than accepting the legitimacy of the question. Who exactly is disrespectful here? (This happens at approximately the 17:20 min. mark of the podcast.)

Mark suggests later in the interview that most Christians don’t think biblically — they think emotionally or culturally. <Snark on> But, of course, Mark, with the correct exegesis of the Scriptures, does think biblically. So really you shouldn’t question what he has to say if you claim to be Christian. It’s not that Mark believes the Scriptures are inerrant, he believes his interpretation is inerrant. In my not humble opinion, of course. <Snark off>

As the interview continues, I note that Mark tends to go on at length, rarely allowing the interviewer to get a word in edgewise.

In response to a question about Ted Haggard and this story, Mark claims in what can only be heard as rather bald-faced prevarication, that he never said anything about the Haggard situation,

“€œI didn’t say anything about the Haggards, and I regret what happened in their marriage and I grieve for that woman.” (At the 20:30 mark of the podcast).

By this point in the podcast, Mark has completely dominated the conversation. Justin finally directly asks Grace to respond at the 23 min. point. If anyone has disrespected Grace in this, it was Mark. He could have easily at any point in the first 18 min. of the interview said quite simply, ‘€œlet me get Grace to respond to that.’ (Note again that the actual raw interview begins at the 5 min. point of this podcast.)

It’s at the 25 min. point of the podcast where Justin asks the question that triggers Marks response of ‘guys in dresses preaching to grannies’, etc.

A particular bizarre point from Mark in this section is the suggestion that most men either don’t have or haven’t had “a father. Really?!

This after Mark has pointed out that UFC is something that attracts men — not guys in dresses preaching to grannies. When Justin suggests that ‘isn’t this simply appealing to culture’, Mark says that he takes on the role of “father or “drill sergeant“. And this is done from the platform as he says, “I speak for an hour+”.

This, to me, is more of the rather bizarre and simply destructive idea that discipleship takes place from the pulpit. Let me be blunt. It doesn’t. Discipleship is one-on-one or at the very least one with a few. Not one standing before 16,000 live and via satellite.

Let me take a moment to confront this as Mark is not the 1st person from whom I’ve heard this kind of nonsense. At a Canadian church where I was once a senior staff person, the person who was in charge of an exploding youth ministry told me how he was informed by the senior pastor that discipleship programs were unnecessary for new believers. To grow they only needed to come hear him speak on Wednesday evenings and Sunday mornings. The fallacy of pulpit as discipler. (I deal with this issue at length in a blog post called Sermons Don’t Make Disciples)

Further along in the podcast, Mark admits that perhaps he goes too far, but in his words most leaders are “timid and fearful”. Mark sets himself up as the antidote to what ails the church. I find this simply sad.

Mark states categorically that “what you are doing is not working” after saying that “you don’t need to do what I’m doing.” And Mark’s prescription for ‘what’s not working’ is the need to have a young, celebrity-preacher preaching in the UK. Someone like Mark himself, no doubt.

There’s little doubt in the interview that Justin is asking questions that deal with Mark’s history. He’s doing it lightly and with a smile and it almost comes across as playful bantering. This is nothing like what Mark claims was adversarial and it is typical for a journalist, Christian or otherwise. (I also have a degree in Radio and Television Arts from “one of the top” schools in the world or is that, universe.)

And in light of Mark’s whinging blog post about this interview, might I rudely suggest that if anyone needs to ‘man up’ its Driscoll.

Justin brings up Mark’s comments about not being willing to worship “a €limp-wristed Jesus“. Mark responds by saying that the whole reason he is on Justin’s show is because he says “€œthings that are interesting.” Is it too much for me to suggest that Mark reveals his heart here. He says ‘interesting things’ for their notoriety or more accurately his notoriety.

Is this the heart of the celebrity-driven pastor or more accurately again, a celebrity-driven church leader because where exactly is he acting as a shepherd? (This at the approximately 30 min. point.) As Justin so succinctly puts it, “€œis there not a danger of you becoming the sort of Shock Jock of the Pulpit.”

When Justin confronts Mark about the fact that Jesus did not put up a fight at the Cross and in fact he was beaten up, Mark deflects the question by talking about how Jesus will return in the 2nd Coming — looking to the apocalyptic visions of John in the Book of Revelations.

Does Mark struggle with Jesus, the Lamb of God? What does this say about Mark’s own understanding of what a man is? Incredibly Mark translates Jesus returning as “€œnot to take a beating, but to give a beating.” Must be from the UFC translation.

It’s at times like this that I almost agree with Martin Luther and question whether John’s apocalyptic vision should even be in the Scriptures, when it is abused in this manner.

In one of those peculiar, particular Markisms that leaves one scratching one’s head, Mark compares himself to Hudson Taylor, the great China missionary of the 19th and early 20th century. Although no doubt he’ll deny that’s what he meant. Perhaps English isn’t my 1st language.

At about the 39 min. of the podcast, after being confronted with quotes from John MacArthur, Mark says that he’s always willing to publicly repent, to be corrected, and it’s important to model humility. Oddly this doesn’t go far in explaining his blog response to this actual interview. Humility? Not so much.

Mark in his blog post says that, based on this interview, he and Grace now have new requirements for people who are interviewing them. He doesn’t want to go through this again. 

With the release of our book, Real Marriage, we have now done literally dozens of interviews with Christians and non-Christians. But the one that culminated in the forthcoming article was, in my opinion, the most disrespectful, adversarial, and subjective. As a result, we”€™ve since changed how we receive, process, and moderate media interviews.

This seems to suggest Mark can’t handle the heat but he’s certainly willing to bring it — as long as he’s in control.

Justin does try a bit of a ‘gotcha moment’ when he asks Mark about a husband who has a wife who is a church leader. He asks Mark about ‘issues of authority’ in their relationship. Mark gives a typical Markian response about confused headship and church discipline problems — with Justin only then revealing that Justin’s wife is a church leader.

Mark’s immediate response is to ask about the size and the growth in Justin wife’s church and how many young man they have. Further asking what “kind” of young men they have — suggesting this kind of church would only have effeminate men with a female leader.

At the 51 min. Mark states, “You look at your results and you look at my results and look at the variable that is the most obvious.” Mark claims that the church Justin’s wife leads is small because it’s led by a woman and Mars Hill is big because it’s led by a man. It’s amazing how important penises are for church growth. (And here I thought Calvinists believed that it was exclusively the Holy Spirit who awakened people to Christ – only a select few, of course.)

Hellish Portion of Interview

To say I’m stunned probably wouldn’t be accurate but €”at a certain point one becomes innurred to the bizarre way that Mark’s brain seems to work. As the interview begins to wind down around the 53 min. point, they are continuing their discussion of women in leadership, with Mark now interviewing Justin. Mark suddenly asks Justin where he stands on Eternal Conscious Torment and Justin’s understanding of Hell. Justin, taken aback by the comment, asks what this has to do with the discussion of women in leadership. He sees no connection. Mark strongly suggests ‘of course there’s a connection’. Because, ‘moms are nurturing and dads are strong and disciplining’. 

Thus, if you see God calling a woman to be a leader then you have a more feminine view of God’s nature and therefore you don’t believe in hell. Pretzel Logic, n’est-ce pas? Good grief.

Mark goes on to berate Justin on Penal Substitutionary Atonement. Even when Justin is willing to say he believes in it — but that there are other orthodox ways of viewing the Cross. Mark insists Justin must commit solely to P.S.A. Driscoll is simply obnoxious on this point. Mark brags on his book that he has written on this topic. One might simply wish that rather than expound on his understanding of this particular theological topic he might read a lot more N.T. Wright — or if he finds N.T. confusing he may want to read some Tom Wright, instead.

At the 54.5 min. point in the podcast, the interchange goes like this, Mark: “But do you believe it” — “it” being penal substitutionary atonement. €”Justin responds, “Yes I do”€. Mark says, “You sound like a coward when you say it.” Once again one wants to ask the question ‘Who’s being adversarial?’

And in the closing comments, Mark, who claims in his whinging blog post that it was an “adversarial and antagonistic” experience, says, “It was fun for me… I hope you recover.”

Justin laughs in response. Mark appears to be laughing as well, and then Justin apologizes to Grace by saying that he’s sorry they didn’t bring her in more. She says, “That’s all right.”

I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions.

UPDATE: But do read this post on Leadership Immunity from Lance Ford – which he published earlier in the New Year – it’s prescient. 

The tagline for this website is “the issue isn’t leadership, it’s discipleship”. It’s the result of a video that Imbi and I shot with Chris Wright 14 months ago. This was shortly after he lead the Lausanne Conference in Cape Town, South Africa.

I believe that video, embedded at the bottom of this post, is particularly appropriate in light of my previous post — Sex, The Missional Position. And even more appropriate, in light of Pastor Mark’s recent interview with a British journalist for the UK magazine Christianity, noted on the British website, Christian Today.

Mark is quoted as saying,

“Let’s just say this: right now, name for me the one young, good Bible teacher that is known across Great Britain. You don’t have one – that’s the problem. There are a bunch of cowards who aren’t telling the truth.” [emphasis added]

And refers to many British church leaders as guys in dresses preaching to grandmas”.

Those quotes lit up the Twitterverse and blogoshere — primarily in the UK — demanding that Mark be accountable for his words. Jason Clark, a church leader and blogger I respect, said this,

“I have to infer that either my bible teaching friends are too old, or are just a bunch of ‘cowards’. Part of me just sighs and thinks move on and ignore this, don’t give air time to what seems such crass pusillanimity.”

Krish Kandia, who Jason refers to, says this,

“The church does need people who are able to speak bluntly, I am sure the apostle Paul knew how to be blunt and direct. But there is no doubt he knew about humility, partnership, working together despite not being on the same page on every detail.”

Eddie Arthur, a missionary and Bible translator with Wycliffe Bible translators UK responds,

“Mark Driscoll did a good job of identifying some of the symptoms of the British church, but sadly, he failed completely to diagnose the disease. This isn’t a surprise, identifying what is going on in another culture, is really difficult. Even someone with a good deal more cultural sensitivity and understanding than Driscoll would struggle to do so. This is why missionaries need to invest a huge amount of time an effort in studying culture and gaining an understanding of what is really going on, before they open their mouths.”

Might I suggest the biggest issue here is actually that Mark Driscoll is a leader who has never been properly discipled — again referencing what Chris Wright says in the video below. Mark’s understanding of the church is based on the North American model of big leaders with even bigger platforms. To him that’s the only sign of the Spirit working. It’s a model where strong male leaders solidify their control of the church as they believe they are the only ones with the god-given vision.

As I note in this blog post on sheep and shepherds, Mars Hill once had a large elders board until Mark decided to solidify control with a triumvirate of two others and himself. When two of the previous large group of elders complained, Mark quotes a UFC fighter suggesting he ‘break their nose(s)’. Not the sign of either a well-disciplined or well-discipled leader. And in Mark’s version of leadership, people who challenge him at Mars Hill “are sinning through questioning”.

With his latest friendly-fire attack, this time on the UK church, Mark has had to go into defensive mode once again. Actually I’m wrong. He goes into offensive mode.

Rather than apologize for having said what he said, Mark decides that it would be better to attack the interviewer while claiming that he has been “taken out of context“. Mark needs to establish his bona fides by talking about how he and his dear wife are both graduates of Washington State University’s communications program.

Mark knows how media communications works. He accuses this Christian media organization of simply trying to increase advertising revenue by creating controversy through selectively editing what he and Grace said.

What chutzpah!

This from a man who constantly appears to court controversy at every turn. All the better to get more butts in seats listening to him live or via satellite. His communications degree has served him well. His theology degree, not so much.

Mark whinges,

“As is often the case, to stoke the fires of controversy, thereby increasing readership, which generates advertising revenue, a few quotes of mine have been taken completely out of context and sent into the Twittersphere.”

One might imagine how much easier this all might have gone had Mark simply said, ‘Yes you’re right I screwed up. I spoke without thinking. I’m an opinionated kind of guy and I need to learn to control my tongue.‘ But that’s not going to happen, now is it. In fact, Mark’s defense begins to sound like what one might hear from someone suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

He states that the interview was, “in my opinion, the most disrespectful, adversarial, and subjective.” Justin Brierley responds to this by saying, “I beg to differ, but you can be the judge when the full article is released and the audio goes up.” (See Justin’s Twitter feed for links.)

And the editor of Christianity magazine, Ruth Dickinson, says this,

“Justin’s interview with Mark Driscoll was robust and fair, and I utterly reject the claim that it was adversarial, disrespectful or subjective. We took great care to ensure that his quotes were in context, and gave him the opportunity to talk about his new book, as well as his life and theology.”

Mark operates as a power unto himself. He gets away with saying the things he says or writing the things he writes because it appears that no one in his immediate or extended circles are truly willing to take him to task. It’s too often left to those of us ‘living in (our) mother’s basements, writing in (our) pajamas’ to ask him to live up to the qualifications of being a leader in the church.

As he claims to be a charismatic Christian who hears from the Holy Spirit on a regular basis, Mark needs to be reminded that the only sign of the infilling and empowerment of the Holy Spirit is the fruit of the Spirit — love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (And yes I realize, that “snark” is not on this list and who am I to call out anyone else on the fruit of the Spirit. So noted.)

Let me leave the last words in this post to my blogging friend and Wesleyan pastor, Dave Faulkner,

“…what sticks in my throat is the way I see the word ‘Pastor’ in front of his name all the time. It’s Pastor Mark this, it’s pastormark.tv, and so on. What exactly is pastoral about this behaviour? We all slip. I do. But Driscoll has been called out as a bully before, and his elders have taken him to task. I think it’s time for a repeat. And a look at why this kind of behaviour keeps recurring.

UPDATE 2: Read my post written after listening to the full interview that prompted this post. 

UPDATE: Wenatchee the Hatchet weighed in on this yesterday. You should read his post and put him in your RSS reader.

Sex – The Missional Position

kinnon —  January 10, 2012 — 6 Comments

It’s true. I live for terrible puns and dubious double entendres. But what better place for a bad pun than a blog post on Celebrity-Driven Ministry Leaders selling their opinions on sex?

So, apparently this week Junior Ed Young and his dear wife are going to spend 24 hours in a bed on the roof of their church talking about sex – as a way to help market their book on marital bliss – Sexperiment. One might reasonably ask, “How ridiculous is that?” Or “Why didn’t they set their bed up on a wing of their private, French-made, jet?”

And, of course in that same bringing-sexy-back marketing space, Rupert Murdoch’s Zondernelson has released Pastor Mark + Wife’s Real Marriage. Or, as I like to call it, TMI from the Driscolls.

Since I doubt I will ever read the Driscolls’ book, let me direct you to a number of good reviews/critiques/comments of/on said book; this review from Rachel Held Evans, an oblique critique from Emerging MommySarah Bessey, Susan Wise Bauer’s very well-written review, and this excellent non-review from Chaplain Mike at the InternetMonk. As well, I simply must link to the brilliant commentary from Eugene Cho — one which has generated 72 comments at this point in time.

But if there was a missional position on sex, I’d want to point you to my friend, Dave Fitch’s post from last year, We Are Broken. Though primarily focused on the LGBTQ discussions within the church, Dave makes an important point when he calls us all to knowledge our own sexual brokenness regardless of orientation. He says,

By saying “we are broken” we are clearing the table… …When the leader confesses “I am broken” it forms the safety and the space by which we gather before the cross. Frankly, regardless of whatever sexual orientation we inhabit, if you feel like everything is perfect in your life in this regard, there simply is no need to discuss your sexuality in the church. Taking all particular sexual sins off the table, can we agree, together that WE ARE BROKEN? The gathering of people before Christ is for the broken. And …. “we are broken.” [emphasis added]

This isn’t the ”perhaps we were broken but we’ve been fixed and we can get you fixed too“ approach of the Driscolls and the Youngs. One which wants to get into improving the mechanics and frequency of sex. But rather it is an acknowledgment that we are all sexually broken people living in a sex-obsessed society. (I realize that certain of my cat and dog readers won’t appreciate the ”get you fixed” phrase. My sincere apologies.)

Marketing Sex

Madison Avenue Ad Men have known since before Mad Men that sex sells. Mark Driscoll and Junior Ed Young know it too and might I suggest they’ve been using it to market their ministries for a while now. See my 2008 post, Jr. Ed Young Knows — Sex Sells – a post which is waaaay more fun than this one. Never afraid to steal a good church marketing idea, Ed has drawn from the sexual marketing wellspring before – only this time he includes a book in the offer.

And through the 1st decade of this rapidly aging millennium, Pastor Mark has been doing his Christian sex therapist to thousands routine with his repeating series on Song of Solomon. It should be noted that his new book would apparentlysuggest that in spite of his “wink, wink, nod, nod, nudge, nudge” Pythonesque delivery of his 1st SoS series, things were not quite as peachy, personally, as Pastor Mark inferred — noted by my blogging friend, Wenatchee the Hatchet, a former Mars Hill congregant, in this post.

And in turning again to the Missional Position, in his We Are Broken post, Fitch writes,

Can we… agree among our missional communities that before anyone discusses this issue, goes public with a statement on the sexual issues of our day, before we get into the actual details, or any of the issues are to be determined, before we can even discern this among ourselves, before we can even examine ourselves before the Spirit, we must make way for a safe place that is comfortable, loving and supportive where we can mutually submit to one another and say “we are broken.” From here, we can love, care and have discernments about ANYTHING. But most importantly, from here we can submit one to another to Christ, allow His gifts, his discernments to take shape in a group. God by the Holy Spirit can work here.

Again, this kind of unusual place will probably have to happen in small missional communities (where you can avoid the ideology). Because we live in one of the most sexual charged, excessively sexually focused, sexually abused, sexually broken cultures (compare U.S.A. to Africa or even Europe), we will need to make way for these kind of places. And so to deal with any of this, we do not need a do’s and don’t’s list of what’s permissable and what is not. We need a place where the Holy Spirit can work in and among His people, a place of uncovering. Otherwise we will get no where in this mess.

So the first item for missional communities (and I would argue for the broader church as well) to accomplish in this day of controversy over sexual relations, is discuss how we can put ideology aside, and come together in small spaces where there can be redemption because “we are broken.[emphasis added]

Would that the stars of the Celebrity-Driven Church acknowledge their own sexual brokenness and quit offering themselves as leading exemplars of Christian sexual fulfillment.

I read Walter Isaacson’s Steve Job’s bio when it first came out. As much as I found it to be rather hagiographic, there was much I enjoyed in the reading.

However.

One of the first thoughts that struck me was the hope that it would not be read by many church leaders. Jobs was both brilliant and a petulant, spoiled, narcissistic child. One of the two women he loved the most (the other was his wife), thought he was NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder.) (Page 266)

This article in the Atlantic expresses my concern far better than I can, Be A Jerk: The Worst Business Lesson from the Steve Jobs Biography, (Note that some may find the use by the author, Tom McNichol, of Bob Sutton’s technical term for bad leaders offensive for which I’m truly sorry… or not.)

You can be a genius and an asshole, but the two aren’t necessarily causally linked. In fact, there’s a strong body of evidence to suggest that there are plenty of assholes who aren’t geniuses at anything other than … being assholes.

But such subtleties may be lost on CEOs, middle managers and wannabe masters of the universe who are currently devouring the Steve Jobs biography and thinking to themselves: “See! Steve Jobs was an asshole and he was one of the most successful businessmen on the planet. Maybe if I become an even bigger asshole I’ll be successful like Steve.”

This sort of flawed thinking – call it asshole logic – isn’t something that’s necessarily endorsed by Jobs’s biographer.

“(Jobs) was not the world’s greatest manager,” Walter Isaacson said in a recent interview with 60 Minutes. “In fact, he could have been one of the world’s worst managers.”

But asshole logic, not surprisingly, tends to ignore facts that don’t sanction one’s own assholery.

Read the entire Atlantic Article, and when it comes to the church please be careful who you recommend Jobs’ biography too. We have more than our fair share of “Bob Sutton’s technical term for bad leader” leaders.