Archives For Leadership

The quote below, from the Founders.org website, of which Southern Baptist Pastor Tom Ascol is a primary leader. (Ascol is a committee member & recent signer of the SBC Calvinism Advisory Committee statement TRUTH, TRUST, and TESTIMONY in a TIME of TENSION),

In the first place, Calvinistic Christianity is nothing more and nothing less than biblical Christianity. It follows, then, that the future of Christianity itself is bound up in the fortunes of Calvinism. Obviously the future of Christianity itself is not in doubt, for our Lord declared that the gates of hell shall not prevail against God’s church. And yet we should be quick to acknowledge, of course, that God is not obligated to keep his church existent in America. In God’s sovereign providence, Christianity has been wiped out of other cultures over the centuries of its history. Still, we have hope for revival because our hope is in the God who revives. The same God who opened our own eyes can open the eyes of others.

In the second place, despite evangelicalism’s turmoil, there remain true Christians present in America. Wherever true Christians exist, hope for revival must also exist. For whoever believes in God’s redemption through Christ and recognizes his own utter dependence on God, whoever recognizes that salvation is of the Lord, whoever seeks to glorify God in his worship and life, that person is already implicitly a Calvinist, no matter what he calls himself. In such circumstances, to make the person an explicit Calvinist, all we are required to do (humanly speaking) is to show the believer the natural implications of these already-held fundamental principles, which underlie all true Christianity, and trust God to do his work, that is, trust God to reveal these implications to the person.

In the third place, across denomination boundaries, God has been pleased to open many formerly blinded eyes to the truth and light of the doctrines of grace. In these days, the old paths are being trodden afresh. Interest in the writings of the Puritans, the theology of Jonathan Edwards, and the preaching of Charles Spurgeon and Martyn Lloyd-Jones, has increased exponentially. Undoubtedly, access to historical and contemporary treatments of the doctrines of grace on the Internet has something to do with this. In the last ten years, at least, God has used the Internet to do more to bring exposure to historical reformed theology than anything else. It is not an exaggeration to say that for this generation, it represents what the Banner of Truth Trust was for the last – the vehicle by which mass exposure is brought to the teachings of those spiritual giants who walked before us.

Narrowing the focus to our own Southern Baptist Convention, God has used mightily the work of the Founders Movement to bring about widespread exposure to and acceptance of the doctrines of grace. [emphasis added]

Perhaps this is like throwing the cat amongst the pigeons, but SBCers who think the “Founders” are stepping back from their mission, are obviously not “true Christians” and are not “implicitly… Calvinist.”

God help us all.

UPDATE: See Chris Hubbs‘ post, Is this Calvinism’s Default Position?

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Mildly updated for clarity at 5:31 PM Friday; June 7, 2013

Church Livestock

kinnon —  February 27, 2013 — 28 Comments

Rev. Dr. Muttonbutt

My buddy, Dave Fitch responded to another friend, Ed Stetzer on Ed’s “assault” on the “mega church sheep stealing critique”.

I love’em both, but probably agree with Fitch’s argument more than Ed’s.

But.

That’s not what this post is about.

Rather, its about the imagery. Of livestock. As a metaphor for the people in the pews.

Hey, Kinnon. It’s biblical.

Indeed, madam. You are correct! Sheep as a metaphor for God’s people is, in fact, to be found in the Scriptures.

Sheep were highly valued. Then.

Think of Jesus’ story of the one lost sheep, and the shepherd who left the 99 to search for that one.

How quaint.

I would suggest we view sheep with much less value today — if we view them at all.

And what of the shepherds? Well, then they were were possibly the lowest of the gainfully employed. (Think of Jesse not even considering having his youngest son, David, the shepherd, come to be consecrated by Samuel.) Shepherds lived with their sheep. They smelled like their sheep. They knew each one by name. A single shepherd tended no more than 100 sheep in New Testament times.

Today, returning to the church livestock metaphor, a shepherd (or pastor, in its latinate form) with only 100 sheep would be considered a failure. And how could any “successful” shepherd be expected to know all of “his/her” sheep.

Might I suggest the metaphor breaks down in its present usage within the church. And that this misused/misunderstood metaphor is responsible for much damaging separation between those who call themselves shepherds and “their” sheep — as if the shepherds are their owners. (Sheep cannot be stolen — except from their owners.)

Might I further suggest that the use of the phrase “sheep-stealing” is particularly bizarre amongst those who call us to be missionally-minded.

The reality is that we are all sheep. Or none of us are. (Shall we save the goats for another conversation?)

UPDATE: My buddy and City of God blogger, Dan Gouge ramps this up a notch or eleven with The Factory Farms of Christianity.

Releasing the UnLeader!

kinnon —  September 20, 2012 — 18 Comments

The tag line for this site is, “the issue isn’t leadership, it’s discipleship.” Just in case you missed it. :-)

But. Though many claim to agree. The reality is that LEADERSHIP REALLY IS THE ISSUE™.

Whether a missional church plant in the heart of a major North American city, a growing megachurch in the bible belt, a male-dominated, “gospel-centered” church in the DC area or a struggling church south of Lake Ontario — the issue is leadership and the apparent solution is more of the same. Better leadership, trained at the hundreds of leadership conferences available almost any day of the week will be the key to the successful growth of your church. Let me offend as many people as possible – this isn’t just bullsh__, it’s heresy.

If you’ve been reading me for a while, you know that this is the story I’ve been telling for a rather long time. The last post (from over 3 months ago) was Captain America and the Gospel of Leadership

My inbox is constantly spammed by Christians pushing the next great leadership conference or offering the next great leadership book to review.

Come hear the latest megachurch pastor reveal the secrets to his amazing success — and if you buy his book(s), DVD(s) or subscribe to his podcast(s), you might just be the next one up on a stage in front of people who are just like you are now.’

The heresy is in the belief that Jesus has called you to be a leader. He hasn’t. He’s called all of us to be servants and disciplers – while being discipled ourselves. (Matthew 20:25 and Matthew 28:19—20.) If you don’t believe me, listen to someone with much greater, earned authority, Christopher Wright. (Which I’ve pointed to many, many times — in the hope that more folk will listen… and learn.)

Unleader Lance Ford’s book

All of this to say, there’s a book I’d like you to read. Written by a friend of mine, Lance Ford. It’s called Unleader, Reimagining Leadership, and Why We Must. Lance says this at the beinning of his book:

The largest church leadership conferences each year include talks from corporate business world stars and world famous CEO’s who make no claim to be followers of Christ whatsoever. The bookshelves of most pastors and church leaders are filled with a solid collection of New York Times bestselling books on leadership, authored by corporate business gurus and political figures. Furthermore, twice as many books on the subject of Christian Leadership are available on Amazon.com as compared to titles on Discipleship. Leadership making has not only trumped disciple making, it has trampled it and left it in the dust. Regarding servantship, look for books on it and you are up the proverbial creek without a paddle. I have not found one Christian book on serving as a coveted position in and of itself. When they do get close to it, every author in the Christian leadership field (in my research) cannot help themselves but to use the phrase Servant-leader. Leader seems to always get squeezed in. Mere servantship is considered not enough.

Perhaps the biggest snafu concerning the current leadership obsession is that Jesus himself directly contradicts much—if not most—of what is being imported into the church under the leadership mantra. Better put, much of it is expressly forbidden by Jesus. Can you imagine the Apostle Paul hosting a leadership conference for the early church with a lineup of speakers such as, Roman Governor, Gaius Suetonius Paulinus; Revolutionary Leader, Simon bar Giora; John Philip Maximus, owner of the Roman Traders Market (I made up this last guy). Ridiculous, huh?

Most disconcerting is the fact that Jesus himself is not our first choice when it comes to the one whom we model ourselves after as leaders. When the character and persona of Jesus is washed out through so-called strategic initiatives and sound leadership decisions a clash of kingdoms has manifested. And in large part these are the coordinates being followed by most pastors in today’s evangelical church circles. (I apologize that I don’t include page numbers as I’m working from a pre-release document.)

One of the largest peddlers of the CEO leadership culture in the church can be found in the Chicago area. I’m struck by the reality that in spite of this “great leadership teaching center” and all the other megachurches in the Chicago area, Illinois politics are some of the most corrupt in North America. I then ponder the Welsh Revival and its impact on that country’s culture — as compared to the ever growing empires of Christian “leaders” in the Chicago area — and the rather surprising lack of impact on the local political culture. Thoughts?

Where it might seem I would probably be happy taking the word “leader” out into the street, setting it on fire and then kicking it, Lance seeks to redeem it:

This book is not about eliminating leadership in the church. Far from that, it is about redefining and recalibrating leadership according to Jesusian coordinates. To borrow a phrase from my Aussie mates, “What am I on about?” It is to say that the only acceptable leadership moves we make in the church must be made by following Jesus himself. If you are stepping off the path of following Jesus in your leadership methods and means then you are not followable yourself. You may be quick-witted, smooth tongued, and a strategizing whiz kid. But if you use those skills in contradiction to the person of Jesus your leadership way is not worth following.

I’m convinced that Lance’s book is critical for the church in North America today. I’m also convinced that those people already atop the leadership heap will ignore it. But that doesn’t mean you have to. In fact, I’d suggest it’s very important you do read the book to hopefully innoculate you from the dis-ease of the North American Church Leadership CULTure. (Intentional)

Einstein has been quoted as defining insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. (It probably wasn’t him, but…) As we burden the church with more and “better” leadership conferences, books, etc we keep expecting different results — expecting the church to grow in love, impact and number of conversions. Allow me to let you in on this insane little secret. IT ISN’T WORKING!

Over four decades of marinating in church growth theory has left the vast majority of evangelical denominational and local church leaders wandering in the weeds of a consumer church field. It has created a clergy crop that views the church from the perspective of marketers and businesspersons, and a Christian mass that views itself as clientele.

It isn’t working because it isn’t actually Jesus-centred. (I avoid using gospel-centered as I see it too easily being manipulated into whatever the author believes the gospel to be – unless they choose to call it the King Jesus Gospel, of course. For too many, their gospel appears to be rules, commands and control — all supported by specific scripture verses, of course.)

Under the heading, Cultures of Dominance, Lance tells this unfortunately typical story. (I’ve received far too many emails with similar stories myself.)

I recently shared dinner with a young man who had just recently been fired from a church he had served for several years. He made the mistake of sending an email to the upper echelon—the “Executive Leadership Team”—that questioned the decision of following through with a costly building program for a wedding chapel in the midst of a season of staffing cutbacks. He merely requested a dialogue among the entire staff to get a consensus of thought concerning the situation. His email was written in a very respectful, and humble manner. The day after Devon19 sent the email two members of the Executive Leadership Team showed up at his office to inform him that he was being let go, effective immediately. The reason he was given for being fired was that he had “incited negative morale and displayed lack of cooperation.” When Devon asked why he had not been given the opportunity to at least discuss the situation, per Jesus’ Matthew 18 instructions on dealing with conflict, one of the two “execs” told him he shouldn’t be surprised. “If this was Sprint, or another business, it would be done just like this,” she replied.

What is the problem with this scenario? It is that the church is not Sprint, nor any other business. The church is the body of Christ and has a manual of protocol. It’s called The Bible. And if these “leaders” were following Jesus they would never consider such behavior or tactics. The thing that should terrify us is that this type of scenario is a commonly accepted practice across the landscape of evangelical churches and denominations.

Lance does not write his book as one how has never been called a “successful leader” in the eyes of our present church-leadership culture. On the contrary, we could just as easily be reading a book on building a “growing, successful church” if (as I believe) the Spirit hadn’t intervened.

It was not that I didn’t love people. The problem was that I was more into building a church than I was into building the people who were the church. Like so many other church planters I was consumed with developing my “vision” of church. And though I constantly preached that the church was the people, my obsession with developing the systems, organization, and expansion of our church betrayed what I really believed in the basement of my heart. I was a leader, not a servant. I was building a leadership culture, not one of servantship. Not one of followership.

In our attempts to create Jesus in our own image we often think of him as a great leader. Many pastors have read the Laurie Beth Jones book, Jesus, CEO. But neither Jesus nor God ever labeled him as such. No, Jesus was a great servant—the greatest servant of all—and he embraced the status of a servant.

After not writing for a rather long time, I’ve spent too much time writing a rather long post. I apologize… sort of.

Buy the book.

Read it.

Let me know what you think, if you have the time. :-)

I’m thinking of asking my Missional ’Gator friends (they know who they are) to join me in a Missional Avengers team. Our mission will be to seek out and destroy the Loci of church leadership ideas like this one from that great church ecclesiologist, Teddy Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

I’ve seen this pointed to by a number of people as relevant to church leadership. The last straw was when a good friend — a person I love dearly — who is planting a church in Toronto, ReTweeted a link to it.

Marlboro man as Pastor 2

I deal with this ridiculous and, in fact, dangerous belief in the mythic super hero as church leader/planter at length in my post, Jesus and the Marlboro Man.

This is the myth of the rugged individual and it is one, I’d suggest, that has done more damage to the church in the west than we care to realize.

And that damage includes both those who have attempted to “build” a church this way, as well as those who have attempted to work with said solo builder.

In light of my response here, please read this post from Lance Ford, based on his upcoming book, UnLeader: Rethinking Leadership… and Why We Must —  a book you just might want to pre-order. (Part One of his “Refutable Laws” posts is here.)

And if or as you disagree with me, help me understand how Teddy’s thoughts line up with Luke 10 or Matthew 20:25. I’m just saying.

One Ed to Rule Them All

kinnon —  May 17, 2012 — 12 Comments

As I look back on my over half-century of existence I note a number of Eds in my life.

The first, from my childhood, the dreaded Phys… Phys Ed, that is. Though tall for my age, I was almost a year younger than most of my class confreres and my co-ordination so reflected. Phys Ed is not a name I remember fondly.

And then there was Drivers’ Ed. I believed Mr. Drivers’ Ed when he told me, “You do know they will fail you for going too slowly, don’t you?” So, after taking his advice to heart, I guess I was a little shocked when I failed my license the first time.

Mr. Kinnon, your son handles the car very well but he does 30 MPH everywhere. Around corners. In reverse. Through a school zone. Twice.”

My adult life was not particularly Ed-free, but I didn’t really become concious of the plethora of Eds until I entered the wonderful world of blogdom. (I’ll leave E.D. out of the discussion, if you don’t mind. Though the final Ed might bring it up as is his wont.)

My friend, Ed Brenegar was an early blogging comrade. A consultant to both church and business, Ed is one of the good guys.

Ed Cyzewski was next up in the pantheon of Eds. Introduced via his Coffeehouse Theology book, I’ve come to enjoy Ed’s writings at In A Mirror Dimly.

And then there’s Ed Stetzer. Missiologist, Church Planter, Researcher, Author and more. He even has his own Wikipedia page. With a double doctorate, and double Masters degrees one might expect Ed to be more than a little intimidating. But dang it, he’s just a very nice guy. (Though you won’t catch me arguing with him… much.)

But all these Eds, as wonderful as they are (except Phys of course) pale in comparison to the one ED.

That’s right, ladies and gentlemensch.

Give it up for, ED YOUNG JUNIOR!

Ed Young Pastor Fashion

Go to any Christian dictionary and right beside the word AWESOME, you’re going to see a picture of ED YOUNG JUNIOR with his big, shi… err… pearly-white grin.

And it’s not ’cuz ED YOUNG JUNIOR is the Senior Pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church Grapevine TX and all its many satellites. It’s not ’cuz he is MR CREATIVE PASTOR. It’s not ’cuz he has the coolest French-made jet (that most of his parishioners knew not about until some nasty TV station broke the story). It’s not ’cuz he tried to spend 24 hours on the roof of his church in bed with his wife. (Where I’m sure he would have talked about E.D. had he had the chance.)

Nope! What makes ED YOUNG JUNIOR the mostest, awesomest ED ever… Pastor Fashion.

PURE.

BRILLIANCE.

I don’t know about you, but most of the Pastors I know just aren’t the kind of fashion plates for the Kingdom they could be. (Yes Toronto Pastors Darryl Dash, Dan MacDonald and Barry Parker – I AM looking at you. Come on guys. Spend a little time at Pastor Fashion. It’ll do the rest of our eyeballs good. And Hyatt and Fitch. I’m not even going to bring you Americans up. Oh. Wait. I just did.)

ED YOUNG JUNIOR goes where lesser Eds fear to tread.

Yup.

Spanx!

Forget those fad diets that leave you craving a Cheesburger, Fries and a Coke at 11pm most nights. Spanx will give you the kind of control you’ve been missing. (Please note: This is not to be construed as medical advice. Consult your doctor before getting spanxed. Void where prohibited by law. Your mileage may vary. Batteries are included – from ED YOUNG JUNIOR, of course.)

And so to the Lessor Eds. Since the odds of you ever being as AWESOME as ED YOUNG JUNIOR, we kindly ask that you stop referring to yourselves as Ed.

Edward, Eddie, Edster, Edit, even Ward are fine.

But WITH ONE ED TO RULE THEM ALL, we’d really rather you not to try to confuse us by using ED YOUNG JUNIOR’s first name.

Man, I just love this American Christianity thing!!!

This post was partially triggered by JR Briggs blog post, Devastating Statistics About Pastors. In that post, JR talks about church leader stats that Bob Hyatt shared at a recent Ecclesia Network gathering; stats which, in terms of pastor failures/problems/pain, truly are devastating.

JR has some suggestions for what you, the parishioner and/or elders, can do for your pastor. They’re all good.

But.

Might I suggest the only way to actually deal with the problem is to recognize its root. Which I would identify as our predominant church leadership system — rather than how pastors are treated within that system. (And I need to note that I think much of what JR, Bob, Dave Fitch and the many others involved with what the Ecclesia Network is doing is critically important to the life of the North American church in a Post-Christendom context.)

DHayward Justlikethem

The separation of church and pastor is largely responsible, in my never humble opinion, for both the abuse of pastors, as well as abusive pastors.

When pastors set themselves apart from the people, or are expected to be separate from the people they are pastoring, the system breaks down into what we are experiencing today. Whether it’s the stats Bob Hyatt points to at one extreme or the systemic leadership abuses of organizations like Sovereign Grace Ministries at the other. (As an aside, please see this important post from former SGM pastor, Rick Thomas on the hurting people wounded in that particular train wreck.)

In the previous post, I wrote of how Jesus lived with and discipled his followers. He was in intimate relationship with those gathered around him. He ate with them, he laughed with them, he wept with them and he constantly modeled ministry for them. He was almost always with them. Yes, he separated himself to pray and seek the Father, but what we see in the Gospels is primarily Jesus hanging out with those he called. He wasn’t heading off to Messiah conventions to learn from or share his understanding with all the other messiahs. He was pouring his life into those around him.

Wander with me to Luke 10. What do we see? Well. Jesus sends the 72 disciples out in twos. No manly single church planters being sent out to the harvest. He tells them to take nothing for their journey. They are to receive hospitality from those with whom they meet. To pray for their healing. And they return to him shocked by what has transpired.

Note that Jesus didn’t tell them to choose the area where they would build their church, or to get their church logo designed, their website up or to find the perfect worship leader and team. Rather, he sent them out in twos to both receive from and minister to those who would accept them. (And yes, there is a lifetime’s worth of further teaching to unpack from Luke 10.)

The model is relationship. Jesus with his disciples. His disciples in pairs, establishing relationship with those they encounter on their journey. It’s not about setting up branch plants of the particular church model preferred by the individual disciples.

In scanning blog posts or reading tweets of late, I see lots of words about pastors needing to get together with other pastors. I see little about pastors and fellow Christians who are not pastors, needing to be in close and loving relationship with each other. The “us/them” attitude between church and pastor is simply a given. And it leads to a lot more problems than just the stats JR points to via Bob.

King in suit

Perhaps, the latest and one of the most egregious examples of the separation of church and pastor is the Chuck O’Neal story where he, a pastor from Bob Hyatt’s home town has begun a lawsuit against a number of folk who’ve written bad reviews of his hyper-authoritarian church. Chuck is a firm believer in the popular translation of Ephesians 3:17 as “submit to your leaders and obey them”. And it seems that Chuck simply adds to this, “if they don’t and they dare write publically about it, then sue’em” — which he claims he was advised to do by a leadership staff person working for a well known promoter/practitioner of authoritarian leadership. (For further discussion on the Eph 3:17 translation issue, see Lance Ford’s and Lin’s comments on my previous post.)

From the multiple media reports one can surmise that Chuck believes and practices what I was once told by a senior pastor of my acquaintance, “if it’s not my vision, it’s di-vision. And I won’t allow it.”

Mike Breen, whose latest book I will say again is a must-read, wrote this in a blog post published yesterday,

At the end of the day, what most pastors want (and have been trained to want!) is minions to execute the most important vision of all. Their own. In doing this, they effectively kill people’s ability to get a vision of their own. Nevermind that this approach is antithetical to the Gospel.

Christian leadership is about listening for vision from God within community and then being given the authority and power to execute that vision — to take new Kingdom ground. That’s the birthright of every Christian…to hear the voice of their Father. But in the way we do leadership, suddenly it’s like we are pre-Reformation where only the select and the elite who are given this privilege. And let’s be clear: Our ego has a lot to do with this.

Now I’m not suggesting we shift to a paradigm full of chiefs and no Indians. I’m not suggesting that there aren’t times where we leverage our collective abilities to deliver on a central vision. I’m saying that there are many places in your community where the Kingdom needs to be advanced. And if you want to take that territory, you’re going to need more than just a cadre of volunteers. You have to learn to operate in a model that releases leaders to take those fronts, or you’re going to stand still.

You may think your vision is big enough to all those cracks and crevices, but I’m telling you…it’s not.

More on the Separation of Church and Pastor in Part Two.

NB: Cartoon from the inimitable Naked Pastor, David Hayward.

…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.

Theology — Is It Bloodsport?

kinnon —  January 20, 2012 — 5 Comments

First, let me say that Twitter is probably not the best place to have theological discussions. Yet, fool that I am, I occasionally attempt to do so.

Yesterday, I got into a heated discussion with someone I consider a good friend, Jared Wilson. It was around Dave Fitch’s post on the Neo-Reformed Movement in light of the most recent Driscoll brouhaha, and Jared’s take on what Dave said.

I didn’t think that Jared was accurate in his Tweet obliquely commenting on Fitch’s post. But the discussion quickly turned to it being about “my team” against “Jared’s team”. And then to my recent posts on Mark Driscoll, where Jared identified me as an “enemy” of Mark Driscoll.

I confess that I was completely taken aback by that and lost my cool with Jared. Another person on Twitter DM’d me and gently upbraided me, suggesting I was responding to Jared in a manner similar to how Mark Driscoll had responded to Justin Brierley. He was right.

Jared and I both apologized and continued our discussion off-line. I value Jared highly as a thinker, a writer and my brother in Christ and it was a good conversation off-line. (Heck, Jared and I even share a birthday, All Saints Day – totally appropriate.) But I do want to respond to the language of “friends” vs “enemies” in theological discussions.

Rightly or wrongly, Jared felt that my responses to Driscoll were inappropriate in tone. To him, the language that I used and the way that I expressed myself stated that I felt Driscoll was evil and needed to be stopped. (In the future, Jared has committed to contacting me and letting me know if he feels this about something I’ve written — if and when I do it again.)

So let me say this. Mark Driscoll is not my enemy. Neither is he my friend. He is, however, my brother in Christ. I view his theology and primarily how he presents it as deeply flawed — and damaging to many — including himself. When I “go after” Mark, I’m going after what he said publicly and responding in a manner that, for better or for worse, is not atypical for me. I’ve used this manner in response to public statements or writings from people at all positions on the theological spectrum. None of these people are my enemies. Whether they be Noble, DeYoung, or from the Clans MacDonald or McLaren.

TheoBloodSport Image orig

And I find the language of enemies vs friends on separate teams distressing. I make no bones about the fact I’m not into sports. From the time I was 8 until I was 13, I lived in Europe on Canadian Air Force bases. My family didn’t have a TV and neither did any of my friends’ families. If I listened to any sports, it was on Canadian Forces Network radio—a week tape delay of Hockey Night in Canada. And as much as I love the sound of Foster Hewitt’s voice, I rarely listened to him. So I guess I was never predisposed to view life through the lense of professional sports.

I, therefore, don’t find what appears to me to be the language / actions of team-loyal sports fans being applied to theological discussions as particularly helpful. ( I must note that, though Jared’s and my Twitter interaction yesterday provoked this post, I do not find his writings exhibiting this on any kind of regular basis, if ever. He is a strong, opinionated but irenic writer in my never humble opinion.)

I think Paul addresses the issues of “being on teams” in 1st Corinthians when he talks about one being of Cephas, the other of Apollo etc. We are, in fact, on one team. That would be Team Jesus— or if you’re afraid I’m sounding a little too Oneness Pentecostal — Team Trinity.

At this liminal time in the church’s history, where there is much change and much confusion, people want certainty— there seems little room for nuance. It is easier to join a particular side or team and pledge your allegiance thereto. But might I suggest that this only increases the confusion as we must all, together, seek the Holy Spirit and listen to what’s being said to the Church Universal — and when I say universal, I mean universal — what’s being said to the Church around the globe. This will not contradict the Scriptures but it may well give us deeper insight into them. (And yes, we can all hope and pray that I learn to do this with more grace and less snark. Though I fear it will require fervent prayer on your part.)

I realize it’s naïve to hope that in the midst of robust discussion we can actually hang on to that understanding that we are on the same team — especially as many want to make themselves arbiters of who is and is not on the team — and this is not unique nor exclusive to the neo-Reformed camp. (I need to note that I use neo-Reformed or new reformed interchangeably. This is not to be confused with the Neo-Calvinism espoused by Kuyper, Bavinck, Dooyewerd et al as unpacked by my friends, Gideon Strauss, Jonathan Chaplin and Adrienne Dengerink Chaplin.)

At the end of the age, Jesus won’t be giving Super Bowl Rings to the Theological Championship Team as the rest of us — the losers — slink off to our shacks in the less bright parts of heaven.

Hopefully we ALL will be hearing, “well done good and faithful servant” — as we have been clothed in Jesus righteousness rather than our own, being seen through the Blood of the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world.

On this we may all have hope.

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.