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Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill, Church Discipline, and Wait. Grace is Missing.

Posted on Jan 24, 2012 by in lessons, Spirituality | 13 comments

Admittedly, I don’t know a whole lot about Mark Driscoll. I’m a little familiar with Mars Hill church. I know people that I’ve met face-to-face who have attended Mars Hill and confirm that there is, indeed, reason to heed the warnings in the stories of people who have been scorned by this church.

The issue at hand is the disciplinary contract handed down for a church member to sign. A man who sinned (and which one of us hasn’t?) and who repented.  But in this church culture pastored and led by Driscoll, the man was issued a contract and when he prayed and thought it over and decided it might not be a good thing to sign, the church furthered their “discipline” by posting a letter instructing other members to stay far, far away from this man.

Part 1
Part 2

I was once a woman under “church discipline” and it’s hard for me, at this point, to say I’ve fully recovered.  Enough time has went by, I’ve analyzed it ad nauseam, I’ve gleaned lessons, and moved forward. Or so I thought.

Until I read something like this and all the pain bubbles back up.

Don’t misunderstand. I’m not sitting here in a ball rocking back and forth and drooling.  It’s just that when I hear about things like this I hurt for the other soul that is being split apart over this ridiculous behavior being touted as “Biblical.”

Yes, I understand that sin has to be addressed, I understand that fully.  Who, though, is addressing Mark Driscoll’s sin?  How about the sin of his leaders?

And did they not read the passages that came before their outline for Biblical discipline?

Where is the grace? The forgiveness?

The love?

I’ve been in the place of this man, though I felt a little more like Job. I hadn’t sinned and ashes and coals were being heaped on my head.  Maybe I felt more like Joseph, accused of wrongdoing and imprisoned and forgotten.  What I know is the Senior Pastor of the church I called home set out to take me down in a very witch-hunt-like way.  The meetings. Oh the meetings.  Everyone got to speak and throw accusations and look down upon me and judge me. I was an unbiblical wife. I was a heretic.  I needed to keep my mouth shut and learn in silence. I should quit writing because God doesn’t call women to write.  And two notebook pages full of garbage like this. They told me I couldn’t serve in their church any longer in any capacity. They banged their hands on tables and shouted when my husband told them we weren’t going to respond to their accusations, that we were going to go home and filter everything through the Word of God and through prayer and we’d respond at a later date, after much prayer.

And I knew we didn’t belong there.  In my heart, in my spirit, I knew these people were wrong.  My husband knew, too.  We left. They called us back to schedule more meetings, we declined. They told us we had to respond to their accusations and called almost weekly. And the emails. And more phone calls. And Lord only knows what was said through the gossip train known as the prayer chain.

Months went by and calls were still coming in.  Would we come in front of the congregation to tell them how the pastor had lied? (no. I don’t want any part of taking a pastor down. He’s your pastor, you deal with him. He, along with you, are why we left.)

Then a few months later another call. Would I come back to teach the leadership team how to lead.

Really. This happened.

I learned big time lessons from what I had to endure.

Repeatedly, I heard from my (former) pastor that Satan’s plot in the conflict was confusion. He said it was ironic that just about the time God was going to do an “explosive work” at that church, conflict occurs. He said the devil wanted to make a turn in the road. The (former) pastor told me all about Satan and what Satan wanted and how Satan worked. I never once heard from him about how God was working. I find that disturbing and sad. 

He also said, “This [situation,] given proper patience, prayer, and submission, will become a blemish in history not a turn in the road the devil wants to make it.”

Satan deserves no glory. There is One and only One who deserves recognition. The Lord my God.

I trusted someone else’s direction for my life (the pastor’s) instead of trusting Christ. God was trying to show me that I didn’t belong in the position the pastor appointed me. I thought Satan was trying to discourage me from being involved in women’s ministry at that church because Satan doesn’t like ministry. Sounds logical enough. It did at the time, anyway. I’ve learned that God was trying to get my attention by not furthering the ministry. I couldn’t hear Him, though, because I was too busy focusing on what the pastor was saying and by giving Satan glory.

I allowed myself to be deceived into believing that people who go to church know what God wants. I thought God must want me in women’s ministry if His shepherd put me there. This one hurts the most. I blame no one except for myself. The pastor appointed me Director of Women’s Ministry and I grabbed the job and ran with all my might. That is not what God had for me. And instead of asking Him, I just assumed that His shepherd knew what He was doing. Oh how foolish of me!!

I thought that God’s people should approve of God’s call on my life. Now this was just stupid of me to believe. I look back and think that if I’d only have paid attention to (for example) the story of Moses, I’d see that God’s people don’t always know or approve of what God wants.

I thought others should understand what God was asking of me and I thought it was my job to make them understand. Again, stupid. See Moses again.

I’m still learning from this conflict. I questioned God when it first started, but now I’m finding joy in the trial. I’d rather focus on the fact that God is testing my faith to discover what is in my heart and to increase the measure of faith He gave me, to give me endurance so that His work might be complete in me.

I pray that anyone and everyone who has been hurt by a pastor or a church will take the focus off the people and put it all on God. He will redeem you.

 

 

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13 Comments

  1. I’ve not personally experienced anything like this. I just can’t imagine. But my heart really goes out to those (including you, of course) who have. It frustrates and angers me when people are hurt in the name of Jesus. Although I know that I’m no better and am sure that I’ve done my share of not honoring Christ with my words and actions. We’ve all done things, though, that we look back upon and think were stupid. But the reality is that we’re all in different places of growth and maturity and God will use whatever He chooses to move us and grow us. I’m so thankful He never leaves us in our foolishness. I can be a little hardheaded and it may take awhile, but He is a persistently loving God. Reading this is a blessing to see the work that He’s done in your life and to know that you can encourage others who’ve gone through similar situations.

    {{hugs}} :-)

    • Thank you Dianne. I was nodding in agreement up until you said reading this is a blessing. I hesitated and thought, “Is it?” And I’m brought to James again–consider it joy whenever you face various trials because the testing of your faith produces perseverance, endurance. And I will consider this joy because it means that I’ve been sifted as wheat, and as you said, I’ve returned and it is truly my prayer that I can help others.

      It’s like Scripture has come alive in my life lately. Like the seeds were planted and all of the sudden, the little tender green shoots are poking through the frost.

    • Dianne, you have been among the few Christians that inspired me to keep my hope alive for what is supposed to be Christianity. This kind of abuse is rampant.

    • I think the only grace Mark focuses on his the wife (Grace) he objectifies, obeys and allows to dominate him. He is a sex addict and his wife enables his addiction by welcoming his objectifying of her. Every person who pays money for anything he is selling, is further enabling his addiction. He has created a fake jesus and he is doing so much damage to the REAL kingdom of God. I encourage anyone who is brainwashed by he and his wife, to look for Jesus in them. When you look at Mark, do you see joy? Do you see love? Do you see kindness and gentleness? These are the signs that he has the REAL Jesus. If you don’t see any of these, you know you are dealing with the anti christ, NO JESUS…,….

  2. I read these same posts yesterday about Mars Hill… and I agree that it’s heartbreaking to see. I’m so sorry to know that you’ve gone through a similar experience.

    Any church — led by humans — can fall into this trap. I’ve witnessed one of my very close friends walk through a really hard experience at my own church. I know my church staff. I’m confident that their hearts are turned toward God, that they want the best for the people they lead. But even with all that, I don’t think my friend ended up with God’s very best for her — and I don’t think, in hindsight, that most of the church staff would say she did, either.

    I’m so glad you ended up in a place where you can minister to other women through your words and through you art! My friend is working her way back to God, but it’s a long, tough road, as you know. I can’t wait for heaven — no more heartbreak, no more pain, no more human politics!

    • It is difficult to go through, but here, where I am now? It is more difficult to know and watch others still going through and still suffering. I commented on my FB that if I dig way deep into my heart, there is a nudge from the Spirit that tells me (just like in Judges) that this is how God raises up a new generation that will focus on Him. The pattern is there in the Old Testament and it is here. Now. And waves of unbelief and sin are washed clean by leaders who repent and fall on their faces before God Almighty. And I feel like those of us who have been tried by the fire can be the first to help others back to God. We can wash off the bloody wounds and let them be healed by the only One who has the power to truly heal. We must draw near to Him, though. And through everything, I think that is most important.

      I hope your friend finds healing. And soon.

  3. WOW.

    Church discipline is one of those things that is carried out improperly more often than not. I’ve lived through a couple of examples myself. Only one of them was, from what *I* could see, carried out in a proper and ideal way. I’ve heard many other stories. I have a friend who was basically kicked out for getting pregnant out of wedlock, no church discipline involved. I attended another church that was deeply scarred by an experience of church discipline gone wrong. That’s sad to think about. I want to briefly describe both that I witnessed, for the sake of making a point. Or six.

    The first, when I was somewhere around 14, was a pastor himself. After one of the deacons, a friend, went to him concerned about how he was living, things he was doing that he was preaching against in the pulpit, the pastor confessed, apologized, “repented” and the friend/deacon left. But after time went on and the friend could see he had not truly repented and had not changed at all, the friend called the deacons together and they all went to him. This time the pastor was angered and not repentant, and so the deacons said they would need to take it before the church. The pastor didn’t want that, said he was resigning and asked them to not tell anybody yet, give him a month to get out of the parsonage and leave. They agreed, he quit, a month later they told us the whole story at a church meeting. I do think they tried to do the right thing, and for the most part they did. Apparently they “forgot” to call one of the deacons when consulting the pastor, which bred unnecessary conflict there. And though now I can see an extra measure of mercy, undeserved grace, allowing the pastor a month to leave, I’m not sure that’s why it was agreed to — and it further allowed the pastor to not have to own up to his mistakes to the congregation. But for the most part, they tried to use church discipline rightly. There were mistakes, but we’re human after all.

    In the second example, two (married) people were caught having an affair, and I don’t know the details leading up to the “going before the church part” but when caught, they confessed, they repented, and at a church meeting THEY confessed before the church, to the church, apologizing to everyone and asking forgiveness. There was much crying, much hugging– the two guilty parties and the family members of both, etc. In continuing months they all sought counseling. The church as best it could wrapped around them and prayed for them, counseled them. There were SOME who did not. But as a whole, yes. One couple reconciled and counseled but the other couple had a longer, harder path because, we heard, the guilty husband was having a harder time with counseling, repenting, etc. We didn’t know the details but we knew that we needed to pray for him and his wife. And that was all we needed to know. Eventually they did reconcile as well. All parties are still involved in churches (though one is no longer at the same church there was an immediate parting of ways between the two guilty parties.) They have gone through the process of healing and back into serving in the church.

    As I said, I share these to make some points.

    1.) I believe the purpose of church discipline is not to single out the sinners (We are all sinners) but to help the church wrap around the wayward sheep and bring him back into the fold. Also, I thought that the 2nd example, where the guilty parties had to themselves confess before the church, rather than other stories I’ve heard where people were basically “outed” by the leadership, is the better approach – obviously if they are willing to – because THAT begins their process of restoration with the church. The other situation, where the leadership tells on the guilty parties to the church (whether they are present or not) turns the leaders into tattletales, steals the guilty church member’s opportunity to confess to their peers and ask for forgiveness, and immediately sets them apart from the rest of the body while they sit and watch everyone have a meeting about them. This does not serve the purpose.

    2.) On the other hand, the process of church discipline may very well help reveal the heart of the wayward sheep as one who is not willing to repent — the pastor who did not want to confess and repent to the church is the perfect example.. if he had not left, he would have been asked to leave. The kid you mention here who WENT TO HIS ELDERS ON HIS OWN.. he didn’t get caught, exposed, confess when pushed into a corner, he went because he felt guilty, he was sorry, he was repentant, he needed counseling — he needed to be prayed, counseled, and loved back into the fold.

    3.) The process of going to your brother about his sin, then going with friends to your brother, then taking it to the church for the purpose of holding him accountable, asking him to repent, bringing him back to right thinking — THAT is church discipline. There is no “plan” in the bible for how many counseling sessions you have to attend or what kind of contract you have to sign. That’s not church discipline, that’s a distorted approach to the after counseling the repenter is supposed to receive. Man made, not bible given. I don’t see Jesus in that approach at all. I see Jesus saying, “You want to repent, turn from sin, do right and live for me? If you’re sincere, you’re forgiven. Now go. Do it. Show me. I’ll be here to counsel you along the way and whenever you need me.”

    4.) Seriously I’m still floored by the whole contract thing.

    5.) And how SHOULD we approach those who DID sin, DID NOT come before the church repentant, should we really shun them completely? “Treat them as you would the unsaved” – what? I want to know if Mars Hill members are really encouraged to refuse to let non christians join them for lunch. I hope not. I should add in here that I have heard a lot of things that Mark Driscoll has preached and liked quite a bit of it. I’m not completely anti Mark Driscoll, so I’m not out to get him and I’m not on a witch hunt. That said, the idea that those suggestions for how to treat Andrew is comparable to how they should treat non Christians is “whack.” Messed up. Our church family members that screw up and for whatever reason don’t want to change — they are still our family. They are, by choice of choosing not to change their ways, choosing to leave the family, maybe for a while, maybe forever. This should sadden us. We should pray for them. We should talk deeply with them, have them over for coffee, ask if they want to talk, ask how we can pray for them specifically, encourage them to make the right decisions. That said, if I saw someone that I had been friends with, that had done this, in a cafe or on the street — I would purposely ask them if *I* could join them, talk to them, see how things were going. We don’t have to condone their behavior. We do that by not saying things like “It’s okay, you’re fine, I agree with you completely.” and by not participating in activities with them that encourage their behavior (not going on a double date with 2 people having an affair for example.) We don’t do that by ignoring them and hoping they get right with God on their own. *Great big eye roll here.*

    6.) Last point, I alluded to this but I want to make it clear… from the story we have, granted we only have his side of the story, I don’t think Andrew should have been called an unrepentant sinner. He confessed on his own. He repented on his own. Did he still need months of prayer, counseling and healing? Sure. But repenting by definition is to feel sorry and regretful (he did) and then turn from sin and make a change — that part is evident in the days, weeks, and months after the confession and statement of repentance, yes, but from what it sounds like, Andrew was already separated from his ex-fiance and no longer “carrying on in sin” with her. What more did they want??

    All of that said, these kinds of stories are always “hot topics.” A lot of churches don’t know how to handle church discipline when the need arises. Some fumble it and use it for their own personal purposes. I think the fact that it’s a very large church would HAVE to have made it more difficult. Who knows if Pastor Mark was even involved before it was “too late?” I once attended a large church of over 4000 people. When I needed counseling I went to my care group leader. If it was too much for them, they went to a “director” above them. There was a whole team of leaders around the pastor. Kind of like the president of the U.S., it was kind of hard to get actual face time with the pastor. I never even really “met” him. I think that’s sad. I think churches really can get too big to meet their members’ needs well.

    I pray that Andrew finds a good church, a good counselor, and much healing and growth through these trials.

    You, Michelle, you’ve been through a lot of crap! But I’m enjoying watching what God is doing in your life right now! I’m really sorry you had that horrible experience with your former church. There’s a lot of imperfect and some really messed up churches out there because we’re all imperfect and some really messed up people. But I feel excited about where God has you now, this church that he brought you to, and I’m so glad you’re there. I think the message for everybody here is that one bad experience with a church shouldn’t be cause to give up on churches and Christians altogether — God may have a really awesome church to lead you to, grow you through, and bless you with. =)

    • Amber!! I’ve been wanting to respond, but keep finding that everything you’ve said is spot on. I’m really (really!) grateful that you took the time to address church discipline. I know there’s a place for it and it is needed for sure, but as you stated so well, the point should always be to restore relationship and people. The sin shouldn’t be the focus, the repentance, forgiveness, and restoration should be at the helm.

      (and boy do I have a lot to learn about that!)

      • So leave it to James to make me think and challenge me. He almost made me want to come in here and delete that comment.. not because I changed my mind but because it was incomplete.

        Restoring, welcoming back, that should go without saying it’s for a repentant *brother.* Treating an unrepentant brother like an unsaved — my first automatic thought was like an unsaved friend who needs God,..not like an unrepentant, “evil” unbeliever. James basically pointed out that I would treat a “regular joe” kind of non-churchgoer differently than say, an unrepentant child abuser. I would not want to go have coffee with, spend time with and try to be a light to the unrepentant child abuser. And he’s right, I wouldn’t. I think his question was (setting aside whether or not Andrew was repentant or not, but just in general) — how do we interpret “treat the unrepentant believer as unbeliever?” He was going to look into the phrasing on that a little more on his own, but what it DID make me realize is this:
        We, people, *DO* judge people differently. We cannot either love all people/sinners equally, or “hate” all sin equally, because we bring our emotions, our pasts, our prejudices, our preconceived notions and everything else into it. We *would* rather sit next to the decent normal looking athiest than the loathed child abuser. And maybe that’s a part of why all of this is so hard. We’re flawed. But, as you said, we’re not God! We can’t do what God can do. We’re not supposed to try to play God.
        I can’t see into someone’s heart, and I like to give people the benefit of the doubt. But we can see fruit. And we can pray for wise words. And our end goal should always be pointing people to God, restoration with Christ, God’s glory.
        Maybe James really will do some research on the whole “shun the unrepentant brother” thing. I think there probably *is* call for *not* “fraternizing” with the blatant unrepentant sinner (Do not be deceived, bad company ruins good morals. 1 Corinthians 15:33) but that’s not what this particular issue is about and that in itself is also tricky because it’s hard to know where to draw the line on that one, too, and every situation is different.

  4. I’ve had some serious issues with Driscoll’s theology for a while, and this is exactly where the problems in his theology end up–lack of grace, control issues, and lack of accountability for women. Didn’t Paul write to the Corinthians saying to welcome back the repentant brother? Didn’t Jesus take issue with the Pharisees for their treatment of the “unrighteous”? I believe there’s a place for church discipline, but not for a repentant brother.

    I can’t believe the church asked Andrew to list his sins. That’s indulging in unrighteousness rather than forgiving and restoring.

    This makes me angry.

    Thank you for sharing your story here to help others who may be hurting. You know I love you very much and am so sorry you had to go through that!

    • Until recently, I hadn’t paid much attention to Driscoll, but with the marriage book (and my heart is BREAKING thinking it could be anywhere near as damaging as this church discipline issue) I know churches across the country are doing marriage classes based on his book. :/

      I pray and have hope that God will oversee these people who have been (and who will be) hurt so deeply by Driscoll and his teaching.

      • Yes Michelle, I agree wholeheartedly. We need to pray for the protection of the believers who are being deceived by Mark and Grace Driscoll. All of his followers are so deceived, they defend him as all cult followers do instead of trying to see if he is truly from God. We can KNOW that anything coming from God can not be purchased with money. If we are true believers, we have already been purchased by the BLOOD of JESUS!

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