I read on a friend’s Facebook page today something he had posted about a pastor of a big church in Washington. My Facebook friend is a Christian author and I respect him a lot. I love his heart for wanting people to have an authentic relationship with Jesus (which has maybe understandably made him slightly critical of a lot of churches.)
So the FB post I read on his page was about Mark Driscoll. If you don’t know who Mark Driscoll is… you can easily find any number of articles about him with a Google search so I won’t bother detailing the “who he is” diatribe. Suffice it to say that he is somewhat of a controversial figure – both in the church and outside of it. This particular FB post was definitely critical of Driscoll. As I looked back through his page – there were lots of posts about Driscoll. None of them very flattering… all of them stirring up some serious reactions from Driscoll supporters and detractors. One comment caught my attention though because it was from a detractor who called out church leaders because he said we “lack the resolve, the spine, or the morality to stand up to Driscoll.”
As a senior pastor myself – I don’t think it has anything to do with whether or not we have the resolve, the spine or certainly the morality to stand up to Mark Driscoll (whatever that even really means)… I’m uncertain what I am supposed to stand up to him about or why I’m supposed to…
The main criticisms of Driscoll revolve around some basic charges about his character… That he’s a bully, a misogynist, and a plagiarist to name a few. The level of concern over these charges range from just plain disliking him at the very least to accusations he is a false teacher at the harshest. Bully? Misogynist? He has certainly said things in public that are those things. Plagiarist? The people he (supposedly) plagiarized from aren’t calling for sanctions. But I very much dislike labeling anyone anything.
The ironic thing about the call for a public dressing down of Driscoll is that I think the old adage “there is no such thing as bad publicity” may hold true for Mark Driscoll. The more the accusers call for sanctions against him – the more his name is in the media. The more this stuff is chased down, the more his supporters circle around him.
So The Church becomes divided (nothing new there!) and troops are rallying on both sides to fight over Mark Driscoll. A man.
This feels like a session of “First World Problems (FWP)” vs “Real World Problems (RWP)” to me. FWP = Is Driscoll a sexist? … RWP= Are there Christians being executed for their beliefs in places like North Korea? FWP= Is Driscoll an ego-maniac? RWP= Do we live in a country where for the last 20 years the numbers of people who claim a relationship with Jesus has been on the decline. FWP = Did he plagiarize in any of his books? RWP= Are there people dying of starvation all over the world (as over 130 billion pounds of food in the US is thrown away each year)?
I know those things don’t relate to one another and I am not condoning any trait he has or doesn’t have – but the whole point is we have so many bigger things to tackle! SO many more things that I want to show my resolve, my spine and certainly my morality in. Is Driscoll damaging the Kingdom? I doubt it. Is he turning people off to a relationship with Jesus? I doubt that too. I think he’s actually introduced a whole lot of people to Jesus. The ones who point to Driscoll as their reason to not believe in God… they are clinging to bitterness that is a whole lot bigger than Mark Driscoll.
I can guess what my friend would say if he ever read this… I bet he’d say that my points are pointless… that we should still call out people like Driscoll and it in no way prevents us from dealing with the other very real world problems I pointed to… but here’s the thing, whether Driscoll is exactly what people’s worst fears are or not… Mark Driscoll should not be our focus. And really that applies to any topic you can think of… it doesn’t matter if it’s Driscoll or other church drama or political quagmires… all are distractions from the bigger stuff we are called to focus on.
The best defense and practice of our faith, whether we are a Driscoll supporter or detractor, is to Love God and Love People… to live our lives like Jesus lived His… and to honor Him by being intentional and taking action in this broken messed up world, living out our LOVE as a verb. If my friends who worry Mark Driscoll spreads a message of hate would focus their energy on drowning out that message with love – the world would be changed. Quickly.
For my friends who believes Driscoll is hurting the Kingdom… don’t worry… because he can’t. No one can. God is bigger. God is stronger. God wins. Just like Psalm 46:10 reminds us… be still… know that I am God… He will be exalted… That’s where I find my resolve, my spine and my morality.
Jason Rehmel is the Lead Pastor at Eastside Christian Church on the east side of Cincinnati. If you are someone who has had a terrible experience(s) at a church or churches – stop by some weekend and give it one more shot with Eastside. Whether you have felt judged, or dismissed, or unwanted – wherever it has been – Eastside is different.