Popping Off Is Not Pastoral

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Christianity in America seems to be in a constant state of decline rather than a constant state of repentance. One sign of this decline is the way in which celebrity rather than Scripture seems to have become the lens through which certain pastors are evaluated. This type of bias undermines the witness of the Church to nonbelievers. One recent example is when well-known pastor Mark Driscoll posted a flippant comment on Facebook which gathered over 600 comments in response. Offended blogger Rachel Held Evans responded and the flame Driscoll lit spread across the online Christian community. (Note: Driscoll has replied with the admission of some type of wrong doing to which Evans responded graciously.)

In response to Evans, Dr. Anthony Bradley wrote “Libel is not love“  of which this article is a reply offering a different perspective. Regardless of whether or not Evans was correct in her character assessment of Driscoll by calling him a bully, a pastor’s character should reflect that which Scripture sets out in 1 Timothy 3. Verse 7 of this passage states, “Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil” (ESV).

Interestingly enough, Bradley states, “Granted, the pastor, Seattle’s Mark Driscoll, seems to draw controversy like a magnet…” Is drawing controversy like a magnet a portrayal of what a pastor’s character should be a noted in 1 Timothy 7? From where I sit the answer is no.

Bradley continues by explaining that the reason why Driscoll draws controversy is because he speaks against societal norms such as feminism from a strong theologically conservative, complementarian perspective. While Bradley may be mostly correct about why Driscoll draws controversy,  it seems that the issue in question does not stem from Driscoll’s stance on feminism et al, but in the way he expressed his position. I write this as one who mostly agrees with Driscoll’s conservative positions and disagrees with Evans liberal perspective. I would also retort that I’m willing to take the these made-up man card tests at anytime, but I don’t have to talk about it in a way that belittles others since my life and abilities speak for themselves.

Bradley also expressed that his purpose is not to defend Driscoll and that he would “personally challenge him over what he wrote.” And my observation is, but he didn’t challenge him. Bradley’s focus in his article is on how Christians, with Evans as the example, handle conflict with each other in public. I agree that how public conflict is handled is a thorn in the side of the Church. A question may also be asked about how to deal with  pastors, celebrity or not, who publicly start conflict.

The stirring comment Driscoll made on Facebook was, “So what story do you have about the most effeminate anatomically male worship leader you’ve ever personally witnessed?” Is this type of popping off at the keyboard pastoral? I would answer that it is not.

So is the proper response to comments like Driscoll’s to approach him via Matthew 18? Bradley thinks so, but I disagree. For example, in Galatians 2 Paul publicly opposed Peter. Also, Matthew 18 is dealing with and individuals who sin directly against another. Even so, Bradley mentions in the comment section of his article that he did go directly Evans in a blog comment and that she has his contact information via Facebook. Well, Bradley’s actions in this case violate Matthew 18. Matthew 18:15-20 states that first the offended party approaches the person individually, then bring others along if they don’t listen; and finally take it before the church if need be. Bradley seemed to skip the last two steps.

Even if Matthew 18 applied in the case of Driscoll, how would it be carried out? Is he personally approachable and easy to contact privately? Can one then take other witnesses along to confront him if he does not listen? And finally, can one take the issue before all of Mars Hill Church to plead the case? I may be wrong, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

There is a unique situation in Christendom today with social media which can reach millions of people in a matter of seconds. There is a sense in which there is no biblical recourse other than to oppose someone publicly as Paul did Peter. When a pastor opens the world to his pulpit via iTunes, Facebook, twitter, blogs, conferences, etc. then he has a level of responsibility to the public. Ordinary pastors sometimes must deal with digital celebrity pastors because their pulpit reach is so large. Biblically speaking, should those with such large pulpits have the freedom to say whatever they want however they want?

The book of James in chapter 3 explains how deadly the tongue is and even cautions teachers about their words James even tells would-be teachers that maybe they ought not teach. If a person cannot control their tongue, or in this case their keyboard, maybe they should re-evaluate whether or not they should be using various social media to “teach”.

Teaching and leading others is more than an intellectual activity for someone who is good at practically applying knowledge. God’s standards tell us that the character of a leader is of the utmost importance in order to qualify as such (1 Timothy 3, Titus 1). The character of Christians in general is important even in tough situations (2 Corinthians 6:3-10). And Christians in turn are supposed to emulate the life of Christian leaders (1 Peter 5:1, Philippians 3:17).

This article is not a call for Driscoll to step down or imply that he is unfit for Christian leadership though others may disagree. Rather, to the distaste of some of my friends, I like Driscoll. I am on his side of the theological fence which is why what he says bothers me more than a reply someone, such as Evans for example, may offer.

Sin prevents Christians from being free from conflict and from mishandling conflict both in public and in private. Christians can do a better job in at least two related areas. Inside the church we can do better at loving one another as Jesus loves us (John 15:12). And Christians can answer those outside the church more graciously while praying that God will grant them repentance that they might believe the gospel (2 timothy 2:25).



{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dave Miller July 14, 2011 at 1:54 pm

What I don’t understand is how a man as scrutinized as Mark Driscoll could write something like this and think it was okay. I like his preaching and teaching but often wonder what happened to the basic judgment he needs to control his words.

I was also disappointed in the non-apology apology. It is good that he listened to counsel but he should have written a more clear apology.

2 Mark July 14, 2011 at 2:04 pm

Dave,

Exactly. I also took his apology as a non-apology. I also don’t understand the book promo being thrown in. It strikes me as odd that he would say – “In the past, I’ve not had a regular place to work out personal commentary on social issues.” What about the Resurgence or Mars Hill Blog? He can set-up as many blogs as he wants, but had he really been hindered by not having a place to speak?

3 fourpointer July 14, 2011 at 2:23 pm

So is the proper response to comments like Driscoll’s to approach him via Matthew 18? Bradley thinks so, but I disagree.

As do I. 1st Timothy 5:19-20__”19 Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses. 20 Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear.”

Since Driscoll’s comments are public, I think we can skip the part about the two or three witnesses. Next step? “Rebuke in the presence of all.”

So for all those who are saying someone should talk to Driscoll in private–they are, sadly, wrong. This is a public matter concerning an elder, and should be dealt with publicly “that the rest may also fear.”

4 Josh Collins July 14, 2011 at 2:38 pm

Well, if someone has ever read Jon Acuff’s book or blog “Stuff Christians Like”, there is a wildly popular post/chapter about a scoring quiz for how “metrosexual” your worship leader is. That and things often said by other satirical bloggers probably contribute to an Christian web atmosphere where a comment like Driscoll’s may be thought appropriate. (I’m not saying it was. Most of the YRR crowd would be equally offended if some other pastor wrote “Tell us your worst experience with a Calvinist” on Twitter or something.) The biggest issue in the online uproar was not that Driscoll said something pastorally unhelpful (true) or just dumb (also true), but that his views on masculinity and feminity don’t line up with those other authors’. Hence the word “bully” showing up (it’s the new way of saying “intolerant”).

Yea, he sort of mailed in the apology and like the rest of us hasn’t finished his sanctification. I think he was afraid to over-apologize and essentially give the upper ground to those who think any discussion of differing gender roles is equivalent to bullying. (see the general wacky responses to Mohler’s recent comments from those on the right and the left). But Mark, you’re right, he has plenty of webspaces to blog more fully on these issues already.

(And doesn’t this also reek a little of the megachurch pastor mentality of “I can say whatever because I have a big church and no one will call me on it”? I continue to hope and pray for more maturity from Pastor Mark in the future)

5 Mark July 15, 2011 at 12:14 am

fourpointer, I agree and thanks for spelling this out further.

6 Mark July 15, 2011 at 12:27 am

Josh, Acuff isn’t really on my radar. I got his audio book when it was free at Christianaudio.com. My wife and I listened to maybe an hour and that’s all we could take. We were not amused even though I’ve seen things on his website in the past that were humorous. I would also note that whatever is accepted as humor does not excuse Driscoll or anyone else who may offend others. (Not that you’re claiming it does.)

You may be right about the disagreements with Driscoll’s critics in this instance, but I took it as more of his approach. Though it can be hard at times to separate one’s approach from their underlying position. The list given by Evans seemed to be a fair one though.

Does it really matter what impression someone’s apology gives it is ends up being a case of over-apologizing? He sure didn’t seem to care how he came off initially so why be more sensitive in the apology? Fear of the Lord or a lack thereof?

What is somewhat odd to me is that, if I’m not mistaken, Driscoll calls his congregation (men in particular) to maturity. And sometimes he does this very strongly (harshly?). I wonder if anyone is yelling at him to grow up and be more mature.

7 Josh Collins July 15, 2011 at 11:11 am

Well, I think the general “over-satirization” of internet Christianity (“fake” pastor-so-and-so twitters, ‘Stuff Christians Like’, etc.) is getting us into a lot of trouble. It’s easy to enjoy when people we disagree with (especially people we formerly agreed with) are getting satirized, but that kind of harsh polemic should be reserved for Grade A wolves, not struggling sheep.

I hope someone (close to him) does call him out on this (not the incident, which he said his elders did discuss with him, but the pattern of saying things like this.) However, as I’ve learned being married to someone who avoids conflict (I tend to run headfirst into it to get problems solved), it’s easy for the most assertive and loudest voice to bulldoze through decisions as others just give up trying to restrain them. Especially when that voice is young and successful. So I pray that God will continue to put strong men in his life who aren’t impressed by the size of his church or personality, but will call foul on him when necessary.

8 Ian Masters July 15, 2011 at 12:19 pm

I agree with several of the commentators on the World blog. This is a political attempt by Rachel Evans to push her agenda on someone who is not in anyway accountable to her.
Both her advocacy of radical egalitarianism and her understanding of homosexuality in the Church must be resisted with full force.

Also what local church is Rachel Evans accountable too……I see that nowhere on her blog.
My local Southern Baptist Church in the heart of Nashville has a number of Lifeway executives including John Kramp, and Mark Scott yet we seem to be sliding down the slope of egalitarianism by having women serve communion.
This shows me that egalitarianism is quickly spreading its tenacles into otherwise sound churches.
Thank you Mark Driscoll for speaking against this wickedness.

I
This issue(egalitarianism) is becoming a huge issue in the local church.

9 Mark July 15, 2011 at 12:46 pm

Ian,

Please help me understand your position more clearly. Is it your position that accepting or rejecting the manner in which Mark Driscoll expresses his position is contingent upon whether or not Rachel Evans (in this instance) has a political agenda?

10 Ian Masters July 15, 2011 at 1:31 pm

Mark,
This is my position……Marks position regarding egalitarianism and homosexuality in the church is well known! I disagree that he was popping off. He is free to use his influence as a Bully Pulpit.
Rachel Evans is using her blog and her authorship,writing,speaking as a Bully pulpit to advance her agenda. I say lets stop calling names and let the cage match.
Reformed persons love to debate…let the debates start.

If you insist on calling it “Popping off” then please call these men out also who have “Popped off”
Al Mohler on the homophobic comment
Johnny Hunt on the election comment at the Nashville SBC…remember that comment!
Danny Akin on his Alcohol comment!
James MacDonald on his comment on democratic rule in the Church.

11 Mark July 15, 2011 at 2:21 pm

Ian,

Again, it seems you have this all or nothing approach to what I (and others?) may comment on based on what we have not commented on that you see as morally relative issues. Did you tell Dr. Bradley that if he is going to rebuke Rachel Evans that he must also rebuke other liberals who have said similar things like Tony Jones, for example, in his latest post “Homoerotic Churches“?

Are you more concerned about Evans’ liberal agenda than you are a conservative pastor’s Christ-like representation before the world?

12 Ian Masters July 15, 2011 at 8:47 pm

Mark,
I do not really believe that a conservative pastors Christ-like representation before the world is all of Christendoms issue. Its a local issue! I suspect in Marks case must of his elders generally agree with his positions.
In my mind it is okay for Rachel Evans to go the political route but just do not claim the moral high ground. At the end of the day she loses in the debate because her politics are based on a supposition that I think is unbilical. Same reason that the Bayly brothers are always clashing with Carolyn James. http://tinyurl.com/6ynjhzl

13 Mark July 15, 2011 at 9:15 pm

Ian,

Thanks for coming back. Based on what you stated about conservative pastors being Christ-like (or not) before the world not being an issue for Christendom then I suppose we have a free for all. Furthermore, it would then not be Driscoll’s place to criticize any other pastors, emergents for instance, or any other religious figure not under his local authority. Or else, again, we have a free for all. Which I suppose we have anyway in some sense.

14 Ian Masters July 16, 2011 at 1:50 am

Mark,
Thanks for the dialogue!
It would be not accurate to say that we have a free for all. Instead I would state that Mark is accountable to God first, then his Elders, then to his local church members. This chain does not include Rachel Evans,Tim McGeary, Dave Miller,or Ian Masters. Secodly I have never argued that either Mark Driscoll or Rachel Evans cannot criticize whomever they choose! Just do not pretend to speak Voi Dei .Rachel Evans used the words must be Stopped…..that concerns me greatly because it reeks of totalitarianism. Does she want to use the force of law to enforce her ideology?

15 FlybyGuest July 27, 2011 at 12:22 am

Point of clarification: At all of Driscoll’s campuses, women serve communion every Sunday.

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