Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Mark Driscoll, Apology Accepted

In 2011 I wrote a blog about Mark Driscoll. As stated before, the purpose of the post was for the education of those who were seeing quick soundbites of Driscoll, but who did not know about his crudeness, foul language, and what I believed to be disrespect towards our Lord.

The blog was Driscoll in his own words, citing him with page numbers from his own books.

Since November 29th, 2011, I have received many angry messages from the comment section and through email. Eventually I quit responding to them because they were all the same: telling me how no one is perfect and that Driscoll may have changed since those books were written.

My response was always the same. If he has changed, he will apologize and we will see a changed man.

Why did I want him to apologize? Not because I feel I am owed one (I'm certainly not), but because the apology is symbolic of his acknowledgment of the need to change.

Well Mark Driscoll has apologized via an open letter on social media. He admitted to having been an "angry-young-prophet" and said those days are over. I am posting his lengthy apology in its entirety, but I want to make two points before I do.

First, his apology is accepted in my book, but the proof is in the pudding. As trust must be earned back, he will have to earn his way back through consistency. He apologized for the anger, but not necessarily for the language. But the fact that he apologized is refreshing, and it shows humility. My hat goes off to him for that. I will probably continue to disagree with him on many issues (such as alcohol and some of the subject matter in Real Marriage), but time will tell.

Second, I want to reiterate that I never intended to be a "Driscoll-basher." I have prayed for him for years. He reaches untold thousands of people, and I want them to be reached for Jesus. I am far from perfect myself, and I was never throwing rocks from my glass house. I just wanted people to know more about him than the 10-second soundbites.

Here is the apology from Driscoll:

Dear Mars Hill Church,
Thank you.
I have received a great deal of love and encouragement from you for more than 17 years. I genuinely appreciate every person who prays for my family and me. Also, I continue to find great joy in teaching the Bible every week to people I have grown to love with a father’s affection.
For those of you who have been around for a while, it is amazing for us to see all that Jesus has done. People often ask if our church today resembles what I had originally planned. Not even close. The smallest location of a Mars Hill Church is bigger than what my total vision was for the whole church when we started.
As the church grew over the years, it was clear that both the church and I were unhealthy in some ways, despite some wonderful people and amazing things that the Holy Spirit was doing in and through them. For years, I felt a joy in teaching the Bible and love for the people, but frankly was overwhelmed on how to organize and lead all that was happening. I felt the crushing weight of responsibility but did not know what to do, and I lacked the abilities to figure it out. I was frustrated at my shortcomings, but needed help from people who were more experienced and mature. In my worst moments, I was angry in a sinful way. For those occasions, I am sorry. As I’ve expressed in several sermons, I needed to mature as a leader, and we needed to mature as a church.
In the last year or two, I have been deeply convicted by God that my angry-young-prophet days are over, to be replaced by a helpful, Bible-teaching spiritual father. Those closest to me have said they recognize a deep change, which has been encouraging because I hope to continually be sanctified by God’s grace. I understand that people who saw or experienced my sin during this season are hurt and in some cases have not yet come to a place of peace or resolution. I have been burdened by this for the past year and have had private meetings one at a time to learn from, apologize to, and reconcile with people. Many of those meetings were among the most encouraging moments in my time at our church. Sadly, not all of those relationships are yet mended, but I am praying that God is gracious to get us to that place of grace. Now that others have come forward, my desire is to have similar meetings with those who are willing.
In the past few years, we have also made significant improvements to how we are governed and organized as a church. This has been difficult, but long overdue. The Board of Advisors and Accountability is a great blessing to us all, as they combine wise counsel and strong oversight during this process. I have been a pastor for a long time, but have not had a close pastor since college. I now rejoice that God has been gracious to give me pastors for accountability and wise counsel. Through their counsel to confess my own sin, while not being distracted by the shortcomings of others, the Holy Spirit is making me a better man and pastor, which I pray helps us to become a better church. This is the truest and strongest pastoral love and accountability that I have ever had and I thank the Lord for it. Pastor Dave and Pastor Sutton have also joined me as Executive Elders. They have been very helpful in getting my team and me to the most unified, loving, and healthy place we have ever been. I really love our church, and I see where it was unhealthy, where it has gotten healthier, and where we can continue in that path. I am very encouraged by where we are and where we are going.
However, this process has required a lot of changes, and admittedly we did not handle all of these changes equally well. We are fully aware of and grieved by ways we could have done better with a more effective process and more patience, starting with me. I am deeply grieved and even depressed by the pain we have caused. Many have chosen to air their concerns online, and I apologize for any burden this may have brought on you, and I will do my best to clarify a few things without, I hope, being angry or defensive.
First, a marketing company called ResultSource was used in conjunction with the book Real Marriage, which was released in January 2012. My understanding of the ResultSource marketing strategy was to maximize book sales, so that we could reach more people with the message and help grow our church. In retrospect, I no longer see it that way. Instead, I now see it as manipulating a book sales reporting system, which is wrong. I am sorry that I used this strategy, and will never use it again. I have also asked my publisher to not use the “#1 New York Times bestseller” status in future publications, and am working to remove this from past publications as well.
Second, in recent years, some have used the language of “celebrity pastor” to describe me and some other Christian leaders. In my experience, celebrity pastors eventually get enough speaking and writing opportunities outside the church that their focus on the church is compromised, until eventually they decide to leave and go do other things. Without judging any of those who have done this, let me be clear that my desires are exactly the opposite. I want to be under pastoral authority, in community, and a Bible-teaching pastor who grows as a loving spiritual father at home and in our church home for years to come. I don’t see how I can be both a celebrity and a pastor, and so I am happy to give up the former so that I can focus on the latter.
When I was a new Christian at the age of 19, God spoke to me and told me to do four things. Today, I see that calling as: Love Grace and our family, Preach the Bible Train leaders (especially men), Plant churches. Other things may be good, but I do not have the time or energy for them right now. My family and our church family need me focused and energized, and that is my deep desire. Therefore, I will be spending my energies growing in Christ-like character by grace, staying connected to Grace and our kids, loving and serving Mars Hill Church which continues to grow, teaching the Bible, and serving Christian leaders through such things as blogs and podcasts at Resurgence. Starting this fall, I will also be teaching at Corban University and Western Seminary in Bellevue to invest in young leaders. For a season, I want to pull back from many things in order for us to focus on the most important things: glorifying Jesus by making disciples and planting churches as a healthy, loving, and unified church, with our hands on the Bible and our eyes on Jesus.
To reset my life, I will not be on social media for at least the remainder of the year. The distractions it can cause for my family and our church family are not fruitful or helpful at this time. At the end of the year, I will consider if and when to reappear on social media, and I will seek the counsel of my pastors on this matter. In the meantime, Mars Hill and Resurgence will continue to post blogs, sermons, and podcasts on my social media accounts, but otherwise I’m going offline.
I will also be doing much less travel and speaking in the next season. In recent years, I have cut back significantly, but I will now cut back even more. I have cancelled some speaking events, and I am still determining the best course of action for a few that I’ve committed to, as they are evangelistic opportunities to invite people to salvation in Jesus Christ, which is something I care about deeply. I will be doing very few media interviews, if any. Also, I’m communicating with my publisher to determine how to meet my existing obligations and have a much less intense writing schedule.
Personally, I find this all relieving. The pressure and pace has increased every year since I started in 1996. I don’t want to be burned out or angry, and I want to become more like Jesus every year. I want to teach the Bible, love well, and run at a pace to finish my race many decades from now. My health is actually in the best place it has been in recent years. I have a skilled and unified team that loves you and can handle more responsibility, if I can free up the time and energy to love them and invest in them. Grace and the kids are doing very well, and my family is still my joy and priority. This year we will have three of our five kids as teenagers, and our oldest will be a senior preparing for college. I don’t want to miss this season, as these are years I can never get back. If I am going to err, I want it to be on the side of guarding too much time and energy for family and church family rather than not enough.
To be clear, these are decisions I have come to with our Senior Pastor Jesus Christ. I believe this is what He is asking of me, and so I want to obey Him. The first person I discussed this with was our first, and still best, church member, Grace. Her loving agreement and wise counsel only confirmed this wonderful opportunity to reset some aspects of our life. I want to publicly thank her, as it was 26 years ago this week that we had our first date. She is the greatest friend and biggest blessing in my life after Jesus. When we recently discussed this plan to reset our life together, late at night on the couch, she started crying tears of joy. She did not know how to make our life more sustainable, and did not want to discourage me, but had been praying that God would reveal to me a way to reset our life. Her prayer was answered, and for that we are both relieved at what a sustainable, joyful, and fruitful future could be. As an anniversary present, I want to give her more of her best friend.
I have also submitted these decisions to the Board of Advisors and Accountability. They have approved of this direction and are 100 percent supportive of these changes. It’s a wonderful thing to have true accountability and not be an independent decision maker regarding my ministry and, most importantly, our church.
Lastly, if God would lead you to pray for me, the Scripture he has impressed upon me this past year or two is 1 Corinthians 4:15: “For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” As I get older, I am seeking to increasingly love our people as I do my own children in order for our church to be a great family, because of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
With the Father’s affection,
–Pastor Mark Driscoll

Catechism #13

Q. Did our first parents remain as they were created?

A. Left to the freedom of their own wills, our first parents sinned against God and fell from their original condition.

Adam and Eve were created as perfect beings who did not know sin, suffering, or sickness in any way. That was God’s original intention, and for an unknown amount of time our first parents lived in the perfect Garden of Eden.

Everything changed the moment that Eve chose to disobey God and take a bite of the forbidden fruit. It wasn’t so much the act of eating the fruit that got them into trouble, but the willful choice to question God’s goodness.

God had made clear to the first couple that in the day they ate of the fruit, they would surely die (Genesis 2:17); this did not usher in an immediate death like with Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11), but rather introduced the process of death and decay. For the first time in history things began to wear out, which would eventually result in death.

The life that you and I are familiar with is far different than the one Adam and Eve knew in Eden. We live in a world where heartbreak and hunger run rampant; we see murders and mayhem, death and disease, wars and wreckage. These things come as a result of the Fall. We will one day die because of sin: “For by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and death passes upon all men, for all have sinned (Romans 5:12).”

This is not the world that God created and called very good; this is a world destroyed by sin and the subsequent curse. But take heart: God has made a way to rescue us from this sinful planet, and even now Jesus is preparing a place in heaven for those who are His children (John 14:1-6), where we will live with God free from the curse of sin.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Catechism #12

Q. What is God’s providence?

A. God’s providence is His completely holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing every creature and every action.

In God’s providence He controls everything—living and nonliving—in the best way possible. We also use the word sovereign to refer to God’s providence.

I like to define sovereignty this way: God is absolutely in control of everything, everywhere, at all times. Dr. Ron Lynch defines God’s sovereignty this way: God either authors or allows everything that happens.

In Scripture we see God author many things. He was the author of the 10 Plagues in Egypt (Exodus 7-12) that led His people out of bondage. In those plagues we see God’s providence displayed over animals (death of cattle), nature (sea turned to blood, hailstorm, darkness), and mankind (boils, death).

But we also see Him allowing something He didn’t author. In the beginning of Job God grants Satan permission to carry out an attack on His servant (ch1-2).

When Jesus was on earth He was sovereign over nature as “the wind and seas” obeyed Him (Matthew 8:27); He was also sovereign over human life, raising the dead, healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, and giving mobility to the crippled.

As mortal humans we need to trust God to do what is right. Even when we do not understand what He is doing, we know that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).” God is sovereign. In His providence He will always act in supreme, holy, wisdom to do what is best.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Catechism #11

Q. How did God create man?

A. God created man male and female, after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness and holiness, with dominion over the creatures.

Last week we saw that God created the heavens and the earth in the beginning, and it is important to point out the obvious: He created one male and one female.

You have probably heard the worn out expression, “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve,” but that is a true statement. Had it been only Adam and Steve from the beginning, the human race would have been extinct shortly thereafter. In the same way, God did not create Adam, Eve, Steve, and Sally—He created one man for one woman.

Many people are chiming in saying, “I was born this way; God made me gay.” They like to point out that Jesus never mentioned homosexuality in the Gospels. But quite the opposite is true; In Matthew 19:5 Jesus said, “A man shall leave his father and mother and be joined unto his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”

Jesus never taught that a man shall be joined unto a man, or that two women shall become one flesh. He taught what was known from the beginning, that God created male and female, one man for one woman.

Heterosexuals who have multiple partners or affairs, or who do not save themselves for marriage, are as guilty as homosexuals. The only marital relationship that pleases God is a monogamous, life-long relationship between a man and woman that is only broken up by death.  

Marriage is a picture of the relationship between Jesus and His church (whom the Bible calls the Bride of Christ), which again, is two partners. Jesus is the groom, and the church is referred to in a feminine sense as the bride.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Living Proof (Clebe McClary)

In Living Proof, Patrick“Clebe” McClary recounts his time spent serving his country in Vietnam. McClary led recon teams throughout the jungles of ‘Nam, but he was eventually ambushed and nearly killed.

Clebe was hit by a grenade, which threw him in the air and took off his left arm. He continued to fight, and shrapnel eventually claimed his left eye; by the time help arrived Clebe could not move his right arm, and his legs were shredded. A VC officer even shot him to confirm he was dead, but he survived the execution.

After lengthy stays at multiple hospitals and hundreds of surgeries, McClary is now able to use both legs and his right arm again. He wears an eye patch because he didn’t like wearing a glass eye, and he has a hook he sometimes wears for a left arm.

More important to McClary than surviving on the battlefield is the fact that since that time he has come to put his faith in Christ. In his book he acknowledges that had he died in Vietnam, he would be in hell today.

Now God is using Clebe McClary to wage a different kind of war—a spiritual one. Clebe has travelled the world over giving his testimony and preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. He is living proof of what giving your life to God can do.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Catechism #10

Question: What is Creation?
Answer: Creation is God’s making everything out of nothing by His powerful word in six days—and all very good.

No person has every created anything.

You might be thinking, “I made a model airplane,” or “I sew my children’s clothes.” But we must remember that making something and creating something are different.

When you assemble a kit you begin with the parts in a box, and when you fashion clothes you grab thread and a needle. Creating means to start with nothing and end up with something.

The Bible begins by saying, “In the beginning God created [started with nothing] the heavens and the earth.” There were no particles, no atoms, no cells with which to work; God said, “Let there be,” and everything we see came into existence.

Some teach that the universe created itself, possibly through the Big Bang. There are many flaws with that theory, not the least of which is the origin of the subatomic particles that exploded. The Big Bang is a theory from chaos—a belief that disorder created order. The universe is governed by laws, such as physics and gravity; there is no reason to believe that a collision would create a law abiding system.

It is also important to believe that God created the universe in six days. Some argue that each day represented a thousand or a million years, but the Bible says, “the evening and the morning were the first day (and the second day, and the third day…).”

If you think that each day represented a long period of time, then notice the order in the days of creation: on Day 3 God created plant life, and on Day 4 He created the sun. How could the plants live for thousands of years with no sun?

Believing in the biblical creation account is important, because if God got the first page wrong then we can throw out everything else. The Bible teaches that God created everything we see out of nothing, and that He did so in six literal days, and He rested on the seventh day.