From the sermon preached at Mars Hill on March 24, 2004
1 Timothy 5:17-25
on pastoral discipline
Now, what if it's legitimate? What if there's a pastor who's in sin. What if there are two or three witnesses that come forward and they say, "He's an alcoholic. He't got a wife and a girlfriend. He's stealing money. He's ... ." whatever it is. Those who sin, okay, so what happens is it has to be a formal charge brought to the elders. The elders convene like the Supreme Court, and then they look at the charge. We look at this for each other.
... There's never been an issue. I pray there never is, but if there is an issue, and we look into it, and there's actual witnesses, and it's a credible charage, those who sin are to be rebuked publicly so that others may take warning.
We'll bring that pastor up and say, "This pastor has sinned in this way. They are not living up to the qualifications of 1 Timothy 3." We'll rebuke them publicly to warn the rest of you, and if it's severe, we'll fire them. We'll let them go. That'll be it. They're not gonna be a pastor anymore `cause they need to be above reproach. And if they've disqualified themselves, then they're not fit for that office, and it's so the church would take warning.
... And so if an elder sins, they're a public leader. They need to have a public discipline to publicly warn others not to follow the example of their errant pastor.
This is incredibly important. How many of you come from churches where pastors should have been fired because they were not conducting themselves godly, and the church suffered and nobody did anything about it? This happens to frequently. This happens too frequently.
I'll tell you this. I'm one of the elders. My sex life, my finances, my schedule, my everything, I submit to them. They're welcom to discipline me, censor me. I'm one man among many. I'm one vote among many, and if the elders ever bring me up--I pray they never do--but if they ever bring me up and say, "Mark has sinned" and I disagree, who should you believe? Believe the elders. If you love me, I appreciate it, but believe the elders.
There was a situation at a church over on the East Side a few years ago where the pastor had somethign like 40 charges of homosexuality and pedophilia against him, and the elders said, "Well, we don't have two or three witnesses." No. What happens then is that the reputation of Jesus Christ suffers. That's what he talks about. "I charge you in the sight of God, Jesus Christ and the elect angels to keep these isntructions without partiality. Do nothing out of favoritism." [note: Driscoll here was probably referring to the scandal that erupted at Overlake years ago]
Just `cause the guy's a big ox and he can preach and he can raise money and he can winsomely convince people and he can gather a crowd and he founded a church and he makes things happen, he doesn't get any shortcut for holiness, okay?
At Mars Hill, who's the most likely person that would be treated with favoritism and partiality? Me. Let's just be honest about that. I founded the church. I preach on Sundays. I wrote the majority of the curriculum. Me. Me. It starts with me. No partiality. No favoritism. That means I need to tow a tight, hard line, and the elders need to tow that line with me. We need to be mutually accountable. There can be no partiality or no favoritism.
I promise you before the Lord Jesus Christ I'm not a perfect man, but I'm a qualified man. I don't have any secret thing going on. But should there ever be, do not--if we ever have to discipline an elder--do not ever see it as a bad thing, because you know what? God the Father, the Lord Jesus Christ and the holy angels are watching because the reputation of God is at stake.
And if a leader in the church should be unfit and disqualified, to allow them to remain in their position dishonors the Lord Jesus and stains and stenches everyone's reputation of them, and there's something far more important than one guy in a church ...
on pastoral qualifications and character
I won't lay hands on any man until I consider him a peer. What that means is "Would I go to him for counsel?" Will I go to him for accountability? Do I see him as a peer, not as a young man that I'd try to encourage, but as a peer that I can co-labor with.
My other question is, "If I die, do I want my sons to follow this guy around and be just like him?" If not, I don't want him to be a pastor. I don't want anybody else to follow him around and be like him.
And my third question is, "If my daughter brought home a man just like this would I welcome him?" If not, I won't lay hands on the guy.
On sins that appear quickly and others that slowly emerge
Some of you are sinning, but it hasn't caught up with you yet. It doesn't show up. You're not divorced yet. Your kids haven't committed a felony yet. They haven't repossessed your car or your home yet. You havne't died and gone to Hell yet, but it's right on your heels, and you're trying to stay ahead of it.
We all sin. Some of our sins are out in front. Some of our sins are trailing behind. In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not cannot be hidden. What he says is this. Who you are comes out in how you live. You're all sinners. I'm a sinner. For some of us, our sins are obvious, and we are in an urgent crisis. For some of us, we're out ahead of our sin. We haven't died and gone to Hell yet, so we're a little too comfortable, a little too apathetic, and a little too indifferent.