Saturday, October 31, 2015

a post for Reformation Day and some thoughts on watchblogging, don't start unless you realize failure is certain.
Had that dream again where the bloggers won and our church closed down.
12:35 AM - 28 Jul 2015

Justin Dean can certain tweet that he had that dream again where "the bloggers won" and a church closed down.  But embedded in all of those few words are a host of assumptions that beg the question of just what "the bloggers" wanted, let alone that "the bloggers" won.

When I started blogging nearly ten years ago I was pretty happy to be a part of Mars Hill.  There was that one guy who kept saying stuff in public that seemed a bit reckless but I believed in the community being able to be a positive influence in the region.  This blog didn't start to become what was colloquially known as a watchblog until a few years later, and by dribs and drabs.

What I hoped could happen is that relationships could be mended, that the culture of not quite competent fiscal management and a sense of entitlement in the leadership set could be reformed.  I was hoping that by sharing for the public record what was seen and heard about the history of Mars Hill that some practical reform and reconciliation could occur, if possible.

But not much of that, if any, has necessarily occurred.  The bloggers didn't win.  The bloggers failed and will probably continue to fail more often than succeed.  Justin Dean is welcome to imagine that the bloggers won but if what the bloggers wanted was serious reform coming to Mars Hill then Mars Hill's dissolution isn't "winning", it's more failure. 

It's remarkable that in a mere three years and a couple of months in Justin Dean's tenure handling communications at Mars Hill the company went from being one of the most well-known churches in the region to closing its doors after years of controversy. There may well have been nothing Dean could have said or done to have changed what happened. 

But bloggers didn't "win".  The bloggers failed.  This is a point worth repeating because for those who might consider any kind of activity that speaks to people you have to consider that failure is always a possibility.  Even if you're a prophet directly commissioned by God you have to be able to deal with the reality and even inevitability of failure.

Don't believe that?  Well, if the calling of the greatest prophet in the Old Testament is any indicator, there may be tasks you take up on obedience to what you understand the Lord has providentially given you to do where failure is guaranteed up front.  It was for Isaiah.
Isaiah 6:8-13
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”

And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
He said, “Go and tell this people:

“‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding;
    be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’

Make the heart of this people calloused;
    make their ears dull
    and close their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
    hear with their ears,
    understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”

Then I said, “For how long, Lord?”
And he answered:

“Until the cities lie ruined
    and without inhabitant,
until the houses are left deserted
    and the fields ruined and ravaged,

until the Lord has sent everyone far away
    and the land is utterly forsaken.

And though a tenth remains in the land,
    it will again be laid waste.
But as the terebinth and oak
    leave stumps when they are cut down,
    so the holy seed will be the stump in the land.”

I'd read enough of the prophets and what Jesus said about them to realize that if you are drawn to a prophetic role you have to go into it understanding that failure is a foregone conclusion.  Failure won't excuse you from speaking up.  Go back and meditate on Ezekiel 33 and tell me that failure is any excuse for not speaking up about what you have seen and heard. 

Now don't start too quickly into "but Isaiah predicted the coming of Jesus".  Isaiah being used by the Holy Spirit to write things down that were later interpreted for our benefit as things written in reference to Christ is not necessarily the same thing as saying that when Isaiah wrote that he knew what he was writing in the way we, who look back on how Christ fulfilled the writings in Isaiah, do now.  Consider that in spite of all of the prophets and their prophecy, Israel and Judah still ended up in exile just like Deuteronomy warned they would.

I've been wondering lately if the reason so few speak with a prophetic voice in American Christianity is so few people are willing to speak if they don't have an assurance of successful results. They only want to say "I'm called to be a prophet" if it means called to be a success, preferably a success with a book deal like the other prophets, never mind that the prophetic books we have in the Bible were compiled during an exilic and post-exilic canonization process.  Never mind what's actually in Isaiah 6.  This is America, and even failure is just supposed to be a stepping stone to a newer and greater season of grace (i.e. success), not just plain old failure before a great disaster that sends God's people into miserable exile.

If you're going to embark on something resembling a prophetic activity you have to be willing to fail, fail miserably, and even be vilified for what you have attempted to undertake.  You have to be willing to do it out of love for Christ and His people.  Any motive less than that and you're basically just doing it for yourself.


Mike said...

Never seen it written better.

Both my spouse and I have three times in our three decades together told abusive church leaders and lapdog members exactly what was going on in the fellowship and exactly what would happen as a result. In ever single circumstance, we were hated, jettisoned and generally shunned by all but a few. Even when events ultimately transpired precisely as we'd stated, we were still ridiculed. In only one case did a person look us up, years later, and say "Sorry, you were so right, why didn't I listen?"

On those rare occasions in my life where I just knew the Lord was giving me insight about another and giving me the umph to say something, I've come to learn that the last thing you're likely to get is a pat on the back and a "thank you". They sawed prophets in two, didn't they?

PicoMicroYacht said...

Is this the Justin Dean who people thought sold off the Mars Hill mailing list without consulting anyone and then people online (the only way they could now communicate as a community) naturally expressed their concern? Justin does admit what he did was wrong (although there was some confusion at the time because in his statement he doesn't say what he did wrong). Of course people wouldn't have known about this but for the internet. Note the forgiveness was from the Mars Leadership, not the people whose addresses who he sold (presumably he wasn't thinking they could forgive him or there was a problem there or he forgot?).

This statement (using the internet) is fairly typical of Justin's woeful PR, which helped bring down Mars Hill because it added to the loss of trust by Mars Hill members

'Because there has been much speculation about this online, and people I love have been hurt because of my actions, I wanted to provide some further clarity regarding my earlier blog post about the list of church leaders.
I want to be clear that what I did was wrong, and that I did not work in concert with or in cooperation with anyone else, including current or past employees of Mars Hill or Pastor Mark Driscoll. I operated on my own accord, without their knowledge, and without their authority. I exercised terrible judgment and I regret my decisions. I am hoping that by posting this the speculation around them will stop.
I neglected to think how my actions would affect the outstanding men and women who stayed behind at Mars Hill, some of them volunteers, who manage and protect the remaining assets as they wind down the organization. Nor did I realize how my actions would harm their families or their reputation. This was certainly not my intention, and I am deeply sorry for the trouble I have caused them.
Under no compulsion other than my conscience and the Holy Spirit, I have admitted in detail my wrong doing and repented to current Mars Hill leadership, and by God’s grace I have received their unconditional forgiveness. I am also very sorry to everyone on the email list and I please ask for your forgiveness as well. Please note that any further use of this list is forbidden and would be illegal without the permission of Mars Hill Church.'

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

for people not already familiar with the Craig Gross email/Justin dean incident earlier this year the following tags to posts may be helpful.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

Having noted these things, the earlier statement about how you can't undertake something like a watchblog without considering from the precedent of scriptural warning that failure is a foregone conclusion but that you should write anyway still holds. That it sure seems Justin Dean did more to destroy the credibility of Mars Hill than any bloggers could have may be the case (it sure seems so to me) but he's potentially never going to see things that way. For him the bloggers "won".

In the mean time, Mark Driscoll has shared how he's learned more about leadership in this season than any other, and this was within the year after he quit the one big leadership position he's ever been known to have.

It seems as if one of the great lessons here on life and leadership is that Mark Driscoll is still willing to tell people what rules they have to follow and what sort of authority they need to submit to that he doesn't.