Monday, February 29, 2016

Shane Idleman's piece at Christian Post from 2-23-2016 in contrast to an interview with Dave Bruskas from 2-8-2016

Proverbs 27:17 NIV
Like one who grabs a stray dog by the ears
    is someone who rushes into a quarrel not their own.

It has been fascinating to read with some regularity in the last year and a half who has been willing to sound off on what took place at Mars Hill.  While some have noted that bloggers have deigned to write about things going on who never attended a service or were even a member, it has hardly stopped outlets like the Christian Post from letting people do precisely that.  There wasn't necessarily a complaint from those who have talked about "bloggers" when pastors who may have never set foot in Mars Hill decide to do guest pieces for the Christian Post, was there?  Perhaps there was.

Well, let's take a relatively recent piece by Shane Idleman for the Christian post. It may be provided as a case study for when a pastor who has no clear or obvious connection to the history of Mars Hill does what many a pastor is tempted to do, sound off in abstractions about a recent event that may or may not have any discernible connection to the soapbox points.

In general I find it impossible to take seriously articles in which numbered lessons are provided that we can learn from some recent event.  All too often it can seem that the lessons to be learned were axioms the author was going to lay on the reader anyway regardless of the month's headlines.
and a variant ...
By Shane Idleman , CP Guest Contributor
February 23, 2016|7:40 am

In my case, I was allowed to make the most of my mistakes in the secular world before planting a church at age 41. Mark Driscoll was not afforded this luxury — he entered the pulpit in his 20s and had to work through anger, pride and control (by the way, most church planters struggle with these traits, myself included).

I'm not defending, or criticizing, I don't have enough information to truly speak to the issues on either side [emphasis added], but I want to remind all of us that Christians are fallible and make mistakes. We should consider the total portrait of one's life, character and ministry and evaluate on that basis.

A few poorly chosen statements, angry outbursts or controlling decisions made over the course of many years shouldn't define a person. One's life and character speak volumes as to the sincerity of his or her ministry. We should extend to others the same grace that we desire and be patient with others.


I am deeply saddened by the spiritual condition of many Christians. We love to be armchair quarterbacks and diss pastors and Christian leaders, yet we have no idea of the demands they encounter and the pain they feel. Our sinful tendency is to pull others down. We may think that somehow this makes us look better.
If we are truly concerned about the body of Christ, we will hold our tongue. Self-righteousness has no place here. But I'm not referring to sweeping corruption and deception in the church under the rug. Wisdom is needed here.
and ... sadly not on display. No one who was heeding the advice in the way it seems to have been intended could have, with much integrity, have both written and submitted that piece to the Christian Post for publication. Even if Idleman were someone with whom Driscoll himself had shared a meal at some point that wouldn't obviate the go-to-verse for so many Christians, Proverbs 18:17.  As it stands, the foolishness of the entire post announces itself to a person who has any familiarity with Proverbs. If you can't speak to the facts of any of the sides who participated in the history of Mars Hill then it's foolish to decide to use Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll as an occasion to cycle through content that doesn't need a news peg.  Those sorts of pious bromides don't need news pegs anyway.
If Idleman missed the stretch of later 2013 to early 2014 perhaps he missed the plagiarism controversy or the Result Source controversy.  Or perhaps Idleman wasn't aware of Joyful Exiles or Repentant Pastors or Tripp's comments that were made available for public consideration about Mars Hill having the most abusive ministry culture he'd ever seen.  Perhaps he hadn't noticed in 2015 that former executive elder Sutton Turner remarked on how he objected to Result Source but signed it anyway?  But, as previously noted, the kind of piece Idleman opted to write is the kind that can be plugged in for any suitable occasion. It isn't necessary to know any of the details or even the generalities of what happened.  If anything it's probably preferable to not know much at all so as to have a reason to publish something that, were a person to know more of the situation at hand, might otherwise seem reckless, like grabbing the ears of a dog as you're happening to walk by it.
By contrast, earlier in February 2016 there was a sprawling podcast interview that featured none other than former executive elder of Mars Hill Dave Bruskas. You'll have to skip way out to nearly two hours into the podcast but ...
Dave Bruskas
It was very much like a death and I just want to say, right off the top, I'm so sorry, and I know that what happened at Mars Hill hurt so many people and a lot of people are disillusioned today about church. I know a lot of people left Mars Hill in Albuquerque and some found other churches, which we're really thankful for. There are some great churches in Albuquerque so we're certainly sorry that people aren't at North Church that have left but we're glad that they've found places. But I'm really concerned for the people that have just become disillusioned with church and moved on and I want those folks to know that I am so sorry.

What a lot of people don't know, just reading the internet and looking at other perspectives, is that the heart of the brokenness at Mars Hill was a leadership culture that was broken. And was really about leaders not learning how to do ministry the right way [emphasis added] and in a broken way. It certainly hurt so many people. So I am terribly sorry to people who aren't in church right now, who are wounded and hurt, who are without church. And I'm really sorry for people in Albuquerque that were part of other churches who felt the name of Jesus was being dragged through the mud because of what happened at Mars Hill. ...

So by Dave Bruskas' account the death of Mars Hill was severely damaging to a lot of people to whom he wanted to say sorry. Bruskas also described Mars Hill as dying primarily because its leadership culture was broken.  These were people who had not learned how to do ministry the right way and did ministry in a broken way.  Now you are free to dissent from Bruskas' account or have doubts about his sincerity but what even Bruskas considers beyond dispute at this point is that Mars Hill died because of a leadership culture that had become so toxic the death of Mars Hill was, as we've all seen, pretty much inescapable. 

Ironically, if Idleman wanted to make a point that Christians shouldn't read blogs or indulge "critical" statements about church leaders he may have picked the wrong case study.  Bruskas' description of how and why Mars Hill died is surprisingly congruent with Wenatchee The Hatchet's longstanding conviction that while there have been plenty of sincere and faithful Christians at Mars Hill who wanted to be a positive influence within the Puget Sound area the leadership culture had grown too toxic and dangerous for the institution known as Mars Hill Church to end up being a healthy institution or culture. 

Compared to Mark and Grace Driscoll in 2016 thus far, at least, Bruskas is willing to admit he was a pastor at Mars Hill. 

POSTSCRIPT 03-03-2016

For those who read the 42-page complaint this week, Bruskas is listed among non-party co-conspirators. 

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