Saturday, December 31, 2016

looking back on a decade of blogging, you can labor to be the best neighbor you can be but you can't control your legacy

Just 378 posts this year and that's if you count this one, too. 

Seems ... like a small number.  It doesn't feel very prolific.  I don't feel like I'm the sort of writer who could make a living doing this.  It's not a matter of whether or not I had fun writing a bit more than 6,000 words in a day.  That was easy.  I even watched a bunch of Batman: the Brave and the Bold this weekend and an episode of The Venture Brothers to take a break from the writing part.

It's kind of strange to realize Wenatchee The Hatchet has been an active blog for a decade.  More than a decade, really, since I started blogging back in January 2006. 


When this blog got started up the plan was to discuss music for classical guitar, particularly chamber music from composers from central and eastern Europe.  The idea was to write about non-Spanish guitar literature.  There was also this idea to write about animation from Asia and the U.S.  Sometimes that even happened.  That still happens.  It was only this year that survey of early 19th century guitar sonatas became a series of blog posts.

Beyond reasonable doubt the blog has gained a reputation for a fairly specific range of topics.  When I started the blog a bit more than a decade ago I was a mostly contented member of a church that used to exist, that exists no longer.  It seemed at the time I started the blog I'd be there the rest of my life.

Obviously a lot of things changed.

Mark most likely continues to say that guys should live for a legacy, they should be willing to reverse-engineer their lives so as to arrive at the place in life where they want to be, to leave the kind of legacy they want to have when they die.  At one level this is still a potentially admirable way to consider life. 

The trouble is that you can't reverse-engineer your expected life legacy in a vacuum.  There are always people involved,  people who may or may not need or want to have to deal with the consequences of whatever it is you think needs to be done so as to effectively reverse-engineer for yourself the legacy you want to have when the day inevitably comes that someone publishes an obituary about you. 

You can't usually be certain about the day you die.  You also can't ultimately be certain what your legacy, whatever it is, may be.  One of the things that can be easily missed about the book of Job is that his children all died and he lost his possessions at the start of the book.  I mean, yes, we get told that but it's easy to forget in the midst of all the arguments. What I mean to say is this, a careful and considered nuance reading of the book of Job will keep in mind that no matter how formidable your legacy may be in observable possessions and family lineage, the mystery of divine permissive providence can have all of that destroyed within a single day.

Way back in 2010 I wrote about Amaziah, king of Judah, and how a person's greatest moral failure can come through how they respond to their moment of greatest success.

Sometimes your great moral failure can be due to what it was you did to obtain your great success.  Oh, maybe it won't be a sin, exactly.  It might not be anything strictly illegal but it could just be ... unwise.  And that can end up being your real legacy.

Part 22 of 1st Corinthians
Pastor Mark Driscoll | 1 Corinthians 10:1-14 | June 18, 2006

Here’s the tricky part: Figuring out what your idols are. Let me give you an example. Let’s say for example, you define for yourself a little Hell. For you, Hell is being poor. For you, your definition of Hell is being ugly. For you, your definition of Hell is being fat. For you, your definition of Hell is being unloved. For you, your definition of Hell is being unappreciated. That fear of that Hell then compels you to choose for yourself a false savior god to save you from that Hell. And then you worship that false savior god in an effort to save yourself from your self-described Hell. So, some of you are single. Many of you are unmarried. For you, Hell is being unmarried and your savior will be a spouse. And so you keep looking for someone to worship, to give yourself to so that they will save you. For some of you, you are lonely and your Hell is loneliness, and so you choose for yourself a savior, a friend, a group of friends or a pet because you’ve tried the friends and they’re not dependable. And you worship that pet. You worship that friend. You worship that group of friends. You will do anything for them because they are your functional savior, saving you from your Hell. That is, by definition, idolatry. It is having created people and created things in the place of the creator God for ultimate allegiance, value and worth.

So here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to get incredibly personal. This will get painfully uncomfortable if I do my job well. I’m going to ask you some probing questions. We’re going to try to get to the root of your idols and mine and I am guilty. I was sitting at breakfast this morning. My wife said, “So what is your idol?” I was like, “Hey, I’m eating breakfast! Leave me alone. I don’t want to talk about that.” I’m the pastor. I preach. I don’t get preached at. Eating bacon. Don’t ruin it. You know, it’s going good., And I told her, I said, “Honey, I think for me, my idol is victory.” Man, I am an old jock. More old than jock, lately, but I – I’m a guy who is highly competitive. Every year, I want the church to grow. I want my knowledge to grow. I want my influence to grow. I want our staff to grow. I want our church plants to grow. I want everything – because I want to win. I don’t want to just be where I’m at. I don’t want anything to be where it’s at. And so for me it is success and drivenness and it is productivity and it is victory that drives me constantly. I – that’s my own little idol and it works well in a church because no one would ever yell at you for being a Christian who produces results. So I found the perfect place to hide.

And I was thinking about it this week. What if the church stopped growing? What if we shrunk? What if everything fell apart? What if half the staff left? Would I still worship Jesus or would I be a total despairing mess? I don’t know. By God’s grace, I won’t have to find out, but you never know. [emphasis added] So we’re going to look for your idols, too. Some questions. Think about it. Be honest with me. What are you most afraid of? What is your greatest fear? See, that probably tells you what your idol is. Sometimes your idol is the thing that you’re scared of not having, not being, not doing. What are you scared of? You scared that you’ll be alone? Are you scared that no one will ever love you? Are you scared that you will be found out that you’re not all that smart? Are you scared that you’ll be stuck in the same dead-end job forever? What are you afraid of

How about this one? What do you long for most passionately? What do you care about? What do you think about? What are you motivated by? What do you give yourself to?  ...
In somebody's case that idol might be legacy.

UBI Number                        601677819
Category                              REG
Profit/Nonprofit                   Nonprofit
Active/Inactive                    Inactive
State Of Incorporation        WA
WA Filing Date                  12/22/1995
Expiration Date                  12/31/2016
Inactive Date                      03/24/2016
Duration Perpetual

Inactive as of late March this year, expiration date ... today.

Driscoll spent a good deal of 2015 sharing on the road how God told him he was released from ministry. It wasn't what he expected or wanted but ...

Robert Morris advised it, by Robert Morris' own account.
Transcript of Robert Morris and Mark Driscoll from the Gateway Leadership + Worship Conference
on the evening of Monday, October 20, 2014, as broadcast live via DayStar Television:
Robert Morris:
 Uh, it was publicized that we cancelled him; that’s not true, we did not cancel. I’m speaking of Mark Driscoll. We did not cancel him. He and I decided together uh that he was going to step out of ministry for a season and get some healing. [emphasis added]

This decision was not explained in 2014 as the result of a divine imperative.
Pastor Mark Driscoll's Resignation
By: Mars Hill Church
Posted: Oct 15, 2014

On Tuesday, October 14, Pastor Mark Driscoll submitted his resignation as an elder and lead pastor of Mars Hill Church. The Board of Overseers has accepted that resignation [emphasis added] and is moving forward with planning for pastoral transition, recognizing the challenge of such a task in a church that has only known one pastor since its founding. We ask for prayer for the journey ahead.

As is well known, inside and outside of Mars Hill, Pastor Mark has been on a leave of absence for nearly two months while a group of elders investigated a series of formal charges brought against him. This investigation had only recently been concluded, following some 1,000 hours of research, interviewing more than 50 people and preparing 200 pages of information. This process was conducted in accordance with our church Bylaws and with Pastor Mark’s support and cooperation.
While a group of seven elders plus one member of the Board of Overseers was charged with conducting this investigation, the full Board of Overseers is charged with reaching any conclusions and issuing any findings.

Finally, Mark Driscoll was not asked to resign; indeed, we were surprised to receive his resignation letter. [emphasis added]
Not that anyone seems likely to ever see that 200 pages of information or the results of 1,000 hours of research.  Driscoll's resignation was apparently a surprise to the BoO.  There was no mention of God instructing the Driscolls to do anything in Mark Driscoll's resignation letter, either.
 October 14, 2014Michael Van Skaik
Chairman, Board of Advisors and Accountability
Mars Hill Church
Dear Michael:

Last week our Board of Overseers met for an extended period of time with Grace and me, thereby concluding the formal review of charges against me.
...That is why, after seeking the face and will of God, and seeking godly counsel from men and women across the country, we have concluded it would be best for the health of our family, and for the Mars Hill family, that we step aside from further ministry at the church we helped launch in 1996. [emphasis added] I will gladly work with you in the coming days on any details related to our separation.

As reported by Warren Throckmorton former Mars Hill elders reported ...
starting about 3:45

The investigation of formal charges against Mark Driscoll has revealed patterns of persistent sin in the three areas disclosed in the previous letter by the Board of Overseers. In I Tim 5:20, it requires that an elder be rebuked for persistent sin. Our intention was to do this while providing a plan for his eventual restoration to leadership. The Board of Elders in agreement with the Board of Overseers are grieved, deeply grieved, that any process like that was lost to us when Mark Driscoll resigned in position and left the church. [emphasis added] Now is the time to move on and consider what God is calling us to next as a church as we participate in Jesus’ mission to make disciples in His name. Today begins a new chapter in the history of our church which has proceeded in one direction under one leadership for many years now, but I want you to understand this, God is our Father. That does not change. Jesus is the chief shepherd of the church and that has not changed.

It would appear that Mark Driscoll became the Richard Nixon of megachurch pastors and quit rather than continue to comply with a restorative/disciplinary procedure he would eventually go on to see he agreed to submit to.

Driscoll said a decade ago he thought his idol was victory.  It seems more likely his idol is legacy and so perhaps the way to reformulate his own possibly rhetorical questions back to him ...

If the sum of your legacy that you've worked for your whole life were to be wiped out so that nobody could look at the churches you helped plant and the legacy you helped build and all this within your lifetime, would you still believe in Jesus?  Would you still follow Jesus?

This isn't abstract. It's not even something we can't find in the narrative literature.  King Saul was explicitly told that he was removed from God's favor for recalcitrant disobedience and that the role of kingship would be given to another.  Saul opted to hold on to his station.  We know how that ended, thanks to the books of Samuel. 

We can work our whole lives securing a legacy that could be wiped out in a single day.  This year the entity that was once known as Mars Hill Fellowship and later Mars Hill Church ceased to exist.  You can find the churches that spun off of that old empire across the Pacific Northwest.  Only time will tell how long those churches last.  Driscoll, for his part, has repurposed decades worth of sermons and teaching in a way that avoids mentioning his legacy in the final years of Mars Hill all that much.  It would be challenging to do, after all, because you can't very well talk about the legacy of having planted Mars Hill without mentioning that Driscoll's resignation precipitated the death of Mars Hill.  It was already crumbling after years of sustained controversy about Mark Driscoll's authorial ethics and competence.  In many ways Mars Hill died because its legacy was too intrinsically bound up in the individual legacy of Mark Driscoll rather than ... it very obviously, ostentatiously was not all about Jesus, wasn't it? 

Starting the blog a bit more than a decade ago it sure seemed like what the blog would feature would mainly be stuff about music and animation.  You can do what you can but you can't control what your legacy, if any, may turn out to be.  You can make decisions about how you treat people, what you say, what you do .. but legacy?  You'd have to be a god to be able to control in advance the legacy you want to have. 

It was worthwhile to take a long hiatus from writing about music and animation for half a decade to document what was going on here in the Northwest.  It's not that I never wrote about music or cartoons or that I didn't write music.  I wrote quite a bit of music, actually.  But I felt obliged before God and neighbor to document what I saw happening and to do so as reliably as possible.  I don't really regret any of that.  It was challenging and I got some hate mail from people who insisted that one day I would have to answer to God for every bad word said about Mars Hill. 

That's the thing ... I never told anyone to leave Mars Hill in ten years of blogging.  I never advised it.  I shared the history and asked a lot of questions and proposed that perhaps there were some systematic problems in the leadership culture.  I didn't tell anyone to leave.  This may be the thing watchdog blogs most suffer from, this idea that if you yell loudly enough to tell people to leave that they will leave.  That's not how it works.  You can document.  You can invite people to reconsider the plausibility of the formal narrative.  You can share what you have seen and heard. You can share your doubts and considerations.  But the second you tell people what to think you'll be ignored, and unfortunately the very probable reason for that is you will have conducted yourself in a way that likely ensured that you deserve to be ignored. 

Now I'm an ex-Pentecostal for a lot of reasons.  I was at a formerly solid church (I thought) that had leaders embracing Latter Rain ideas.  So I stopped attending.  I ended up becoming a Calvinist (boring, boring story, that).  I'm not really a cessationist or a continuationist in the American usages of those terms.  What I'm about to propose probably sums up my thoughts about spiritual gifts and also about this topic of legacy.

We can't be sure that what are called spiritual gifts were given on a recurring basis.  A person might have a spiritual gift for X or Y on one occasion and not have it on another.  We simply can't know.  We know the gist of Pauline argument and instruction but there's endless debate about that stuff.  It is, in any case, secondary to what Paul made clear was his primary concern.  Make love your aim and seek the greater gifts, the greater gifts being those gifts that are of more immediate, practical service to the fellow believers in the local church.

What Paul's argument boils down to can be appreciated and appropriated by charismatics and cessationists alike, make love of God and love of neighbor your primary aim and through such learning, wisdom, study and community as you have the spiritual gifts can be providentially left to the work of the Spirit in you.  The gifts of the spirit and the fruit of the spirit do not seem possible to ultimately separate even if the gifts such as prophecy and tongues will one day cease.  Make love your aim and, so to speak, the gifts will be sorted out as a secondary effect.  The Christians in Corinth had made the gifts the primary rather than the secondary concern. 

For that matter, it seems important to stress that as Paul gave instructions regarding the use of gifts he gave instructions about the gifts of the Spirit as social gifts.  You don't get this or that spiritual gift merely so you can be blessed.  Let's just assume for sake of illustration that somebody says you were called to be a prophet or given a gift for prophecy?  So what?  If your first thought is how you may be blessed by this you're off on the wrong footing ethically, spiritually and socially.  When we look at what prophets said and did as described in the Pentateuch and the rest of the Old Testament we see they had a judicial role, a role that was often ad hoc and supplemental to revealed case law and stories of Yahweh's saving power.  We need to bear in mind that a role such as that of a prophet might not have been expected to be "normative" even within the context of the Old Testament.  Sure, there's cases to be made by Zwingli and Bullinger for how the OT prophets had a role fulfilled by pastors later and all that stuff.  We've discussed that before.  For the moment let's just say that "if" the prophetic role was ad hoc this could explain how someone like Amos could have a normal day job while confronting the powers that were.  The thing is until such time as you participate in Christian community in some way it doesn't matter what you think your spiritual gift is if you're not using whatever it is to be of service to the body of Christ.

and if the way you try to do that is concerned primarily with your own personal legacy you might have missed the boat altogether to begin with. 

Remember how in the book of Genesis God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac?  Abraham was commanded to sacrifice the child of the promise, his legacy, to demonstrate his faithfulness to Yahweh.  God required of Abraham to sacrifice his legacy and Abraham was, obviously, willing to do that as recounted by the book of Genesis.  But we don't just have Genesis.  We also have Job, who refuses to reject Yahweh even when Yahweh permits Satan to destroy Job's legacy in a single day. 

So perhaps to put this all in terms that might be pertinent to someone like Mark Driscoll, who most likely is still eager to live for a legacy, if God one day destroyed everything you'd spent the last two decades of your life working for; if God used circumstances to crush your public reputation and reveal the extent of your character flaws in a way that caused your empire to crumble; if God showed that your moments of victory were gained at a steep ethical price; if you lost the legacy spanning a nation and the memory of your empire was scrubbed away .. would you still serve Jesus?  It's not like there's nobody in the Bible of whom we could say he loved his royal leadership legacy more than he cared to heed the word of the Lord in how he treated people.  That guy was King Saul.

it doesn't matter if you get a direct divine commission to go be a leader of manly man, after all. 

Ishmael was promised a great legacy, too. 

Stuff to contemplate as we head into 2017.  You can labor to be the best neighbor you can be but you can't ultimately control what your legacy is. 

No comments: