Friday, June 15, 2012

"Joy in Anxiety"--Driscoll's gloss on Euodia and Syntyche with curious asides

Joy in Anxiety
Part 9 of The Rebel's Guiide to Joy
Pastor Mark Driscoll
Phillipians 4:2-9
December 9 2007

So when there is something going on, Paul's not shy about pointing out. He doesn't mention sin. He doesn't mention ehresy. Then the question that all the commentators wrestle over is, "Well what's the reason that they have this division?" The answer is, "It doesn't matter." If it did matter, the Bible would tell us. But it doesn't tell us because it doesn't matter. Sometimes the issue really isn't a big deal, or sometimes the issue isn't the issue. The division is the bigger issue. I don't know what the issue was. Maybe they had new bylaws. Maybe somebody was opposed to the Belltown campus. Maybe somebody just took a pay cut. Maybe somebody was leading the worship team, Euodia and then Syntyche, took over and then she had to sing backup and she's all bent out of shape and blogged about it, and then other people commented about it. Then they sent a press release to The Stranger, and then the Seattle Times called and then KOMO 4 got involved, and next thing you know, it was mars Hill Church Phillipi. I don't ,know. Right?

Now the timing and content of this paragraph is interesting.

"Maybe they had new bylaws"

Like the new bylaws over which Bent Meyer and Paul Petry got fired because they didn't agree with the bylaws?

"Maybe somebody was opposed to the Belltown campus."

Like the Belltown campus that was bid on in September 2007 by the Mars Hill executive elders (the only ones who were authorized by the bylaws to make purchases of real estate? The Belltown campus that was purchased in October 2007 for $3.95 million without having necessarily notified members of the church of such a massive purchase until the deal had gone through? 

"Maybe somebody just took a pay cut."

Like co-founding pastor Lief Moi who wrote to Mars Hill and mentioned that his salary was cut by nearly 40 percent? That Moi was asked to step down from leading the Ballard campus because he lacked the kingly gifts for the job?  Meanwhile Bill Clem was drawing a full salary to care for his dying wife?  Had Clem demonstrated the kingly gifts to manage a campus the size of ballard by that point?  Driscoll established in "Joy in Humility" earlier in the sermon series that he had approached Bill Clem and James Noriega and suggested they give him Doxa with no promises of any job, power, rank or prestige. 

It may be worth noting that by Lief Moi's account he was asked to step down from leading Mars Hill Ballard because he lacked the kingly gifts for the job. Whether Bill Clem had the kingly gifts for the job does not seem to have come up that I'm aware of.  How large was Doxa, by Driscoll's account, when Bill Clem and James Noriega gave it to Mars Hill?  A couple hundred people at most. Driscoll had mentioned in a 2006 sermon he had wanted the property that was Doxa since 1996.  As Driscoll related the transaction in "One Body, Many Parts" and "Joy in Humility" he approached Clem and Noriega about use of Doxa and they agreed to give the property to Mars Hill.  Mark Driscoll, it should be noted, was legal president at this time because he had not yet resigned being legal president of the organization.
One to One with mark Driscoll
Joel Virgo

New Frontiers magazine online
Vol 3:07 Apri-June 2008

JV: You’ve achieved an unusual writing and teaching output while leading Mars Hill and Acts 29 – how? You must have a remarkable crowd of leaders around you. How does that work?

MD: We recently rewrote the bylaws of our church and reorganised everything. I resigned as the legal president of the church, head of the elder board and lead pastor [emphasis added]. Much of my power is now entrusted to other godly men with a good structure to ensure health and growth simultaneously. I feel very relieved at the outcome, encouraged for our future, and have deep trust with our elders. They are doing a good job and do love Jesus and our church very deeply.

Consider the phrasing in one of those sentences, "Much of my power is now entrusted to other godly men ... ."  Does this mean that Driscoll reserved or reserves the right to take back his power later?  Doesn't this suggest at least the possibility that Driscoll was thinking in terms of his power rather than the power of the executive elders as a group or the board of directors or the elder board?  It's a peculiar phrase to have used.  

Now eventually, for some reason, Bill Clem was made campus pastor at Ballard "when he was ready" as Driscoll would later describe it, and James Noriega was promoted to the Board of Directors and later made co-leader of what have become the Redemption Groups.  

To bring things back to the talking point from the Driscoll sermon, it's not a sure thing that Driscoll was talking about Lief Moi when he said "Maybe somebody took a pay cut" but since the earlier examples Driscoll used seemed to refer to real and recent situations Mars Hill was dealing with it seems  plausible to suggest that Driscoll may have been referring to Moi's paycut, which was documented in the 145 document. 

"Maybe somebody was leading the worship team ... ."

I admit, nothing springs to mind here for this one.  Was there someone who was leading a popular worship team that was taken out of play that may have required the band to reorganize?  Team Strike Force disbanded somewhere around that time and some people were sad about that. There wasn't a lot of explanation as to why that was so perhaps Driscoll was cryptically alluding to that?  I don't know, I admit my memory on that is a bit fuzzy.. 

I propose, however, that the most intriguing aspect of how Driscoll interprets the text of Phillipians 4:29 is what he presupposes without explanation.  What is that?  That Euodia and Syntyche are leaders in the church.  Leaders?  Really?  If women can't be elders then were these women deacons?  Wouldn't this sermon have been a great opportunity to revisit the question of women in leadership within the church to clarify Mars Hill teaching on that point?  If as Driscoll claimed the first problem for which Paul made a point of writing the letter to the church in Phillipi was a division in the leaders then wouldn't it warrant an entire sermon to explain and expound upon how women came to be such prominent leaders within this church?  This appears to have taken no interest for Driscoll at all.  Instead he said the passage was timely because it was like Mars Hill.  An exegetical bypass jumping straight into an applicatory "This is just like Mars Hill" was unfortunately common in Driscoll sermons in 2007 and this may well have been one such occasion. 

Sometimes on the earth, we also need a mediator to do a little of the work that's a little bit like Jesus. you try to work it out, you try to talk it out. You try to sort it out, and it gets worse. The more you talk, the worse it gets. The more the gossip, the hurt, the bitterness, the frustration, the division, and so you bring in a mediator--a godly third party. Maybe this is a community group leader, godly person who loves the Lord, an older Christian couple, biblical councilor, deacon, pastor, whatever it is. The two sides who can't agree have to agree on two things. One, we will meet.  Sometimes people refuse to meet. They refuse to even work toward unity. Secondly, when we meet, we will submit ourselves to the mediator and we'll let that person call the balls and strikes and see what is true, what is false. But the mediator then needs to hear both sides. This is what happens in Proverbs. Proverbs says, "Everyone seems right til the other side of the case is heard."
So we do tend to omit certain facts. What that means is for you, never come to a conclusion until you've heard both sides. That's a good mediator. 

I agree.  Both sides should be heard in a difficult dispute. It is also easy to agree that people tend to omit certain facts.  A mediator should be able to account for the fact that everyone has some incentive to omit certain facts.

So how about the mediation of Pastor Wayne Taylor?
email from Pastor Jamie Munson to Paul Petry
Wednesday January 30, 2008

Dear Paul,

After I sent my email resposne to you yesterday, Pastor Wayne Taylor contacted us to let us know that given the escalated nature of your communication with us that he probably would not be the best mediator to serve us. I wanted to communicate that to you as soon as possible so you could have that information as you prepare your response to us. We are still fully committed and open to meeting with you and using a third party mediator to facilitate such a meeting.

Well, looks like that didn't work out. Is the offer still good now that Jamie Munson has resigned and been replaced with Sutton Turner?  Turner wasn't the one who formulated the charges to have Petry and Meyer fired, Pastor Jamie Munson formulated the charges, so is it possible a door could be open to hear things out now?  The Lead Pastor and president of the organization said the door was still open in 2008, is it possible the current Lead Pastor could move things forward?  Or has Mars Hill taken a policy of assuming Petry has to still be in unrepentant sin?  

Do they hold this position despite what has come to light in the documents at Joyful Exiles about Scott Thomas' role in heading the EIT?  If Scott Thomas isn't even employed by Mars Hill or Acts 29 and this a week after Joyful Exiles went up why is that?  Munson explained to Petry that they believed Petry was in unrepentant sin. Do they still think that now?  If Petry was considered to be in unrepentant sin for voicing his concerns about the bylaws and about things like Article VIII has the way in which Andrew's story made national headlines offered any new perspective on this situation?  After all, anyone who has read Petry's concerns about the bylaws Munson presented for review would notice Petry's concern that there was not an appeals process for members under church discipline.  That sure seem like that could have ameliorated the Andrew situation a tiny bit. 

When Driscoll finally gets to the anxiety part of the sermon he ends up spending a bit of time in what seems intended to have been a comedy routine about ways to know whether you deal with anxiety:

How do you know you're stressed? Here's what experts say. Number one, you pastor Mars Hill Church. That was number one on their list. Number two, unusual mood swings. No reason, you're crying. You're a huge man crying for no reason. "Why are you crying?" "I don't know. I just need a good cry." Wow, soemthing is wrong.

Anger. You're angry all the time or you're just depressed. 

Exhaustion. You're just emotionally done.

How about this one? I get a nervous eye twitch. It looks like I'm hitting on people. I know it's gonna end up in the news eventually. "Pastor Mark is a habitual flirter." No he's not. he's just stressed out over the budget, so he does this all the time. He doesn't mean to, but he can't stop winking and he says sorry. So I'm probably gonna have to go with a pirate eye patch until we pull out of the budget crunch.

Angry all the time or depressed?  Mood swings?  Like the mood swings referenced in the book Real Marriage? Were these mood swings the sort that could only be ameliorated by more sex? If so couldn't that have been considered "self-medication" in recovery group parlance?  Just wondering about that.

And that budget crunch? 

So by December 10, 2007 there's a budget crunch.  What happened to the faithful givers and members? Did a few of them read every single page of this, maybe, and decide to not renew membership?

The budget crunch was reported here by The Stranger:

West Seattle Blog spotted *this* under “Pastor Prayers” on a Mars Hill blog…

Multiple pastors request prayers for our financial state. With the deep deficit, it is a test for all the staff to choose Jesus over anxiety when ministry funds are cut short and the possibility of lay-offs and additional budget cuts is on the horizon. Please pray for repentance by those who are disobeying God in their giving …

So it would seem like the majority of asides Driscoll made in the sermon referred to then current events and states. Some members were upset about the purchase of Tabella to the tune of $3.95 million. Others were upset to discover that the 50th street property couldn't be zoned or get permits for use for the grand vision Driscoll outlined in Confessions of a Reformission Rev. Many were upset that Bent Meyer and Paul Petry got fired by elders who stonewalled them for a month about why the firings took place.  Driscoll for some reason indicated to a member named Moira Bugler that without realizing it that by asking about the bylaws she was pressing on the issue that was the cause of the then current crisis. So it would appear that by Driscoll's own account in a php discussion forum he confirmed that Meyer and Petry had been fired in connection to the new bylaws.  Munson had explained that the firings were necessary and inevitable (for those who have read that documentation). 

If Mars Hill was facing a budget crunch in late 2007 was it because, as the leaders at one time put it, people were disobeying God in their giving?  Was it because, as a later amendation put it, people struggling with financial stewardship issues needed to have people come alongside them to help them? 

As Driscoll would explain things to Justin Taylor in 2010:

Why, at this stage in your life and given your calling, did you feel led to put together an introduction to theology?
Like all of my writing, this project was born out of my work as one of the elders at Mars Hill. We have enjoyed an ocean of God’s grace at our church. As we expand to more campuses, states, and possibly even nations, I wanted to do all I could to ensure doctrinal fidelity and clarity for our church. As the tree grows and the fruit increases, the roots need to sink deep as well. So, when our attendance was at about six thousand people a few years ago, we did something unprecedented. We canceled out the membership of everyone in our church and I preached the Doctrine series for thirteen weeks.(emphasis added) Each sermon was well over an hour and included me answering text-messaged questions from our people.
Those who made it through the entire series were interviewed, and those who evidenced true faith in Christ and signed our membership covenant were installed as new members. We had always had a high bar for membership, but I wanted to raise that bar higher as we pursued our goal of becoming, by God’s grace, a church of fifty thousand. In so doing, we lost about a thousand people, dropped to five thousand total, and missed budget for the first time in our church’s history. We then rebounded over the next few years to ten thousand people a week and as many as thirteen thousand on our peak weekend. (emphasis added) We had pruned, which hurt, but then we harvested, which was healing. It’s not all about the numbers, and we were willing to lose a lot of people, but God proved that there is power in the gospel and that a people united around core biblical doctrine can be used by God to bear much fruit by grace. We now use the book and its small group questions as our membership process for Mars Hill.

Hmm ... so Mars Hill failed to make budget for the first time in its history just after the re-org? Did real estate purchases have any role in that? Did the various things Driscoll mentioned in the "Joy in Anxiety" sermon have any connection to that? 

If the bar was always high for membership then the bar would have been even higher for elders, right? Does Driscoll feel like fielding questions about his recruiting James Noriega into the eldership team at Mars Hill? In Driscoll's account to Justin Taylor Mars Hill lost about a thousand people during the re-org.  Driscoll spelled out that the goal was to grow Mars Hill to a church of 50,000.  

Here's some questions, amid all those things Driscoll mentioned in "Joy in Anxiety" that caused anxiety for him and Mars Hill how many of those things may have involved decisions he and other executive elders made at the time? Was there a crisis about new bylaws?  What was that about? In case you didn't read this earlier post, here's a citation from a document distributed at Mars Hill explaining a reason why the re-org was necessary. Did the newer bylaws actually address the issues for which they were said to be necessary?

Additionally, Driscoll referred to someone opposing the Belltown campus.  Was that internal opposition as well as external? Who was opposed to the Belltown campus and why? Was there concern that the bid was made without informing members of the church?  Did all the elders actually know about the bid on Tabella made in September 2007 that was reported by The Stranger? Who took that paycut?  Was it Lief Moi, co-founding elder of Mars Hill who by Driscoll's account in reply to a member in late 2007 was in constant pain due to back problems? Was a team leader of a worship team moved to being second fiddle?  Who made that call?  

As an actual expository series on Phillipians The Rebel's Guide to Joy may seem dated and inadequate but as a testament on Driscoll's part to organizational strife, property acquisitions, and asset development at Mars Hill the series seems surprisingly informative. That he specifically says "Maybe someone was opposed to the Belltown campus" and "Maybe somebody took a paycut" strongly suggests that Driscoll was alluding to actual controversies within the church at the time.  Or it could be I'm just overanalyzing things a bit. 


Anonymous said...

Would the purchase of the Belltown campus be considered an "illegal" purchase if the elders who were directors of the corporation were not consulted about the purchase as the bylaws direct? Unethical at the very least!

Anonymous said...

Oh, and what's with the separate corporation that purchased the properties? Wonder who the officers of that are? Did the elders, that is the officers of Mars Hill Church corporation which collected the money that know doubt bought the properties KNOW ABOUT THIS separate corporation? Mmmmm? More skilled investigative journalism is in order, it would seem.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

Might have to explain that last comment a bit more. If there was a separate corporation from Mars Hill that purchased the properties it would have a name, wouldn't it?

Anonymous said...

"Might have to explain that last comment a bit more."

The separate corporate entity was called "MARS HILL PROPERTIES - 49TH LLC." That name doesn't stand out on the church signs or the church website.

Some other person named "Anonymous" addressed this in one of your previous articles:

Might not mean anything, really. But then, judging by your articles so far, there is so much more out there than meets the eye. Who were the principals of the separate corporation for instance?

"Some adults are just always questioning...these are people with critical spirits. These are people that if you answer their question, they've got 25 more questions, and they'll have questions forever. And it's not that they have questions, it's that they're sinning through questioning. The heart is not good."

Nick said...

I haven't read any other blog posts, but it sounds like you're gunning for division. There isn't any prayer or request to the Lord for intervention...or any hint of acknowledgement of the sovereignty of God. If Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill leadership is so off, where is the prayer and petition for God to intervene. Where is your heart that so much time and devotion goes to proving that Mark Driscoll is not a man of God? Certainly Mark Driscoll is a sinner. I hope you're not more focused on him and his sinful ways than you are of Jesus.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

Nick, I appreciate that you're honest enough to tell me you are responding to one post and haven't read the others.

Since we share an appreciation of Scripture, here's a verse for you might want to keep in mind for this and other blogs where you respond after reading just one post. "To answer a man before hearing him out is foolish and disgraceful." (Proverbs 18:13--JPS).

It is often wise to lurk a bit and read many posts before actually commenting.