Saturday, March 31, 2012

Mars Hill rents the City of Ephesus for a day

This was something else I noticed and might as well get to while I'm thinking of it .

After Easter, We’ll launch a new sermon series called the Seven, looking at Revelation 1–3 and the seven churches to which John writes in those chapters. Most of the series was filmed live on location in Turkey—and it’s epic. We even rented the city of Ephesus for a day.

The seven churches.  Most of the series filmed live on location in Turkey.  How much does that kind of project go for?  So Mars Hill rented the city of Ephesus for a day.  Greece's economy is completely in the toilet so I suppose maybe Mars Hill got some desperate bargain basement deal but, dude, Mars Hill has the money to spare to rent the city of Ephesus for a day?

The nets are breaking and the boats are sinking because of all that awesome growth, eh?  Does that awesome growth include the epic filming of the Ephesians sermons live on location?  What does filming a set of sermons live in Ephesus and throughout Turkey do to establish an exegetically responsible approach to the text?  Nothing.  What does it do to establish verisimilitude for a preacher weaving a good yarn about what he thinks the text means in a setting that makes it looks like he knows what he's talking about because, "Dude!  He's right there in Ephesus!" and we know that because he just told us in advance? A lot.

The Seven wouldn't be the only reason to rent the city of Ephesus for a day. Ephesians stuff is also up for 2013, by the way, as noted here.

Next fall I will preach through the book of Esther, and starting next January, I will spend 16 weeks preaching through the entire book of Ephesians on the theme of our identity in Christ. Preaching that book of the Bible will be accompanied with the kinds of resources we had for Real Marriage (e.g., research, helps for our leaders and other churches, a book, small group material, etc.) I am really excited about this book, as it has been personally life-changing for me to study the content of Ephesians!

Isn't that gnarly?  Driscoll's got all this epic stuff filmed on location in Ephesus, that the church rented for a day.  There's this book coming out that will be ready before the Ephesians series starts and members will get all these wonderful resources they can buy like a book, small group material and stuff.  It'll be just like the great resources Driscoll had set up for Real Marriage.  Driscoll has said that having his book on Ephesians come out before he preaches the series is a unique thing. Well, not really.  Real Marriage the book just came out before the sermon series. In the past Driscoll's books were often retreads of existing sermons so fellow members would say, "Ah, it's all stuff you've heard preached already."  Driscoll has wised up and is now ahead of the curve.  To help ensure books get sold he writes the book first and then releases it before the sermon series.  It's like Marvel selling a single issue of the Amazing Spiderman with, like, five variant covers.  If you're a true believer, Marvel fans, don't you just have to get them all just for the variant covers? 

This means that where as in the past you could pass on a Driscoll book because you'd already heard all the sermons for free now you can just not buy the book because all the sermons are probably going to go up for free after the book comes out anyway.  You'd have to be a hard core Driscoll fan to both buy the book and listen to the sermons. 

Now if that Esther series in the works at any point mentions Esther being a submissive and respectful wife, fair warning, Wendy Alsup over at Practical Theology for Women has already shot down that wildly erroneous handling of the biblical text.

So Driscoll tells us that the Ephesians study is going to be about identity in Christ.  Why does this sound familiar ... ?

Oh, maybe that's why.  Wendy has a book published about identity in Ephesians that's been in print since 2010.  There's nothing new under the sun, right? You could get Driscoll's book when it comes out.  Or you could get Wendy's book, or a commentary by Klyne Snodgrass or John R. W. Stott or Sinclair Ferguson or F. F. Bruce or maybe David Martyn Lloyd-Jones. 

But Driscoll's got his book coming our way and along the way he's gotten Mars Hill to rent the city of Ephesus for a day.  I just don't know why John Stott, Wendy Alsup, F. F. Bruce and Klyne Snodgrass didn't think to rent the city of Ephesus when writing their commentaries and study guides.  I mean, if you don't rent the city of Ephesus how can you say you've been there?

By the way, make sure to keep giving sacrificially to Mars Hill during this season of explosive growth, okay. That way the nobody can keep telling everybody about Somebody now that he's had his church rent Ephesus for a day. Jesus did just step on the gas after all.

For Jesus' fame.

Pirate Christian Radio: What do the changes in Mark Driscoll's roles mean?

Starts about minute 32 in.

As with 2007 Driscoll has presented his stepping down from a position of formal leadership or ifnluence as focusing on other things like growing the church. For folks who know how boards work the executive is accountable to the board not the other way around. By withdrawing from the Gospel Coalition and still being on the board of Acts 29 Driscoll hasn't given up any power at all.  He's only really given up the responsibility to manage things directly. 

Chandler has been brought on and Scott Thomas feels "released" from leading Acts 29 lately.  Given that Scott Thomas was active in every stage of the trial of  Paul Petry and Bent Meyer and used Acts 29 resources along the way to present a particular picture of conciliation that wasn't happening to Mars Hill members along the way, Thomas feeling "released" is a way to ensure that the man most directly involved in what looks like a kangaroo court is out. Acts 29 can't afford to have Scott Thomas anywhere in or near it now that Petry has gone on record with documents and correspondence that show Thomas was the beating heart of a kangaroo court, can it? 

So in a way the real news of late is Scott Thomas announcing his stepping down a week after Joyful Exiles went up.  But the other news that, so far, only Pirate Christian Radio has directly tackled, is that Driscoll has repositioned himself to increase his informal power and influence while divesting himself of more obvious formal associations.  I would suggest that Pirate Christian Radio is party right on the Gospel Coalition.  They haven't directly and publicly repudiated Driscoll in a way that most people want.  Take Don Carson's polite, friendly, but firm illustration of how Driscoll showed himself to be an ignorant troll in lampooning British evangelicalism. 

Most people might think it was nice, maybe even too nice, and pretty restrained, the exact opposite of a Driscollian approach.  For a guy like Driscoll, who hosted a big weekend years ago called "A Weekend with Dr. Don" even something as seemingly too-nice as what Carson said this year might be perceived as a brass-knuckled rain of blows to the face.  Driscoll has made it abundantly clear he doesn't want anyone publicly rebuking him, rebukes need to be private, even if the rebuke were over something Driscoll said on record in such a flamboyant way no one could avoid discussing what he said if they knew about it. Driscoll pulling out of the Gospel Coalition after a few months of Carson correcting his ignorant misrepresentation of British Christianity; Carson and Keller's lack of joy at the Jakes stunt; let alone Anyabwile's remark that only a mercenary gunning for numbers could ever endorse Jakes ... these are things Driscoll could easily read. 

Where as you might think the Gospel Coalition leaders aren't being firm enough for a man like Driscoll it may be even their indirect expressions are concern are too much for him to keep putting up with.  Better to pull out before things escalate.  Besides, none of those guys have a church big enough for Driscoll to learn anything from anyway, right?  Then again, as Carson put it, there's not just numbers to consider, there's things like the cultivation of character such as the spiritual fruit of self-control exercised over one's tongue.  Seems innocuous enough but for a guy with an ego as big as Driscoll's seems to be that could easily be a last straw. 

In any case, Driscoll has been eager tos ay nobody asked him to step down and he's got no relational difficulties with the men. The lady may protest too much. If members of the Gospel Coalition have thought of approaching Driscoll privately about Elephant Room 2 Driscoll's been on the road promoting Real Marriage and hitting big media outlets and the like.  There's not necessarily a real, present relationship to be strained that anyone could verify externally, and by being so hugely busy Driscoll wouldn't have to ever set aside time to even get privately corrected by members of the Gospel Coalition.  Driscoll has assistants who check his email for him and pass on important stuff.  How hard would it be for Driscoll to simply instruct aids to delete anything that might have been sent his way from pastors concerned about his doctrinal problems?  It would be a simple matter of Driscoll being able to truthfully say that if so-and-so sent a message to his office about this concern with Jakes that he, uh, just didn't get that email and can't account for that.  That's if emails were sent, and maybe they weren't.

This isn't just the case in the corporate world, it's also the case in non-profits.  How do I know?  Nine years of working in non-profit, that's how.  Sometimes for the people who are actually responsible for getting things done just getting board members to show up and recognize something is important enough to warrant their attention and initiative becomes a full-time job.  Ever look through job listings that are tagged "non-profit"?  Ever notice there are jobs where the whole job is being a liaison to a board of directors on behalf of executives?  I have. 
Driscoll gets to be on the board of Acts 29 and retain power without having to actually worry about the responsibility of running anything.  This isn't a new move for Driscoll.  He did this in 2007.  He described in early 2008 that having Munson in charge of things spared him the onerous task of having to fire friends in ministry and dealing with the related conflicts of interest.  Given the way the 2007 firings took place and the active role Scott Thomas took in them it could be taken as Driscoll and Munson deciding on the firing and then using Scott Thomas to implement each step of the firing itself. 

This let Driscoll and Munson be the authoritative "deciders" while Thomas was the muscle ensuring the elders as a group were led to decide what Driscoll and Munson wanted.  Then, if by some chance things went bad and stuff got public Driscoll and Munson had little more than a formal association with a process that Thomas got his hands dirty in every step of the way.  Driscoll just told the men they were fired and Munson levelled the accusations that included the claim that he was being disrespected and acsused of deceit.  Scott Thomas had the role of heading the EIT and determining the charges were credible.  Whether or not Gary Shavey, Steve Tompkins or the other member of the EIT ever even spoke to Petry can't even be confirmed. 

So if Pirate Christian Radio is right (and I think he probably is here) Driscoll has moved to a new stage where he divests himself of formal and visible power while increasing informal and institutional power and influence.  He gets to be the "prophet" at Mars Hill and produce more books and content.  He's lining up stuff on Revelation, he's lining up a book on Ephesians--which means that after ten years his recycling material won't matter to anyone who doesn't remember he used to say that the sign of a bad and lazy pastor is that he's recycling his best hits to a new crew at a new church that doesn't know any better. 

Let's remember that Mars Hill was "replanted" years ago.  Driscoll may have just forgotten that in replanting Mars Hill as though it were a new church he paradoxically and literally became the kind of preacher he warned us about ten years ago.  The "new church" wasn't some other place besides Mars Hill, it was a Mars Hill redesigned and with a mostly new crowd of people who hadn't heard the Song of Songs sermons from 1999 or material from 2002.  I guess congratulations are in order, Driscoll managed to avoid a literal realization of becoming everything he preached against in pastors back in 2002 by way of technicalities and formalities in bylaws and a "replant".

Now that it's become more apparent that when 1,000 members left in early 2008 during the doctrine series this meant, per Munson's letter in late 2007 that half the church left over the controversies that happened then.  Driscoll said in 2002 that if he ever went off the rails theologically or ethically that the biggest favor Mars Hill members could do for both him and the church would be to leave.  When that moment came he spun it as them leaving because they weren't down with the bar being raised on doctrine.  The bar wasn't raised then and to go by Driscoll's free and easy way with Jakes in contrast to William Young's The Shack; given Driscoll's patent misrepresentation of the Targum Neofiti and cavalier handling of Old Testament literature the bar was lowered.  As long as you kept giving money, were in a community group, and kept laughing at his jokes and accepting that he was preaching just what's in the Bible it's all good. 

He's preaching pastor at a church with 14 multisite locations.  He's set to become an even more remote control self-appointed pseudo-denominational Pope than before.  That Driscoll has long since transformed into exactly the kind of remote-control "air war" guy who has no connection to the trenches or real ordinary people in churches does not, as yet, seem to have gotten his notice.  Maybe he'll show up here and there at a campus to just see what's going on.  But he's a rock star pastor now and even this could just become a case of members saying, "I hear Mark's going to be attending our campus!" and folks will hope he enjoys the preaching of the local campus pastor.

Given even the polite criticism of Don Carson in the wake of the Brierley interview; Carson and Keller on modalism; let alone Anyabwile's dismay that Driscoll and MacDonald invited Jakes at all Driscoll has been in a position where none of those guys have churches big enough to help him grow Mars Hill to the next level.  Driscoll is a big boy who has been vetted by enough people in the Reformed "tribe" he doesn't need them anymore.  Jakes, on the other hand, has the kind of big church Driscoll hopes to get.  Jakes is the kind of preacher who can provide lessons Driscoll can learn for how to "grow Mars Hill to the next level."  For years Mars Hill has said that it's not about numbers but they want to make sure more people get to know Jesus.  This comes off sort of like a guy saying, "I don't have to date a woman who looks like a movie star ... but if Scarlett Johannson is free ... ."

He will need someone with a powerhouse megachurch like T. D. Jakes to get to the next level.  He can't really turn to Osteen because Osteen's too obvious.  He can't exactly go with Ed Young Jr. NOW because he made fun of Young Jr. in 2011 and Young Jr's Sexperiment is too close to Real Marriage in the marriage self-help market.  Jakes has the kind of numbers Driscoll eventually wants and if he runs with being open to learn from other tribes then if anyone questions why he's making nice with Jakes there's a ready explanation even if Jakes trinitarian bona fides turn out to be some pro forma stunt as Thabiti Anyabwile is convinced it is.

If all that fails James MacDonald has played the Uncle Tom card already and who knows whether Driscoll wouldn't follow suit?  In terms of theological and racial politics, as Anyabwile seems to be painfully aware, there's a dastardly genius to the public relations stunt MacDonald and Driscoll have just pulled.  They both get to be out of the Gospel Coalition and if anyone in the "tribe" expresses unhappiness about shaking hands with Jakes then their siding with the Man, so it seems.  Driscoll can seem peerless in casual ad hominems but for a few moments MacDonald may have had the prize.

For fans who haven't bothered to think through some basic stuff about organizational structures in corporate and non-profit settings Driscoll stepping out of formal leadership but staying on the board of Acts 29 looks like humility. But not removing yourself from the Acts 29 board means you haven't given up any power at all.  Driscoll has Sutton Turner as the "king", the executive responsible to get everything running. Bruskas is the "priest" who is in charge of all the actual ministries that dealwith actual members.  Driscoll gets to be the "prophet".  What do prophets do in Driscollian parlance? They write books of the Bible.  Driscoll's half-way there any time he gets near an Old Testament text but Driscoll is committed to writing more books and developing more content to help grow the church.  Cultivating leaders and developing childrens' education to prep kids in Mars Hill for leadership by the time their 18 and things like that.

Funny ... ten years ago Driscoll said age bracketed ministries were bad because they unnecessarily divided up God's people.  But with Re:lit expanding and all and people having been hired to create content for kids and coming up with a kids Bible that's going to be done "Mars Hill style" so the boys will like it there's a burgeoning internal market.  Where as I used to hear about Acts 29 church plants now I'm hearing, what, that churches can apply to be Acts 29 partners these days?  Transfer growth and assimilation doesn't seem like real "missional" activity to me.

So ten years ago Driscoll was not cool with kids' ministry or youth ministry and now?  Driscoll says there's going to be a kids Bible and they're going to do it Mars Hill style.   Last I checked Elsie Egemeier's children's Bible Story Book is still in print and there are options.  But they want to make a kids Bible boys will get into.  Hmm, then make sure to mention Eglon, don't forget the Levite's concubine.  Song of Songs has to be in their with the wifely stripteases and the oral sex because, hey, it's in the Bible!  I mean, if the young people at Mars Hill don't hear that stuff from Driscoll and Mars Hill they're just going to go learn it from porno anyway, right?  I suppose one more thing that could end up in the kid's Bible is the lying spirit who went to the prophets of Ahab.  Anyone remember that one?  Ahab ordered the prophet be locked up and given just bread and water until he returned from battle.  To that the prophet replied, "IF you come back then the Lord hasn't spoken through me."

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Scott Thomas' departure from Acts 29 in light of his role in the 2007 MH firings

Scott Thomas was one of the recipients of this email from Paul Petry asking why he was fired.
Munson explained in this email that he, Mark Driscoll, Bubba Jennings, and Scott Thomas held a brief meeting with Bent Meyer and Paul Petry. They were given the option to resign or be fired. Munson explained that if they chose to be fired an elder investigative task force consisting of Scott Thomas, Gary Shavey, Dave Kraft and Steve Tompkins would be assembled. 

Munson wrote he was grieved for the men and would contact them the next day to see if they were repentant and would choose to resign rather than go through the firing process. 

This was the email in which Munson stated that this was not a political move.  Even if the bylaws did not get approved it had been determined the firings of Petry and Meyer were "necessary and inevitable". Munson sent the following to Petry:

There's no indication Munson urged Petry to resign rather than go through the firing process.  Meanwhile, Scott Thomas wrote the following:

Scott Thomas informed Petry "This is not a witch hunt."  He also wrote, "For some reason, unknown clearly at this time, we are to undergo a painful pruning of the eldership to achieve more Christ-like fruit in our lives."

Munson informed Paul Petry that a task force headed by Scott Thomas would be conducting the investigation on 10/02/2007:

Munson formally announced the firings of Petry and Meyer.  Munson stated that the firings were not based on any sexual or moral impropriety. No discussion of the firings was permitted on the members forums and speculation and gossip was discouraged.

On 10/10/2007 Scott Thomas explained that the trial date had been moved to 10/15/2007.  Vote would be by a show of hands. Thomas declared that all four members of the EIT had adequately heard Petry's response to the charges and that Petry's presence at his trial would not be necessary.

Sometimes in life you have these strange moments of dumb luck.  Someobody happens to know someone who never got rid of an email Scott Thomas sent to a member about the firings. That someone managed to get said email to some blogger of no particular significance. On 10/12/2007 Scott Thomas replied to a member enquiry.  The member enquiry read as follows and was sent 10/10/2007:

I read Pastor Jamie's announcement last week with some sadness and confusion. I understand the need for courtesy and respect of privacy but as I attempt to understand the following:

1) firing two pastors and announcing this to the church body,
2) the by-laws say a pastor can be suspended on credible charges of moral or doctrinal wrong
3) 1 Timothy 5:19-20 says to not accept accusations against elders without two or three witnesses
4) and says that spiritual leaders rebuker sinners publicly so that the rest may also fear
5) Pastor Jamie has said the fired pastors have not been accused of any moral or doctrinal error at all

This seems to create more rather than less confusion and presents a precedent that confuses me.  It seems that firing two pastors; barring them from service in ministry and voting on church issues; and publicly announcing this to the body seem necessary and good if the pastors are guilty of moral or doctrinal error, are not repentant,  and an investigation has already been completed establishing their guilt.  It seems baffling if they have not been accused of anything but their firing has simply been announced prior to an actual investigation.

It is particularly confounding for me in light of the precedent established by the pastoral announcement about Xxxxxxx Xxxxxxxx two years ago.  She was found to be in unrepentant sin, was determined to have never been a Christian, and was allowed to leave the church with an admonition to the Mars Hill body to not ostracize but welcome her back if she chose to return.  I trust that once the investigation and disciplinary process is complete we'll hear from the pastors but I wonder if Pastor Jamie's announcement is having the unintended effect of fueling rather than stifling speculation.  I will keep praying that the Lord's will be done and that He will guide the church where He wishes and that the Enemy will not sow discord. 

Scott Thomas' reply on 10/12/2007 was as follows:

I appreciate your love and concern for these men. My heart is heavy right now as well. A team of elders just concluded a conciliatory process with these two men. Be patient, trust Jesus and rest in the fact that this is His church. I do not expect you to understand the gravity of the situation with limited information. This is a legal proceeding, is supervised by our lawyer and as a result, is not a familial discussion. It was what Paul and Bent specifically requested. However, we are bound by our own judiciary system to act justly. After due process, the elders will rule according to Bylaw procedure and the members will be informed. This takes the church through a sanctification process—elders and members. It is more painful but at the last bears the needed fruit. You have to endure as well. You have to trust Jesus and His under shepherds to complete the task assigned in the time allotted (Oct 15).


Pastor Scott

Scott Thomas stated that a conciliatory process for both men had just been completed. He also indicated this in an email sent from his Acts 29 Network email address.  He sent this email two days after he informed Paul Petry of the date of the trial would be 10/15/2007 and that the EIT had adequately heard his concerns.   The trial took place on schedule and its outcome announced by Munson on 10/16/2007.

Munson stated that the EIT presented charges they found to be credible. Members were told that Scott Thomas, Gary Shavey, Dave Kraft, and Steve Tompkins were appointed to the Elder Investigative Taskforce. They were not told, as Petry was, that the taskforce was headed by Scott Thomas. They were not told that Scott Thomas was appointed to head the EIT and that Scott Thomas lead the taskforce that found Munson's charges against Paul Petry to be credible.

If as advocates of Mars Hill are wont to say that there are two kinds of deception, outright lies and half-truths it looks curiously as though both outright lies and half-truths abounded here.  It's something that needs to be taken into account when anonymous people try to tell you that Andrew deserved everything he got. When Scott Thomas told a Mars Hill member from his Acts29 email the conciliatory process had been completed that wasn't true. What had been completed was moving up the trial date to find Petry guilty of the charges Munson had made against him from late to mid October.  That Scott Thomas used an Acts 29 email account from which to misinform members does not seem like a minor point to me.  Others may disagree.

After the trial and decision were published questions arose.  Enough questions that Munson published the following on 10/25/2007

He mentioned that of the roughly 2,000 members only some had sinfully questioned leadership.  Note that Driscoll would later tell Justin Taylor that in early 2008 roughly one thousand members left the church during the Doctrine series.  As I have discussed at some length the doctrinal requirements of Mars Hill were not made any more stringent.  Early 2008's Doctrine series, as demonstrated by Scott Bailey at Scotteriology and Robert Cargill, was the series in which Driscoll patently misrepresented both the content and context of the Targum Neofiti. As Bailey so bluntly put it, straight up lying to your congregation about a Targum is a great big fail for a pastor and a scholar. 

No, during late 2007 and early 2008 members were belatedly informed of the firings, of the status of the 50th street building, and of the new by-laws, which members were required to agree with in order to renew membership.  Put all this together and it becomes apparent that in early 2008 half of the members of the church left in the wake of these unpleasant discoveries and not, as Driscoll told Justin Taylor in 2010 during his promotion of his Doctrine book, because doctrinal requirements were raised.  In later 2008 Mark Driscoll preached the Peasant Princess and happily reported record attendence levels. 

As has been demonstrated above Scott Thomas was involved in each step of the firing of Paul Petry.  He was part of the executive elder group that approved the firing to begin with.  He was appointed the head of the Elder Investigative Taskforce to establish whether or not Munson's accusations were credible. He was appointed to be the person to inform Petry and Meyer of the trial date.  He was in charge of the taskforce that found Jamie Munson's accusations against Petry and Meyer to be credible. He also informed a member on 10/12/2007 the conciliatory process for Petry and Meyer had been completed days before the trial in which he would submit that the charges Munson made against Petry were credible and thus grounds for termination.  Munson would then move from that to articulate that Mars Hill members would shun Paul Petry.

To say that Scott Thomas was involved in the firing of Paul Petry is to make a drastic understatement.  It would appear that if Driscoll and Munson were the primary force behind getting Meyer and Petry fired Scott Thomas was the apparatus through which every stage of the firing process was mediated and also justified.  Thomas was willing to tell members that a conciliatory process had been completed days after he notified the men their trials were moving forward.  And Thomas was willing to lie to members of Mars Hill using resources available through the Acts 29 Network, it seems. Making the Acts 29 Network complicit in deception exercised by executive elders of Mars Hill about where the conciliatory process of Petry and Meyer actually was hardly seems like a good thing, does it?

On March 19, 2012 Paul and Jonna Petry documented their story at Joyfule Exiles.  The weekend after this documentation goes up it gets announced that Mark Driscoll is stepping down from leading Acts 29 after taking the reins at the urging of Scott Thomas earlier this year.  Matt Chandler is announced as stepping into leadership of Acts 29.  Driscoll neglects to mention anything about Scott Thomas but Matt Chandler mentioned the following this week:

From Matt Chandler's recent letter:

Scott Thomas is taking this transition as a chance to pursue other opportunities he has before him and will not be making the move to Dallas. Scott and I are on very good terms and had dinner just this past weekend, where he informed me of his deep love for you and the network but felt like God has released him from leading Acts 29. He is excited about what God has next for him.

Scott Thomas' own letter is available here:

Scott Thomas told Chandler this last weekend he felt God has released him from leading Acts 29. 
Chandler has done us a great service in sharing that conversation.  Chandler has confirmed that Scott Thomas felt released from leading Acts 29 the week after Paul Petry documented Scott Thomas's systematic and comprehensive role in the firings of Petry and Meyer back in 2007.  It's remarkable and yet unsurprising Matt Chandler has shared Scott Thomas's perspective while Driscoll has avoided discussing Scott Thomas so far in this transition.  What is Scott Thomas' future in Mars Hill and Acts 29?

Well, first let's review yet again what Scott Thomas' role in the 2007 firings appears to have been given the evidence and documentation at hand. Driscoll and Munson were able to use Scott Thomas' role in the 2007 firings as a way to insulate themselves from appearing to be the primary agents in pushing for the firings of Paul Petry and Bent Meyer.  Munson made the accusations and Driscoll told Petry and Meyer they were fired after preaching about how there were some men, even in the leadership of Mars Hill, that if he weren't going to end up on CNN he'd go Old Testament on them.

Immediately after preaching the sermon, Mark Driscoll walked off the stage and entered the secret “mandatory” meeting where Bent Meyer and Paul were fired and threatened.

From there Scott Thomas was appointed the point man for the rest of the process until the firing of Petry and Meyer was made official, complete, and justified.  Now the week after Petry has gone on record with everything Scott Thomas feels released from leading Acts 29?  The network is moving from Seatttle to Texas and Thomas explained that he knew he wouldn't be at Acts 29 forever (well, yes, everyone dies). So it may well be that Thomas was going to go at some point anyway.  But feeling released the week after the Petrys released their story on record, a story that consists in no small part of emails sent by Scott Thomas, that's ... interesting.

Maybe now would be a good time to have a "where are they now?" overview of the men who were executive elders involved in the firings of 2007. Munson stepped down in 9/2011 and is working on a book about leadership (probably being ghostwritten for him given what a poor writer he is).  Munson's also tackling some business ideas.  Munson's already effectively out of any public scrutiny and was given a lavish and fond announcement by Driscoll.

Bubba Jennings is executive elder at Mars Hill Ballard and seems to have played no real role in the process at all except agreeing with what others told him was the case.  Moreover Driscoll has recently announced that thanks to the leadership of Clem and Jennings Mars Hill Ballard is financially stable enough that Driscoll can move live preaching to Bellevue. 

Now some financial history of Mars Hill is in order.  I didn't renew my membership back in late 2007 but I kept attending through late 2008.  I also stayed in touch with many members, some of whom attended Ballard.  Up until about 2010 Ballard and after 2007 when the Wedgewood campus was launched Ballard ended up habitually running budget shortfalls almost each year.  Concerns were expressed by leadership about giving.  Over at the Wedgewood/Lake City campus members were informed that member giving was good.  It was good enough members were subsidizing Ballard to help keep it from budget shortfalls. 

Around 2010 the Lake City campus was closed.  At the time members were advised that this was because money was tight and things couldn't be kept up.  That seemed plausible for a while.  But then the annual reports came out.  It turned out that the only campus with higher per capita giving was Mars Hill Eastside/Bellevue. Shutting down Lake City and moving its generous members (i.e. donor base for folks into non-profit fundraising) back to Ballard was a shrewd move.  It meant Ballard could regain financial solvency instead of having to decide whether or not to lay off counseling staff or buy red cameras.  With financial solvency back on the table for Ballard Driscoll could FINALLY start thinking in terms of moving live preaching to Bellevue where, as non-profit professionals around here will have learned, a lot of big donors and foundations are based. 

And on top of all this Clem and Jennings are understandably well-liked leaders at Mars Hill.  I've met both of them and they're nice guys.  In 2007 Clem's sermons were vastly superior to Driscoll's.  What began to take place since 2007 is that campus pastors gained personal connections to members that Driscoll has, apparently, sought to avoid.  It would not be prudent to get rid of Clem and even less prudent to do anything to Jennings.  Jennings is, for practical purposes, indispensible. 

So if Munson is doing his thing and outside the public eye; if Jennings is indispensible to keeping Ballard where it is so Driscoll can move live preaching to Bellevue; and if Driscoll is the star of the whole show; then who from the four executive elders who had Paul Petry and Bent Meyer fired in 2007 has been in a very high profile and publicly accessible setting at a ministry where he used its resources to field questions about the firings in 2007 with less than honest answers?  Who of the four men is in the most vulnerable position both for public enquiry about the 2007 firings and for damaging the reputation of both Acts 29 and Mars Hill in light of everything published at Joyful Exiles? Scott Thomas is the only one of these four men who would ever have to fall on his sword to preserve the brand integrity of both Mars Hill and Acts 29 in one stroke in the unforeseen event that everything connected to the 2007 firings went on record.  Given the mountain of documentary evidence provided by Paul Petry it's very hard to avoid considering this explanation.

Scott Thomas announces departure from Acts 29, Chandler steps up

I am thrilled that Acts 29 is moving to Dallas and will be led by my friend, Pastor Matt Chandler. I think it is good for the network that other leaders will add different perspectives, nuances, and emphases. It will only be a better network as healthy, reproducing churches will continue to plant churches for the glory of God.

I was honored to serve in Acts 29 as God allowed some amazing outcomes in spite of man’s feeble efforts. I never deserved the opportunity. I never deserved the love of so many planters. I never deserved the fruitfulness God enabled.

But I wasn’t planning to stay forever. I was anticipating a change for my ministry in the future, and the move to Dallas makes it a perfect time to allow new leadership to emerge. I am looking forward with great anticipation how God is going to shape the network and the planters to effectively pursue His mission with greater Spirit-empowerment and clearer gospel purposes.

[Updated March 28, 2012 at 3:30 pm]

I am deeply thankful for the generosity of Mars Hill Church, the unity of the Acts 29 Board, and for the friendship of Mark Driscoll. I am especially grateful for the hundreds of church planters in Acts 29 who I had the honor of pastoring and leading.

"There are few things that excite me like planting churches and seeing people come to know, love, and mature in Christ. So, this task allows me to serve in an area of my passion," he said. "We are in the process of transitioning Acts 29 from Seattle to Dallas. At present that involves gathering all of the information we can on Acts 29 's budget, processes, setting up Acts 29 legally in Texas, etc."

Pastor Scott Thomas, who was a board member and director of the group at one time, was not mentioned in Driscoll's letter, but Chandler wrote that Thomas was "taking this transition as a chance to pursue other opportunities he has before him and will not be making the move to Dallas."

"Scott and I are on very good terms and had dinner just this past weekend, where he informed me of his deep love for you and the network but felt like God has released him from leading Acts 29. He is excited about what God has next for him," Chandler wrote.

From Pastor Matt Chandler

I am greatly humbled by the opportunity to serve our great God and King, as well as our movement, in the capacity of president of Acts 29. Our meeting in Seattle couldn’t have been more Spirit-empowered and unifying than it was, and I flew home excited and invigorated by the opportunities that are before us. There are few things that excite me like planting churches and seeing people come to know, love, and mature in Christ. So, this task allows me to serve in an area of my passion. I want to update you on what’s in our immediate future.

We are in the process of transitioning Acts 29 from Seattle to Dallas. At present that involves gathering all of the information we can on Acts 29’s budget, processes, setting up Acts 29 legally in Texas, etc.

Tyler Powell is relocating to Dallas and will continue to handle assessments and his other duties. Tyler and his family are excited about the move and the direction of the network. I personally can’t wait to get him to Dallas. He is a godly, hard-working, Spirit-led man, and I’m grateful he’s coming to DFW.

Scott Thomas is taking this transition as a chance to pursue other opportunities he has before him and will not be making the move to Dallas. Scott and I are on very good terms and had dinner just this past weekend, where he informed me of his deep love for you and the network but felt like God has released him from leading Acts 29. He is excited about what God has next for him.

We are in the process of looking for a new executive director for A29 and plan on being meticulous, prayerful, and patient about getting the right guy. Once we’ve identified and hired the new director, we will finish out the national board and introduce the full team to the network.

I have asked all the network captains, as well as a few other men I love and respect in the network, to meet me in Dallas on May 14 and 15 to look closely at Acts 29 and pray about how we might get better at planting churches, coaching our pastors, communicating more effectively, etc. Please be praying for our time together.

We will report on any changes and our future hopes and plans at the pastors retreat in Newport in June. There is much to do between then and now, so I would deeply appreciate your continued prayers for not just the board and me but also for all involved.

Men, I really believe we have been positioned by God to be a part of a spectacular move of his Spirit in our day. It’s with great anticipation and holy fear that I step out to help lead us into what God would have for us. Please let me know how we can serve you.

Driscoll on his role in Acts 29 dates February 7, 2012 and March 28, 2012
from February 7, 2012

Here is what is changing.

My Investment

By God’s grace, I envision a lasting legacy for Acts 29 with thousands of churches planted across dozens of denominations reaching hundreds of thousands of people. With all that is going on in my life and ministry I do not want to drift away from A29 in any way, as you are a priority. I have cut back many of my duties and travels so I can focus on growing as a leader and help to grow Mars Hill, Resurgence, and A29. I want to give more time and energy to those entities, not less. I want those three entities to serve one another and benefit church planting and evangelism across A29. This will include Campaign resources from me to help other pastors through Mars Hill, helping interested A29 pastors publish blog posts and books through Resurgence, and also hosting training events for their leaders through Resurgence.
from March 28, 2012

Recently, I sensed that not all was well in Acts 29. As my concerns grew, I recently resumed the presidency of Acts 29 to work directly with our network captains, most influential pastors, and staff. It seemed to me that some of our relationships, board size and structure, communication, systems, and such were not as effective as we needed, which is to be expected to some degree in a large, complex, fast-growing entrepreneurial network such as ours.

Seeking wise counsel, I asked Darrin Patrick and Matt Chandler to fly to Seattle in order to meet with the executive elders of Mars Hill for a full day to decide a course of action. They graciously did so, and in our time together was a rich, true brotherhood, a renewed and deepened commitment to Acts 29, and a Spirit-lead unity.

Together, we decided, in light of all the complexity we’re facing, that the best thing for Acts 29 going forward would be for Matt Chandler to assume the presidency, move the network offices to Dallas, and select his Acts 29 staff.

In light of this, I want to sincerely thank the people of Mars Hill for investing millions of dollars over the years in Acts 29 and the people of The Village for being willing to house the Acts 29 headquarters.

As for myself, I want to humbly serve Jesus and his men in Acts 29 by doing whatever is best for them. Going forward, I will gladly remain on the Acts 29 Board supporting Matt, along with Darrin and whomever else Matt believes best fits the Board.
and, of course, from 3/28/2012

Acts 29 Network

As the cofounder of Acts 29, I’m honored to work with great men, amazed at what God is doing, and excited for what remains. But, after examining what is best for the men in our network in the next season, the board and I have, without reservation, decided to appoint Pastor Matt Chandler as our president and allow him to oversee the daily operation of Acts 29.

Pastor Matt is my brother and dear friend. It has been a complete joy to watch him become a world-class Bible teacher and leader. I will remain on the Acts 29 Board supporting him and serving the pastors and churches, and all of our local Mars Hill churches will continue to be a part of Acts 29. I want to thank the people of Mars Hill for pouring millions of dollars into Acts 29 over the years, and also thank the people of the Village Church and their elders for stepping up to lead the next season of Acts 29. Admittedly, I grieve this a bit but want to be humble, support the leadership of godly men, and do whatever is best for the churches in Acts 29. Ultimately, I want to love and serve by God’s grace.

HT Jim West: Adam, Satan and the King of Tyre book publication announcement

Adam, Satan, and the King of Tyre. The Interpretation of Ezekiel 28:11-19 in Late Antiquity”.
(Jewish and Christian Perspectives 20; Leiden: Brill, 2012).

Aw ... I'd love to read this one!  Too bad Brill is so hugely expensive and I'm not rolling in money!  Thanks to Jim West at Zwinglius Redivivus for highlighting this book.

I suppose I should keep tackling on Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, Evil: Inside Human Violence & Cruelty by Roy Baumeister, and Romans: The Righteousness of God by Adolf Schlatter, though.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Driscoll in 2012, pragmatism as principle

I was a founding member of the Gospel Coalition and to this day enjoy deep friendships and theological unity with the men. But I’m no longer going to be a council member, as I seek to focus my energies on a handful of things. If I’m honest, with the continued growth of all the ministries in which I’m involved, it’s not sustainable for me to keep up with all of them. So, this is a season of pruning for me.

For the record, no one has asked me to leave the Council, and I have no relational conflict with anyone and no disagreement theologically. The men remain friends who are welcome to speak into my life, and I’m transitioning for no other reason than I find myself at the end of my tether with time and energy.

I’m deeply thankful for the Council and have been deeply honored to be a part of it. Thankfully, Acts 29 fellow Board members Matt Chandler and Darrin Patrick are already on the Council to represent Acts 29, along with one of our network captains, Ray Ortlund.

Driscoll assures us all is well here.  All was not well at Acts29 when Scott Thomas, by Driscoll's account, asked Driscoll to reclaim presidency of Acts29 earlier this year.  Driscoll assured us he sensed all was not well this week.  Driscoll also got pushback from Don Carson over his cavalier handling of the entire Christian scene in England earlier this year. Driscoll assures us there's no relational conflict.  Well, this depends greatly on what is even meant by relationship.  Carson made a point of gently correcting Driscoll for being a pontificating ignorant tool about the Christian community in Great Britain earlier this year.

(3) As for young men with both courage and national reach: I suppose I'd start with Richard Cunningham, currently director of UCCF. He has preached fearlessly in most of the universities and colleges in the UK, and is training others to do so; he has been lampooned in the press, faced court cases over the UCCF stance on homosexuality, and attracted newspaper headlines. Then there's Vaughan Roberts, rector of St Ebbe's, Oxford, in constant demand for his Bible teaching around the country. I could name many more. In Scotland one thinks of men like Willie Philip (and he's not the only one). Similar names could be mentioned in Wales and Northern Ireland.


(5) But there is a bigger issue. We must not equate courage with success, or even youth with success. We must avoid ever leaving the impression that these equations are valid. I have spent too much time in places like Japan, or in parts of the Muslim world, where courage is not measured on the world stage, where a single convert is reckoned a mighty trophy of grace. I am grateful beyond words for the multiplication of churches in Acts 29, but I am no less grateful for Baptist ministers like my Dad, men who labored very hard and saw very little fruit for decades in French Canada, many of whom went to prison (their sentences totaled eight years between 1950 and 1952). I find no ground for concluding that the missionaries in Japan in the 20th century were less godly, less courageous, less faithful, than the missionaries in (what became) South Korea, with its congregations of tens of thousands. At the final Great Assize, God will take into account not only all that was and is, but also what might have been under different circumstances (Matt 11:20ff). Just as the widow who gave her mite may be reckoned to have given more than many multi-millionaires, so, I suspect, some ministers in Japan, or Yorkshire, will receive greater praise on that last day than those who served faithfully in a corner of the world where there was more fruit. Moreover, the measure of faithful service is sometimes explicitly tied in Scripture not to the quantity of fruit, measured in numbers, but to such virtues as self-control, measured by the use of one's tongue (James 3:1-6)

Driscoll also caused some trouble with people at the Gospel Coalition for his softball approach to T. D. Jakes.  There's a good chance nobody in Driscoll's self-described "tribes" has a church big enough to be seen as a competent authority on how to manage things.  Ed Young Jr. Perry Noble, and T. D. Jakes do have churches that big.  Inside ten years if this trajectory of growth keeps up Driscoll is going to tell us that after meeting Joel Osteen he's going to realize that Osteen is a brother in the Lord with much wisdom and a man from whom Christian leaders should humbly learn leadership principles.  It could happen.  After all, we've seen Driscoll share his lovely reflections on the Elephant Room 2 this year.

Having taken a few days to reflect, think, and pray, I believe I learned more about leadership during my 24 hours in Chicago for the Elephant Room than any other experience of my life. So, rather than speaking about the participants in public I will instead speak to them in private. But, I will share publicly my personal thoughts and reflections.

1. I appreciate godly friends who don’t want to defeat me publicly but rather help me privately.

Some years ago when I was leading our megachurch with no formal theological training and having never been a formal member of any church let alone a pastor in any church, I was in a scrum with the emergent church and was completely full of myself. Dr. Gerry Breshears, former president of the Evangelical Theological Society, put an arm around me, built a degree program for me, loved me, served me, and helped me grow theologically.

He remains to this day a dear friend loved by my family and me. I also appreciate that when many were taking shots, Dr. John Piper came and stood next to me put an arm around me and said he had hope for me and loved me.

People like this are a gift. I want to grow in becoming a person like that, and though I’ve got a long way to go, I want to not get more angry, narrow, hardened and tribal as I get older but rather grow in grace. I don’t want to be a lonely old man shooting everyone who does not fit on my island. I have close friendships, most of them private, with Christian leaders across the theological spectrum. We share a love for Jesus and a love for each other. Some consider me their theology buddy whom they can call on issues, and I deeply enjoy those friendships and want to serve in any way I can.

Is one of those friendships with Lief Moi?  Is one of those friendships with Mike Gunn?

2. I don’t want to just make a point—I want to make a difference by God’s grace.

At an event hosted by Perry Noble, Andy Stanley gave one of the most helpful and practical leadership talks I’ve ever heard. He said as a leader we have to decide if we mainly want to make a point or to make a difference.

If we want to make a point, we don’t need to pursue, know, or love someone. We can simply sit back, create a caricature of them, and shoot them. If we want to make a difference, we have to pursue them, get to know them, understand them, love them, and serve them.

Making a point is easy. Making a point will get you a rabid online fan base who love it when there’s someone else’s blood in the water. Making a difference is hard. Making a difference will get you attacked by a rabid online fan base who love it when your blood is in the water.

Or making a point at the expense of someone else and an entire nation will get you attacked online and corrected politely by D. A. Carson for being a tool willing to speak about things you don't fully understand.  Making a point thinking that's making a difference is normal operating procedure for Driscoll too much of the time.

5. I want to be helpful.

I don’t want to be controlled, and I don’t want to control people. I prefer to be influential by giving things away for people to wrestle with on their own. I especially like to help leaders with research, Bible software, etc. I think one of my spiritual gifts is to give, and I really enjoy serving other leaders, which in part explains why we give so much away, why we created Resurgence and Acts 29 for church planting, why I do free Leadership Coaching videos, and more.

I guess Andrew would feel really assured by that nice statement, wouldn't he? Pushing through bylaws in 2007 that preclude any appeals process for members under discipline and making sure members under discipline can't resign their membership doesn't smack of any desire to control people at all, does it? Giving yourself a lifelong membership in the executive elder board doesn't indicate any desire for control either.

6. Fear of man is deadly.

Proverbs 29:25 says that fear of man is a trap or a snare, depending upon your translation. Fear of man causes us to live for the approval of our tribe and to fear criticism or ostracism from our tribe. Fear of man is a form of idolatry—living to please someone other than Jesus Christ. One day I will die and give an account and it won't be to a mirror or a blogger.

We will all die and give an account, but it won’t be to a blogger or a mirror. Right now I’m working on my next book based on Ephesians, with the big idea of what it means to have our identity rooted “in Christ.” In God’s providence, this season of criticism has been met with a rich and rewarding extended time in God’s Word helping me to do what wise counsel and I believe is right in light of the gospel, regardless of the outcome. I’m more a prophet than a politician.

I'm afraid this stuff about not fearing men comes off as a phony lesson because in ten years Driscoll has never publicly let on that he's ever been truly afraid of anyone.  Angry enough to want to go Old Testament on some people but not afraid of them.

So we're not supposed to fear man or the approval of our tribe?  In other words Driscoll has called himself Reformed but he doesn't care what anyone in the Reformed world thinks as he pursues further growth.  If T. D. Jakes has a church the size that Driscoll wants then it doesn't matter what anyone at The Gospel Coalition or Acts29 think about cozying up with Jakes.  Driscoll's not afraid of them and  he can benefit from learning from Jakes or Noble.  Inside ten years Driscoll may yet have a wonderful epiphany that Joel Osteen is a godly man who has done a lot to reach people with news about Jesus and has been misrepresented and misunderstood.  After all, Driscoll had a smaller-scale variation of such an epiphany with Robert Schuller years ago.  Why couldn't he have that with Osteen in the next ten years?  If T. D. Jakes is all good then Paula White, one of his apprentices, should be a reasonable addition to the ever expanding tribes Driscoll considers on the same team.

By way of an aside about prophets who allegedly aren't politicians, when was the last time Driscoll read Deuteronomy?  When is the last time Driscoll read any narrative literature in the Bible, let alone the work of a major or minor prophet?  Prophets made social and political and legal commentary all the time.  That was, per Deuteronomy 16-18, their job. Most prophets made comments on political and social issues of their time, and were the ones who were consulted after the scriptures had been consulted and no one was sure how to handle a judicial or military policy situation (see Deuteronomy 16-18 and, subsequently, the entire Old Testament). Driscoll has simply not demonstrated any competence on basic concepts in biblical texts related to prophets or prophetic activity and it's apparent that no one near him has had an opportunity to correct his weakness on that subject.

Gospel Coalition participant Thabiti Anyabwile wrote this on February 6, 2012
3. Theological depth is critical. Honestly, I was surprised that so many could make such quick and bold pronouncements of Jakes’ orthodoxy after a short conversation before cameras. Jakes used the same spiel he’s always used. The entire discussion revealed not only Jakes’ poverty but the poverty of a lot of evangelical and Reformed Christianity. In the final analysis, we were given not only a view of Jakes’ modalism but also of our own slippery and sometimes lazy grasp of the Trinity and other doctrinal issues of importance. Let’s admit there’s truth beyond our knowledge here. But let’s also admit that too many of us have not really sought to grasp what may be known. Consequently, a lot of observers weren’t theologically prepared to discern truth from error, heat from light, wheat from chaff. For me, that was painfully clear in the celebratory declamations following the event. It saddened me and left me with a resolve to teach more systematic theology to my own church. It also left me more determined to be a watchman on the wall. How urgent it is for us “to watch our lives and doctrine closely.” I think I’ll read Spurgeon’s “The Minister’s Self-Watch” again today, just for my own soul’s sake.
7. Our cooperation needs to be principled rather than pragmatic. This has really come home to me in a powerful way. I realized something about myself. My cooperation in TGC has largely been pragmatic. I learn so much when I’m with the guys. I’m stimulated by the conversations we have. Many lessons and resources are shared with the church I pastor. In all these ways I benefit from TGC. Here’s the problem: I’ve been essentially selfish. I was in danger of only cooperating for as long as it benefited me. I was in danger of being “at the table” but not really contributing fully. That’s selfish and it’s sin. The divisions and threats to unity forced me to remember (realize?) that I need to remain involved in TGC because there are important principles at stake. There is the evangelistic signal effect of unity with other disciples who hold the same gospel (John 13:34-35). There is the need for unity beyond my local congregation. There is the necessity of defending and confirming the gospel (Phil. 1:7; Jude 3-4). There is the necessity of every part of the body contributing to the whole (1 Cor. 12; Eph. 4). I could go on. The point is simply this: One danger to our unity and our coalitions may be the tendency to think in pragmatic rather than principled terms about our cooperation. I need to be principled.

Driscoll has been demonstrating for years, whether by the recent public rehabilitation of Jakes or gaslighting Justin Brierley or, back in 2007, by the firings of Bent Meyer and Paul Petry on the eve of voting through bylaws that though he talks big about principle he ultimately reveals himself to be a pragmatist when there's something he wants. 

2012 has been hit after hit of Driscoll showing us in very concerete and well-articulated ways that he's a pragmatist who claims to be principled. He hasn't just shown us how he does this in the present but has been making money describing how he's done it in the past. He's about reverse-engineering his life and building a legacy and not limiting himself to the tribe he has found useful as a way to promote his brand. He has demonstrated that he's able to seek advice from a man like Ed Young Jr. and then turn around and make fun of him to make a point. He's demonstrated that he's willing to get along fine with T. D. Jakes as he pushes for the bigger numbers.

Driscoll's demonstrated that withdrawing from the Gospel Coalition is done amid the assurance there's no relational tension even though Carson publicly chided him about his remarks on British Christians; Carson and Keller were not overjoyed about Jakes being considered on the same team; and Anyabwile expressed his belief that the only basis for considering Jakes a fellow Christian would be based on a mercenary pragmatism and doctrinal laziness of a very high order. But, Driscoll assured Justin Taylor back in 2010, a thousand members left Mars Hill during early 2008 because they raised the bar on doctrine. Curiously building the member class into a church series is itself yet another form of pragmatism.  Why attempt to host new member classes and teach them doctrine if 1,000 members have recently left if you can just make it the sermon series they hear every week for months and then just ask them to sign on the dotted line?  Pragmatism.

But perhaps most of all he's shown us pragmatism here:

Real Marriage
Mark and Grace Driscoll
Thomas Nelson 2012

page 26

We didn't know how to talk through these extremely hard issues without hurting each other even more, so we didn't talk about them at all. I just got more bitter, and Grace just felt more condemned and broken, like a failure. Occasionally we'd meet a Christian pastor or counselor who was supposed to be an expert in these areas, but we never spoke with them in much detail, buecase in time we found out they either had marriages as bad as ours our they had been committing adultery and were disqualified for ministry. We felt very alone and stuck.

People have remarked on how Mark Driscoll said if he'd known about Grace's unfaithfulness early in the dating relationship he wouldn't have married her. People tend to focus on Mark and Grace.  That's understandable but I want to highlight something else.  Instead of frontloading Mark and Grace Driscoll's agency let's reverse thing and assume the divine command given to Mark Driscoll to marry Grace.

Before we do this, however, we need to consider the following: Driscoll famously expressed how he read a passage in 1 Timothy that said whoever would not provide for his own family had denied the faith and become worse than an unbeliever.  Grace was, for a short time, the breadwinner of the house and it took a toll on her health.  Driscoll realized he had denied the faith and become worse than an unbeliever, as he said a few times.  What was his solution?  Step down from ministry as unfit to serve because he had denied the faith?  Nope.  He "repented" in time to get a salaried position at Mars Hill and kept on preaching about marriage.  After all all those young people and young couples desperately needed his insight and wisdom. Driscoll was not so principled he wasn't going to soldier on.

Then Driscoll discovered, shortly before the birth of Ashley, that years and years before Grace had cheated on him this one time and wasn't honest about it.  That's unfortunate and Driscoll felt betrayed because if he'd known this about her he wouldn't have married her ... even though he's insisted for twenty years God told him to marry Grace.  Did God have to providentially prevent Grace from being honest long enough to ensure Driscoll would obey what Driscoll says was a direct command?  Yep, apparently so.  I invite you to think about that.  Driscoll has assured us God told him to marry Grace.  Driscoll also insisted that if he had known about Grace's unfaithfulness in their earliest dating days he wouldn't have married her despite the aforementioned divine command. 

What can account for these tensions except to propose that God providentially permitted Grace's deceit, whatever form it took, so that Driscoll would inevitably obey what he's continually told us was His command.  This is a small thing for the Lord to achieve since He authorized a lying spirit to speak to the prophets of Ahab. If a deception has to be the foundation from which a marriage can be safely built because God commanded that marriage of Mark Driscoll then so be it.  God permitted the deception of Esau by Jacob and the scheming of Rebekah to establish the lineage of Israel, after all.  Apparently Mark Driscoll providentially needed to be deceived in order to marry Grace to begin with and thus obey what he said was God's command to him, at least if we take at face value what Mark and Grace Driscoll shared in chapter 1 of Real Marriage

God providentially foresaw that Mark Driscoll needed to not know about Grace's one moment of infidelity early in their dating relationship when neither of them were Christians because God knew that if Mark Driscoll knew about that he would not obey God's command to him to marry Grace. If we begin not with Mark and Grace but with the will and sovereignty of God the Driscolls have told us a story where this is actually the only plausible interpretation given what Mark and Grace Driscoll have told us about themselves and their character from the early years of the marriage. Given the character of Mark and Grace Driscoll, by their own account, and given the certainty with which Mark Driscoll has repeated the divine command over the last twenty years do the Driscolls give us any other option but to interpret that their marriage needed to be predicated on Grace not being honest about the full nature of her sexual history given Mark Driscoll's character?  It's something to consider.

So, back to the excerpt proper from Real Marriage, Driscoll assured us that there were no problems in their marriage that disqualified him from ministry.  Yet Driscoll also recounts that when consulting alleged Christian counselors and experts on marriage they found that these people had marriages that were as bad as the Driscolls marriage.  Or the Driscolls found out about an affair or something that revealed these experts were unfit for ministry.  Let's back up a bit and look at that earlier claim. 

We're supposed to believe that the Driscolls did not have a marriage so bad that it disqualified Mark Driscoll from ministry on the one hand but we're also asked to believe that the Driscoll marriage was so bad that anyone who had a marriage as bad as the Driscoll marriage was not really fit for ministry or to help the Driscolls?  Why, then, had Mark Driscoll stayed in ministry and counseled so many couples about sex?  Well, it's certainly a pragmatic decision.  Driscoll had worked out what his destiny was and has told us it was a divinely given task.  As Driscoll mentioned in an Acts29 Q&A in early 2008 he had a history of his gifts outpacing his character and continually outpacing his character. By now, I suppose, many people agree with the gist of this self-appraisal.  He keeps demonstrating it to us year after year. 

Driscoll is excited that the nets are breaking and the boats are sinking because that means the growth is amazing.  I suppose transfer growth is pretty awesome if your goal is growth.  Assimilating more and more entities into Mars Hill no doubt is exciting and it must be exciting to now have Jakes at your disposal to learn how to take the numbers of your church to the next level.  If along the way a marriage had to be entered into on the basis of some deception of the man wouldn't have obeyed what he knew was God's direct command, well, that was just inevitable and necessary, wasn't it?  As Driscoll once recounted of himself and Grace, "We broke some rules but God is faithful." 

It would appear that when it comes to what rules are broken, how often, and why there could be a disturbingly consistent set of double standards and special pleading Mark Driscoll measures himself by.  His marriage wasn't bad enough to disqualify him from ministry but it was bad enough that no one who had a marriage as bad as he thought his was was qualified to help him sort his out.  What kind of man goes to expert after expert in counseling, marital counseling, and mental health and then concludes that every single one of them failed to be qualified to give him any practical insight?  Driscoll is apparently very sincere when he said "Had I known this about her I wouldn't have married her." 

A corresponding revelation, "Had I known Mark Driscoll was this kind of man ten years earlier I would never have considered him fit to be a pastor" is not a corresponding epiphany Driscoll apparently wants anyone to have. Our failures are grounds for us needing to shut up already while his failures are grounds to "repent" in time to sell a best-selling book telling us how he reverse-engineered his marriage into the best it's ever been.  He gets to talk about how Reformed he is while simultaneously opening up the door to learn from Jakes on how to run a church of 30,000.  He gets to pillory William Young over The Shack in 2008 and then not feel like pressing Jakes on the Trinity beyond a creed in 2012.  He gets to seek advice from Ed Young Jr. in 2007 and tell his church about it and then in 2011 make fun of Ed Young Jr. for overdoing sex in spite of Driscoll's own 2007 Scotland sermon. 

There seems to be a principle at work in all this but that principle seems to be pragmatism. If a marriage that doesn't disqualify Mark Driscoll from ministry disqualifies every single Christian counselor and marriage therapist from speaking into his marriage if they have a marrage as bad as his was there are principles there, I guess, but it looks suspiciously like the principles of special pleading and double standards. It is disappointing to see.

Phoenix Preacher: Matt Chandler to take over Acts29
Recently, I sensed that not all was well in Acts 29. As my concerns grew, I recently resumed the presidency of Acts 29 to work directly with our network captains, most influential pastors, and staff. It seemed to me that some of our relationships, board size and structure, communication, systems, and such were not as effective as we needed, which is to be expected to some degree in a large, complex, fast-growing entrepreneurial network such as ours.

... Together, we decided, in light of all the complexity we’re facing, that the best thing for Acts 29 going forward would be for Matt Chandler to assume the presidency, move the network offices to Dallas, and select his Acts 29 staff.

From Mark Driscoll's announcement that he's no longer president of Acts29

On February 6, 2012 Driscoll explained that Scott Thomas urged him to resume presidency of Acts29

Dear Acts 29 Members,

This letter is intended to provide some clarity about where we are, and Lord willing, where we are going. I hope you find it encouraging, compelling, and unifying.

Under the leadership of Pastor Scott Thomas we just completed our most amazing year of God’s grace yet. In the US alone we are now over 400 churches! This is a wonderful gift of God. I want to sincerely and personally thank Pastor Scott for juggling so many duties so graciously.
With Pastor Scott’s encouragement and the board approval, this means I am resuming the presidency of Acts 29. I want to invest every resource and relationship at my disposal to serve our church planters. Consider this primarily the “Prophet” board. This board is not closed and other men may join it in years to come. This board will be meeting soon in California, long before our annual retreat, so that we have a clear battle plan for the next season of Acts 29.

Regarding Scott Thomas:

Scott Thomas is taking this transition as a chance to pursue other opportunities he has before him and will not be making the move to Dallas. Scott and I are on very good terms and had dinner just this past weekend, where he informed me of his deep love for you and the network but felt like God has released him from leading Acts 29. He is excited about what God has next for him.

from Matt Chandler's letter regarding leadership changes, posted at Phoenix Preacher

As longtime readers of this blog (all twenty of them?) may recall, I've made no secret that I think Mars Hill has had a persistent problem of committing to meteoric growth that inevitably exceeds the competence of its infrastructure and communication resources.  I can actually take the recent announcement partly seriously.  I have had a mainly positive impression of Chandler so far and Driscoll's attentions were probably already so divided that his role as president was probably pro forma and vistion casting. To put it the other way, I'm not aware there's anything Driscoll or Thomas could do that Chandler couldn't do equally well and it may be this stuff has glacially been taking place.

It might also be a very beneficial thing for men so connected to Mars Hill to pull back a teensy bit from Acts29.  Given the imcompetence with which Mars Hill has seemed to handle some controversy closer to home withdrawing to get things organized locally is probably what they badly need.  We were assured a month ago that the church was reviewing its disciplinary process.

Still ... Scott Thomas told Matt Chandler he felt like God has released him from leading Acts29 just this last weekend?  That would be, what, this last March 24th weekend?  The weekend after Paul Petry publicly documented his firing at the hands of the Mars Hill executive elders (including Scott Thomas) in 2007 over here?:

Fascinating.  You know Driscoll sorta bores me right now.  He's recycling the same old marriage shtick he's had for a decade.  Now guys like Scott Thomas and James Noriega and Jamie Munson, on the other hand, they are more interesting lately.  You see Mars Hill isn't just about Mark Driscoll, after all.  There are a lot of other people who have played significant roles in the history of the church.  As Driscoll put it,

Celebrate the fact that Pastor Jamie is Mars Hill 1.0. He is exactly why Mars Hill exists. A lost young person meets Jesus and grows to be a godly leader, spouse, and parent who loves and leads well by the grace of God with humility and passion. He has given us every day of his life since he was 19 years of age. Mars Hill does not exist as a church of more than maybe a few hundred without God’s grace through Pastor Jamie. If a book were written about what God is doing among us, at least one whole chapter would be devoted to telling the story of God’s grace in Pastor Jamie’s life.

Write the book if you will but if you forget the part where Munson said smarmily in 2002, "There are righteous poor in America, I just don't think there are very many of them." people won't know how much Munson has grown in the last ten years.  That was progress from the week before when Munson said, flatly, there were no righteous poor in America.  I wondered if Mike Gunn or someone else talked to Munson privately about that remark.

Driscoll is right, though.  Munson is a must for anyone attempting to understand and appreciate the history of Mars Hill. If Mars Hill does not exist as a church of more than maybe a few hundred people without God's grace through Pastor Jamie then clearly this guy played a role that, arguably, was at least as significant as that of Driscoll himself, right? Munson's got a book on leadership in the works

I'm also working on writing a leadership book.

So clearly Munson is confident enough in his leadership skills to feel he's at a place to write a book.  Right now I look forward to a Munson book on leadership about as much as I look forward to a Driscoll book on marriage.   Driscoll proudly informed the world last year that Munson stepped down and was above reproach. 

It remains to be seen in light of the documents published at Joyful Exiles whether or not everyone will look at Munson's conduct and agree with Driscoll that it was above reproach. Munson, of course, had a substantial role as the one who leveled accusations against Petry and Meyer.  Was deciding that the firing of Petry and Meyer was necessary and inevitable above reproach?  Was voting through a set of bylaws with no appeals process for disciplined members above reproach?

The meta-irony amidst all this bustle in 2012 is the following--right now Mars Hill is desperately attempting damage control on the scandal that erupted around its approach to church discipline with Andrew. Mars Hill is feverishly trying to call for reconciliation in private and avoid further public discussion of the problem.  Yet Mars Hill leadership planted the seed of this problem back in 2007 when its executive leadership (spearheaded by Driscoll and Munson) decided to fire Paul Petry rather than heed his advice about the by-laws including (among many other things) an appeals process for members under discipline.  They not only fired him, they required that church members shun him. Did they incorporate an appeals process into the bylaws?  No, of course not.

After all the bloated bloviation from the executive elders about how sinfully sinful Paul Petry was for objecting to the bylaws; and how grieved they were that Petry wouldn't repent back in 2007; 2012 comes along and Andrewgate happened.  Petry, seeing that the same problems are rampant in Mars Hill nearly five years after he got fired, publicly documents what happened to him online and the roles Mark Driscoll and Scott Thomas played in that.  Mere days after that happens Scott Thomas tells Matt Chandler he feels the Lord has released him from leading Acts29.  Mark Driscoll announced this week that with all the complexities facing them at Acts29 now is the perfect time to step down as president a mere two months into the job that he told us Scott Thomas asked him to take up again back on February 6.

Ah, but of course.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Link: Matt Redmond: Why Abuse of Authority at Mars Hill matters

idolatry as the veneration of a self-interested ideal

The individual is godless if he fabricates religion in his own interest, for the sake of his own happiness. God must be worshipped for the sake of God.

... Paul emphasizes the absurdity of idolatry. It is absurd to put the individual, under the law of death, in the place of God, because in doing so it is not even the human and the animal that are worshipped, but only their likeness. This likeness is no reproduction of living beings at all, it is merely able to copy the outline of the form, the lines shaping their figure.

Romans: The Righteousness of God
Adolf Schlatter, Hendrickson Publisers (c) 1995
page 40

... it is a lie arising from selfish covetousness, if the individual makes his image to be God's image and his lust to be God's will.

page 43 (ibid)

Though the fig tree does not bud
   and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
   and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
   and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
   I will be joyful in God my Savior.

from Habakkuk 3

It sticks with me that, as Schlatter puts it, it is from the selfish covetousness of the individual that he makes God in his own image and makes his lust God's will. He fabricates a religion in his own interest and for the end of his own happiness.  He ends up worshipping not even the created things but merely the outline of their likeness.  If we were to put this scandal in religious terms we could say that the idolator does not have true regard for the Church but for his idea of what the Church ought to be.  He does not idolize a real marriage if he idolizes marriage at all, but the template from which he thinks his marriage should be modeled.  If he idolizes offspring he may not idolize his flesh and blood offspring whose diapers he must change year after year as what he believes, in anticipation, his offspring will be for him.  He idolizes not his real spouse but the ideal she will accomplish for him. 

In the past I have written about how the trouble with idolatry is that idolatry promises us immediate results where as in Christ we are admonished to wait patiently for the Lord.  It is not yet seen what we shall be through the goodness of Christ and so we are urged to wait.  Idols promise something to us swiftly and readily. We are all too often tempted to accept the offer but what is offered by the idol is an ideal that cannot even be realized in the here and now.  The idol is the ideal of something that ultimately cannot exist in this life, anywhere. 

The idol is measured by our sacrifices and though it is axiomatic that the idolator sacrifices himself or herself to the object (or concept) of veneration there is something else we are apt to forget in our age in which we imagine we are beyond the petty and not-so-petty cruelties of earlier epochs.  Worship involves sacrifice and the sacrifice frequently takes the form not only of a "what" but a "who". It's easy to talk about the "what" of your time or your money or your emotions or your devotion you sacrifice in the pursuit of this or that idol. 

Yes, yes, all those things are involved but let's not forget that a sacrifice to an idol will often also involve a "who", a "who" that is generally not us.  In such sacrificial veneration of an idol the person who is sacrificed to the idol is considered an offering that is both inevitable and necessary.  There's nothing else for it, the god/s must be appeased and whomever has to be sacrificed along the way just needs to accept fate already.  There's no one else who happens to be fit for such sacrifice and if a person offered on the altar to this god objects then so much the worse for their failures of piety. 

It can be easy to say that the obvious sins Christians fret about are ones in which sacrifices are required (and we know they are).  But those are not the only idols to which humans are sacrificed.  It's easy to speak in the abstract about how religious the Pharisees were and how terrible religion is while pumping for a religious institution.  Jesus warned the disciples that there would come a time when those who killed them would be sure they were doing God Himself a favor. Better that one man should die than the whole nation perish.  Better to sacrifice the life of that one man who is a trouble-maker anyway and is going to ruin everything for God's divinely appointed people than to let him promote these ideas that destroy everything the leaders have worked so hard for.  That doesn't sound too familiar does it?  Nah, no ostensibly Christian churches really make human sacrifices these days to further or protect their legacies.

When Abraham prepared his son for sacrifice he said God would provide the sacrifice.  And God did.  In one of Wilfred Owen's more memorable poems he subverts what we know about the story by showing us an Abraham who chose to sacrifice Isaac anyway and finds in that a metaphor for how the nations of Europe chose to massacre each other in a battle to see who would have more rights to rule over non-Europeans. 

The Parable of the Young Man and the Old

So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
And took the fire with him, and a knife.
And as they sojourned, both of them together,
Isaac the first-born spake, and said, My Father,
Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
But where the lamb for this burnt-offering?
Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps,
And builded parapets the trenches there,
And stretched forth the knife to slay his son.
When lo! an angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
Neither do anything to him. Behold,
A ram, caught in a thicket by its horns;
Offer the Ram of Pride instead of him.
But the old man would not so, but slew his son,
And half the seed of Europe, one by one.

There are people who will say the nice, Christian thing and talk about how Christ is our atoning sacrifice.  This won't necessarily stop the same people from choosing to sacrifice someone for the sake of the thing they must have. If you're going to consider the sin beneath the sin the way some Christians do; if you're going to entertain the possibility that you have an idol and some unconfessed sin in your life; then don't just consider the sacrifice of "what", consider the sacrifice of "who". 

In Jesus' instruction about proper worship your gift can wait at the altar while you reconcile with your brother.  Being reconciled to your brother who has a grievance against is more important than the piety of your sacrifice. In your own attempt to get what you want your idol will tell you that you can't afford to delay making your sacrifice. You can't just leave your gift at the altar.  It must be given!  If the making of the sacrifice has to be your brother's expense and heedless of the grievance he has against you then, well, so be it. Maybe you overdid things, you're not perfect, but you've got to offer that sacrifice anyway. It might even be yourself that's on the altar and you may consider it inevitable and necessary. That doesn't mean it is.

If religious institutions can become idols it is the reputation, the likeness of the institution, to which and for which sacrifices must be made.  Here Paul, as Schlatter has observed, zeroes in on the folly of idolatry.  The sacrifices are made not to the things themselves but the outlines of their form, the blueprints upon which the thing might hypothetically be made.  Money must be given, people must be forsaken. Give til it hurts.  Of course it is good to give and to be generous and I would encourage people to give to causes they believe in.  But giving to the ideal, the idea of the thing you're giving to is not the same as what you give to. 

One of the tragedies of history was that Schlatter condoned National Socialism.  This bitterly disappointed Bonhoeffer and yet Bonhoeffer was disappointed because he respected Schlatter's insight.  It made Schlatter's inability to grasp the evil lurking within National Socialism all the more astonishing for Schlatter's ability to write "We do not remove our share of evil by condemning evil in others." But as Schlatter himself observed (page 47), "But knowledge does not liberate him from practicing sin. Knowledge alone does not save him; on the contrary it renders him guilty, for his knowledge does not prevent him from practicing that which he condemns ... ." It is one of terrible plights of the human condition that having condemned something in others we turn out to be guilty of it ourselves. We may yet muster the moral outrage to condemn the debtor of a large sum in spite of our continent of debt.

Yet many who would consider that inexcusable now will look the other way when religious leaders (or secular leaders) permit sacrifices of living people to be made for the sake of causes they decide are worth that sacrifice.  If we fail to appreciate our own ability to fall prey to this tempation then we will stumble over the revolutionary instruction in Paul's letter--the revolution is not necessarily just who Christ is but that the sacrifice we offer is ourselves and not animals, ourselves and not others. 

We are admonished to consider others as better than ourselves and there is no need to sacrifice others for the sake of making an offering to the mere likeness of whatever it is we claim shall make us truly and fully human.  We do not have to demand of others that they sacrifice things in order to demonstrate to us their full humanity.  Because identify was found in Christ in a way that transcended family Paul could legitimately instruct regard and respect among family members while also demonstrating that family was not the ultimate good.  Paul could instruct the married to respect and cherish each other while also demonstrating that the unmarried were not less human for having no earthly "legacy" to defend.  With the world passing away such legacies will all end and at the end of life so ends the marriage. Christ Himself became the sacrifice for us so that we no longer need to sacrifice to idols which are the mere likeness of created things and be enslaved to that.

The most pernicious form of deceit within us is if we fashion God into our own image and make our own desires to be the will of God for us.  The most dangerous idols are the things we claim are endorsed by Christ Himself. As Schlatter put it, the great deceit is when we remake God in our image and consider our lusts to be His will. In the Old Testament lust was associated with the adultery of idolatry, not merely just adultery or sexual sin.  Lust is that thing through which you are tempted to make someone else the sacrifice rather than yourself. Lusting after other gods is a common warning in the Old Testament.

If you wonder if you struggle with an idol in your life think about this, is there something for which you are willing to sacrifice another person for?  Is there an idea, a someone, a something, the mere idea of which spurs you to cast off obstacles? Well, you may feel heavy-hearted about it, you may feel it is a sad occasion but you feel more strongly than any regret or remorse that the sacrifice must be made and if that sacrifice involves the life and livelihood of someone then that's sad but necessary and inevitable for what you want.  Stop and ask yourself why and for what this sacrifice of a person must be made and you may be on to what your idol is. 

If the crux of Paul's ethical instruction in Romans is to tell them they must offer themselves up as living sacrifices perhaps a contrast in worship we overlook in Paul's instruction is an awareness that in idolatry people very often offer up something or someone else as that sacrifice. To get all christus exemplar here Christ offered Himself as the sacrifice and that is the model we are enjoined to follow.  As Christ offered Himself as a living sacrifice so should we and if there is any place in our lives where we don't do this, well, that might be where we learn that we need to stop sacrificing others to the gods we have. 

I'm not even going to pretend I have any clear idea how that works at a practical level.  This is more a rumination on Schlatter's rumination on the nature of idolatry as described by Paul.  I'm not a preacher so there's no applicatory section here.