Thursday, October 09, 2014

Driscoll using the pulpit to indirectly address "this season" part 1: Driscoll on failure in Acts 6

This quote is probably not going to be too difficult to source for people keeping track of things.
From a video in the summer of 2014 featuring Mark Driscoll:

That being said as well, the reason I haven’t addressed this season directly from the pulpit is that the pulpit is sacred and it belongs to the Lord Jesus. … Man the last thing I want to do is turn Sundays into talking about me instead of Jesus, or pointing to me instead of Jesus, ...

And yet in two sermons from May 2014 it's arguable that his preaching on texts from Acts 6 are impossible to understand as interpretations of the biblical text that aren't primarily filtered through the prism of Mark Driscoll's own understanding of his being the center of controversy associated with Mars Hill and his own activity.

Here are a few selections from the Acts series.  While Throckmorton has discussed the sermon as featuring six minutes of "maybe Jesus made mistakes" this sermon is noteworthy for how thoroughly it imposes ideas on to the text of Acts 6 rather than reading Acts 6 as a narrative with its own aims.
Pastor Mark Driscoll
Acts 6:1–7
May 18, 2014

Number two, as a church is growing, though Jesus is happy, not everybody’s happy because there is a—what is there? Here’s another word. There’s a “complaint.” “We don’t like it. We don’t like it. “There’s something wrong. “I used to be able to park my camel right out front. Now, ugh, it’s so far away. I had a seat up front and somebody took my seat. It was terrible, terrible. The coffee’s terrible. It’s just terrible. It’s all diluted. There’s so many people now, you don’t even get the good coffee. This church has changed. Things are different. It’s not like it used to be.” There are complaints. “Nobody here loves me. I filled out a visitor card and nobody came to see me despite my welcoming disposition.”

So not everybody’s happy because as things grow, things change, and not everybody likes change.
The way Driscoll trivializes the nature of complaint in general is self-evident, and that he makes this point about complaint when the text of Acts 6 refers to a complaint rising up about an injustice has been fodder for blogging here before.  Over here.  The problem with presenting the failure to care for all widows in an equally equitable manner as though it were a mistake and not also a sin is that it requires a level of biblical illiteracy that won't hold up for anyone who takes the biblical texts seriously.  There's a second reason presenting the failure to care for Hellenistic widows as a "mistake" and not also a "sin", the simple detail that Acts says the apostles took the problem seriously enough to address it to begin with.  I.e. "it's in the Bible".  Driscoll gets that much, as shown below:
And number four, sometimes complaints against the church go—this is not my favorite part of the story—public, OK? A complaint arose. What it means is, a couple people are upset, and then more people got involved, and then it sort of is like a brush fire that keeps burning. Next thing you know, it’s kind of a thing, and it’s the Hellenists versus the Hebrews on the nightly news. It’s very serious, and it arose. It became public. How do we know it became public? It’s in the Bible.

But the only way this kind of sermonizing gloss on Acts 6 makes sense is not as an expository exegetical survey of what Acts 6 was talking about.  Rather, the gloss makes sense if Mark Driscoll is interpreted as indirectly framing his whole approach to Acts 6 as narrative as a sideways explanation of the "season" at Mars Hill in 2014.

One hardly needs to look very far for cases in point where what is supposedly a sermon bout Acts 6 frequently shifts into a running commentary on the life and times of Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill.
I’ve seen this in Mars Hill. When we first started, man, I was jack of all trades, master of none. If you called the church, it actually was my home phone number and I would answer it, OK? It’s not like that today, just so you know, OK? If you showed up to church early, you would notice me and a guy who was really faithful unloading my old Toyota pickup truck and all of our sound equipment.

Right, because Mark Driscoll wanted to avoid directly addressing the season of Mars Hill troubles from the pulpit.  Why worry about that when whole sermons on biblical texts can be understood as editorial glosses on the life and times of Mark Driscoll as a church leader?

And, sure enough, ever since Janet Mefferd's on-air confrontation, it seems Driscoll has suddenly discovered that not all mistakes are sins, as though that had anything particularly to do with Acts 6 and a discussion of the neglect of non-Jewish widows.

Number four, there’s a difference between a sin and a mistake, and it’s really important that I emphasize this. I don’t think, historically, I’ve emphasized this enough in my teaching, so let me clarify it today. So the situation here is this: they’re trying to help, love, serve, and care for widows. Now, their critics would look and say, “They don’t care about people.” They do, they’re trying to help. And some would look and say, “They’re in sin. They’re not loving and caring for people. They’re in sin.”

Here’s my question. They are in failure, but there are two kinds of failure. Some failure’s a sin. Other failure’s a mistake. Do you get the difference? Their failure, is it a sin or is it a mistake? OK, think about it for a minute [humming Jeopardy theme song] OK, what do you think it is now? Ready for your answer? How many of you think they’re in sin and they need to repent? How many of you think they made a mistake, they’ve got to learn and grow from it, and fix it?

There’s a difference, right? I don’t think they’re in sin. It’s not that they don’t love people. It’s not that they’re trying to help. It’s not that they have bad doctrine, bad character. It’s not that they’re not trying or working hard. They just stink at it. Any of you had anything like that? They need to improve on it. They need to learn and grow in it.

Friends, this is where we need to give grace to one another. And not every issue is, sin, repent, sin, repent. Yeah, we hit sin and repent a lot. Sometimes it’s mistake, learning, mistake, learning, and we give grace to one another. They made a mistake, and they need to learn from it. You make mistakes; you need to learn from it. We make mistakes; we need to learn from them. I make mistakes; I need to learn from them.

Humming the "Jeopardy" theme just spells out how rhetorical the question was intended to be at the outset.  A reasonable reading of Acts 6 can suggest that it was both a sin and a mistake to neglect one set of widows while caring for another set of widows.  That Driscoll introduces a false dichotomy into his interpretation and application of the text doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the "season" but it's not a responsible way of addressing what's in the text.  But in the wake of Driscoll's confrontation with Mefferd the sin/mistake polarity of mutual exclusion only makes sense appearing in a Driscoll sermon in this "season" if it is about the "season".

... Every leader fails at something. And your failure doesn’t need to be the end of you; it could be the beginning of your learning. ...

Well that seems pretty directly addressing the "season", doesn't it?

And what's up with this?

Number four, they then lay hands on them, which is delegating authority. What happens in the Bible is that when a leader chooses another leader and it’s confirmed by the Holy Spirit and the rest of the team, then they lay hands on that person and they commission them into ministry, and here’s what it’s showing. We believe that God has put his hand on them, proverbially speaking, and therefore we’re going to put our hand on them, physically speaking. And as they go out to do their ministry, they’re doing it under our authority. Under our authority.

So the apostles are saying, “We’re not going to be there like, you know, the chef, chopping up the vegetables, and like the waiter, serving the meal. We’re going to send these people, but they come on our behalf. They represent us. So if you don’t like the meal, you don’t need to talk to us, you need to talk to them. If you don’t think that things are run well, you don’t need to talk to us, you need to talk to them because they represent us.”

Let me ask you this: Do you think anybody was upset that they didn’t get Peter to bring them their soup anymore, that John couldn’t come sit at their table for a few minutes and check in on them? Do you think that displacement felt like a loss for some people? “Who are you?” “Well, I’m Stephen.” “I don’t know you. Where’s Peter?” “Peter’s not here anymore.” “Oh, he’s too big for us. Yeah, he’s moved on. “Uppity, uppity, uppity. Got a book deal, I heard. He thinks he’s writing the Bible,” right, OK? Right?

Are they being proud or humble, the leaders? The people might think, “They’re proud. They don’t love people. Certain things are beneath them.” This would have went out on Twitter, this statement, “It is not right for us to serve tables.” “Oh, too good for that, huh?”
Setting aside the problem that the apostles asked the people to appoint men for the help of widows (the significance of which was already discussed here) what's with the specifics?  Delegated authority?  By whom, again?  It was the people and the apostles laid hands on those appointed by the people, not the apostles laying hands on men appointed by the apostles who already knew better than the people who was suitable for the task. 

But, more to the point, "Got a book deal, I heard."  "Oh, he's too big for us".  This has nothing at all to do with anything in Acts 6.  There's no basis for it even as speculation but as an indirect editorial ramble on the part of Mark Driscoll about complaints that may have been heard or heard about circa 2011-2014 all these would-be witty asides can make some sense.

For a man who claimed he didn't want to address the season directly from the pulpit he seems to have managed to preach at least one sermon about a biblical text in the 2014 Acts series in which it's virtually impossible to understand his interpretation and application of Acts 6 as anything BUT a ramble about the season at Mars Hill.

This was also not even the only sermon in which that vibe emerged.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

"Jesus is happy"?