Sunday, January 11, 2015

a few links to Practical Theology for Women, Brad Sargent, and Ribbon Farm on a culture of contempt and crash-only thinking in organizational systems
... The thing about the interplay of biological issues and sin issues is that when the biological issues are addressed, much of the sin issues are immediately diffused. It's like the child having a screaming temper tantrum because they are exhausted after a long day of activities. Get the kid a nap, and then addressing the tantrum becomes a lot more effective. When my blood sugar stabilized after the angry conversation with my friend, no one needed to lecture me on how I had treated her. And my temptation to anger with her was immediately removed. Dealing with the biological greatly aided the spiritual.

In church settings where, to put it as bluntly as some might put it, the commended books may be Blame it on the Brain? there's an approach to counseling that views the social and medical sciences with a skepticism that would not be grounded in the theological concept of "common grace".  This may in the long run turn out to have been a difference between some of the actually Reformed on the one hand and the new Calvinists or neo-Reformed on the other. 

But one of the things that a very, very close reading of a new Calvinist's ideas on counseling and spiritual warfare could yield is a belief that the individual self is thoroughly integrated across the premises of mind, body and spirit.  So if that was the case in Mark Driscoll's approach ...

... and he was clear about this in the Q&A of the session ... then what else may have been going on?  After all, Mars Hill has been formally dissolved even if it doesn't expire formally until the end of this year.  Wendy Alsup, over at Practical Theology for Women sums up something she saw in the following way:
I have had the chance to watch people privately and publicly despise rebuke, and ultimately again and again their ministries were destroyed by their pride. They valued teachability in others, but only if they were the teachers. The teacher couldn't be taught, and everything unraveled in the aftermath. This was certainly the case at Mars Hill, and now there is no Mars Hill. I find that reality sobering. Having been a part of the church at its highest point, I soberly reflect on its downfall, God removing the lampstand if you will, and I note again and again the inability of leadership to hear and accept reprimand and rebuke at key moments in its past.

I am nearing the finish line to my Mars Hill Case Study – which turned out to be a 10-month research project totaling over 50,000 words. The few remaining posts deal primarily with my conclusions, with some last recommendations mixed in here and there. This particular article focuses in on what I have distilled from considering some of Mark Driscoll’s toxic behavior patterns and the underlying characteristics that disqualify him from positions where he is given authority over people and/or is commended as being a public role model. (For extensive information on those personal issues, see the Case Study page 05 Leadership Problems.) I have not seen evidence of repentance necessary to even consider suggesting he should be restored to leadership. Rather, there is a continuing evidence stream of his contempt.

To the extent that Driscoll displayed contempt toward others that would be replicated in the leaders he began to surround himself with, and this could be particularly likely to be a risk in the leaders whom he recruited or, even further, had won to his brand of Christianity to begin with.  As we saw last year with the short-lived participation of Paul Tripp on Mars Hill's Board of Advisors and Accountability, someone who had plenty of ministry and professional experience outside of Mars Hill could see what was afoot and eventually extricate themselves.  But what about someone like Jamie Munson who became a Christian through Driscoll's preaching/  What about Tim Smith, whose account of himself was he didn't really know how to be a husband until coming to Mars HIll and learning from the example of the Driscolls and others?  What about AJ Hamilton, who never had any ministerial experience or competence of any demonstrable kind who ended up an elder at Mars Hill anyway?  These are guys whose entire time in ministry seems to have owed almost entirely to Mark Driscoll.  If Driscoll has had a problem with contempt toward others why wouldn't his disciples?  It's at least something to consider.

As we've observed here at this blog, in early 2008 Driscoll was saying that the thought that Mark Driscoll didn't care about the rank and file was "a demonic lie" in spite of the fact that he had also said in later 2008 "You either get on the bus or get run over by the bus. Those are the two options, but the bus ain't gonna stop."

It can seem as though on the one hand Mark Driscoll was just aware enough that his comments could be construed as contemptuous not just toward rank and file members but even to fellow leaders in the church in the wake of his "Mars Hill bus" quip in late 2007 that by early 2008 he felt obliged to both literally and figuratively demonize any ideas of doubt about the executive leadership in general and himself in particular

Driscoll could quip that there was a pile of dead bodies behind the Mars Hill bus in late 2007 and then turn around in early 2008 and tell people that any notion that the executive elders or Mark himself didn't particularly care about the regular members of Mars Hill or other leaders was a demonic lie.  In another peculiar irony, the men whom Driscoll had fired and removed from eldership were the men he'd recruited into ministry in the first place and to whom he'd designated taking over his counseling load.  Even if it turned out there were reasons to fire Petry and Meyer that would ultimately boomerang back into a question about Mark Driscoll's goodwill, competence, and basic fitness for ministry, to say nothing of any questions about whether he had divinely granted super powers of discernment.  In other words, if Brad's case that Driscoll's approach was characterized by contempt why wouldn't that ethos of contempt have rubbed off on everyone else doing "biblical counseling" within Mars Hill?  This isn't to suggest it necessarily did, just that one of the recurring motifs in the history of what was once Mars Hill was that people inside warned of the disastrous long-term consequences of some of the roads Mars Hill was choosing to take.

The leaders of Mars Hill ultimately didn't listen.  It could be they even viewed critique and dissent with contempt. 

It might be a bit tangential but perhaps we can cross reference to something from Ribbon Farm about crash-only thinking.  It might be pertinent to the rise and fall of Mars Hill.

The software in your head — all that neural code that drives all your thinking and habits — is largely crash-only. You can start and stop relatively simple behaviors in non-crash-only ways (like closing your eyes, starting and stopping coarse bodily movements like walking), but the rest is crash-only.
Management models embodied by an organization — all those organizational habits, incentive structures and CEO-message-reinforcement — is largely crash-only.  You can change how you order paper clips and your lunch buffet vendor in a graceful non-crash ways, but the rest is crash-only.
Crash-only means there is no such thing as gracefully starting and stopping non-trivial parts of your life or business.  You have to crash what you’re doing and recover in a more promising direction. The fact that it is a crash means that, unlike normal decisions, there is a sharply increased probability of not coming out the other end.
A board of directors cannot just swap out a CEO. They can only crash the entire loyal part of the executive team, put in a lame-duck temp, and have the new CEO rebuild via some delicate surgery that will involve tests of loyalty, new people and persuasion of indispensable but hostile people. [emphasis added]

By now it has been obvious that Mars Hill was from start to finish a crash-only system like every other human social system.  Obvious though it may be, Brad Sargent's observation about Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill having a culture of contempt needs to get some more attention.

Whether it was the "pile of dead bodies behind the Mars Hill bus" presentation or the "I think one of the great myths that has come about (it's a demonic lie) is that myself, the executive elders, the senior leaders we don't care about people." speeches what needs to be stressed is that both of those presentations were given by Mark Driscoll to leader-only audiences.  This was never the kind of wording or thought Driscoll would so explicitly express from the pulpit.  One of the things that may need to be suggested in light of Brad's observation about Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill's culture of contempt is that in simple but crucial ways this mentality of contempt was not revealed to outsiders the way it seems to have been revealed to insiders, most particularly the leadership culture itself.  Yet it was also a leadership culture in which the Mark Driscoll who dismissed T. D. Jakes as a word-faith heretical wingnut in 2007 would shake hands with him as though he were a thoroughly traditional Trinitarian circa 2012 as though there weren't grounds articulated by none other than Mark Driscoll himself for why to be wary of Jakes as a heretic.

Since even a rudimentary survey of the biblical wisdom literature and basic meanings of Hebrew words has shown Mark Driscoll can't back up the idea that the "navel" is "vagina" in Song of Songs; and further that the word "navel" is used with reference to the son who is considered the recipient of Proverbs as a whole ...

One of the things that may need to be said at this point is that when Mark Driscoll's foundational competence about biblical texts and languages can be called into question one of his ploys was to tell "nerds" to not get all obsessive about Greek words.  In other words, when he couldn't necessarily prove mundane competence in his field of study he'd resort to contempt.  Nerds get picky about the meanings of Greek words ... sorta like how Driscoll got upset that NT translators didn't use the word "propitiation"?  Right ... that would have just made Driscoll a nerd himself. 

One of the matters on which Driscoll publicly expressed contempt from the earliest days was toward the idea that leaders could even be trained at all:
In all honesty, I think the biggest waste of time for a church planter is training leaders. Leaders cannot be trained. Leadership is a spiritual [sic] gift. Leaders can be encouraged and helped to grow, but sitting around talking about leadership is like phone sex where the talk is good but the action is missing. [emphasis added] Anyone who has planted knows that most of your original core disappears before the launch for various reasons (they are flaky, they don't get their way, the vision varies from theirs, they move away, they are lazy etc. etc.). Then, another core emerges to launch the church. Then, around six months to one year after the launch, the skill set needed requires a whole new core and with the launch team getting tired you get your third set of leaders. So, leadership development is something done every day rather than up front with the anticipation that those people will actually be there in five years still going strong.

So, the best way to see who is a leader is to lead. Those who keep up with you and drag others behind them are leaders. Most leaders seem to learn better from modelling than teaching and need to be in the mess of the details to get any inspiration.

The sooner you can transition to some larger event the better because most new people want to come through a front door that is large and public and enables them to check things out without getting a full body cavity search. I have yet had a new person enter our church through a Bible study or other cell. They always come to the service and once they trust us then they connect in a smaller community.

Going into someone's home with a small group of people who know each other is about the most terrifying thing a stranger could do. The only people who generally do this are the "What About Bob" types who have bizarre social reasoning, no social framework, and need lots of attention. Or, horny young men sizing up the draft board.
So Sargent's statement that we've had plenty of evidence to establish Driscoll displayed a lot of contempt is easily established not just by the testimony of others but even by preserved material going back to 2000-2001.  One of the more easily observable things about the entirety of William Wallace II's output, regardless of whatever apologies he did or didn't actually give about the substance of what he said, was contempt. 

If a culture of contempt was a problem at Mars Hill then the risk in all of the spin-off/replants is that that same culture of contempt may still exist and that some fundamental changes have to take place for the spin-offs to not end up in the same kinds of trouble.  Some of the re:launched and re:branded churches might even survive but if they do it won't be by embracing the old model or failing to repudiate it. 

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