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Lessons learned from Mark Driscoll

August 26, 2014 by Eric Stillman 0 comments

Posted in: Leadership

“For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”
(2 Corinthians 4:5-7)

One of the most influential churches in America these days is Mars Hill Church of Seattle. Its pastor, Mark Driscoll, is one of the most influential pastors in America, having written numerous books and trained many church planters through the network he helped found, Acts 29. Over the past year, Driscoll has come under fire for a number of sinful or unwise actions, including plagiarism, mistreating staff and leadership at the church, buying his way onto the New York Times bestseller list, and other behavior that has recently caused 21 former Mars Hill pastors to file charges against him. This week, he agreed to step down as pastor for at least six weeks in order to give the elders of his church the opportunity to look into the charges.

As I’ve followed Driscoll’s situation, here are a few of the lessons I have learned:

1) Sin is ugly, and sinful leaders can cause ugly things to happen – We all have our sinful areas, and taking a position of leadership gives those sins an opportunity to negatively impact others. Driscoll’s sins seem to be most prominent in the areas of pride and anger. My sins tend to be in the areas of self-centeredness, avoiding conflict, laziness, not loving people enough, not being courageous… I could go on and on. When sin is not dealt with by being confessed and held accountable by others, it wreaks havoc on the lives of others, whether they be church members, spouses, children, employees, or others. I’ve been guilty of this more times than I would like to admit.

2) Accountability and checks and balances are necessary in churches – We are all sinners, even church leaders, and the temptations of pride and power affect us all. At Mars Hill, it seems that things went wrong when Driscoll began to force out pastors and elders who were not “on the same page” as him and surrounded himself with leaders who would support him. When a church is growing, the leader can be tempted to believe that he is indispensable, and that those who are not “on the same page” as him are standing in the way of what God is doing and may as well go elsewhere. The truth is more likely that those leaders who are not on the same page may provide an accountability and opposing viewpoint that keeps the leader from letting pride and power go to his head. A pastor who functions like a CEO is not God’s plan. Nor is an elder board that operates without accountability from the congregation. Accountability and checks and balances are a humble admission that pride and power tempt us all.

3) Be careful not to idolize youth – Our culture tends to idolize the young, the up-and-coming, the next big thing, and to discard the old, the tried-and-true, and those who have been around the block. Driscoll was 25 when he planted Mars Hill. I was 30 when I began serving as senior pastor at NewLife. Driscoll did many things early on that are now coming back to haunt him. When I began at NewLife, I was driven by a desire to lead the church in new and innovative directions. After a few years, I realized that the timeless gospel message was what I really needed to focus on, and that I needed to listen to a lot more 50 and 60 year-olds and to fewer 20 and 30-somethings.

4) God loves to use flawed people – Lastly, and most importantly, God continues to use all of us, broken and sinful as we are, for His glory, to show again and again that He alone deserves all the glory. Driscoll is not Jesus – he is a sinful man, saved by grace, with a passionate desire to serve God and preach the gospel. He has impacted many lives for the better, and impacted some others for the worse. I am no different. I love Jesus and want everyone to know and love Him. Many have been blessed by God through me. But in the process, I have also hurt many people by my sinful actions. In the end, I continue to be overwhelmed by the mercy of my great God, who has not kicked me to the curb but continues to use me, broken and flawed as I am, for His glory.

In the end, pray for Mark Driscoll, for me, and for every sinful man and woman who dares to step into a position of leadership. Pray that we would all have the humility, the accountability, and the desire to please God that is necessary to bring the greatest possible glory to God.

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