Sunday, November 16, 2014

Disqualifications of a Pastor

Armies retreat, empires crumble and nations implode amid a void of leadership. Or there might be a painful erosion that bleeds a church away under an abusive regime. In the end, the result is the same: People will begin to see the things that might have disqualified their leaders or, in some cases, confront the fact that the people who were in charge should never have been elevated to such lofty a post.

Recently, we've seen the world take notice of a tragic scene which was 18 years in the making. The Seattle-based church of Mars Hill, which reached its zenith of 14,000 members in what has been called the "least 'churched' are of the country," has received its Reduction In Force orders after a rather lengthy series of issues that surrounded their controversial leader, Mark Driscoll.

In his resignation letter, Driscoll said:

"aspects of my personality and leadership style, have proven to be divisive within the Mars Hill context" 
The church had declined to 7,000 members across several campuses by this past summer. Protests began regarding Mark's draconian authority structure in which he used spiritually abusive and cult-like practices to assimilate more control and, not coincidentally, large salary sums to himself.

So, it would seem that the "aspects of" his "personality" were things like greed and selfish ambition, to name two right off the top. Aside from being blatantly sinful, such things would be divisive in more than just the "Mars Hill context."

Driscoll went on to say what he didn't want:

"to be the source of anything that might detract from our church's mission to lead people to a personal and growing relationship with Jesus Christ."
While this is the "right" thing to say, it also rings a bit false. If he was a repentant man over his sinful self-aggrandizing and painful spiritual abuse of people, he wouldn't have excused himself as having behavior that seems to have been "proven divisive" in some particular "context." The Bible is pretty clear that arrogance, greed and fleshly ambition has no home with Jesus or His Church.

Repentance is when we agree with God about our condition. The repentant man or woman will agree with God that he or she is totally without merit before a Holy God and incapable of cleaning off the filth, much less attaining the righteousness needed for a relationship with God. It is only through the baptism of this repentance that one can then follow after the one, true shepherd, Jesus, looking to his work on the cross as the total payment for their sin and clothing for their righteousness in God's sight.

That's the only path: Repentance and faith in Jesus' work alone.

Flowing from this, the believer will worship God as Father in an ever increasing inner life of faith and sanctification.

Sanctification is also something that Driscoll lacks (evidencing that he's not only a robber, not a shepherd). Sanctification is what the Holy Spirit does within every true son and daughter of God the Father. It is the process that reveals to us the festering scars that our sinful nature has left. Sanctification then sanitizes the wounds and leads us to better living.

One might liken it to an illness that one discovers has happened as a result of his habitual lifestyle that he realizes must change. With awareness of the damage comes a detesting of the source and a rejection of that habit or diet. Once that change is made, returning to the sickening addiction might seem attractive to the old ways, which will tempt as being familiar and comforting. But the process of sanctification is akin to someone who has come out of a painful bondage to drugs, drink or food. No matter how appealing the old lifestyle may seem, the person who remembers the state from which they've come will reject the old ways, knowing that death festers in that feast.

Mark Driscoll didn't repent of his sin. He didn't submit to any authority around him in the form of fellow believers who had called him out on his errors. Rather, he copped to a lesser plea of being a poor fit for a particular context. He adds judgment to himself by claiming he doesn't want to be a source of anything that would detract from Jesus Christ.

The fact is, if he had shown humility in admitting the harm he'd done, confessed his arrogance and then sought to find the people he hurt, confessing to them and making things right, he would have done exactly what he professes that he wants to do: He would be directing people's attention to a growing relationship with Christ.

Instead, he bows out with an ambiguous mea culpa, tosses off an insincere "Christian" and noble goal while serving his own pride and impugning fault on the people who finally woke up to the fact that he wasn't qualified to be a minister. (to clarify, he's essentially saying that there's nothing wrong with him, it was just the 'context' that was to blame and he's leaving, magnanimously taking the blow, in hopes Mars Hill will stop obsessing about him).

And yet, what do we learn? It should be obvious to all that Mark was not qualified to be a minister. He didn't met any of the qualifications that Paul put to pen in 1 Timothy 3. He was a new convert, for one! He had just been 'saved' and then started a church. And he was led into selfish ambition and greed, exactly as Paul said would happen: ..."he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil."

The condemnation of the devil was that he said "I will become like the most high." Satan wanted God's job. It would seem that Driscoll didn't so much as want to "go to work with Dad," as he used to say, but he expected to take over the family business.

The Mars Hill elder board concluded:
"Pastor Mark has, at times, been guilty of arrogance, responding to conflict with a quick temper and harsh speech, and leading the staff and elders in a domineering manner..."

Yet, they didn't find that he was disqualified for ministry.

This is why churches in America are seeing declining attendance and membership. There are no true under-shepherds. We have robbers (Driscoll) and hirelings. The robbers are in the pulpit for their selfish goals of "winning" and financial success. The hirelings are there to collect a paycheck but won't be seen defending the sheep from the wolves.

The sheep hear the shepherd's voice, and they follow. From the tangle of goats and sheep, from which no one would be able to discern whose belong to whom, the sheep disentangle themselves when they hear the shepherd's voice. They don't need to be driven, like cattle, or muzzled or branded. They hear the shepherd's voice and they follow.

Today, we have few who are speaking with the Shepherd's voice. Rather, we have celebrities who amass worldly wealth, pointing to 1 Timothy 5 in which an "elder who rules well is to be worthy of double honor..." Yet, none of them are "ruling well." They have large congregations of cattle and goats, not sheep. The sheep haven't heard the shepherd's voice and stop attending. Those who remain are the throngs of religious people that fill this world, happy with the broad road of faux spirituality that gets mixed with some truth in mega-churches and small churches alike.

Paul didn't write down a list of suggestions for possible qualifications for a good pastor in his letter to Timothy. No, he said 'must' before each one. If the elder board found that Driscoll was guilty of arrogance, contentiousness and harsh language, then they should have had no problem realizing that he's disqualified from any ministry in the church, including being a deacon.

Since the christian culture in America can't seem to realize that, it is doubtful that we'll see any revival on a large scale in churches today. Rather, the revival will happen silently, in homes where the true sheep are reading their Bibles and thrilling over the love of their Heavenly Father and worshiping in spirit and in truth.