Mark Driscoll, the pastor of Mars Hill a mega-church in the USA has resigned. The eldership had recently investigated some allegations against Mark and found the he had done nothing which disqualified him from ministry. The churchleaders. com website puts it like this:
The investigation panel revealed their findings on the Mars Hill website, including that Driscoll’s recent behaviour “had not disqualified him for ministry” and although the group said he was guilty of “arrogance, responding to conflict with a quick temper and harsh speech, and leading the staff and elders in a domineering manner,” they found some of the accusations against Driscoll “altogether unfair or untrue” and that Driscoll “had never been charged with any immorality, illegality or heresy.” The panel also reiterated that Driscoll was not asked to resign and even went so far as to say they were “surprised” to receive Driscoll’s resignation.
Mark, then, whilst not perfect (who of us is?) was NOT dismissed, he may have felt under all sorts of pressure (both from within and without) which led to him feeling that this was his only option, but unlike others recently, has not failed in that sense.
It does, however remind us of the fall of a number of high profile leaders in recent years. Just a couple of weeks ago, we heard of the resignation from GodTV of Rory Alec because of a “moral failure” (and the breakdown of his and Wendy Alec’s marriage), Todd Bentley also fell from grace as did Mike Guglielmucchi writer of the awesome song “healer”.
It is a sobering reminder that none are immune to the danger of falling from grace, and for those of us who are leaders, the warning is clear – be on your guard (1 Peter 3:17, 1 Corinthians 16:13).
How do we do this? well it seems to me that the most effective way is described for us in Philippians 4:4-9…
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again:Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you
How do we respond to and guard against this kind of thing happening in our churches?
Well at the Seed, as we organise ourselves,we try very hard not to put anyone on a pedestal. It is our nature to follow someone, and as the church grows, we are trying to ensure that there is not too much authority or power vested in just one person. We believe in plurality in our leadership, and the distinctions (e.g. Julian as “pastor”) relate to function rather than position. We believe that the Bible teaches us that we are to “submit to one another”, but the primary submission we should do is to the Lord.
We believe that there is nothing that is beyond the forgiveness that can be found at the cross, and if we can find such forgiveness in Christ, we should show such love and grace to one another when failure comes our way, whatever that failure is. We refuse to be a judgemental people.
David found forgiveness after committing adultery, lying and finally murder. Peter found forgiveness after denying his Lord 3 times, Paul found forgiveness after pursuing and persecuting Christians, the woman caught in adultery found forgiveness when all others wanted her dead. The Bible is full of people in both the New Testament and the Old who failed or fell short, yet found forgiveness and restoration. How much more should we exercise forgiveness to one another.