Friday, 26 September 2014

Accountable to Whom?

It continues to disturb me how many parallels there are between my church experience and the continuing Mars Hill drama!

Apparently Mark Driscoll has recently suggested that he made a mistake in "trying to be under the authority of [his] elders" (see Warren Throckmorton's post). He says that what he needed to do was choose some "older and more seasoned" pastors from outside his church to give him counsel. This, despite the fact that most of his elders were actually older and more experienced than he was! (see this 'Musing' from under the bus.) Why would he not want to benefit from their wisdom?

In my situation, it was made painfully clear that elder J didn't think his fellow elders - his peers and equals - should be holding him to account. He thought instead that he should be 'submitting' to a group of men who were all telling him what a fabulous job he was doing and how he really should be the leader over the rest of us. They even opined that if he left the church, it would collapse! Get the picture?

So you have two 'church leaders' rejecting peer accountability seemingly in order to 'submit' to those they know would say what they wanted to hear. I'd say there's something seriously wrong with that.

Firstly, both men felt entitled to choose who they would submit to, and it seems that choice was based on finding those who would see things their way and agree with them. Men who would tell them that they were the 'vision-carriers' and that anyone who stood in their way should be run over.  It seems that they didn't want men who might ask tough questions - might even disagree with them - but instead chose men who would effectively stroke their egos.

And understand this - the freedom to choose was theirs alone!

By their actions, it seems obvious that both men believed that no-one else had a choice - that everyone else was obligated to submit to them. Submit or be hounded out of the church. Some christians are more equal than others. The anointed ones get to pick and choose, but 'the sheep' must submit or get slaughtered.

In choosing to be accountable solely to those outside the church, they were choosing people who did not experience the day-to-day realities of the organisation, and who therefore lacked the intimate understanding of those who worked at the coalface every day. As Paul Tripp said when he resigned from the Mars Hill board,
"...it became clear to me that a distant, external accountability board can never work well because it isn't a firsthand witness to the ongoing life and ministry of the church. 
Such a board at best can provide financial accountability, but it will find it very difficult to provide the kind of hands-on spiritual direction and protection that every Christian pastor needs. Unwittingly what happens is that the external accountability board becomes an inadequate replacement for a biblically functioning internal elder board that is the way God designed his church to be lead and pastors to be guided and protected."
And in these circumstances, the board members tended to receive highly biased reports. Paul Tripp put it this way*,  “One of the problems with the [Mars Hill board] is that they are getting their information from the people they are supposed to be holding accountable.”

In my experience this made for a highly partisan response from the board. But what else would you expect when they'd been set up to see everything through the eyes of the 'leader'!?

* from the document: Concerns and Critical Information for the Elders of Mars Hill Church

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Not Another Driscoll Post!

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Thousands of words have been thrown around the Internet in recent months about Mark Driscoll and the bodies under his bus. And so many of those words have resonated with me because they sound so much like the things I experienced. Which started me thinking…

With all the differences between that situation and mine, why did it sound so much the same?

This post is part of my answer:

1 Samuel 8:6-22 (emphasis added) 
But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.” 
Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyardsand olive groves and give them to his attendants. He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”  
But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.” 
When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the Lord. The Lord answered, “Listen to them and give them a king.” 
Do you hear what the people were saying to Samuel? "We don't want to listen to God - what would he know!? We want what we want."

How many times have we read stories about the Israelites and rolled our eyes and pronounced judgement on their stupidity? How many times have we prided ourselves on our superior ways?

Thank God we're not so full of sin and pride as to go against God's best for us! Not like those dreadful Israelites - they were always complaining and refusing to listen to God.

No, we christians are far wiser and godlier.

Really?

Well, it looks to me that we are EXACTLY like those stupid, stiff-necked people.

We, too, keep asking for kings. And they keep "claiming their rights."

We want to be like "other nations". And they keep "claiming their rights."

We refuse to listen to "Samuel". And they keep "claiming their rights."

God warned us! They take our sons and daughters. They take the best of… the tenth of… We become their slaves.

And the 'church' is no longer safe, because the 'kings' play their power games, and abuse, and shun, and cover up, and throw people under the bus.

And the people just keep asking for another king…

(Written in loving support of all the victims of a 'king'.)






Friday, 15 August 2014

Why I Haven't "Given up on the Church"



This morning, I read an article entitled Why You Shouldn’t Give up on the Church.

The author is the son of a 'famous' christian. I am a 'nobody' in that particular world.

He thinks "church is messy by nature." I have found it not messy, but dangerous.

He says, "it’s where Jesus’ people are connected." I find I can connect with Jesus's people wherever I meet them.

He opines that, "To leave the Church is to hurt yourself and to hurt others." I left because it was the only way to stop the hurt.

His judgement: "leaving the Church... is escapism." My experience: leaving the institution was the only way to escape the abuse.

His words seem to equate 'church' with a building or institution. My understanding of the word 'church' is that it's a living body.

He talks of "doing church." I speak of being the church.

He concludes, "No matter your frustrations and hurts, it cannot be abandoned. You need it now whether you know it or not, and someday you will have a need nothing and no one else can meet. And the Church will be where Jesus shows Himself to you."

My response to him?

I rejoice in your experience, but it is not universal. Please don't present it as an incontrovertible reality. That hurts.

I not only can, but I have abandoned what you seem to call 'church'.

But I have not "given up on the church", which is the body of Christ. I have given up on an institution.

I do not "need it". I need to feel safe when I meet with my brothers and sisters.

'The church' is not my sufficiency. Jesus Christ is.

And he can show himself to me wherever and whenever he chooses.

So please don't put him (or me) in a box. I love him too, you know.