- As a sort of a preface, stop and pray for Mark Driscoll. While it is easy to jump on the pile-on bandwagon, our first reaction to this information can be one of anger. The ecclesiastical structure he has implemented and very tightly controls only elevates and supports his celebrity-style preacher mentality, along with the Christian PR apparatus surrounding him, which in the end becomes the end itself, even if unwittingly. The pride has increasingly shown through, which historically precedes a fall. We should first pray for him, his family, his church. This should sadden you, not enrage you.
- That said, there have been a number of issues, warning signs, whatever you want to call them, over the past few years concerning Driscoll. These include but are not limited to the Elephant Room debacle, the controversial methods he has used for promoting his books, the (what appears to be) misogynistic tendencies of the message he’s putting forward (even if there was no initial intention to do so), his personally alleged charismatic visions, his treatment of people in debates, his recent statement that Jesus made “mistakes” (honestly that one caught me by surprise), his church forcing fellow ministers to sign non-compete agreements, his alleged (or proven) plagiarism, and on and on. That said, due to those things mentioned and his confrontational preaching style in general (which I have increasingly grown a distaste for), I haven’t recommended his content for some time now and have actually discouraged a number of people in bible studies and elsewhere from taking in his content, steering them to similar content without what I now consider the Driscoll baggage that has become weightier in recent months. Again, it is sad to see it come to this.
- These recent articles get at the heart of why a truly Reformed ecclesiastical structure is vital, with built-in checks and balances, preferably both within and outside the local church, such as within a denomination like the PCA (Presbyterian Church in America). Without such a structure, the possibility for a preacher or church leadership to go rogue is much more likely. This is why I’ve come to distance myself in my own ecclesiastical convictions about how to “do church” from what has been coined New Calvinism, along with Missional-ism (what I see as the merging together of the emerging church and Neo-Calvinists). Do I completely discount those involved in such efforts? Not in the least. Honestly, they’re all over the map. Where Christ is named and preached from Scripture though, I rejoice. However, I do believe the same dangers befalling Driscoll and Mars Hill of late are built in to much of what is being done without any larger church polity or authority that would provide the necessary checks and balances preventing what has happened with Driscoll. It all seems to rest on the same fundamental presuppositions concerning how to “do church”. I believe much of this is the result of an adaptation of a postmodern perspective as it particularly pertains to anti-church structures. In this sense, it looks more like the world.
- So in this sense I guess you could say I’m an Old Calvinist as opposed to a Neo-Calvinist. I believe the great Reformed confessions and writings hold weight as it pertains to church government. Anti/Non-denominationalism, a sort of throwing off of traditional church structures in the name of progress, has what in foreign policy language the CIA calls blowback. In contradistinction to the celebrity preacher’s notions of church government, his claims to his vision being divinely inspired (Furtick, Driscoll, et al), and demanding the congregation and fellow ministry workers sustain and support him in this pursuit, the Westminster Confession answers: “There is no other head of the Church but the Lord Jesus Christ.” – Chapter XXV. Of course this statement had a particular target in mind at the time: the Pope. But as some have observed, notice how much the celebrity pastor is like a little pope in this sense. Anti/Non-denominationalism, for all of it’s desires to throw off old school fundamentalist anti-cultural baggage and embrace a rather pragmatic, attractional modus operandi, has a dark side: you can wind up with an ecclesiastical imperialist or series of imperialists within a church, or at worst, a cult. Preachers and ministers are merely meant to be pointers to the Gospel and servants of those in need of Him, not those demanding to be served in their Tower of Babel-like pursuits. Otherwise, they become the served and demand it be so. As Count Zinzendorf said, “Preach the Gospel, die and be forgotten.” That is a very foreign concept to the celebrity preacher.
- I hope and pray the best for Driscoll and that in this humbling he emerges stronger for the gospel.