Lessons from Watching Mars Hill Church Burn to the Ground

Kalapana Gardens burning

Kalapana Gardens burning

Five years ago, I listened to Mark Driscoll regularly and followed Mars Hill Church in Seattle, WA. I’ve heard a good 2-3 dozen of his sermons and read several of his book excerpts. I thanked God for what He was doing there, and I benefited from their teaching and ministry. Unlike some, I don’t have a doctrinal axe to grind. I’m a complementarian who fully supports the Scripture MHC has often stood on to support their position (of course, the ways they have gone about that are questionable). I have lots of disagreements with them, but they are biblical, not stylistic. I’m someone who is, though from afar, a close enough watcher to know what MHC is about.

And what we’ve witnessed over the past 15 months at Mars Hill is the absolute incineration of a a local church. The charges of heresy, plagiarism, money laundering, misuse of funds, workplace bullying, and the like were bad enough – then they were found to be true! And instead of repenting, the founding pastor, Mark Driscoll, resigned. Resignation isn’t repentance.

MHC subsequently announced that they would be breaking up their separate campuses and going their separate ways, which is all for the best.

It sounds rough, but Mars Hill going down was what had to happen.

  1. Driscoll wasn’t going to and didn’t repent. He never showed signs of true repentance, like, you know, listening to other elders, naming and taking responsibility for specific sins, and remaining under the discipline of the church. No, he just left. That’s not repentance; that’s self-removal.
  2. The ongoing leadership structure was harmful, not helpful, to the church. Anytime a group of men can unilaterally make decisions and cover their own behinds, bad things tend to happen. In a local church, this is toxic. See the charges against Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, MD, for another illustration of what happens in a similarly governed body.
  3. Therefore, Mars Hill SHOULD CLOSE DOWN. The leaders their, Driscoll in particular, had a chokehold on their people, their precious sheep they were called to be under-shepherds for. The simple fact that so many continue to defend MHC and Driscoll after every charge has been validated just goes to show that we, like sheep, so often blindly follow even when the truth says otherwise.

Thus, several lessons are in order for local churches and their leaders particularly:

  1. Church Leadership Structure Matters. Please don’t be so naive as to think that MHC’s top-heavy leadership didn’t play a MASSIVE role in all of this. Scripture teaches that churches are to led by a plurality of elders yet governed by the entire body (Matthew 18, 1 Corinthians 5, Galatians 1, et al.). Mars Hill wildly distorted this teaching, turning the elders into various sub-groups and boards that all reported upward to Driscoll’s henchmen. How do I know? When you listen to Driscoll’s teaching enough, particularly to other pastors, you hear him lampoon congregationalism in favor of his corporate America eldership apart from Scripture.
  2. Church Leadership Character Matters. Are we really to believe that these elders, helping cover up Driscoll’s and others’ sins, were men of integrity? Are we really to believe that the warning signs were not present earlier in their lives, in their decisions, in their families? Or were these men so pliable that they had to bow to Pastor Mark? Either way, the first elder cover-up should have been grounds for discipline. Which leads us to . . .
  3. Unilateral Decision Making is a Bad Idea. Every statement out of Mars Hill seems to come from some lofty Executive Elder Board or “Board of Advisors and Accountability.” Where are the poor, lowly members? Mars Hill had no structure for the church to practice accountability and discipline, as in Scripture. What happened at Mars Hill, time and again, is that a select few elders got together and made decisions to keep their own jobs, not to shepherd their people in the gospel.
  4. Elder Idolatry is a Real Thing. Sabbaticals are healthy – take a break, guys! It doesn’t all depend on you; it depends on Jesus. Mark Driscoll, friends, is not the end-all be-all of Christianity in the Great Northwest; and shame on some of you for acting like it. Jesus will march on in Seattle – without Mars Hill Church to boot.
  5. Public Repentance is a Command, Not an Option. So many Driscoll defenders say he repented. I challenge any and all DD’s to find one place in the last two years where he specifically and publicly named his sins. It’s not possible because he didn’t do it. Vague apology letters don’t cut it. Paul wrote to Timothy in 1 Timothy 5:19-20, “Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.” The charges came from dozens of people, but the rebuking publicly . . . ummm, that didn’t happen.

“Mars Hill Church burns to the ground” might sound tough. People were hurt, right? Sure they were, but this article and the campuses closing didn’t do it. The leaders did.

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The Disgraceful, Cowardly Media

Why are the major media outlets in the US afraid to report on the multiple child murder trial of abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell? Kirsten Powers writes that they’ve lost their sense of human justice:

You don’t have to oppose abortion rights to find late-term abortion abhorrent or to find the Gosnell trial eminently newsworthy. This is not about being “pro-choice” or “pro-life.” It’s about basic human rights.

The deafening silence of too much of the media, once a force for justice in America, is a disgrace.

Which is to say, the media cares more about cash and reputation than the truth.

Hiatus Lifted

When I took a job painting apartments for the summer, I never thought it would be nearly three months between posts. I apologize for the break, but, in one sense, not really. I needed to provide for my family and would choose that over writing any day (not that I don’t love writing).

I’m teaching again now, so the mental work of study, preparation, and discussion should yield more frequent posts.

Moving Sale !!

Well, it’s not exactly a sale, but you should be able to access more of my content (including sermons, longer articles, music, and books) at my new site, BrittTreece.com .

Head over there to subscribe and digi-stroll around. I’ll be cross-posting here for a while before I (likely) shut down Your Cross on My Back. It’s been a great time here, and I’m thankful for each of my readers and for what the Sovereign Son has done in us through these writings and readings.

So stay with me! This change should mean more (not less) content and access for you and anyone who’d like to come.

Ignoring the Marriage Context is Evil

Susan Baer, in the poorly-titled “A Family Learns the True Meaning of the Vow ‘In Sickness and in Health’” from The Washington Post on January 5, 2012, tells the true story of a woman (Page) who divorced her mentally ill husband (Robert) to marry an old high school sweetheart (Allan). A key section:

Allan felt uneasy at first, guilty about befriending a man [Robert] with limited cognition while starting up a romance with his wife [Page].

Page tiptoed into the subject of dating with Robert, telling him that she and Allan were beginning to be more than just friends, and asking if he understood and was comfortable with that. Robert told her it was fine. “He’s a really nice guy,” Page says he told her…

Page felt 30 again but was racked with guilt. “I believed my vows so strongly that they just kept ringing in my ears.”

She consulted her minister, who told her that by continuing to take care of Robert, she was still honoring those vows.

A few observations are in order:

  1. Allan felt “uneasy” and “guilty” about befriending Robert because he was committing adultery against him. No wonder. No amount of “I’m ok, you’re ok” from Page or their minister (see below) can take away the guilt one feels before God’s law.
  2. Page also “tiptoed into the subject of dating with Robert” because she was committing adultery against him. The fact that her husband misunderstood the context of their marriage bears no weight of the intrinsic meaning of their marriage.
  3. “What God has joined together, let no man separate” applies to husband and wife, too. Or do we think too little of verses like Matthew 19:6? Yes, our own sins and weaknesses are the reason we need such vows.
  4. Page’s minister ought to be fired. Whoever this “minister” is, he wickedly ignored the context of Robert and Page’s marriage vows. Those vows are taken as husband and wife, not as nurse and patient, not as mother and overgrown child, not as friend and friend – as husband and wife. A minister who understands this not ought not advise others, au revoir.
  5. The WP trumpets a lie. Apparently, WP and author Baer want to applaud Page for her courage to “stick with” her former husband and yet “find happiness” with  her new one. In pursuit of that self-congratulatory end, they controvert the meaning of marriage.

Which brings us to some final thoughts:

  • Remarriage, part deux: What happens when Allan, Page’s new husband, becomes mentally ill or disabled? Will she divorce him, continue to care for both him and Robert, and marry a third man? Which one will be her children’s father then?
  • The media and the meaning of marriage: How soon will The WP and other confused media outlets begin reporting on simple divorces that end happily? How long will it take us to see that they have an agenda in promoting divorce, broken families, and unhappiness?
  • An offense against God: The most important person in any discussion is God. When will we see that, when we seek to redefine what God has already spoken, we are shaking our tiny, childish fists in the face of the Almighty? Do we really expect to be “ok” when we mock His ways?

May the Lord Jesus give us grace to listen here, learn, and repent.

Worse than All Recent Genocides Combined

Michael Stokes Paulsen explains why Roe v. Wade is a radical, legally untenable, immoral decision. Here’s his crushing introduction:

After nearly four decades, Roe’s human death toll stands at nearly sixty million human lives, a total exceeding the Nazi Holocaust, Stalin’s purges, Pol Pot’s killing fields, and the Rwandan genocide combined. Over the past forty years, one-sixth of the American population has been killed by abortion. One in four African-Americans is killed before birth. Abortion is the leading cause of (unnatural) death in America.

It is almost too much to contemplate: the prospect that we are living in the midst of, and accepting (to various degrees) one of the greatest human holocausts in history. And so we don’t contemplate it. Instead, we look for ways to deny this grim reality, minimize it, or explain away our complacency—or complicity.

Paulsen proceeds to explain each claim (radicalism, legal untenability, and immorality) in succession and make observations on how Roe, with its companion decision Doe, have decimated life and morality in America and the world.

More quote-gems:

  • “One need not presume that the human fetus has a right not to be killed in order to recognize that, as a descriptive matter, Roe creates a right for one class of human beings to kill other human beings.”
  • “In terms of fair principles of constitutional interpretation, Roe is perhaps the least defensible major constitutional decision in the Supreme Court’s history.”
  • “Abortion restrictions do not restrict acts of women because they are women; they restrict acts committed by men or women because they kill human fetuses.”
  • Casey’s reaffirmation of Roe, in the name of stare decisis, was a sham—perhaps the most transparently dishonest major judicial decision since Dred Scott.”
  • “My concluding point concerns the lengths to which we will go to deny the reality of this holocaust, because it is almost unbearable to contemplate and still go on living life as if nothing is terribly wrong. The cognitive dissonance is simply too great. And so we have become, in effect, a nation of holocaust deniers.”

And his conclusion contains a particularly stinging indictment to our American, top-tier-of-evolved-humanity pride:

All of this should tell us a few more sobering things. It should tell us that, much as we would like to believe that human beings have become more morally conscious, more sensitive to injustice and intolerant of clear evil, it remains the case that we often either fail to recognize it in our midst, or refuse to respond to it decisively, out of self-interest or cowardice. It should tell us that, much as we would like to think that we surely would have stood bravely against slavery, even if embedded in a nineteenth-century society that tolerated and accepted it as a legal right, we might have acquiesced or been tepid in our condemnation. It should tell us that, much as we would like to think we would never have put up with what transpired in Nazi Germany in the 1930s and the 1940s, the evidence of our lives in twenty-first century America is that we might have put up with quite a lot…

. . . The docility of the American people with respect to Roe and
abortion rivals the pliancy of the most cowardly, servile peoples
toward ruinous, brutal, anti-democratic regimes throughout world
history.

Then, after calling out the Supreme Court as “a lawless, rogue institution capable of the most monstrous of injustices in the name of law,” Paulsen closes with the truest call to pro-life action I’ve ever read:

The Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade should not be accepted as law, in any sense. It should be resisted by legislatures and it should be refused enforcement by executive officials because it is not the law. It should be resisted by all citizens, with all the resources at their disposal, and perhaps even with resources not (yet) at their disposal. Anything less is holocaust denial.

Abortionist Dystopia: A Woman-less World?

Over at The American Interest, Walter Russell Mead concludes his recent blog on the uptick in gender-specific abortions with these observations:

It is ironic and distressing that the most immediate result of abortion, a practice often promoted by feminists for what they believe will be its positive effect on women’s lives, leads to the mass death of girls. One suspects that many of these gender-based abortions are forced on wives by husbands and relatives; it isn’t easy to hail the global triumph of feminism as abortion spreads.

This horrible practice is going to come back to haunt us. With so many more young males in the world unable to find wives and alienated from family life, prostitution and human trafficking, as well as increased crime and violence, will result. Is this really the kind of world we want to build?

Yes, and as Christians we must point out the fact that what feminists and other abortionists sow, they will reap.

Teaching in Uganda

Hey, everbody, sorry the writing has been light (again) here after the holidays, after it was light over the holidays. I’ve been getting ready to teach at African Renewal Christian College in Uganda for two weeks with a team from Training Leaders International. If you like the kind of stuff you find on here, I’ll be teaching some of it (and all of its foundations) in a class on Christian Worldview.

And not that I plug things like this much, but you can find out more information and how to give here. The team and I would love your prayers and support.

Thanks!

Bravo, North Carolina

In the world, democracy is rare. In a republic, democracy is often forgotten. So bravo to North Carolina, for electing officials who will let the people define marriage for our state constitution next May.

Let us pray that our state gets it right.

Ad Hominems, Shenanigans, and Scaremongering

Often I find interesting, informative articles about any number of cultural, political, or practical topics. Tonight, I read this lengthy, enlightening piece on Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas by The New Yorker writer Jeffrey Toobin.

The Not-So-Hidden Ad Hominem
Toobin both chronicles Thomas’ court decisions and recasts a dark veil over his personal life. Mixing philosophical, logical analysis with personal attacks is the classic example of an ad hominem (“against the man”) argument. Toobin tries to discredit Justice Thomas’ beliefs by discrediting his character; but this, as every logic textbook reminds us, is a logical fallacy.

The Double Standard
Just one example will here suffice:

  • Over and over again, Toobin claims that Thomas acts as a lone ranger on his own ideological initiative, making him the conservative puppeteer behind the right-moving court system.
  • But, late in the article, Toobin mentions that the Attorney General of Virginia and a Federal District Court Judge in Florida both fought against Obama’s Healthcare plan, all the while citing that they simply followed Thomas’ lead.

Here’s the problem: how can Thomas be acting on his own initiative but the other conservative judges, lawyers, and activists can’t? Why must Clarence Thomas be the Darth Vader behind “the dark side” of originalism?

Toobin’s Shenanigans
The answer lies in Toobin’s hidden agenda shenanigans. He means to publicly discredit and defame Justice Thomas’ judicial philosophy before the fight against Obamacare begins in the Supreme Court. That’s why Toobin begins and ends the way he does, using descriptions of Thomas’ influence to scaremonger the American public. But will we see through it and read the logic for ourselves?

If we do, we’ll see that Justice Thomas simply reads the Constitution using historical authorial intent, the way any document must be accurately read.

The Riots Evidence Deadbeat Lotharios and Their Unfaithful Sons

From UK writer Ed West, in The Telegraph, commenting that “The Riots Remind Us That Polygamous Societies Are Naturally Violent“:

Countless studies have shown that, the more polygamous a society, the more aggressive its males. Polygamous hunter-gather societies are absurdly violent.

Why? Because where male parental investment is low, the qualities that define a good male mate are strength, aggression and status. Where male parental investment is high, the most important quality becomes monogamy – because without it a woman’s children will starve. These qualities are partly hereditary, and on the male side this tendency for deadbeat lotharios to produce unfaithful sons was noted long before science dared to tread its feet into the field of evolutionary psychology.

In other words, it doesn’t take worldly psycho-babble to explain that breaking God’s law (the 7th of the Ten Commandments is against adultery) leads to a host of other violences against the Creator and His creation.

See, manhood is not inconsequential. Future men often do what they’ve seen grown men doing. Grown men are often acting out what they saw their fathers doing, and on it goes.

Not that men have excuse, quite the contrary. We have none, which is why understanding the Bible’s teaching on manhood is so utterly important, in this and every age.

NC House Stands Up for Voters, Women, Children

Overriding Gov. Bev Perdue’s veto, the N.C. House voted today to pass House Bill 854, “Women’s Right to Know Act,” which requires more detailed informed consent, an ultrasound of the live child, and a 24-hour waiting period before an abortion. This is a victory for all in North Carolina and in the United States of America who love life, children, men, and women.

Predictably, our local, leftist paper forgets to mention that the majority of NC voters are in support of the bill. I’m talking to you, News and Observer.

You Can’t Oppose Sterilization and Support Abortion

But my local independent paper thinks you can. The Independent (Indy) Weekly devoted a recent three-part series to study forced sterilization and eugenics in America after World War II.

On “Eugenics”
Before I examine what was said and how it relates to abortion, let me first note that I am no supporter of eugenics. Note especially this article on how Planned Parenthood is founded upon eugenics and white supremacist lies.

“Eugenics” is always a case of humans trying to storm heaven’s throne (at which God laughs, Psalm 2), and often is racist murder clothed as social conscience. From a God-less point of view, the Indy Weekly focuses on the second sin, and we’ll agree with them there. Eugenics is a genocide as filthy, hateful, and sickening as the Holocaust.

But Wait, Where’s Abortion?
The reason we ought to re-examine the Indy’s point of view and motivations isn’t that they deride eugenics (they should) but that they fail to make the connection to abortion. Eugenic sterilization is to child-bearing before conception what abortion is after conception: cold-blooded killing.

The Indy (and many other papers, we may estimate) would have us believe that they are an upstanding social watchdog, barking at the sterilized flies on the wall while the bloody pro-choice man bulldozes our front door.

Some watchdog.

Time and time again, the Indy and its writers have supported abortionist policies, candidates, procedures, and funding. They even have ads for Planned Parenthood on their site! This is hardly unbiased reporting. The Indy prefers to use a “nevermind that” policy of failing to connect to eugenics, racism, and genocide to abortion (as others have done masterfully and I’ve done in short here).

Abortion is Racist
“But you haven’t actually connected racist eugenics to abortion, yet, either,” you might say. Here goes:

  • In the year 2000, African-American women made up 12.3% of the US population but accounted for 36.4% of our abortions in 2006.
  • The Guttmacher Institute (AGI) reports that Hispanic women made up 25% of all U.S. abortions in 2008, though they made up just 12.5% of the female population in 20007.
  • Non-Hispanic, white women account for 69% of America’s female population, but make up little over half that number (36%) of all U.S. abortions.
  • Finally, the founder of America’s largest abortion provider, Margaret Sanger, said herself that abortion and child control was all about genocide.
  • All these considered, Planned Parenthood situates themselves in inner-city, poorer areas for good reason. Impoverished minorities are their biggest customers.

(Thanks to the excellent site Abort73.com for many of these stats.)

See, the Indy acts like they stand up for the rights of the oppressed, but they care nothing at all for unborn, minority children, who are being murdered by the hundred-thousands every year. So don’t boo-hoo about sterilization when you hate the unborn. Save us the lies, Indy.

One More Time, For the Record

So next time you read a teary-eared account of how someone struggled through racist sterilization or an “unwanted” pregnancy, remember this: abortion isn’t about (grown) women’s rights, personal choice, peace, privacy, dreams, or “saving the future.” Fighting against it is about the strong protecting the weak, the voices speaking for the voiceless, the rich (in life) caring for the poor who are ready to die, the hero saving the day, parents being parents, and fighting for life, love, family, unborn women’s rights, a mother’s honor, and good versus evil. Carrying, bearing, and loving children is about giving ourselves for the good of another, and that’s what were made in God’s image to do.

USA Today Loves Planned Parenthood

Bravo to Indiana, and thank God for states like you, who recently stopped Planned Parenthood from receiving Medicaid funds. The Hoosier State apparently agreed with my point that when there’s poison in the water of PP’s services, you can’t fund them at all.

Today’s USA Today, however, disagrees. Reporter Douglas Stanglin defends the abortion giant because they also provide contraception services and STD care, but he masterfully evades the one crux of the issue – abortion:

The law effectively strips about 10% of the group’s total budget. It also cut roughly $150,000 in funding to Planned Parenthood for prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, The Star says.

The newspaper says 85,000 Hoosiers receive health services at the state’s 28 Planned Parenthood centers. Eight of those will close, including two in Indianapolis and clinics in Terre Haute and Muncie.

Planned Parenthood uses its Medicaid payments to provide services such as birth control, cancer screening and STD tests and uses patient fees and private donations to pay for abortions.

No word yet on whether Planned Parenthood has considered using “patient fees and private donations” to pay for anything other than killing the unborn.

Finally, a Good Lesson from the NBA

NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks’ coach Rick Carlisle, on what made his underdog team so special:

It’s not about what you can’t do; it’s about what you can do. It’s not about what your potential shortcomings are; it’s about what we can accomplish together.

And later:

Dirk [Nowitzki] and JET [Jason Terry] . . . have made a statement that’s a colossal statement – not just about our team, but about the game in general. You know, playing it a certain way, trusting the pass, playing collectively, believing in each other. Our team’s not about individual ability; it’s about collective will, collective grit, collective guts.

It reminds me of how the church is supposed to function – we’re not supposed to the smartest, the wealthiest, or the most influential (1 Corinthians 1:18-31). We are supposed to be the people that hold on together (Ephesians 4:12-17) to the only thing that matters – Jesus. And, in holding on together, we accomplish more by the grace of God (1 Corinthians 15:10).

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