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.

Dear Pastor, Do Your Job

What do I do with this?

What do I do with this?

According to a multiplicity of biblical texts like Mark 1:15, Ephesians 4:10-15, 2 Timothy 4:1-5, and Hebrews 13:7, the pastor’s job is to preach the Bible for the glory of God:

  • His job is not to be a community organizer; his job is to preach the gospel that might get him stoned.
  • His job is not to meet with other pastors and become well-known; his job is to teach the Bible so well that every man under his charge might well become a pastor.
  • His job is not to counsel the hurting sheep but to feed all the hungry sheep, including the hurting. Counseling may follow preaching, but it must not precede it.
  • His job is not to attract unbelievers; his job is to preach the gospel and believe that God will bring whomever He may will.
  • His job is not to manage services, though the preaching ought to well flow in congregational worship. His job is to preach the gospel as an act of worship both to the God who spoke His Word and to bring the people to worship this same God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  • His job is not to manage the church like a business; His job is to lead her by speaking the Word of God to her.

Often when we see churches going astray and becoming diseased, it is simply because her pastors have forgotten these basic principles. God’s Word never changes, dear pastor, so there’s no need to innovate with bells, whistles, and rock-and-roll show tactics. As Andrew Peterson sings to his son, just “stick to the old roads.”

How to Produce Wet, Spineless, Feeble-Minded Men

Why are Western churches full of women, spineless men, and fewer and fewer children? Robbie Low, a vicar in the Church of England, investigates this trend in his Touchstone article, “The Truth about Men and Church.” After explaining a Swiss survey linking a father’s influence to his children’s church attendance, Low illumines various connections between fatherhood and the church: the church’s mission, feminism in the culture, the disintegration of the family, and the training of church leaders.

On the last connection, he drops this hammer of a quote on Western church culture:

One does not need to go very far through the procedures by which the Church of England selects its clergy or through its theological training to realize that it offers little place for genuine masculinity. The constant pressure for “flexibility,” “sensitivity,” “inclusivity,” and “collaborative ministry” is telling. There is nothing wrong with these concepts in themselves, but as they are taught and insisted upon, they bear no relation to what a man (the un-neutered man) understands them to mean.

Men are perfectly capable of being all these things without being wet, spineless, feeble-minded, or compromised, which is how these terms translate in the teaching. They will not produce men of faith or fathers of the faith communities. They will certainly not produce icons of Christ and charismatic apostles. They are very successful at producing malleable creatures of the institution, unburdened by authenticity or conviction and incapable of leading and challenging. Men, in short, who would not stand up in a draft.

The feminized church produces feminized men.

Though the characteristics named (“flexibility,” “sensitivity,” “inclusivity,” and “collaborative ministry”) don’t seem at first glance to be emasculating, Low explains what a feminized church really wants from their leaders: malleability, spinelessness, feeble faith.

In case we have forgotten, sensitivity, flexibility, inclusivity, and colloborative ministry aren’t fruits of the Spirit. Neither are they characteristics of Christian leaders. The Bible does tell us, however, of elders who “must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” Three of the primary jobs of the Christian leader are to hold fast the word, give sound instruction, and rebuke false teaching. Collaborating with false teachers in the name of “flexibility and inclusivity” won’t get that job done.

As Low puts it, then, the historical timeline for producing wet, spineless, feeble-minded pastors goes something like this:

  1. Fathers begin leaving families.
  2. Feminism (a “lie direct” in its name) takes hold in the culture.
  3. The Protestant church at large follows feminism as a controlling worldview.
  4. The church seeks more female leaders and more femininized male leaders.
  5. Unbelieving men leave the Protestant church en masse.
  6. Unbelieving men seek alternate views of manhood, exampled in womanizing, materialism, violence, and/or homosexuality.
  7. The Protestant church ignores these developments and continues in its unbelieving feminist ways, slightly tweaking its language to suit the culture.

Point #4 is where we want to zoom in. How exactly does the Protestant church tend to seek out female leaders and feminized male leaders? In my experience at least, it looks something like this:

  1. Manhood qua manhood is devalued and quickly neutered.
  2. Church language (contrary to the Bible’s language) becomes emasculated or neutered.
  3. Men, the local church, and families are soon evaluated in women’s terms.

If that seems a little far-fetched, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why are men in the church more often lauded for flexibility rather than strength?
  • Why is conviction seen as a sign of rigid bone-headedness rather than faithful service?
  • Why are churches more concerned with the soft skills of counseling and customer service rather than the hard skills of rightly dividing the Word and refuting sound doctrine?
  • Why do more and more worship songs sound like sappy high school poetry than the marching hymns of the King of Kings?
  • Why has church discipline, the protection of Christ’s body, been so often traded for quiet conversations and the overlooking of apostasy?
  • Why do our churches feel more like coffee shops than battlefield hospitals?
  • Why do we ask pastors to rightly manage their homes but are repulsed when they actually discipline their children? (Both, after all, are in the same passages.)

When we begin to pick at the surface, we quickly see that with manhood everything is at stake. As Low puts it, rejecting God’s good order of patriarchy rejects all three persons of the Trinity. No wonder our churches are full of convictionless men when we train convictionless leaders in a convictionless gospel.

The Foundation and the Fire

What Gospel Preachers, Pastors, Leaders, and Teachers Must Understand

Gospel teacher, the Bible teaches that your work will sooner or later be exposed. Whether you build a true building upon the foundation of Jesus Christ, build a weak building on Jesus Christ, or teach an altogether false gospel (and those are the three categories), God will expose your work sooner or later – and that with fire. 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 says:

11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw–
13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.
14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward.
15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

However you teach, preach, minister, and lead, you are accountable to God for it: “the Day will disclose it.” Paul writes the same earlier, “He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor.” Every minister is the same: an underservant accountable to God alone – not to numbers, not to other ministers, not to evangelical organizations, not mainly to the congregation, but to God alone.

So ask yourself two simple questions:

  1. Do I believe verse 11, “No one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ,”? Do I believe that Christ, not my words nor my ingenuity nor my attendees, is the foundation? Do I feel that deeply in my soul? Do I live and teach and preach that fact? If I do, servanthood and accountability in the ministry will flow out of that Spirit-filled fact.
  2. Do I believe 1 Corinthians 2:2, Luke 24:27, Luke 24:44, 2 Timothy 3:16, and a host of other passages which teach that teaching and preaching Jesus Christ alone from all the Scriptures for the salvation of sinners is the central, foundational, essential criterion by which all “Christian” ministry will be judged? If I do believe this, teaching Christ from the whole Bible will be not a chore, not a boredom, but a blessing of the “wisdom that leads to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ” (2 Tim. 3:15).

If, however, you believe #1 but not #2, then your work will soon be exposed by the purifying fire of God Almighty.

If, even worse, you believe neither #1 nor #2, then verse 15 doesn’t apply to you, because you are not a Christian. Your life, rebelling against Jesus Christ’s lordship from head to toe, is no Christian life at all and will be consumed with fire.

We see then that this passage is not about heretical teachers but weak ones. Heresy – including the prosperity “gospel” lies (1 Timothy 6:6-10) – kills both the teacher and its believers.

Afflicting the Unconverted

Mike McKinley’s Together for the Gospel 2012 talk about preaching to self-deceived unbelievers in our churches is full of gems. Here’s one:

“[Self-help teaching] only creates high-functioning citizens of hell.”

The whole thing is worth listening to, particularly if you don’t realize the effect of so-called “cultural Christianity.”

As McKinley reminds us, Christianity is a radical thing, not something you slide into because it’s convenient. It is our job, as believers, to help people see their true spiritual state.

Believe in Sin and Hell for Your Joy in God

Here’s a quote from John Piper, in Brothers, We Are Not Professionals, that helped me last night. Piper is talking about hell here, but I’m applying it a step before hell to our active, self-breaking sinful acts:

If I do not believe in my heart these awful truths – believe them so that they are real and stay in my feelings – then the blessed love of God in Christ will scarcely shine at all. The sweetness of the air of redemption will be hardly detectable. The infinite marvel of my new life will be commonplace. The wonder that to me, a child of hell, all things are given for an inheritance will not strike me speechless with trembling humility and lowly gratitude. The whole affair of salvation will seem ho-hum, and my entrance into paradise will seem as a matter of course. When the heart no longer feels the truth of hell [or self-murdering sin], the gospel passes from good news to simply news. The intensity of joy is blunted and the heart-spring of love is dried up.

The False Gospel of Mysticism

In our day, teachings on self-spirituality, personal belief systems, self-esteem, and inner emotional lives abound. Mysticism is making a comeback.

Mysticism began as early as Eve’s decision in the garden to listen to her own intuition and the voice of the devil rather than God’s Word. It continued when Cain listened to his own inner voice rather than God’s warning. Mysticism became a grand display when Aaron led the people of Israel to make their own god according to their liking rather than following the God who had already spoken.

Mysticism is nothing new.

Today it just sounds different. People will say things more like, “That’s not how I like to picture God,” instead of, “Let’s make a golden calf;” but it means the same thing. People will claim that there is more to God than what the Bible says, but what they really mean is that they prefer their own intuitions to the written Word. To wit . . .

An Overview of Mysticism

  • G/god – The god of mysticism is made in our image, according to oour likeness, pliable to our own feelings, malleable according to our preferences.
  • B/bible – God has revealed himself in many different ways, and the bible is equal to all the other ways (nature, self, other people, history, etc.).
  • Sin – Sin is the failure to listen to God’s voice inside of you. It involves the lack of a certain spiritual quality to your life because you did not properly commune with your personal god that day.
  • Christ – Jesus came to re-institute a special kind of living with God. He came to teach us and reorient us to the god that is everywhere, if we will only listen.
  • Atonement – ummmm, what?
  • Salvation – Salvation is the process by which you know Jesus in your own personal way. Whether or not you believe the gospel is irrelevant here.
  • Church – We prefer to call this a “fellowship” or “group.” These are the people that believe in a god somewhat like yours and like to talk and sing about him in the vaguest possible terms.
  • End Times – We like to call this the “consummation” or just “the end.” What happens here is anybody’s guess, but we hope for our guess.

As you can see, mysticism is slippery and quite hard to follow. Do mystics believe the gospel? De facto, it’s hard to tell. Do they know the true and living God? They sure think they do.

A Final Warning
Remember, mystics write fancy lines like this:

I don’t think that Jesus’ teachings were primarily about creating doctrines for people to believe in. They were a prophetic calling of a new humanity into existence. They were an invitation into living in a new way, an invitation to the good news that the Kingdom of God is at hand.

So be careful. The mystical writer, pastor, teacher, or musician you follow may not be an under-shepherd but a wolf leading you away (Acts 20:29-30) from knowing the God who has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ through His written Word. Only the Word can show you, if you will but listen.

Feel Like You’re Faking the Ministry?

Peace and War for Christians (Ministers)
Gospel ministry is the hardest, highest, most rewarding, most heartbreaking work there is. There is pressure from without and fears within. For pastors all over the world, persecution, hatred, and violence await. For all, ministry in the home is often arduous, taxing, and emotional as well.

It makes sense, then, that many pastors struggle with discouragement, despair, and guilt over “faking it.” Many pastors secretly think they are hypocrites, teaching one thing while doing another. They probably think of Romans 2:3, “Do you suppose, O man — you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself — that you will escape the judgment of God?”

Yet we must also remember that all Christians are ministers (Eph. 4), and all ministers ought to first be Christians.

War: We’re Not Sinless Now
Scripture says that being a Christian doesn’t mean we should lie about our sin. We still sin! 1 John 1:8-10 is helpful here:

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

People who lie about their own sin are self-deceivers and Jesus-haters, but people who confess them to Jesus receive His forgiveness and His cleansing.

The Bible’s view is that Christians still sin, so Christians should be honest about it.

Peace: We Are Sinless in Christ
At the same time, the Bible plainly teaches that through Jesus we are made sinless in God’s sight now and sinless forever in the next life. These facts are our hope and power for fighting our sin now! Hebrews 10:14 says:

For by a single offering [Christ] has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

Christ’s offering is finished, once-for-all-time, and it singly perfected His set-apart people. This sin-killing work has been finished on the cross:

We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

So Romans 6 says that Christ finished the work of putting away our sin, He will never die again, and He is now alive forever to God. And all of this is our power to fight sin.

How to Fight the Peace-Armed War
The twin realities of sin and Christ affect our hearts in profound ways. Christ’s death and resurrection mean that sin no longer has ultimate power over us. Jesus has already won the victory.

But our sin nature still has some power. It fights against the Spirit in us, and a war must ensue. We must not be at peace with out sin, but at war with it because we desperately want peace with Christ. It sounds odd, but the peace of Christ puts us into direct violence against all enemies of our pure devotion to Him.

We fight then, because we are saints who still sin, but we’re not finally sinners. We fight because we strive to lay hold of that for which Christ also laid hold of us, but we have not yet attained the prize.

Keep fighting the good fight, my brothers in Christ.

Don’t Fake It: Teaching the Peace-Armed War
The way, then, to avoid “faking it” in the ministry is to be honest about your struggles and honest about the gospel. The way to be honest is to be a Christian first – not mainly a Christian minister, but a Christian. Yes, you’re called to be a leader for the gospel, but not before you’re called to be a Christian.

A few tips:

  1. Don’t teach something you haven’t learned. Beginning to learn also counts. If we’re learning at all, we’re still in process.
  2. Don’t give any impression that you have it all figured out. We know you don’t.
  3. Meditate over your text before you jubilate over it. John Owen said that the Word has to dwell within us in power before it will go out from us in power. But don’t just do it for your ministry. Meditate on the Word for yourself.
  4. Be honest when the passage has broken you. Your people will appreciate your transparency and humility before the might Word of God.

“Do Stuff” Isn’t the Gospel

Last year, I noticed a disturbing trend in some Christian schools I visited. The good news about Jesus Christ, perfect, crucified, risen, and reigning, had all but disappeared from pulpits and classrooms around me. The historical, 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 gospel had been replaced with bad, bad news. The bad news was this:

  • “Boys and girls, be good people.”
  • “Students, do something nice for your classmates.”
  • “Christians, get to know your neighbors.”
  • “Teachers, love your students.”
  • “Administrators, be better bosses.”
  • “Parents, get involved in your child’s life.”

Eventually, I gave it a name – “Do Stuff.” To be sure, Do Stuff is a poor gospel substitute, but its also something much worse – a gospel killer. Do Stuff comes in the name of Christ but leaves His good news out.

Do Stuff is popular with pastors, youth leaders, and teachers because it gives them the right to give people commands without giving them the gospel. You see, explaining the gospel takes time, and Do-Stuffers want to spend their time telling people what to do.

Hating “Do Stuff”
“‘Hate’ is a strong word, isn’t it?” Why, yes, it is. And the Bible tells us to hate what is evil and cling to what is good. According to Galatians 1:8-9, teaching legalism is evil. It curses people and keeps them out of heaven, because legalism teaches us to rely on ourselves and not Jesus Christ crucified and risen. Legalism keeps us from Jesus, and we are to hate anything that keeps us from Him, even our own families (Luke 14:26).

Christians ought to hate “Do Stuff” for more specific reasons, too:

  1. “Do Stuff” lies to people about their own sin. Telling people to do good things implies that are good enough to do good things. Of course, the Bible doesn’t make this implication, but our sinful hearts do (even as we deny our sin). We are not good, and can do nothing to gain God’s favor.
  2. “Do Stuff” murders the grace of God and turns it into our works. Relying on, focusing on, and loving our works is antithetical to trusting in the grace of God.
  3. “Do Stuff” reduces the word of God to a list of actions and prohibitions. Isn’t that what our students and church members end up thinking, that “the Bible is a list of rules”?
  4. “Do Stuff” turns the messengers of God into messengers of Satan. Preachers are meant to herald God’s gospel, not their own commands! Every command of Scripture, sooner or later, is couched in the gospel!
  5. “Do Stuff” deceives people away from Christ. The focus of “Do Stuff” is always on us! It will always be man-centered! To be God-centered, you must center your teaching on GOD!

Truly, “Do Stuff” is worthy of our spite and scorn.

Spotting “Do Stuff”
Do Stuff can be hard to spot, though, because it often comes cloaked in the garb of agreeable religious duty – pray more, read your Bible more, give more, love the poor, love your family, work hard, blah blah blah. But not one of those things, by itself, focuses on Christ and Him crucified.

When you hear a message, devotion, or lesson spoken in the name of Christ, ask yourself this: “Did that teacher just tell me to do stuff? Or did he remind me that Jesus has already done it in my place, and it is finished? Did he call me mainly to faith in Christ’s work, or faith in mine?” Then you will begin to spot who is giving you false laws, and who is reminding you of the Savior.

“Do Stuff” Isn’t the Gospel
The Bible has another word for this false gospel, “legalism,” and another word for those who teach it, “Pharisees.” Since Jesus gives His strongest condemnations to these false teachers, we ought to heed well His warnings here (see Matthew 23).

Jesus hated “Do Stuff” because He knew it wasn’t the gospel. He lived and died and rose for the gospel, and “do stuff” isn’t it. Jesus Himself is the good news. Only by trusting Him does God forgive us, change us, adopt us, make us holy, keep us humble, kill our sin, and bring us home to glory.

Now, whenever I hear a message, I try to ask myself this: “Did that preacher just tell me to do stuff? Or did he remind me that Jesus has already done it in my place, and it is finished?”

The Main Difference Between Planting New Churches and Planting New Campuses

The main difference between planting new churches and planting new campuses, as far as I can tell, is this: churches that plant new churches want to spread the gospel in the name of Jesus Christ, while churches that plant new campuses want to spread their own name.

I know, I know, lots of “church health”-type folks have said it before, but a recent video from a related church got me thinking – why are they planting another campus instead of another church?”

The answer from the video is, “Because our name is well-known in this new area.”

Hmm. It seems that if this particular church was known for the gospel, they would have no problem just planting a church with any old Christ-centered name. Instead, they must plant a new campus with the same church name. Instead of planting something like “Westside Presbyterian Church” won’t do, it has to be, “Eastside Presbyterian Church, West Campus.”

So, the planting church’s stated priority is not multiplying churches in Christ’s name but multiplying campuses in their own name. And maybe they’ll get to multiplying Jesus’ name later.

Maybe.

So, dear brother-churches and church members, care not for your own church’s name! Care for Christ’s name! Plant churches in His name, whatever the cost! Pray and work and teach for healthy congregations that function as their own bodies, not as some parody of some other church down the road.

When you care more about His name, you’ll plant churches in His name, not your own.

Linger Until They Burn

You must go to the Word and think about it until it burns in you. You must become meditators on the Bible. You must become students of the Bible. You must think over the things of the Lord, texts, and you must think, think, think over them until they burn in you.

You must take the most familiar phrases, and, instead of blowing over them, and linger over them for an hour until they burn! You must come at them from every angle . . . you must do that in the Word, or you’re going to be boring on Sunday morning.

And you know when you’re boring, and that’s when you start doing “cute” things – and it will not make them burn! So you can’t be boring, and you won’t be boring if you stay with the Bible until it burns!

The problem is: we’re lazy. We think only a a certain little teeny, weeny layer of teachers can be exciting about the Bible. “The Bible is basically boring, a few people have the gift to make it exciting, but we do cute things.”

Look, the Bible is the most radical, wild, crazy, unbelievable book in the world! All you need to do is believe it! Believe it with all your might!

From “Imparting a Passion: A Challenge to Youth Workers,” by John Piper.

Is Your Church Characterized By Commands or Christ?

Is your church characterized by commands the leaders give or by the person and work of Jesus Christ. Sadly, various issues in the church – alcohol use, school choice, political beliefs, positions on tattoos and smoking, dietary choices, positions on dancing and attire – tend to characterize the family of God, when it should be all about Jesus.

Jesus is the blazing center, the one who fills all in all, the beginning and goal of all things in the universe and in His church. Dear local church, does your life and doctrine show that?

Here are six ways to tell:

  1. Sunday Service: When people walk out of your Sunday service, do they remember the music style, the way the pastor dressed, the movies he referenced or railed against, or the gospel?
  2. Conversation & Life: When your church members get together, do they tend to discuss political issues, school choices, and dietary decisions or the great work of God in their lives?
  3. Watching World: When unbelievers talk about your church and its members, do they tend to notice that they are characterized by idiosyncracies or by the living Christ?
  4. Small Groups: When your church gathers in small groups, do the leaders focus on what members should and should not be doing or what they should and should not be believing?
  5. Diversity: It’s not an absolute judge, but is your church is characterized by a specific socioeconomic class, a particular musical preference, a small age or life situation demographic, one or two ethnicities, or by a diversity of people (as much as geographically possible) ralled around Jesus?
  6. Pastors and Leaders: Brother pastor and leader, does your teaching focus more on what your people are to do or not do or on who they are to trust?

Each of these is a strong indicator as to whether your church is characterized by commands or Christ. Together, they serve as a helpful guide to assessing the Christ-centeredness of your local body.

But why care about that? Even if your church does stand out more for opinions than for the Savior, why does that matter? Here are 5 reasons:

  1. Glory: Jesus gets more glory when He is the center rather than issues. And His glory is what He deserves.
  2. Goal: Check out Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 sometime, God doesn’t aim for our divisive opinions to take center stage. That’s for Christ alone.
  3. Good: In the biggest ways, the health of your church depends on your God-given ability to focus on Jesus, not on everything else that clamors for our attention. Politics, opinions, and false laws don’t feed faith.  The people will prosper in the Lord as you point them to Him.
  4. Glue: From places like Ephesians 4 and Colossians 3, we learn that the church becomes very sticky when it is stuck on Christ. And that’s the point – focusing on Jesus leads the church to grow in the gospel, guard the gospel, and go hard for the gospel together. A church united in the gospel won’t be divided over weaker matters.
  5. Gospel: The gospel becomes and remains very clear when we labor week after week, year after year, to keep it clearly shining forth from the Scriptures. It becomes clear to the church, who in turn makes it clear to the world. The endurance of your people and the salvation of the world depend on your single-minded, violently-vigilant focus on Jesus Christ.

So, brother pastor, leader, or church member, is your church characterized by commands or Christ? Even biblical commands aren’t meant to overshadow – but rather point to – the Son of the Living God, perfect, reigning, sacrificed and risen, gracious and just, God and man, powerful and returning. Will your church be ready?

Let the Anonymous Speak Up

In Sticky Teams: Keeping Your Leadership Team and Staff on the Same Page, author Larry Osborne counsels leaders to enact a “no-‘theys'” rule regarding anonymous influences:

Our “no theys” rule applies not only to the board; it also applies to every staff meeting and to all of my dealings with the congregation. Now whenever someone says that they’ve been talking to some people who have a concern, I always ask, “Who are they?”

If I’m told that they wouldn’t be comfortable having their names mentioned, I respond, “That’s too bad, because I’m not comfortable listening to anonymous sources. Let me know when they’re willing to be identified. I’ll be happy to listen.”

It seems that such counsel would solve a lot of anonymous problems, mainly because “they” don’t exist.

HT: What’s Best Next

%d bloggers like this: