Thinking Out Loud

January 27, 2012

Close Up: How Church Discipline Happens at Mars Hill Seattle

This is an article about how Mark Driscoll’s church — Mars Hill in Seattle, WA — handles church discipline issues and excommunication, presented anecdotally and in painstaking detail.

I have no hesitation in importing large amounts of text from other blogs if I think it means that people will actually read the subject matter in question, but in this case, you are indeed going to have to click, because the narrative is lengthy; but also because you need to reward all the work that went into making this story available.

In a two-part blog post,  Mark Driscoll’s Church Discipline Contract: Looking For True Repentance at Mars Hill Church? Sign on the Dotted Line and Mark Driscoll’s ‘Gospel Shame’: The Truth About Discipline, Excommunication, and Cult-like Control at Mars Hill author Matthew Paul Turner introduces us to a young man named Andrew.

Shortly after graduating from high school (he was homeschooled), Andrew wanted a change in scenery. The then Tennessee resident says he needed a change in scenery. He needed to get away. He needed to grow up. He needed to figure out what he was going to do with the rest of his life.

So when he turned 20, Andrew moved away from his quaint life in America’s Bible belt, and he moved to Seattle, and yes, in hopes of finding himself.

Once he was settled into life in the great Northwest, Andrew took the advice of an older sibling and visited Mars Hill Church, the congregational home of Mark Driscoll.

Andrew was born and raised Independent Fundamental Baptist, so not only was Andrew accustomed to Mark’s anger-laced fiery style of sermon, he had a deep appreciation for it. In the beginning, some of Mars Hill’s reformed theologies rubbed against Andrew’s Baptist roots, but Mark’s enthrallment for preaching “Jesus Christ crucified” eventually was what relieved Andrew’s doctrinal concerns, and it wasn’t long before he became a member. Soon thereafter, he was wading heart deep amid the friendly, committed Mars Hill community, becoming more and more comfortable in his born again reformed skin, guzzling the Driscollized water.

According to Andrew, joining Mars Hill was a good move for him. While he didn’t agree with every theological declaration that came out Mark Driscoll’s mouth, he loved his community, a devoted group of believers who seemed to love, support, and value him the way Jesus commanded. Over the next couple of years, Andrew became well connected. He volunteered. He became active in a community group. He even volunteered on Sundays as church security.

Toward the beginning of 2011, Andrew met and eventually began dating the daughter of a church elder at Mars Hill. The two fell in love quickly. Last fall, they were engaged to be married.

But shortly after becoming engaged, Andrew made a costly choice…

Again, here are the links:

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August 27, 2010

I’ve Got A Postsecret

In balance, Post Secret is one of the darker places on the internet.  It’s also a curiosity because it combines online interaction with the necessity of snail-mailing a postcard to an address in Germantown, Maryland.  High tech, meet low tech.  The postcards are handmade, or at the very least, amended versions of commercial products; all containing a confession.  (I suspect some send them in envelopes for privacy and protection of their art mini-masterpieces.)

Most of the overt confessions involve some type of sexual infidelity.  Affairs or affairs of the heart; cheating on a spouse, etc.  Closely following are other transgressions of the ten commandments, including stealing things from a workplace or lying to a friend.   Apparently there is a need to come clean to someone, anyone; a need to have someone to confess to; explainable if the person is of Catholic background, but that doesn’t apply to the majority American respondents.

Not all the secrets at Post Secret involve something that the writer themselves did however.   Unlike other online confessionals, this one also gets a fair degree of mail from people who have simply been hurt.   They may have been someone’s victim, or they may be a victim of circumstances.   Or they might just be expressing an anger or an angst that not all is right either without or within.


A surprising number of the thousands of postcards displayed online each year involve a loss of belief or a loss of faith, such as the one above.  (Many are more blunt, just saying, “I don’t believe in God anymore;” often with the punchline, “I’m a pastor.”)  It’s interesting that while the average person’s ten commandment list would focus on the ‘second tablet’ there are at least some people responding who regard ‘first tablet’ sins — commandments one through four — as equally serious, especially the overarching loss of regard for God Himself.

It is as though this type of confession weighs equally on the heart of the person taking the time to compose the postcard.   There is a disconnect that has taken place between themselves and God, and somehow, they know God is not at fault.  (“If God suddenly seems distant, guess who moved?”)

Of course what is most sadly lacking, especially from a liturgical point of view, is the assurance of pardon.   Ignoring the fact that the confession may have been misdirected — confessing to a stranger or online community of strangers only eases the desire to tell someone — there are no next steps; there is nowhere to begin climbing back to right relationship with either themselves, another party, or God.  Not even a Hail Mary.

Instead, the Post Secret simply squats online for a few days — or longer if it gets picked up in one of the print editions — like a traffic accident that no one is bothering to clean up.

In The Pursuit of Holiness, Jerry Bridges says we never see sin correctly unless we see it “as against God.”   In other words, even the casual theft of office supplies is a sin against God.   We don’t fail ourselves, or fail our spouse or boss or relative or neighbor; ultimately we “miss the mark” with God.

But the assurance of pardon is that if we confess our sin, with faithfulness and according to a justice we can’t always comprehend, he will pardon that sin and help us to work out that sin-nature that caused it.

If God had a website confessional; people would walk away feeling new, and cleansed, and whole.

He’s got something better.

Wanna read more?   Here’s a continuation of this discussion at Christianity 201.

The reason Moses always appears holding two Styrofoam flutter boards is that the first four commandments involve sins against God and the second six involve sins against other people; often referred to as ‘first tablet’ and ‘second tablet.’   See, you learned something today about flutter boards.

So far, no link.   I know.   Post Secret contains content that is certain to offend some readers of this blog, but if you’re looking for the link, this is it.

March 8, 2010

When Pastors Lie

Over the years, I’ve heard stories where people will say something like, “My pastor looked me straight in the eye and lied through his teeth.”   I’ve personally experienced things where a pastor can claim palpable denial of having said something, when in fact they did.   I’m not sure that “lied through his teeth” is the phrase I would choose, but there’s no doubt that these days the art of spin-doctoring is highly cultivated among professionals of all stripes.   Others claim to have been lied to outright by their priest, rector or minister.

The problem is, I still respect the office.  You may not respect the individual, but I still think you have to respect the sovereignty of God in placing people in charge of shepherding a portion of God’s flock.   At least until proven they are guilty.   In general though, most of the pastors I’ve met  had a considerable degree of integrity and most of the ones I know today are worthy of my trust.

But they aren’t perfect.   There are stories told by people in the hospitality industry of how pay-per-view screenings of pornography in hotels is either the same or higher than normal when there’s a pastor’s conference in the house.   That’s not the subject for this discussion, but if a pastor — presumably traveling at church expense — can think nothing of requesting Debbie Does Dallas (and it’s not a movie about the seminary) on the hotel’s movie-on-demand service, then they are clearly capable of doing anything else unethical.

So what does it look like when a man of God looks another man straight in the eye who is committing adultery with his wife?  How does he justify that action?

I can’t show you what it looks like, but I can let you hear what it sounds like.   This weekend I came across the website yourpastorlied.com aka Pastor Mike Hylton Lied to You Just so He Could Sleep with My Wife.   Last updated in the summer of 2009, it’s a very sad story of a woman swept up in the arms of another man.   Both have children.

David Gray, the website’s author, sticks to the facts in what must be an otherwise emotional time for him.   But the highlight — about 3/4 of the way down the webpage — is the mp3 file of a phone call he made to both his wife and her pseudo-husband.    While the minister in question doesn’t try to lie to Gray, he is living a lie.

This is what justifying sin sounds like when you hear it over the telephone.   This is what rationalization sounds like when it’s spoken out loud.    You need to read a bit of the text to understand the story, but then you really need to hear the 6-minute (or so) audio transcript of the call.

People — all of us included — are capable of minimizing the most blatant sin.   Even people who’ve worked in vocational ministry, who have taken vows to be the shepherds of God’s flock.  Pray for your pastor, that he does not fall into sin, and if you take time to click and listen, pray for repentance, confession and forgiveness to take place in this particular story.

James 3: 1

(The Message) 1Don’t be in any rush to become a teacher, my friends. Teaching is highly responsible work. Teachers are held to the strictest standards.

(NLT) 1 Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly.

(Amp.) 1NOT MANY [of you] should become teachers (self-constituted censors and reprovers of others), my brethren, for you know that we [teachers] will be judged by a higher standard and with greater severity [than other people; thus we assume the greater accountability and the more condemnation].



February 24, 2010

Link List Anniversary Edition

The celebration of our second birthday, which is actually today, got bumped to yesterday so we could observe Link Day.   Priorities.

I gotta admit, last week’s link list was amazing.   If you missed out on that one, here’s a link.   But there are some really good things here as well.  Who says blogging’s dead?

  • Well this is no surprise:  Music legend and now part-time theologian Elton John announces that Jesus was gay.   You can pass on this one but if you insist, go here and here.  (Don’t bail yet, the links get better after this…)  Actually you might want read this response at Captain’s Blog.
  • But seriously, sexual attraction is something you need to talk about with your kids, beyond the usual ‘birds and bees’ talk.   The subject is dealt with by Jay Younts  here at Shepherd Press’ blog in one part of a six-part article on conversations parents need to have with children.
  • Here’s a link with great potential value to anyone involved with any kind of sexual addiction or blatant sexual sin.   Pete Wilson describes this as a sermon he was reluctant to do, but some amazing things took place when he confronted this topic, and I believe will continue to happen as people view it online.   If you or someone you know is dealing with this issue and is willing to invest a half hour to hear some straightforward talk on the subject, then click here.
  • This week I learned a new word while reading about reproductive technology:  snowflake children.  The term came up in a Q & A on Russell Moore’s that asked about the ethics of  embryo adoption.
  • I’ve been so busy e-mailing this link to people, I can’t remember if I’ve included it here yet.   Behold the Lamb by UK worship leader Stuart Townend is an awesome communion song.
  • Floodgate Productions is one of many companies producing video clips for church use, but this one in particular is recommended for church websites, though I think you could show it Sundays as well.   Watch the two-minute clip, Around Here.
  • Unless you’ve been living in a blog vacuum, you know the topic of the week has been Brian McLaren’s new book, A New Kind of Christianity. Rather than specify a specific link, why not type his name into Google Blog Search.
  • This might be a repeat, but if you haven’t yet, take some time to read some backstory behind Shaun King, blogger at Shaun in the City.   The accident report is called I Experienced a Miracle and I’m Not a Loon.
  • Our new blog for the week is a sort of Best of YouTube meets Stuff Fundies Like.   Wild and wacky and all somehow Christianity-related video clips abound on Crazy Christian Clips.   (One of my favorites, still, is this one.)
  • Most of us can’t remember when the Roman Catholic mass was conducted entirely in Latin, but now Muslims are dealing with how much English to include inside mosques without violating Islamic law and betraying their culture.    Read it at USAToday Religion.  (I wonder if there’s a The Message-style version of the Qu’ran in their future?  No, not really.)
  • New Kind of Church  idea #68,251 from Christian Week:  Church in a bowling alley.
  • Prayer Request:  Church Report is reporting the arrest of the leading evangelical pastor in Iran.
  • I think Kevin Leman’s books on marriage and parenting meet a definite need.   But when he’s on Christian radio — which he does a lot of — he can be exceedingly blunt when he talks about sex.   I wouldn’t suggest playing this video clip if you’ve got kids or teens nearby.
  • Considering a blog, Twitter of Facebook sabbatical? How about, more accurately, a sabbath-ical? First check out what Scott Couchenour has to say here (it’s short) and then especially here.  (I’ve been doing this for several years.)
  • Our upper cartoon is from ASBO Jesus, by UK blogger Jon Birch.  Our lower cartoon is Preacher’s Kids by David Ayers which you can catch weekly at Baptist Press.   If this still wasn’t enough, check out the sidebar, “Oh, Oh, The Places We’ll Go” and especially the ones that begin with the word Links.

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