I’ve been thinking quite a bit about abuse of power in churches this week. The headlines about everything that has gone on at Mars Hill with Mark Driscoll just keep coming (as they should). I also just read a book about a woman who grew up in essentially what was a “Christianized” cult (Girl at the End of the World). The reality of such abuses in the name of God is weighing heavily on me.
Part of the reason this hits me so hard is that, in a much smaller way, I’ve seen abuse of power within the church firsthand. I’ve witnessed shunning, although it wasn’t called that. I’ve heard Scripture passages read aloud and then twisted to bolster lies delivered straight from the pulpit. Even though I saw that fallout years ago — it is times like this when it still haunts me. And yet, the pain I experienced is minuscule compared to what so many other people have endured in other cult-like (and actual cult) churches.
Brothers. Sisters. Please hear me out. It is not Christian to stop critical thinking when you enter the doors of a church. Don’t check your brain at the door. Sadly, we cannot assume leaders have everything right. Please realize I’m not saying we should always assume they are doing wrong either.
It is also not Christian to put your pastor on a pedestal. We are called to worship Jesus, not the leader of our congregation. We must always remember they are humans and sinners just like we are. And if they lack humility or react angrily when someone challenges them over a legitimate wrong, there should be alarm bells sounding in our heads.
Nor is it Christian to remain silent as abusive practices continue. Silence is what allows the sins to continue and the damage to be done.
It is not Christian for a church leader to have absolute authority over their church. Driscoll had elders to hold him accountable, until he changed things up several years ago and gained control. If you aren’t filled in on how that all happened this article from The Stranger lays it out for you. It is a must read.
Driscoll’s behavior towards his congregants and elders has been un-Christlike and incompatible with the Biblical requirements for the pastorate for years. What I cannot comprehend is how it got this far. How could it go on this long? Church leaders were thrown under the bus in 2007 and yet for the past seven years since Driscoll has continued to remain a popular speaker and author because of Christians — and not just the ones at Mars Hill.
Sure, now it looks like the empire is crumbling but how many more people were damaged because it took so long to expose those sins and call him to account? Driscoll’s attained “celebrity” pastor status through the support of many outside his own church. Because of that didn’t all Christians have a responsibility to call him to repentance? We are one body after all. Certainly, some have done that over the years — people who have left Mars Hill, sermon reviewers like Chris Rosebrough and others. But I am left with the impression that far too many were either ignorant about what was going on at Mars Hill, unwilling to believe Driscoll had done these things or were unwilling to speak out against them.
We must not tolerate this sort of abuse within the church, just as we shouldn’t tolerate other forms of abuse (verbal/emotional/physical/sexual abuse).
We must not sit down, shut up and do nothing when people are being victimized in the name of our Lord.