I am going to venture a bet that, if you go to church, your pastor isn’t Mark Driscoll. I’ll bet that, not because Mars Hill attendees don’t read my blog but because America is a big place and the vast majority of Christians don’t go to Mars Hill. The vast majority of christians I know (virtually or otherwise) attend, volunteer for or work at churches that aren’t Mars Hill and have (or are) different pastors that are not Mark Driscoll.
I have never been to Pastor Mark’s church and I don’t know a lot of people who have. Most likely, if I lived near Seattle, I’d go to Eugene Cho’s church.
I’ve read a book of his and honestly I don’t know why he has the enormous popularity he does.
I don’t know if he purposefully creates hype around himself or how sincere he is about his public causes..
I do know that my twitter and facebook feeds light up like the Krispy Kreme “Hot Donuts” sign every time the guy says something out loud. Now, I don’t have a particular issue with that. Some of the things the guy says or does are pretty off in my eyes as well and doing/saying them in the public forum ought to be met by public critique.
I also know that, in the continental US, somewhere around 1000 pastors are fired or quit every week. I know that the attrition rate among protestant pastors is very high because being a pastor is a heavy and taxing vocation, particularly if it’s done right.
And before you think this is an attempt on my part to defend strange, misguided or inflammatory things Mark Driscoll has said publicly, know that I have no intention of doing that – I don’t have the energy. I’m somewhere between ambivalent and fine with those who do critique Driscoll publicly and find some of what is written about his philosophy of ministry insightful, some of it is clever and a lot of it funny. But for my part, I generally don’t have the time to care too much about what most other pastors are saying or doing wrong… partly because I’m a pastor of a small church myself and, along with my role as an artist, the work I have in front of me is enough to concern myself with every day. Like I said, being a pastor a taxing vocation when it’s done right and I’m trying to do it right.
I recently spent four days in an intensive course required by the Evangelical Covenant Church to maintain my pastor’s license. As part of the course, I took a combination of tests; the Meyers-Briggs, the Enneagram, an adaptive leadership evaluation, a crisis-personality test, some other personality test and a full-blown psych exam. I then sat with a counselor who walked me through all the integrated data and talked about my strengths and my potential pitfalls. It was both enlightening and exhausting. Toward the end of our conversation (right after she told me I wasn’t dangerously unstable and/or a threat to my congregation and neighbors), she said “I wish I could issue this same battery of tests to congregations. Now that” she said “would be interesting stuff.”
Her point was that, while the ECC goes to great lengths to ensure the health of their ministers, health in life together is shared by all involved. The Denomination can do all within its power to keep the women and men they ordain healthy and focused and true… but that’s hardly going to be enough if you, beloved Family member, don’t also play your part.
Here is what I’m getting at: If you’re healthy enough to know, from a distance, that celebrity pastor X is blowing it and causing cultural damage, then by all means, feel free to call him or her out on whatever stage he or she is using to do that damage. But I beg you to also direct some of that wisdom and energy toward the care of the pastor in your own congregation; the one who belongs more uniquely and directly to you. Maybe even make it a 3:1 ratio; For every third time you publicly denounce the teachings or practices of a pastor who isn’t your pastor, write a private note of any length to the woman or man who is.
I’ll bet on two things happening if you do that:
- Pastor Celebrity Bloviation Esq. III will happily welcome your tweet or post or comment as one more persecution-like attack on his/her mission to civilize and make right a fallen, depraved world.
- Pastor Everyday Unremarkable will read your message more than once, show her husband what you wrote, thank God for it and for you and maybe even keep it somewhere she can easily access it when things get hard. I know that’s what I do. I have a binder of notes I’ve been handed or emailed by people who have said simple or elaborate things to me about the way they value the work I do and the pastor/person I am. It’s not a huge binder, even after 15 years of keeping them. But any time I need to (which is more often than you might think), I can crack that bad boy open and be reminded of the better part of my life and work.
Listen, I get it. I swear to you that I do. There are people creating lesser (and some terrible) forms of religious culture. I see it and I despise it and I think making public noise about it is often a good and necessary thing. But let me challenge/encourage you in this;
The single best and most effective cure for bad culture…
is better culture.
And you don’t have to be the principle architect of that better culture (I’m not asking everyone to plant a church), but you can be a faithful support and wise critic for those women and men who are. And that kind of work, I promise you, wins the day in the long run.