There isn’t much left to say that hasn’t been said about the recent Mars Hill church discipline story that surfaced this last week. I do feel the need to address it for a couple of reasons; 1) I know that some of my readers are not blog readers and so this could be the only place they hear of the story – and the story must be heard, 2) I feel for Andrew. I want him to know that he is loved not only by Christ, but by the church. I want him to know he is surrounded in grace and peace, and is being prayed for daily.
If you are unaware of the story please take time to read it, it is worth it to know the happenings at one of the largest churches in the country. Matthew Paul Turner wrote about the story in two parts on his blog; you can read those here – Part One and Part Two.
I was grateful for the blog posts that followed in regards to Turner’s posts. The two that I thought were the most thoughtful were Kurt Willems post from The Pangea Blog entitled Treat Them Like a Tax Collector; Reflections on Matthew 18, Church Discipline, and Andrew and Roger Wolsey’s post from Sojourners Why Mark Driscoll Needs An Elephant.
I can only imagine the internal struggle Andrew must have went through in order to decide to speak out. I commend him for his courage. As Christ’s church, we have chosen to divide among ourselves for menial doctrinal issues, and this divide has broken the body of Christ into a scattered people in small groups among the world. We define ourselves not as Christians, but as Evangelicals, Baptist, Lutherans, or Catholics. Although I believe these divisions do more harm then good – I can understand them, I can respect them. However, a time must come where we recognize that the only label we are under is ‘Christ follower’. I believe this is one of those times.
Spiritual abuse is unacceptable. This ‘church discipline’ reeks of control, shame, and misuse of power. More stories are coming out about this same type of abuse from Mars Hill Seattle, and I imagine there is still more to come. I must admit my view of Mars Hill Seattle has changed tremendously over the last three years. I paid good money to see Mark’s conference on Song of Solomon. I have listened to the majority of his podcasts, read his books, and recommended his teachings to others. I can observe two things about Mark since following his teaching over the last few years … 1) He knows the Spirit of God, and 2) He has lost touch with that Spirit.
We must pray. We must pray for the elders and leaders of this church to repent (and when they do – as difficult as it might be – we won’t ask that they succumb to our demands until we decide enough is enough, and repentance has been achieved.) We must pray for others in this church, and churches like it, who are experiencing spiritual abuse of this nature or another. We have far too much evil in this world to worry about those who claim to know Christ as followers. We must pray for Andrew, as he has been removed from his community, and suffering for speaking out against what he knows is wrong.
If you are suffering spiritual abuse please know that you have been given the gift of the Spirit by Christ himself, and you do have the ability to discern right from wrong (1 John 2:20). The overwhelming desires to please the leaders of church, or to assume that what they say/demand is right is understandable – but you have Christ, and He should ultimately be the person leading you. Stand up and speak out if you are enduring this.
Living in a community of Christ should not bring you shame, but freedom. Being part of a church body should not hold you back from repentance, but instead gently guide you to where it is needed. Elders are to be respected; if their hearts are pure, your soul is their main concern (Hebrews 13:17). But do not be subjected to a life that is unworthy of Christ’s teachings.
As I said when I started, I am praying for Andrew. I am praying for the members of Mars Hill. I am praying for their leaders; including Mark. This is such a sad story. This church has the size, numbers, and resources to make a huge difference for Christ; they have the ability to bring peace and teach grace. Instead they are being blinded of their true calling by the need to control and desire to be in power … not to mention their inaccuracy of woman’s roles in the church, male aggression, and sexual obsession … but those are for another time.
Grace and Peace to Andrew – I believe God has wonderful things planned in your journey apart from Mars Hill.