Today I decided to post some comments from others which resonate with me. A blog titled “The Tolling Bell” used to do this quite frequently, but they have disappeared from blogdom with nary a word. Such is life in the blogosphere! This one is from Doug Murren, a former pastor of mine. He has been around the block a time or two and has wisdom to match his years.
“Mark Driscoll. I think the situation there in Seattle is far more important than one church. I think it could send a message to abusive and celebrity and personality driven churches around the country. I think a call is out to shape up and fly right there are many who are tired of picking up the pieces of lives wounded by abusers and narcissists from both large and small churches. My friend Jimmy Henderson has dogged this guy for months if not years to shine the light on his abuse and dishonesty. It is amazing how many advanced Christians are more concerned about Jimmy criticizing than the crimes being exposed – I guess its the way we have been trained. The point I can’t get over is he used $220,000 of church money to fraudulently get a number one book rating in the NY Times. Few really good tobacco chewing, whiskey swilling, womanizing, cheaters, and blasphemers would stoop that low as a writer. If he were a professor he’d be fired. If he were a journalist he’d be done for good. And if he were a politician he would have to wait out two election cycles. Why should he be treated any differently. I am not impressed with my acquaintances and friends from large church notoriety that have said nothing about this. Maybe there is a fraternity out there after all.”
A new blog has been started by several former leaders of Mars Hill Church. I have been perusing it and am deeply encouraged by what I read. Here is a short blurb from the “About” section:
“Each of these posts are confessions from Mars Hill leaders and members who agree that the culture of Mars Hill has many problems, and that more could have been done by each of us to challenge those problematic attitudes and behaviors. In staying at Mars Hill, we were complicit in those structures, and problems whether we employed them or not. We recognize and confess that Mars Hill has hurt many people within the Mars Hill community, as well as those outside the community including those who don’t believe Mars Hill’s religious beliefs, and we want to acknowledge the hurt we may have caused. We humbly ask your forgiveness. These are our individual confessions, letters, stories, and apologies.”
These former leaders “get it.” I pray that through their efforts not only will many hurting Christians be helped, but others in fraternities I have blogged about will come to a sincere change of heart and take similar actions. Below is a quote from the confession of Lief Moi. I would encourage you to go read further at the blog site.
“For the past seven years I have been silent. I truly believed that at the time of my resignation it was best for the church for me to leave quietly. There was a lot of tension and some very major changes in how the church leadership was structured; I did not want to add to the difficulty and definitely did not want to see a split or factions arise, so, I decided to slip away in silence. I now believe that it would have been best if I had spoken up and for not doing so and leaving you all just wondering, “What happened?” Again I ask your forgiveness for not trusting you enough to be honest and open with my concerns and apprehensions.
… I now feel it necessary for me to ask your forgiveness for not standing up to what I felt was the right thing for MH, and that was to remain an all-elder, one vote, and unanimous elder board. You trusted me to do what was right and I gave in. I let my fear of man as well as my personal gain and well-being persuade me to go along with something that I believed would hurt MH and ultimately the Gospel.
It has been written, spoke of and declared, that in order for a church to be “On Mission” that sometimes people need to be “Run over by the bus” and a large pile of bodies is a good thing. I know where this kind of thinking came from because I believed it to be true and was in full agreement. While it is true that those who desire to lead people astray (the bible calls them wolves) need to be dealt with, I believe we went way too far and responded with anger and self-righteousness’ in throwing people under the bus. I ask your forgiveness for my part in promoting and approving this kind of behavior, it was godless!. I believed that growth, commitment, loyalty and service where the indicators of a healthy church and the mark of a godly leader, but if these are done without love they become the fuel for pride and control. True health is found when a people are changed from one pattern of life to another, from darkness to light, from sin to holiness, from despair and hopelessness to faith and joy. I believe now that the true sign of God’s presence and blessing on a church is when His people walk humbly, kindhearted, patient, joyful, caring of others, peaceful, and above all else treat each other with a true love. A love that is rooted in sacrifice and grace . This is my prayer for Mars Hill; it is this kind of love that changes the world. AND THAT IS OUR TRUE MISSION!
So, for the many of you that I was not kind, patient, caring, peaceful, joyful and loving towards I ask your forgiveness and would love the opportunity to shake your hand or give a hug (whichever you prefer) and seek reconciliation in Jesus’s name.
The next blog article caught my attention because of the title – “The Second Great Embarrassment: Protestants who treat leaders as mini-popes have fallen far from the Reformation.” Marvin Olasky is the author and he stated in part:
“If we could laugh off current evangelical scandals, our situation would not be so dim—but we cannot. Historians lecture on the Great Awakening (1730s-1740s) and the Second Great Awakening (1800s), but in our time we could mutter about the Great Embarrassment (1987-1991) and the Second Great Embarrassment (2006-present).
Both embarrassments involve sex and money, in varying combinations…. The link among perpetrators of both Great Embarrassments is their followers’ tendency to see them as inerrant mini-popes. After a while such adulation goes to men’s heads, leading many to think, I can do anything I want. Some want to be served sexually, some financially, some both.
This idea of protecting unity by supporting the vision of a human being, rather than relying on the vision of God as shown in the Bible, was anathema to Reformation products like the Puritans, who honored pastors but listened to sermons with Bibles on their knees, lest their leaders offer a vision not of God.”
The next blog article I found of interest is written by Stephen Altrogge. Stephen has had an interesting past few years. He was an assistant pastor at a Sovereign Grace Church in Indiana, Pennsylvania. This church was started by Brent Detwiler. Detwiler discipled Mark Altrogge who then became the senior pastor. Mark is Stephen’s father. When the big sexual abuse scandal broke in Sovereign Grace Ministries the church elders voted 3-1 to leave the Sovereign Grace Denomination. The one dissenting vote was Stephen Altrogge. (I am certain that strained family relations just a bit.) Stephen then resigned his position as assistant pastor and I am uncertain if he has obtained a job since then. I trust he and his father have a good relationship as they, along with John Piper’s son, Barnabas and a man named Joshua Blount all write for the “Blazing Center” blog.
Stephen Altrogge wrote an article for the blog titled “30 Books Every Christian Should Read.” (I don’t think I would be so bold as to suggest what every christian should read, but that is a minor point.) You can see Altrogge’s list here. While I don’t care for many of the books listed, it did make me think of what types of books I would list as books that really impacted me. Thirty may be too many, but ten should be sufficient. In talking to some people I said a person’s list would say a lot about them. I also mentioned it would be interesting to make a list of 10 books every New Year and then look back over the years to see how your list has changed. I think it would say a lot about an individual’s Christian growth. I know that today I would be embarrassed by many books I would have listed a mere two or three years ago. And then if I go back to the late 70’s I would really be embarrassed. “The Late Great Planet Earth” would probably have topped my list!
Anyway, if you are curious, here are the books on Altrogge’s list I agree with:
The Cross of Christ by John Stott
Finally Alive by John Piper
Knowing God by J.I. Packer
Overcoming Sin and Temptation by John Owen
Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs
The Discipline of Grace: God’s Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges
I have a jaundiced eye when it comes to all things Piper, but I believe the book listed above can be useful for a non-Christian examining Christianity. One difficulty in compiling a list is fighting the temptation to try and impress people by your choices, or being influenced by the “crowd you run with.” It appears Altrogge may be guilty of some of that, but only he can answer that charge.
I will finish with one more blog I stumbled across called “The Glass Pastor.” I found much I agree with. Notice I said much, not all. I questioned the author regarding Hebrews 13:17 – “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” I haven’t seen an answer to my question yet, but I am genuinely interested in hearing what he has to say.
“For this to work, the leadership of each church must be carefully carried out by those approved by the state, and then ‘ordained’, and invested with spiritual authority. Voila! The professional and ordained pastor/priest! This man, along with his superiors, was then authorized to interpret scripture, create and enforce standards of life for the congregations, and of course, receive the obligatory offerings (read that ‘tax’) from each faithful devotee.
…Nowhere in the New Testament to do we find anyone ‘submitting’ to a pastor, tithing their money at weekly Sunday services, asking permission of a spiritual leader in order to engage in ministry, or being told that unless they have a ‘church home’, and are under the authority of pastors and elders, that they are not being obedient to the call of Christ.
All of this, and much more, is the fabrication of the human ego, desperate to maintain security and control over the human resources of the masses. It is a serious and historic tragedy. It has reduced adult believers from living confident lives in the understanding of their spiritual identity, to stumbling along like toddlers, always needing the helping hand of the spiritual parent, from whom they must never stray.”