Thursday, October 30, 2014

Trouble in the Sheep Pen

     Recently, I had the opportunity to read two articles published by "The Aquila Report" online.  One dealt with Mark Driscoll ("Yes, Restore Mark Driscoll, But to What?") and the other discussed "Young, Reckless, and Reformed".  Both of these articles are worth the time to read and think about because in many respects they are related.
Windows in the Cathedral at Lincolnshire 
     In the first article, the author discusses the fact that Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church fame has resigned from that ministry.  Over the past couple of years there have been charges by former members of being treated unfairly.  There were also charges of plagiarism by Driscoll in a book published under his name.  Of course, it is always sad to see a pastor leave a ministry he began, but this is not a new phenomenon.  There have been any number of leaders in the past who have resigned in the midst of scandal, but in this case, the author of the article asks a good question.  He says that Mark Driscoll should be restored to fellowship.  However, he questions if he should be restored to the pastorate.  There are some, he argues, that would be better off pursuing other callings.  Not everyone is meant to be a pastor especially if there are relationship problems that occur that results in a number of the sheep leaving the flock.  While I am not privy to all that transpired, I have read a number of accounts by former members who were themselves involved in leadership that reminded me how important it is to have a servant's heart if a person is in the position of pastor, elder or even a Sunday School teacher.
     In the second article (Young, Reckless, and Reformed), the author Mark Singleton points out the fact that the Reformed faith (of which Mark Driscoll was a part) has grown by leaps and bounds in the last several years.  With this growth, there is also great enthusiasm, but there are also some dangers.  He writes:  "There are churches and pastors who can testify about a difficult situation that arises from this large movement. The problem is the trend of young, reformed but heady college students who can talk theological circles around most layman, and even many pastors. Because of this theological depth they may request or receive authoritative positions they are completely unqualified for. This trend produces young people who are reformed and ready to have a microphone. The problem is that, because of their age, many of these guys—myself included—can be lacking in some serious wisdom."  Mark Singleton goes on to propose three important considerations that would help bring maturity to these believers.  Without understanding how to apply what we believe in a manner that is glorifying to God, we can wound others.  We may have great education, Bible college or even a seminary degree but are we ready to lead?  I wondered if this is what happened to Mark Driscoll.  Did he start to believe his own press?  Was he caught up in the success of the church?
     In Paul's letter to Timothy (3:1-7), he lays out the qualifications for teaching and ruling elders in the church:  "The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer[a] must be above reproach, the husband of one wife,[b] sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil."  
     Within the passage, there are several things which stand out for leaders.  First, Paul mentions some character qualities.  The person must be self-controlled.  No hair trigger tempers here that result in conflict.  The individual should be respectable and hospitable.  That word "hospitable" describes the ability to be welcoming to everyone in the body of Christ both young and old alike.  Furthermore, Paul describes a man who is gentle and not quarrelsome or a lover of money.  This indicates the heart of a servant not someone thinking only of his own welfare.  Paul also rules out recent converts who may not be mature enough in the faith to effectively lead as well as someone who is well thought of by those outside the church body.  It is a picture of a humble servant with a tender heart not a bully, or someone who demands his own way.
      I remember when I was in college that there were some who went into teaching for all the wrong reasons.  They wanted the benefits, three months off and a retirement plan, but they confided in me that they really were not crazy about working with students.  It made me sad because that meant shortchanging the students.  They would be the ones to suffer.  The same is true if a person undertakes leadership as a pastor, teacher or elder when they really only want the title, benefits, or the spotlight.  The sheep will ultimately be shortchanged.
     A pastor/counselor wisely told me some years ago that when someone ministers out of a desire to be recognized and to have his needs met, he will ultimately end up wounding others.  I believe this is a valid point.  James 3:1 tells us:  "Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment."  Our motives are always on display before God.  He alone knows the heart.
     It is my prayer that in the situation with Mark Driscoll as with anyone else in similar circumstances there can be repentance and sincere restoration to fellowship.  I also pray there will be greater accountability to other believers.  May God grant us all grace as we walk daily that our motives and hearts can be humble, righteous and holy before the Lord so that He ALONE can receive the glory.  We are all called to have a servant's heart.  Selah!

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