Honoring Mark Driscoll

Mark Driscoll, the controversial pastor of Mars Hill Church, is getting hammered lately. Many of his faults as a leader are being exposed right now and I have to think this is a pretty difficult season for him.

So I just wanted to take a minute and honor him. Pastor Driscoll isn’t one of my heroes or someone I listen to often, but I’ve always admired his amazing boldness and courage in wading into very tough territory, spiritually speaking. He’s spoken out on many social issues, on charismata, on sexuality, and many others. He’s challenged both the Church and the World in many important ways. The decisions that he’s made to engage in those battles are coming full circle in this time, as he’s being attacked from a variety of sources, but I for one am glad for his example.

The reality is that no leader is perfect. As many of his weaknesses are being exposed, it’s important to keep a balanced perspective of him. It seems wise to me that he take some time off from ministry and ask the Lord to heal some of these issues – but that’s so that he can come back twice as bold and with a greater capacity for leadership. He’s not a failure, and I’m believing that his future fruitfulness will far outweigh the past.

It is not easy to lead effectively. There is a temptation to use controlling tactics to get stuff done. The opposite extreme is the very real danger of allowing contrary opinion to distract from accomplishing the mission, and many leaders struggle to have influence for this reason. I am not intending to excuse controlling behavior, but it important that we understand it and be able to give grace and forgiveness when required, and honor where it is due.

It’s also important to honor those who have been hurt by Driscoll, and it seems there’s a good amount of people in this camp. It’s important for these types of things to come to light and I’m glad for this exposure, but I call on the Church to show honor and commitment as we confront error. I pray that there would be complete restoration to all those who have been hurt, and that there would be grace for understanding and forgiveness.

“Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted.” Gal. 6:1

Homosexuality and Judgement

I just read a great article by Vicky Beeching, a recently out-of-the-closet Christian musician that I had the pleasure of meeting once. It was great because it was a deep, honest look into a person who truly loves God and has struggled with same-sex attraction. Her story, and those of many others, is a rebuke to the Church and it’s important that we understand her perspective. Though I disagree with Vicky’s conclusions, my heart goes out to her and the many people who are struggling as she has.

In many ways, the issue of homosexuality is *the* test of the western Church in this hour. It is exposing many of the deeply rooted problems in the Body. How devoted to the Scriptures are we? How far does grace reach? How well can we uphold God’s standards of love and judgment? These issues are at the forefront of today’s spiritual battle for America, and the manner in which we handle the issue of homosexuality will in some ways decide the future of America.

Firstly, I must say that I am absolutely convinced that the Bible clearly calls homosexuality sin. There is a great effort today to make the case that the Bible does not condemn committed, monogamous homosexual relationships, but I believe this is just not an honest reading of Scripture. For anyone struggling with this question, I highly recommend you read Michael Brown’s book Can You Be Gay and Christian? Brown is a serious scholar and has studied the arguments in depth and answers them with wisdom and compassion.

Even if we know what Scripture says on this issue, we must understand that lots of people (roughly 2% of the population or so) feel same-sex attraction. Can we understand these people, and speak to them and about them in such a way that brings freedom rather than bondage? Jesus appeared to be very gracious with those in sexual sin and most harsh with those in self-righteousness. We must understand why if we are to imitate him properly. Though I’m focusing in on homosexuality, let me be clear that all people are sinful and we all struggle with different sins.

I believe that sexual sin is generally tied to a struggle with loneliness. To the degree that we’re lonely, but don’t know how to get real intimacy, we will be tempted to turn to lust (which is improper sexual attraction). Lust looks like intimacy, feels like it, but is only an imitation. Nevertheless, people are drawn to it because they want the real thing but don’t know how to get it.

But why do some people struggle deeply with loneliness? The human heart was created to thrive in an environment of intimacy. Without strong relational bonds growing up, that person wonders deep down if he/she is truly lovable. We all struggle with this to a degree, but for some the wound is deep, especially if they’ve had strong rejection experiences. Struggles with lust, including homosexuality, are one manifestation of this type of rejection. This is why I think Jesus was generally very kind with those who struggled with sexual issues. He was communicating invitation and acceptance to them, because their struggle was with feeling rejected. It is important to note that he did not lower the standards – he told the woman in adultery to “sin no more,” for example. But he spoke tenderly to them because it was necessary. Conversely, he spoke harshly to those in self righteousness, because that was appropriate. Both these tactics must be used by the Church in this hour in dealing with homosexuality.

Most people who feel same-sex attraction struggle with feeling rejected by others. This is not necessarily because other people actually reject them, but the rejection wound will make them sensitive to it. As a Church, we must be wise with how we speak here. We have to pour out love and acceptance, and be personally devoted to those who struggle with sexual sin. It’s important that we keep our tone kind and that we be aware that those who struggle with this will easily feel rejected. In his book, Michael Brown says:

“when I’m asked by parents what to do when their child comes out as gay, I tell them this: Sit down with them and say, “You know that we don’t believe that God made you gay or that homosexuality is His will, but we want to make it clear to you that we love you unconditionally, that you are our child no matter what, that we will always be here for you, that we are totally committed to you, that we want to be involved in your life, and that what you shared with us doesn’t change your relationship with us or diminish our love for you in any way.” After that I encourage them not to bring the subject up to their child but rather to pray for him or her and demonstrate that unconditional love.”

The Church has to do a better job engaging people who are same-sex attracted. In the ways that people grow up with wounds of rejection, the Church is called to step in as spiritual mothers and fathers to embody the love of Christ in people’s lives. My spiritual father led a young man to the Lord in prison during an outreach there, and then continued to mentor him–visiting him in prison every year on his birthday–for thirty years until he was released. I think this is one of the most amazing testimonies of love that I’ve ever heard, but this father’s heart needs to be released in the Body in a general way. I believe it is an important thing that the Spirit is doing in our times. People have cravings for mentors, for a mature person to be personally devoted to them–not for a season but for life–and we must answer the call.

Though this kind of love and grace for the immature is essential, it’s equally important to understand the difference between immaturity and rebellion. Immaturity is recognizing that something is wrong but not knowing how to stop. Rebellion is refusing to accept sin as wrong, and leads to self-righteousness. There is great pressure in our culture to “come out” as gay, which is to identify with one’s homosexuality and declare that it is not sinful. This is the path to self-righteousness, and will harden a person to conviction and make them oppose God’s plans. It’s important that the Church defy the chorus that is declaring that homosexuality is not a sin. This is part of our God-given responsibility to be a light to the world. Doing just this kind of thing is what got Jesus crucified, because he testified to the world that its deeds were evil; it was the self-righteous that put him to death.

There is a great need in our time to know God’s glory as judge. Judgement gets a bad rap in many Christian circles, but I believe it is only because it is so misunderstood. Judgement is not evil, as nothing God does is evil, and if we are to imitate Christ we must understand this aspect of his heart. Christ came first as the sacrificial lamb to die for the sins of the world, but He’s coming again to judge the living and the dead and to rule the nations with a rod of iron. He is both lion and lamb, and it is a misrepresentation of God to point only at the lamb.