Earlier this week I read a blog about giving Pastor Mark Driscoll the benefit of the doubt regarding his public "apology and repentance". I also examined Driscoll's letter of "apology" for myself.
I am all for restoring broken repentant brothers and sisters back into fellowship, when they humbly repent. I am convinced that a believer in Christ who has seen his sin will run to repentance and reconciliation. A believer will accept those things that are necessary to be restored and will be glad to undergo examination and counseling. A believer will desire to examine himself to see that he is truly in the faith. He will even step aside from certain leadership roles inside the church, understanding that he would not want to cause the name of Christ to be profaned because of his sin or error.
Here is the problem. Mark Driscoll has labeled himself a pastor, and not just any pastor; he has declared himself a Reformed pastor. In common Protestant churches today, creeds, confessions and Biblical dogmatics mean very little. Doctrinal foundations and elder applications mean even less. But in the Reformed community it must mean everything! We hold to the Five Solas and the Doctrines of Grace. We believe in inerrancy, infallibility, inspiration and sufficiency. We fight for exegetical truth and defending the Church. All to the glory of God alone.
The Reformed church believes in the calling and qualifications of pastoral, elder and deacon ministries and we hold that they are clearly defined in Holy Scripture. We also proclaim with loudest voices that there are clearly defined disqualifiers, such as: not a brawler, above reproach, an honest man, not greedy for money, husband of one wife and so on (Titus and Timothy). Reformed believers know that we are to guard well the Truth and expose the wolves, and never are we to allow them in the doors of the church. When brothers and sisters fall into sin, we believe in accountability and discipline to lead them to repentance and restoration of fellowship with God and His Church. That restoration almost certainly demands a time of examination for a pastor or leader in the church. When that leader is in a sin that disqualifies him, he must, of necessity, step down from leadership. Any truly repentant brother would desire to do so.
I have had several people ask me what my response is to Driscoll's letter and I am seriously concerned that we "reformed types" have become like the other side that lets their wing nuts do whatever they want and then shout, "touch not my anointed!" How is the reformed community different and how does the world perceive a lack of action on the part of the Reformed community in response to Driscoll's letter? I personally think they would charge us with being hypocrites, and they would be right. When did we decide that celebrity is more important than biblical accuracy, integrity and purity? Mark Driscoll has proven himself to be disqualified many times over, and has not once been told or asked to step down from his leadership role.
He claims in his open letter, to need help and that he has been offered help, both of which had been turned down. He apologized for some general mistakes, and said he did not handle some things well. He said he is happy to give up the celebrity side of his ministry - at least for the rest of the year. Driscoll has brought in false teachers (T.D. Jakes, James MacDonald), taught about his pornographic visions, and has been caught lying and stealing the material of others for his books. He proved his arrogance when he showed up at the Strange Fire Conference as well as his penance for lying when he said about conference security officers: "they stole my stuff." Video clearly shows Driscoll giving "his stuff" to security officers as a free gift (his own words). He has now been caught taking more than $200,000 in unapproved funds from his church, without permission (poor stewardship, dishonesty and theft would be disqualifiers), to shore up his book so it can be a NY Times best seller.
In Driscoll's "apology" he has agreed to not be so public and "took a humble tone". What does all this mean? To this pastor, who cares, it means that he has merely slapped himself on the wrist and said "I'm a bad boy and I promise to be good from now on." He has not done what a man of God must do. He has not stepped down. He has not truly humbled himself. He has not begged his congregation to hold him accountable and help him in the long process of restoration and reconciliation to which he has held so many others in his congregation. He has not approached those from which he stole.
Rest assured, there are many who will turn away from the faith because Driscoll has repented enough by his own standard. But saying "I'm sorry" does not reinstate the qualification as a pastor/elder/leader of Gods Elect! Ted Haggard was a prominent member in the evangelical community and stood out as a pastor of a large church and a defender of Biblical Marriage. He was found out to be a closet meth user, homosexual and prostitution hound. When he was caught and called out by only a few, he stepped down. In less than a year he returned saying that he had been reinstated because he "over repented." Haggard destroyed his testimony, leadership and authority; yet many have welcomed him back in???? God is the one who calls and qualifies.
If Driscoll is truly humble in his leadership, then he should want to be a role model of what all Christians must be willing to do - submit to the authority and sufficiency of the Word of God alone. He should refuse to be like those who have set themselves above the standards of their own congregations and above the Word of God. I have heard the opinions of many on this issue of Driscoll's letter, and many have said that it is unloving to speak out against this "repentant tone." This question comes to mind when I hear this line of reasoning. Which is more loving - to love God and His Word and to hold Christians to its standard; or to be silent when a professing Christian bears no evidence of true repentance? Many of you will continue to disagree, but I believe there is a different standard for all the elect of God. I believe that Mark Driscoll is a Christian who has sinned, by his own admission, and must be afforded the loving opportunity to be guided Into true Biblical repentant reconciliation. Make no mistake, his letter was not repentance; it was "oops I'm sorry".
It is because I care about him and I want him to shine brightly for the redemptive glory of God, that I call Mark Driscoll to true repentance. It is because he is an example to so many in his network, that I call him to mentor others in true biblical repentance, as that shining example.
The church will tremble in wonder and awe and learn from the example when it sees judgment begin in the house of The Lord. The church will see how much sincerity, reverence and authority that a pastor has only when the pastor is accountable to the clear demands of the Word of God. Look at the example of Moses, Aaron, Gideon, and Sampson. Even Peter was rebuked publicly by Jesus and restored. Paul rebuked Peter as well and he was restored into fellowship with the church. But not one of them "over repented" or demanded the mercy and grace of God. If Mark Driscoll, myself or any pastor is not subject to the demands of Biblical Leadership then we are not worthy of that leadership. Phil Johnson has taken him and this point to task on many occasions and even wrote a lengthy letter to him trying to show him his error.
Many of the greatest leaders made huge mistakes and massive errors in sin. And when a beloved, faithful brother and friend called out "you are the man," they cried out in true repentance and, in sackcloth and ashes, accepted the discipline that came with restoration. As I said before, to claim to hold to Reformed Truths and refuse to apply them to ourselves, our leaders and our church family only makes us hypocritical in the sight of the world and the mainstream Arminian church that has no real accountability, and where the pastor is second only to God Himself.
We, as Reformed Believers, paint a target on our own backs and tacitly announce to the world:
"We are not whom we wish to be, but God has made us new creatures to His glory alone. We have seen the errors and abuses in what passes for "church" and we refuse to hold to that weak standard. Therefore , as God has given us eyes to see the marvelous truths of the Doctrines of Grace, and as He has flooded our hearts to love the Grace of those Doctrines, out of humble gratitude for His great grace imparted to dead men, we seek by the power of The Holy Spirit, to live our lives as solid examples of God's redemptive, regenerative, and sanctifying work, through the finished perfect work of Jesus Christ. We, therefore, call upon all men to thoroughly examine us in every way, and if there be any spot of sin in us we shall, by the power of the Holy Spirit, humbly seek its destruction. We seek to live our lives to the Glory of God alone, in the Praise of Jesus our Savior and Lord, and by the power of God the Holy Spirit, so that we can say with Paul the Apostle, follow us as we follow Christ. We know we shall falter and fail but our God is faithful, and we want to show you, the world, what a true blood bought, born again, Christian looks like. God is so worthy of the praise that comes from our lives as well as our lips and we are responsible to walk worthy of the calling for which we have been called to."
I believe that Mark Driscoll is a brother who has bought into the hype about himself. I believe that Reformed Brothers and Sisters should pray for him and plead with him to step aside, for now at least, and prove himself to be worthy of the office of leadership as a model of Biblical accountability and submission. hen when he stands back up we can all praise God for a man that God humbled and broke for His good use.
That is my prayer for you Brother Mark.
Pastor Justin Pierce
Grace Reformed Baptist Church
Here are several links to guide you through the mess that has put one more smear across the face of Christianity: