Monday, August 25, 2014

Jesus, the Celebrity Culture and the Church

I have observed with some interest over the last few weeks the ongoing Mark Driscoll saga. Unless you are a pastor or some other church leader chances are that you are unaware of who Mark Driscoll is and why he is important. Driscoll is the pastor of the Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington.

The controversy surrounding Driscoll took a disturbing turn in the last two weeks when the Acts 29 network, a church planting organization that Driscoll himself helped found, asked Driscoll to step down from his position and removed Mars Hill from the membership of the organization. This is just the latest brouhaha involving Driscoll in the last few months. Accusations of plagarism, inappropriate speech and abusive behavior towards church staff have swirled around Driscoll and there seems to be no end in sight. Recently Driscoll announced that he would be taking a leave of absence as the charges against him are examined.

Driscoll represents, at least to me, part of a greater problem for North American Christianity. I am speaking of a celebrity culture that seems to have crept into every corner of our faith. Strong men with strong personalities have become the "stars" of the American version of the faith. The same problem is present in the world of Christian music. I am not saying that Driscoll or any  other "famous" pastor has actively pursued such a status. But the truth is that we are wired to worship, and in our fallen state we will worship just about anything. The early church was not immune to this struggle, as illustrated by Paul's comments about the controversy between followers of Paula and Apollos in 1 Corinthians 1. The problem that Paul deals with there, and that the current controversy surrounding Mark Driscoll illustrates so well is one of following men rather than God. The amount of heated emotion and vitriol on both sides of the Driscoll controversy demonstrates the dangers inherent in tying our faith to men, no matter how good (or even great) they may be.

The answer is not simple. Pastors need to make themselves accountable to God and seek, as Paul did, to take every thought captive (2 Cor. 10:5). I know from personal experience how difficult it can be to take those thoughts captive. How difficult to let go of the praise that people want to give you, especially when praise and encouragement is so hard to come by. We need not only accountability before God but we also need to make ourselves transparent, willingly allowing God and others to have access to the far corners of our lives.

But mostly we/I need prayer. We don't need fawning fans or book deals. We need the fervent prayers of those who fill our pews, those who serve with us, those who serve around us. There are too many men who serve "alone," without the benefit of accountability and encouragement from fellow pastors and elder saints. Many of us don't have that, some by deliberate choice, but some by circumstance.

I have begun to pray for Mark Driscoll. I trust that God is not through with him yet, that there are still great things for him to accomplish for the kingdom. Will you join me in praying for him....and will you pray for me?

We both need it.

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