I read this article and thought to myself how sad it is that popular preachers are straying from the safety net of wise counselors by abusing their powers that not only affect the flock, but their spiritual walk with God on a personal basis.
I think the major take away from this article are the numbered items that I think are key for leaders to understand about their role. There is nothing wrong with making mistakes…but it is the attitude in which those refuse to repent or be corrected by them that worries me. I have seen this happen in a church before and all the signs are there, but people are too afraid to speak up, pay attention, or do something about it (i.e. confront their leaders). We are our brothers keeper…and it is a duty to make sure that when even a leader strays. we guide them back on the right path on the right road with love and compassion and direction. If we shy away from correcting them…are we not saying we don’t care for their lives???
This should be food for thought today.
What would Jesus want us to do? We cannot forsake our brothers and sisters…but if they refuse to change…they will have to answer to God in the long run for their own actions. Apostasy continues when people don’t stand up for what is right, allowing abuse to continue to happen.
As a watchwoman, I find this to be critical to watch out for this year…leaders will reap what they sow during the season of the harvest if they don’t repent. It is not God’s will to watch Christian leaders fall…He wants them to change their ways and humble themselves and pray and turn away from their wicked ways, and God will restore them and heal them and deliver them, if and when they do choose the path of the humble and decide to repent openly before God and their flock.
This is a good time to remind people of the warning signs of an unhealthy church:
1. Little or no accountability. When celebrity preachers seem eager to tell everyone else what to do but aren’t willing to hear correction from others, prepare for a train wreck. There is safety in the multitude of counselors (see Prov. 11:14). There is much less safety—even danger—when a leader does not seek counsel from a diverse group of his peers.
2. Spiritual elitism. If there is a spirit of control in a church, people are usually told their group is superior. If people choose to leave, they are shunned or branded as renegades. Sometimes, in extreme cases, people are even cursed if they leave. This cultic behavior inflicts unimaginable emotional suffering and also divides families.
3. An oppressive atmosphere. Authoritarian leaders control people through manipulation. This may come in the form of threats, legalistic demands, unreasonable requirements or false doctrines. In such a church no one is allowed to ask questions. Spiritual heaviness lies like a thick cloud over the congregation, and few believers manifest genuine joy.
4. Angry domination. Tyrants are surprisingly similar. Because they want to control their surroundings, they often blow up when people do not conform to their demands. Yet the apostle Paul taught that church leaders should not be “violent” or “quarrelsome” but “self-controlled” and “gentle” (see 1 Tim. 3:2-3). He also instructed Timothy that the Lord’s servant “must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone” (2 Timothy 2:24).
5. A low view of women. While churches today differ in their views on women in leadership, it should be noted that authoritarian churches almost always discourage women from pursuing any genuine role in ministry. Women are viewed as useful only in their functions as submissive wives and mothers, and they are not encouraged to step beyond these confines to pursue ministry opportunities.
Let’s pray that the healing power of Jesus covers this situation in Seattle—and that the people who left Mars Hill Church, the people who remain there, and Mark Driscoll himself can recover from the trauma of spiritual abuse.
J. Lee Grady is the former editor of Charisma. You can follow him on Twitter at leegrady. He is the author of 10 Lies Men Believe and other books.