Full Disclosure: I am a pastor at an Acts 29 Network Church and am currently entering into their pastor assessment process myself. I have a great love for Acts 29, which dates back over a decade. It was then that I was introduced to podcasts and sermons from Mark Driscoll. He is largely the reason my interest in church planting began to exist.
The Christian twittersphere and internet broke last Friday when The Acts 29 Network announced it was removing Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church from the church planting network. The news spread quickly and the reactions were unsettling.
I have great respect for the leadership of Acts 29 and know that this was a difficult decision. Rarely, if ever, do you see a pastor removed from anything outside of being disqualified for sexual misconduct. Here was a situation where an apparent lack of repentance to many pastors and brothers and sisters was the issue.
It was a bold and courageous move and it was a sad move. It’s sad that it came to this and it’s sad to see the reaction of the church. I don’t know the details of the situation so I can’t speak to that, but I can speak to how the reactions display a lack of the gospel of Jesus Christ and impede God’s mission.
They will know you are my disciples by the way that you love one another. John 13:35
Our Misplaced Thirst for Justice
The reactions to the news of Mark Driscoll’s removal from the network that he started displayed a thirst for justice, that wrong-doing be dealt with and offenders be punished. It’s a right desire, justice, but it was misplaced.
The justice that many wanted was that Mark Driscoll would be tarred and feathered, made to experience the hurt he caused, and resign from ministry altogether. Is that really justice?
Maybe in American terms, but it’s not in Christian terms. Our thirst for justice is right, but God’s thirst for justice is truly righteous and it’s already been satisfied.
Our desire for justice has been satisfied and our offenders (or when we are the offenders) have had their (our) punishment paid for. Jesus is God’s justice for our sins and the sins of others against us. When we want justice, we should look at the cross and declare that justice has been served.
Then we should seek that justice and mercy to be applied for a repentance that leads to healing and restoration.
Desiring Repentance for Healing Not for Hurting
As the desire for sin to be dealt with and our thirst for justice rises up, we must ask the question, “What do I really want as a result of this justice?”
The hope for every situation is a repentance that leads to healing and restoration, but unfortunately our misplaced thirst for justice often stops short of this hope.
In Mark Driscoll’s case, the best possible scenario would be for Mark to take a leave of absence, meet with people face to face or with a mediator to resolve conflict, to repent and be restored to full-time ministry as a result of the process. It would be an amazing testimony that the needs of members of the body of Christ are of the same value and importance as growing the body of Christ. It would likely benefit Mark, Mars Hill, and the countless number of individuals and ministries affected by the numerous events over the years.
It would be a gift to the body of Christ.
Acknowledging Sin while Remembering the Good
There is no need to excuse sin anymore because of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We can acknowledge wrong and sin and it must be acknowledged that Mark has sinned and hurt many. An internet search confirms the unresolved hurt, the desire for change, and the hopes of many who long for things to be different.
The hope is for Mark to acknowledge his sin, seek meaningful healing for him and other relationships.
At the same time, we must be careful to remember that the bad in our lives does not overshadow the good, nor does the good overshadow and excuse the bad.
Mark Driscoll’s ministry has done a lot of good things and the resulting ministries of Mars Hill Church and Acts 29 are a testimony to these things. They are not all attributed to Mark, but he can also be celebrated for what God has accomplished through Mark’s efforts and vision.
Ministry accomplishments are no justification for sin and sin must always be dealt with as John Owen put it, “Be killing sin or sin will be killing you.”
A Lesson for All of Us
This also must be a lesson for all of us and we all need to check our self-righteousness at the door.
To be shocked at the sin of another is to diminish the possibilities of the sin within us. No one this side of Heaven can promise not to have committed similar sins or actions. We are all deeply sinful, diseased by sin, and being transformed from one degree of glory to another by God in Jesus Christ.
We can learn from this as we watch Acts 29, former Mars Hill members and employees, and Mark Driscoll address these things.
- Sin must be addressed – We can never be flippant over sin as it destroys us, others, and ultimately crucified Christ. It’s essential to address the sins of our brothers and sisters in grace, love, gentleness, and hope.
- Anxious to repent – In light of that, we need to be ready to repent no matter who brings up the issues. None of us are without sin, so when someone brings up our wrongs, no matter who it is, we must be quick to listen ready to own our sin, repent and embrace faith in the gospel instead of defend ourselves.
- Give and Embrace the offer of hope and restoration – The scriptures invite us to bear with one another as we seek forgiveness and restoration. It’s a long road involving setbacks and triumphs. We must never tire of offering hope and restoration since our God never tires of doing it with us.
Forgiving like Christ – Pro Acts 29 and Pro Mark Driscoll
The end of Ephesians 4 invites us to put away all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, along with malice. Six expressions of anger that have come out throughout this process as people have reacted on both sides.
Some have come against Acts 29 and others against Mark Driscoll. This isn’t a political fight, this is the body of Christ. It’s possible to be Pro-Acts 29 and Pro-Mark Driscoll at the same time, longing for restoration, longing for healing, and longing for Christ to be exalted.
The end of Ephesians 4 exhorts, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you.”
The mission of God was to go forth through the love of God’s people for one another. A misplaced thirst for justice, not placing our hope for justice in the cross of Jesus Christ, will only impede the mission of God.
May we magnify the grace and mercy of God in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection by displaying that we trust in the justice and forgiveness of God through Christ, not in justice against others.