I’ve recently been following the travails of Mars Hill Church in Seattle Washington along with the travails of their former pastor Mark Driscoll. It’s a sad story about good people who love Jesus, but things weren’t quite as healthy as they needed to be. I’ve been following all of it because – truth be told – I was given a copy of Mark’s book “Confessions of a Reformission Pastor” 10 years ago when I first began the journey of planting Faith Community Church. Mark’s raw and sarcastic candor about the challenges of pastoring and planting a new church not only made me laugh, it inspired me, and gave me hope as I worked to plant our church. I confess that Mr. Driscoll was the avatar of the pastor I wanted to be and his church was the kind of church I wished I could someday lead.
Now it’s all come unraveled. Mark has resigned and a mere two months after his resignation the entire church, and its wide network of satellites, are folding. It makes me so sad. Meanwhile little old me (who isn’t all that evocative, sexy or compelling as a pastor) is still grinding on as a pastor. I’m still here by the grace of God. And the church body I get to serve (not big enough, not rich enough, not enough buildings with the coolest of technologies, lights and sound systems) is still here, alive, and healthy by the grace of God. As I read about, and pray for, Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill, I wonder why I’m in a place of contentment and our church is in a place of health when the leader and the church I so admired (and many so admired) is coming to an end.
There’s never a simple explanation for these things, but I do think the root of it comes down to something the leading guru in organizational vitality is preaching loudly. Patrick Lencioni and his consulting company is the most respected voice on how to run an organization whether that organization be a Fortune 500 company, a non-profit, a church, a school, or a cub-scout group. In his latest book “The Advantage.” Lencioni observes, “After two decades of working with CEOs and their teams of senior executives, I’ve become absolutely convinced that the seminal difference between successful companies and mediocre or unsuccessful ones has little, if anything, to do with what they know or how smart they are; it has everything to do with how healthy they are.” What’s crazy is that Lencioni describes organizational health as the very things Christ taught His disciples; equality, communication, trust, and accountability. These are the things God has kindly given to me and my church. Sadly these elements were lacking and not nurtured at a much smarter, much wealthier, much more gifted church who in a matter of weeks will be no more.
I pray for the renewal and healing of Mark and his family. We all must do so. I pray for the renewal and healing of the many hurting people in the Mars Hill family of ministries. We all must do so. I also pray that every church can learn the hard lessons being taught to us through their pain.