Me, troublemaker? Thoughts about criticism…

The story keeps getting told. Today, Slate.com’s Ruth Graham told the story again, adding fresh words from both sides of the issue and offering some historical substance to the topic of “church discipline”. At the end of her piece, Graham writes…

…Driscoll made it clear in remarks at a 2009 conference that he does not tolerate divisive “troublemakers” at Mars Hill. “You can really change the culture of a church by just removing a few ‘negatives’ and elevating a few ‘positives.’ Most of the ‘neutrals’ change. You don’t need to get rid of everybody most of the time,” he said.

Getting rid of Andrew may end up being a mistake for Mars Hill, though. Because of him, the chorus of troublemakers is growing louder.

With each retelling, new questions and criticisms arrive in my inbox and on Twitter and Facebook. Most of the criticism is some variation of the following…

@JesusNeedsNewPR I hope you’re happy. Let’s get the nonchristians to see how Christians attack in the blog world.

And then I received this comment on my Facebook wall…

Way to go Matt. You’ve given those far from God fodder for scoffing at Christ and his bride. Read the comments on the Slate article – hope you are proud. I wish I was a blogger instead of a pastor. Then I could take shots at what people do instead of trying to figure out solutions. If you actually want to contribute something, then explain to us how churches should handle instructions to put the immoral out of the church (1 Cor) or the instructions to shun the divisive (Titus 3) or treat the unrepentant as pagans and tax collectors (Matthew 18). Or you can just keep name calling and slandering – I’m sure Jesus said something about that being the way to build his kingdom.

The latter comment stung a bit, not because of what it said, really, but because I know the guy who wrote it. We met when I was in the sixth grade. Even though we’re not close friends today, we once were. And despite distance and life changing that, I admire and respect him, and too, I’ve enjoyed watching from afar God use him and his wife in ministry (he’s a pastor).

In cases like these, I understand why people attack “the messenger.”

But am I to blame for all of the “scoffing at Christ and his bride” happening right now at Slate.com?

Perhaps I am, though I find it hard to believe that those leaving comments just arrived at their opinions of God and the Church after reading this one article. I can only imagine that other narrative threads exist in their stories that led them to some of their conclusions (and angst).

But here’s my real question: Is the comment section underneath Slate.com’s story a reason not to talk about the sometimes crappy situations happening inside our churches? That’s a serious question, one that I’d love to hear your thoughts on…

The other question I get a lot is some variation of this one: Why are you always harping about Mark Driscoll?

And that’s a good question. And here’s my answer: In my opinion, Mark is one of the most influential “Christian figures” affecting today’s “Christian culture”. His reach influences various aspects of Christian life: church growth, ministry, gender roles in the church, relationships, and more. Furthermore, Mark proactively seeks to influence and nurture young male pastors, church ministry workers, missionaries, etc. If Mark’s theologies, actions, and church management style only impacted Mars Hill, I probably wouldn’t care. Well, I would care and certainly make note of it, but I wouldn’t keep coming back to it. But Mark’s “gospel” bleeds into and affects how pastors of churches all over the country (and world) are managing their churches and ministries, from missions to church discipline. His words affect how pastors teach and manage and control a woman’s role in the church, home, work, etc. If you think I’m crazy, go read a month’s worth of comments on his Facebook wall. These pastors watch Mark. They sometimes idolize him. Sometimes they hang on his every word. And it’s all intentional. Mark doesn’t accidentally influence these pastors, it’s his passion and calling. From what I’ve heard and seen, Mark wants to influence how churches all over the world function. And that’s scary in my opinion.

Which is why I responded to my friend (the one who left that message on my Facebook walk) like this…

Why would I be proud, Tim? I’m not proud. But I’m not ashamed, either. I shared one story of a man who was hurt by the system of a large influential church, a system that took small bits of scripture and added their own rules and cult-like practices to its mix. Perhaps you should turn your harshness on that church’s pastors and leaders and request that they change how they handle “discipline” in the future. Because whether you want to admit this or not, I’m not the one who gave “those far from God” reasons to scoff. Mark Driscoll & Company did that. Mark has done that in various ways over and over and over again. And if you could read the numerous emails that I have received from former Mars Hill members, sharing their stories of abuse and pain under the ill-managed processes at Mars Hill, I truly believe you’d change your opinion. Or at least, part of it. I truly value your wisdom and opinion, Tim. But in this instance, I can’t agree.

I loved how Graham ended her piece, saying that the “chorus of troublemakers” is getting louder.

She might be right. Maybe we are a chorus of troublemakers.

But I can’t help but wonder if the real troublemaker in all this is a short stout soloist in Seattle who won’t stop singing.