Editors note. The following post was written by special guest Tim Bates, who blogs at theologicaldebates.blogspot.com
I am as happy as the next guy when a false teacher, charlatan or morally disqualified pastor is exposed or forced to step down. Their reign of terror is over. Their influence over the church has been seriously reduced. They are no longer trusted or respected or considered an authority about Christ. Amen to all these things. I will always praise God that these men are removed from such a powerful position.
The good news pretty much ends there.
We are surrounded by people who have been damaged by bad leadership. If you don’t believe me, ask around. Whether they were Catholic, Charismatic or Calvinists, one of your friends has a horror story about a pastor. Of course non-Christians have horror stories about pastors. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ wasn’t exactly popular. If Jesus can be hated without cause then certainly even the best pastor (who is not even close to being as righteous as Christ) can also be hated. Preaching Christ crucified and faithfully expositing Scripture and being obedient to it are not exactly the plot of a church horror story. We can safely dismiss those kind of stories, but we’re still left with many people who do indeed have a troubled history with church leaders.
I do not have any specific advice or insight on how to counsel such people. I just know we need to be concerned about them and pray for them. Mark Driscoll’s dwindling ministry and ensuing PR campaign to salvage what’s left isn’t necessarily a reason to rejoice. We can be glad that he’s losing influence but think about how many people he’s impacted over the years who now look back and realize their primary Bible teacher was someone they can’t trust. Doesn’t that break our hearts? How do we fix these people? How can we possibly get them to trust us?
“Hey I know Driscoll is a jerk but you can trust me. I won’t let you down.”
That’s not an easy sell. I deeply respect my home church pastors. I recognize their humanity and so my faith isn’t in them. They point me back to Christ. If one of them ever stumbles I will be heartbroken. I have to be honest though, as much as I know I should ultimately look to Jesus, I also look at Christians here on Earth. Should my faith in Christ and His accomplished work falter based on what happens around me? No, but it does.
I’m weak. I’m a mature Christian and I am weak.
It is safe to assume Driscoll had many weak Christians listening to him as their primary teacher, especially given the trajectory of his ministry in the last few years. That’s not to say that all of his listeners are weak Christians, but many of them were. These are the brethren we should be concerned about. Men and women who don’t fully realize what faith in Christ is. Men and women who will have legitimate reasons to never trust a Christian pastor again. These brothers and sisters need our prayers.
They need their faith restored. The truth is that we can’t do anything in our own power to help them trust a pastor again. We have to pray to God to bring these men and women back. We have no choice. We can’t dismiss these people and say “that’s what you get!” We can’t act like they should have known better. What immature believer would know better? We can’t act like we haven’t been fooled in the past. I think most all of us have. Some of these pastors are better at lying than any of us are at discerning the truth. All of us can be fooled. This doesn’t only apply to Mars Hill. Mark Driscoll isn’t the only pastor to stain the bride of Christ. Let’s weep for the people hurt by bad pastors.
Protecting and guarding the church is more than just defending it from wolves, it’s also bringing the sheep back inside the fence.