When Leaders Fail Us: Responding to Mark Driscoll’s Resignation

Mark Driscoll

Photo by Mars Hill Church

By Nate Keeler, @MBCArlington Campus Pastor

When I first heard the news last week that Mark Driscoll, Senior Pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, had resigned under multiple allegations and criticism for his leadership and character, I had three immediate responses: 1) I grieved the fall of a church leader and the pain he and his family must be experiencing; 2) I was unfortunately not surprised given some troubling signs over the past decade; and 3) I prayed for him, his family and all those who are wounded because of the trust they placed in Pastor Driscoll to lead them spiritually.

Because we don’t have the full story I want to avoid speculation or gossip about Pastor Driscoll. At the end of the day, I believe he is an incredibly gifted, zealous, courageous servant of Christ who is a sinner saved by grace. While it appears that he allowed bad choices and some sin to go unchecked, I also believe we are all capable of the same, if not worse, failure. So I urge you to pray for him more than judge him.

So I urge you to pray for him more than judge him.

Pastor Driscoll has an extensive reach. He has inspired many pastors, young leaders and especially men to step up and give their lives to Christ. Several times a month his name comes up from men I meet who podcast his messages or read his books. So when he fell we can assume there are many who feel the tremor.

When leaders, especially spiritual leaders, fail us what should be our response? Here are three thoughts:

1) Remember that Christ is the head of the church—NOT the leader!
Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 16:17-18 that the church belongs to Him, and He will make sure that it is an unstoppable movement throughout history. When we place too much emphasis on the strength, charisma, experience or agenda of the leader, the foundation and leadership is no longer Christ but a fellow flawed, imperfect person (just like you) who is bound to disappoint you from time-to-time. Leaders come and go, but Christ is eternal.

2) Anchor your identity and spiritual growth in God—NOT the leader!
When we place too much of an emphasis on a leader, pastor or program, we can mistakenly believe that person or thing is the basis of your spiritual growth and wrap our identity around the wrong source. When we do this we are bound to be tossed around when leadership changes, fails or disappoints. But Paul emphatically corrects this in 1 Corinthians 3:5-9. In verse 6-7 he says, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” If there is any spiritual growth in your life you can ultimately attribute it to only one source—God’s work through the Holy Spirit!

3) Support your leaders by maintaining accountability structures for them.
One of the signs that a leader might go off the rails is when their accountability and authority structures are compromised or neglected in some way. Often this happens slowly and because of fear, success or ignorance. Over time the senior leaders can be running the show with little to no checks and balances. There were signs of this at Mars Hill, but this can happen at any church. So what can you do to help support the accountability structures? Ask leaders how they are doing spiritually. Become a member and voice concerns you may have. Talk to the elders and ask them how they are doing at maintaining accountability structures. Paul reminds us constantly that the church needs all parts working together, not just the leaders. I am thankful for the men and women that surround me, and I know who surround Lon.

A couple of quick bonus thoughts:

  • Don’t give up on the church or your leaders. They need your encouragement and trust.
  • Pray, pray, pray for your leaders.

Thank you for your support, encouragement and prayer for MBC! Let’s continue as one church with Christ as our head to move the needle for Him!

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