It’s not entirely Mark Driscoll’s fault

Give the guy a break!

What began as a trickle—an occasional criticism of Seattle’s Mars Hill mega-church pastor, Mark Driscoll—has now become a veritable flood. So much so that even those he originally assisted (Acts 29) have join the ranks of piling on Driscoll and he has been stricken from headlining big evangelical gatherings such as the upcoming Gateway conference in Dallas, Texas.

I, for one, think it has been too much already. Come on, let’s just relax a little and quit being so whiney over his mostly inconsequential failings.

Besides, what’s the big deal?

So, Driscoll perhaps plagiarized some material in his books and maybe used a little of his own marketing strategies to bolster his sales. Who in his position wouldn’t do the same? For goodness sake: he is the pastor of a mega-church. How much time do we think he has to write a book on the side without getting help somewhere? And, have you noticed how little pastors get paid? (Ok, probably all mega-church pastors make plenty but who wouldn’t decry the guy from getting a little extra?) Maybe something on top of a generous salary would send the message about how valuable he is to the congregation; to their reputation.

In defense of his naysayers, Dricsoll did say some pretty nasty things about homosexuals and men who aren’t necessarily “manly” and feminists (who, most likely deserve it since we have pretty much destroyed civilization with crazy ideas about everyone being equal), but he did his best to apologize. If he went a little over the line by asking a group of pastor’s wives what sexual positions they favor, isn’t that just part of being a little “edgy,” the kind of shocking thing parishioners want to hear so they keep coming back for more?

Besides, who among us is perfect enough that we should cast the first stone?

Rather than jumping on the Bash Driscoll bandwagon I think we should step back, maybe send a little love his way. His world is crumbling around him and he probably could use a little extra support these days.

Besides, why should he, the pastor of a church he created, be held to such high standards? Like, for instance, being theologically trained (as in earning a Master’s of Divinity degree from an accredited seminary). Isn’t this part of the allure of many mega-churches? Pastors are hip precisely because they aren’t ruined by an education. They rely on the Holy Spirit to guide their paths and also what they say instead of going through the rigors of learning irrelevant things like the history of Christianity or methods of theological inquiry, or God-forbid, learning to consider biblical context when discerning what the Bible could possibly say to contemporary Christians.

Furthermore, aren’t mega-churches designed to be nimble and therefore do not have the encumbrances of oversight? The United Methodist Church, the Episcopalians, the Presbyterians and others have too much organizational weight; for them to respond to new changes or developments takes an act of God and about two-hundred years, but the genius of mega-churches is that the pastor can essentially do what he likes (and I do mean “he” because how many mega-churches have female pastors?). The freedom of mega-churches to act independently is part of why people are attracted to them.

Of course this autonomy comes with a price.

When a pastor or leader goes astray, perhaps not unlike Driscoll, Ted Haggard, Doug Phillips, Bob Coy, David Loveless, Jack Schaap (there are more; many more, but you get the point) isn’t he just falling into the trap the congregation has unthinkingly created? Pastors are supposed to be magnetic and cool, able to attract not just hundreds, but thousands on any given Sunday morning (ok, with the help of a hip worship band, a big screen, plenty of video clips, and the enticing aroma of fair-trade coffee in the air). And despite their elevated positions, the demand for success which means packing people into huge warehouses, and the expectation that pastors all over the country will be clamoring to “go and do likewise,” they are not required to have the very tools they desperately need: a theological education, an accountability system that extends beyond the local church, and an unrelenting conviction that the people are to be the ministers of the gospel.

Instead of hurling accusations at Driscoll, maybe it is time for mega-church consumers to reconsider the problems they create by demanding entertainment-driven mega-churches, relying on a charismatic individual rather than the call of the gospel.

It’s not just Driscoll’s fault. Mars Hill helped create him, warts and all.