I am not interested in going into detail about Mark Driscoll’s recent problems. I feel as if leaders of “less successful” churches are watching with glee as this evangelical super-star falls from power. The truth is, unless we are directly connected to Driscoll or Mars Hill, it really is none of our business.
Having said that, it has been impossible to avoid at least parts of the story. It may not be our business to judge, but it is worth taking the time to learn. In fact, Driscoll is not the first Christian leader to face these problems even if his details may be unique.
One of the main things that we can learn is the danger of the cult of personality. Driscoll is obviously a charismatic and talented leader. Much of the success of Mars Hill can be attributed to him. But this puts any leader on a dangerously high pedestal. This can happen even in much smaller churches. When the church is identified primarily with the pastor and when people attended mainly because of the pastor, there is great danger. What happens when the pastor leaves? Will the church collapse? If the pastor stays, what kind of power do they have? I remember reading that this was why Francis Chan left his church.
For pastors, power can be a terrible temptation, in some ways more than sex or money. No pastor wants to have a fight for every decision made. No pastor want every board meeting to be a battlefield. It is nice to get to the point where the pastor can move forward with no questions asked. It is also dangerous. Pastors need to be kept accountable because they are only human. Read in Galatians how even the great Apostle Peter needed to be corrected by Paul. There have been times that my deacons had said no, disappointing me, only to find out later the wisdom in their decision.
The other thing we can learn from Driscoll is that our secrets find us out. There are shortcuts that can be taken that make life or ministry easier. Unethical shortcuts. We can convince ourselves that it is justifiable and that no one will ever know. They will know. There is no hiding place for all of our secrets. It will come out.
Are you a pastor? Take a long hard look at Mark Driscoll. Not in judgment or in a way to make yourself feel better. Look at the decisions that he made (good and bad) to get where he is now. What can you learn? Take this as a lesson so that one day you are not that pastor that is making all the headlines.