Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A small observation about the Mark Driscoll thing

The Mark Driscoll train-wreck has highlighted a problematic aspect of American Evangelism, that hasn't been much commented on. So in some of the reporting, for example this article from Christianity Today, you'll read about the "Accountability Board" who are a group of people, generally far from Seattle who are meant oversee Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill. Many of Mark's current difficulties were sown when he became part of the Christian celebrity industrial-complex and it was all about promoting and protecting the "brand". In a sense he became the bishop of his new denomination and this Accountability Board was a type of un-elected Synod, but not a terribly effective one. Weirdly, they were meant to oversee all sorts of important stuff from a distance with little actual on the ground contact. Not only is this model of creating a new denomination with a business like "Accountability Board" ineffective, it's also ungodly. Being the leader of a congregation is like being a shepherd (1 Peter 5:1-4).  This isn't a nebulous metaphor, being a shepherd requires gritty regular attention, not fly-in-fly-out oversight. This type of structure also ignores the ancient and limited geographical structure of God's gathered people. Someone on the other side of the country simply has less power and responsibility than someone close by. This is why the Anglican and Presbyterian models of power concentrated within certain geographical areas will survive deep into the future. 

4 comments:

marion said...

Some adages may be truer than others. The one about the hazardous nature of power is asuredly among the truer ones. The JudeaoChristian heritage is importantly a story keeper legacy and the story is well kept but not nearly as well attended to and applied. Sinfulness makes individuals and institutions repeat (again and again through the generations) the snares they might have avoided by attending to the Story. Safeguards like local oversight, as you point out here, can indeed be biblically corrective.

marion said...

That was Steve, not Marion. :)

Brandon said...

Luke, your old college friend Brandon here. Right on about the Driscoll mess. An aloof, authoritarian approach to ministry is facing the music here in Washington USA. I hope other preachers who take bossy, ruthless CEOs as their models will take note.

Jon Eastgate said...

That's interesting Luke. I read the unfolding drama with sadness but not much surprise, having heard/read Driscoll preach some very unsavoury things. I wonder, firstly, whether Driscoll deliberately set up the accountability board to be ineffective as he didn't really want oversight. Secondly, it reminded me of Jimmy Swaggart. He had a huge and lucrative TV preaching and mega-church gig, then was outed for sexual impropriety. His denomination (AOG I think) instructed him to stand down for 12 months, but without him ratings plummeted so after a few weeks he overrode them and came back. Never recovered, though - where is he now? The cult of personality goes broke once the personality is tarnished. Finally, I don't know much about the Pressie system but the Anglican one has its own flaws, not least of which is that the Archbishop is a king in his own diocese and short of plain misconduct no-one can really hold him to account. The Catholic system from which the Anglican one developed is even more so and there have been some notorious popes.