Yesterday, The Atlantic published an article about Megapastor Mark Driscoll and how his Megachurch, Mars Hill, has spent nearly a quarter of a million dollars to pad his resume to include Megauthor. (Short version: they paid a company to send people out to buy his book over and over to get it a week on the NYT bestseller list.) A few hours after the article came out, Rev. Driscoll made the following tweet:
Now, I’m going to say three things in Rev. Driscoll’s defense:
- It’s not his fault his tweet comes off as passive aggressive. You just can’t have a conversation where you admit that you’re human and make mistakes, and apologize, and try to point to all the good things you do, and say “this right here doesn’t define me!” in a way that is honest and heartfelt in 140 characters. (Update: Rev. Driscoll’s full apology)
- The article points to him and essentially says “there’s some morally questionable stuff over here” and they’re right, but if anyone reading thinks he is somehow unique in his dubious behavior, they are being unfairly mean to Rev. Driscoll and unfairly nice to the rest of the church.
- Rev. Driscoll has made a positive impact in thousands of lives and this should not lessen the positive things he’s done or make people he’s impacted positively feel as though this makes their experience invalid — it does not.
The article in question, Can Megachurches Deal With Mega Money in a Christian Way? scratches the surface of the problems that megachurches and best-selling* author/pastors have that the scores of 100-person congregations don’t have to think about too much. They point to the @CelebrityPastor satirical Twitter account, a comic in Christianity Today, and hit the nail on the head with this assessment from Carl Trueman:
“When you have a church culture where one man is absolutely central to everything the church does publicly, then it’s really difficult to draw that line between the church’s mission and the man’s mission, and money spent on the mission and money spent on the man.”
All of this is completely true, and a lot of people will go on at-length about the moral pitfalls of megachurches and celebrity pastors, and they will be right to talk about these issues. But here’s what interests me about Rev. Driscoll’s rebuttal tweet (tweebuttal?) — it implies that you should ask what someone’s motives are before deciding whether or not you should listen to them. This is probably very good advice for the world, but I don’t think the world’s paradigms are as good as God’s…
Rather than ask yourself “what is this person trying accomplish,” you should be asking yourself “what is God trying to accomplish?” A critic might want to point to your failings to tear you down and a coach might want you to see your failings so you improve, but God is able to use both to make you better. And in this case, “improve” ≠ “make you better” and “coach” ≠ “God.” And let me tell you why…
In the book of Genesis, Joseph’s brothers throw him in a well, then sell him to slavers: this is not much of an improvement for his life. Nobody whose business card reads “life coach” would ever recommend that as a good plan. But eventually his life improves and he gets put in charge of a rich man’s entire house…but then he gets put in jail. And God uses all of those ups and downs not to improve Joseph’s life, but so he could be in just the right place to save a nation. If I’m plotting it out (and I’m stealing this bit from Donald Miller here) it looks like this:
God’s plan is wild, it cannot be restrained (not even by my nonsensical little chart), and it can use anyone at any time for God’s purposes. Critic and coach alike, God can use either to make you better. Better doesn’t mean faster, stronger, smarter, richer, or any of those other things you might want for your life, better means better to do the work of God.
Joseph’s brothers threw him in a well because after God told Joseph that his brothers would bow down to him, he saw that as an indication that he would be great, and he got all boastful — Joseph saw his life like chart #2, his brothers wanted him to end up like chart #1, and God used both of their plans not to build up Joseph to be someone great, but to create something great.
Did Rev. Driscoll do something he shouldn’t have? Probably. Did the writer of the article in The Atlantic mean to help him or hurt him? I have no idea. Does the author’s intent matter to God? Nope. In the Bible, prophets were usually wildly unpopular with their contemporaries. Why? Because God sent them to issue corrections when people were out of line – Rev. Driscoll needed to hear what the article had to say.
So, next time someone points out your failure — no matter what the tweets say — forget whether they are trying to build you up or tear you down, instead just ask “How is God trying to work in my life?”
DISCLAIMER: Your intentions matter, so do other peoples: we should all try to do right by each other. I’m just not going to worry about your intentions when figuring out why you’re in in my path – because I’m more interested in if God has a use for you there.
And to be clear, I do not believe God wants us to endure people. I believe God wants us to celebrate people. Please don’t read anything I wrote to mean you should remain in relationship with someone who wants nothing but to bring you down. If you fail, learn from it, let God use it…but if you are around someone who loves when you fail, maybe you don’t need to be around that person anymore…and maybe that’s one of the things God is trying to teach you.