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Friday, October 31, 2014

My Initial Reaction to MH Closing Its Doors

I have so many mixed emotions right now. I feel the pain of friends whose worlds have been turned upside down and are wrestling with hard things that will inevitably unearth more hard things. I mourn the loss of what was good at Mars Hill and the lost aspirations to address a gaping hole in American Christianity—to get back to Jesus, the Bible, and the Gospel through music, art, discourse, and ordinary life in the pursuit of Meaning, Beauty, Authenticity, Truth, and Community. I grieve with the wounded—in the end everyone was run over by the bus. My heart aches with those who feel lost, alone, confused, uprooted, broken, and hurt from every angle of this. I feel guarded. I am watchful over my heart that is very prone to wonder. I am watchful over my engagements and processing, conscious of the need to be as wise as a serpent and as innocent as a dove. I am grieved and angry at what I did to feed the machine, at how I was deceived, and at the effects, both then and now. I am grieved and angry that Mark chose the path of Saul rather than David and burned the house down rather than humble himself to walk in repentance and light, and that he profited from the demise of others. I am grieved and angry that leaders did not lead, shepherds did not stand guard, friends were not willing to wound in love, to lay down their lives for their brother. I am grieved and angry that truth was corrupted, and the opportunity, platform, and resources were not stewarded in love, but rather were squandered in greed, partiality, selfish ambition and pride. I mourn the loss of what could have been. I am also deeply stirred with hope. I am hopeful that in the dying, new life will steadily emerge. I have hope that God is not only stripping away in our hearts, but building up. I have hope that God will restore what the locusts have devoured, and not only that, will use the very barrenness to craft His masterpiece. I have hope that what He has taken away cannot even compare to what He is bringing. I have hope, that even in this difficult time, God will not just show us, but unveil in us, His beauty and glory, drawing us evermore to Himself in and for abundant joy. I am excited to see how this will manifest in diverse forms and places. I also know that God can still move hearts to repent—to come home to be welcomed with joyful tears. I long for that, I pray that He would. I trust in His goodness. Praying for all of us and resting in His perfect peace.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Reflections on Church Conflict/Scandal

My heart has been heavy in listening to recent conversations about church conflict/scandal. 
Is it ever okay to question church leadership?
“Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality.” 1 Timothy 5:19-21
We should not entertain accusations against elders (pastors) lightly, but when two or three witnesses step forward, we ought to pay attention. 

 But before we speak into a pastor’s life (or anyone’s life), we ought to take inventory of our self first. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.” Matthew 7:3-5


Have we prayed for love, humility, wisdom, and eyes to see our own sin first?


What was our role in the conflict?  Did we perpetuate harm directly or indirectly?  Did we defend or accuse?  Was our defense or accusation warranted?  Did we stand by in silence? Was our silence warranted? Did we ask questions?  Were our eyes opened or closed?  Were we discerning?  If we were ignorant, did we do our due diligence?  Or was our ignorance willful? 


If we have taken “sides” in a conflict, what were our motives?  Did fear play into it?  (e.g. fear of man, fear of the unknown, fear of loss, etc.)  Did partiality play into it?  (Were our judgments based on favoritism, popularity, charisma, position, security, wealth, or any such external factor?) Did an unhealthy obsession with controversy or interest in gossip play into it?


If we have sinned in any of these ways, what have we done about that?  Have we confessed? Have we looked in the eyes of those we have harmed (or stood by and watched)?  Have we listened to those who have been harmed to hear the effects of our actions or inactions?  Have we apologized and done what we can to make things right? 

We have to address our own sin first before addressing others!


These questions of accountability take on another dimension if we are in leadership, especially for pastors. 


Hebrews 13:17 tells us that leaders are keeping watch over the souls of the flock, for which they will have to give account.  Leaders are held to a higher standard!


Once we have addressed our own sin, what is our motivation in speaking out?  Do we have love and hope for the offenders?  Is our goal the destruction of the offenders or their redemption and restoration?  Are we coming from a place of humility and grace or self-righteous judgmental-ism and vengeance?  Are we speaking truth?  Are our words edifying or do they tear down? What is our agenda?


Have we followed the process outlined in Matthew 18:15-20?  Have we gone to our brother directly first (if that was possible)?  Have we persisted by bringing others along to try to help our brother(s) see?  If he/they won’t listen, what does it look like to tell it to the church?  What/who is the church?  What does this look like in a public, widespread ministry?


If we are silent now, what is our motivation in our silence?  (Is this time of silence a time of prayer and reflection?  Are we coming from a place of wisdom and forbearance, or fear and partiality? Or something else?)


If we are unsure of what is right or wrong in a conflict, let us ask God for wisdom.  This is something I have been praying a lot of lately for myself and my brothers and sisters in Christ:


“And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” Philippians 1:9-11


May our hearts be filled with God’s wise, discerning and fruitful love, and may our action or inaction be born of it.

Finally, the gospel is good news in all our conflict and sin.  None of us can stand on our own merit.  No matter who we are, in Jesus we are free to admit our sin, flaws, and failings.  We are free to walk in the light and in truth.  We are safe to be exposed because He has taken our shame.  When the light exposes our ugliness, He meets us with free and abundant grace, forgiveness, hope, and reconciliation.  It is all right here:
“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” 1 John 1:5-10

For more on this subject, I found this article to be insightful: