We need shepherds to act like shepherds–and caring for sheep means not supporting someone who preyed on sheep.
Caring for the sheep means not supporting someone like Mark Driscoll, whose spiritual abuse caused Mars Hill in Seattle, the denomination he created, to implode, and whose misogyny was legendary. All of this was well-documented last year in the Rise and Fall of Mars Hill podcast, though it was well known long before that (I wrote about Driscoll back in 2014).
This has all come to a head again lately because Andy Wood, the chosen successor for Rick Warren at the massive Saddleback Church, invited Mark Driscoll to speak at his leadership conference last year.
Think about that: even knowing everything we know about Driscoll, Wood invited him to share the platform.
On Fridays I usually do a round up of social media, but this week I’d like to walk you through a story that’s been building.
I’m just getting over COVID, and wasn’t feeling well enough for most of the week to do much of anything (other than write the epic post about the pastor arguing that women should choose death over rape). I spent more time on Twitter this week than normal, because I wasn’t feeling well enough to do much else, but I was bored out of my mind.
And while on Twitter, I saw a picture that pastor Josh Howerton posted of a group of pastors praying over Andy Wood before he goes to Saddleback.
(I can’t share the actual tweet since I’m blocked; here’s a screenshot):
I found this alarming, All of these men are supporting Andy Wood, but I think that anyone who invites Mark Driscoll to speak should be automatically disqualified from leadership (unless they realize their mistake when it’s pointed out, sincerely apologize, and make amends).
The only way we will clean up the evangelical church from those who spiritually abuse so blatantly and from those who are so openly misogynistic is if we stop giving them oxygen.
The fact that he would choose to enlarge a spiritually abusive man’s platform shows that the sheep are not Andy Wood’s primary consideration.
However, Andy Wood has issues of his own regarding spiritual abuse.
He has been accused by Jason and Lori Adams-Brown of acting in an abusive way towards them when they were on staff (you can read about that at The Roys Report). Saddleback Church did ask their head hunting firm to look into these allegations, and the firm cleared Andy Wood of these allegations, and a second firm said that they did the investigation adequately (abuse expert Boz Tchividjian is unpersuaded) . I have several questions, though:
- Did they decide that Lori Adams-Brown was lying, or did they decide that what happened to her did not rise to the level of abuse?
- Did Echo Church give their former employees permission to break their NDAs?
- Did they interview everyone who has an NDA? (there are strong indications the answer to this is no).
Saddleback Church is a huge church that Rick and Kay Warren built. It would be heartbreaking to see it go ahead with a pastor with such huge, glaring issues. (More on the issues in this report).
And, as I said, besides the spiritual abuse, hiring Mark Driscoll should be an automatic disqualifier.
If pastors could get together to pray for Andy Wood, why could they not get together before the conference last year and tell him not to invite Mark Driscoll?
If they have that close a relationship with him, then why is that relationship not leveraged to call Andy Wood to account? Why do big name pastors not do the hard work of caring for the sheep?
And I think I have my answer (courtesy of Julie Roys, who discovered it).
They don’t think it’s a big deal either, because Josh Howerton himself advertised Mark Driscoll:
There is so much more going on it’s hard to explain it all–he was defending Andy Wood against accusations that some of Wood’s victims are silenced because of NDAs, and he said that he never personally used NDAs. Then Erin Harding on Twitter produced what looks like current (or at least within the last two years, given the logo) employment contracts from Lakepointe Church that include confidentiality clauses, indistinguishable from NDAs. He accused people of beating up on him and started blocking people. Here’s a good thread documenting the issues.
What I’m asking for is that pastors stop protecting each other and start protecting the sheep.
This should not be that difficult.
But why does this happen? Why do pastors rally around each other?
I have a theory.
I think celebrity Christian culture is a huge draw, and pastors want to become well known and create huge churches.
Not all pastors. But many.
And it’s these “famous” pastors who write all the books (most are ghost-written, actually), speak at the conferences, and get featured on the big websites.
To become well known and famous, you need to keep the relationships with other big names and famous people close. So there is incentive to support each other and never hold others to account.
In other words, many of the people who are famous “pastors”, and who give spiritual counsel to other “pastors”, don’t know much about pastoring.
Compare a megachurch pastor like Josh Howerton’s week with the week of many small town pastors.
Picture Jim, who pastors a church of 175 in a small community. His week began by meeting with contractors for the new accessible bathroom they want to put in the church. They’ve been raising money for this for ages, and he had to sign off on the final plans.
He met with Dave and Sandy, who are getting married in a few weeks, for another pre-marital counseling session. He really, really likes this couple, and they ended up talking for longer than they intended, so his sermon prep got delayed.
But most of the week was taken up with a funeral for one of the saints at his church, a woman who was 92, who was estranged from all but one of her kids. Before the funeral he had several meetings with angry family members, trying to get them to talk to each other and agree on what was going to be at the funeral.
In the middle of the drama of that this week, he had to go to the Wednesday night youth group party to welcome some new youth to the area this year and show support for the fledgling group of 11 kids, one of whom is his own.
He came home after the funeral on Thursday, exhausted. He only has a vague idea of what he’s going to preach this Sunday, but Friday he’s hoping he has enough time in the office to plan it all out.
He’s going to have to play piano on Sunday, too, because the normal pianist is at the cottage for the weekend. He doesn’t mind playing piano; it relaxes him and he’s really good at it. But it means he’ll have to go over the songs as well.
I don’t know everything Josh Howerton was doing this week, but I do know he had a lot of time to spend on social media, and he seems to be spending time connecting with other big name pastors, who were supporting him on social media.
I’m wondering if any of his parishioners were in the hospital, and needed someone to visit him?
The odd thing is that in our church culture, we think Jim could learn from Josh, because Josh’s church is so big. But what if it’s actually the other way around?
That’s what i wrote on Facebook, and what I want to finish with:
What if small time pastors have something to teach megachurch pastors–rather than the other way around?
How can pastors be part of the SOLUTION to toxic teachings and culture in the church?
I’ve been calling out some big name pastors for endorsing disqualified and misogynistic pastor Mark Driscoll.
But many pastors are wonderful, and they HAVE called out this stuff. We just don’t see it because they don’t have big platforms.
To those pastors: we are so grateful. We are glad there are safe shepherds.
But you have more power than you realize. If we are going to change the culture in the evangelical church, we have to attack the one of the big roots: Celebrity Christianity. Here’s how you can:
- Stop buying books by big name pastors. If they are a pastor and they are writing books and traveling regularly for conferences, they simply don’t have the time or bandwidth to shepherd the sheep the way that you do. They don’t have things to really teach you about how to be a shepherd. They are not your mentors; YOU are THEIR mentor.
- Stop going to conferences with big name speakers. Take the money that you would normally spend on those conferences and meet together with Christian leaders in your community on a retreat. Minister to each other, hear each other’s hearts, and learn from each other.
- Read books that are written by those who aren’t represented in leadership–who aren’t your typical white, male, upper middle class, married man. Read books by those who resemble your congregation more than they resemble the headliners at the conferences.
- Listen to podcasts by interesting people who teach you insights you didn’t know, rather than people who mirror back what you hear everywhere you look.
- (Added from a reader!) Read psychology journal articles. Read sociology magazines. Know what issues are likely facing your congregation. Did you know that roughly 20% of Christian women experience marital rape? 1/5 girls and 1/9 boys have been sexually assaulted before 18? 22% of evangelical women experience vaginismus? 13% of teenagers have had at least one depressive episode in the last year? Did you know that 43% of women who have had an abortion attended church at least once a month when they got their abortion? Would knowing these statistics, and others like them, change your sermons?
So many pastors today are stepping on their sheep in order to build platforms for themselves–and they’re doing this because celebrity Christian culture gives them a way to.
If we got back to shepherds knowing the sheep, becoming vulnerable with the sheep, and serving the sheep, we’d be far healthier.
And many of you are already doing that so well. You don’t need to learn from celebrity pastors; they need to learn from you.
That’s what I want to end with: Pastors who are truly caring for the sheep, we see you. We appreciate you.
You may not have flashy churches with expensive, huge sanctuaries, huge travel and conference budgets, and staff to run interference for you (though some of you might).
You may not be preaching to thousands every weekend (though some of you might).
But if you’re caring for those Jesus has given you, you are doing the Lord’s work. God doesn’t judge in numbers.
Be faithful. And thank you for doing the hard work.
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