Monday, 18 August 2014


Those who live by the media will die by the media

 Certainly it is starting to look that way with regards to the crumbling empire of Mark Driscoll over in the US.

 Ever since the Mars Hill Church leadman was directly accused (9:50) on the Janet Mefferd show of plagiarising material in his books, the skids have been under the charismatic Seattle pastor.   

Those unfamiliar with the most recent developments can catch up here, but suffice to say we do appear to be entering the “Berlin bunker”* stage of the Mark Driscoll phenomenon

The issue of plagiarism is a matter of public record and has been admitted by Driscoll himself. In addition allegations of bullying within the Mars Hill set-up have circled the web for years.  

Only those close to the situation are in a position to know exactly what went on there, but certainly we can say that the infamous quote relating to “dead bodies under the Mars Hill bus” did not reflect well on a shepherd of God’s people.

 I must admit that I was briefly “into” his ministry, having, on occasions being blessed by it in the past.  

 There is no question that his emphasis upon men “manning-up,” both in their churches and in their families, had the potential to serve as a healthy corrective to the dangerous feminisation of the Church that we have witnessed over very many years.

 But sadly, it seems that too often Driscoll has been guilty of encouraging mere machismo rather than the needed emphasis upon biblical masculinity.  

 But what prompted this post more than anything was a term that crops up frequently in the reporting of the Driscoll sage, which is the so-called “Mars Hill Board of Advisers and Accountability" usually shortened to just the "Accountability Board."   

I do not know how common this term is in US Christanity but I have to say that the term “Accountability Board” is one that grates with me intensely.

It is the same feeling that I have when I hear pastors of large churches refer to their fellow elders as “my staff.”  This seems to be very common in the much-larger churches of the US but the term is creeping in over here as well.

 I must confess that whenever I hear on Christian TV a churchman refering to “my staff” I am in the habit of  shouting at the TV and reminding him, “You don’t have a staff –you are on Jesus’ staff!”  

But that is just me.

So what is the problem with an accountability board, since there is obviously nothing wrong with accountability per se?

 But surely we ought to be able to see that if a man is even deemed to need an accountability board in order to keep him on the straight and narrow, then that man’s ministry has already moved into unhealthy and unbiblical territory.

Mars Hill, of course, will tell us that the board serves as a corrective to the whole of the senior eldership of the church, but in reality we all know that Mars Hill is a one-man band, and that that one man is Mark Driscoll.

 And if one man needs to have an entire board just to act as a counterweight to him and to his influence, then he is quite simply too big & too important to the operation. 

 In such a set-up is it not really the case that the entire church is essentially serving only as a vehicle for the promotion of his own “ministry”?

 Contrary to the bogus quote in the title, the apostle Paul said nothing about appointing accountability boards in each church. What he instead emphasized was the need for a plurality of elders in each church. It is these who provide mutual accountability within the body. 

These elders were to be men who would exercise selfless and – in terms of the larger culture- largely anonymous servant-leadership of the flock of Christ.

Now, of course, this is not to say that men of genuine depth of ministry will not attract attention beyond the local assembly.

 It is right and proper that exceptional giftings should also benefit the wider Church. No one wants the ministry of a Spurgeon or a Martin Lloyd-Jones to be forever hidden in a corner. 

But Paul could not have imagined in his wildest dreams that any of the men he appointed over the churches would ever seek to move in the kind of rock-star charisma that we see in today’s churches -and this not only from Mark Driscoll.

 Nothing could be further from the biblical concept of servant-leadership instituted by Christ Himself at the Last Supper, when He rebuked the ambitious jostling for position of His disciples by rolling up His sleeves and performing the task of the lowliest slave.

Peter had learned the lesson well by the time he encouraged his fellow elders (not “his staff!”) to,

Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion, but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock” (1 Pet 5:2-3)

It doesn’t sound like anybody was in any danger of being run over by Peter’s bus does it?   
 Nor that of James, who eschewed those who preferred the rich and influential at the expense of the poor and despised (Js 2:1-8). 

Or John who warned of Diotrophes "who loves to have the preeminence." (3 Jn 9)
Could anybody imagine any of these men ever requiring an accountability board?

 Let us pray that one of the lessons learned during this ongoing saga will be that the central purpose of the local church is to glorify Christ, and not to promote the qualities of any mere sinner saved by grace.  

 No church should have any leader who is so big that he needs an accountability board. 

Because the only person in your church who is that big is Jesus.

* Update Could this be the rumble of those Russian tanks right now?