It grieves me when a prominent pastor’s ministry hits the skids.
My Facebook and Twitter feeds lit up last week with the news that the Acts 29 network had removed Mars Hill from membership and urged Mark Driscoll to resign as pastor. The news was shortly followed by an announcement that LifeWay was pulling Driscoll’s books from its stores and web catalog.
I’ve never been a Driscoll fan. I respect that he succeeded in planting a growing congregation in one of the least-churched areas of the country. Seattle is tough ground. However, I’ve never been fond of his combative style–or his views on women. Driscoll has been plagued by controversy, and the charges of spiritual abuse against him and the Mars Hill elders should be taken seriously. Driscoll’s public statements and the statements of the board indicate that he desires repentance and reconciliation. For his sake and the sake of his church, I hope that process of restoration proves successful.
But we’ve seen this story before. Young, charismatic pastor builds successful ministry and rises to stardom, only to see it all come crashing down. As the news unfolded last week, this was the question that came to my mind: what does it take to finish well?
What does it take to finish well? Because so many don’t. We see it in the headlines. We’ve seen it in history. And we see it in Scripture. Moses led the Hebrew people out of Egypt, but sin kept him from entering the Promised Land. David was a man after God’s own heart, but his reign never recovered from his sin against Bathsheba and the murder of her husband. And Samson–for all his strength, Samson’s story is a tragedy of wasted potential.
What does it take to finish well? I don’t want the end of my life to repudiate the beginning. When I stand before the Lord in glory, I want to stand before him unashamed. But how do we live now to end well then? I think there are three things that are important in this:
In his response to the Driscoll saga, Tim Challies said this:
When the Bible lays out qualifications to ministry, it is character that rules every time. The Bible says little about skill and less still about results. It heralds character–Tim Challies
While I don’t always agree with Challies, I think he’s right on here. Character counts. Proverbs 10:9 says that “Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.” To finish well, we need to cultivate integrity–the willingness to do what is right even when it costs us something. That means devoting ourselves to pursuing the Lord until his pleasure becomes the desire of our hearts. When we get to the point that we choose holiness not because we fear punishment but because doing otherwise breaks the heart of God, then we are learning what it means to walk in integrity.
Walk in Humility.
A mentor once told me that money, sex, and power are the big three temptations that sink ministries. I think there’s a fourth that encompasses all three: pride. The insidious nature of pride blinds us to our own faults. Pride convinces us that we will never fall, that those who warn us of danger don’t understand that we’ve got it all under control. Pride teaches us to rely on self; humility drives us to depend on God. Humility reminds us that it’s not our kingdom we’re building; that platforms are only beneficial when we build them into altars. Walking in humility recognizes that temptation is common; that it’s when we most think we’re standing firm that we need to beware of falling (1 Corinthians 10:12-13). We place our trust in the one who is able to keep us from stumbling and recognize our weakness never outgrows the need for his strength.
We need truth-tellers in our lives, and we need to heed what they say.
Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)
Paul had Barnabas; Nathan confronted David with his sin. Moses’ father-in-law gave him wise advice. If we want to finish well, we need to surround ourselves with people who will speak into our lives. We need those around us who believe in our divinely appointed destinies and love us enough to challenge us when we are in danger of falling short. Like the strings that keep a tent pole from swinging too hard in any direction, accountability keeps us grounded and stable.
Driscoll’s story isn’t over yet. There may be a day in his future when he stands repentant and restored. I pray it is so. But my story isn’t over yet either. I want my life to be more than a cautionary tale. I want to finish well.
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