Mark Driscoll is warning his congregation that wolves are attacking Mars Hill Church.
The wolves apparently are attacking the community groups in particular and the church in general, according to Driscoll.
In his recent sermons, Driscoll has been preparing the church to handle these attacks, including sermons warning the church of such attacks claiming they are akin to the stoning of Stephen (apparently the Apostle Paul was an example of an alpha-wolf before his conversion) (sermon of May 25th), sermons talking about Jesus making mistakes but not sinning (http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=276_1402705603), and a sermon in which members are encouraged not to look at the internet, which Driscoll warned is “all shenanigans” (sermon of June 8 2014).
A shenanigan is a “deceitful trickster”.
Of course, prior to Driscoll’s sermon of March 25th, had you searched for sermons about wolves attacking the church being preached from Acts 7, you would have come up empty-handed. Driscoll is plowing new ground. One might wonder why he did not wait for Acts 20 where Paul (the so-called “alpha” wolf of Driscoll’s Acts 7 sermon) is warning the church about wolves:
“I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw disciples after them”.
The Book of Acts does talk about savage wolves (not sure where Driscoll gets the term “alpha wolf” from – unless it is a part of triperspectival hierarchy among the wolves) and Paul makes it very clear how they draw disciples to follow them: They distort the truth.
Driscoll is making a case to the church that attacks are either happening or are immanent, and that the attackers are wolves plus a few really bad alpha-wolves. In Acts 20, the only verse in Acts that actually warns about wolves says that they will attack by distorting truth.
So perhaps the best way to identify these wolves, particularly the alpha wolves, is to hone in on who is distorting truth.
While we are pondering the warning it is worth reminding ourselves of the scandals the poor church is currently dealing with. These scandals are unrelated to any outside “attacks” against Mars Hill Church and have clearly been caused within the church itself (where Paul in Acts 20 suggests that the wolves will likely come from).
The scandals all seem to relate to some level of truth distortion. This is more than a little disturbing if in fact this is the main weapon that the wolves choose to employ when attacking the sheep.
Here some the scandals the church is scrambling to deal with:
- Over 42 elders/pastors resigned in the last two years, as well over 100 church employees, most of whom were required to sign an agreement not to speak anything negative about the church or forfeit severance pay. So the Executive Elders are asking them to hide any negative truth about the church or be punished.
- Multiple accounts of plagiarism in the writings of Mark Driscoll have come to light. Plagiarism distorts the truth about the authorship of what is written.
- Complete scrubbing and re-writing the history of Mars Hill Church have become evident. Mars Hill Church and Resurgence websites have taken Mars Hill Church founders Lief Moi and Mike Gunn out of the picture altogether, and they now state that Mark Driscoll was the founder of the church – another distortion, seemingly intended to highlight Driscoll and take credit away from the other founders.
- Deceptively using church funds to coordinate the mass-purchase of 11,000 copies of “Real Marriage” within one week and using an outside company to manipulate book sales resulting in a NYT Bestseller status created a recent scandal. Such deception sounds like a distortion of the truth to me.
- Once the NYT bestseller scandal was discovered (after two years), Mars Hill Church leadership gave three different explanations. The first explanation was that it was a commonly used method and was employed to reach more people for Jesus. Then “outside counsel” was blamed (we were never told whose counsel it was) – the implication being that even Sutton Turner was new and merely signed what was put in front of him. Lastly, an admission that it was wrong to do and would not be done again. At least three changing versions of the story were put out for public consumption. Even if we assume one of the three is correct, it means that the other two are distortions of the truth.
- Removing members that are asking question seeking the truth has become commonplace. It seems, as happened after the trials of Petry and Meyer in 2007, that members seeking the truth are not given answers, but are viewed as trouble makers and their membership revoked or suspended. Could refusing to answer questions from members, such as asking for a truthful breakdown of the NYT misuse of church funds, or asking for a list of the salaries of the elders, including the Executive Elders (rumors range from $350k to $1,2m per year) be a way of hiding or distorting the truth? Rather than answering questions seeking the truth, the questions are not answered and the questioners silenced. The Executive Elders would rather keep the truth regarding financial transparency hidden.
- Then of course, there were the trials of Paul Petry and Bent Meyer themselves. It has become clear to many that the trials were either a power-grab or a means to cover flagrant violations of the then existing bylaws, such as the purchase of the downtown Tabella nightclub without proper notice to the elders, which the elders found out about via an article in The Stranger newspaper. The current church leaders continue to distort the truth about the trials and the motivations for changing the bylaws. While the truth is slowly becoming clear, the facts are not coming from the Executive Elders. They seem to want to keep these matters in the dark and distorted.
So if wolves attacking the church do so by distorting the truth, it would seem that the church is protected by the truth. Those that are seeking the truth are most likely then protecting the church from wolves who persist in distorting the truth.
As the above scandals continue to rock the church, many members who have formerly been quiet have risen and are blogging (as I am) or joining their voices in a number of amazing Facebook groups and other forums. Hundreds of posts and stories with thousands of participating comments have occurred in the last ninety days.
Members are telling their stories. They are stories of abuse, shunning and heavy-handed treatment. They are each member’s account of the truth. Some are told in righteous anger, others in ways that are more tender and kind. Each reflecting a truthful perspective by a member who felt harmed by the current manner in which Mars Hill Church leadership devalues and discards its members.
They are stories of members who have been thrown under the Mars Hill Bus, something Driscoll claimed would keep happening, and in time “by God’s grace”, the pile of bodies would become a mountain http://joyfulexiles.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/preaching-paul_edits1.mp3
It is now clear that the Executive Elders have a staff member who “joined” the Facebook Group “REPEAL THE BYLAWS – EXONERATE PETRY AND MEYER” to see what is being said. At the same time, Driscoll is suggesting that members avoid the internet.
Wolves use avoidance or distortion of the truth to deceive the sheep.
Are former members who are finding their voices together and reaching out to each other in truth “wolves” for seeking and speaking the truth? Or are the real wolves those who have tried to silence them and distort the truth? Is a reporter asking reasonable questions about these scandals really a wolf seeking to distort the truth, or are the men who refuse to answer truthfully flirting with wolf-like behavior themselves?
It seems that the safest way to protect oneself from the wolves that may attack is to have as much truth as possible. Walk in the light. Be open and honest. Answer questions quickly and honestly. Do not avoid or shun people, but listen and share the truth with them.
If the key characteristic of a wolf is that he distorts the truth, then Mars Hill Leadership ought to seriously pray about how it may be viewed by many of the sheep that have been thrown under the bus in the last several years.
The truth always prevails. The truth will root out the wolves and protect the sheep. True elders walk in truth and transparency and have sheep that do not stray.
And if a sheep does stray, a good shepherd leaves the fold to find the one who is lost – not revel that the sheep is “under the bus.”
One thought on “Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?”
Stephen was killed because he brought charges against religious leaders.
He brought charges that discredited not just one minister, but an entire group of ministers – the Sanhedrin. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Stephen “attacked” the ministers with charges that they could not even tolerate hearing. And so, instead of responding to the charges he brought, they chose to destroy the accuser.
They were men who were supposed to be trustworthy. They were religious leaders, tasked with shepherding the flock of Israel. Their ministry was to run a religious court system, ensuring justice in Israel. Yet they were the men who killed Jesus.
Stephen’s charge to them: “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.” (Acts 7:51-53)
How utterly insulted the Sanhedrin must have felt. Who was this Stephen guy anyway, and how dare he speak so boldly – so arrogantly! – to men of such high authority! And he brought enormous charges: he said they killed the Righteous One!
“At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him.” (Acts 7:57-58)
The religious leaders couldn’t handle the charges Stephen brought. They were enraged by them. They responded by destroying the accuser, but they didn’t stop there. They instigated persecution against all Christians in Jerusalem. It’s as if they thought, “We have to root out this threat to our ministry, this threat to all of Israel! We have to squash these troublemakers! Who are these people to believe and speak such blasphemy, such falsehood? We must put a stop to it! We must make an example of them, to send a message to everyone in Jerusalem: if you roll with the wrong pack, you will pay!”
So terrible persecution spread across Jerusalem. Fear was put into the hearts of every Christian. Fear that if they spoke the truth, they would be targeted. Fear that if they seemed sympathetic to that troublemaker Stephen, and if they seemed critical of the Sanhedrin, they too would be killed.
And so the church was ravaged by religious wolves who couldn’t stand to hear criticism of their ministers.