5 Things Every Church Leader Can Learn From the Mark Driscoll Situation

So let me start here.

I struggle with pride.

Do you?

Doesn’t everyone?

Pride is at the root of all sin. It is pride—the pursuit of self, of knowing better, of being right—that caused our fall in the first place. It is a daily struggle for me.

My heart broke this weekend as I read of the latest developments at Mars Hill Church as their pastor, Mark Driscoll, temporarily stepped down. There’s a very (from what I can tell) balanced and fair article about the events here in Christianity Today if you want some background.

I need to say I don’t know Mark Driscoll. I’ve never met him.

And this is not a post where I’m going to pass any level of judgment on Pastor Mark or Mars Hill. He needs our prayers, as does his family and church. (My heart really hurts for his family in a season like this. They love their husband and dad. So does Christ.)

And even as I say “he needs our prayers,” I realize that often in Christian circles we say that with a sense of superiority, as though he needs our prayers or she needs our prayers in way that I don’t.

Not even close to true.

No one prays with clean hands. I don’t. You don’t.

I need your prayers as desperately as Pastor Mark. So do you. So when we pray, we need to pray as those who come alongside each other before a merciful and just God and a Savior we all so desperately need.

We are in this together.

Not Sex, Not Money … Pride.

As I read through various accounts of the situation as it developed, this quote from the Christianity Today article caught my full attention:

“The decision by Driscoll, whose current challenges made the front page of The New York Times yesterday, echoes past sabbaticals by two other popular Reformed pastors—John Piper and C.J. Mahaney—amid concerns not of sexual or financial sins, but of pride and other character flaws.”

The writer goes on to point out that many leaders have put in safeguards against sexual sin or financial wrongdoing and quotes Scott Thuma, a Hartford Seminary sociologist:

“My sense is that many of the celebrity religious leaders are well aware of and intentionally attempt to guard themselves against sexual and financial temptations. But they forget that pride comes before a fall.”

John Piper gave some painfully honest answers behind his break from ministry in 2010. Again, as the article points out:

Bethlehem Baptist Church pastor John Piper embarked on an eight-month leave, explaining his soul, marriage, family and ministry pattern needed “a reality check from the Holy Spirit.” He noted “several species of pride in my soul that, while they may not rise to the level of disqualifying me for ministry, grieve me.” In 2013, Piper shared on Leadership Journal that his time-off had been dedicated to addressing his intransigent sins, including “selfishness, anger, self-pity, quickness to blame and sullenness.”

I can relate to every one of Piper’s struggles and have had them, in seasons, in my only life. My guess is you have, too.

So I fully admire pastors who have had the courage to admit they are struggling with pride and to take a break from ministry to address it.

As my wife said to me, “Maybe we should all resign. There’s a sense in which maybe those who have stepped back have done the honorable thing, isn’t there?”

So let no one cast a stone.

Pride is my struggle, and if I may, it’s your struggle. You’re human.

How do we keep it contained?

How do we keep it in check?

How do I keep mine in check?

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Carey Nieuwhof
Speaker and podcaster Carey Nieuwhof is a former lawyer and founding pastor of Connexus Church, one of the largest and most influential churches in Canada. With over 6 million downloads, The Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast features today's top leaders and cultural influencers. His most recent book is “Didn’t See It Coming: Overcoming the 7 Greatest Challenges That No One Expects and Everyone Experiences.” Carey and his wife, Toni, reside near Barrie, Ontario and have two children.

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