Today, I am making connections on influence and pastoral teaching. I am hoping to expose how a domineering and controlling pastoral teaching on divorce can infect a whole network of churches if not checked. I am going to talk about how a teaching by ex-Pastor Mark Driscoll appears suspiciously alive and active in The Village Church Scandal.
To those who are unaware of The Mars Hill Church saga and how the wheels came off that bus (after it had run over too many bodies), I will simply point to a statement about that church culture as overseen by one of its founding pastors, Mark Driscoll (who is teaching in the above video).
Dr. Paul Tripp stated, “This is without a doubt, the most abusive, coercive ministry culture I’ve ever been involved with.”
Ex-Pastor Mark Driscoll help found the Acts 29 Network of which Matt Chandler is currently president, and Driscoll was later removed from the network due to sin issues regarding his domineering ways. Also, Ex-Pastor Mark Driscoll resigned his position from Mars Hill Church instead of going through a restoration process to address said domineering issues.
More connections between Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler, and The Village Church:
As further background, I was in attendance at an Acts 29 Church Planting Boot Camp at Mars Hill Church in 2009 where I remembered Matt Chandler talking with envy about how Mark Driscoll could get away with insulting his audience in a sermon with his audience thanking him. Chandler gushed how he personally could not get away with such a style. It was clear in such a statement that Chandler admired Driscoll. He wished he could emulate him, or at least, that is what he said. My point in sharing this anecdote about Matt Chandler is to suggest Driscoll likely had an influence on Chandler and The Village Church by extension. It makes the following apparent connection on their marriage/divorce theology less surprising being aware of that.
Watch 3:45 to 4:15 in the above YouTube sermon clip with Mark Driscoll speaking. And read the following statement:
“January 21: Another phone conversation in which Karen is told that TVC is her final authority.
Karen told Elder Matt Younger that she had counseled with trusted Christian friends and counselors and was thinking through her decisions with careful thought and prayer. He told her that she could not trust herself or any other counsel except that of TVC which was her spiritual authority. He said that they were the only voice at the table. He claimed that they were there to hold her hand and tell her what to do.”
-From The Wartburg Watch‘s timeline about The Village Church handling of the Karen Hinkley (formerly Root)
Do you see the connection between disgraced Pastor Mark Driscoll’s teaching on divorce and how Pastor Matt Younger handled the Karen?
The pastoral “care” for which Driscoll advocates following adultery discovery is simply mandated by TVC leadership for Karen. And they insist this care must come from TVC leaders alone.*
I watched this clip of teaching from Driscoll a while ago. However, it came back to me as I was reading through the documents regarding how Karen was treated by TVC leadership. I do not know if TVC came to these positions on their own or adopted them as fiat for members following a Driscoll teaching influence. It does not really matter.
I have a problem with both Driscoll’s teaching in the clip and how TVC embodied it–in my opinion–with Karen. It is too controlling. It gives pastors too much power to decide whether or not one gets or stays married. At best, a pastor ought to wisely advise their congregation and not make major life choices for them. And let’s make no mistake: Such teaching crosses the line of advising to deciding.
Adults make decisions. Children have decisions made for them.
Karen is not a child.
A faithful spouse is not a child.
Nor is a faithful spouse insane. They do not need to be “committed” to a bunch of paternalistic, authoritarian pastors who will decide if/when they will let the faithful spouse out of the “asylum.” Faithful spouses need friends who will grieve with them over the losses and support them in feeling less crazy empowering them to make their own choices as submitted ultimately to the Holy Spirit alone.
The paternalistic, authoritarian behavior must stop! As an evangelical pastor myself, it is frustrating to watch how a prominent evangelical pastor can fall in large part due to domineering abuses only to see another church in his former church network engaging in similar behavior.
Will anyone learn?**
How many more sheep will be found bruised and battered under the bus before the shepherds stop punching the gas pedal forward and over?
Call it “church covenant enforcement” or “church discipline” or “pastoral care in a marriage crisis.” I do not care. It is controlling. It is domineering. And it is far from godly (e.g. I Peter 5:3).
At least, that is my take.
* I would add that Karen Hinkley did not come to her decision hastily or immediately as she states in her response to the TVC membership letter (see here). She sought out the counsel of other godly, Christian people in making her decision. However, she did not give the TVC leadership decision-making authority for her concerning her marriage. So, it is not about making a wise decision with outside input; this is more about TVC leadership being angry for not having control over her marriage annulling decision as I read the documents and exchanges.
**A glimmer of hope has been seen on that number as this was posting. TVC and Matt Chandler have issued an apology of sorts. See Matthew Paul Turner’s blog post (here).