The poscast, produced by Mike Cosper of Christianity Today, follows the trajectory of Mark Driscoll, a tremendously gifted speaker and visionary whose character flaws overwhelmed him and then destroyed his network of churches, many of which have reemerged with healthier leadership models.
Here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned so far from this podcast.
Pastors need to be teachers and shepherds, not CEOS. This is not to say that an effective pastor doesn’t need organizational skills and a compelling vision, but first and foremost pastors need to be teachers and shepherds. There are gifted pastors who have strong character, the ability to teach, a shepherd’s heart, and the skills of a CEO. Many such pastors build large churches that have far reaching influence for the Kingdom of Heaven. But other pastors are tremendously successful, not because they are wired to be pastors but because they are programmed to be CEOS. They succeed because they know how to articulate vision, sell products, and build organizations. These kinds of pastors often have seasons, sometimes very long seasons, of what appears to be very successful ministry. I have no doubt that things of great spiritual significance occur at their churches, but all too often they end in tragic meltdowns that bruise scores of their followers and tarnish the reputation of Christ.
Pastors need to be kind and gentle. Driscoll was an amazing communicator, at times a great teacher, at times a tender shepherd, and at times a tyrant. There was an underlying meanness that couldn’t he couldn’t hold at bay. Scripture (I Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:6- 9) says that they shouldn’t be quarrelsome, conceited, arrogant, given to violence, or quick-tempered. Conversely, Paul wrote that pastors needed to be gentle, temperate, patient, and models of self-control.
Pastors need accountability. Good pastors are servants, not Kings. They serve rather than rule. Jesus told his disciples that whoever wanted to be great among them must become a servant. Servants don’t place themselves over others, rather they arrange themselves under others. In nearly every story like Discoll’s of spectacular collapses in ministry there is a history of a lack of accountability.
God doesn’t give up on people and I pray that God will act redemptively so that the skills of people like Driscoll and many others can once again be used to advance Christ’s kingdom and draw people to Jesus. I also pray for God’s protection in my own ministry because the sins that led to the downfall of others live in my heart as well.
I hadn’t heard of critical race theory (CRT) until a year ago when a pastor in another community reached out to me fearing the loss of his job over critical race theory. He had given a sermon acknowledging the existence of systemic racism and his board pushed back demanding that he publicly denounce critical race theory. At the time I thought it was an odd isolated event. Boy was I wrong! Opposition to critical race theory has become a litmus test for political and in some cases, theological orthodoxy. I’d like to suggest two poor reasons for Christians to oppose critical race theory.
The first is a lack of awareness about what it is. It’s the latest in a long series of philosophical boogey men used to motivate or distract Christians. It’s used to motivate us to connect with a certain political agenda, or to distract us from things of much greater importance, for example, addressing issues of social injustice. It’s similar to attaching the labels “socialist” or “communist” to something. We may not understand whatever it is that they are opposing but we experience a knee jerk reaction against the terms used to describe it. It’s a form of rehashed McCarthyism. Once the label sticks the argument is over. This trick has been in place since the days of FDR as a way of ginning up opposition to the policy initiatives of Democrats. I think it is fair game to question or oppose the policies of either party but they should be honest discussions based on the merits of the policy, not on scare tactics and red herring.
Critical race theory is an academic or legal framework that has been around for about 40 years. It’s a concept used to show how discriminatory practices become incorporated into many of our social institutions, sometimes even unintentionally. Take sentencing laws for cocaine use as an example. “Crack” is the form of cocaine most likely used by members of the black community due to the fact that it is relatively inexpensive. Federal law requires a mandatory 5 year sentence for anyone caught with 5 grams of crack cocaine. Powdered cocaine of the form preferred by most white users. It takes 500 grams of powdered cocaine to get the same sentence. This sentencing disparity has all sorts of negative consequences for black families, one of which is the high incarceration rate of young black men adding to the number of single parent households living beneath the line of poverty. There are similar examples of systemic racism in housing laws, banking practices, and access to a number of government subsidies.
Opponents of critical race theory have equated it with “hating America” or “accusing all whites of being racist. While this may be true of some people who use or promote critical race theory, it’s not endemic to the theory itself. One can love America and still be honest enough to acknowledge that there are areas where we have room to improve. The concept stated in our Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” is a noble aspiration that we should all aspire to, but we need to be honest about the fact that some of the same signers produced a constitution that counted black slaves as only three-fifths of a human being.
The second reason for opposing critical race theory is so that we can ignore our responsibility to correct injustices wherever we find them. People of faith have a moral duty to care for people who are marginalized. Jesus announced his earthly ministry by quoting the prophet Isaiah’s clarion call for justice. He stood up in the temple, opened a scroll to Isaiah and read,“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19) In Matthew 25, Jesus clearly stated when we address the needs of people who are oppressed it is as though we are helping him directly. Conversely, he also made it clear that to ignore matters of injustice is as serious as turning a cold shoulder to Christ himself.
For Christians, and people of all faiths, critical race theory isn’t something to be opposed. It’s something to be understood and used to create a more just world.
"This blog is my way of connecting with people at Central and beyond to encourage them to make their space in the world more like Heaven."
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this blog reflect my thoughts and opinions as an individual, not the formal positions of our church. Central includes people with a wide range of opinions on important issues like those addressed in my posts. It is also a place where we can discuss these issues with civility and grace.