October 17, 2017

MPT Posts on Church Discipline — and I Suggest a Better Way

NOTE: This post is not about a certain well-known pastor, even though it involves the church he leads. In the discussion that follows, I am not interested in having us talk about this pastor personally. So don’t. Please keep the conversation on the subject of church discipline itself, more broadly. We focus on these articles because they present a detailed description of a church discipline process that gives us a rare inside look at how a congregation attempts to deal with Christian sin, repentance, and restoration in the church.

• • •

In two emotionally-charged posts, Matthew Paul Turner has given a detailed account of the church discipline process in one well-known congregation. Here are links to the articles:

These pieces tell Andrew’s story. As a young man, Andrew set out on his own in an effort to find himself. So he moved to the big city and joined a well-known megachurch. He began dating a daughter of one of the elders and they became engaged. During their engagement, he spent an evening with an old fling and acted inappropriately. Feeling extremely guilty afterward, he confessed to his fiancee and another member of his small group. Then to his small group leader. Soon Andrew was involved in meeting after meeting in which he confessed other relational and sexual failures he had experienced in his life, including the fact that he and his fiancee had been intimate. A month later, he was informed in another meeting with a pastor and his small group leader that he was “under church discipline.” Soon he was sent a “church discipline contract” that listed the “background issues” (a list of his sins) and the “plan of discipline” they had set up for Andrew. (You can read the details of the contract at Turner’s first post.)

In the second article, we learn what happened next. Andrew waited and thought before signing the contract, and then decided not to sign. Instead, he contacted the pastor and informed him he was leaving the church. When asked why he made this decision, Andrew replied, “Because I felt that the contract was legalistic, voyeuristic, and controlling. I felt like it was putting them in the place of God, determining when my heart was right or repentant enough. I didn’t want that.” The pastor wrote back, warning him that this would lead to more severe action. Citing Matthew 18, other church members were notified via the church’s internal social media system that Andrew was under discipline and that church members were to treat him “as a Gentile and a tax collector” (Matt 18:17). The communique gave specific examples of the kinds of interactions that would be permissible and impermissible, along with practical examples.

Matthew Paul Turner takes a dim view of this “gospel shame” process of discipline:

Where do I even begin? Honestly, this letter speaks for itself in my opinion. The harsh heavy-handed “theology”. The misuse of scripture to validate their reasoning. The carefully worded instructions on what to say, how to act, etc. The term “gospel shame”? The assumptions that their decisions are to be viewed equal to God’s decisions. At times, this letter comes off like the Roman Catholic church during the Dark Ages.

…And if this is how they plan to treat Andrew–as an “unbeliever”? How in the world do they treat people who really are non-Christian? (And not to mention the fact that Jesus hung out with Gentiles, tax-collectors, etc.)

Fine. If they don’t want Andrew to be a member of their church, take his name off the list! But this? I mean, seriously, did any of this letter, except for perhaps the “heavy heart”, infer that Mars Hill loves Andrew? Oh I know they think their actions represent love. But really, many of us have experienced firsthand that kind of “love,” and we know very well that it’s an abuse of the term.

I encourage you to read these articles in their entirety. Then come back and share your opinions about how “discipline” should be understood and practiced in the local church.

As for my opinion, the whole process described here seems askew. I recognize that we are only getting one side of the story, and that is an important caveat to keep in mind. But if we are to take Andrew’s word as anywhere near accurate in the description of what he went through, then I would make the following observations:

  • First, the “sinner” came forward and confessed of his own free will.
  • Second, Andrew makes no mention that anyone he talked to offered him forgiveness or pointed him to Christ.
  • Third, instead of absolution and restoration, a seemingly endless series of meetings began which only served to dredge up more sin and more shame, but still provided no word of forgiveness.
  • Fourth, the end result of all these meetings and all these confessions was that Andrew was issued a discipline “contract.” This written and signed agreement gave him a list of “works” that he had to perform in order to “prove” that he was repentant, including detailing all the sins he could recall with regard to relationships, sexual behavior, and deception.
  • Fifth, when Andrew rejected these demands, the entire church was notified and instructed to shun Andrew, only excepting conversations in which congregation members could appeal to him to repent.

As far as I can see, this approach to “church discipline” was misguided, counterproductive, and counter to the Gospel.

  • It ignored the principle that if we confess our sins, forgiveness and absolution should be granted (1Jn 1:9). It ignored the example of Christ, who said simply and immediately, time and time again, to those who came to him, “Go in peace, your sins are forgiven.”
  • Instead, it stirred up more and more talk of sin and repeated that talk in ever-widening circles until finally the entire congregation knew about it. In contrast to the Gospel — “where sin abounded, grace much more abounded” — this process just seemed to cause discussion of sin to abound. It put all the attention on this young man’s sin, repentance, and works.
  • The contractual requirement that this young man write out his “sexual and emotional attachment history,” and give a “full chronology of events and social/emotional sin” seems invasive and inappropriate. Why document such things and why should anyone want to read them? That feels really creepy to me, not only encouraging morbid introspection, but also voyeurism. Manifestly unhealthy!
  • Rather than count on Christ and his finished work, this “discipline” process put the onus on the sinner to feel sorry enough, to be repentant enough, to do enough works to prove his contrition and thus “earn” forgiveness and restoration from the church. That is not the Gospel.

Here is yet another instance where the evangelical world needs to listen to the traditions of the church. No system practiced by humans will ever work perfectly, but how much more like the Gospel is the simple practice of confession and absolution, the administration of the “Office of the Keys” that has been practiced for centuries?

Regarding the practice of confession, the Augsburg Confession states:

But of Confession they teach that an enumeration of sins is not necessary, and that consciences be not burdened with anxiety to enumerate all sins, for it is impossible to recount all sins, as the Psalm 19:13 testifies: Who can understand his errors?

And Luther (who knew something about a tortured conscience and endless confessing of sins!), wrote in the Smalcald Articles:

But the enumeration of sins ought to be free to every one, as to what he wishes to enumerate or not to enumerate. For as long as we are in the flesh, we shall not lie when we say: “I am a poor man [I acknowledge that I am a miserable sinner], full of sin.”

In the Small Catechism, Luther then describes how the pastor should respond when such a confession is made:

Then shall the confessor say:

God be merciful to thee and strengthen thy faith! Amen.

Furthermore:

Dost thou believe that my forgiveness is God’s forgiveness?

Answer.

Yes, dear sir.

Then let him say:

As thou believest, so be it done unto thee. And by the command of our Lord Jesus Christ I forgive thee thy sins, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen. Depart in peace.

But those who have great burdens upon their consciences, or are distressed and tempted, the confessor will know how to comfort and to encourage to faith with more passages of Scripture.

“As thou believest, so be it done unto thee.” Go in peace. Because of Jesus, God forgives all your sins. Rise to walk in newness of life.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Gospel. So much better.

Comments

  1. This a terrible development and such dangers are why the Catholic Church has the seal of the confessional which would discipline any priest who reveals any confession outside the confessional. This will only serve to drive sin deeper into darkness and not only damage someone like Andrew but others in the church who may seriously need confession and help.

    I do wonder how much of this has to do with a vindicative father, an elder at the church, seeking to punish the man for exposing his daughter to corruption.

    • Right on, Mark. What I share during the Sacrament of Reconcilitation is not shared with anyone else, not even my spouse, unless I am the one to share it. I should note that for sins involving injury to another, the Priest will usually direct the penitent to make ammends if possible to do so without causing further pain (sort of like AA).

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        To break the seal of the confessional is Automatic Excommunication.

        In American law (ruled on very early in the country’s history), this is called “Priest-Penitent Privilege” and is privileged information which cannot be subpoenaed or called in testimony.

        • This sounds like a very distorted version of Mark Driscoll’s remnant Catholicism; a bad imitation of the Sacrament of Confession.

          We only have Andrew’s side of the story, so there is definitely more to be said, but even taking it at face value; there can be good reasons for some of what he said they asked him to do (e.g. writing out a list of his sins – that sounds like a badly-remembered echo of the Examination of Conscience and even something a spiritual director might ask you to do, because we humans have the ability to say of our sins “now and again” or “once in a while”, when it turns out we really mean “every second day”).

          However, meeting after meeting after meeting? Several different individuals involved? No sense that there’s one person acting as a spiritual director? No sense of guidance? Jumping through hoops? And the might-as-well-be-excommunication at the end, complete with handy guide to how to treat the apostate? Spilling the beans to the whole church about what happened – even in monastic communities with communal confession, everyone goes up and tells what they did wrong, not just one person having his dirty linen washed in public.

          Even going by Andrew’s story, he has a lot to think about: if he was engaged, why did he find himself in a situation with an old flame that led to messing about and could have gone further? That’s something he needs to examine. But that is not sexual predation or the like, and frankly, it does sound like it’s because it was the elder’s daughter he cheated on that all this to-do happened. If it was just Jane Doe outside the congregation, I have to think it would not have come to this.

          Badly conceived, badly executed, and badly handled all in all. If confession in the Catholic church was like this, nobody would ever go at all – and you have to do a lot worse than be sleeping with your girlfriend before marriage to get excommunicated, to boot!

    • Agreed, Mark and Pattie…

    • MelissatheRagamuffin says:

      When I was in 7th grade I confessed to throwing spitballs in church. The priest yelled at me so loud they heard him outside the confessional, and then he made me say 300 Hail Marys and 50 Our Fathers. The only thing that accomplished was that I never went to confession again. It’s only in the last few years that I have felt sorry for the poor priest who had to sit there and listen to me say 300 Hail Marys and 50 Our Fathers.

      And I had not been throwing spitballs at our priest. I’d been throwing them at the pastor of the bible banger church my mother had recently started dragging me (kicking and screaming) to.

      My significant other asked me who is my elder in my meeting. I told him nobody because there’s nobody I trust to keep my confidence. He thinks that’s very sad.

    • The practice of keeping quiet about the sins someone confesses to you is something protestants can learn from Catholics.

      I am Christ’s representative to my brother who confesses his sin to me. I offer absolution in Christ’s place.

      The same treatment is offered to me every sunday when we offer the prayer of confession.

      I cannot believe the nonsense that Driscoll pulls.

  2. Ugh. Church discipline is exercised to bring repentance, and then when there is repentance, there is joy and re-acceptance.

    This would make more sense for pietists or a church that rejects simul justus et peccator. If one believes that Christians become perfect in sanctification, then a lengthy period of repentence and re-training is logical. But Calvinists reject that, don’t they?

    • In addition to Luther, I’d quote CFW Walther’s extended discussion about avoiding turning the Gospel into a preaching of repentance:

      http://www.lutherantheology.com/uploads/works/walther/LG/lecture-26.html#thesis_15

      We reject and regard as incorrect and injurious the dogma that the Gospel is properly a preaching of repentance, or reproof, and not alone a preaching of grace; for thereby the Gospel is again converted into a doctrine of the Law, the merit of Christ and Holy Scripture are obscured, Christians robbed of true consolation, and the door is opened again to the errors and superstitions of the Papacy.

      • Actually, here’s an even better Walther quote on preachers of the Law:

        An enforcer of laws, like a jailer, is not concerned about the condition of the heart of the person with whom he must deal, but only about enforcing that person’s obedience. He stands before his victim with a scourge and tells him that the scourge will come down on his back if he does not obey. The jailer is not concerned about godly motives among his prisoners. The prisoners, on the other hand, while they are fast in stocks and in their cells and are forced to obey, are revolving plans in their minds how to avoid being caught at their next theft. That is what a preacher of the law does to the members of a Christian congregation: he puts them in stocks and fetters them.

        Let no minister think that he cannot induce the unwilling to do God’s will by preaching the Gospel to them and that he must rather preach the Law and proclaim the threatenings of God to them. If that is all he can do, he will only lead his people to perdition.

      • Perhaps some time you would share some of these superstitions with us?

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Depends on whether the Calvinistas in question were Predestined to be control freaks. Predestination is THE Ultimate Trump Card to justify anything.

      The well-known-but-unnamed Celebrity Megachurch Pastor heading this whole show is known to be a control freak, and when you add the Divine Right of Celebrity Megachurch Apostle to the mix, the control and abuse can ramp up to North Korean levels.

  3. The Catholics get a lot of criticism from Protestants for prescribing penance, but this goes far beyond anything I’ve heard of present-day Catholics doing.

    If a person confesses sin, is repentant, intends to make restitution where possible, and hasn’t broken the law, I see absolutely no reason why things should go beyond one, and only one, meeting. How it escalated to excommunication is simply dumbfounding. And the form of excommunication (particularly the practical guidelines for how to treat someone like a pagan or tax collector) sounds cultlike, and nothing like Christ.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      How it escalated to excommunication is simply dumbfounding.

      Actually pretty easy to understand. In the words of my sociopath brother, “Power means You Can Do Anything You Want. Anything.”

      And in the words of Eric Cartman of South Park when he got deputized: “YOU! WILL! RESPECT! MAH! AUTHORITY!!!!” (followed by Rodney King beatdown)

    • My expereince taught me that if I confessed my sin in Catholcism it would have had a healthier outcome. These tactics used by the church at issue are cult like, if not cultish. I wonder how much longer people and Christians are going to stand by and make excuses for this pastor. For those in Christiandom I ask…

      Where are the Bereans?

    • I’d much prefer saying a hundred hail marys than having my sin circulated around the church by my confessor.

      • “NOBODY expects the [Mars Hill] Inquisition! Amongst our weaponry are such diverse elements as: fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency, an almost fanatical devotion to [Driscoll], and nice red uniforms…”

  4. Gross gross gross gross gross. I’m so glad I never had to go through anything this formal, it looks like they’ve become more organized since I left.

    Things like this make me thank god I’m now agnostic. Oh the irony.

    • I second that….plus I find the irony that this pastor can say what he wants, treat people without any respect, and get away with it. I too Marie am glad to be agnostic.

      But for those who are Christians I ask you…where are the Bereans?

  5. What is it, that a community is so afraid of, that it treats one of its own this way?

    I am not without sin. I know how a sin can hurt me and those around me. When I confess my sin to someone it is either to seek his forgiveness, to mend what is broken or to find support to overcome my weakness.

    Who made the church into a courthouse? Who will act as a judge?

    I became a free man through grace. Who am I to try and force a system of control on my brother who is in need?

  6. Let us for a moment give the man at the top, the church’s “lead visionary”, the benefit of a doubt. Let’s imagine that the entire “discipline” process was carried out by underlings way down his “chain of command.” Such a sorry state of affairs cries out for some sort of due process whereby a member who has been wronged or maligned by a church staff member or “elder” may appeal his “discipline” and at least receive a fair hearing. Unfortunately, no such process exists in far too many churches.

    In the organization which is the subject of the posts referred to above, there is no appeals process whatsoever. The particular organization prides itself as an “elder led” organization not accountable to a denominational board or other oversight. According to the organization’s bylaws, the rank-and-file “members” have no vote or voice whatsoever (other than to vote with their feet or their pocketbooks). And if a member is subjected to “discipline” by the whim of an elder or petty leader, there is no one to appeal to, except the very person(s) who imposed the punishment – which can be a very harsh, overbearing, hierarchical Catch-22 situation for the poor soul who finds himself the subject of the “discipline.”

    “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so.”

  7. What a train wreck. Jesus told the disciples if someone sinned against them seventy times seven a day and asks forgiveness then they should forgive them. The church in question has attempted to reinvent the wheel*dealing with the repentant and church discipline) and has failed miserably

    A couple years ago I wrote a guest post here about my experience of private confession and how it preserved my faith. It is indeed a better way.

    http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/how-the-confession-of-my-sins-kept-me-in-the-church-part-ii

  8. WenatcheeTheHatchet says:

    I agree with everything Paul said. I have in the last few years begun to appreciate the value of more traditional and institutional structures in churches where there are options for appeal and external as well as internal accountability. It’s not perfect but nothing in this life can be. It’s important to keep in mind that the top people probably have no idea what’s going on at the local level. That paradoxically may make the organization susceptible to a weakness some people wanted to avoid, having a top brass so unconnected to local church activity that problems don’t get noticed. It’s too bad if that is what has actually come to pass.

  9. It was my impression that in historic Calvinistic churches the pirivate confession of sin of sin to a “third party” (so to speak) or Pastor was not mandatory. Neither was it needed to recount all of one’s sins. Additionally it was for the purposes of providing comfort for the troubled soul.

    Hence, it follows that confession of this sort ought to be free so as not to be required of all, but to be commended only to those who know that they have need of it. Then, that those who use it according to their need neither be forced by any rule nor be induced by any trick to recount all their sins. But let them do this [private confession] so far as they consider it expedient, that they may receive the perfect fruit of consolation. [Calvin Institutes IV.14]

    Does this case strike anyone else as treating Church discipline more as a bureaucratic process than the offering of pardon and absolution?

    • One common tenant I have seen of “New Calvinism/Neo Calvinism” is that they take certain aspects of Calvinism and combine it with Independent Fundamentalism to make a strange religion. For a while, I hated Calvinism because I only had been exposed to it by those who follow Driscoll/Piper/Mohler. Once I realized Calvinism goes together with a history and a tradition, then it made sense.

      • Josh in FW says:

        Very good point. I’ve recently begun to recognize that my issues with Calvinism are more issues with some of todays popular expounders of it than with the ideas themselves.

      • You’re right. Calvinism has been high-jacked.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      As bureaucratic as Enlightened Self-Criticism in the old Soviet Union.

  10. First thought….so, EAgle, your name is Andrew???? Sounds scarily close to your pain to me.

    Second…..I think I want to throw up. This is not dicipline, this is sadistic power mongering worthy of the Communist Party or the SS.

    Thank GOD for the seal of the confessional in Catholic churches. Frankly, even things I have said in small groups over my life as a RC have never, to my knowledge, left those rooms. Like 12-Step programs, it is important to admit that we are ALL sinners and have no room to judge the heart and soul of another.

    We even state for SURE that hell exists, but do not proclaim any single person to 100% surely be there. No one save the Lord Himself knows what goes on in the minutes or seconds before death. SOOOO…who are WE to make someone’s life a hell on earth for confessed sin?

    I feel sick and sad again….

    • Pattie…

      I got home and read that post on Matthew Paul Turner before going to bed. I almost wnet through the roof at 1:00 AM when I read all this….

      My thoughts on church discipline extend to how the confession was handled. Was the person caught n the act, did they deny it? Or did they come forward and confes it voluntarily. For me its stuff like this that keeps guys from confessing stuff becuase they know what is to come down the pike. Thus it leads to more dishonesty and re-inforces the facade that Christianity is.

      When I read this last night I wanted to go through the roof and simultanouesly weep. This brought back memories of my own personal confession of sin that occured in Campus Crusade. I never knew that my own confession would be held against me years later. I never knew that someone would try and use that confession in such a way as to create obstacles in my career. I never knew that it would be handled so unprofessionaly and in such a slimy manner. And after everything transpired and I was left realzing what happened…how do you I think I felt when when my Campus Crusade for Christ Accountability Partner ended up living a double life. So the guy who confesses is hounded and pistol whipped, and the guy who conceals everything and lives a dishonest life walks away with no harm as if nothing happened.

      And people like me who were beaten and bruised are expected to believe that Christianity is the “good news?” No….my experience with Christianity taught me that its a disease on this earth and very cancerous to its core.

      Man the rage that went through me last night at about 1:00 AM had me wonder….how am I going to sleep?

      The irony in all this is that my accountability partner was really into this particular pastor. He wanted to move from Milwaukee to Seattle to be a part of this particular church. You know I feel so much safer outside the church. No spirtiual abuse, no condemnation, no guilt manipulation, etc.. I’m actually quite happy to be dead to Christ…

      • You’re not dead to Christ Eagle, you’re dead to Driscoll. BIG difference.

      • Dead to Christ? You’re seriously pinning this kinda behavior on Jesus, as if it’s what he advocated or how he acted? Come on now, I don’t blame you for feeling bitter, but you know better than that. This is the antithesis of Christ-likeness, and you know it. Not that anger is an inappropriate reaction, though…

  11. “Gospel. So much better.”

    The gospel trumps the law. Everytime.

    • But…God’s law is STILL in effect. It has a purpose.

      To drive us to Christ…and the gospel.

      • Exactly, Steve. And Christ offers us the forgiveness that we so desperately need.

      • Peace From The Fringes says:

        Perhaps my reading list has been deficient, but I’ve never heard the expression “drive us to Christ”. It sits uneasily in my ears.

        • Isaac / Obed says:

          It’s a particular translation of Gal. 3:24

          • Peace From The Fringes says:

            Ah! Thanks. Still don’t like the implications for interpretation by someone who may already have power issues.

          • Peace From The Fringes says:

            The difference between “lead” and “drive” is huge. HUGE! Like — “I’m-reading-a-different-book” huge. This is one of the reasons that inerrancy/literalism gives me the willies.

  12. I struggled with the concept of discipline as an elder. The biggest problem was with musicians (I say this in loving jest, musicians would do the strangest things on Saturday night then come in and want to play an instrument on Sunday morning).

    I have changed my viewpoints over the years, now I am to the place where I believe you can’t separate Paul’s letters from 2000 years of church history and tradition.

  13. I’ll note that such public approaches to “discipline”, beyond what they do to the one so treated, also directly tempt others to sin. It could be the sin of self-righteousness or pride — the sin of the pharisee examining the publican. It could be that a particular sin (not necessarily the one in this particular story) so exposed tempts one in a vulnerable situation. There are reasons the church moved pretty quickly from public confession before everyone to private confession. “Low church” settings lack any practical means of confession and are, in my opinion, the poorer for it, even when they are not outright abusive as in this example.

  14. Gives new meaning to “Control Freaks” – we just don’t seem very good at cherishing the gifts Jesus gave us. Freedom and Joy.

    “Not because we are lords of your faith, but we are helpers of your joy, for it is by faith that you stand.” 2 Corinthians 1:24

    “For you put up with it if one brings you into bondage, if one devours you, if one takes from you , if one exalts himself, if one strikes you on the face.” 2 Corinthians 11:20

    “Shepherd the flock of God…not as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock;” I Peter 5:2-3

  15. I appreciate that portions of the Ausburg Confession and the Small Catechism were used here. My take on the situation is this….Some, if not many, leaders in evangelical churches abhor the idea of having episcopal oversight…The idea of popes and bishops nosing around the local, “independent”, “autonomous” church seems horrific and Romish (Was it Nathaniel who said something like, “Can anything good come out of Rome?” ;o)

    The end result is that local pastors set themselves up as “mini-popes”, with an elder board that is responsible for accountability. But who’s going to contradict the pastor? I mean, isn’t he the expert? Doesn’t he know how church discipline is supposed to be handled? He helped write the by-laws. If they don’t fit the situation, though, the by-laws can be changed or amended.

    These links we read today offer us perfect examples of why episcopal oversight can be a good thing. With a bishop and archbishop in place, a local matter than many elders are going to be passionate and heated about can be managed with an unbiased eye, on the diocese level. Not only does this eliminate prejudice in the process, it also relieves the local pastor of the possibility of seeing his “church discipline contract”, with his name attached, on Internetmonk. ;o)

    Isn’t it something how a confessing church can forget the comforting words of absolution? Or how an evangelical body, which operates under the philosophy of “faith alone”, so easily prescribes works as solution to sin?

    And didn’t the young woman get naked in this process, too? I wonder where her discipline contract is…Oh, I forgot…She’s an elder’s daughter, isn’t she? She couldn’t have consented. She was obviously overcome by the devil in her fiance’s britches, right? I say this jokingly (kind of), but I know this young woman has likely been shamed beyond belief in this situation, as well. My prayers go out to both of them. I pray that both might maintain their faith through this ugliness, and that someday they might find a church where the Gospel is not only expounded upon, but lived, as well.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      The end result is that local pastors set themselves up as “mini-popes”, with an elder board that is responsible for accountability. But who’s going to contradict the pastor?

      Especially if the elder board is packed with blood relatives and yes-men, as has often happened. Control freaks can only tolerate yes-men around them.

      And didn’t the young woman get naked in this process, too? I wonder where her discipline contract is…Oh, I forgot…She’s an elder’s daughter, isn’t she? She couldn’t have consented. She was obviously overcome by the devil in her fiance’s britches, right? I say this jokingly (kind of), but I know this young woman has likely been shamed beyond belief in this situation, as well.

      Since the megachurch in question is also known for Hypermasculinity and Complementarianism (man that’s a mouthful) to the point of Male Supremacy, “What of it? She’s just a WOMAN.”

    • For those of you are who Christian…again I ask. Where are the Bereans?

      • The Previous Dan says:

        Please explain the question.

        • In the Book of Acts the Bereans, upon hearing the message of Paul, searched the scriptures to see that what Paul said was indeed true. This is in contrast to the previous groups who chased away Paul without making any effort to discover any validity in the message.

          • The Previous Dan says:

            That part I get. But why ask the question when there are obviously many here who search the Scripures? And just because Mars Hill gets it wrong that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of other churches out there who get it right.

      • Please let me know if you ever find these mythological half goat-half orangoutangs. I don’t think they exist, but I’ll believe in them when I see it 😛

  16. This is so sad, but not unheard of, unfortunately. Several years ago, my daughter was involved in a church using similar methods. A friend knew of a sin DD had committed and went to the elders of the church. They called a meeting. DD went, not knowing what they wanted to see her about. Basically, they ambushed her. Of course, she left , the friendship is broken and interestingly enough, the church has gone through multiple splits,the first one due to the pastor coming out of the closet.

    So I wonder … do leaders institute this type of “discipline” in order to try to tamp down their own sin? If they control others to a large degree, do they think they can thereby control themselves? Seems this style is completely fear-motivated, and maybe pride, too. The leaders can fool themselves and project an image that there are no sinners in their church, heaven forbid!

  17. Several thngs.

    1. i don’t deny this is creepy, way too many folks involved, way too intimate, and way too focused on punishemnet than forgiveness and restoration, from the readings we have (admittedly one sided) this guy should have been welcomed back to the fold, encouraged to seek forgiveness from his former fiancee, and if he has expressed repentance that should be it, i don’t see where he was involved in any sort of leadership position that would require him taking a step down

    2. But…. and here is the but, there is nothing really odd or unheard of here in a church that is congregational/elder led. The language they are using here, the steps, the talk of being a “member in good standing” is all very common,

    Church discipline is very difficult these days because our society is so mobile. Say that a person truly deserves church discipline (and that should only be when they remain unrepentant) and a church disciplines them, what does that mean? Well in today’s wold not much. They may not get a recommendation if they try to join a church of the same denomination somewhere but what if they leave a baptist church and go to a UMC? Most baptist churches I know will not even grant a letter to a church that is not baptist anyway.

    Church discipline was much easier when there were fewer churches, or one parish church, now I fear, the best a church can hope for is to work towards internal discipline of its own members who will admittedly in today’s time have to submit to it voluntarily

  18. I wonder if Andrew, if he wished to do so, could take the church letters to a lawyer and sue the church for unwarranted harassment, emotional and personal damage and defamation, etc. – and probably win an out-of-court settlement?

    • Marian Guinn v. Church of Christ Collinsville.

      Basically, anything as far as reputation bashing that occurs while one is a member of a church is a-ok. There is no expectation of privacy. But: (from the opinion):

      “WHEN PARISHIONER WITHDREW HER MEMBERSHIP FROM THE CHURCH OF CHRIST AND THEREBY WITHDREW HER CONSENT TO PARTICIPATE IN A SPIRITUAL RELATIONSHIP IN WHICH SHE HAD IMPLICITLY AGREED TO SUBMIT TO ECCLESIASTICAL SUPERVISION, THOSE DISCIPLINARY ACTIONS THEREAFTER TAKEN BY THE ELDERS AGAINST PARISHIONER, WHICH ACTIVELY INVOLVED HER IN THE CHURCH’S WILL AND COMMAND, WERE OUTSIDE THE PURVIEW OF THE FIRST AMENDMENT [775 P.2d 778] PROTECTION AND WERE THE PROPER SUBJECT OF STATE REGULATION.”

      This is largely understood today that when member withdraws membership that is IT for whatever church discipline there is or the church can (and possibly will) be sued. Even defending a case is expensive.

    • I think he could win – but I would have strong apprehension about following that route because of what Paul wrote about brother going to court again brother. Better to suffer wrong in the pattern of Jesus’ life.

      • I’m going to disagree and say that suing, even if he ultimately loses (and if what is claimed here is true, that they continued discipline after his withdrawl, he wouldn’t be likely to lose), it would bring hoots of derision down on the church, and to some degree disrepute, and it would make the church far less likely to do the same thing again, thereby protecting other people in the future.

        • NO, actually it would just hyperdivide everyone: the people who defend the disciplinary action would lament the cowardly and/or sinister attack of a lawsuit, and the other group would applaud that justice is being served.

      • After this pastor’s take on the SOS? What is stopping him? The Pastor isn’t following the Bible?

        • Yes – I stand by my statement. I do it because I appeal to Christ’s life as example for his followers’ lives. He suffered wrong when He did no wrong at the hands of men with evil intent. So, like a lamb lead to slaughter, so those who follow Him:

          Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion. (Philippians 2)

          I believe that God upended the way the world works with Christ’s death, and made what seems foolish to the world into wisdom. He made death into life, He made suffering wrong into His plan for saving the world. So too followers of Christ believe that when we suffer wrong it works out to good –

          That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good. (Romans 8:28)

          So then suing is off the table – Christ rejected that eye-for-an-eye thing.

          • And just so I make sure I don’t come off as pious – I pray that if I were in Andrew’s situation for grace to respond in the spirit of Christ. I know myself and know that my natural response would be to take it to court.

    • Anonymous: That’s why they tried to extract a detailed confession. If he ever threatens to sue, they can use the confession to blackmail him.

      This church has obviously studied the methods of Scientology.

      • cermak_rd says:

        But unless he has something really, really juicy, who would care? I mean if someone came up to me and told me than an employee of mine had cheated on his wife, I’d yawn and say so? And if it was unmarried people engaging in horseplay I’d be even less likely to react other than perhaps angrily to ask the person why they were telling me this.

        The world has moved on and unmarried sexual hijinks (as well as in many cases extramarital sexual hijinks) aren’t all that interesting to the world outside of the religious bubble.

  19. I wonder how much of this “discipline” would have been meted out if the sin weren’t of a sexual nature. Can you see all this happening had Andrew confessed embezzling from his company or slandering the reputation of his neighbor?

    • true,

      these churches are often obsessed with sex, and the drama it creates is like crack for folks who have little else in their lives to entertain them

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        these churches are often obsessed with sex…

        Given which megachurch this is, and how its Pastor/Prophet/Apostle has gotten in the news in the pages of this and other blogs (“I See Things…”)…

      • maybe thats why they wanted a list of all his sexual sins….cause really i don’t know anybody who would want to read that , except for purposes better left unsaid.

    • As the saying goes, righteous indignation is nothing more than jealousy with a halo.

    • Yeah…when is the next time you hear of someone being disciplined do to greed, gluttony, pride, etc..Good thing MH doesn’t disciple pride of its lead pastor would be screwed.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        You ALWAYS denounce the Big Sins which you have NO chance whatsoever of committing. You own favorites… Well That’s Differrent. (Like Homosexuality vs Divorce — keep the escape route handy, never know when you might need it.)

        Remember when Gluttony was discussed on this blog a year or two ago? The image of the 400+lb Baptist preacher ranting and screaming about The Other Guy’s (usually Sexual) Sin happens often enough IRL that it’s become a standard trope. (You can find examples on YouTube).

  20. Disclaimier- I don’t have time right now to read everything (I did read both parts of Andrews story) everyone’s already written. So, sorry if I’m repeating.

    Two thoughts, quickly…

    First, I think it’s unusual for an evangelical church to even attempt discipline, let alone to this degree and depth. Most of the time we’re a day late and a dollar short in all this. With no real idea of what to do when the need comes up.

    Second, Scripture is clear that if all else fails treat them “like a tax collector or sinner”. Ok… How did Jesus treat tax collectors and sinners? He hung out with them, had meals/parties with them, told them stories, forgave them…

    Just saying that might look a little different.

  21. I understand the hurt that Andrew is going through. I also understand and agree with the outrage towards this church and other churches that would do such things.

    But consider that, however misguided they are, most churches don’t practice any sort of church discipline OR any sort of restorative process.

    I was an associate pastor at a church. I made some mistakes that can best be described as carelessness with church funds. The elders saw it as misappropriation. I confessed and asked and pleaded to be restored. But they basically ignored my requests claiming that there had been “discipline” along the way (there had been none). They dismissed me.

    I would have loved some sort of contract to allow me to be restored. But I was on staff, so it was a bit different.

    What I’m saying is that most churches don’t see any room for restoration. Once someone messes up, that’s it. There usually isn’t a formal process, so what usually happens is dismissal by means of alienation and gossip. Is this any better than what Mars Hill did to Andrew? No.

    Don’t get me wrong, although I think that a restorative process should be something that all churches should have, I don’t think that Mars Hill’s handling of this situation represents a restorative process.

  22. There should be accountability and there is a place for discipline within a church but this seems a bizarre reaction to someone who came forward voluntarily, repents and wants to move on in his spiritual journey with integrity. The issue is now not the first offence – what really sealed his fate was his refusal to submit to the church disciplinary process – which seems completely heavy handed and unbiblical. This is about control not about loving someone who has repented and been forgiven by God.
    It is very sad when churches behave like this. It’s pure spiritual abuse and there’s nothing really to be positive about at all except for the fact Andrew had the courage to walk away from it.
    What is particularly disturbing to me is the public announcement of Andrew’s sin. Not only is it designed to humiliate but to expose the ex fiancee to public humiliation as well. Truly an appalling scenario. Where is the care and compassion for a repentant? Where is the grace in this?

  23. This reminded me of something I read this morning in F.F. Bruce’s book, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free. It’s not necessarily a new idea or anything, but I like the way he puts it:

    “As an apple-tree does not produce apples by Act of Parliament, but because of it is its nature so to do, so the character of Christ cannot be produced in his people by rules and regulations; it must be the fruit of his Spirit within them.”

    It seems to me that this guy’s willingness to repent is fruit in and of itself. To subject to some humiliating process is simply trying to make something happen by imposing a rule, which is always very tempting to do.

    • Very true. Understanding the nature of “fruit” is critical to any talk of repentance, or of holiness, or of the Christian walk. A single thought that acknowledges sin is fruit. A small impulse of regret a day later is fruit. Confessing to a brother, asking someone “why do I keep doing this” …all fruit. There’s a world of misunderstanding going on when the ones administering the discipline think “fruit” means a clean record from now on. Programmatic evaluation of every sin in someone’s past, and a systematic scrutiny of every move they make in the present is what Michael Spencer would call “church-shaped spirituality.” Jesus need not be in the spotlight for any of this. The Church of Christ (a fringe sect at best) does this, as do groups that are outright cults. Jesus has remain absolutely necessary to any system of penitence and restoration. If the “cost” of sin can’t be absorbed by those administering of discipline, you don’t have a cross-centered sanctification going on, no matter what sort of buzz words you use to describe your movement.

  24. I’ll comment a critique after reading MPT’s articles, but first, another thought:

    Consider the opposite (and equally wrong) side of the spectrum. In most evangelical churches, it seems that sin is never dealt with at all, but merely swept under the rug as if we were running from our own shadows. I’ve been in a church where the Pastor’s daughter was sleeping around and everyone knew but nobody said anything. She remained in a position of leadership and teaching the youth. Is this healthy either? I doubt it. If sin isn’t dealt with in a consistent manner, then information like this serves only as ammunition for interior politics. The sin can remain hidden until somebody needs to bolster their position, then the reveal and shame someone else just to make a rhetorical point. At the very least, I think it is remotely positive that churches care whether or not their members are endeavoring to “walk in repentance” and does what they can to encourage and guide them down this route.

    However, in the case of MH, one can only wonder if the elder’s daughter went through any similar sort of process. Oh, and digging up the man’s complete past: Just manipulative and controlling. But such is the case for non-denominational church leaders: They are more interested in their personal empires than the kingdom of God. Anyways, it comes as no surprise to find a website such as this one:

    http://marshillrefuge.blogspot.com

    • Miguel…for those who are Chrisians…I ask… Where are the Bereans?

      • Isaac / Obed says:

        In Berea, duh! 😉

        Seriously, though, sometimes I wonder if the difficulties and extremes that typify Church discipline (none at one end and this kind of thing at the other hand) are due in part to the inability for the folks exercising the discipline to be not be emotionally involved and not have a personal stake in what’s going on.

      • Eagle, I reject this evangelical concept of “Bereamism.” This whole idea of every layman being his own doctrine police is not only un-biblical, but completely against the point of the passage describing the Bereans that is quoted to support this crazy idea. It’s like the whole thing with “besetting sins.” It’s mentioned ONE TIME in Hebrews, and people have built entire theological systems on this, with dozens of books written about “how to overcome your particular besetting sin,” or “how to discover what yours is.” This misses the point: The besetting sin, as revealed by the context, is unbelief (no offense :P). Similarly, the passage in Acts 17 that talks about Bereans is NOT referring to evangelical Christians holding their pastors accountable to teach according to the Scripture, because then this leaves us arguing over whose interpretation is correct. The Bereans were devout Jews who were examining whether or not the apostolic claims concerning Christ were verifiably the true teaching of the Old Testament scriptures. The rule of thumb is: Don’t make an absolute principle out of something scripture only mentions once. The odds are too high you are misunderstanding it the passage, because absolute principles are found consistently throughout the Bible, not in one offhand reference. Sorry for the rant, but every time I hear “Be like the Bereans,” I just want to shout “I’m NOT JEWISH!”

        That, and for some reason, believing in Jesus doesn’t necessarily endow you automatically with the ability to think critically. I know, it’s shocking. It IS possible to have both faith AND common sense, but they aren’t necessarily causally related.

    • “But such is the case for non-denominational church leaders: They are more interested in their personal empires than the kingdom of God.”

      Ummm, Miguel, I am an non-denominational church leader. If my goal is to establish a personal empire, then I am a complete failure (though my dogs obey me!).

      Don’t paint us all with the same brush.

      • You are correct, sorry for the generalization. There are many notable exceptions. But those who have the overwhelmingly large empires, it does tend to dominate their attention. Tactics like the above just seem to common and don’t reflect the shepherd having the best interest of the sheep at heart. And it just seems to me that the larger the independent, non-accountable church becomes, the more this becomes the accepted norm.

        • Fair enough, thanks

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Tactics like the above just seem to common and don’t reflect the shepherd having the best interest of the sheep at heart. And it just seems to me that the larger the independent, non-accountable church becomes, the more this becomes the accepted norm.

          Troop-size limit. The average human can think of a maximum of around 150 people as individuals; above that number, they fuzz together into one big Collective. And above that number, you don’t think of them as people, only (to use the most infamous political cult example) The People. And these megachurches are well over the troop-size limit; to the guy on top, there’s always the danger of looking at his huge congregation the same way as the Communists, where abuse to individual people was justified by the grand collective cause of The People.

  25. What’s most troubling about these articles is two fold. First, the heavy handed approach and the lack of mercy extended. Second, Andrew’s apparent emotional fragility and lack of humility – neither of which is a virtue. Can we be more kind when it comes to preaching sin and demanding that our member’s take Christ’s words seriously when he says that in order to believe we must be humbled by his words and fighting for spiritual change? Yes. Should we tolerate any justifications for remaining in habitual sin and tolerate seekers who always to try to play the “legalistic card” anytime a church wants to faithfully exercise the Scriptures over their members? No. The problem, in both directions, is a lack of Scriptural adherence, which when you boil it down, is a lack of faith in Jesus .

    • I have to say, I don’t see a lack of humility in Andrew. Maybe others disagree (and I admit that I am already inclined to think poorly of Mars Hill). And I don’t think he was trying to remain in habitual sin. It wasn’t like he was caught with this old flame by his fiancee and he refused to repent–he confessed freely, out of guilt over what he had done. And I don’t think that this was a church faithfully exercising Scripture over its members, either. This looks an awful lot like spiritual abuse.

      • People also need to understand that even if one is in habitual sin, they will likely make mistakes in the future. Does the 450 lbs guy who struggle with food suddenly stop eating unhealthy food? No…he may splurge on a twinkie at 7-11. Is a guy who is an alcholic going to have a perfect future without any mistakes?. No.. Same for the guy into porn, sex, etc… Many funagelcials look at faith as being simple and clean. Life IS NOT black and white. Life is messy and hard. Everyone has their own issue…but when you are in a culture that defines sin as something the other person struggles with; and not yourself. Well it’s more of a “sucks to be you” theology.

        • Isaac / Obed says:

          Yep. And we need to exercise the grace of Christ by loving the habitual sinner (heck, who doesn’t have habitual sins?) even if he or she doesn’t get better.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Is a guy who is an alcholic going to have a perfect future without any mistakes?. No.. Same for the guy into porn, sex, etc… Many funagelcials look at faith as being simple and clean.

          JMJ/Christian Monist has written about this many times on his blog, specifically the idea/meme that once you’re Saved, suddenly everything is Spiritual and Pure and Righteous just like someone flipped a light switch, and that all the baggage your life has accumulated “before” suddenly and magically disappears forever. The result is to fake it — absolute perfection, absolute Uber-Christian Righteousness, an actor (“Hypocratos”) playing the role 24/7 around church types for sheer survival — to avoid being turned on by a feral dog pack of Saints Who Have Never Been Caught.

          And one day everything just cracks, and you end up in the Post-Evangelical Wilderness or worse.

        • A Sucks To Be You Theology ™? That is flat out brilliant. The most appropriate description of the fundagelical approach to sin. That and the Gospel of Try Harder.

  26. That Other Jean says:

    That’s sad and creepy and abusive and terribly, terribly wrong. This particular church clearly has “hating the sin” down extremely well, and has completely forgotten “loving the sinner.” What Bible are they reading? Mine has a bunch of instructions about forgiving sinners who repent, not beating them over the head with their pasts and shunning them in the present until they are driven away.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      But once the (obvious) Sinner is driven out, the church is Pure and the Righteous can get back to Polishing their Halos.

      Didn’t a certain itinerant Rabbi from Nazareth have a LOT to say about such things?

    • This particular church clearly has “hating the sin” down extremely well, and has completely forgotten “loving the sinner.”

      That’s because Driscoll thinks that’s a false distinction…listen to his “God hates you” rants, they’re very sweet.

  27. Tim van Haitsma says:

    I came from the Christian Reform Church tradition. It is a Dutch Calvinist denomination. I remember hearing stories like this happening at churches. They would make the sexual culprit stand in front of the entire congregation on Sunday morning and publicly confess their sin and ask for forgiveness and restoration. This of course was always after doing the samething with the church council and them making the public confession a condition of restoration. The only time I saw it was for a girl that was pregnant and only 16. It was disgusting. The funny thing was that all of us high school kids knew it was one o the elders sons that got her pregnant. He was not up there going through this personal hell

    I was a teenage in the mid eighties. This practice has disappeared I think in the CRC, although it was common before the 1960’s. And if you ask any CRC member they are the truest calvinist in the land. They even named there college Calvin College.

    Do not get me wrong there are good people in the CRC but they can be very legalistic and controlling and show an utter lack of grace or humility.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      They would make the sexual culprit stand in front of the entire congregation on Sunday morning and publicly confess their sin and ask for forgiveness and restoration. This of course was always after doing the samething with the church council and them making the public confession a condition of restoration. The only time I saw it was for a girl that was pregnant and only 16. It was disgusting.

      That quaint little custom has always reminded me of Show Trials in the old USSR.

      The funny thing was that all of us high school kids knew it was one o the elders sons that got her pregnant. He was not up there going through this personal hell.

      Rank Hath Its Privileges. As an “Elder’s Son”, he was a (Parisienne Accent) ARISTOCRAT and she was just a Commoner.

  28. MelissatheRagamuffin says:

    Random thought (okay not random): Would we have our knickers in such a knott over how Andrew was treated by the big-bad-mega-church if he had behaved inappropriately with a child?

    • I don’t think you can really compare the two. There’s a BIG difference between cheating on a fiancee and molesting a kid.

    • Peace From The Fringes says:

      Are you seriously equating a sexual decision between consenting adults with abuse of a child? Really?!?! Please tell me I’m misunderstanding this. (It happens).

    • The appropriate thing to do in the case of a child victim is to call the police and have them deal with it. This is a crime (because there is a victim unlike in consensual adult relationships). Frankly, other than calling the cops and informing the church members for their own protection, I don’t think the church should have any other business in the matter.

      • MelissatheRagamuffin says:

        Okay, but how do you deal with the church member who has been charged with a crime against a child, but is not incarcerated? People just assume that you call the cops, the cops haul the person off to jail, and that’s the end of it. But, that isn’t how it goes.

        • cermak_rd says:

          That’s why I mentioned informing the church members to protect them. After that, it’s still a matter of public record if the person was charged. If the person wasn’t charged, then you enter a nebulous world where you must weigh the two side of the story.

          I would think, though, that most people would shun the person charged so badly that the individual would have no interest in continuing to attend church there.

          • “…most people would shun the person charged so badly that the individual would have no interest in continuing to attend church there.”

            Unless of course, it was one of the pastors who was accused of molesting kids. I saw it happen with a youth pastor, who was also one of the sons of the head pastor. When the charges were made public, the members treated it like an attack on the church, and rallied around the youth pastor. Although they didn’t literally, physically rally around him–he had decided to move to Nicaragua to do long term missions work about a month before the charges were made public and the arrest warrants were issued.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Although they didn’t literally, physically rally around him–he had decided to move to Nicaragua to do long term missions work about a month before the charges were made public and the arrest warrants were issued.

            Good timing, that. I assume Nicaragua has no extradition treaty?

          • cermak_rd says:

            Right, I’ve heard of this with Catholic churches too, where even after court charges have been filed and the cleric has confessed to the crime, many of the parishioners still want to honor him. Truthfully, I don’t know what the answer is in that kind of case. Except in the case of episcopally led denominations, discipline is in the hands of the local church body.

  29. Interesting, my church has just started making pastors and deacons available for confession during the coming season of lent. It has caught my interest, although after these posts i am a little nervous, but i believe i am going to a church that believes in restoration and reconciliation.

    • I would be a little nervous also 🙂

      But Clutch, that is intriguing to me. As a Catholic, the priests who hear my confessions are bound by an inviolable seal not to ever divulge what is said in the confessional. Will your church have a similar requirement? What would happen if a confessed sin were ever divulged to anyone else? Is there a set procedure that will be followed for confessions?

      • Openly promoting confession is a new thing, at least new for me, so i don’t know what the requirements are. I do know, from talking with individuals first hand, that when they have been involved in church discipline, that they have come away feeling loved and perused and restored. And also, while i don’t know if there is official guidelines regarding confidential information, i do trust my church leadership because they have continued to show themselves as people of the highest integrity.

  30. Richard Hershberger says:

    Several thoughts:

    As a previous commenter noted, one cannot help but wonder if a non-sexual sin would provoke the same process. The sin the previous commenter proposed was embezzlement from the member’s employer. My thought was eating a gallon of ice cream in a single sitting. Does gluttony count as a sin nowadays?

    I also wonder if the full reaction wasn’t in part because it was an elder’s daughter involved. But some of the comments suggest that this sort of thing is normal in some circles, regardless of the specific parties involved.

    Speaking of specific parties, who was wronged by Andrew? I see several parties. The fiancee, obviously. The old friend he fooled around with as well, though she might not see it that way. Himself. And God. It seems to me that he went about confessing to these parties from the start. Yet all these other people seemed to feel they needed to get in on the action, eventually expanding it to the entire membership. The comment about voyeurism is spot on.

    Speaking of the membership, what will they take away from this? One obvious lesson is that if you sin, particularly sexually, then be sure to keep your mouth shut about it. Thus the membership is pushed away from God., making this pretty much an anti-church.

    That “contract” is no such thing. A contract requires reciprocity: you agree to build a deck in my back yard, and I agree to pay you. The “contract” Andrew was offered makes demands on him while offering nothing in return. No end game is laid out by which reconciliation can be achieved.

    The weirdest part of the whole story is this aside: ““I worked security,” Andrew tells me. “And so, I witnessed unwanted visitors being escorted off the property all the time.”” Huh? I can see a church needing security, particularly if it is in a high crime area. But escorting “unwanted visitors” off the property as a routine event? Again I say: Huh? What is up with that?

    • I’m wondering that, too. How on earth, in a large church, could one recognize all the members and non-members. And, assumedly, non-members would be welcome to attend so they could become members. So the security, I would gather, is to keep protestor-sorts out and maybe people who have been disfellowshipped specifically (I wonder if there are mug shots).

      • The Previous Dan says:

        How about the guy whose tithe check bounced? Maybe security has a picture of him behind the counter too 🙂

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Wasn’t that what Ed Young implied when he demanded routing & account numbers from his congregation for “automatic-deduction tithing”? How his security cameras were so good they would know the face of every holdout? Talk about a shakedown…

    • I’m actually guessing this guy had already done something to challenge church leadership before this event and they were looking for a way to take him down. This is how elders who challenged Driscoll’s authority were treated, only it usually wasn’t with allegations of sexual sin, usually something much more strange. I have no insider knowledge of this individual situation, but my guess is that this is all just a cover.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        “Hooliganism.” In the USSR, that was the catchall charge used against anyone the KGB wanted to round up for any reason whatsoever. Not Political, Hooliganism.

        And nothing gets Fundagelicals in a snit more that somebody else’s Juicy Sexual Sin.

    • The larger a church grows, the more visibility it gains, both locally and nationally. If the church takes a stand on “controversial issues”, such as abortion or gay rights, it may become a target by people who are on the other side of those issues.

      At the previous megachurch I attended, there were protestors over a variety of issues over the years at the church property. When the new sanctuary was dedicated, a young man stood up in the balcony during one of the inaugural services and loudly challenged the leadership on some issues. Because he was disturbing the service, he was escorted out by security.

      At this same church, the senior pastor began receiving threats of various kinds. A plain clothes security guard escorted him around the building on Sundays in case anyone tried to approach who wanted to harm the pastor. So I can see a need for churches to have security, especially larger churches with high-profile pastors. Back in 2009 the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Maryville, Illinois was shot dead during a service. And in 2010 a youth leader was shot while preaching a sermon to a youth group at an Assembly of God church in Garland, Texas.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Yet what happens when an Anointed CELEBRITY Pastor starts using that security as his own personal Inquisition and Secret Police?

        • Obviously I am not advocating for that. Just trying to answer those who would wonder why a church would have security in the first place.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            I didn’t think you were, but the original posting tells how “security” can get out-of-hand.

            Very often in history, the Head of Security/Chief Enforcer knocks over the guy on top and takes over himself. This was how Saddam (originally an Enforcer) took power in Iraq.

  31. I don’t know.
    Somehow my experience tells me I would like to hear the other side of the story so as to get a complete picture.

    Things are not always what they seem, and often the one who screams loudest is the one who gets both heard and believed.

    • Yeah, I agree completely that we can’t really evaluate this incident based only on one side of the story; I’ve done way too much marital counseling to think anyone (even with the best intentions) can state their side of a conflict completely fairly. We are incredibly prone to self-delusion, especially in conflict situations.

      The documents, on the other hand, tend to speak for themselves.

      • The Previous Dan says:

        Agreed. I also suspect that there is more to the story. Even still… that “contract” is out of line.

  32. Richard
    I don’t hink comparing sexual sin to a eating a gallon of ice cream is useful.

    No matter how I want to frame it, it seems like the New Testament puts a lot of gravity on sexual sin. We are told to flee from it. And it is not that the Roman world did not have a problem with gluttony, or rampant sexuality.

    If I overeat and die from health issues I have affected myself and my family. Fornication or adultery can lead to pregnancy, and suddenly the problem becomes a whole lot larger.

    We are living in a sexually promiscous culture and are offended by anyone who dares go against the tide. In my area one of the largest newspapers in the province had an op-ed ridiculing some Christian ladies that had come out saying they would remain virgins until they married.

    I do not know the details, but if Driscoll’s church is trying to reach young men, then one of the issues they have to face is rampant sexual immorality. When I became a Christian in the 70s some churches and ministries came down hard on sex sin because it was prevalent in the counter culture (from which most new Christians came). And of course, some people came away offended because they could not handle the strictures. But leaders had to take a hard line to prevent the movements from becoming a hot bed for immorality.

    I am not saying this to defend Driscoll, but I think a number of churches are probably guilty of the opposite, they turn a blind eye.

    • Well said.

      I don’t always agree with what Driscoll says, but your comment about his “church is trying to reach young men” is right on. Much of the context around Driscoll deals with that fact, and if people miss that, they really misunderstand him and Mars Hill as a whole.

      • So trying to reach young men for the gospel justifies abandoning the gospel in order to reach them?

        • He abandoned the gospel? He is denying 1 Cor 15? I missed that part.

          Now, is his interpretation of discipline open to debate? Perhaps.

          Look at the comments on this thread. It has gotten out of control. People need to take a step back and take a fresh look.

          If you have differences of opinion on the interpretation of various passages, or the methodology used, that is one thing. Those certainly should be discussed.

          But people are taking those differences and turning it into a virtual war against that church (calling it a cult. Really?). Again, this has gotten out of control, and we are forgetting common bonds and real threats.

          • The primary issue that made it personal for Luther and put the passion in his reforming efforts was this very issue: confession, repentance, penance, and forgiveness. They may not have stopped speaking sound gospel formulae, but they have stopped practicing the gospel if this is how they deal with sin. They can talk about the gospel all they want but when they require people to do what they asked this young man to do, they are relying on human repentance and works and setting themselves up as the judges of when a person has done enough to merit forgiveness. If that is not contrary to the gospel, I don’t know what is.

          • It needs to be seriously entertained that the preaching of Mars Hill and the ministries that mimic it have indeed short-shrifted the gospel. For every sermon Driscoll has that throrougly Gospel, he’s got a couple that just drift into “me-talk” and revolve around moral improvement. I’ve said it elsewhere, having sermons that basically give the cross a few minutes sandwiched in between a bunch of “you’re a sinner and you shouldn’t be” stuff is hardly gospel-centered, yet people want to keep using that term to describe movements like Mars Hill. There’s a drastic misunderstanding of what “Gospel-centered” actually means going on because (and I’m guessing here) the people it attracts are immature and basically equate “not being religious” with Christ-centered. All you really have to do in some of these contexts is rock a couple of doctrinal points as an apologetic against universalists or liberals or whatever, and somehow that’s supposed to mean Jesus has made his way into the midst of the hearers. Not so. Likewise, making fun of “religious” people does not make you Gospel-centered. Wearing t-shirts instead of suits, having big conversion rates, and being hard on sin, none of this proves Gospel-centrality. People think that having lengthy, “apply it to your life” and “get holy” segments of the sermon is correct application, and that hearing this stuff week after week is somehow going to produce the Christian fruit that the Bible talks about. This is why ministries in the neo-reformed movement should have their Gospel-centrality scrutinized. You don’t get to throw buzz words like that around and get a pass because you’re a Calvinist or something.

            The habits of church discipline are directly related to this. Thin Gospels = bad practices, that includes the practice of discipline.

          • Nate…word.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            …when they require people to do what they asked this young man to do, they are relying on human repentance and works and setting themselves up as the judges of when a person has done enough to merit forgiveness.

            In other words, they are playing God on the Great White Throne, extracting every Juicy morsel of sexual sin in a do-it-yourself version of Jack Chick’s “This Was Your Life”. Somehow I don’t think Christ’s words about binding and loosing were meant quite this way.

          • @Nate: “thin gospels = bad practices” that’s a gem; that says it all in just 4 words and 3 symbols

      • No actually, many of us who have the biggest problem with Mars Hill understand the context very well and see how Driscoll uses this claim of how Seattle is *so* different to justify his behavior to otherwise reasonable Christians in more conservative parts of the country.

        • You may disagree with his focus and his interpretation of various passages, but please don’t lose sight of the big picture, and please don’t judge his motives without being very certain/having sufficient proof.

    • I guess I don’t see how (maybe) sleeping with your fiance could be considered “rampant sexual immorality”

      This is about control, nothing more.

      • Amen.

      • But what about the statement:

        During their engagement, he spent an evening with an old fling and acted inappropriately.

        What exactly does that mean? I get hints that maybe Andrew is not lily white in this.
        Just how do you act inapropriately with an old fling while you are engaged? And if it cost Andrew the relationship you have to wonder why.

        Again, without more information it is hard to say. It is easy for us to play kangaroo court when we do not have all the info before us.

        All I am saying is that in my limited experiences I have seen similar situations where the person goes off yelling to the press and the reality is that they were exceptionally hard to deal with and effort had been made to reconcile and got nowhere.

        So can we really judge Driscolls church without more evidence, only having heard half the story?

      • I agree. Sorry, but I don’t think “being intimate” (do they mean having sex?) with his fiance is such a big deal. Did anyone work to help them heal their relationship after Andrew’s “impropriety” (whatever that was) with the old fling? If Andrew has some issues that make it difficult for him to be faithful to his fiance, I would hope they would help him get help. The rest of it… let things go. Be more about helping people move towards wholeness and healthy relationships.

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      “I don’t hink comparing sexual sin to a eating a gallon of ice cream is useful.”

      And yet Jesus compared even a fleeting moment of lust with adultery. Actually, that’s not quite right. He explicitly equated the two. The point is that we are all sinners, even if this manifests itself in different ways. If we declare certain sins to really truly count while discreetly overlooking others, this allows us to thank God that we are not sinners like those other people. Jesus had words on that subject, too.

      But if you want to go down the road of rating various sins by word count, then I respond that Jesus had virtually nothing to say on the subject of sex. On the other hand, he droned on incessantly about social justice. Show me examples of this church disciplining members for being insufficiently heedful of the plight of the poor and I will be impressed.

      • The Previous Dan says:

        Jesus also equated hate with murder but if you think that means they are the same ask yourself, would you rather be hated or murdered? There is no denying we are all sinners. But some sins do have a more profound effect on the people around us and are therefore more serious from a social perspective. The “all sins are the same” stuff doesn’t hold water.

  33. i happen to be one that thinks the attempt at church discipline in this instance should get an ‘E’ for effort, but i do agree, the whole process described here seems askew

    it is commendable to have some form of ‘official’ church discipline incorporated into such a large attendance/membership. as such there seems to be a deliberate effort at keeping individuals ‘connected’ thru the arrangement of small groups. the church seems to be serious about relationship even as it addresses the challenges of its size/demographic…

    and in a sex-crazed culture, i would assume this one area of ‘behavior’ a very awkward one to handle delicately/appropriately…

    all church discipline needs to be handled with discretion & sensitivity & wisdom: Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Gal 6:1

    the focus here stresses restoration, not exhibition or voyeurism or castigation. once the initiator’s ego’s got in the way, it became just another shame based dog-and-pony show without any mercy, grace, love, humility, or simple human kindness & respect…

    to make this one instance an example to either ‘prove’ official church discipline is working, or to be used as a means of extracting a pound of flesh from the one that confessed, the worst case of spiritual abuse that is probably not all that uncommon…

    i believe spiritual abuse & control issues in churches are not rare or decreasing any today. this one instance a more public exposé that is intended to highlight the issues underlying the incident. i feel sorry for the young man & the young women that were treated as puppets in a religious play that did not elicit anything godly once the final curtain closed…

    {sigh}

    Lord, have mercy… 🙁

    • ***addendum***

      i was once in a leadership position in a small Pentecostal/charismatic church that embraced the renewal/prophetic trends that were popular at that time…

      the real underlying issues had to do with the personalities of the pastor’s wife (co-pastor) & my x-wife, & some theological differences. it was not handled in a sensitive manner, but was an ambush tactic clothed in spiritualese gobbledygook & couched in such a way as to make it appear to be for our own good…

      i was relieved from my leadership role since it was implied i could not ‘control’ my then wife that had a ‘Jezebel’ spirit of rebellion & division…

      Lord, have mercy… 🙁

      we moved away shortly after that due to unemployment & new job in another town. and it was enough of a negative experience to catalyze my own church detox period where i reevaluated what i believed in & why. that experience fine-tuned my spiritual bullshit meter to a very sensitive level, which is one of the positives gained… 😉

      • another thought:

        instances like these are usually clear examples of a ‘selective’ use of so-called church discipline…

        it is selective with what is being addressed as well as who the offenders are & who in leadership benefits from it the most…

        Lord, have mercy… 🙁

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      and in a sex-crazed culture, i would assume this one area of ‘behavior’ a very awkward one to handle delicately/appropriately…

      Joseph, Christians are just as sex-crazed as anybody else in the culture, just in a completely different direction. (Or should that be “obsessed” instead of “crazed”?) And this is a megachurch whose Celebrity Pastor/Leader has given indications of being completely sex-obsessed himself (“I See Things…”) and whose heirarchy follow his lead. As well as being control freaks, and control freaks will freak out at any deviation or challenge to their control and power. I don’t think they could be capable of handling that area of behavior delicately OR appropriately.

      • “Christians are just as sex-crazed as anybody else in the culture, just in a completely different direction.”-Headless unicorn guy

        Good example is “the christian side hug”.

  34. Long ago, I warned that congregations which attract followers by the tough, macho way it attacks and bullies outsiders would eventually eat their own young by turning that wrath inward to its own members. Well, here we are. Nothing to see here. Those who stay at Mars Hill need to understand that they are always one defect away from falling from the elite class of bullies to the bullied. They do so at their own risk and that of their loved ones.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Those who stay at Mars Hill need to understand that they are always one defect away from falling from the elite class of bullies to the bullied. They do so at their own risk and that of their loved ones.

      When there are only two classes — the bullies and the bullied — the only way to stay out of the latter is to become one of the former. At which point, you have to keep becoming a bigger and bigger bully (out-competing the others) to keep from falling into the other class. This dynamic has empowered control freaks and their goon squads throughout history, like the Lure of the Inner Ring crossed with a concentration-camp Kapo who stayed out of the ovens only so long as he kept shoving other prisoners into them. This is a seriously Ugly dynamic, and putting a Christian coat of paint on it makes it even Uglier. Because then, even God and Christ become just The Biggest Bullies around.

    • Mars Hill sounds like a spiritual version of the Donner Party? Dinner anyone? 😯

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        You know, He Who May Not Be Named running Mars Hill is very into hypermaculinity and macho aggressiveness — kind of like a predator’s behavior, both in dominance heirarchy and hunting prey.

        What do predators eat after they’ve killed off all the prey?

  35. When it comes to this one particular church and how the discipline was handled… I have one question for Christiandom today….

    Where are the Bereans?

    • You need to expand on what you mean Eagle

      • What I am referring to are the people who would search their scriptures. Who would test what they are taught by Mark Driscoll or anyone else and see if that is what the Bible teaches. This “discipline” (interpret as spiritual abuse) is a bastardization of everything. So the person who confesses is to be ostracized in the end and treated like a tax collector, etc.. What did Jesus do…? Did he shun the tax collector? He hung out with the tax collectors!!

        Critical thinking skills have gone out the window. In Crusade I saw that Bill Bright thought for many people and that they didn’t think for themselves. In many churches people hang on to every word of the celebrity pastor and don’t check what is being taught against what the Bible says.

        Where are the Bereans today?

        • Prodigal Daughter says:

          They’re all hanging out with the Internet Monk, Eagle. 😉

        • SottoVoce says:

          I don’t want to appropriate the title of “Berean”, as I am not worthy of it. But when I started to get uncomfortable with the way Scripture was handled at MH, I left. And I think most of the true Bereans have left, too. Maybe we should have stayed. But what could we have done?

          • I’ve heard this again and again from folks much wiser than I reg. what to do when in a situation of deep spiritual abuse: they all say “RUN”. Maybe the first teacher I heard say it so plainly was Dr. Ken Blue, who has a book out on the subject. Getting out of there might have been the most helpful thing you could have done.

          • Prodigal Daughter says:

            SottoVoce,
            If you hadn’t left, you might have been escorted from the premises by security just for speaking up!

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            If you hadn’t left, you might have been escorted from the premises by security just for speaking up!

            That is SO out of Stalin’s & Saddam’s playbook. (Done in so many words at various Communist & Baath Party gatherings.) Except Stalin’s & Saddam’s security “escorted them out” a little more permanently. Do you really want the name of Christ associated with such?

          • PD: Since I’m a lady, I’m sure they would have kicked me out immediately. Can’t have no uppity womenfolk messin’ with the manly Word o’ God.

        • You only find “Bereans” in churches where they’re cultivated: Where the preacher has no issue with saying, “Don’t just take my word for it. Search the scriptures for yourself.” After all, the preacher has done the homework and is standing on something fairly solid.

          But in other churches, those folks aren’t called Bereans. They’re called wolves who are trying to destroy the sheep, because they dare to challenge God’s anointed pastor. The scriptures that encourage us to test prophecy are only used against other churches. Not their own.

  36. Church discipline was meant for the restoration of the sinner to God , first and foremost. This was not a public sin but a private one and it should have been kept between Andrew, his fiancee’s family, and at most only two other people: the one to whom he confessed and whoever is in a position to bring about the repentance and healing. Everyone else is on a need to know basis. The “repercussions” of this are “widespread” because the leadership chose to make it so, and that is a gross violation of the spirit of discipline.

    C.S. Lewis said it best: “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies . . . Those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

    • Amen! I am not loudly protesting church discipline but, I am wanting to know why his sin was posted on an internet forum when he himself went and confessed it to the elders and wanted help. I think there may be more to Andrews problem other than a one time make out session with an old fling but, even if that is the case, even if he was found out and didn’t confess first, should someone post this on an internet forum? Why would you ever confess your sin if you thought you would be humilated in this manner?

      Second, I thought church discipline was a last resort of sorts if someone refused to repent. I am not getting the last resort feel on this one and am really questioning why people refused to say he had repented. What is level of contrition one must have before knowing they have officially repented?

      Lastly, After hearing Driscoll talk about visions of seeing rapes, I am wondering why no one came to him with his own discipline card. He is now receiving visions from God. Or perhaps his vulgar commentaries on marriage and sex? Why aren’t the leaders held accountable?? Since everyone in these church loves accountability, let’s start accounting!!!

  37. Christiane says:

    Is Mars Hill possibly a ‘cult’?
    Reason I ask is that ‘controlling’ seems to be a huge thing with that Church and its leaders.

    Yes, I know about how they see ‘women’, but it’s the controlling thing that makes it seem cultic to me.

    • cermak_rd says:

      A desire to microcontrol the adherents’ lives is also the prime way I define what is and is not a cult (in the pejorative sense of the word). This is why I still tend to be iffy about the LDS church. It is not their unusual Christology or concept of apotheosis, but the regular expected temple recommend interviews with its intrusive questioning that gives me pause. Same with the tithing settlement meetings.

      I would say that MPT does not qualify because there is no mechanism in place to coerce people into confessing. And following events such as the one herein described, I would guess that there will be less confessions in the future. However, there has also been talk about using church discipline on men who are in homes where the woman earns the income for the family. That would be a case where it would start to slide over into a cult because it is about microcontrolling people’s lives at that point in time.

    • Many fundys define cult by theology…but they ignore the control aspects. Mars Hill Seattle is a cult, and I see this leading pastor as a modern day Joseph Smith who can say what he wants, do what he wants, and get away with it.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        I think this guy’s gone beyond Joseph Smith.
        Not as far as Jim Jones, but he’s gotten up to the big leagues.

        Many fundys define cult by theology…but they ignore the control aspects.

        That’s what I found out the hard way in the Seventies, when ALL the Christian cult-watch groups defined “cult” entirely by parsing theology. Result: Asleep at the switch when serious spiritual abuse went down by splinter churches and parachurches who were OK theologically but “cultic” in all other behaviors. Fortunately I didn’t get burned as bad as Eagle.

        • Unless he comes up with his own book of Scriptures, like the Book of Mormon, or takes on polygamous wives, I don’t think it’s correct to say he’s gone beyond Joseph Smith.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Again, I think you’re confusing theology with controlling/abusive behavior, and the two are not an automatic one-to-one correspondence. No matter what their theology or general weirdness, do Mormons normally exhibit control-freak and abusive behavior towards inferiors in their congregations?

            This could vary from place to place; for instance, California Mormons are supposed to be the most laid-back and mellow and Utah Mormons the most rigid and tight-assed. (And most all my interaction with Mormons has been with California Mormons.)

            Another alternate definition of a “cult” is that a cult usually doesn’t outlive its founder/leader for long. I have heard it said of the Mormons that “Joseph Smith started a cult; Brigham Young turned it into a self-sustaining religion.”

    • They do seem to drink a lot of koolaid.

    • They are definitely a cult

    • I think it unhelpful and unloving to label the church as a cult based on the information of this post. These are our brothers and sisters, and no less deserving of love and grace than Andrew or anyone else. It is fine to disagree with how they handled this (and I do so) but lets keep it focused on the idea of how a church should or should not discipline (or whether they should) instead of how wacky these people are or are not. Chaplain Mike did just this in his post, and we should follow his lead.

      • Fair enough, but know that when those of us who have been severely damaged by places like this and maybe even had our faith destroyed, reading comments like yours make us glad we left Christianity behind. Too many people willing do defend the abusers rather than the abused.

        • Really, did you just write that? Where am I defending anyone? I even stated I disagreed with how it was handled.

          Did you see Mike’s note at the start?

          NOTE: This post is not about a certain well-known pastor, even though it involves the church he leads. In the discussion that follows, I am not interested in having us talk about this pastor personally. So don’t. Please keep the conversation on the subject of church discipline itself, more broadly. We focus on these articles because they present a detailed description of a church discipline process that gives us a rare inside look at how a congregation attempts to deal with Christian sin, repentance, and restoration in the church.

          This does not seem like a difficult request on Mike’s part.

          • okay, I take back the tone of the above remark. I see from your remarks above that you have been personally hurt by Mars Hill, and I realize that may indeed make it difficult to separate the problem from the people (when they are the same people who hurt you).

            I know little of Mark or Mars Hill (I heard him speak once; it was ok), and have no desire to defend what happened.

            I hope you find healing.

          • Yes I did write that and I stand by it because you’re still doing it. I appreciate you taking back the tone but it’s not just your tone that is harmful here. If you don’t know much about this place, then maybe you shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the concerns of those who do know it. There is plenty of information out there to support what we’re saying. Just because you haven’t bothered to read it doesn’t make it not worth pointing out. This place is dangerous and the more people like you try to get people to stop pointing this out with uninformed arguments, the longer people will take them seriously.

            Asking us to talk about church discipline with this story as a springboard but not talk about Driscoll or Mars Hill is like presenting us with a story about the Westboro Baptist Church and asking us to talk about the role of churches in protests while not discussing Westboro Baptist. It’s impossible! Nobody here would ever ask that because nobody here takes that place seriously. We all accept they’re a cult and they’re damaging. I’m saying, it’s time to put Mars Hill in that category.

    • Yeah, I would say they are cult-like, but their theology is technically within orthodoxy, so there are major distinctions between them and, say for example, Mormonism. Granted, they may yet become one, because charismatic leaders and controlling tacts are the prerequisites, but they have a ways to go before Joseph Smith status.

  38. I wonder if one could draw any conclusions about underlying theological assumptions in cases like these? I’ll take a shot. This (and perhaps the circumstances that led to Mahaney’s fall?) is simply the latest expression in contemporary evangelicalism’s apparent “surprise” at sin. WIth characteristic “edge,” new Calvinism has assumed, much like the swath of Gospel-lite church expressions we’ve witnessed over the past 30-50 years, that Christians don’t sin, or “mostly” don’t sin, or if they do it’s an aberration and there’s a quick fix, and if the quick fix isn’t committed to, it must be because someone’s not really saved, or at least not “serious” about their faith. In the current iteration of holiness-hype, the buzz-word “gospel-centered” is nailed into place by the occasional mention of the cross, (and maybe some Calvinistic theology), and is then used to vindicate whatever disciplinary practices, or program-driven agenda the leadership gets excited about. Congratulations. It’s moralistic deism 2.0.

    When you don’t expect Christians to be basically sin-free, you don’t feel the need to enter attack mode when it happens, or engage in what Andrew correctly identified as “voyeurism.” You are quick to accept penitent behavior and welcome people into the fold, regardless of their failings, and you don’t assume that some bullet-point fix-it program for “life change” is going to take hold of people’s spirits.

    There are elements of MH and other neo-reformed ministries that I have enjoyed and benefited from, and I do think there’s a good reason they caught on when they did. But I see a crossroads sometime in the near future. The movement is going to have to choose between cheapening the Gospel in the service of pampering the program and the theological emphasis, or they are going to have to re-vitalize and question several of the assumptions they’ve been working with. It’s not going to be easy.

  39. Treat him as a Gentile and tax collector? Didn’t Jesus hang out with Gentiles and tax collectors?

    • Thank you!

    • This keeps coming up a lot. So Jesus’ words in Mathew 18 should read

      “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector, by which I mean hang out with them.”

      Really? I think the context is clear that Jesus is instructing dis-fellowship with unrepentant brothers.

      • No. Maybe. Sort of. The Christian approach to un-believers is to be love and compassion, inviting them into the mercy of God and to become a part of the church. Un-repentant Christians need precisely this: Let it be known that un-repentant sin IS unbelief, and unbelief makes one not a part of the church. We not so much kick them out as help them to see they have already left. Therefore, these people ought not receive communion. As Christians, we do not deny friendship to our enemies, but we can deny them the wafer.

        • I agree with the heart of your statement Miguel, but I think there is more to it than just denying communion (not to mention that Jesus’ teaching here was before the establishment of communion). If the goal of the discipline is to convince someone of their unbelief and that through that unbelief they are in essence not a part of the church, then does it not send a very confused message if that person is still welcome to participate in all other church activities (going to community group, serving, and the like)? And, depending on the offense and whether it is ongoing, at what point should a person be identified as a wolf who must be denied access to the sheep?

  40. My Grandmother was excommunicated/shunned from her Mennonite church when she married my Grandfather. His crime… he wore a tie, something that was considered a “worldly trapping” by her church at the time. By the way my “sinful” Grandfather ended up as a Bible translator.

    • wow…

      {scratches head in mild beffudlement}

      simply wow…

      what a sad tale of uber legalism even it was meant to preserve tradition…

      Lord, have mercy… 🙁

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      My writing partner told me about a Mennonite Colony in Belize that split into a church civil war because somebody rode a bicycle (“worldly trapping” or “Sabbath breaking”).

      And one old character at my gaming/hobby club claimed to be a descendant of Roger Williams; according to him, Williams founded Rhode Island because he was run out of Massachusetts Bay because he wore something decorative (like a scarf or hat) that meant he was The Devil. And he set up Rhode Island with religious freedom and Indians represented in the government to flip the finger at Massachusetts.

      • Or keeping the Sabbath in Scotland, particularly in the Highland areas, up till comparatively recent times. “Sabbath-breaking” involved a lot of things; I remember reading in a magazine supplement to a weekend newspaper back in the 90s about someone who lived for a while in the remoter parts of Scotland; she hung out her washing on Sunday and later found it all neatly piled on her doorstep; apparently, this counted as manual labour and Sabbath-breaking and a passing churchgoer had taken down the offending articles!

        There is also a description of 19th century practice where an English writer describes how “the act of shaving on Sunday morning is offensive in some parts of Scotland. A clergyman assured me that rather than excite displeasure by the performance of such an operation on Sunday, he accomplished it late on Saturday evening.”

    • The Previous Dan says:

      The Anabaptist church that I grew up in had the whole denomination split over facial hair. It seems that food in the beard made greeting with a “Holy Kiss” unbearable. If you have 3 Anabaptists in a room you have 4 different opinions and 5 different denominations.

    • Michael , got an off-topic question. but you say your canadian..and your mention of mennonitte leads me to believe you are from a mennonite community in south-eastern manitoba?

      • Lots of Mennonites all over Canada, but as for me… I am first generation Canadian. My heritage is from Ireland, Barbados and Zimbabwe in the last 100 years or so. My great-grandfather was a pioneering missionary in Zimbabwe from the U.S. of German heritage. We was with the Brethren in Christ, also known as the River Brethren, which were a Mennonite offshoot with Wesleyan influences. My Grandfather (the supposedly sinful one) was from the Christian Brethren also known as the Plymouth Brethren which was founded by an Anglican priest John Nelson Darby. As for me, theologically I suppose I am closest to the Christian Missionary Alliance, but attend a North American (German heritage) Baptist Church in Southern Ontario.

  41. So many churches in this theological movement are absolutely obsessed with spiritual authority, and the exercise thereof. It’s sick.

    Those floating in the “wilderness” are often criticized for refusing to be under authority, as though that will draw people to church before the blessings of fellowship, word, mission, sacrament, etc.

    Just last night I made this comment during a little facebook debate. I was corrected (proof-texted) by a young neo-reformed pastor. Shocking.

    • A lot of it IMO is seeing a deficiency in one direction, then WAY overreacting in the other direction. People grow up as generic evangelicals, with no more theology than “believe in Jesus and don’t do drugs,” then discovered the writings of Calvin and realized that hey, Christianity can be deep, complex, thoughtful, and philosophical. So they respond to the legitimate problem of a lack of theology, and become (to ape a term from a certain talk radio host of whom I am no longer a fan) Calvinazis who treat doctrine as an idol and a source of self-righteousness. I think in this case, people recognize a genuine need for spiritual authority and church discipline, and overzealously fill that void with something very close to abuse.

      What’s so frustrating about this is because the overreaction is often in response to a legitimate problem, the overreactors inoculate themselves against all correction. They render themselves unable to recognize that they’ve gone too far. Spiritual abuse? Well at least they’re telling young men to submit to authority and be sexually pure! Why can’t you understand that they’re trying to reach young men? You just don’t GET the problem they’re addressing.

  42. Elizabeth says:

    I am not advocating overreaction in this vein, because I think Andrew did the right thing by leaving, but how else should we interpret the Scriptures that Mars Hill is using, as church members, when we know believers who are in unrepentant sin? If individual confrontation doesn’t solve the problem, should we really take two or three others and then tell the church? Who really does that? This example is going too far, way too far, but the church is still trying to be lovingly biblical. They’ve elevated the Bible over love and over simple common sense and sensitivity, but I still would rather be in a church that wants to follow every jot and tittle than one that doesn’t care about following the Bible’s instructions and would rather turn a blind eye.

  43. A church without “church discipline” is one that, apparently, believes it has nothing of significance to offer and, therefore, isn’t concerned about whether or not it’s congregation is acting appropriately (biblically). Fellowship can not occur without accountability.

    • Charles, your tone sounds awfully icy to me, and I have perfect pitch on my Spidy-Sense.

    • cermak_rd says:

      But when the person withdraws from the church, that should be it. Finis. Done. The first amendment resides in the individual, after all.

    • One might as easily rephrase as follows:

      A church without the love and grace and forgiveness of Jesus is one that, apparently, believes it has nothing of significance to offer and, therefore, isn’t concerned about whether or not it’s congregation is acting appropriately (biblically). Fellowship can not occur without love and grace and forgiveness.

      But I wouldn’t even do that because I think the assertion that there are churches that believe they have nothing of significance to offer and therefore aren’t concerned about their congregation’s behavior, is simply setting up a straw man, and not terribly graciously.

  44. It is ironic that we (of all people) have such difficulty in handling brokenness and sin.

    I guess it’s the tension between grace and sin that we find in Romans 5-6.

    IMO The church should be someplace where people feel safe.

    At my old church, people were publically berated and rebuked for relatively minor infractions (ie. missing bible study and being late for staff meetings). The emphasis was on total obedience.

    “How can you claim to obey invisible God, when you do not obey visible man!!”

    Interestingly, at my old church, more serious sins were dealt with very privately. We were basically taught to never discuss our sin issues with others in the church, because this was an object of shame. Overeating and lack of spiritual discipline were pretty much the most serious sins that were ever discussed in public. It’s kind of the reverse problem that is described above at Mars Hill. Personally I have found that when we treat our sins and struggles as things that can never be admitted or confessed with our fellow believers (even in a small group) then we are essentially transmitting the message that some sin is beyond the reach of the cross and that the broken are not welcome.

    Occasionally, I will hear people say that they want “more accountability” in the church, but having experienced a church where accountability got spun on its head and was used to crush people, I can no longer bring myself under that kind of authority.

    • I am trying to figure out so much spiritually. One thing that has me terrified is what to do aboyut the church problem. When someone says “accountability” my defneses go off, hair stands on the back of my neck, and I’m tempted to grab some Ibuprofun. Accountability for many Christians means control. When I did accountability years ago it was becuase I firmly believed in God and wanted to live a pure life. I never expected to become a whipping boy. But after everything transpired I ran 180 in the other direction and removed myself from Christians as far away as possible. There a few I’ll talk to…but for the most part I don’t. But I’m quite terrified of churches today. It bothers me, I mean IT REALLY bothers me to see cult like, aggressive tactics in Christian ministries and churches that I last saw when I explored Mormonism in college.

      It’s frightening….

  45. Church discipline? What? My simple response: “Judge not lest ye be judged.” or “Before you point out the splinter in your brothers’ eye…..pull the plank out of your own.” or….”Let him without sin throw the first stone.” Jesus seemed pretty clear.

    • Well…. what about after I get my plank out? NOW can I become the splinter inspector?

    • Those texts for sure, Lauri, but I also have no problem with a church having a way of dealing with sins in a Gospel-centered way. In fact, I think passages like Matthew 18 (over-cited and poorly understood as it often is), Galatians 6, and James 5 tell us we should. That is why the Office of the Keys has been an honored tradition in the church. This has always been subject to abuse, and as I stated in another comment, such abuse was in fact one key factor in sparking the Reformation. Used wisely, simply, regularly, and in a Christ-centered way, the practice of confession would go a long way toward helping Christians understand that we remain sinners and need the Gospel every day of our lives.

    • “let him without sin throw the first stone…” You know how the story really goes, right? From out of the crowd, a solitary stone flew out and struck the woman on the cheek. Jesus turns around and exclaims in desperation, “MOM! Stop it!.”

  46. Are we sure we can take Andrew at his word? If true, Driscoll and his pals have only proven again they are bullies and cowards. But are we sure it’s true?

    • Ryan, that is why I wanted to take the personal element out of it in this conversation. I wanted us to step back from the personalities involved and look at this kind of process and evaluate the approach and spirit of it. At the very least, what it says to me is that evangelical Christians have trouble knowing what to do and how to handle it within the congregation when a fellow believer sins. We resort to judgment and rely on works to solve the “problem” rather than pointing our fallen brother/sister to the Gospel of forgiveness and peace.

    • If it was just a matter of “he said, they said”, sure there would be room to doubt. But the documentary evidence of the contract and worse, how to shun the unbeliever (complete with ‘if he says the elders are being too harsh, tell him he’s wrong’ instruction) are pretty clear.

  47. Star Humbles says:

    WOW> I can relate to this legalist process and misuse of Matthew 18. Two personal examples: Years ago I was forced to go before my church in Arizona to confess my “sin of divorce”, forced to resign my position as President of the Women’s Committee, step down from my postion as teacher in their little ACE school AND all the elders were told that they were to treat me as a heathen and not “counsel” me. Praise the Lord they refused to listen and they helped me immensely. Fast forward to a few months ago when I was told that I must follow the Matthew 18 passages to registar a “grievence” at my place of ministry when the problem wasn’t a matter of church discipline or even sin against me at all! So I resigned from that ministry citing the unjust accusations that were brought against me that had somehow gotten all the way to the President of the Board. Christians tend to forget the audience to which Jesus was speaking and the circumstances then try to somehow make it a command for us all today. Although it is a very good guide we must be careful to not become like the Pharisitical ways that Jesus was teaching against. Are we in the Dispensation of Grace or under the Law?

  48. Elizabeth says:

    Can anyone recall a time when church discipline was used effectively and brought a person to repent of sin, be restored or reconciled–either for you or another person? There must be some positive examples, or the Scriptures wouldn’t give us such explicit instructions.

    • cermak_rd says:

      The Amish do it all the time. But they live in well-defined communities.

      In a more general sense, the usual story is that if a church tries to use church discipline, the church goer withdraws from the church. This is why many churches are trying to sneak in bylaws to prohibit withdraw during discipline, but they’re playing with fire and lawsuits by so doing.

    • The style of discipline (read–“shunning”) that has been derived/interpreted from Matt. 18 and I Cor. 5 will not work in a culture which is nominally “Christian” and in which people can use their un-disciplined feet to go elsewhere–even trans-denominationally (or, just stay home and practice “private spirituality”.

      T

  49. The incidences and processes enumerated in the post remind me of the “discipling movement” that cropped up in the 70’s. FUBAR, to say the least.

    It also strikes me as odd that Matt. 18 (“church discipline” passage) and 1 Cor. 5 would constitute a set, firm code for all churches in all times in all cultures to use as a rote methodology for dealing with certain, specific sins (usually sexual) in a congregation.

    Also, when Jesus said to “treat them as a pagan or a tax collector” the appropriate action would follow from the assumption that the person(s) of focus “just doesn’t get it”, therefore the remedy is to again proclaim the Gospel of Christ to the individual(s) who are marring the image of Christ within themselves.

    Tom

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      “Discipling Movement” of the Seventies. AKA “Shepherding Movement”. A Control Freak’s Wet Dream, where the “Shepherds” have ABSOLUTE Authority and Power over their “Disciples” in every way and any resistance is the Sin of Rebellion Against God/God’s Anointed Shepherds. Gives new meaning to the verse “Making Every Thought Captive”. THAT’s what I encountered in the Seventies, and in 1976 had enough to go over the Berlin Wall into the Post-Evangelical Wilderness of the time.

  50. Dana Ames says:

    Eagle,
    your “Berean” question seems to me to be an indicator that you’re still engaging in the type of thinking that went on in the group/s you left. I’m not saying that to shame you or anything, but rather to remind you that you’re still “detoxing”; it takes a while to shake off that stuff, and one reason why you’re feeling so confused is that remnants of that old mindset are still part of you.

    The deal is, it’s not simply a matter of searching the scriptures to find out “what the Bible teaches”. There really is no such thing. “What the Bible teaches” is dependent upon *interpretation*. It can be really unsettling to begin to understand that, especially when you’ve been with a group that allows for no other interpretation but theirs. If you depart from that interpretation, in a way you lose your identity. I know something of this, though I wasn’t hurt the way you were.

    I’m so sorry for your continued pain. The grieving process is different for everyone. I hope the fact you keep showing up here encourages you, that there are Christians who are not like the ones who hurt you – Christians who have, and allow for, different interpretations of scripture.

    You know, a certain segment of especially American Protestantism is so focused on knowing what’s Right – the right doctrine, the right interpretation of scripture, the right way to “apply” it, etc. etc. etc. I got to the place where I was just so tired of being all tied up in knots over “being right”, both personally and in church matters. A wise person recently told me that Being Right is not a virtue… To me, that explains why all the energy expended on “being right” is nothing but spinning one’s wheels, in a psychospiritual sense. Practicing virtues helps a person’s transformation; Being Right really doesn’t get you anywhere.

    I think you are very far from being “dead to Jesus”. A hug to you from your fellow born-in-Montanan.

    Dana

    • Nicely put….hope that someone, somewhere, will show our dear Eagle what real Christianity looks and feels like.