August 23, 2014

Thoughts on Church Discipline and Relational Wisdom

I haven’t been able to get this “church discipline” discussion off my mind.

First of all, thank you to all of you who have made this a vibrant and thoughtful conversation. As I said in my original post, I am agreement with most of you that the disciplinary process as described was inappropriate at best.

As for Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church, I guarantee that stories like this are not going to win them a lot of fans. Articles like this thoughtful one, written by frequent iMonk commenter Wenatchee the Hatchet (who left MHC a few years ago), suggest that practices of church discipline and accountability at MHC have long been of concern to observers. The web has been buzzing about Matthew Paul Turner’s articles, and more blogs have sprung up in their wake for those who feel they’ve been abused in authoritarian church settings.

Second, the more I’ve thought about this matter, however, the more I’m thinking that the shame of this story is that the “church discipline” aspect of this whole matter was unnecessary. That makes the rest of the story even sadder.

Why do I say “unnecessary”? Because this story provides a clear case study of the lack of relational wisdom that plagues many church communities. And that’s what I’d like us to consider today.

For purposes of discussion, once more, we will accept the story at face value. As I understand it, here is what happened.

  • One night, Andrew acted inappropriately with a woman other than his fiancee. (They did not have sexual intercourse.)
  • The next day, he felt guilty about what he had done and determined to tell his fiancee.
  • That night they went to their community group together.
  • After community group, they walked to his car and they had a hard conversation, during which Andrew confessed what had happened.
  • His fiancee understandably became upset and went back into the house.

Before the church ever got involved, Andrew set himself up for problems. What happened next led even further in the wrong direction, until the whole situation blew up in his face.

Here is what happened next:

  • Andrew drove away.
  • Stung by his conscience, he stopped, turned the car around and returned to the group.
  • On the way he called a friend from the community group and asked if they could talk. When he got back to the house, they met and he confessed to his friend what he had done.
  • From there, the situation became known to his community group and its leader.
  • Within days, he was asked to join another community group, and the process of having meetings with others, including church leaders, began.
  • The rest is “church discipline” history.

In Matthew Paul Turner’s post, before he talks about “church discipline,” he uses the words “church drama.” That drama itself was not necessary nor helpful. And that church drama grew out of unwise decisions about how Andrew chose to handle his sin from the beginning.

How could this have been dealt with differently?

First, Andrew should not have chosen the community group setting to have a confessional conversation with his fiancee. This was a matter between two people in a relationship and was of such importance that it required a discreet and private meeting. This is not something you tell your fiancee out in the driveway after you leave a meeting, with a bunch of other people around. This showed relational immaturity, insensitivity to his fiancee, and lack of awareness of the danger that other people might become inappropriately involved.

The young man confessed to the appropriate person but because of his immaturity it got beyond the two of them and it wasn’t long before bigger machinery started working. If we really want to apply a Scripture like Matt 18 to the story as it stands, the process should have stopped with him confessing to his fiancee. He sinned against her. It was her forgiveness he needed to seek. In my opinion she was the only one at that point with whom he needed to have a conversation.

Unfortunately, because he took it to community group and tried to deal with it in a semi-public setting, their small group friends and leaders became aware of what was happening. Before you know it, the big boys were involved and it just kept getting more complicated from that point. There is a lot in the leadership’s reaction to criticize down the road, as we’ve seen, however none of it may have been necessary if Andrew had shown better judgment at the start.

So, for me, the problem was not only what happened when the church leaders got involved. The whole thing got started on the wrong foot. The matter should have been kept within appropriate bounds at the beginning — between Andrew and his fiancee. If she forgave him, they could have then decided together (with whatever guidance from trusted others they thought best) how to proceed with counseling or some other form of help. If, in the course of counseling, it was recommended that the young man or woman had more serious or habitual problems that needed attention, then church leaders could have helped with that, as appropriate.

In my view there was no reason this needed to become a matter of “church discipline” the way it did.

Now, don’t go away from this saying that I’m blaming Andrew for everything that happened!

That’s not my point. I am looking at this entire matter as a prime example of the lack of maturity from top to bottom in Christian communities. Yes, as we discussed yesterday, the church did not act well. But let’s be honest. The young man sinned and then did some relationally foolish things. Furthermore, he did them in the context of a church and small group. Those are not always places where relational wisdom reigns either. To that we turn next.

Needed: Relational Wisdom in the Church
Andrew and his fiancee’s small group became the petri dish in which a lethal combination of sin and relational immaturity quickly fermented, creating a stink of “church drama” at the outset of this situation.

I have seen numerous examples of relational immaturity and unnecessary drama over the years in churches. I’ve contributed my fair share too. Churches can be unsafe relational places, not just because some of them are toxic or authoritarian, but because churches are human communities, frankly, in which people tend to broadcast their business indiscriminately while others stick their noses into other people’s business without warrant. Saying the church is our “family” is not always a happy description.

The Bible says, “Love covers a multitude of sins” (1Pet 4:8). However, in the church, because of our unhealthy habits of relating to others, we often uncover and spread a multitude of sins. How?

  • We talk too much.
  • We talk to the wrong people.
  • At the wrong times.
  • In the wrong settings.
  • For the wrong reasons.
  • We talk rather than act when action is required.
  • We “share” prayer requests.
  • We verbalize our “concerns.”
  • We talk to the pastors or other leaders about problems we should be dealing with.
  • We ask friends to bear “stuff” they should never have to carry.
  • We share too much personal information in the name of “transparency” and “vulnerability,” and others don’t know what to do with it.
  • So they talk about it with others who don’t know what to do with it.
  • And so on.
  • We hear parts of stories and think it is our job to come up with “answers” immediately for people we think we “know.”
  • We hear a couple of those stories and now we think we have a “pattern” of behavior that demands even more attention.
  • And because this person is a “member of the Body” we feel we are all responsible to deal with “helping” him or her.
  • So we talk about them all the more in the name of “helping” them.

To be sure, certain kinds of churches exacerbate these tendencies more than others, so issues of leadership and theology do come into play. If the leaders are unhealthy, the congregation is undiscipled, the Gospel is not prominent in both preaching and practice, and the spirit of the church is toxic, it is certain that these kinds of problems will be intensified and various groups and cohorts in the church will not be safe, loving places.

So, let’s take the next step beyond Andrew and his fiancee. Let us assume that Andrew is immature and lacks relational wisdom and follows the same course. He commits his sin, still meets his fiancee at community group, walks her out afterwards, and has his hard conversation. She runs back in the house, he speeds off. Conscience-stricken, he returns, calling his friend to meet him when he arrives.

My next concern would be whether or not his friend has relational wisdom. As Andrew begins to tell him what he’s done, a wise friend might say, “Andrew, stop before you go any further. You know, this really is not my business. I’m your friend, but if you have a problem with your fiancee, you need to try and work it out with her first. If you need help, we will assist you in figuring out how to do that. But I don’t need to hear the details of your sin. Jesus took care of that. We love you and want to help you here. So, let’s go see if she wants to talk with you.”

And let’s say Andrew’s fiancee, when she ran back into the house crying, was soon surrounded by her community group friends, trying to comfort her. I would hope those friends, or perhaps one or two that she was especially close to, would stop her as she began to pour out her story and say what Andrew’s friend said to him.

The specifics of the sin, the details = none of their business at this point (if ever). Caring friends try to “cover” others’ sins through love, to protect them from undue exposure so that sensitive matters might be dealt with properly.

I’m not talking about a “cover-up” — as in trying to hide or conceal sin. I’m talking about dealing with sin wisely, deliberately, carefully, lovingly, keeping all the relationships that are involved in mind. I’m talking about dealing with sin responsibly and only increasing the number of people who are participating in the matter when necessary.

That, to me, is a key point Jesus made in Matthew 18. Only expand the circle of information when necessary, and do so with care.

In addition, as I said in my first post, I recommend that churches have a venue for the practices of corporate as well as personal, confidential confession of sin and absolution to help all the “Andrews” — every one of us! — find relief in Christ from our guilt and shame.

Kyrie eleison.

 

Comments

  1. home run today….this is especially true among youth , and one of the main reasons why I don’t attend youth group or summer camp. to put it simply , it just gets “weird”. kind of reminds me of when joseph planned to divorce mary. It says he planned on doing it quietly , not in front of the sanhedrin.

  2. Your wisdom is showing in your article above Chaplain Mike. He confessed his sin to his Fiance and at that point it was her decision to move forward with him or not. That is the consequence: to get through the bump in the road or to determine from her point of view if this was something that could be habitual and follow them into their marriage. In my tradition I would have followed it up (or done it before the conversation) and went to confession as well. But as I said before – no one needs to be tortured for a mistake, because we are all going to make them at some point in our life.

    • Thanks, Radagast. I’m going to add a couple of sentences about confession to tie this even more to the first post.

      • Canon Law of the Catholic Church on confession:

        “Can. 978 §1 In hearing confessions the priest is to remember that he is at once both judge and healer, and that he is constituted by God as a minister of both divine justice and divine mercy, so that he may contribute to the honor of God and the salvation of souls.

        Can. 979 In asking questions the priest is to act with prudence and discretion, taking into account the condition and the age of the penitent, and he is to refrain from enquiring the name of a partner in sin.

        Can. 980 If the confessor is in no doubt about the penitent’s disposition and the penitent asks for absolution, it is not to be denied or delayed.

        Can. 981 The confessor is to impose salutary and appropriate penances, in proportion to the kind and number of sins confessed, taking into account, however, the condition of the penitent. The penitent is bound personally to fulfil these penances.

        Can. 983 §1 The sacramental seal is inviolable. Accordingly, it is absolutely wrong for a confessor in any way to betray the penitent, for any reason whatsoever, whether by word or in any other fashion.

        Can. 984 §1 The confessor is wholly forbidden to use knowledge acquired in confession to the detriment of the penitent, even when all danger of disclosure is excluded.
        §2 A person who is in authority may not in any way, for the purpose of external governance, use knowledge about sins which has at any time come to him from the hearing of confession.”

        Vademecum for Confessors concerning some aspects of the morality of conjugal life (1997) : (this deals with married couples who confess sins regarding use of artificial contraception and/or abortion, and how priests hearing such confessions should deal with the same)

        “3. Pastoral Guidelines for Confessors

        1. In dealing with penitents on the matter of responsible procreation, the confessor should keep four aspects in mind: a) the example of the Lord who “is capable of reaching down to every prodigal son, to every human misery, and above all to every form of moral misery, to sin”; b) a prudent reserve in inquiring into these sins; c) help and encouragement to the penitents so that they may be able to reach sufficient repentance and accuse themselves fully of grave sins; d) advice which inspire all, in a gradual way, to embrace the path of holiness.

        2. The minister of Reconciliation should always keep in mind that the sacrament has been instituted for men and women who are sinners. Therefore, barring manifest proof to the contrary, he will receive the penitents who approach the confessional taking for granted their good will to be reconciled with the merciful God, a good will that is born, although in different degrees, of a contrite and humbled heart (Psalm 50:19).”

        Now, what’s my point?

        The parts of the Church Discipline Contract which Andrew was expected to sign include:

        “Andrew will write out in detail his sexual and emotional attachment history with women and share it with XXX.

        Andrew will write out in detail the chronology of events and sexual/emotional sin with K and share it with XXX and Pastor X.

        Andrew will write out a list of all people he has sinned against during this timeframe, either by sexual/emotional sin, lying or deceiving, share it with XXX anddevelop a plan to confess sin and ask for forgiveness.”

        That does not appear to me to be exhibiting either “a prudent reserve in inquiring into these sins” or “act(ing) with prudence and discretion, taking into account the condition and the age of the penitent, and …refrain(ing) from enquiring the name of a partner in sin.” Certainly I don’t see how it is “advice which inspire(s) all, in a gradual way, to embrace the path of holiness”.

        And having to tell “XXX” and “Pastor X” and whoever might be on the list of people he has sinned against all about his various sins is just absurd. Yes, if he’s deliberately lied to a straight question about something, then tell the truth, but (for instance) to go up to another member of the church and say “Hey, Joe, that time we were both serving on church security? I was sleeping with my fiancée at the time! Sorry for deceiving you into thinking I was living chastely!” – come off it!

        • They are on a fishing expedition….

          • When it came to this contract and what they were asking him to do, Andrew was well within his rights to tell them to get stuffed. Who was XXX? His Community Group Leader. If I’m correct in reading what’s going on, he wasn’t even a pastor! And what are his credentials for knowing about Andrew’s emotional history with women? And where is there any mention that no-one is going to see or be told about these lists other than XXX and Pastor X? Nowhere!

            At that point, it’s abusive, plain and simple. You’re correct, Radagast; they wanted him to write his own condemnation, so that if he at any point of the process said “Hang on, I never did that”, they could come back with “Well, according to your statement, when you were sixteen you lusted after this girl Jane who you saw at the library and had impure thoughts about her”.

            I know there are supposed to be horror stories about strict confessors in the old days demanding details in the confessional of when, where and how often you thought about/did such-and-such, but I have never heard of anyone being asked to write lists, much less hand them out for perusal by multiple persons.

        • I came across this on New Advent (newadvent.org) a few weeks ago. I think it accurately describes the beauty of Confession and makes me wonder if, as Protestants, we haven’t cost ourselves a great deal of misery for abandoning this sacrament.

          http://patrickmadrid.com/tag/sexual-sin/

          “My sins may be different from my friend’s, or yours, or that priest’s, but I am a sinner in grievous need of God’s grace and mercy, just like my friend. Just like you. And I am so grateful to the Lord for his gift of the sacrament of confession. He knows how much and how often I need it.”

  3. Oh, I’m going to completely disagree with this perspective. I think confessing a major relational flaw like this, especially during engagement, often requires the help of true friends and counselors. Engagement is a time when a couple comes together in the sight of their community, and I think involving a few people in a confession like this is fine. Even as a married woman, if my husband were to confess this, calling our best couple friend over to be with us might be a very wise move. It would keep my sinful response (which is the default when someone confesses sin to you) from escalating the situation unnecessarily. (And practically, I remember never having a good, private place to talk to my fiance. Sometimes the car was the only option. We both had roommates and coffee shops are bad spots for serious, emotional discussions.)

    However, I think it’s important that it be pointed out that you left out a vital piece of information. Upon confessing to his fiance and close friends, it came out that Andrew and his fiance were sexually active. That is why the conversation then became escalated, not because of the cheating. The fiance was the daughter of an elder, and when two members of the congregation were found to be sinning together, the higher-ups became involved.

    I agree completely that MHC handled the situation poorly, to the degree of spiritual abuse. But leaving out the vital issue of his church discipline-that he and the elder’s daughter were sexually active-changes the entire nature of the confession and the requirement of who be involved.

    • Laura, I don’t necessarily disagree with you. I’m saying: “Slow down!” Take things step by step. Have a private conversation with your fiancee first. Go from there. The stuff about their own sexual relationship is another issue, and you’re right, it would need to be faced sometime.

      If they had a trusted “couple friend” in the mix, I would not object to including them in the process from the beginning, but since that was not mentioned in the story I did not go that direction.

      What I think was really setting up the situation for trouble was taking her to community group, sitting through the meeting together, and then springing a bombshell, “I cheated on you last night” as they walked to the car! How could that possibly have worked out well?

      • I agree Andrew handled the initial conversation badly, but to be fair, he’s young, he was feeling guilty, he was emotionally wound-up. I don’t think he was able to think rationally and calmly about this, and planning out “Okay, I need to talk to her, I need to find someplace quiet and private and a good time to do it” was plainly beyond him.

        I doubt he intended to blurt the whole thing out after community group, that’s just how his conscience and his nerves affected him.

        • Martha, I don’t know about where you live, but it just feels to me like it’s part of contemporary culture here in the U.S. to be flat ignorant of relational wisdom. Any support society or community might once have given to helping people set appropriate boundaries or have any sense of what is “proper” or “improper” in a given situation is now unavailable. And you’re right. I feel sorry for this young man. He’s probably seen a million movies where the most private words get blurted out in every conceivable setting. He also grew up in a fundamentalist setting where the priority wasn’t on wisdom but rules, so he never learned how to behave maturely, at least not without the threat of hellfire. Frankly, I’m surprised he didn’t confess his sin during prayer requests in the small group meeting.

          • As an illustration of what you’re talking about, CM, I once was at the receiving end of a confession I really didn’t want to hear. When I was in college, I worked with the wife of a seminary student one summer. After a month or so of (I thought) peaceful enough working conditions, she said, “I have to confess to you. I have had critical thoughts about you all this month, about how you are a hippy and have loose morals. I was wrong to have these thoughts, and I want you to forgive me.” What??!! I was crushed. Why did I need to know about her secret thoughts, especially when they were hurtful to me? Her confession felt more like vengeance and mud-slinging than holiness; true penitence would have led her to keep her mouth shut and carry the burden of her wrong thoughts herself, rather than load them on the recipient.

          • Damaris, I understand your pain and confusion. It is almost like the joke that here in the south, you can say ANYTHING about someone, as long as it is concluded with “bless their heart”!

            ie.. “No wonder he can’t keep a job, he is a dumb as a post, bless his heart”

            or

            “Of course, growing up with that tramp of a momma of hers, its no wonder she doesn’t know how to dress respectfully for church, bless her heart”.

            As Ch. Mike notes, we Americans are all too quick to shoot our collective mouths off regarding things that should be private. We have confused “openess” with “everyone must know everything about everyone else at all times” SOme things really ARE between a human and his/her Creator, and other things should only be shared with a pastor or one or two CLOSE, trustworthy friends who don’t gossip.

            I do not WANT to know what is going on in everybody’s head and heart…I have enough trouble with my own and the one human I am truly intimate with. And I know for certain that most of what is in my brain and soul are best shared only with God.

          • In reference to Damaris’s comment – that’s why we have a filter, to shield irrational thoughts from the general public. Her “confession” was only a wrapper to deliver the inner thoughts she had. It’s the “Please forgive me for the thoughts I have about you that you placed there” thing.

            It’s about as irrational as the following:

            Wife: I’m mad at you…

            Husband: What? What did I do to get you mad?

            Wife: I had a dream about you last night and you were such a jerk, so I’m mad at you today..

            Husband: sigh…..

          • “…a fundamental setting where the priority wasn’t on wisdom but rules…”

            Very astute observation, CM; I find this problem all over the place, not just in church.

          • Richard Hershberger says:

            Damaris:

            “Her confession felt more like vengeance and mud-slinging than holiness”

            That is it exactly. This was not a confession at all. It was criticism, passively aggressively couched in the form of a confession.

  4. I think part of the problem at the start was the blurring of lines between “member of community group” and “friend”. Andrew called one of the guys in his group to talk to him as a friend, the friend took it (it would appear) as a matter of group membership and not on a personal level, and got the leader involved, and then the whole thing escalated from there.

    In the first place, I can see reasons why both Andrew and the friend reacted the way they did; Andrew wanted advice and support, but his close friends at the time were bound up with his church activity. The friend was confused between acting as a personal friend dealing with a private confidence, and a member of the community group dealing with a confession of sin by another group member.

    What was badly needed was some system whereby one – and only one – person was the appropriate ‘next step’; to act as confessor or spiritual director or whatever the specific term for that church would be. Instead, the whole matter got kicked around between the original group leader, the leader of the new group, and several other individuals, with nobody seeming to be dealing with Andrew personally – and I agree, the story does point to an urgent need for both Andrew and his fiancée to figure out where they were going with their relationship (why or how did Andrew get himself into a situation where he was alone with the old flame and inappropriate intimacy could take place?)

    The trouble is, the system seems geared to coming down heavily on breaches of discipline, but there doesn’t seem to be any support for the sinner to repent and be guided in confidence and on a personal, one-to-one basis.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      What was badly needed was some system whereby one – and only one – person was the appropriate ‘next step’; to act as confessor or spiritual director or whatever the specific term for that church would be.

      But that’s too Romish (TM)…

      Instead, the whole matter got kicked around between the original group leader, the leader of the new group, and several other individuals…

      In a church environment where “Thou Shalt Gossip” is the Eleventh Commandment, whose Celebrity megachurch pastor/apostle (and by extension his subordinates) are obsessed with being Tough Men. And everything just blew sky-high.

      • Ironically, from what I understand of the Hebrew words, “Thou shalt not bear false witness” has more overtones of tale-bearing or gossip than it does actual lying.

        • That’s how the nuns taught it to us when we were twelve, CJ: the Eighth Commandment doesn’t just cover lies, it also applies to slander, calumny, back-biting and gossip, even just being in a group listening to others making critical remarks about another person not there or passing on juicy details of alleged faults.

          A pity Mark Driscoll wasn’t sent to school to the nuns! ;-)

  5. Your idea that the second person to hear about this should say, “stop, I don’t want to hear any more details” amazes me. It makes sense, but I suspect that it would take a very unusual person to be able to say that in the first place. Spiritual and relational maturity are most often the hard won result of learning from our mistakes. I certainly wouldn’t expect it of twenty-somethings.

    • Ann, I’m sure you are right, and I’m sure I was as clueless when I was at that age. But tell me then, why are we exalting 20 and 30-somethings as celebrity pastors in our churches? Why aren’t we listening to people who have learned from their mistakes and have much to teach us?

      • Chaplain,

        Lay off us 30 something pastors:) Not all of us are Mark Driscolls and let’s face it Chap, I realize you and the other boomers are going to have to be pried away from your cubicles, pulpits, offices, etc before you all agree to leave the scene and stop clogging up every system in our culture (social security, institutions, corporations) but the boomer era is passing:)

        Austin

      • One more Mike says:

        I’d have liked to talked to Andrew before he went to his fiance’; she was the daughter of an elder in this (sic) church, thus all caught up in this circle of abuse. There’s no way this was going to stay between the two of them. I would have told Andrew about the instances I know of where sexual indiscretion was confessed to spouse, fiance’, in an evangelical environment. It ALWAYS winds up with the confessors clothes and possessions on the front lawn, locks on the house changed, lawyers, guns and money on all sides.

        I would have offered my young friend Andrew absolution as a follower of Christ and in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, then told him to go and sin no more. And keep his mouth shut. My 50+ years of mistakes and indiscretions have taught me that while confession “is good for the soul”, it can cause more damage than the sin.

        Those who practice corporate and individual confession have it right. And they’ve been around a very long time.

    • I agree to some extent, but what shocks me is that no one at any level appeast to have tried to put a lid on this and bounce it back to the two people it involved in some appropriate setting. When you have multiple levels of hierarchy acting in exactly the same wrong-headed and heedless fashion, it’s definitely a red flag.

  6. To keep it within the context it should have stayed between Andrew and his fiancee. The issue was between the two of them and no one else. Evangelicals often are busy bodies that pry, penetrate, and become obsessed with sexual sins. Prayer for many fundys is nothing more than gossip. How many here have been in settings where “prayer” is shared and you can figure out who they are speaking about – even if the prayer request was supposed to be anonymous? Wasn’t that a horrific feeling? It made me wonder….who knew about me?

    What’s okay to discuss? Illness, unemployment, etc… Things like sex, abortion, pornography. homosexuality, alcohol, etc… will never find grace in an evangelical setting. They just won’t and who are they kidding to expect people to be like that ? For many evangelicals the gospel is not Biblically driven – its gossip driven. I heard more gossip during those 10 years as an evangelical than I heard in other settings.

    But I found the entire article to be disturbing. And I ask…why is there so much spiritual abuse in Christianity? Why? Stories like Andrews’ and what I myself learned is that those who confess get hammered while those who hide and deceive become church leaders, or thrive in the evangelical culture. I hate to say it…but in many churches, and the more conservative they are the more this is a survival skill – but in many churches to thrive in that setting, you need to be quite dishonest and know how to play the facade well. Maybe too many people in the post evangelical wilderness and those who lack faith, etc… are perhaps too honest to play that game. Because all too often church discipline is often a sham.

    • Actually, this whole situation reminds me of what goes on in the LDS church, at least according to a young woman who wrote a book on the matter after leaving the group (sorry, name and title allude me…) She said that she met ALONE with an elder who quizzed her in great deal about her physical relationship with her fiance, including wanting the details of how he touched her, how long it took for her to reach climax…..sounded to me then and now like the elder was getting his jollies listening to this! (and no one could be “forgiven” until they related every sordid detail, including what touched what, who enjoyed this versus that, and times and place…ICK!) It started to sound like “A Handmaiden’s Tale” to me (shiver)

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        What else can you do to “get your jollies” when Porn is forbidden and you’re an Elder (with all the power that implies)?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        P.S. In LDS tech-speak, “Elder” is a title of rank within the heirarchy (“Second Order, First Rank”), not repeat not an indicator of age. “Elder” is the rank of all those 18-year-old mishies doing their two in the field.

        (My California Mormon informant about this back in the Eighties — met over Pencil, Paper, and Funny Dice — described Joseph Smith as having “almost a Gygaxian thing about class-and-level titles”. It’s an Old-School D&D reference; up through AD&D1, Gygax gave every level of every character class unique names.)

        • And “elder” doesn’t translate well on the name tags of young LDS missionaries to Latin America. Even though they’re called “Anciano” they don’t look very old.

    • “To keep it within the context it should have stayed between Andrew and his fiancee. The issue was between the two of them and no one else.”

      Eagle, I absolutely, positively agree with you here. The guy was stricken with guilt and wanted to confess, and got burned for it. If they wanted counsel, they should have stepped out of the boundaries of their community group and church….It’s a shame that they have to, but I do wish they had.

    • To move on your question of context. . .

      The question that I find myself asking is, “What topics were customarily discussed in their small group?”

      If other problems or addictions were discussed in the small group setting, then this might have caused Andrew to think that it may have been safe to discuss his issue in a small group setting.

      So, someone shares about a porn addiction, someone shares about mental health issue, someone shares about cheating on his timecard at work, someone shares about giving someone the bird on the highway, someone shares about going on a bender and getting drunk. I wonder if Andrew hears some of this and then thinks that its okay to be honest about what happened between him and his fiance. He is just exercising the same candor as everyone else.

      Then he shares, and BAMM, he gets crushed, reminding all of us that in the church, there are “safe” sins to confess and other “unsafe” sins to confess.

      BTW: I am not suggesting that Andrew was right to share what happened in his small group. I can just understand for a young man, how it can be confusing to know what is appropriate to share.

    • I don’t think this is limited to evangelicals. Look at the overall celebrity obsession within our culture. People just HAVE to know what is going on with the Kardashians, Demi Moore, etc. Evangelicals may have the problem simply because it is a symptom of dysfunction within the wider culture.

      And its not just an American phenomenon, either. Witness the British obsession with the lives of the Royal Family, especially Prince Charles and Princess Diana. When we can look down our noses and point out how the mighty have fallen, it gives a perverse satisfaction that at least OUR lives aren’t that screwed up!

  7. Thanks for opening this discussion, it’s important.

    Seems to me that young folk like Andrew can easily come unstuck in a highly intrusive organization (ie taking up most of your free time and defining your social support network) and authoritarian context.

    People are both subtly and overtly encouraged to give up their own judgement and self responsibility to others, encouraged to remain immature and insecure because this suits the way they are positioned as children and subordinate to leaders in every way. So many mixed and outright conflicting messages…

    As a therapist I have my biases but I’m wondering what makes it hard to just sit with the pain for a while, think it through, reflect and if necessary with a well trained, accountable counsellor. Then be in a better position to make good relational choices and own those choices. Why rush to confess in this risky way? Surely, that is about the high background levels of anxiety.

    • Wise words, Sally. Thanks. This, combined with Ann’s comments about 20-somethings, has me stirred up. The evangelical megachurch movement seems to be all about what you both are saying. It is all about energetic youthful activism. The pace is frenetic, the peer pressure is severe, the leadership often intimidating. We have youth churches led by youth according to youth culture standards. And we expect maturity to spring from these?

      • I agree with this 100 percent

      • There is definitely something to be said for age and wisdom (although sometimes these do not go hand in hand). I agree sometimes one must sit with a problem instead of rushing off full of emotion. And if the choice is made to confront the issue and involve the other party then it should be done in a controlled neutral setting – but then most of us don’t have the wisdom when we are young to know this.

        A person who is new to anything – marriage, parenthood, their faith, relationship, needs to give themselves time before being expected, or expecting themselves to know all the answers. In this situation someone mentioned to reach out to friends, or another couple – wrong – unless they are trustworthy, older and are more of a mentor. Otherwise one could get anything from a secular garbage point of view, answers based on no life experience, or some shlock that comes straight out of scripture because its the correct christian answer to say or to show superiority.

    • I don’t think it’s just about high background anxiety although I am sure that plays a part -I think some of us are the types who do want to blurt everything out (particularly when we feel really bad about something) and some of us are far more controlled. It’s the way we are made and as we mature we realise the pros and cons of both positions and learn (hopefully) the appropriate responses. If we are in a church with leaders who are mature enough to be relationally wise then we learn wisdom ourselves.
      Most of us don’t feel a place for a proper counsellor in our lives but often expect our church leaders to act as one. Maybe we are blurring the boundaries too much?

    • One more Mike says:

      “…I’m wondering what makes it hard to just sit with the pain for a while, think it through, reflect and if necessary with a well trained, accountable counsellor. Then be in a better position to make good relational choices and own those choices…”

      Amen and amen, Sally D!!!!

      • Prodigal Daughter says:

        “…I’m wondering what makes it hard to just sit with the pain for a while, think it through, reflect and if necessary with a well trained, accountable counsellor. Then be in a better position to make good relational choices and own those choices…”

        Well, it’s PAINFUL. And in America, are we the first to run from pain? To get rid of it as soon as possible? Who wants to think about it when we can vomit it up and hope our stomach settles a little more quickly?

        Not that I disagree with the sentiment… It’s wise, but it’s not in our cultural DNA.

    • Robin Cranford says:

      Sally, what insight! I think in those instances you feel the anxiety because if you aren’t repentant enough or convicted enough then you very well may be headed to hell, and what happens if you get hit by a bus in the next thirty minutes?

  8. John Bressett says:

    From a missional point of view I find this the saddest story. How many “seekers” are going to hear/read about this and say no thanks to church and consequently never hear the gospel? We (the church) seem to cycle through this sort of thing every few years. Anyone old enough to remember Bob Mumford and the discipleship movement? No group seems as quick to shoot it’s wounded as the church. I hope this trauma brings these two closer and doesn’t drive them apart. I prayerfully hope they can cling to Romans 8:1 and not to the tenants of MHC.

    • If you’re going to mention Bob Mumford you should also mention the others in The Fort Lauderdale Five: Charles Simpson, Don Basham, and I’m so old I can’t remember the others, but Ern Baxter eventually was added and they became The Fort Lauderdale Six (or was it The Four became The Five?). Eventually the Holy Spirit Teaching Mission became Christian Growth Ministries with its New Wine magazine; they moved to Mobile after the break-up and became Hosanna Integrity Music which still exists today.

      From one who was there, sort of, at least in the vicinity..

    • The Previous Dan says:

      Bob Mumford admitted the Discipleship Movement was a journey in the wrong direction and he departed from that course decades ago. But as long as up-and-coming Christian leaders continue to misunderstand scripture and their own authority, it will live on in new forms.

    • sarahmorgan says:

      In the two years I spent in a dysfunctional, toxic church, I can honestly say that I didn’t hear the Gospel (or see it in anyone’s behavior). Lots of law, lots of talk about Jesus as though He were one side of the bargain that says “If I’m good, You have to make me rich/popular/cool,” and lots of judgment & condemnation for not being good enough — in fact, it was drilled into me that I would never be good enough for anything (by anyone’s standards, even God’s). Because of this experience, I almost lost my faith completely…..mostly over the question, “Why does God even allow fake churches that use the name of His Son to deceive the unknowing and vulnerable to exist? Is He that sadistic?”
      I’m glad these issues are being brought up here and discussed so thoroughly…as they say, sunshine is the best disinfectant. Churches and church leaders tend to circle the wagons rather than discipline their own for hurting the flock. From a missional standpoint, new converts should be made aware of and warned about these problems in the church.

  9. Chap,

    I’d like to get your thoughts on this.

    One problem with these types of churches is that these people have no connections are friends outside the church setting. Now don’t get me wrong. I like the folks I go to church with. We even hang out socially some, but I remember growing up in a fundie baptist setting, and church people were your whole life. They were the only folks you went out to eat with, and we even went on vacation with folks from church. There was even pressure for my brother and I to have friends that we went to church with be our main friend group. Fortunately, my parents common sense finally won out and being involved in school activities saved us.

    Austin

    • You have a good point.

    • There is a strong notion among some evangelical folks that you’ve got to be with “your people” all the time, else you may be tainted by the world. I think it springs from fear and a skewed understanding of grace. In my experience folks from more liturgical backgrounds seem to get out more, be more involved in the community and be more friendly to non-believers. I can relate to what Austin says quite well.

  10. Great post, CM. I was on staff at a non-denominational church, led in whole by two families (two families, both connected to the pastor and worship leader made up the entire elder board). Literally, quite literally, every detail anyone shared with these two pastors in counseling sessions would make it out into the congregation, through pastors’ conversations with their wives, and through them asking the elders to “pray for so-and-so…they’re struggling with…” The elders would in turn share with their wives, who would pass on “prayer requests”. Don’t think I’m laying it all on the wives…the husbands were just as bad.

    It was a beautiful place on the surface to outsiders and newcomers. Great worship, positive messages from the pulpit, good teaching. You had to have a thick skin to survive there, though.

    Is that really how church is supposed to be?

    • With the situation that started this whole discussion…I wonder if more mercy would have been extended if the young man involved had only admitted his sexual indiscretions with the elder’s daughter? That’s a piece of the puzzle that I haven’t seen mentioned much throughout this discussion. Could we have a situation where there are vindictive elders because he cheated on “my baby girl”?

      • or conversely, it could have been better just to mention his brief lapse with a former flame (a one-time indiscretion) vs. being sexually active with the elder’s daughter…

        the degree of moral failure in this instance had no personal component mucking up the response…

        once Andrew disclosed the further extent of his being sexually active with the elder’s daughter, the perceived ‘wrong’ was then escalated up the ‘needs-to-be-disciplined’ matrix that became the public humilation & control debacle we now are reading about…

        Lord, have mercy… :(

      • Yes, Lee, I very much get the impression that because it was another member of the church, and particularly the daughter of an elder, that the whole thing blew up like that.

        What Andrew badly needed was guidance and confidentiality, and there wasn’t that system in place. Now we have the worst of both worlds: Andrew has left and may be feeling in reaction “I didn’t do anything wrong!” (I’m not saying he does feel like that, just that in reaction to the over-reaction, most people in self-defence will develop that response) and the church has not seemed to learn anything to cope with the next case; and by distributing the “How to Shun A Sinner” instructions, they’ve instead taught their members “For the love of God, if you do mess up, don’t tell anyone in church about it and instead pretend you’re stainless”.

  11. A lot of this reminds me of the atmosphere at college: Lots of young, zealous Christians, lacking maturity, but eager to be put in leadership positions. Some of them were quite frustrated because they’d go intern at various churches, and their pastors would clamp down on them for being, frankly, stupid. So they’d bellyache, “I have a calling. Why can’t people see that? They’re supposed to recognize it!”

    Thing is, when God calls you to leadership, that doesn’t mean you ought to be a leader now. It means you ought to get ready to become the leader you’ll need to be once the role opens up. Samuel didn’t become a judge once God first started talking to him; David didn’t become a king right after his anointing; even Jesus didn’t collect disciples at age 12, but waited till his thirties.

    But immature people don’t get this, and consequently in youth-led organizations there’s rarely someone there who can tell them, “Stop it. This isn’t wise; this isn’t Christian.” Chaos results. People who don’t understand grace, who lack wisdom, are put in authority — often simply because they want to be put in charge, and “have a calling,” and no mechanism exists to mentor these leaders, or provide them oversight, before giving them real power. Either that’s because the head pastor lacks it himself, or the church grew too big too fast.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      A friend of mine said a lot of the atrocities the Taliban inflicted on the people of Afghanistan came from the fact that the Talibani were overwhelmingly young men (the word “Taliban” means “student”) from a hypermasculine tribal culture who found themselves in a position of Absolute Power, justified by Divine Right. In such a situation, they have to PROVE they’re more hypermasculine than everyone else to the other Talibani, and that’s done by throwing their weight around, HARD.

    • Thing is, when God calls you to leadership, that doesn’t mean you ought to be a leader now. It means you ought to get ready to become the leader you’ll need to be once the role opens up.

      THIS: please see Chris Wrights 5min24sec video on you tube titles “Confronting Idols, Making Disciples” One of his main points is that leaders themselves often have not gone through a very thorough disciping process (or a warped one). Then it becomes a case of ‘babies having babies…..” in a church setting. We try to work with “How do we try to train up our leaders…..” but we’re starting at the wrong spot. Chris says it all much better than I’m trying to.

      GregR

    • Very well said, K.W. Leslie. There has been so much damage done in my town through a local megachurch with immature small group leaders – my brother being one of them. Today he’s off in the wilds of the Pentecostal West where no one can question his proclamations if “God told him to do it”.

  12. A recent incident in my husband’s Bible Study has brought some issues. This Study has been in existence for over 25 years. It is populated mostly by men over 60 who have lead the church’s committees, run missions, and supported financially and emotionally the paid leadership of the church. Recently there has been a fracas. An assistant rector began insisting that the group call themselves a Life Group. They have resisted. Some are social friends but not because of the Bible Study – but rather because of social or political ties, jobs, or their kid’s schools. These men have each other’s back but they most certainly do not “do life together” (a tag for Life Groups). The idea that they had to become symbiotic across all areas of their lives deeply offended this group of men. We’ve been discussing this as a family because having left fundamentalist world where very small communities of people know everyone’s business, it is hard to establish boundaries in faith. My husband thought that this Bible Study showed good balance – he wasn’t quizzed about his political beliefs, social standing, or commitment to God (meaning the church), he just shows up and thinks about what it means to be a Christian and then leaves to apply some of the thoughts and to pray for the others and their families through out the rest of the week.

  13. This is one place I have to say the Catholic Church has it right (sort of). As human beings, we often have a need for a witness to our struggles, especially when we are burdened by guilt over our compulsive behaviors. The confessional is a great venue through which we can unburden ourselves of our guilt and find comfort in absolution. Of course the challenge is the way that the sacrament of reconciliation is presented – as if we can only gain absolution through the act of confessing our sins to a priest. The priest plays a great role as witness, as would a good spiritual director, close friend, pastor, minister, counselor, recovery sponsor, etc. I cannot see the benefit of airing our “sins” in a public forum in the way that it was done in this story. I agree, our sin is between ourselves and God, sometimes between ourselves and the people we have hurt through our transgressions and when needed between ourselves and a trusted counselor. I think it ends there.

  14. The Previous Dan says:

    Thanks CM. This post is an example of what I appreciate so much about imonk.

    Proposition -> Discussion -> Evaluation -> Enhanced/Revised proposition.

    I have learned more through the discussions here than I have learned since those all-night arguments in Bible College 30 years ago.

    I agree with your post almost entirely, the situation is a combination of emotional/relational immaturity and a misunderstanding of the purpose of church discipline. My degree of disagreement centers around the fact that although I don’t think public church discipline (i.e. punishment) is appropriate in Andrew’s case, I do think some form of private discipline (i.e. training) is a MUST in this young man’s life regarding his fidelity for the woman he claims to love. Going out with an old flame behind his fiancée’s back is a giant red flag even if he did feel guilt after the fact. It’s hard to put that cow back in the barn. And fidelity doesn’t get easier after marriage, it gets much harder. I suspect that this is what his church was trying to address, but they were wildly of the mark in how they did it.

    Note: In the post Bill Clinton area, saying “They did not have sexual intercourse” is equivalent of admitting they had every other form of sex right up to that line. Some of the most erotic stuff excludes intercourse.

  15. I was around to help with starting a new church (in the Acts 29 network) a few years ago. In the due course of time, we ended up having a couple living together who were unmarried and not too sorry over the situation either. I’m sure you can imagine how it went – look at how hard Mars Hill came down on someone who confessed and repented – and then think about the righteous indignation that they could have indulged in if Andrew hadn’t confessed!

    That’s where that situation went. There was a letter and everything…must be an Acts 29 network thing. That situation was a contributing factor to me getting the heck out of there.

    • was that the only incident that you felt was handled in a messy fashion? was it just the sexual purity standards as spelled out by said church leadership under such scrutiny, or where there other violations that incurred the same degree of ‘discipline’?

      • Ugh…I won’t go into details (so as to not possibly identify myself to someone familiar with the church…but also because I don’t care to dredge up all the details in my mind), but there were other situations, not all of them sexual in nature, that were handled in the same grace-less manner.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          However, in the Evangelical Circus, nothing seems as important (or gets the more extreme reactions) than Sexual Purity and/or Sexual Sin. They’re as messed up sexually as everybody else, just in a different direction.

        • thanx Matt. i wasn’t looking for details, just categories that were not sex related.

          there had been some ‘what-if’ speculation on how other issues would have been handled differently, just to make a distinction as to what was deemed severe enough for the official church discipline protocol…

          i was just wondering if there were different standards for different perceived offenses in need of official church discipline…

          you have answered my question sufficiently…

          • Good! Glad I could help. Not to psycho-analyze the situation, but I’m going to anyway…I think the pastor saw any actions not in line with protocol as personally threatening, and used his “authority”, as given by scripture, to put down anyone out of line. So yes, sexual misconduct was out of line, but so were a host of other actions.

  16. I’m having a bit of difficulty wrapping my head around the idea that “relational wisdom” in cases like this would necessarily mean not talking to anyone but his fiancee about what is going on. I’m not saying I think you’re wrong about that, just that it’s different from how I often approach things – but it’s quite possible that I’m yet another 20-something lacking wisdom, I guess.

    I’ve never been in a situation analogous to his, but I _have_ had times, in relationships, when I find myself thinking or doing or desiring something that isn’t appropriate and in those times, it’s been very helpful to turn to a third person for confession and accountability. But when I’ve done so, every single time it’s stopped there – the person I chose to talk to didn’t go and share that with anyone else. And often times that person has offered very concrete and helpful advice, and even just talking to them helped me to gain clarity and perspective.

    • I think the factor here is that in Andrew’s case his actions betrayed/hurt/sinned against his fiancee. It was their relationship that was affected, and the appropriate course was for them to work through that together to the extent possible. If this was done successfully, confession, forgiveness and reconciliation might have been worked out in such a way that there was no need to widen the circle. Additionally, my sense is that everyone here would have done better if they had slowed down and taken some time to meditated and contemplate in silence, seeking some wisdom. There’s rarely a compelling reason that everything must be dealt with as soon as possible.

    • Michael Z., you have a point. If one has a trusted, confidential relationship with a spiritual advisor or mentor, I don’t think there is anything wrong with including that person in the early stages of dealing with something like this. The key word is “confidential.”

      I’m not trying to set down rules, here, just encourage people to wisdom. And it seems to me the wise and loving course of action is to “cover” sin whenever possible — in the sense of keeping it within bounds and only sharing information with those who need to hear and/or can be part of the helping process.

  17. Thank you for this post. I do think that we should have more relational wisdom and there is a desperate need for that teaching in the church (Sounds like a good place to recommend good books; Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: Unleash the Power of Authentic Life in Christ by Peter Scazzero was really helpful in my growth). I think Stephen ministries are really helpful here; I have been apart of the one at my church and it has been a huge blessing.

    http://42lifeinbetween.blogspot.com/

  18. Have the leaders of Mars Hill even read John 8?

    Andrew appears genuinely penitent and yet the leaders tripped over themselves to grab and hurl the first stone.

    Is there any discussion among the church leadership of sin, confession, repentance and forgiveness on their own part? Their sin looks far greater than Andrew’s.

    • Maybe, they should also read in Paul’s letters to the Corinthians where he instructs the church on how to deal with a man who was having a sexual affair with his own stepmother and was apparently unrepentant about it.
      I’m assuming that by the time Paul addresses it in his first letter, the man had already been confronted by the leaders of the Corinthian church but was still persisting in the sexual relationship. Paul initially tells the church to shun the man and “turn him over to Satan.” But latter in his second letter, we see Paul asking the church to accept this man — who had discovered repentance in the meantime — back into their fellowship.
      The interesting part is that, even with sin issues as serious and extreme as this man’s, Paul does not give any conditions or list any hoops that this man has to jump through. He is simply to be forgiven and restored as a full member of their church family.
      I’d really like to hear the Mars Hill leaders explain how they justify being more harsh on a young man who willingly confessed his sins than the Apostle Paul was on a willful sexual deviant.
      While the church should be uncompromising when it comes to the seriousness of sin, love and mercy have to prevail at the end of the day. And if love and mercy does not abound more than judgement within the church and among its members, then how can we honestly call ourselves ambassadors of Christ and His gospel.

      • Also, Paul is railing against the church leaders in Corinth for NOT dealing with the man’s sin. You are right that once the man confessed everybody could move on.

        In Mars Hill’s case, it’s not a problem that the church leaders dealt with it but HOW they dealt with it. Matthew 18 is the good model for discipline and John 8 for repentance and forgiveness—and for telling the church leaders when to get over it.

  19. Randy Windborne says:

    Poor Andrew’s first mistake was dating, then bedding, an elder’s daughter.

    I enjoyed reading the articles re: Andrew’s plight, and the comments here are enlightening.

    Having buttered you up, let me ask … Is it possible a root cause of this problem is the church itself? And by that I mean the *existence* of the church as a religious organization with clergy, staff, structure, internal rules and church laws, sacraments, traditions, dogma and doctrines, holy days, festivals, etc. ad nauseam.

    Is it possible that when the Holy Spirit fell on the gentile house of Cornelius, Messiah did not intend for us to develop parallel gentile religious façades, but instead was offering us his unconditional presence?

    • The Previous Dan says:

      I don’t think the problem is the existence of the church itself. Look back and you will find that your question has been brought up periodically down through church history. What happens is that the old forms get abandoned but then these new groups of people realize that it is impossible to function as a group without some form of organization. And then whatever organization they set up eventually gets codified and develops traditions, etc. Someone else comes along and asks the question again. The old forms get abandoned… on and on. We need some form of organization, and the Bible even has positive things to say about traditions (alongside some negative things). So I guess the secret is to meet God within those organizations and traditions instead of letting them get in the way.

      • Randy Windborne says:

        Dan wrote, “…it is impossible to function as a group without some form of organization.”

        Are we supposed to function as an organization? All the great stories of scripture of those of individuals, not organizations: Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Deborah, Ruth, David, Elijah, Jesus, Peter, Paul, John.

        I liked the way you put it, Dan: “What happens is that the old forms get abandoned but then these new groups of people realize that it is impossible to function as a group without some form of organization. And then whatever organization they set up eventually gets codified and develops traditions, etc. Someone else comes along and asks the question again. The old forms get abandoned… on and on.”

        Sounds like the definition of insanity – doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result.

    • Ben Masters says:

      The way I read this is, a lot of churches (like this Mars Hill, for instance) say (or seem to say) that not only must you follow God’s rules, you must follow their rules as well (or, put for short, their rules are also God’s rules). Take the subject of television, for instance: sure, there are excessively violent/excessively sexual things on it, and I as a matter of principle choose to avoid such things. Some churches, however, take it to an unhealthy extreme by playing the “appearance of evil” card WRT that, meaning that in order to keep from sexually sinning, we must be “culture warriors” and speak out against all culture, not just the sexual/violent parts. In other words, in order to be truly saved, you have to stay completely sheltered from the world and be under their “discipline” and “leadership,” lest Satan drag you away. Here’s some of what they say, broken down:

      –Because some television is sinful, all of it by extension (past and present) is sinful/must be avoided.
      –Because some games are violent, all games by extension are sinful and to be avoided.
      –Because some music is “Satanic,” every bit of popular/secular music is also sinful and to be avoided.
      –Bibles that are not 1611 KJV English are written by worldly men, and as such, the only way to stay out of the world is to stay in 1611 KJV English and away from “per-versions.”

      …ipso facto, QED.

      Look what happened when Janet Jackson had that “wardrobe malfunction.” It only happened for a split second, and CBS went to a wide shot afterward. That wasn’t enough for some conservatives; the so-called “Parents” Television Council put CBS under intense fire for even allowing it to happen, let alone that it wasn’t for even a second. The way I read it, they wanted CBS to pay dearly for what happened. Somehow, based on this, I think that the PTC is not really worried about what children look at, but rather policing what adults look at, as if what adults look at can harm children who don’t even look at it (or aren’t supposed to). That, in my view, paints them not really as concerned parents, but as “Puritans” (in the worst sense of the word).

      Is all of this correct with regard to what I’ve read here?

  20. There’s one other point of concern in this entire discipline discssion. Must disciple be without grace? Can you imagine what would have happened if Andrew was shown grace by his finaice, and they both worked out their issues? Could you imagine how Mars Hill could have re-inforced that grace and in the end all parties come out on top and I think faith really would have shown.

  21. Chaplain Mike,

    You show a great deal of wisdom in your piece today. Thank you very much.

    I am only in my twenties, and so I need a lot more of that relational wisdom than most people. As a youngster growing up in evangelical churches, I think that a certain shame factor was introduced to certain sins, particularly those of a sexual nature that made it hard for me later in life.

    Many of my good evangelical friends confessed to me later on in their lives that they had sinned sexually. At first I was very shocked and it caused me to doubt my faith, though I certainly didn’t want to make it public. As time went on, thanks to God’s grace, I’ve learned to accept that these things happen, and there’s nothing I can really do about it except listen to the person, let them know that they’re forgiven, and not blab about it.

    It’s good to know there are other people here at Internet Monk who’ve come to the same conclusions.

    • Ben:

      Some of us in our 50s relate to Peter, we have only learned because of the repeated behaviour of opening our mouths to change feet!

  22. Jerry Goodman says:

    Sounds as if the days of Martin Luther have returned in the very legaistic and graceless humanistic church. Sounds like a place where God isn’t allowed to enter in. Very grieving to The Holy Spirit. Perhaps a spirit of repentance and cleansing might prevail to be reconciled I pray. This reminds me of same attitudes and brings a check within for myself as a Christ-follower. Blessings

  23. Good synthesis Chaplain Mike.

    The whole situation is troubling, but it is the right thing to do to think of a better way. And it needs to be realistic. We are not going to change human behaviour, often I can’t change my own, never mind others! It has to be the grace of God working in me.

    So knowing this, can we think of a better way to handle situations like this one.

    Given human fallibility and our own inability at times to respond correctly, maybe we should not hesitate in churches to recommend someone see a counsellor from outside the congregation who may not be as wrapped up in things.

    For those of us in ministry this could serve as a clue as to a better way.

  24. I recently received this facebook message from a pastor friend of mine. I’ll let it speak for itself concerning this topic:

    “Please pray for our church this evening at 6:30pm Central Time. Myself and 2 of the leaders need to confront a church member about her destructive behavior. Please pray that God would help us to invite her, in grace and respect, to leave behind her anger and bitterness. Please pray that we would see ourselves as Bridgebuilders across a chasm rather than judges sent to punish. Pray that the Holy Spirit would fill up all of us and in the unity of His presence, may we find healing and restoration for one who is lost right now. And that we wouldn’t be arrogant or speak from a position of superiority, but rather listen from a position of humility. Thanks!”

    • Yikes!!! Glad its hundreds of miles away form me 8-O For me the telling part is “please pray that we won’t be arrogant…”

    • The pastor’s wife at my old church (who often taught bible study) would often lament about bitter and angry people in the church.

      It never seemed like she ever tried to understand, why these people were bitter or angry. In her mind, the reason why they were bitter and angry is because they weren’t interested in walking the narrow road, didn’t want to carry their cross, or because they refused correction. It never occurred to her that the reason for the bitterness and anger, was because these people felt hurt, abused and betrayed.

      As a parent, its interesting to me that there is so much literature on how we should discipline our children. As a parent, I find myself worried less about discipline and more often I ask myself, “How can I love my children.”

      I wish churches were likewise more interested in loving.

  25. I have probably mentioned this book before, but I’ll mention it again now. “The Love That Keeps Us Sane”, about the life of Therese of Lisieux. One of the main themes of this book is Therese’s belief that certain things should be only kept between God and the individiual. That the more a person talked about their issues, the more peace of mind was destroyed because they were constantly relating something of a very personal nature to people who probably weren’t in a place to understand all that was going on. So Therese was a strict advocate of keeping one’s own business to onself, especially in the spiritual realm. Because not everyone, even in the church, may be able to handle the things God is telling you.

    Of course, sometimes things need to be shared, and I’m sure even Therese would acknowledge that. But it should be handled as privately as possible, without getting the entire community involved except as absolutely necessary.

  26. The problem with small groups is that spiritual formation is delegated to those untrained in ministry. I don’t know what training is offered at the church in question, but typically small group leadership training is pretty weak. Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship offered weekend training classes in small group leadership, but even then such issues as this were not addressed. The small group leaders don’t know what they don’t know, and neither do the members. Everyone is essentially winging it.

    • Very well said, sir ox. It’s foolishness to expect a system, any system, to do for a person what only wisdom will do. I’m a firm believer in the small group system, but you can’t get meat from the dairy truck. If your situation calls for increasing levels of relational maturity , you’d better go find it: being told “your community group is the place to x, y, and z….” may not cut it (depending on who’s in the group, their growth in th LORD, etc ).

      My take on Mars Hill is that they seem to be very system driven, and don’t trust themselves as individuals to make the tougher “audibles” at the ground level. They played this one ‘by the book’, when they should have applied wisdom specific to this guy, this relationship, this situation. That would presuppose that the leadership could sit still for people thinking outside of the “normal protocol” , and not assume ill of anyone’s motive or that authority had been negated.

      GregR

      • It’s rivivalism 101: anyone with a Bible and the Holy Spirit can be a minister. Formal pastoral training is viewed with suspicion, i.e. “carnal”, “worldly”.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          “He got NO Book Larnin, and He Is LOUD!”
          – comment about “the highest complement you can pay a Mountain Pastor”, prob somewhere on this blog about Western Kentucky mountain churches

      • “They played this one ‘by the book’, when they should have applied wisdom specific to this guy, this relationship, this situation.”

        Help desk spirituality?

  27. Thank you for this wise and insightful post. Another aspect of the types of dysfunction being described is that it tears down people’s basic dignity as human beings created in the image of God.

    One of my brothers is a trained mediator and one of the things I love about the way mediations are handled is that grace, forgiveness and reconciliation are always the foremost goal, and when these occur people’s wholeness and beauty as creations in God’s image is not only retained, but it shines. He is a deeply committed Christian who sees this as a way to serve God and further the kingdom. I wish there were more churches that took this approach and set this kind of tone.

  28. sarahmorgan says:

    This is a really wonderful post, over necessary topics that never seem to get discussed. Thanks for putting it together. Just a few thoughts:

    In my experience, many Christians pour out their problems inappropriately to other people because they don’t know how to share them with God. Whether or not this has to do with a faulty understanding of God, or even whether or not they actually believe in Him and His power, love, attentiveness, and capacity for forgiveness (I’ve known quite a few church people who talk about God & Jesus all the time, but their lives and behaviors make it pretty clear that they either don’t believe in Him at all, or at the least, don’t think He has any power whatsoever in their lives), I don’t know. But it’s a major failing of churches today, one that holding a yearly generic sermon series on “Prayer” isn’t going to fix it.

    Also, it amazes me how few Christians today know how to say “I’m sorry” and how even less know how to say “I forgive you.” They will go through great lengths to avoid either phrase, and are unaware of the power in both. It’s bad enough where I live that I wonder if the congregations would benefit from being made to participate in those little teaching skits (like the ones for how to say no to drugs, unwanted advances, etc) where that they can practice saying those phrases to another person, out loud, face-to-face.

  29. SottoVoce says:

    I propose that this incident is a result of “small group” culture.

    Let me give a little background. When I was in college, I was involved in a fellowship group that included small group interactions with a number of other students from my school. We listened to a message and then got together with our other group members (no more than eight people per group) to discuss it, talk about what was going on in our lives, and pray. My time here was one of the high points of my spiritual journey. It was the first time I felt truly free to discuss my faith and questions about it in a safe atmosphere. We talked about some highly personal stuff, but it never got out of hand and everyone in my group became incredibly close.
    I think that there are a couple of reasons why this small group worked.
    1. My group members and I were already friends when we started. We understood each other and we already had the kind of trust that allowed this kind of spiritual relationship to work well.
    2. All the students in this group lived in community. We were at a small campus in a small town with little to do outside of college activities, and as a result the campus was incredibly tight-knit. We had classes together, ate our meals together, hung out in dorm rooms late at night, and had opportunities to get to know each other that are very hard to come by in the “real world.”

    This community was one of the things I missed the most when I left college and moved to Seattle. One of the reasons I started attending Mars Hill was that they strongly emphasized small group participation and I had found so much joy and deepening of my faith through my college group that I wanted it to continue. However, when I attended a group, I realized that there was going to be a huge snag right from the beginning. I did not know these people. I would never see them outside of group meetings (kind of hard to meet up with people when the Sunday service has an attendance of 3,000). I would have to arrange to see them on my own time to build any kind of real friendship, which would be difficult since I was in grad school and worked long hours. We had no understanding, no trust, and very limited opportunity to pursue the kind of community that had fueled my college group. And yet I was expected to share my spiritual journey, one of the most private and personal pieces of my life, with them and submit to the leader of the group if I joined it, who again was a complete stranger to me. How was I to know if he was a good leader for me to follow? (Note: at the time I attended, MH required small group participation and an interview with the small group leader in order to reach full membership. These leaders thus have a lot of power and I was not inclined to give a person I didn’t know or trust that kind of authority over me.) The idea of breaking the congregation into small groups is not specific to Mars Hill either; my parents’ church, a typical Nazarene semi-megachurch, divvied up the congregation into groups based on place of residence and encouraged attendance, though it wasn’t required. It seems to be the megachurch answer to the lack of community in such large congregations.
    I think the problem that we see here is that the church, in taking over the formation of small groups, is trying to force community and intimacy among its people, which is impossible. Intimacy and trust simply cannot be coerced. I would not say that deep “confessions” were actively sought out by the groups that I have attended, but there is a kind of unspoken pressure in that environment to unburden yourself of anything and everything, because sharing secrets can foster intimacy in the right environment (not to mention it gets you attention). Unfortunately, in the wrong environment, it can lead to power trips, emotional blackmailing, and escalated incidents like Andrew’s story. I don’t know how his group leader ran things, but it’s pretty easy to convince young people looking for something “authentic” and “real” that they need to be honest to the point of oversharing in order to have real spiritual fellowship. (I believe it is a natural outgrowth of the blatant emotional manipulation that is frequently employed in youth groups to get young people to open up and act spiritual.) “We’re your friends and your mentors, you should let us help you.” Except that in these situations, your “friendship” was systematically manufactured for you by a bureaucracy and all but forced upon you instead of developing through shared experience and fellowship. In an ideal world, all the people of the church would be able to have this kind of fellowship with one another–but this is a fallen world and I’m afraid the people who started this small group movement have forgotten that.
    My thoughts on small groups now are somewhat ambiguous. I’m not sure that the type of community that led to my successful group can ever be found outside the unique environment of a college campus. I think that the church can facilitate small groups by offering support for people who want to form one, but that they should be encouraged to form naturally by people who want to journey together.

    • I think you can have a community like that, but it takes a lot of work.
      People have to be intentional about it and invest the time needed to make it work. Once a week during church won’t cut it.

      It means hanging out together, doing projects, creating a safe place. We did it once with a group. The group was really hand picked by the leader. Most had been believers for 25+ years. All were leadership material and were mature believers. So we went in with eyes open. The youngest person was in their late 30s or early 40s. All of us married ones had kids.

      In the end, struggling to learn together and love was time consuming and not for the faint of heart. Many people would not do it. Learning to exercise self-disclosure was hard.
      We had people who came along for awhile and left for whatever reason. What they all had in common was an unwillingness to go beneath the surface, probably because it was too hard, or perhaps past experiences.

      It was one of the richest times of my life, and to some degree surpassed the great community I had in my 20s.

      I don’t know now. 2 rich communities in one lifetime. I am hoping I have not reached my limit.

    • some good observations…

      i am a much older & hopefully wiser gent. i have observed the somewhat cavalier attitude toward openness within the internet social networking venues…

      and this trend carries over to being ‘plugged-in’ constantly thru cell phone technology & group broadcast options. i marvel at my oldest son’s interaction with his friends that is a constant thing even when he & i would be eating a meal together somewhere. their need to be in communication a constant part of their world…

      when it becomes so common to be open & transparent with your peer group & navigating thru any bumps or hiccups in such a manner of interaction with others, i can see how it might translate into a church setting that focuses on youth & how to get them connected…

      the negative thing about such an arrangement is now the issue of a ‘leader’, often a peer aged one, that now has the authority to put the kibosh on certain behaviors and/or insist on personal intrusion beyond the simple friend status all under the guise of spiritual oversight…

      suddenly a new situation is encountered where there is no group concensus on perceived ‘bad’ behaviors, only a single standard now, & the one that wields the authority is off-limits to group confrontation when something does seem right/appropriate.

      thanx for your input…

      • “…when something DOESN’T seem right/appropriate.”

        dang. where is that edit feature when you need one… ;)

    • Wenatchee The Hatchet says:

      SotteVoce, you nailed it on people trying to manufacture intimacy and friendship. A lot of people are so eager to get to the “heavy, deep and real” they don’t realize that the heavy, deep and real won’t happen without a whole lot of light, shallow and fun leading up to those moments.

    • “I think the problem that we see here is that the church, in taking over the formation of small groups, is trying to force community and intimacy among its people, which is impossible.”

  30. For those of us slightly older, we don’t understand Andrew because we didn’t come of age during the social media, reality TV, evangelical L.I.F.E group world. To those in that group, to throw out indiscretions in this manner is perfectly normal.

    Of all that happened with this series of events, the most telling was when the church used its social media site to publish sordid details to 5000+ members in order to try to implement a literal interpretation of discipline as described in Paul’s letters. To apply Paul’s writings to a social media site is one of my biggest problems with all of this.

  31. Small groups are a cult within a cult. Talk is so effete. The main reason I never joined any small groups.

    Talking about sex when you are married is creepy. That stuff is private.

    Talking about your problems doesn’t create an answer. It just creates more unanswerable questions. Keep it to yourself.

    I live in Seattle. I wouldn’t attend those churches. Run from those churches. Run.

    Celebrity preachers are stupid. They live in big houses. Fine linens. Nice new cars. Lot’s of books. None food stamp food. All paid for by you. Sucker.

  32. Here is the dilemma.

    Without being connected in a meaningful way in a Christian community you probably have very little chance at spiritual growth.
    Whether we like it or not, the New Testament points out that no person is an island. God is saving and perfecting a people. That means together!

    This means self disclosure. One of the reasons church can be meaningless as far as making a difference in peoples lives is that we can easily scrape by on the surface without any real transformation taking place.

    Perhaps not enough attention is paid to this by leaders. In some sense, small group leaders are really pastors/counsellors. We may say no, they are not, but defacto they are. Because stuff comes out in small groups!

    • My brother in law is in his final year of training as a psycho therapist. He is also a full time pastor. After several years of ministry he concluded that his people really needed him to be a counsellor as well as a pastor – something that he felt ill equipped to do properly hence his formal training now.
      I do think a Christian community is essential to grow as a believer. Personally I’m generally very Christ like until I have to live with other people – they really mess me up :) !

    • I agree no one is an island and we should all be endeavoring to find a church where we can be nourished and supported, but you cannot just manufacture Christian intimacy through following a church-in-a-box instruction manual. It happens naturally by joining together and sharing little by little with those with whom you feel comfortable. And as always, leaders do determine the attitude of their members.

      I was in a church of about 150 that was just starting down this road of quiet coercion , cold shoulders, back door deals, underhanded approaches, manipulation… I got church disciplined out for standing up to the pastor. I can only imagine once millions of dollars are at stake how much harder it would be to make any impact on this corrupt system.

      The sad thing is, it’s become the norm, because of people like Rick Warren and Dan Southerland publishing books that tell you how to get rid of resisters and create your own purpose driven church. (Read Dan Southerland’s Transitioning:Leading your congregation through change or watch the seminar online at http://www.excellerators.org/artman/publish/article_49.shtml)

      It may sound not too bad in many parts, but put yourself in the position of someone with legitimate objections– and see how he tells pastors how to tell who HAS legitimate objections. He doesn’t. It’s up to the pastor to decide if your objections are worth bothering about.

      It took me about a year to stop seeing ghosts behind every chair/pew in every church we attended after that. But finally we found one. It’s a half hour drive one way now (where our previous one was a mile away), but we gladly go. I look forward to the people and wish I could be more involved. People are open about the disagreements that have happened in the past. I can ask what the issue was, and how they handled it openly and caringly. Sometimes they had to part ways but they did it sadly and non-threateningly.

      We’ve had to remove a church chair for infidelity. He has been back for funerals and other things and people are always happy to see him even though he hasn’t repented. I love my pastor. Even though I’m still terrified to approach anyone about an issue, due to my own emotional baggage, my husband has stepped up to the plate more often here than he ever did at the old church on those things. And I’ve always been treated with understanding even if the outcome is not exactly what I want.

      We still haven’t joined, though it’s been 6 years. We explained why, we explained our previous situation at the old church. The pastor has been very understanding and my husband has taught several Sunday School classes (he is very good too!). I currently can’t imagine being anywhere else. What I went through at the other church has taught me so much>

      But I do fear for our current denomination. There are so many young pastors enamored with people like Mark Driscoll, Steven Furtick, Perry Noble, even though their methodology and doctrine is so incompatible with good reformational (in our case Free Lutheran – AFLC) theology. They simply don’t see the danger.

  33. Randy Windborne says:

    I love happy endings … and this tale had the trifecta:

    Andrew (1) saw the man behind the curtain, (2) evaded the Wicked Witch and (3) escaped Oz with his freedom intact!

    Another miracle … reasonably priced.

    I was wrong. Church has a valid function in the believer’s life after all.

    Go Andrew!

  34. Randy Windborne says:

    After 104 comments, I thought we could use some examples of forgiveness and restoration the way Messiah did it, just for the purposes of comparison:

    #1: One day when Yeshua was teaching, there were P’rushim and Torah-teachers present who had come from various villages in the Galil and Y’hudah, also from Yerushalayim; and the power of ADONAI was with him to heal the sick. Some men came carrying a paralyzed man lying on a bed. They wanted to bring him inside and lay him in front of Yeshua, but they couldn’t find a way to get him in because of the crowd. So they went up onto the roof and lowered him on his mattress through the tiles into the middle of the gathering, right in front of Yeshua. When Yeshua saw their trust, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.”

    The Torah-teachers and the P’rushim began thinking, “Who is this fellow that speaks such blasphemies? Who can forgive sin except God?” But Yeshua, knowing what they were think ing, answered, “Why are you turning over such thoughts in your hearts? Which is easier to say? `Your sins are forgiven you’? or `Get up and walk’? But look! I will prove to you that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” He then said to the paralytic, “I say to you: get up, pick up your mattress and go home!” Immediately, in front of everyone, he stood up, picked up what he had been lying on, and went home praising God. Amazement seized them all, and they made a b’rakhah to God; they were awestruck, saying, “We have seen extraordinary things today.”

    #2: One of the P’rushim invited Yeshua to eat with him, and he went into the home of the Parush and took his place at the table. A woman who lived in that town, a sinner, who was aware that he was eating in the home of the Parush, brought an alabaster box of very expensive perfume, stood behind Yeshua at his feet and wept until her tears began to wet his feet. Then she wiped his feet with her own hair, kissed his feet and poured the perfume on them. When the Parush who had invited him saw what was going on, he said to himself, “If this man were really a prophet, he would have known who is touching him and what sort of woman she is, that she is a sinner.”

    Yeshua answered, “Shim`on, I have something to say to you.” “Say it, Rabbi,” he replied. “A certain creditor had two debtors; the one owed ten times as much as the other. When they were unable to pay him back, he canceled both their debts. Now which of them will love him more?” Shim`on answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.” “Your judgment is right,” Yeshua said to him.

    Then, turning to the woman, he said to Shim`on, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house — you didn’t give me water for my feet, but this woman has washed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair! You didn’t give me a kiss; but from the time I arrived, this woman has not stopped kissing my feet! You didn’t put oil on my head, but this woman poured perfume on my feet! Because of this, I tell you that her sins — which are many! — have been forgiven, because she loved much. But someone who has been forgiven only a little loves only a little.” Then he said to her, “Your sins have been forgiven.”

    At this, those eating with him began saying among themselves, “Who is this fellow that presumes to forgive sins?” But he said to the woman, “Your trust has saved you; go in peace.”

    • So, how do we practice Jesus-shaped forgiveness in God’s family today? One regular practice I commended in the first post is that of confession and absolution, in which those ordained of God represent Christ in receiving those who present themselves to him in penitence and trust and declaring them forgiven through Christ’s finished work. This is done in corporate worship and in personal confession. As a Christian who practices his faith in the Lutheran tradition, I have so far come to appreciate the corporate aspect and hope to see the personal practice revived in local congregations everywhere.

      • IMHO, Chaplain Mike, you’re over-analyzing this. Jesus didn’t require confession – he perceived the heart. His release was so powerful that it healed the body and delivered to the innermost being.

        When we forgive the way Jesus did, demons flee, bonds shatter, addictions dissolve, diseases perish, and above all religions collapse.

        • Thanks for your perspective, but I disagree. Though words of confession are not always reported, his healing/forgiving is reported to have been given to those who came to him, and in most cases it is clear that they came in penitence. And even if Jesus could read the heart and didn’t need to hear words of confession, his apostles called for them: see 1Jn 1:9, James 5, among other places. In fact, 1John 1:9 assumes this is what Christians do, as opposed to the gnostic “Christians” he is writing against who say, “We have no sin” (1:8). Furthermore, this is the “Office of the Keys” that Jesus himself entrusted to the apostles and those who follow in their ministry of Word and Sacrament (Matt 16:19).

  35. Now that I think about, many of the people I have felt I needed to confess to (not because I offended them personally, but because something was eating at me, and I needed to share it) are *not* members of my immediate church. They are long time friends and many of them are in different states from me.

    I have never thought about, but maybe that has spared me a lot of trouble. Maybe it’s wise to have people you confess people be different from the people you are otherwise involved with.

    Then again, that might make the community less “authentic.” Hard to say..

  36. No normal church would do this. Chaplain Mike, you’re a Lutheran, right? I’ve never heard of Lutherans behaving this way. Or Methodists, or Presbyterians, or Episcopalians…maybe some of the Baptists, they’re congregationally governed so anything can happen. Anyway, where do you dig up all these weirdos? What bizarro subculture do you have to hang out in for this to be an issue? Christian bookstores…?

    As far as I know, most Protestants get along fine without any confession at all, except formally as part of the service. Catholics and some Protestants have one-on-one confession with a priest who can be relied upon to keep his damn mouth shut. This “tell everybody what base you got to with your girlfriend” thing is a sign of a cult. For that matter, “church discipline” is a sign of a cult. What qualifications can they possibly have to evaluate your spiritual condition?

  37. You also have to consider his background. He was home-schooled and came right of another fundamentalist church. So saying that he needs wisdom in how to deal with people is nice, but where was he supposed to get it? He was probably conditioned to think that he can never be good on his own and can never solve problems on his own. That he is dependent on God/Jesus for everything and of course dependent on his church. Sharing his dilemma with the group was probably a programmed response. It’s how these churches control people. Having their followers think for themselves and deal with their problems on their own is not in their best interest. It makes them too independent.

  38. I’m reminded of Alcoholics Anonymous (and other 12 step groups) as a model of how church small groups might work. I believe that mentors are chosen because their relational wisdom through maturity is well known as a result of working the program successfully (and probably enduring some setbacks). “Sins” are covered because everyone in the group considers themselves a “sinner” and has generally admitted out loud to their sinful behavior. In evangelical Christianity, I sense that hardly anyone will admit to actual sins, just to an abstract idea of being a sinner. In some sense sin is covered in evangelical Christianity by leading a sin free life for so long that sins are forgotten. I say this in the general sense, of course.

  39. Wow good feedback from everyone, I’ve been resisting pulling out my Catholic Pom Poms but I can’t resist any longer :)

    Andrew is like so many young men, full of life and lacking real wisdom, CM got it right that he handled the whole thing badly, so what?. How many of us men here at his age, were not just as (if not more) stupid in our actions?. I know I was, and I ummmm shall we say sowed my oats for a long time before I became a christian. And then like Andrew did it more selectively once I became a Christian, it’s part of our current culture, and its hard to escape (and I’m giving him a pass by the way).

    But none of that excuses the abuse that took place after he confessed, it’s all so legalistic and devoid of any grace. It stinks so badly of what the cults do that I was a bit shocked, Andrew it seemed had no one he could go to outside of Mars Hill, that’s a common tactic of most mainline cults, it gives them a tremendous amount of power over you. And as was mentioned that contract was no contract, but an invitation to slavery by a church that eisegetically read Matthew for their own purposes.

    Contrast that with the Catholic Sacrament of Reconciliation, I know beyond any doubt:

    1. That my confession is held in the utmost privacy, what is said in the confessional, stays in the confessional.
    2. That my confessor is not there to condemn me, but to help me seek absolution.
    3. That the priest who hears my confession has been educated and trained on how to properly handle my confession.
    4. That he views it as an honor, the ability to both hear and forgive the sins of other sinners (never forget priests are people who sin as well).
    5. That when I’m done, my heart feels clean and free, and I can leave my baggage and move on with my life.

    It’s not perfect, there are no perfect systems when humans are involved. But the Church has gone to incredible lengths to ensure the sanctity, privacy and mercy of the confessional. And I know that it’s a safe place to let out the ugly side of who I am, and begin to crucify my old self.

    Andrew showed he is fully human, and young. And I’m sure that in the long run he will do what so many of us have done and eventually walk away from the Circus that has become the evangelical church, who knows if he will ever return. Mars Hill like so many evangelical churches have no mechanism in place to deal with confession of sins, how could they?, they long ago abandoned the Sacraments, with no clear direction or doctrine on how confession is done, it becomes a system open to interpretation, to implement as they see fit, that’s how you get to the monster it is today.

    -Paul-

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  43. There is no way I would ever confess my sins to the pastor or elders in my church. I have been on the leadership team and have heard confidential information (that I assume were for the ears of that one person and not for the entire leadership of the church) that I felt I had NO right to hear. It was just plain wrong (in my estimation), but they didn’t seem to think anything was wrong because we were all on the leadership team.