September 29, 2020

Riffs: 01:10:09: “They Are Sinning Through Questioning” + The Pope Needs A Business Meeting

It seems so familiar…..a young pastor winds up with an incredibly successful megachurch. We hear all the good stories. Then the media picks up the scent of some of the stories most of us didn’t hear. True? False? Don’t make too quick a judgement because these things can surprise you, but unfortunately, there is a familiar pattern.

Success = doing stupid things and saying stupid things to those who disagree with you.

Yes, there is a tendency to think that the successful church is God’s cause, so anyone who becomes a critic, becomes an enemy. A sinner. One to be shunned.

Enter the New York Times profile of Mark Driscoll and his Mars Hill Church success story.

It’s a big article, and it will take some time to read it. You’ll learn a lot. I’ve read and listened to a lot of Driscoll the past few years. I’ve defended him from the watchblogging idiots and I’ve criticized him for his gender obsession. It all sounds like Pastor Mark to me.

And then we get to this:

In 2007, two elders protested a plan to reorganize the church that, according to critics, consolidated power in the hands of Driscoll and his closest aides. Driscoll told the congregation that he asked advice on how to handle stubborn subordinates from a “mixed martial artist and Ultimate Fighter, good guy” who attends Mars Hill. “His answer was brilliant,” Driscoll reported. “He said, ‘I break their nose.’ ” When one of the renegade elders refused to repent, the church leadership ordered members to shun him. One member complained on an online message board and instantly found his membership privileges suspended. “They are sinning through questioning,” Driscoll preached.

Like I said, you can’t be sure, but there is an all too familiar ring about this.

I’d like to get up on my box abut this, but it turns out that I already have. Many moons ago in the early days of Internet Monk, I was frequently critical of Rick Warren. I’ve taken a more sympathetic and positive route lately, but in the old days, Rick said some bone-headed things… “Never criticize what God is blessing.” That line could be translated as “If the pastor says it’s God’s will we do this, we aren’t going to listen to the critics.”

That inspired me to pen an IM essay many of you have never read, but which I feel was me at my snarky best: The Pope Needs a Business Meeting.

Go with me to the way our Baptist churches used to keep guys like Driscoll and Warren from saying things like “questioning is sinning.” The Business Meeting is a thing of beauty when applied directly to the blockhead.

READ: The Pope Needs A Business Meeting.

Then I’d like your thoughts and business meeting stories.


  1. Ky boy but not now says

    bob pinto
    “I thought once you gave money away it was no longer yours.”

    I thought that any “gift” you gave made it no longer yours. But in my 30s I discovered that my mother (and apparently a LOT of other people) don’t feel that way.

  2. Scripture clearly lays out the three basic sins of human beings in 1 John 2.16 — “the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, and the pride of life.” To put it bluntly: Sex, money, and power. We all know where evangelicalism stands on sex. The movement is ambivalent about money. And it says next to nothing about power, its temptations and corruptions.

    Without casting any personal criticism toward Driscoll, may I just suggest that anyone who is a “CEO” of an organization as large as these megachurches, who puts his image up on giant screens before thousands of people week after week and boldly expects people to take his words as the Word of God, must have a pretty big ego that might be prone to the temptations and corruptions that such power brings?

    Abuse of power may be the most harmful and least recognized of all sins. We need much more teaching about this.

  3. I always remember the follwoing when reading news articles in the main stream press:

    1. Most journliasts are full of it, and will print utter nonsense if it makes them money.

    I’m no fan of Driscoll, but I’m even less a fan of the media.

  4. Individual Quaker meetings have buisness meetings EVERY month – which is why they’re called monthly meetings. Not because they only have worship once a month, but because we have buisness meetings once a month. Once a year is not enough to handle the issues that can arise within a body over the course of the year. It makes for a very long day when we have monthly meeting, but we tend to get a lot of potential problems resolved at them.

  5. Oh and the other thing is that Quakers require 100% unity to act on something. There is no majority rules. It’s 100% or it gets shelved until next time, and frequently a better option will present itself while everyone is praying about the situation.

  6. As a member of a Saddleback clone church in the Kansas City area for the past 6 years or so, I frequently hear the “Don’t criticize what God is blessing” sentiment being relayed to the congregation through various means.

    Taken at face value, the statement itself is true. If God blesses (in other words, honors) something, who are we to criticize it. The nagging, burning question that I am always trying to get an answer to but have yet to find is this: What is the evidence that God is blessing what we are doing?

    In the past couple of years I have been tremendously encouraged by the areas of focus our church has taken – supporting the fatherless and the widows in our community and around the world with labor, finances, prayer, etc. I have seen in this church more than any other that I have ever been in a sincere desire to care for and love real people, not just in theory. That is what keeps me here.

    But there is always a driving undercurrent of church growth (not church planting) that has put me at odds with the leadership. Leadership is always looking for new sites in the metro area to start new campuses where people can come watch our pastor on a video screen and form some semblance of community. This is the path that has been chosen. And it is not to be questioned. Why? Because every campus that has opened has brought more professions of faith. And if one more person comes to faith in Christ, God has blessed the endeavor.

    I’m finally coming to realize that this is the evangelical mindset – it’s not unique to my church. The great commission speaks to making disciples, but we skip right to the baptism part and determine that the more professions of faith, the more baptisms we see in the confines of our church, the more evidence that God is blessing what we are doing. Therefore, we must proceed full speed ahead with expansion rather than camping out for awhile where we are and working more on that discipleship stuff.

    I find the logic being employed highly flawed, but I find myself distinctly in the minority.

    I would suspect if you ask Rick Warren or any other evangelical leader what the evidence of blessing is, he would say “People coming to Christ.” If that answer is complete enough for you than I would say that the statement not to criticize what God is blessing is spot on. If there is more to God’s blessing than witnessing someone claim to be His follower, then I think the statement breaks down. We have to have a common understanding of blessing in order to even initiate the conversation.

  7. kcillini77: great comment and so true.

  8. Richard Hershberger says

    “I thought that any “gift” you gave made it no longer yours. But in my 30s I discovered that my mother (and apparently a LOT of other people) don’t feel that way.”

    On a more serious note, gifts to churches and other charitable organizations are often made for a specific purpose. If I am told that the church needs a new roof and I give money for that purpose, I have cause to be upset if my gift is instead used for something else. It will give me pause the next time I am told of some need. If it turns out the roofing estimate was high and they raised more money than was needed, there are good options. They all involve either returning the unused money or asking permission to use it some other way.

  9. Jeremiah Lawson says

    Yep, what RIchard said, and this reminds me of horror stories of giving sacrificially to churches to fund building projects that had huge cost over-runs and never panned out to be what the pastors announced publicly during capital campaign/building fund launches.

    Per Chaplain Mike, I agree that evangelicals draw lines in the sand about sex (and I don’t think they shouldn’t) while tending to ignore the abuse of power or money. The scandal about that “should” be that the abuse of power and money is just as bad as a sexual scandal but is less likely to be considered bad by evangelicals. JEsus lambasted the Pharisees quite a bit but it wasn’t usually about their attitudes about sexual mores but about their approach to power and money, they love both too much, more or less. Evangelicals are probably more apt to be Pharisees than the mainliner Protestants who (at the risk of making a broad generalization) seem to have been more tempted to be Sadducees if you get my meaning.

  10. Why is it that ANY criticism of a ministry constitutes criticism of the whole ministry. I believe that Driscoll is doing some good. He is dealing with some issues that are side stepped by other Evangelical pastors. However, he seems to have control issues. As with several others I am uncomfortable with “They are sinning through questioning,”

    Is it possible that God is working through part of the ministry,but the ministry might still have other issues?

  11. Ky Boy but not now says

    “Why is it that ANY criticism of a ministry constitutes criticism of the whole ministry. … As with several others I am uncomfortable with “They are sinning through questioning,” ”

    This attitude and the results of it are why 5 to 10 families, maybe more just left a church.

  12. Chad Winters says

    @ kcillini77:
    Oh my!! I think we go to the same church!! (did you have giant T-shirts on stage for your last sermon?) *not as bad as it sounds* 🙂

  13. Chad Winters: No, no t-shirts this week. That series is probably a couple weeks away 🙂

  14. Bob Sacamento says


    After that was the budget portion of the meeting with the obligatory congregant-who-questions-every-cent in attendance. She might not have been to services in six months but there was no way she’d miss that meeting!

    Oh my gosh, I could tell you some stories ….

  15. Not that there’s probably any way to ever make it work, but it might be interesting if, at the outset, the leaders could say:

    “If you are a “member” but you have not actually contributed anything financially since our last business meeting, you have no right to say anything about the way we spend our money now.”

    It would be interesting to see how many faces turn red…

  16. Favorite Driscoll quote of the whole firing the two elders deal: “Shut up and do as you ‘re told.” (

    Favorite line from the NY Times article: “Driscoll’s New Calvinism underscores a curious fact: the doctrine of total human depravity has always had a funny way of emboldening, rather than humbling, its adherents.”

    Ouch on both counts.

  17. It unfortunate, because there are a lot of folks out there confusing grace with entitlement. God doesn’t owe us a plugged nickel – not even the “elect”. I think both Calvin and Luther understood that. We can boldly approach the throne of Grace because of Christ, but boldness and arrogance are two completely different things. This is another way to fall into the faith-prosperity heresey without even trying. As the psalmist wrote, it is good to remember that we are dust.

  18. iMonk: “unfortunately, there is a familiar pattern.”

    Apparently so:

  19. Ky boy but not now says

    For those who’ve never been to a true SBC business meeting here’s a link that will give you a taste of how some of the discussions can go.
    A minute and a half of Jerry Clower.

  20. Ky boy but not now says

    Sorry about that. You want to pick the one about the “New Chandelier”.

  21. victorious says

    IMO,Driscoll pretty much rationalized away his treatment of fellow laborers, rebuffed rebukes and tried to justify his leadership reorg designed to gain power amongst and over men in setting aside the previous structure that was in place for a team to exercise God delegated authority to benefit the body.

    Mark loves the limelight so God has met Mark in that venue via the NYT bringing up the issue that God still has with Mark.

  22. Michael Krahn: “If memory of the period in question serves correctly, the context of that quote is that the guys in question disagreed with something, were given adequate time and occasion to air their grievances, but there was little support for their perspective.”

    And we are to take your memory as more credible than Molly Worthen’s well-researched article in the NYT?

    BTW: Your memory does not serve you correctly.