To Scold Francis Chan
3 years ago, Mark Driscoll and Joshua Harris lightly scolded Francis Chan for willingly stepping down from his mega-church pastorate to pursue Christianity with more integrity and authenticity. It is interesting that both Driscoll and Harris have recently had to step down or back away from their public pastoral profiles over issues of integrity and authenticity. Maybe Francis should have been the one scolding them.
Recently, Driscoll’s church, Mars Hill, had material deleted from a sermon he preached on Acts 6:1-7, material that actually was quite good and agreeable. Zach Hunt of The American Jesus responded by claiming,
“But since we both confess Jesus as Lord, I think it’s only fair that I call attention to the moments when we do agree. They may be few and far between, but it seems one of those such moments came about recently…Mark Driscoll believes that Jesus may have made mistakes in his life…Though I confess I never thought I would say this, I agree with Mark Driscoll.” – Zach Hunt
This deletion, initially covered by Warren Thockmorton, is uncharacteristic of the media team at Mars Hill, which has generally been as pernicious as any other media hub in promoting controversial videos of Driscoll yelling or saying something destructive. Yet here we have them deleting something, and to my knowledge, it may be the first time. While that is not a big deal in and of itself, it does mark a shift in how Driscoll’s home crowd is now handling his media presence. Given the recent debacle surrounding his plagiarism, sketchy self-promotion and subsequent sabbatical from media, it seems likely that there is a new posture towards this mega church pastor’s public profile.
Joshua Harris on the other hand is best known for I Kissed Dating Goodbye, a book about how to date like an evangelical and stay pure and so on and so forth. I read his follow up book, Boy Meets Girl: Say Hello To Courtship, which provides guidelines for basically keeping couples from going vertical before marriage, especially if it’s in a hammock, if I remember right. I remember it being helpful for a few reasons, but as I’ve grown, I’ve come to appreciate the world less and less that men like Joshua Harris have created for their parishioners and audience. I’m frustrated that while Harris was waxing on the moralistic principles of avoiding sex before marriage (nothing wrong with the principle) he apparently may have been unaware of the principles for what to do when your staff member is sexually abusing children in your church – like going to the police immediately. There is speculation as to whether Harris knew about the details of the horrific case of sexual abuse against children in his church, but he has requested a leave of absence to sort through the mess, nonetheless.
The Ironic Interview
This interview bleeds irony the longer you listen to it. Initially, what I find astounding is when Mark Driscoll asks if Chan’s self-reflective departure has caused any “backlash, anger, betrayal”? Before Chan can answer, both Harris and Driscoll assure him, “oh it’s coming.” Chan, in turn, assures them that his problem is that he is “more messed up than he even realizes” leading him to question whether or not he should be leading a mega-church…nuff said there. Driscoll then asks him how he is going to handle becoming discontented once his departure from mega-church pastoring sets in? Francis humbly listens but insists that it is by leaving the pastorate that he is helping his church. The initial barrage of questions assuring him of the detrimental departure end leading us to the most ironic portion of the interview, beginning with Driscoll’s last question. Driscool starts at 8:30, and with the agreement of Harris, questions and implicitly scolds Francis Chan’s desire to leave a successful pulpit ministry to live simply, alongside the suffering and impoverished.
Driscoll: If your theology is based on sanctification come[ing] through simplicity, poverty and suffering, could it not be that as a church gets bigger and more complicated, it’s hard to keep it simple. As you become more successful, there’s more money and real estate and book sales…it becomes harder and suffering, if you’re not healthy…you don’t have to waste your cancer because you didn’t get cancer. You know, you’re healthy, your wife loves you, your kids are ok. It seems to me that if the primary view of sanctification comes through simplicity, suffering, poverty…if you don’t get those things, it’s almost like when God blesses, it’s hard to be sanctified. You don’t know what to do with that. You almost have to get rid of that which is complicated, make life hurt a little more, go to a third-world country, and/or adopt poverty and give it all away because you’re only allowing God to sanctify you in the preconceived ways.
Chan: No, I see what you’re saying…
Driscoll: You know, what if God wants to sanctify you through generosity not poverty, not suffering but blessing, and what if it’s not simplicity, but through complexity and that’s part of his sanctifying process? Does that make sense?
Harris: I think that’s a huge issue right now. I think it’s a huge issue in the church and I think it’s something we have to think through…
Driscoll: Cause in the Reformed world you grow through suffering, but what if it’s a good season? Do you have to find a way to suffer?
The answer to that last question by Driscoll is emphatically YES. It is especially in the “good season” that self-imposed suffering is most important because it’s the time where you have the most temptation and the most to lose by not employing self-imposed discipline (self-discipline) or choosing to the courage to be honest, even when it hurts. These are two things these two men have recently had to learn the hard way. I’m sure, that 3 years later, both Driscoll and Harris would agree. Given that both men are no longer on the council of The Gospel Coalition, maybe a re-match interview isn’t possible. But if one were to happen, I don’t even think then, Chan would scold either of them. Rather, he’d probably just invite them to simplicity, suffering and solidarity with the poor. I think like Chan, the prophet Micah might implore them with a similar triad – to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with their God.