The big news this week (in church world at least) is Mark Driscoll stepping down for 6 weeks while elders in his church review charges against him. I have read several blogs and comments. Some with the basic attitude of, “Good riddance!” Others, who defend him. In the defense comments there is one that is repeatedly stated. I will paraphrase it this way: “A lot of people came to Christ through his preaching and his church and that is what matters most.” One person even asked the question, “Isn’t leading people to Christ all that matters?” I think she meant it rhetorically.
For the rest of this article I would like to deviate from the Driscoll discussion. None of my following comments are meant to reflect on him or his ministry in any way. I want to address the comments defending him. More accurately, I want to address the attitude behind them.
There is, unfortunately, in this country the attitude that anything bigger is better. So the bigger the church, the better it is. We judge churches as being “successful” or not based on how many people attend the services. In some circles “success” is determined by how many people are baptized. As a result “successful” pastors are the ones who lead large churches. Since we worship success in this country, these pastors are treated like celebrities. Being successful becomes the goal. We develop an “end justifies the means” mentality. People buy into this mentality and then sincerely say things like, “a lot of people came to Christ through his preaching and his church and that is what matters most.”
I disagree. Rather strongly. That is not what matters most for me or any other follower of Christ. What matters most is that we as individuals become more like Jesus. That is what matters most. It doesn’t matter the size of the church a person leads or attends. What matters is that we are being redeemed into the image of Christ. I do believe that our becoming and acting more like Jesus will result in more people wanting to become followers of Jesus. But that comes as a result, not a goal.
Most pastors I know are sincere men and women who are committed to grow spiritually and wish to become more like Jesus in all they do. They don’t always lead large churches. They seldom get celebrity status. But, the people who know them are often changed and always challenged when they see what Christ is doing in them. That is the goal. That is what we need more of.
The end justifying the means has brought us the “Justin Bieber” mentality among some pastors. They think they can act however they want as long as they are getting numerical results. They are the minority, but they get most of the attention. When filling seats in buildings becomes the goal, then arrogance, meanness, questionable morality, greed and a host of other things become acceptable. Because, after all, they are bringing in the people.
Becoming more like Christ is hard. Actually it is impossible in this life. It is frustrating and we fail at it miserably. That is why filling seats in a building becomes a temptation. It is easier. God help us when we settle for so little.