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On accountability in church leadership: don't leave your common sense at the door!

posted by Susan Dominikovich on , , , , , ,

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Since reading about some of the controversy that has plagued Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church recently, I have had a question gnawing at me and it won't let go.  I have asked this question before, in my own context of small church hurt.  This is so much bigger; yet the question is still the same.

How can people be so blind to the truth?  How can they carry on believing?  Why do they just accept the status quo?

In my local case, I know some of why the people keep believing.  They weren't told the truth and still aren't and it will be the Holy Spirit's job to present the truth to them as He did to me and to others.  Unlike the people speaking publicly about Mars Hill, I deliberately made a choice not to expose anyone or anything.  I put away my soap box.  I did not present the evidence I had in my possession.  I walked away and never looked back.  And I am okay with that, even seeing and admiring so many brave people who are speaking out about Mars Hill.  The difference is that Mars Hill is global and therefore has huge potential for influence--good or bad.  My local church...not so much.  I do not fear that the lies, control and manipulation going on locally will be much of a threat to evangelical Christianity although, yes, more people will be hurt.  As I am sure they already have.

There are a lot of issues surrounding Mark Driscoll's and Mars Hill's credibility.  There is only one that I will address here and to me it is the crux.  It's the clincher.  It's the thing that requires common sense to say:  "Get out!  Run for your lives!  Head for the hills and duck for cover!"

In a word:  accountability.  The Executive Elders refuse to disclose their salaries to the congregations of Mars Hill.

Now to me in my black and white world, that non-disclosure says a whole lot.  And the fact that Dalton Roraback was forced out of leadership shortly afterwards for asking the question, says a whole lot more.  Common sense says there must be a reason, something hiding in that non-disclosure.  Common sense says, stop believing. Stop following.  Get out.

And yet, there are many many many people across the United States still donating money to Mars Hill and believing in the institution.  

It's complicated I know that.  I am too black and white and coming from a very limited perspective.  I know that.

I also know that if it were their government spending their tax dollars, pretty much every American citizen would agree that it is their right to know how much their leaders and politicians are being paid.  If that information were not available, cries of corruption would erupt far and wide.  And rightly so.

But why isn't it the same in a church?  Why do so many people accept that it's okay not to be told?  It's okay.  We don't need to know.  We trust our God-appointed elders and it's okay.  We submit to their authority.  We trust them without question.  Yes Sir, no Sir, thank you very much Sir.

What are we afraid of?

Why do we lose all of our God-given common sense when it comes to church governance?

Because it is not okay, even in a church.  Because that God-appointed leader may be anointed, gifted, humble, spiritual, wonderful, amazing and all those things but he or she is still human.  They are not God.  They are fallible.

And believe me, the more powerful and influential they are, the more susceptible they are to greed and control and manipulation and the more in line they need to be with Jesus and His teachings.  It's human nature.  And it's a problem.  A problem that demands accountability.  

And so the original question plagued me:  why do people accept it?

And then I remembered a novel I used to teach at High School called The Wave by Morton Rhue.  In fact, I think I may have even studied it when I was in school.  The students in a history class ask the very same question to their teacher referring to Nazi Germany and millions of Jewish people killed.  Why didn't people stand up?  Why didn't they stop him?  How did they let it happen?

So history teacher Mr. Ross endeavours to answer the question through a social experiment.  He starts a group called the Wave.  At first the students are sceptical and think their teacher is loopy but eventually they join in.  They start chanting and marching.  They subscribe to Mr. Ross's principles of "Strength through Action, Strength through Community, Strength through Discipline" and everything improves.  No one is left out, even the former class reject Robert Billings and all their grades improve too.  Mr. Ross himself is amazed with his success until some of the group become violent with non-members.  He realises that his experiment worked dangerously well.  

The answer to the question, the students discover, is that they all long for something bigger than themselves to believe in and to be a part of.  This was especially true of the class clown who was suddenly accepted.  He was the one with the most to lose when it ends and who took the group most seriously, even volunteering to become the body-guard for Mr. Ross, the leader who had given him so much.  

People long to be accepted and they need to feel valued.   I have heard a church leader recently admit that church leaders can play on that need and he warned that some will.  People want to be a part of something bigger than themselves--a contributing part--which is why some churches are so successful at getting people to leave their common sense at the door.  Join us.  You are welcome here.  We value you.  Just don't ask any questions.

Christian:  You do not have to leave your common sense at the door of a church.  And those with discerning gifts need to trust that those questions you want answered come not just from common sense but from the Holy Spirit.  John 3:20 reminds us that "Everyone who does evil will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed."  If by asking a question or pointing out injustice you are shining a light on the situation but leaders refuse to allow it, thus insisting on hiding in the dark, then there is a problem.  And the problem is not you.

Most important, as Christians we need to remember that we already do belong to something bigger than ourselves, that is, we belong to God as His daughter or son and are a significant part of His universal plan.  Jesus Christ is your brother.  And you are valued and loved.  You do not need to find your value in a church by contributing or belonging there. You need to find your value in your relationship with Jesus Christ and know that you already have it.

You already belong.  You're already there.

An aside:  lest anyone should think my tone is haughty or arrogant...I too once left my common sense at the door.  I belonged to a church and I belonged to a team in that church.  And it felt good and it felt right.  So good and so right in fact, that I lost my sense of judgement and trusted those who shouldn't have been trusted.  Others had warned me but I didn't listen.  I should have pried myself away from that group and that church long before the decision was taken from me. Thankfully I woke up before much harm was done, or the Holy Spirit shook the sense back into me. Probably both.  The point is, I know.  I know. 

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