By which I mean disagreeing with him, not disrespecting somebody with him.
Posts like these make me a little uncomfortable, because I realize that in the world of pastoral wisdom and experience I am not fit to shine Mark Driscoll's shoes.
Nevertheless, a couple of points he made in the Question and Answer session with pastors in the last Resurgence conference struck me as . . . well, not right.
Let me clarify: If I understand what he's saying, I don't think they're right. And by "right," I basically mean "good" (not that he's sinning or anything like that).
The first is when he answers a question about managing his day and organizing his schedule. Now, I have no idea what it's like to lead a ginormous church. I have no idea what it's like to lead a big one or a medium sized one. I have no idea what it's like to preach several times a weekend. So as far as Driscoll is just saying, "You have to prioritize your tasks and obligations, and you have to say no to some people to protect your time for what's most important," I'm with him.
But he makes a point about people wanting to have lunch with him and people wanting him to help them move, etc., and instead of just saying, "I'm really busy so I can't say yes to everyone and I have to be protective of my time and my family's time," he essentially gets around to the point that as the pastor of the church, his responsibility is to study, preach, and manage staff. (This is in the audio of the Q&A, not the video, I don't think.)
Again, I don't know what it's like to be Mark Driscoll or anyone else in a similar position. But it appears as though he's saying that it's important for a pastor to not have to be involved in the goings-ons and daily lives of his congregation, or at least some of them (as, again, I know it's not possible to personally minister to every single person who wants/needs attention). In fact, as you listen to how his week shapes up, Driscoll appears to be either a) alone, b) with family, or c) with staff (but not even with staff as much since he's only in his office two days a week).
Last night as I was listening to this podcast for the first time, I got a call from a friend saying his planned help had bailed on him and asking if I could help him move for a couple of hours. Coincidentally, Driscoll had just made the point about people asking him to help them move their couch or something!
I cannot in good conscience get up and presume to pastor people through teaching while abdicating responsibility of pastoring them through living. As Mark Dever says, a pastor doesn't just make sure his church is well fed, but well led.
Here's my thing: Living life with the people of the church -- as one of the people of the church -- is how a pastor earns the credibility and respect to preach. Driscoll's train of thought goes to a place I cannot fathom, and it appears as though he's recommending a pastoral role that is basically divorced from congregational life.
When I read in Acts about the early church "having all things in common," I don't see it saying "except for the overseers who needed time to study." Even with my limited wisdom, I don't see it as wise for a pastor/elder to live and work hermetically sealed off from those he's supposed to be pastoring. You might as well just call yourself a teacher or speaker and be done with it.
The church should have no tolerance for pastors who don't pastor.
Don't get me wrong, I do think pastors ought to devote more and more time to study and writing, and it is a shame that many pastors don't do this and yet still preach every week, and it is a shame that too many congregations consider reading, studying, and writing as "not really work" and so expect their pastor to be busier doing other managerial things.
But there is a fine line between pastoral business and the professionalization of the ministry, which quite frankly is killing many churches, and I think that line is crossed whenever a shepherd withdraws himself from the life of the sheep.
The second disagreement I had was in Driscoll's response to a question about leading friends on staff ministry. Driscoll said don't do it. Don't do ministry with friends. Have friends and have staff.
He's not saying you shouldn't be friendly with staff or treat them as non-friends; he's saying, as far as I understand him, that you shouldn't do church ministry with close friends because it makes management difficult. What happens when you have to do performance reviews or, God forbid, let someone go? He even has a personal story about having had to do this.
I get his point, and I understand the difficulty. But, again, it speaks more to the perils of professionalizing the ministry (and when I use that phrase, I'm not saying pastors and ministers shouldn't be paid; I'm talking about a mindset, a morphing of church ministry into business and corporate models, which has inevitably resulted in churches with the values of a business or corporation).
But I can't imagine doing what I'm doing without friends. I've been on church staffs before, and I loved the people I worked with and under. But I've never done ministry with people I consider family, as I'm doing now. And in fact one of the great joys of doing what we're doing is that we're doing it with friends. We aren't coworkers or co-volunteers. We're not leaders rallying around a cause. We are brothers and sisters who would take bullets for each other.
This came to mind last week as I had a pretty strong disagreement with another guy on the Element leadership team. I was thinking even then, "Would this be easier if we weren't friends?" I actually think it would be more tempting to abuse if we weren't friends. The temptation would be greater to say, "Why are we even having this discussion? I'm in charge, do what I'm telling you."
Now, I don't think I'd do that to even a "mere" ministerial subordinate, but I certainly would never do that to a friend, especially a friend who is eating, sleeping, and breathing this ministry with me. Instead we talk. A decision gets made because a) we both realize a decision has to be made in this situation, and b) we're both friends and realize we don't want this to be hanging over us indefinitely.
(As it happened, we agreed that the thing had to be done, we just disagreed on the importance of the thing.)
Driscoll says, "If you're best friends and someone works for you, that changes the relationship."
Well, sure. Relationships change anyways. But the point he's making (he speaks of having to put on the "boss hat" and the "pastor hat" and the "friend hat") smacks of more a business than of the Body of Christ. I can understand that when a group of friends is doing ministry, the lines of authority can get blurred and feelings can get sore, so it is a situation that must be handled sensitively and wisely when conflict arises.
But since when is that new? In what situation in church life should we handle conflict insensitively and abruptly?
This is longer than I intended. No doubt someone will say I've misunderstood or overreacted to Driscoll's remarks.
But I trust I can be forgiven, as a guy still wet behind the ears, for holding on to the optimism and ideals of a pastoral ministry undiluted by professionalization. In reading invaluable books like David Hansen's The Art of Pastoring and Eugene Peterson's The Contemplative Pastor, I believe it is possible to preach and lead with authority and integrity, to embrace the sweet solitude of research and study, and to do so without practically disconnecting from the body to a "special" place of elevation and separation.
I want to be a part; I don't want to be apart.