The Break in the System

There is a renewed urgency today in Christian circles to address and solve large-scale problems.  It feels like we’re living through a break in the system.

On the one hand, we are facing a political reality that seems to be forcing our leaders and their parties further apart. On the other hand, the number of prominent leaders in the Evangelical church who suffer moral failure is increasing.

These failures have led some to ask if there is a systemic problem that is allowing, or even causing them to happen. And the public debate around these questions has been accelerating.

In recent Christianity Today podcast titled Who Killed Mars Hill?, Mike Cosper follows the ministry of Mark Driscoll who rose to prominence in the conservativeYoung, Restless and Reformed movement, grew his Seattle-based church to 18 campuses and launched the Acts 29 church planting movement.

But behind closed doors, Mark could be abusive, and was becoming more so in public. When confronted with these problems, Driscoll abruptly resigned and the multi-site church broke into separate congregations.

In the opening to this multi-part podcast, one person asked, “why are we not looking at the deep seated reasons for this?” And another states “We have a culture of church members who would prefer a narcissist leading a church.” This podcast explores the failure of a prominent leader in a doctrinally conservative church and church planting organization. And side by side are questions about systemic abuse and narcissism.

As the podcast demonstrates, it was not only what Driscoll did as a leader, but what his followers allowed him to do that ultimately made this situation untenable. The series explores the history of the the mega-church and multi-site approach, and draws parallels to the break-up of another major church planting network, that of the Maryland-based Sovereign Grace Network.

These organizations and leaders were models that other churches and organizations wanted to follow. But the reality turned out to be very different.