Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Former MHC Leader on the "Call to Reconciliation"

I was in leadership at MHC but am no longer a member as a result of some other-worldly interactions and meetings with elders & pastors.  

I have many more thoughts, but here are a few. My response to the latest “Call for Reconciliation” was similar to yours in that it felt misleading.  It seems the church’s responses are consistently evasive or misleading, or both.  In one of the first responses, they made it seem that the pastors involved in Andrew’s Church Discipline situation were fired as a result.  This was untrue (which I confirmed by way of the exact timing with Andrew) and I’m glad that the church has clarified this.  Similarly, it feels deceitful when they give numbers about a small percentage of cases that are actually in Church Discipline.  As you mention in your post, there are many of these conversations that occur on an ongoing basis.  Many people who are wiser or more mature choose to remove themselves before they officially get to the status of church discipline.

When I read the statements about MHC’s Theology of Church Discipline I am struck with four thoughts:

1.      Theology and Praxis are two entirely different things.  While their doctrine may be mostly on track, the application of their doctrine is questionable, if not blatantly abusive in some cases.

2.      The level of detail given to determining “true repentance” in their literature is disturbing.  I’ve researched other mainstream church discipline policies and nowhere else do I find this level of a pastoral discretion in determining true repentance on areas that are grey in Scripture.  Clearly, there are ways to determine true repentance in sin areas that are black and white in Scripture.

3.      If we were to apply MHC’s standard of true conviction, confession and repentance to MHC itself, would the church would be under Church Discipline?  And who would administer this discipline?

4.      Any thoughts on why many of these statements that come from the church never come from a particular person?  It seems like one of them initially was authored by a lower level staff but they currently are all authored by “Mars Hill”.  I don’t mean to be cynical, but it seems convenient that the church leadership can call out individuals when they disagree but hide behind the organization of the church when it comes to responsibility and giving a response.  Does the idea of conviction, confession, repentance, restitution & reconciliation get extinguished because we are dealing with the church as an organization and not each instance with each leader/elder/pastor?

My experience from conversations with multiple MHC pastors is that their theology on submitting to your church leaders is the following.  If a leader in this church tells you to do something that is not specifically prohibited by scripture, then you have a responsibility to do it.  In most churches, if a leader tells you (or asks you) to do something, you have a responsibility to obey if it is a black and white issue in Scripture.  At Mars Hill Church, you are considered in rebellion to authority if you don’t obey a church leader’s request, even if that request is a matter of conscience and something you may have resolved alternatively through prayer and counsel.


  1. About point #2: I think it's also important to note that the various types of "false repentance" Mars Hill describes are unfalsifiable. In other words, there's no way to prove that your repentance isn't one of these types of false repentance. That allows Mars Hill leaders to basically claim whenever they want to that someone's repentance is false. Since the MH leadership has to be satisfied that a person's repentance is true in order for the church discipline process to end, this essentially allows MH leaders to drag the discipline process on indefinitely whenever they want.

  2. In my processing of my experience in trying to make heads or tails of what happened, I listened to the training sermon for church discipline at the Acts 29 site. I find it very concerning what is considered to be an indication of who needs church discipline. It seemed that if you are annoyed with that person, that's an indicator, but even more concerning are the examples of people that sound like they actually need help, people that, as a body of believers, we should be stepping into help with the burden, providing resources to bring health to their lives, giving a voice to the hurting, and not just disconnecting with them because they need a slap on the hand. We're all stuck in the muck and mire with something in our lives, and "just stop it, because God says to," is not that simple.

    There are long consequences to lies and idolatry that we fail to fight and hope in Jesus, or even the practicability of how to choose our Lord and Saviour in the midst of drowning. I believe we need a long view of dealing with our brokenness and idolatry in our lives, because if one thing is "healed," you better believe that they are layers underneath of other brokenness and idolatry, and years of habit and consequences.