Lessons On Leadership From Marc Driscoll

I have been in the Church for forty years now, and have observed good and bad examples of what leadership should be. All of the Pastors I have met over the years claim to be examples of Christ, and have followed the Biblical examples for Church governance. I have even Pastored a Church making the same claims as others. However, as I have followed the travails of Marc Driscoll, I see some troubling things as I have thought about his leadership style and what we can learn from this event.

Driscoll was the Pastor who started Mars Hill in Seattle. He has been described as the “cussin Pastor,” and is the originator, supposedly, of live streaming a service to multiple sites. Something many large Churches are doing today.

Driscoll has resigned, and not for the reasons that have occurred so many times in the past. I can remember Jimmy Swaggert’s tear filled confession of multiple sexual/moral failures. Jim Bakker’s fall from grace was a media display of the abuse of power and sexual exploitation. Ted Haggard was another Pastor of a large Church that suffered from moral failures. There are many others that have failed in this way, some restored to ministry and others not so much.

Driscoll’s resignation is for different reasons though, reasons that resulted from a huge ego. I have known, and probably can be accused of, many Pastors with very large egos, egos that they try to hide from the regular Church attender.

Driscoll was an in your face Pastor. “I cannot worship a guy I can beat up!” Interesting comment, implying that Jesus was tough, which I have no doubt he was tough, as evidenced by what He experienced for us. However, I don’t think He would like to be known as a bully.

However, because of his views on women’s roles, his view on homosexuality, and a comment made fourteen years ago about creating a men’s group where men come together to hug each other and cry like a “homo Promise Keepers,” all fed into his demise. These are not views unique to Driscoll. There are many Church leaders that preach about stay at home moms, marriage relationships, and even hold to traditional views on homosexuality, but these are not the only reasons for Driscoll’s resignation. I think it is related to more of a basic leadership/management principle involving what constitutes Servant Leadership.

First, any organization that is a one man show will not continue with the demise of the one man. So Driscoll resigns and the result is the shutting down of the fifteen locations serving 14,000 people. Even as central as Chuck Smith was to the Calvary Chapel movement, his death did not signal the end of the denomination. Many others stepped up to lead, however, it will be interesting to see where Calvary Chapel goes.

Second, there are financial questions on how Driscoll used the funds of the Church. Questions were raised on the use of donations to fund Driscoll’s book “Real Marriage.” When it is a one man show, there is a tendency to think that all resources belong to you, the one man. This is where one gets in trouble. Billy Graham recognized this issue, and subsequently created mechanisms to ensure proper fiduciary control over the finances of his organization. Graham saved himself a lot of trouble by doing this.

Third, “It was a one man show, Mark’s way or the highway. He was in complete and total control.” As history shows us, “absolute authority, absolutely corrupts.” Now, I don’t know Mark Driscoll, and I don’t know how much of a dictator he was, but despotic leaders in the Church have strewn the road of Church history with many bodies. I am sure that is the case in Seattle and other Mars Hill locations. And as Sarah Bailey so eloquently stated this morning, “Mr. Driscoll had seemed to shape the Church more around himself than around God.”

What are the lessons of leadership from this event? First, I think proper accountability is important. Leaders that create mechanisms to keep themselves in check are saving themselves from future problems.. Second, exercising true servant and authentic leadership is critical. If we are going to be like Jesus, then lets serve and not call bullying service. And third, if sustainability of an organization is the goal, then make sure you decentralize decision-making. Allow others autonomy and the ability to control the future.

I will not fault Driscoll for his comments about women and gays, because he has the right to his beliefs. However, I will not support his arrogant style, which seems to me to be contrary to how I read scripture. If he was pushed out of ministry because of his beliefs about certain things, then that is wrong, and all of us should be concerned about that, but if he resigned because of tangible leaderships mistakes, which I believe was the case, then we are on solid ground.

And that is my thought for the day!


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