Why don’t Christians repent today? Why don’t evangelical Christians say they are sorry? From Mark Driscoll, to C.J. Mahaney to Andrew White…from the leaders to the people in the pews…why don’t Christians seek forgiveness and work to heal others that they have deeply wounded in pain? Since many Evangelical Christians don’t care when they hurt people and plow forward…is that another reason why the world doesn’t respect them? Also remember your pastor is sinful, and often fallen. At the end of the day he is just as broken as you.
There is a discernment quiz here for you to look at and analyze. It is the webpage of Redeemer City Church in N.E. Washington, D.C. How would you analyze this church? By looking at their doctrine, beliefs, associations, etc…what can you learn? By practicing your discernment, would you get involved in Redeemer City Church? After giving people an opportunity to review and study this church then I will write a post and discuss Redeemer City Church. expect to see that happen in late January early February.
“Why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me.”
“Failure is only the opportunity to begin again, only this time more wisely.”
“So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.”
Matthew 5:23-24 NLT
Consider the following situations in modern evangelical Christianity.
- You had a pastor in Seattle who creates a mega church known as Mars Hill. He abuses people and threatens the reputations of Rob Smith, Paul Petry, Bent Myer and countless others. He commits fraud against the New York Times and calls women “penis homes.” He plagiarizes a number of books and misappropriated money given to his ministry. His church implodes and he flees. Many people want Mark Driscoll to repent, say he is sorry and work through everything. They need closure, they need healing. Instead he flees to Phoenix with so much pain unresolved.
- You have another pastor who is well known for writing about humility. C.J Mahaney jokes a lot and loves to talk about sports. In the end he was highly corrupt. People were being disciplined for not tithing enough while some were eating oatmeal for dinner. Yes you thought you were giving the Lord’s kingdom, instead you gave to the Magic Kingdom when C.J. took his family to Disneyworld. So the state of Florida thanks you! It was also learned that C.J. blackmailed Larry Tomczak and when his hypocrisy was exposed in all his manliness he fled and hid behind Mark Dever’s skirt at Capitol Hill Baptist Church. A few months back his wife Carolyn wrote at her blog about how much they are being persecuted and betrayed. Like Mark Driscoll there are many people who want Mahaney to repent and own his mistakes. They need closure, they need healing. There is so much pain unresolved. (BTW…expect a blunt and hard hitting open letter to Carolyn Mahaney one of these days on her husband’s “persecution.”)
- Then you have Mark Dever of 9 Marks fame. The King of church discipline as being healthy makes an exemption for his friend C.J. Mahaney. In the end Dever shows how much cronyism exists. Church discipline is crucial unless it involves your
business partner, whoops I meant friend. There are a lot of people who want him to repent of his mistakes and own them. He refuses leaving a lot of pain in his wake.
- Then you have the Senior Pastor of Fairfax Community Church. He can preach how mistakes are opportunities and later put the Book of Nehemiah through the wood chipper and bastardize it to justify a church growth campaign. He can also mislead and deceive the church about placing a high risk violent sex offender (Eric Nickle) in a position of trust. Instead he continues to lie, deceive and even though Eagle would like to see him say he is wrong he refuses to do so. All it does is leave pain in his wake.
- Then there is another sad situation, I had a Care Group Leader who tried to get me involved in Redeemer Arlington. He was involved in the Navigators at the Air Force Academy and claimed to take his faith seriously. He made a major mistake and gave birth to a false accusation. He then fled from D.C. to Colorado Springs. This author wanted him to repent, work through the issues and prayed he would be like Peter instead of Judas. He won’t own his mistakes and instead leaves pain in his wake.
I have this one simple question that is going to drive today’s post…why don’t Christians own their mistakes or say they are sorry? Why don’t Christians repent? Why doesn’t the Christian faith see mistakes as opportunities to repent and heal themselves, others and their community in the long term?
When Christians Make Mistakes
When I worked in Milwaukee, I worked in the automotive industry. I remember sitting in a meeting and having my project manager talk about a series of videos that American Honda Motors put out for training purposes. We were encouraged to watch them on our own time. I am going to ask you to watch that Honda training video that leads this post. The video is about failure. Differing people talk about their mistakes, shortcomings and the times they failed. They also speak about how failure can be an opportunity. An opportunity to grow, learn, achieve, and rebound. Failure is a part of history in this one sense: many individuals made major mistakes or failed. Michael Jordan, Abraham Lincoln, Walt Disney, Henry Ford, and Winston Churchill are just a few who made major mistakes or failed. One of the most amazing stories of moral failure involves a drunk driving accident that killed two people in Florida today. Its the story or Eric Smallridge and Renee Napier which I have written about here. What Eric Smallridge and Renee Napier have done should be the model for the Christian church. Could you imagine, just imagine…if this was the norm and not the exception?
Christians are going to make mistakes. They are going to fail. They are broken, and they are fallen. Many Christians have a warped view of sanctification to mean that one must be perfect. That is ridiculous and puts incredible and needless pressure on themselves and others. There is another thing I am going to propose. Your pastor is a sinner. Your pastor is fallen, full of sin, and just as broken as the person sitting in the pew. Who is a sinner? If you live in the D.C. area that list would include Lon Solomon of McLean Bible, Rod Stafford, Kyle Cooper, Andy Gingrich of Fairfax Community Church, Justin Pearson of Sojourn Church, and John McGowan of Restoration Church just to name a few. There is a myth in Christendom I would propose and that false teaching is this…pastors don’t sin. They don’t lie, cheat, deceive, mislead, hurt people, abuse power, and commit many other failings. One thing we need to do is accept the fact that pastor’s are sinners. For the congregation to elevate and lift them high and look on them in a special light I propose is wrong. Now I am not saying they should not be respected, I am saying that the way many evangelicals are taught to look at their pastor is flawed. Against all that the rise of the mega church and the mimicking of American business practices in the church only makes the problems worse.
But getting back many of you are going to have failings in life. I am going to fail as well. The guy writing this is fallen and broken in many ways. I would never desire to be in a position of authority in a church. As I write all this I write this as someone who sits in a pew from time to time. But some of you are going to have failings in life. Some of you will fail a class or out of school, some will struggle with alcohol, some will struggle with pornography, some will have an affair, some will have an unplanned pregnancy,some will have anger issues, some will have a DUI, etc….I could go on but I think you get the point. So Christians are going to make mistakes and fail. I started this post illustrating with multiple examples. I think acknowledging that Christians are sinful is a start. I also think we need to acknowledge that the victorious Christian life where you conquer your sin is a lie and contributes to the problem.
Why Don’t Evangelical Christians Repent or Say “I’m Sorry?”
However, we have a problem. Today in evangelicalism we have Christians who make mistakes who go in on life and don’t acknowledge them. They don’t repent, say they are sorry or work to resolve pain they cause others. Why is that? Its even worse when you have the Neo-Calvinists promote men like C.J. Mahaney or Mark Dever who refuse to own their mistakes. What does that say about a movement when people are being promoted who don’t practice repentance and seek out forgiveness. Does that encourage people to follow suit? Let me illustrate…in my story I interacted with an Air Force Captain named Andrew White. Andrew loved Mark Driscoll and loved to read and listen to him. I wrote about it in this post here. Is the reason why Andrew couldn’t or wouldn’t repent because his model, Mark Driscoll did not practice or believe that either? Or is another reason the following consideration…many evangelicals are not being taught the basics of Christian faith? After all I would propose that many evangelical Christians are confused about topics such as grace, forgiveness, sin, church, and lack basic knowledge of their Bible.
Here’s another thing that troubles me…why don’t Christians care or be concerned for their community around them? For the Neo-Calvinsts they have made “the local church” an idol and are actually worshipping that instead of God. In their case that results in them excluding other Christians who are not a part of their “local church.” But what about others? Why aren’t other Christians practicing forgiveness? Let’s take Fairfax Community Church and Rod Stafford for example…why can’t he own the mistake of FCC putting a violent sex offender, Eric Nickle, in a position of trust, and conceal it? Why can’t he say, “No…I am wrong…it was wrong to do this.” Is he afraid that if he admits to it then he will run the risk of Fairfax Community Church losing its insurance policy for negligence? Is the reason why he can’t apologize and say he’s wrong is because he’d have to admit to other issues as well. After all it leaves me to wonder….what else is happening at Fairfax Community? What else is being hidden and kept from the congregation? After their behavior over Eric Nickle it is well within reason to ask these kinds of questions.
But having said that I don’t get it? You have a tribe of people who claim that they want to preach the Gospel and tell the world about Jesus while at the same time refusing to admit or own mistakes. You can’t have both simultaneously. You can’t preach the Gospel and then lack the humility to say you were wrong. After all the key to the Christian faith I would propose is humility. Its putting others ahead of yourself out of a reverent fear of God. That is lacking today in some many ways. What would happen if Christians put others ahead of themselves? What if C.J. Mahaney listened to people at SGM Survivors and heeded their concerns? What if Mark Dever apologized to the community at Covenant Life Church? What could Mark Dever teach the Washington, D.C. area about humility? If he did that Mark Dever would have done something far more significant than anything that he has preached at Capitol Hill Baptist Church for the last 20 years. Since Christians don’t repent or seek forgiveness today I often wonder if that is why so many people reacted the way that they did when I approached 140 people. Some told me that they never saw a person do what I did. Is that why so many people reacted they way they did? Deep down, do they have a friend, a relative, a sibling, a parent, business associate, colleague, etc.. that they have longed to hear the words, “I was wrong _______ will you forgive me for what I did to you? Can we talk everything out and address all of it. ” When I was approaching 140 people did I hit on a subconscious nerve and do something that each and every person wanted someone in their life to do to them? Is that part of the reason why my story is read by so many people? I remember the time when Dee Parsons was talking to me on the phone and said that she wondered who she needed to forgive. She also realized that I was doing something that C.J. Mahaney would to or could not do. So having said that let me put this offer on the table…Al Mohler or Mark Dever, if you want me to preach about humility at T4G I can do that…let me shave my head first! 😛
Another Reason Why the World Doesn’t Respect Christians?
Unfortunately many evangelicals are known for many reasons….very few of them flattering. Some are known for staunch conservative political support and the culture wars. Others are known for being condescending and arrogant. Yet others are known for being mean, difficult and very tribal. Sadly many evangelical Christians are not known for their love. But here is another thought I would like to ask…is another reason why evangelicals have this reputation because they don’t repent, or reach out to address their sin, pain or hurt to others? When Christians hurt someone and wound them deeply they often do nothing to resolve or rectify the problem. Does that also contribute to their negative reputation? Henceforth is that also re-enforced by supporting and promoting individuals like C.J. Mahaney or Mark Dever who will not repent or wont their sin or pain?
Its really sad in many ways because the world is given an opportunity to show love and grace and yet many evangelicals deny that to the world. When Christians go through life and cause pain and they do not care about the pain they cause and they are indifferent what message is being communicated? Just to write this post…I find to be very sad because we’re talking about basic theology, really theology 101. I would also suggest this…many people in the world know that Christians are imperfect people and they know that they will make mistakes. If Christians repented while honestly and sincerely caring for the pain they caused I would be willing to bet their respect, value and credibility would go up significantly. After all just think what would have happened if someone like C.J. Mahaney stepped aside in 2011 and stepped back from the spotlight for several years. Can you imagine what caliber speaker he would be and what he could teach had he done the right thing? Can you imagine what he could be doing in 2016 had he done that? Would me, Dee Parsons, Todd Wilhim and so many others be as harsh on him? Not to the extent that it would be…I would be willing to bet. Jesus wants us to repent and seek forgiveness. He tells us in scripture to not approach the alter if there is unresolved business. This whole issue shows how amuck many parts of evangelicalism can be today. I think Jesus wanted us to repent because he, the master and creator of our soul, knows how healthy and necessary it can be. Jesus knows how freeing and redemptive it can be. And I am not talking about a cheesy Jimmy Swaggert show like he did with his eyes balling out saying, “I have sinned…..” You confess, repent, you work with people and you do it in a way to build up both sides. Both the offender and the offended should work and listen to each other. Now some things are more complicated like child abuse, murder, and rape. But even in those situations there are some shining examples that I would challenge you to read in these stories that I have written up here. Currently one of the songs that is played and popular is from Adele and its called “Hello.” Its a story of a person who wants to say “I’m sorry…” I wonder if the reason why this is so popular is because it strikes a cord in many people who have business to do, and mistakes to atone for? Or do they want to hear from someone. I wonder if that’s why this is popular in the end. I will close with Adele’s “Hello” and I want to encourage you to do the right thing. If you’re a pastor teach people about repentance. If you are a person in the pews work at resolving conflict. This applies to all of us…myself (Eagle) to C.J. Mahaney, Mark Dever, Mark Driscoll, Andrew White, James Crestwood, Scott Van Swernigan and others. Remember guys mistakes are opportunities to redeem and resolve something. What can be done in the end can be truly amazing. As always I love you guys!