Looking at how the Senior Pastor of Community Fellowship in West Chicago behaves on Twitter. My question to Will Pavone is “Who Would Jesus Block?” In addition this looks at some of the cultural issues that existed at McLean Bible and considers the problem of narcissism in the evangelical Christian pulpit.
“It takes very little to govern good people. Very little. And bad people cant be governed at all. Or if they could I never heard of it.“
“Social media is the ultimate equalizer. It gives a voice and a platform to anyone willing to engage.”
Amy Jo Martin
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,
Hebrews 12:1 NIV
Will Pavone’s CD
Who Would Jesus Block ?
This is a post that I have been meaning to do for a while. There are several components to it and I believe they compliment each other well. The first part of the post deals with Will Pavone a pastor formerly at McLean Bible church who today resides in the Chicago area. After looking at Will’s online behavior let’s look at McLean Bible’s culture and then let’s examine the issue of narcissism in the pulpit. After all narcissism is an epidemic in evangelicalism and its easily found in the mega church culture.
Who is Will Pavone?
Will Pavone originally comes from Long Island, in the New York area. His Italian father Vincent opened a butcher shop in Brooklyn. In time Vincent started a church in their family home which eventually grew to become The Living Word. Vincent pastored that Long Island church for 31 years. Will grew up in a strong evangelical Christian home and eventually went to the late Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. He came on staff at McLean Bible in Tysons Corner, Virginia in the D.C. area in 2002 and remained until 2014. At McLean he preached, led worship a few times, and was involved with a program that no longer exists that was called Frontline. While at McLean Bible he obtained a degree from Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS). By the way you can read about Will on the DTS website here. In 2014 Will Pavone became the Senior Pastor of Community Fellowship Church in West Chicago. David McDowell retired on August 8, 2014 when he preached his last sermon. You can read David write about it here. Will has not published anything at Desiring God or The Gospel Coalition which is good, in this writers opinion. He has released at least one worship album, you can see the picture of it above.
Will Pavone’s Epic Fail and How Will He Reach Chicago if he Can’t Even Engage on Twitter?
I have been wanting to do this post for some time but there has always been something that has kept bumping this from being done. A while back I was blocked by Will Pavone on Twitter and I found it profoundly sad that he chose to act that way for a number of reasons. First of all many younger pastors like Will long to be the center of attention. They want to jump up and down, hold their Bible up high and have people be in awe of the work they do. They have catchy phrases such as “we want to take Jesus to secular Washington, D.C.” or “we want Jesus to be known in Long Island.” All this passion, all this flair, all this spectacle from a stage, and yet Will can’t even engage in someone who asks a question on social media. That is an epic fail. The trend on Twitter among people like Will Pavone should be “WhoWouldJesusBlock? Its profoundly sad that a pastor chose to act that way. It leaves me to ask the question, if he behaves that way on Twitter is he up for the job? Or does Will still need to grow up a little bit more? I take a lot of heat in writing this blog at times. If you want to see church members swear and curse me out check out some of the posts I wrote about Acts 29 Fellowship Memphis. If I were narcissistic I would go nuclear on people tearing me apart or criticizing me. Truth is I have accepted it and realize its how a writer needs to be. But especially someone who writes about the problems of religion. Not only that but I have yet to block a person on Twitter. I believe I have blocked a couple of bots due to what they sent me, but that is about it.
But Will Pavone chooses to block first, block often, block frequently and block, block, block. Will I believe would block Jesus because he would have problems with the questions that Jesus would ask. Will can’t deal with questions and I think its profoundly sad that you have a pastor who acts this way. Will’s behavior on Twitter is an afront to God, the historic Christian faith, and the church. How can Will Pavone reach Chicago if that is how he behaves? After all I believe in God myself, and he couldn’t deal with an occasional Tweet, how is he going to deal with an atheist, secular humanist, Muslim or more? Many evangelical pastors live in a bubble where they are woefully prepared for the world. Their reality is in left field and they are not capable to engage or respond to people at all. They may think they are, but Will’s behavior shows that he is not ready to be Senior Pastor. Youth Pastor he’s ready for , but not Senior Pastor.
The McLean Bible Culture
This is not the first time I have written about McLean Bible, nor will it be the last time. There is quite a bit to write about in regards to this Washington, D.C. area mega church. “Not a Sermon Just a Blog Post; McLean Bible’s Affiliation with The Gospel Coalition” deals with McLean Bible joining The Gospel Coalition (TGC) which is an intrinsically troubled organization. One of the more disturbing elements of TGC was when it promoted Doug Wilson in Idaho. Doug Wilson believed that the way slavery was practiced in the south before the Civil War was Biblical. And Doug Wilson also married a pedophile, Steven Sitler, to Katie Travis after just a couple of dates if I remember correctly. Steven Sitler is on the Idaho sex offender registry and after he had a child, I believe the state of Idaho intervened because Sitler allegedly became sexually stimulated when he held his infant son. With TGC promoting people like Doug Wilson, why McLean Bible would want to join TGC is beyond me, in all honesty. Another post I wrote about McLean Bible deals with David Platte coming on board. I wrote about how being “radical” for Jesus is the new legalism. You can read more in “McLean Bible is Looking for a New Senior Pastor, and Deep Concerns About its New Interim Teaching Pastor David Platt; Plus Here is the Problem with Being “Radical”
McLean Bible has a number of problems. As a mega church their turn over rate is incredible. I would suggest that the amount of people who leave through the back door is in the ballpark of people who have fled Syria as refugees. McLean Bible has attracted some interesting personalities and the church is a good environment for narcissism. Lon Solomon is quite controlling from what I have heard. I am not opposed to people converting to the Christian faith, but I am concerned with churches who are controlling, manipulative and view people as a means to an end. Then there was John McGowan who today leads Restoration City Church. That church I believe is tied into J.D. Greer’s The Summit Network down in Raleigh, North Carolina. I remember when I volunteered to help McLean Bible do church services on American University. In the end I realized that I was basically being used. John took no interest in even asking how I was spiritually or understand much of my life. I was basically just a body. I recall one time when John spoke about how wretched and sinful I am at McLean Bible, and how you want to hear about grace but I am not going to talk about it. I thought to myself, “what a jerk.” I know how sinful I am, you don’t have to remind me, as I see it each day. Another personality that was an interesting individual that fit perfectly into McLean Bible culture is that of Justin Pearson. Today Justin Pearson leads Sojourn Fairfax in Fairfax, Virginia, which is Acts 29. The fact that Justin is leading an Acts 29 church really does not surprise me. I remember when I raised concerns about the McLean Bible small groups to him, and tried to change one. I remember when Justin yelled at me downstairs. I was shocked, what type of pastor screams at another person? Just another Mark Driscoll wanna be dude bro, which is what Justin Pearson is. But McLean Bible largely became a circus that was moving in a Neo-Calvinist direction. But it is a perfect environment for narcissism when you think about it.
Indicators of Narcissism in the Pulpit
Below are some of the key indicators of narcissistic personality disorder. When I read this I came to a deeper confirmation that you will never understand or comprehend the behavior of people like C.J. Mahaney or Mark Driscoll until you understand the DSM – 5 characteristics. So let’s look at some of these and let me write about them in the context of the evangelical Christian pulpit. I am pulling this information from the Mayo Clinic in Minneapolis.
- Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance. How many times have you gone to a church and it seems some ministers have an inflated ego. If it was any more inflated it would be like a balloon and just pop. Their claims are so exaggerated and often grandiose.
- They are expecting to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it. Ever seen a few pastors expect to be recognized for minor or trivial activities? Have you ever seen a couple of pastors who act like they have achievements that don’t warrant the claim they get? Look at Mark Driscoll…from his claims about his achievements while having ghost writers publish and allegedly plagiarize his books. This is something you can see in a mega-church environment.
- Exaggerating achievements and talents. Mark Driscoll did this well. Another good illustration was C.J. Mahaney boasting of humility. If that bastard were humble who wouldn’t have written a book on it. He would have let out people sing his praises. Again talents are often exaggerated or claims are grandiose.
- Another indicator is being pre-occupied with fantasies about success, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate. How many times do you hear a mega church pastor talk about church growth? Almost always….as they want to grow more and further (even when they can’t manage what they have!). Success to a narcissistic mega church pastors is measured in physical numbers.
- Believing that you are superior and can only be understood by or associate with equally special people. Again how many times have you dealt with a mega church pastor who believed and acted that he alone had the truth? That he alone was special and the one to be followed? How many have seen a mega church pastor act as if he had a special connection to God and was above everyone else?
- Being in a situation where one requires constant admiration is another issue. I wrote about McLean Bible up above and here is a question I have…how many times did I feel that Lon Solomon required constant admiration? How many times did I get the feeling that Lon lived off of being in the public spotlight and being the center of attention? Another way to peel this onion is to ask the following question. At McLean Bible who was being worshiped? Was it God or the mega church pastor Lon Solomon?
- Having a sense of entitlement is another indicator of narcissistic personality disorder. This is one of the issues that stood out for me as I was a spectator to Mark Driscoll fiasco at Mars Hill. Mark Driscoll very much possessed a sense of entitlement. He bullied out of that sense of entitlement and he was arrogant with that sense of entitlement.
- Expecting special favors and unquestioning compliance with your expectations. How many times do you see mega church pastors control the questions that can be asked or prevent questions from being asked. You fall into order, you fall into line. Its kind of like the Marine Corps where you don’t question, you just go along with the program and don’t rock the boat. You are not to be “disloyal” and you comply with whatever is said.
- Taking advantage of others to get what you want. In places like McLean Bible you are just a cog in the system. In the end you mean nothing and become a tool to preserve the system in place. As I wrote up above I remember at McLean years ago briefly helping John McGowan help with McLean Bible’s church at American University. In the time John didn’t really get to know me or even ask about where I was spiritually. I began to realize that I was being used. I was free labor. I was expendable and the reality is that many people are other in that place in these mega churches.
- Having an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others. The mega church environment is already perfect for this issue. In the mega church world you are juts another cog in the system. You are just another number. I believe that narcissistic individuals with personalty disorders are attracted to mega church leadership positions because they can become the focus, and they can ignore the feelings and needs of those under them. While Jesus called people to serve, many mega church leaders expect to be served. If Jesus wept for Jerusalem, I firmly believe he would weep over the mega church model.
- Being envious of others and believing others ency you. I think what fuels mega church growth is the belief that many mega church pastors are driven by envy. They are jealous and always want more. I think of many mega church pastors kind of like that screaming kid you see at Dennys or another diner who is pouting, crying and wanting more. They live their life in a constant state of jealousy.
- Behaving in an arrogant or haughty manner. Some of the most arrogant individuals I have witnessed or observed lead mega churches. Mark Driscoll is profoundly arrogant. Lon Solomon at McLean Bible is profoundly arrogant. At McLean Bible the auditorium in Tysons Corner isn’t big enough for his ego or ambition. One cannot be both humble and arrogant in life, its either one or the other.
Narcissism is an epidemic in evangelical Christianity and its profoundly toxic. And its my belief that it influences other sectors of society and culture. For example look at Mark Driscoll. Mark was a bully, a thug, a man who had no respect for women. He taught that they were penis homes and proclaimed that a repentant women gets down on her knees and gives her husband a “Gospel Centered” blow job. When people follow individuals like Mark does that explain why 81% adore and cuddle up to Donald Trump? After all its easy to follow someone who mocks a disabled reporter, or shoves the Prime Minister of Montenegro aside, bullies his attorney general, or boasts about how you “grab them by the pussy…” Donald Trump could have led Mars Hill Seattle easily. Likewise he could have led Sovereign Grace Ministries or McLean Bible quite easily. The mega church movement really needs to be euthanized as it doesn’t honor God nor does it help the sheep. That’s it for the day guys, please know that I love you.