Anne Graham Lotz on the Mars Hill Debacle: ‘It Might Have Been Better If They’d Had Millstones Tied Round Their Necks and Been Thrown Into the Sea”

Anne Graham Lotz
Anne Graham Lotz

The Mars Hill debacle shows the danger of an unbiblical view of ministry, Billy Graham’s daughter told Christian Today.

Speaking about her new book Wounded by God’s People, Anne Graham Lotz reflected on the fallout from the controversies at Mars Hill church in Seattle. Previously led by Mark Driscoll, the church imploded after a string of revelations about authoritarian leadership and coercive behaviour. Referring to Jesus’ words in Matthew 18:6 about those who led children astray, she said: “The leadership that has done that, I almost feel that it’s better that a millstone was tied around their neck and then thrown into the sea than it is to face a holy God when you have damaged his people like that.”

However, she said: “I know the way back is through the cross, I know you forgive those who’ve damaged and hurt you, I know that you repent of your own sin, I know you pray and ask for a fresh outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit. That’s happened in other big church families in America. It’s probably happened [in the UK], it’s just that we seem to do things bigger, so when fall we fall harder. It’s very painful for a church family.”

Lotz said one of the dangers was giving pastors an elevated status. “Maybe we’ve had our focus on the wrong thing. We’ve turned our pastors and leaders into celebrities. We’ve turned them into more than what they were ever intended to be.” Referring to Peter’s teaching in 1 Peter 2:25 and 5:2-4, she said: “They’re to be shepherds, they’re under-shepherds. Peter said, don’t ever forget, shepherds, that you’re also a sheep. And somehow we’ve gotten it backwards.”

She added that congregations bore some responsibility for the behaviour of their ministers. She referred to Jesus’ words in Revelation 2 when he spoke of a ‘Jezebel’ in the church at Thyatira leading them astray: “They weren’t necessarily doing what she was doing, but they they allowed her to be in the congregation, so he was holding them accountable for who they allowed to be their leader. So I think God holds us accountable to a degree to think for ourselves, to pray for ourselves, to study the scriptures for ourselves. Then we know what the plumb line is, so we hold it up and if the leadership’s getting out of focus we can pray for them and encourage them. And when they fall then it hurts, but it shouldn’t damage our relationship with God, because we know who God is.”

She added: “It’s very important for believers to develop a relationship with God that’s independent of a spouse or of a church, because if you get stripped of those things, then it would damage your relationship with God. But if you independently have built a strong, one-on-one relationship with God, then those hard things just strengthen it because God is there for you.”

He book is based on the story of Hagar, who was the maidservant of Sarah and bore Ishmael to Abraham – a biblical example of someone who was “wounded by God’s people”. It draws on her own experiences and that of others to show how Christians can learn to deal with what happens when they are hurt by other Christians.

However, she said: “I don’t want to trash the Church. This is about how you can be healed; it’s a journey. If I get over this wound, I’m going to be wounded again by somebody else in a different way and you have to start the journey again; so it’s a lifelong journey that you keep taking.”

She explained: “Churches should be a safe place. That’s what makes the wounding so devastating. Hagar was in Abraham’s family for 10 years and I would expect she’d come to love Abraham and Sarah and trust them, and to believe in their God. When they turned on her like they did that hurts even more, and makes the wound worse.”

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SOURCE: Christian Today
Mark Woods

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