Last Tuesday marked exactly two years since I moved across the country and started my new life in Seattle. Anniversaries have a way of making us reminisce. It obviously came up in my time with the Lord and I spent some time journaling a few specific things that he taught me first-hand during (and because of) the last two years.
Two more things before we jump in: (1) this list certainly isn’t exhaustive and (2) I can’t promise that you’ll read anything you didn’t already know. But there’s something about lessons taught through experience that takes knowledge to a new depth in our soul.
1. NO MINISTRY IS INDESTRUCTIBLE.
I will not bore you with Mars Hill’s stats when I came on staff in November 2013. I will not tell you our attendance numbers. I will not tell you how many people were on staff. I will not tell you how many locations we had or how many states we were in. I will not tell you our annual budget numbers. It’s unnecessary and honestly, I don’t know all those numbers. The point is this: no one, NO ONE, saw the close of Mars Hill Church coming. Ministry was thriving. Growth was happening. Mars Hill was known to be one of the most innovative and fastest-growing churches in America. Mark Driscoll was known (and loved) worldwide for his unmatched style of Bible-teaching. Mars Hill wasn’t going anywhere no matter what her critics were doing on the outside. She was too big. Or that’s what I and many others thought…
The close of Mars Hill will likely remain one of my most heart-breaking, most surreal, most shocking events in ministry. It taught me that God gives, and God takes away. No matter how unfathomable that might be or impossible that might seem. God is in control and he knows best…and his name is to be praised.
2. PEOPLE WILL EVENTUALLY DEMONIZE ANYONE WHOM THEY IDOLIZE.
This is actually something that I heard Mark Driscoll preach time and time again. But I saw this proved true, as people in the church quickly turned from hurt to hate. Whenever a person is the source of our joy, security, peace, or acceptance, and then they inevitably fail us, they threaten (instead of provide) those things in our lives. They who were our perceived savior, quickly become our enemy.
3. GOD USES WHOM HE CHOOSES.
Mark Driscoll definitely had his stuff–we all do. He preached often about his struggle with the sin of pride and anger. But God chose him–even in the midst of his stuff. God chose to save a 19-year old kid, gifted him mightily, and led him into ministry for the good of people and the glory of God.
Also, let me say this publicly here since I’ve been asked several times: I had the privilege of meeting weekly with Pastor Mark because of my role on staff. I had several casual encounters with him at staff meetings and other functions. I never, NEVER experienced anything other than grace, honor, humility, love, appreciation, and pastoral care from him. He has a pastor’s heart and loves people.
4. GRIEF WILL MANIFEST…EVENTUALLY.
I have cried at the strangest times–one of those times being while writing this blogpost. But I’m thankful for the grief, because the current pain proves the previous joy. I loved everything about my time at Mars Hill: the people who became my family, leading worship at one of our locations, the work I got to do, my pastors, serving a church who had done so much for me for years.
If you find your grief stalling, give it to the Lord. He knows best how to allow your heart to heal.
5. MISSING A GIFTED, INFLUENTIAL PERSON IS NOT A SIN.
I really struggled with feeling guilty for missing Mark’s preaching so much. I felt way less mature than the many people around me who kept saying, “Mars Hill isn’t about Mark. We are a family no matter who our pastor is!” Things like that–which were true. But through a lot of time journaling and praying, I realized that it was OK for me to miss Mark, his preaching, and his content. He is easily one of the top five most influential people regarding my spiritual formation. I needed to allow myself to grieve his preaching. The Holy Spirit had used him to teach me such life-changing truths that even the sound of his voice (having been a podcaster for 6-7 years) was comforting. It was peaceful for me. But just because I missed a man, did not mean that I idolized a man.
Having an earthly hero and grieving your loss of them is perfectly normal. Don’t let people try to tell you otherwise. Devastation, however, is another story.
6. DON’T DISCOUNT PAST MINISTRY EFFICACY BECAUSE OF CURRENT SITUATIONS.
No one can deny what God did through Mark Driscoll. No one. There are quite possibly hundreds of thousands of people who have heard the gospel of Jesus Christ through that man. The current situation does not negate any of God’s previous work. He is the first person who clearly told me, “There is nothing you can do to make God love you more, and there’s nothing you can do to make him love you less.” Freedom. Life-changing. Life. Changing. There is nothing that will ever discount my appreciation for his ministry in my life. Nothing.
Similarly, any current sin issue or consequences of past sin in your life does not demean or devalue what God has done through you in the past. If the enemy is attacking you this way, ask the Lord to remind you of his goodness to you and his grace through you to others.
7. DON’T COUNT OUT A FUTURE MINISTRY BECAUSE OF CURRENT SITUATIONS.
I have no idea what God has planned for Mark Driscoll. But I know he has something for him because (a) God has prepared good works for him to do and (b) he’s still breathing. Yes, there is need for repentance, growth, healing, and restoration, but God is able to do abundantly more than all we can ask or imagine.
Likewise, if you find yourself in a current season of sin, rebuke, and consequences, do not let the enemy convince you that you’re out of the game. As long as there is repentance, it’s simply not true. Hold onto the precious truth of Romans 8:28 that he works all things together for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose.
8. JESUS IS WAY TOO GOOD TO ME.
I write that sentence with tears welling up in my eyes. It’s true: his unbelievable favor blows my mind. He is the prize. He is my prize. If you find yourself in a tough, tough situation today, hold onto Jesus with all you have. He is your prize. He is enough. When ALL around your soul gives way, HE THEN is all your hope and stay.