Driscoll and a Broken Church

Mark Driscoll has been an Evangelical Superstar for the last several years with his polarizing take on human sexuality and specifically manhood. And while I don’t agree with much of what he says, the current struggles of the leadership of Mars Hill Churches in Seattle have reached national prominence with coverage in major papers like the New York Times. It is saddening to see the ministry of a man who has helped so many find Christ be brought down by an inherent problem with pride. However, what is now happening at Mars Hill is emblematic, for me, of a broken church, a church that nevertheless God loves wholeheartedly and reminds me of the hymn “The Church’s One Foundation” which I have been contemplating recently as the church as a whole is dealing with one of the most deadly years for Christians worldwide in recent memories.

I previously covered this hymn in a post. However, what I really find striking right now are the last three stanzas, one of which is rarely sung in churches today but is entirely reflective of what we as Christians are struggling with today:

Though with a scornful wonder
this world sees her (the Church) oppressed,
by schisms rent asunder,
by heresies distressed,
yet saints their watch are keeping;
their cry goes up: “How long?”
And soon the night of weeping
shall be the morn of song.

Mid toil and tribulation,
and tumult of her war,
she waits the consummation
of peace forevermore:
till with the vision glorious
her longing eyes are blest,
and the great church victorious
shall be the church at rest.

Yet she on earth has union
with God, the Three in One,
and mystic sweet communion
with those whose rest is won:
O happy ones and holy!
Lord, give us grace that we,
like them, the meek and lowly,
may live eternally.

These words reflect how I feel about the church right now, of the church as a broken and suffering body. The first stanza I quoted hearkens back to things like Driscoll’s recent scandals and stepping down, but not just that. It reminds me of true heresy that is becoming increasingly tolerated in a church sometimes fails to be distinct from the world’s increasing secularism. Things like ministers who no longer believe in God, or in Jesus Christ as God. Or “Churches” that murder in the name of God. These things epitomize the line of a church which “by schisms [is] rent asunder, [and] by heresies distressed.” And if you’ve ever really thought about the state of our church, divided by denomination and increasingly torn apart by scandal and heresies, the only response can be “How long” before God, before he returns and sets all things right.

As a church we fight for what is right and just, we fight for the gospel, the one things that brings people to Christ. We wait for the consummation, for the coming Kingdom of God which we know in the Bible is where peace shall reign forever, where the wars in the Middle East shall end because in the Kingdom, “swords into plowshares” and what was once used for war will be used instead for people. It is where, Paul said, we will see “face to face” and not “through a glass darkly.” It is at the consummation that all will be made right. It is why we pray in the Lord’s Prayer “thy kingdom come.” And I hope that it comes quickly.

At the end though, this hymn reminds us of what we as a church have today, even now: union with God, Three in One. Drawn in by the Spirit of love, we share in the divine energies which have brought us to life and make us partakers of the divine nature. We share in the communion of saints and we, surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, we run with perseverance the race that is set before us. This hymn reminds me of the hope I have in Christ and in the Church, the bride. So pray, pray that we might have grace, much as those whose rest is already won, to live a disciplined, righteous, and holy life seeking truth as best we can while we still grope in darkness.

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