Since When Did Pride Not Become Immoral?

The elders of Mars Hill, the church that Pastor Mark Driscoll founded and recently resigned from, had this to say about his departure:

  1. We concluded that Pastor Mark has, at times, been guilty of arrogance, responding to conflict with a quick temper and harsh speech, and leading the staff and elders in a domineering manner. While we believe Mark needs to continue to address these areas in his life, we do not believe him to be disqualified from pastoral ministry.
  2. Pastor Mark has never been charged with any immorality, illegality or heresy. Most of the charges involved attitudes and behaviors reflected by a domineering style of leadership.

While I was relieved to hear that Pastor Mark had not “disqualified” himself from pastoral ministry, I did find it more than curious that in the same letter he “has never been charged with any immorality,” but has been “guilty of arrogance”.

It was C.S. Lewis who once said that the fountainhead to all vice is pride.  Every other sin is a mere expression, a symptom of pride.  The reason why I’ve lied is because I want to keep a good image, make a great showing, which is pride.  The reason why we gossip is because we want you to know that we know…pride.  Sexual sin is the failure to wait on God’s provision for your bodily yearnings, and instead to decide fulfillment on your terms, and in your timing.  Pride.  Sin was introduced into the world when Adam and Eve acted independently of God, believing that they could become like him.  Score another one for pride.  The Scriptures, C.S. Lewis, and my experience shows me that pride is the reason behind every sin.  We are all incurable narcissists, in desperate need of a Savior.

If that be the case then pride is the epitome of immorality.  It was Pastor John Ortberg who wondered when did pride get put in a different category other than immorality, as if pride is not immoral?  The elders of Mars Hill need to know that Immoral pride was the root of Pastor Mark’s domineering leadership style.

I’m not here to rip on Pastor Mark, I’m really not.  I’ve prayed for him.  I’m rooting for him to pastor again.  As one of the most gifted and engaging preachers of the Word of God I want to see him back exercising his gift to the glory of God and building up His people.  But I think we need to take a  moment here to ponder the interesting dichotomy between pride and immorality, and weigh carefully its potential implications for how we handle God’s leaders, and view our own sin.

Our historic dichotomy between pride and immorality has allowed us to move swiftly on the sexual face of immorality, yet cowardly shy away from our duty to humbly confront the domineering.  Jesus had way more to say to his disciples about their manner of leadership, than their loins.  Jesus exhorted his disciples to stop trying to be the first, but instead be the last.  They were to not lead like the Gentiles- in a domineering fashion- but instead in a new paradigm- servanthood.  To cement his point, Jesus took out a bowl and a towel and washed the feet of his disciples.  A few days later he would die on a cross, in an act that some theologians have come to call the humiliation of Christ.  Humble leadership was a point that Jesus tirelessly drilled into his disciples. 

Jesus didn’t give any documented lessons on the wisdom of having a window pane inserted in your office door, not doing meals with the opposite sex or staying out of compromising positions with women.  As wise as these things are, what Jesus talked most about, under the category of leadership with his followers was humility.  

These words pierce my own heart.  Like Pastor Mark I am the co-founder of a church.  As a founder I am well aware that I am given much more latitude than my future successors will ever experience.  It’s a sacred trust, a trust that at times I’ve fumbled.  I’ve said harsh things, harbored arrogant attitudes, and daily battle to not be like Nebuchadnezzar who surveyed his kingdom and said to himself, “Look at all that I have done”.  

Pride is nothing to be played with.  Not only does God hate pride, but there is a swifter, more aggressive gear that God goes to, when it comes to dealing with the domineering.  What I mean by this, is that if you look at the Scriptures, God evicts the proud:

- Satan gets kicked out of heaven for pride

- Adam and Eve are evicted from the Garden over pride

- Nebuchadnezzar is thrown out of Babylon for his pride

If one of God’s primary tools in dealing with the proud is eviction, then there is biblical precedence for my elders removing me from Fellowship Memphis for unrepentant pride, or a domineering manner of leadership. As a leader may I say about my own prideful inclinations what God does, and that is it’s an abomination.  May our pride cause us to gag.  And let us graciously and humbly go to war with pride in each other’s lives.