Are We Pastors or Platform Builders?
I was deeply saddened to learn the news of Darrin Patrick of Journey Church in St. Louis. Let us not act as though talking about this man's fall is somehow inappropriate. It is no private matter. Far from it. Indeed we must talk about this not to slander Darrin but to warn each other lest we too fall. I am grateful that Darrin seems to be following a decidedly different path than Mark Driscoll who rejected the efforts of his church to shepherd him toward proper repentance. But we must also acknowledge the real damage done to the reputation of Christ and his church through Darrin's sin.
In the letter written and posted by the elders of Journey Church there were three things that stood out to me as if surrounded by neon lights. Among the list of sins that led to Darrin's removal as pastor were "abandonment of genuine Biblical community," "domineering over those in his charge," and "a history of building his identity through ministry and media platforms." There is much that can be said about each of those sins. First, I want to commend the elders of Journey Church for taking those sins seriously for that is what they are - sins. Too often domineering leadership and hypocrisy over the issue of community are tolerated in a pastor. This should not be. But I am especially thankful that they recognized that Darrin's pattern of platform building could no longer be tolerated. Please understand, I am not trying to pick on Darrin Patrick. It is clear that platform building has become a growth industry in the Reformed and Reformed-ish world. We seem to not only tolerate it but celebrate it. Carl Trueman's warnings about the rise of celebrity culture within the Reformed world were mocked 5 years ago. But any such mocking today seems like nothing less than pathetic denial.
The fact is, the Reformed-ish ministry machine helped build Darrin Patrick even as it built Mark Driscoll. And while Darrin is responsible for his own sins the king makers within the Reformed world ought to take a moment to consider their own culpability. How many other Darrin Patricks are there occupying our mega-conference stages who are within a hair's breath from a similar fall? To those handfull of leaders who decide who is "in" and who is "out" (and let's stop pretending that you don't exist) let me ask you this: Do you care enough about the pastors in your ranks who spend so much time on the platforms you provide to inquire of their families and elders if they are godly men and competent pastors?
One of the disturbing things brought to light by the elders of Journey Church is that Darrin's patterns of sin had persisted for years. Years! How is it that a pastor whose own elders consider him disqualified by sin can find himself serving on the boards of Reformedish mega-ministries? Did anyone in those ministries care enough about Darrin, his family, and Journey Church to ever dare to say to him: "You're doing too much. Your star is rising too high Darrin. It's dangerous for your soul"? Or was his value as a crowd gathering speaker too great to risk peaking below the surface?
We've been doing it wrong brothers. It has to stop.
Reformed doctrine and church practice should have been a sufficient shield against the banality and trappings of celebrity culture. But money and fame and influence are powerful drugs. Even the best of men can succumb to their sensual whisper.
It is time to repent.