Took Some First Steps

Remember that little (big) dream of mine that I posted about not too long ago? If not, this post talks about it.

Well, I’ve taken a step. Or rather, a step is in the works and going somewhere. I expressed interest in working in the student ministry, particularly with teachings the students. I was contacted by the guy who organizes it all. He told me they’d love to have me, I asked some questions, we figured stuff out, he referred me to one of the pastors to talk to because they like to get to know the potential leaders.

Today, I met with said pastor after church service. He explained that it would be at least six months after I start serving for me to become a teacher since they want to know teachers well enough to trust them and their doctrine, but that I could start getting involved and leading in the meantime. He was very happy to hear that I’m doing membership classes (along with my husband, as long as his work schedule doesn’t interfere) so that he and the other pastors could get to know me a bit before I stepped into student ministry. He was also pleased that I’m married and have a kid because it can be helpful to have leaders that are a little more ahead in age and life stages than the kids.

The pastor really liked what I said about wanting to be able to use my interest in apologetics to help the kids with doubts and struggles. We didn’t get into my more long-term aspirations with apologetics, but there’s plenty of time for that.

At this point, I’ll only be able to serve every other week because it’s the same day as my community group, which I don’t want to give up. But things change over time, so we’ll see what happens with that. It’s possible that one or the other may change which day its on. I certainly hope so. I love my current community group. We’ll see.

Some people suggested that I extend and invitation for a book study with apologetics once the kids have gotten to know me a bit. If the pastors are okay with that, I may do that.

I was also relieved when he confirmed — without me even asking — that it is only the Sunday preaching pastor/eldership positions that women are excluded from. (I attend a moderate but staunchly complementarian church.) Me teaching students will definitely be okay, and it’ll probably also be okay if I do apologetics classes for adults in the distant future. And if you’re egalitarian or non-Christian and have a problem with the complementarian position, don’t give me a tirade, especially if you haven’t taken the time to look closely into the complementarian viewpoint and its biblical support. That’s another matter entirely, though, so I’m not going to get into it on this post. Suffice it to say, it’s not going to be what limits my aspirations.

I’m excited and nervous all at the same time. We’ll see how this goes in a month!

Dreams Maybe Solidifying

I’ve thought before about the need for a greater emphasis on the reasonableness of the Christian faith. Churches largely fail at this, especially with the youth. Churches often even fail at establishing sound doctrine with our teenagers, and they certainly fail at making the church intellectually viable.

And what happens when these youth go to a liberal university? What happens when a new or doubting Christian encounter hard questions and don’t know where to find answers, or that there even are answers? All too often, they leave.

Non-religious parents have a high chance of their children being non-religious as they go off on their own and go through college and into the workforce. Christian parents only have about a 50% chance of their children being Christians when they leave the home and enter the secular world.

I would imagine that, if you looked at the way that the church the family attends teaches, and what the parents teach their children, you’d find a few important things. You’d find that churches and families that are sound in their doctrine and teach it well have higher retention rates. And you’d find that churches and families that equip their children to, at the least, know that there are reasonable answers for hard questions and where to find them, have even higher retention rates. If a kid knows how to face the problem of suffering, or the question of macro evolution, or the reliability of the Bible, they’re not going to be thrown for a loop when a professor or atheist friend or coworker says something about it. But if they’re not equipped with these answers, and don’t even know where to find them, what do they have to help them?

But what happens when parents don’t even know apologetics, more or less that they should be introducing them to their children? What happens when the local church is, if anything, worse? Our children aren’t necessarily going to become committed believers when their faith is based on some moving camp experiences and pizza with other kids once a week. What about systematic theology? What about the important questions?

I think that I might want to address this deficit by starting a program for teaching these issues in my local — and very large –church in the future. This is a very long-term thing, and I’ve only just really started voicing it.

See, there are many things I enjoy, that I’m even passionate about. I’ve thought about a number of careers. I’ve thought about massage therapy, but I know its a physically taxing job that I’m not sure I want to commit to. To be completely honest, I don’t find the thought of massaging morbidly obese people appealing. I’ve thought about anthroplogy, and I probably could really enjoy such a job, but I’m not totally sure, particularly since it would possibly involve travelling. I’ve thought about teaching piano, and in fact have and probably will continue to do so a little, but only as a supplemental income and as something I can stop doing if life demands it. I’ve thought about sewing garb and such, but that is something I’d really only like to do as a hobby, not something full-time. Sitting at a booth at medieval events for the whole event just isn’t appealing to me. I’ve thought about being a nutritionist or personal trainer, but I don’t know that I’m passionate enough about the fitness and health world to make a living out of it, and I can certainly still be healthy, fit, and even help people with it without doing it for a living. Inviting people over to a garage gym and doing some Paleo stuff online doesn’t take an unreasonable amount of time, after all.

But apologetics. Evangelism. Counter-cult ministry. I’ve been doing that practically since I left the Mormon church. I’ve been studying since then, starting with C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity and continuing from there. I love it. I love the knowledge. I love that my book collection is steadily growing. I love that I’ve been a direct instrument of God in a few people’s conversion from Mormonism to Christianity, and that I’ve planted seeds for others. I love learning to debate logically, to recognize logical fallicies, to engage my intellect in something important.

And I’d love to use that to help the church in this area that it struggles.

Again, this is a long-term goal, which means that, if it doesn’t remain a goal and continue to grow in interest and possibility, it won’t happen. I’ve got plenty of time to realize that this is not actually something I want to devote myself to, long before I start putting any significant money or other resources toward it.

Realistically, if it is going to happen, a few things will need to happen. I want at least one more child, and I want my children to be at least old enough to entertain themselves while I do online classwork, which means that starting education towards this is going to be a few years out; the youngest would probably need to be a year minimum, and possibly older. I’ll need to be able to afford education, since it’s going to take at least a two-year certification, and it might be best to just go all out and get the full Master’s degree. Thankfully, I know at least one quality Christian university offers the full six years online. In the meantime, I can become an official member of my local church. I can get involved in the church, preferably in an area that directly relates to my long-term goal. I could get involved with teaching youth. I can eventually start offering an apologetics books study in my home for youth and/or adults. Then the transition to something more official would hopefully be smoother. I’d have credibility as a teacher and as a dedicated member of the church so that they would know they could trust me with such a position. And of course, I can continue my own personal studies.

So…we’ll see what happens.

Yes, I Sleep Train My Baby. No, I’m Not Abusive.

There is a lot of loaded discussion when it comes to sleep training. I’ve seen enough comments along the lines of, “People who let their children cry it out are cruel!” to know that there is a lot of emotion involved in this topic.

The one that always gets me is when they throw out some study or other that “proved” that crying it out is damaging to children because of something like impairment of brain development or something along those lines. I have to wonder how many people have actually seen the full study(ies), and if they could answer some of these questions for me:

  • What kind of cry-it-out training was studied? For instance, was this a sort where a parent chose a naptime arbitrarily, rather than based on the child’s natural rhythms? Where a parent put them down and walked away without ever checking in, offering comfort, making sure they were fed recently enough before nap time, etc? Or was it a cry-it-out that was based on the child’s natural nap needs, where the parent didn’t just ignore their child, and where it was teaching them to be comfortable falling asleep in bed rather than in a parent’s arms or while nursing or rocking?
  • Was the child well-fed? Did the cry-it-out training involve not meeting their nutrition needs, especially a younger infant’s nighttime needs? Or was it a sleep training that also met their natural eating rhythms, but made them routine and which evolved as the nutritional needs did by, for instance, doing less night feedings as the child needed less with age, weight, and adequate day feeding?
  • Why would cry-it-out training be more damaging than, say, colic? Both involve crying, and colic can involve hours upon hours of crying at a time, which crying-it-out (especially when not done neglectfully) usually does not, particularly after the first couple of days on average.
  • What control(s) were used? Who were involved in the comparison groups? What were the standards and the measurements? What confounding factors, such as age or weight at birth or health conditions, were controlled?

See, not so black and white.

Or the people who claim that sleep training makes a child lose trust in their caregivers and feel neglected or abandoned. Many of the same questions apply as above. What sort of sleep training are you talking about? What objective measures are you using?

I can certainly see how some forms of sleep training can be neglectful or abusive and therefore damaging, but I think that many parents who sleep train are anything but and their methods are anything but.

You see, my six month old son has learned to go to sleep almost every nap time without tears, and with no more than a minute or so of protest. I make sure he has his binkie, his “cuddle buddy” (one of those tiny blankets with a stuffed animal head in the middle), and a blanket. He cuddles up with the cuddle buddy and falls asleep happily most of the time. I don’t have to feed him to sleep. I don’t have to rock him as he fights me (him fighting me is what prompted me to begin sleep training). I don’t have to kill my back rocking him for half and hour or more when he gets sleepy and cranky. I wait until he’s clearly tired, usually about three hours after he last woke up, and I put him down with those comforting things, and he falls asleep.

How is that cruel? How is that neglectful?

It’s not that we never have a rougher nap time. He’s in transition from three naps to two right now, so he’s often still very tired in the evening, but not willing to sleep. I’ll often still put him down when he gets cranky, but if it’s clear he’s not going to fall asleep, he comes back out of the crib, usually within half an hour. I can’t force sleep on him, after all. I’m looking forward to when this transition is done, because a cranky baby who won’t sleep is no fun for anyone, including the baby.

And that’s natural.

We’ve also begun working on giving up the night feedings that he doesn’t need, being six months, about 14 pounds, and eating some solids. He still comfort feeds when he wakes up between sleep cycles, and since he’s capable of finding the comfort he needs right in his own crib with little or no fuss, we began working on doing so this week with one of his night feedings. Last night, it took only about fifteen minutes for him to fall asleep when he’d normally nurse. There was some protesting, but no screaming. No tears. I rocked him for a moment, and then set him down the same way I do at nap times. I am hopeful that in a few days, or at most a few weeks, he will have learned to put himself back to sleep quickly on his own. Then we’ll move on from there to another night feeding. My goal is to get from 4-5 to 1-2 night feedings very soon. Who knows? Maybe training him with one feeding will naturally carry over to the other feedings where he’s not actually hungry, and we’ll both sleep better at night in no time. Consistent night sleep is good for both of our brains, after all.

How is that cruel? How is that neglectful?

Honestly, children cry, and sometimes they do so in response to learning good things. Sometimes they fight things really hard, even if it’s something they ultimately will benefit from. There’s a difference between making them cry through cruelty and neglect, and making them cry because you’re teaching them something beneficial. There’s a difference between putting them down and ignoring them, regardless of their current needs, compared to teaching them a new habit and a routine.

The parent shouldn’t abdicate involved in the process of them learning this. They shouldn’t assume that the bed has become the parent the moment they are put down. My own son has this silly habit of rolling onto his stomach when he’s fighting falling asleep, and it will make him so mad that he’ll cry, spit out his binkie, and won’t roll back over. I check on him frequently enough that this never lasts more than a couple of minutes, because I’ll go in, roll him back over, replace his binkie, hand him his cuddle buddy, cover him back up, and give him a smile or a soft touch or spoken reassurance or a song before leaving again. Many times, this has been all he needed to calm down and fall asleep. Occasionally, I’ll pick him up, reassure him and cuddle him for a minute, and then put him back down. This has also often been all he needed to fall asleep. And because of this, he now often falls asleep easier in his own bed than if I try to rock him to sleep.

How is that cruel? How is that neglectful?

Routines are good for children, even very young ones. Finding comfort and familiarity with something good — their own bed at nap time — is a good thing. Children sleeping through the night is a good thing, as long as their needs aren’t being neglected (such as a younger infant’s need to eat at night still). And being able to do this while saving a parent’s body, mental health, and even giving them less sleep interruptions, is a good thing too.

The Big News From Pastor Mark

My pastor, Mark Driscoll, stepped down yesterday for 6+ weeks. There are eight things that will be done to try to bring healing and reconciliation to Mars Hill and Pastor Mark, while hopefully ending the media craze. Pastor Mark said that

  • I have submitted to the process prescribed by our church Bylaws as overwhelmingly approved by our entire Eldership for addressing accusations against me. I invite this process, rather than debating accusations and issues in social media or the court of public opinion. A  report on this process will be presented when it has been completed.
  • I have requested a break for processing, healing, and growth for a minimum of six weeks while the leadership assigned by our bylaws conduct a thorough examination of accusations against me. I believe their review can best be performed without me being in the pulpit or the office, and they have agreed to this arrangement.

 

He has also owned his sins in this troubled time.

However, another part of it is simply my fault and I will own it, confess it and move on from it as God continues to redeem me. I will seek to resolve unresolved issues with others, and will seek to avoid such conflict in the future; at least to the extent I have any control over it.

 

I almost cried at the end of the video above, when his family joined him, hugged him, and walked off stage with him, while the congregation showed their overwhelming love and support for them. I support my pastor too.

This is why we joined Mars Hill:

These are serious times we are living in and people all around us are dying every hour without Jesus. It is this reality that drives me and motivates me to keep learning God’s Word, and teaching God’s Word to His people so that together, we can continue to reach people with the saving grace and love and mercy of Jesus. I hope that regardless of whatever else is swirling around us, we never lose this perspective on why Mars Hill exists in the first place – Jesus loves people and people need Jesus.

Pastor Mark teaches the Bible faithfully, and generally quite well. I love how he preaches through whole sections or books at a time in many cases.

I am deeply saddened by this step, although I see the merits of it and pray it will be greatly fruitful to both my pastor and to the Mars Hill family. I’ve seen the tone of Pastor Mark’s sermons change over the last few years, without ever compromising the gospel message, and I expect that he will utilize this time to seek further positive change. I truly hope that the crazed critics will just…well…shut up now.

What has bothered me the most are the Christians who want to crucify him either because a) they’ve just heard what the media has to say, even though its often either untrue or blown out of proportion and not usually the appropriate avenue for proper discipline and call to repentance, or b) they hold different theologies on certain things and don’t like that Pastor Mark holds the positions he does and teaches them from the pulpit. This is especially true for those who are more liberal and hate that Mars Hill and its pastor are unashamedly pro-life, support traditional marriage, hold the Bible to be inerrant, etc. No matter what, there is a difference between calling for repentance of a fellow Christian who is in a leadership position, and an unloving, public demand for his head on a stake. Adding “I hope he gets some help” doesn’t make such behavior all better.

Perhaps there are times to repeatedly, publicly call out a pastor. I certainly don’t have any problem with false teachers being exposed as publicly as possible so that their followers can hopefully turn to true teaching, but Pastor Mark has faithfully taught the gospel in every single sermon, so he hardly fits into that category. I understand a pastor who absolutely refuses  to be accountable, especially for anything truly serious, being called out publicly, but people have been going public about Pastor Mark without knowing if repentance was being pursued or if any steps had been taken to right wrongs.

The result is that a pastor who has been involved in thousands being saved is being forced to step aside to, at least in part, end the media fire against him and his church, which has created a painful and heart-wrenching environment for its members and attendees.

I hope that, in a short time, Acts 29 reinstates Pastor Mark and Mars Hill. I hope that the media fire dies down. I really hope that Pastor Mark is back teaching the Word of God faithfully and apologetically in no more than a couple of months. I hope that the Mars Hill family stands behind him and his decision by attending and giving during this time, not just for him but also to show that Jesus is greater than any hard season and that we still want to hear about Jesus and his Word even when things are rough.

Creative Brainstorming

With a bigger, better apartment in the near future and a house of our own in the foreseeable future, I’ve been taking more consideration of home decorating and color schemes. I’ve been somewhat uncertain over the years, but it hasn’t mattered much because we’ve had mostly second-hand items that could be replaced easily when things solidified more.

Well, things are solidifying, including an income that will soon allow me to start in on this stuff one room at a time not long after we move in a few months, and that will allow us to become home owners in a few short years. My mind is, accordingly, starting to plan. I’ve some ideas going for a few rooms so far.

 

Master Bedroom

I want to focus my bedroom around this painting, which I already have.

The Accolade by Edmund Blair Leighton

The Accolade by Edmund Blair Leighton

I’ll need to replace the frame around it — which has a crack, anyways — in order to match it to the bedroom furniture better, but I plan on doing dark wood with cream, ivory, and red for colors. Non-cloth decor will be dark wood or antiqued metal to match the armor. I’ve already got some long swords and sheep skins, and my comforter is red and my sheets are cream. I also have a dark wood (real wood) dresser. I need to get a matching bed frame and night stands. I would love to have a complimenting lighter wood floor.

Honestly, the furniture color has been the hardest part to decide on. I’ve been going back and forth between the dark wood and black. Part of me absolutely loves wood in medium and dark colors, and it’s certainly authentic to the medieval look. I also already have a dark wood dresser, and the only black bedroom furniture I have needs to be replaced. On the other hand, black would certainly match the picture well, but would require me to strip and paint the dresser.

The nice thing is that I plan on getting real wood furniture, which means I can always just paint it later if I change my mind. For now, I’ve settled on dark wood.

 

Kitchen

My kitchen has been similarly hard to decide on. I thought for a while that I’d go with black and a nice, darker shade of blue, but that just doesn’t really feel homey and inviting enough.
So, I’ve finally settled on a color scheme of wood, a lightish green, and cream or beige. So far, dark wood cabinets with beige counter tops and green accent walls, curtains, dish cloths, etc has been the most appealing. I’ve seen a few Pinterest images along those lines, and it’s very beautiful. I’d probably do metallic appliances, but black is possible. Not white. White usually just looks too cheap to me.

Riley’s/boys’ Bedroom

So far, I’ve mostly just got “animale theme.”

By the way, no, it’s not “boys” plural yet. But it’s very probable that there will be some bedroom sharing, at least until they’re older, which would probably last longer if the next one is also a boy.

Anyways, since it’s possible that a girl will also be (more temporarily) sharing the theme, I was thinking of keeping the colors a little more neutral for now, at least as far as furniture and curtains and such go. The furniture is white so far, which seems like a safe enough color for any child’s room. I need to possibly paint the dresser, though, since it used to be mine so the white includes some very girly flowers. I especially need to paint it if the next one isn’t a girl who can just take over that dresser when Riley graduates into a more boyish one. Maybe I’ll hold off on that project until I know if that’s going to happen.

Beyond that, my inspiration is limited. This probably isn’t a bad thing, since children’s preferences change as they grow and it would be easiest for me to establish some neutral colors for furniture and then change up things like comforters and decorations as they grow, without spending too much on any one theme since it likely won’t last more than a few years.

Office/Library/Sewing Room

I’m guessing these are going to be combined. We may not even have a whole room set aside for this until we buy a home. But I’m thinking that cherry wood would be a nice way to go, with nice neutral colors to go with it all.

Living Room

This is where I struggle, and where suggestions would be most helpful. I’ve got a gorgeous painting by my great-uncle that I could potentially use to compliment the room beautifully, but it’s a painting of a lake surrounding by pines with blue-white mountains looming beautifully in the background, so it would be very easy for me to end up with a very rustic, cottage sort of look, and I’m not sure I want to go there. Or do I? I’m not sure. I feel like the “medium to dark wood” theme could easily get repetitive, but it would also provide quite a bit of continuity in the house, with some color variations to change things up. I’ve always enjoyed tans and browns with furniture, and then the accent colors could easily match the painting. It wouldn’t even have to get very country/cottage/rustic.

The alternative would be a more modernized black furniture look, with accent colors that would match the painting.

Either way, I’m pretty sure I want lots of seating for company; a sectional couch is probably in order.

 

That’s what I’ve got brainstormed so far, more or less. This is, of course, without actually having a house of our own yet, but I can start preparing now with some of the furniture, kitchen items, and decor.

Any suggestions? Comments? Thoughts?

The Abyss

I had one of those terrifying moments yesterday, when you look into the future and see death.

I don’t mean that I had some premonition of when I or anyone else is going to die. I simply mean that, someday, we are going to die, and there’s no stopping that.

While, as a twenty-something year old mother of an almost six-month-old, I am far from ready to die, I generally don’t feel too worried about what will happen when I die.

I’m a Christian. I know what I believe about what comes after.

An atheist will tell you that after death comes oblivion. I don’t believe that, and the world feels like so much rubber falseness when I contemplate such a possibility. That feeling isn’t why I’m not an atheist, but it certainly inclines me towards accepting theistic evidence in cases where the evidence or reasoning stacks up relatively evenly. Although, come to think of it, I’m not sure there’s any case in which the theistic evidence doesn’t show itself to be the more probable. That’s beside the point, though.

No. Even believing what I do — that there is a heaven and a hell, and that, since I’ve accepted the chance to do so, I will be in paradise after death — the stark reality of death can still be terribly frightening.

The reality is, I can’t know with 100% certainty. I don’t have the benefit that Doubting Thomas did. I can’t touch the scars and look into the eyes of my Savior and fall down and worship saying, “My Lord and my God!” I haven’t had an angel stand before me and grant me a vision of heaven as John the Revelator or Isaiah the Prophet did. And so, while I know what I believe, to an extend it is ultimately rooted in faith.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Hebrews 11:1

While I have reasons to believe what I believe, some things really do come down to hope, because the evidence isn’t in front of my face or proven by indisputable logic.

And so, last night, I stared death in the face in a moment of clarity and fear, and realized its complete inevitability and my inability to control anything that might come after, beyond the hope that my faith has given me.

I am comforted in a few things. First, that it comes to everyone. Second, that if I am wrong in my faith, the next most probably belief is atheism, which means it won’t matter that I was wrong. I won’t even know I was wrong. And third, that if I am right in my faith, which I believe I am or I wouldn’t have faith in it, then the other side of death will be a joyful thing.

But even with these comforts, I — and all other humans — will someday die, and there’s nothing I can do about it, and what happens after is totally out of my control. Someday my body won’t be able to sustain my life and hold my soul any longer, and there’s nothing I can do about it. The synapses will cease firing, my heart will stop, my lungs won’t draw breath, my brain will go dark, and I can’t stop it.

I can’t stop it.

I can only hope and pray that I will live long enough to see grandchildren and great grandchildren, that my own children will be successful in their lives and firm in their faith, so that I can depart knowing that my life was as fulfilling and meaningful as I could hope it to be. I can only try to be faithful, so that when I stand before God, as I hope and believe I will, I will hear “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

But no matter what I can do, no matter how much peace I have about it when it comes, I can’t stop death. It is an abyss that we all must fall into, whether we wish to or not.

Under Fire

I belong to Mars Hill Church.

Well, not officially. We haven’t done the membership interview and signed the membership contract. We haven’t really had time to do so. But we’ve been attending this church for a year, and attending a community group of other members for nearly as long, and I’ve been watching Pastor Mark’s sermons online since shortly after I was saved. His teaching has been enormously helpful in developing my faith and theology.

Pastor Mark has gotten a lot of flack over the years. He’s reformed, so many non-reformed Christians don’t like him. He’s complimentarian, so the egalitarians gets annoyed and the rad fems hate him, even though there are women deacons and such and women are greatly affirmed and protected in many ways. He’s real about this world we live in and the questions and struggles people face in it, particulatly in a culture that has sex all wrong, so people don’t like how real and blunt he is. He’s a continuationist so the cessationists don’t agree. He’s not charismatic so those who think that tongues is the baptism of the spirit don’t agree. He upholds traditional marriage and is pro-choice so the liberals get fired up.

You get the picture.

 

Lately, the criticisms have been taken to a new level, though, and if you’ve paid any attention to the blogosphere on this issue, you know what I’m talking about. I’m blessed to have a deacon in my community group who is in constant communication with some of the elders about these issues and who is happy to share the answers he gets, but some people have only the blogs. Here’s what I’ve noticed from the blogosphere.

1. Outright lies and unfounded/biased criticism.

Some people just want to watch a high-profile, conservative pastor burn. If you search these blogs, you’ll often also find tirades against Christians who believe in traditional marriage or a bunch of pro-choice rhetoric. The agenda is clear, biased, and not pretty. They’ll reach for anything and twist anything to make Mark and Mars Hill look bad. Truth is not required.

2. Out of context or exaggerated.

We all know that something taken out of context or exaggerated can make a situation look like something is wasn’t. The Strangefire incident is a prime example of this. Should Mark have gone and handed out his book there? Maybe not. But did that short video clip and the claims that went with it accurately represent what actually happened? No way. At worst, he was a nuisance, but not an outright liar and antagonist.

Another example would be an incident I heard about but never actually read about which apparently had to do with whether one of the campuses was violating laws with its location. I heard about it third hand, so I don’t have all the details, but what I understand is that in actuality, there was a conflict between county and state laws or something along those lines, so the church met the legal requirements of paying fees until the conflict between the laws was properly resolved. They then declined to sue to regain the fees they paid, not feeling that such an action was necessary or the best choice for a church in regards to such an issue. But of course, all the critics wanted to say was that the church was violating laws.

3. True, often blown up or without grace.

Mark and the leaders have certainly made mistakes. They are only human, and they’ve faced massive growth, often with little experience to help them handle it. That doesn’t excuse the sins, but it is only proper to put sins in their context to understand them.

One trend I noticed is that people want to see repentance and apologies, but every apology is met with criticism and any evidence of repentance and change is met with skepticism and assertions that it’s not enough or he needs to be more public about it.

The thing is, most of his legitimate public offenses have been addressed by public apologies and actions. Real Marriage, the discussion board comments, the one thing that actually was a plagiarism…all addressed. And the things that weren’t, like the other claims of plagiarism which the church and publishers investigated and found to be without basis, were explained.

Age the legitimate offenses that are being dealt with privately because they largely have to do with individuals, or because of the legal ramifications of saying anything publicly, are probably getting the most flack. In a recent video posted on the church’s website right before the Best Sermon Ever series, Pastor Mark explained that, while the actions being taken aren’t public and there’s little that can be said regarding them at this point, actions are being taken. And if he and the other elders are doing what they say they’re doing, then they are seeking real reconciliations insofar as possible.

Honestly, many pastors wouldn’t fair much better, and many even worse, if they were put under he scrutiny and publicity that Mark and the other executive elders have been facing. One of my previous pastors had been cheated on by his wife but reconciled with her. Another got kicked out of his position for his dishonesty with money, though I think he did love Jesus but just put money in the wrong place in his life, and another abandoned his struggling church because of outright greed. And this is just what I know of these pastors.

I think that, as leaders, Mark and the other elders should most certainly be required to show repentance. While they certainly have to be careful about who they apprise of the situations and to what extent, their Board of Accountability seems to have deemed them still qualified as long as they pursue reconciliation, and I’m willing to believe that that’s what they’re doing unless I see something definitive to the contrary.

It isn’t the easiest thing to  be attending Mars Hill in this season. I fully understand why some choose to leave in this time, although I truly appreciate the ones who leave quietly and are willing to extend forgiveness, even if they never choose to come back. I truly pray they find or have found new church homes with people and leaders who love and teach the Bible.

My husband and I are — watchfully — sticking it out at this time. One thing we can say for Pastor Mark is that he’s always taught the Bible, often very well, and we certainly appreciate that. We are willing to extend forgiveness to our very human elders and to stay as long as we see repentance, and hope that other Christians see it in themselves to forgive as well, particularly where there is evidence of repentance.

 

Lord, I pray for the pastors to be able to repent fully, change the course of the church in they future so that their actions better reflect you, and that they can stand firm through the trials. I pray for the critics, that they may lose the strength of their criticism as repentance is seen and that perhaps their hearts may even be softened. I pray for those genuinely hurt or wronged, that they may find and accept reconciliation, and that many would be willing to make their acceptance public to shut the mouths of the unrelenting and extend grace to Mark and the other elders. In Jesus’ name, amen.