Former National Evangelicals Association leader Ted Haggard’s admission of sexual immorality has many people wondering, “Why?” But one of the most surprising suggestions came from a leader in the “emergent” church.
“It is not uncommon to meet pastors’ wives who really let themselves go,” Mark Driscoll, founder and teaching pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, wrote in a blog. “They sometimes feel that because their husband is a pastor, he is therefore trapped into fidelity, which gives them cause for laziness.”
That’s one of several “practical suggestions” Driscoll offered in light of the Haggard scandal for Christian leaders, “especially young men.”
“A wife who lets herself go and is not sexually available to her husband in the ways that the Song of Songs is so frank about is not responsible for her husband’s sin,” Driscoll said, “but she may not be helping him either.”
Driscoll started the 5,000-member church as a 12-member Bible study in 1996. The Church Report listed Mars Hill as 22nd among the 50 most influential churches, one spot lower than Haggard’s New Life Church in Colorado Springs.
Haggard’s wife, Gayle, wrote a letter to the women of New Life Church saying she would not change what she has been teaching them.
“For those of you who have been concerned that my marriage was so perfect I could not possibly relate to the women who are facing great difficulties, know that this will never again be the case,” she said.
Immortalized as the “Cussing Pastor” in Donald Miller’s book Blue Like Jazz, Driscoll is a leader of the “emerging” or “emergent” church movement, which seeks to engage people living in postmodern society through a “missional” lifestyle, while immersing themselves in culture.
While some emergent church leaders are viewed as soft on issues like gender and homosexuality, Driscoll reads the Bible literally as prescribing roles for men and women. Husbands are to be the head of the house and breadwinner. Wives, according to a Salon article, are encouraged to stay at home and have children. Women may minister in the church but not as pastors.
“As every pastor knows, we are always at risk from the sin in us and the sinful temptations around us,” Driscoll wrote in Friday’s blog at TheResurgence.com.
“Pastoring in one of America’s least churched cities to a large number of single, young people has been an eye-opening experience for me,” he continued. “I started the church 10 years ago when I was 25 years of age. Thankfully, I was married to a beautiful woman. I met my lovely wife Grace when we were 17, married her at 21, and by God’s grace have been faithful to her in every way since the day we met.
“I have, however, seen some very overt opportunities for sin. On one occasion I actually had a young woman put a note into my shirt pocket while I was serving communion with my wife, asking me to have dinner, a massage and sex with her.
“On another occasion a young woman e-mailed me a photo of herself topless and wanted to know if I liked her body. Thankfully, that email was intercepted by an assistant and never got to me.”
In order to avoid sexual temptation, Driscoll said, pastors should have their office at church and study at home. There is no reason, he said, for a pastor to be at the church alone at odd hours when anyone can drop in for any reason and find him.
“I spend the vast majority of my time working from home,” Driscoll said. “Some years ago when I did not, I found that lonely people, some of them hurting single moms wanting a strong man to speak into their life, would show up to hang out and catch time with me. It was shortly thereafter that I brought my books home and purchased a laptop and cell phone so that I was not tied to the church office.”
Driscoll also said churches should consider returning to “heterosexual male assistants,” like Timothy and Titus in the Bible, to work alongside pastors.
“Too often the pastor’s assistant is a woman who, if not sexually involved, becomes too emotionally involved with the pastor as a sort of emotional and practical second wife,” he said. “I have been blessed with a trustworthy heterosexual male assistant who can travel with me, meet with me, etc., without the fear of any temptations or even false allegations since we have beautiful wives and eight children between us.”
Driscoll also discouraged pastors from traveling alone. “The anonymity and fatigue of the road is too great a temptation for many men,” he said. “A pastor should take his wife, an older child, an assistant, or fellow leader with him. If this cannot be afforded then travel should not be undertaken.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.
Managing editor at EthicsDaily.com from 2003-2009, Allen wrote more than 1,500 news stories during his tenure.