How can shepherds teach such things in light of their own behavior?
Last year, The Midway Guardian published a comparative analysis of Mark Driscoll’s ministerial failure at Mars Hill Church and the ongoing abuse of authority at Midway Presbyterian Church under Senior Pastor David Hall’s leadership. While Driscoll’s empire collapsed under the weight of his authoritarianism, and while accusations of his pattern of abusive behavior continue to this day, to his credit – he has published multiple open letters of apology. In one such letter he states, “I now rejoice that God has been gracious to give me pastors for accountability and wise counsel. Through their counsel to confess my own sin, while not being distracted by the shortcomings of others, the Holy Spirit is making me a better man and pastor, which I pray helps us to become a better church. This is the truest and strongest pastoral love and accountability that I have ever had and I thank the Lord for it.“
Will David Hall accept accountability, the counsel of others, and repent like Mark Driscoll? Or will he continue in his pride, digging in and practicing “Blessed Subtraction” at Midway as the pruner of his own congregation? How much longer will he preside over hypocritical worship? Consider two sad examples from worship at Midway Presbyterian Church on May 15, 2022: the responsive reading and the sermon itself:
Bodies Behind the Church Bus…
Senior Pastor David Hall (who has been referred to as the “Inquisitor General”) and his Associate Marc Harrington (who as Clerk of Session fabricated witness testimony to wrongly convict his fellow elder RE Philip Dudt) led the congregation in a responsive reading of Psalm 94. Consider these portions of the reading:
The Lord is a God who avenges. O God who avenges, shine forth. Rise up, Judge of the earth; pay back to the proud what they deserve. How long, Lord, will the wicked, how long will the wicked be jubilant? They pour out arrogant words; all the evildoers are full of boasting. They crush your people, Lord; they oppress your inheritance... The Lord knows all human plans; he knows that they are futile... Judgment will again be founded on righteousness, and all the upright in heart will follow it... Can a corrupt throne be allied with you—a throne that brings on misery by its decrees?... The wicked band together against the righteous and condemn the innocent to death... He will repay them for their sins and destroy them for their wickedness; the Lord our God will destroy them.
The Session at Midway under the leadership, procedural guidance, and encouragement of Senior Pastor David Hall conspired to persecute their brother RE Dudt and now proudly stand in defiance of basic Christian charity, justice, and the counsel of many who rightfully interpret Dudt’s exoneration by the highest court of the PCA. The Session remains silent about the evil they perpetrated against their equal. No apologies have been given and not even so much as an announcement from the Midway leadership has been issued informing the congregation on the topic. Meanwhile, Senior Pastor David Hall stubbornly clings to the purveyance of unjust suspicions and accusations of their fellow elders Clay David, Don Barnett, and James Scott. This is “Blessed Subtraction”. Recall how Mark Driscoll defined it:
"Here’s what I’ve learned. You cast vision for your mission and if people don’t sign up you move on, you move on. There are people that are gonna die in the wilderness and there are people who are going to take the hill. That’s just how it is. Too many guys waste too much time trying to move stiff-necked stubborn obstinate people. I am all about blessed subtraction. There is a pile of dead bodies behind the Mars Hill bus. And by God’s grace, it will be a mountain by the time we’re done. You either get on the bus or you get run over by the bus. Those are the options. But the bus ain’t gonna stop. I’m just a guy who is like, “look, we love you, but this is what we are doing.” There are a few kinds of people. There are people who get in the way of the bus. They gotta get run over. There are people who want to take turns driving the bus. They gotta get thrown off because they want to go somewhere else. There are people who will be on the bus, leaders and helpers and servants, they’re awesome. There’s also just sometimes nice people who sit on the bus and shut up. They’re not helping or hurting. Just let them ride along… You need to gather a whole new core. I’ll tell you guys what, too. You don’t do this just for your church planting or replanting, I’m doing it right now. I’m doing it right now. We just took certain guys and rearranged the seats on the bus. Yesterday, we fired two elders for the first time in the history of Mars Hill last night. They’re off the bus, under the bus. They were off mission, so now they’re unemployed. This will be the defining issue as to whether or not you succeed or fail. I’ve read enough of the New Testament to know that occasionally Paul puts somebody in the wood chipper. You know?”
David Hall’s church bus, rolling along its wheels of prejudice and pride, continues to rip Midway asunder. How can he, as the driver, lead his congregation in a responsive reading of Psalm 94 having not repented for the mistreatment of RE Phil Dudt or the ongoing miscarriage of justice that is the judicial process against REs Clay David, Don Barnett, and James Scott? David Hall’s “corrupt throne” indeed “brings misery” through its decrees (see the overturned “Talley Resolution“, a decree that promises discipline on those who disagree with the leadership).
A Lack of Repentance is a Lack of Sorrow…
Senior Pastor David Hall’s sermon was titled “Knowing the Difference Between Real Spirituality and Imitations,” and in it he reminded the congregation in the words of Martin Luther that “the Christian life is one of continual repentance.” He relayed that there are false ones who merely fake this, and decrying their pride, he recounts that often the “most religious” are the ones who are imitators.
“The Lord our shepherd loves the sheep enough to guide them, and to bring them into the fold, even with his crook, and even to discipline us with His rod if we start to stray. Would it not be patently unloving of God, to allow us to simply wander and stray heading in any direction that we think is right according to our own eyes. We need to know the difference then between real spirituality and imitations.”Senior Pastor David Hall: May 15, 2022: https://youtu.be/hhRVjDql4kk?t=1960
Every member of Midway Presbyterian Church should similarly care enough for one another, even their pastoral leadership, to call them to account when they have clearly strayed and pursue only what is right in their own eyes. The highest court of the PCA has spoken on the false charges brought by David Hall and his Session, and yet they remain silent and defiant. Their defiance is exhibited in their continual pursuit of church discipline in never ending trials against other officers of the church. Where is the pause? Where is the prayerful reflection of the Midway Session? Instead David Hall has stomped on the accelerator of the church bus used for “Blessed Subtraction”.
“…maybe you should think about this before claiming that you know the truth. Maybe you should know that you are playing with dynamite if you profess to know Christ and you are in it for what you can get out of it whether that be comfort, or assurance, or anything in your life, maybe you should know there is great danger in faking faith or acting as if you are spiritual and not being so.”Senior Pastor David Hall: May 15, 2022: https://youtu.be/hhRVjDql4kk?t=1960
Playing with dynamite indeed to remain unrepentant in the face of such egregious errors! Jesus informs us that His sheep hear His voice, and that we know His people by their fruits and by their love for one another. Many in the congregation of Midway Presbyterian Church are asking the bus driver where the fruit of repentance is? Where is the love on the Session? Where is the submission they so love to remind others is owed? Maybe it’s “fake”. Since none can judge the heart, all one can go by is the fruit, and it is hard to find.
David Hall warned in his sermon against those who would “use God’s power for their own purposes” saying:
“They wanted to use God, they wanted to use the name of Jesus, almost like an Aladdin’s lamp with a Genie and then put it back on its shelf. It is wrong to use God for your own purposes. It is wrong when we attempt to use God and his spiritual power for financial gain. It is wrong when we attempt to use God and manipulate the Scriptures according to what we think they should say or what works…”Senior Pastor David Hall: May 15, 2022: https://youtu.be/hhRVjDql4kk?t=1960
Does misusing church discipline, and bringing false charges in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ qualify as violating the above statement? It is fearful enough to eat and drink condemnation unto oneself, but beyond this, the church leaders at Midway should be very cautious playing games with Christ’s name lest they arouse His anger…
Readers should practice what Senior Pastor David Hall preaches, not what he does. The Midway Guardian calls on the Session at Midway to repent:
“…when people see the difference, they came to faith and they openly confessed their evil deeds. They did not want to suffer the wrath of God poured out on these imposters, they saw it was better to openly confess that Jesus was Lord than to be diagnosed as having corruption and trying to act outwardly righteous, but only for their own benefit. Not only did they confess their evil deeds, but this is stunning when you go through here and read this and take these words seriously, their repentance was so thorough that they did something about it…”Senior Pastor David Hall: May 15, 2022: https://youtu.be/hhRVjDql4kk?t=1960
Repentance must be followed with action. Consider David Hall’s own words, “True repentance requires that we turn from our sin and take necessary steps so that you don’t back yet again.” The example given from Acts was the burning of the occult books. Will David Hall and his Session repent for their misuse of the church courts, and burn their indictments and specification of charges? Will they show the world that they are committed to true repentance? Or will they harden their hearts and so lead the church in “Blessed Subtraction”, the product of which is a shrinking church whose witness is brought low?
To this point, Charles Spurgeon remarked:
“”Repentance” is a hatred of sin; it is a turning from sin and a determination in the strength of God to forsake it. “Repentance” is a hatred of sin, and a forsaking it….I tell you, there is always sorrow with it. No man ever repents of sin without having some kind of sorrow with it. More or less intense, it may be, according to the way in which God calls him, and his previous manner of life, but there must be some sorrow. We do not care when it comes, but at some time or other it must come, or it is not the repentance of the Christian.””Charles Spurgeon 1855
Mark Driscoll expressed sorrow and regret for the ways he hurt others. There is little evidence that there is any sorrow amongst the leadership at Midway for what they have done wrong to the congregation, RE Phil Dudt, and to REs Clay David, Don Barnett, and James Scott. It is time for the congregation to act and ask the driver of the church bus to step aside and end the ride.