Doug Phillips

In Light of Fallen Men: How Christian Leaders Can Avoid the Abyss


And there goes another. 


I've been a Christ-follower ever since I can remember, and I just turned 44. My whole 44 years on earth have been spent as a Christian, surrounded by Christians, listening to the teaching of Christians. I've seen a lot.

When I was seven years old, my family left a church my parents helped start because the leader had become larger than life. A boisterous, friendly, big personality, he quickly took the role of the reason the church gathered, the One who delivered the sermons, the guy everyone wanted to follow. Amongst other abuses, there were accusations of infidelity and outrageous aggrandizing pride. He blocked our view of Jesus.

When I was 12, I learned that my sweet Sunday School friend's dad, a deacon, had left a string of women in his wake, and her mom was leaving him until he could get his act together. I couldn't understand my young friend's pain because I hadn't experienced that kind of betrayal, but I knew that nowhere in that story could I see Jesus.

When I was away at college, I learned that the man I had called my pastor throughout junior high and high school had confessed to an affair. And then another. The women began to speak out, to come forward. I was dumbstruck. Him? But he was kind, humble, like Jesus. I saw Jesus in him. How did he find himself thinking he was a replacement to Jesus? What made him place his hope in something - someones - other than Jesus?

I had never seen Jesus in the televangelists who acted like buffoons, so when they fell like dominoes in the '80's and '90's, I could roll my eyes. They weren't like the godly men I had grown up around. But they did have something eerily in common with all of the men I had seen fall, the men like Doug Phillips and now Mark Driscoll. It doesn't matter what their particular sins are, they all - each one of them - forgot the gospel.

I've written down this path before, so I won't repeat myself except to say that we must never, never, never, never, never, never, never forget that day at Calvary, the One who stood in our place and took on all of our failures, and who covers us with His perfection so that God sees Him instead of us


Then we won't get in the way of other people seeing Jesus. 


Doug Phillips, Mark Driscoll, you, me . . . we forget Jesus and then we begin to think that something, someone, somewhere is going to define who we are instead of resting in the perfection that is Jesus. 


Do you see the danger?


If we don't, by our pride and our self-promotion, become a boulder that keeps others from seeing Jesus, we tend to look for someone who we think is the answer and voice of Jesus, and soon they become the boulder that blocks our view. Don't let anyone get in the way of your sightline. 

Today, I'm thankful to be in a Christian community (church) where the leaders try to get out of the way as much as they can. But unfortunately, I don't trust them as far as I can throw them. I don't trust me as far as I can throw me, either. Chalk it up to half a lifetime of experience, but I've seen firsthand how quick we all are to try to find our worth and significance in either the world and what it offers or our religious, moral behavior and self-righteousness. Both are an abyss.

How can leaders avoid the abyss? Get out of the way of Jesus. Put your hope in Him. Preach about Him. Take yourself out of the equation.

How can followers avoid the abyss? Get out of the way of Jesus. Put your hope in Him. Listen to Him. Take yourself out of the equation.

What Doug Phillips Forgot


Can we stand yet another post on the Doug Phillips debacle?

I first heard Doug speak at a homeschool convention in Southern California back in 2000 or 2001. He was a mighty fine speaker: eloquent, passionate, and well-prepared. He had charisma, albeit misplaced.

But he spoke to my sensitivities at the time, appealing to my elitism (“Homeschoolers will be the ones to change the world”, yada, yada, yada) and personal idols of family and religious behavior. The room was packed, and men and women alike stood at the end of his keynote address to join Doug as he led us in a poignant rendition of the old hymn, Oh Give Us Homes

I was admittedly (painfully) starry-eyed. Of course, we all know that looking backwards affords us the benefit of hindsight, and that knowledge I have now, born not just out of the past month’s revelations but of years of purging the Vision Forum ideology from our lives, just really makes me want to retch. 

Sex with nannies (I don’t care what his letter says; the guy is clearly splitting hairs to protect himself), oppression of the women he so vocally vowed to protect and defend, fraud, theft, and the root of it all, pride, are the tip of the iceberg according to insiders. Honestly, I wish the festering pimple would just pop so we could have it all out and be done with it, swabbing the whole mess with a gigantic cotton ball soaked in alcohol.

Or the gospel.

Because, see, that’s what’s been missing all along. Back when he began, back when I heard him speak, back when he was running an organization that served one person — Doug Phillips — the gospel was painfully absent from the mission.

The gospel that reminds us of Whose we are and what He did for us. The gospel that reminds us that God is more than enough, that Jesus paid it all and declared “It is finished”, and that what He did was more important than what we do. The gospel that reminds us that we don’t have to go anywhere else to look for our value, worth, acceptance, or fulfillment. 

That’s what Doug Phillips forgot, and I am just like him. Because I, too, leave the gospel behind daily in my quest to feel accepted. I have to remind myself of the finished work of Christ on my behalf daily, hourly. I have to bask in the love of a God who cannot ever fail to love me. 

So really, we’re not so different, Doug and I. Perhaps now that he’s left with a deep, hemorrhaging, gaping, festering wound, he’ll remember why he loved Jesus in the first place. It may mean prison and a profound loss of relationships and at the very least, the complete collapse of that pathetic little empire he built apart from the gospel. But that would be the greatest thing Doug could ever do in his life. Return to Jesus and be filled up with Jesus’ value and worth and significance. It’s all about Jesus. 

Because empires and visionary forums built on anything less than the gospel aren’t worth the tiny men who’ve slaved tirelessly to erect them. In the end, what they had put up as a prop for their own inadequacies fails them miserably, and they become slaves to the very things they might have used to point people to Jesus instead of themselves. 

The gospel. That’s what Doug forgot.