yes, i’d like some sound biblical teaching with a side of discernment and extra intergrity… hold the snark

July 15, 2011


adjective / ˈsnärkē /  sharply critical, cutting, or snide


Fresh tomatoes have their place.  And that place is not in my mouth.

Mexican restaurants are the worst perpetrators, probably because they are simply awash in fresh tomatoes.  They put fresh tomatoes on and in everything.  Therefore, even when I order my burrito with “NO TOMATOES,” I still routinely find rogue stow-away chunks of tomato pulp hidden among the tender folds of my flour tortilla.  I can’t escape them. So I’m forced to eat my Chipotle burritos with great caution, carefully scanning each bite for refugee tomato chunks that have slipped in among the pinto beans unannounced.  Sure as shootin’ if I eat my burrito with abandon and blind trust… BAM. I’m going to bite into a chunk of unwelcomed tomato pulp and get a case of the jigglies*insert shudder here*

Here it is: my distaste for fresh tomatoes parallels my feelings about snark in the Church.  I have been known to enjoy hurling a sarcastic tweet into the wild now and again.  I admit it.  And I admit it with some degree of regret, because I recognize it as a part of my fallen nature.  More often than not sarcasm cuts deeper than can be justified.  I’m trying to change my ways in this regard.

Now when I’m listening to a brother or sister in leadership, or reading from a fellow Christian blogger or columnist, when I run headlong into a face-full of snark, it puts a bad taste in my mouth.  Like a chunk of fresh tomato. Uninvited.  Unappreciated.  Unwanted.  Ineffective.

Mark Driscoll just got a talking to from his elder board. Mark is a guy with whom I agree on a broad spectrum of theological issues.  I’m in his camp most of the time.  And I love his passion to minister to and engage the 20 and 30 something MEN of the Church.  No doubt, we need strong voices calling men to be leaders and fulfill their biblical calling to be the head of the home they are made to be – and to lead the Church with a mix of Spirit-led confidence and humble grace.

However, Mark does have a cocky side.

The dark side of strong leadership gifts is a propensity toward pride and rash decision-making.  As much as I have loved brother Mark over the years, this was a foolish thing to do.

Earlier this month, Driscoll posted the following question on Facebook:

Yep, he did. Yuck-o.

Now blogger/speaker Rachel Held Evans has publically taken him to the woodshed.  His elders have taken corrective action.  And Mark responded with a non-apology, but an acknowledgement that he lacked judgement and is glad to be under the authority of elders who will reign him in when necessary.

All of this is like a big, gnarly chunk of tomato in the proverbial burrito of my Mark Driscoll relationship.

I have written about this kind of “since I’m right you’re not worthy of respect” attitude in the Church before – check out the related links below this post. It matters to me because it matters to the church.  I don’t bring up the Mark Driscoll junk in order to join any bandwagons, or to make this debate about Mark and his ministry.  Rather, this is an example.  A real time example.  Mark has lost some credibility in my eyes.  His snark has a cost. He may have important things to say to the men of the church.  But this snarky tone is unwise.  Uninvited.  Unappreciated.  Unwanted.  Ineffective.

Because of an overload of pride and snark, Driscoll has lost the opportunity to effectively share the Gospel with thousands of people who will now write him off as an unkind, homophobic chauvanist.  I mean, there are plenty of people who already had come to that conclusion.  Now even more will tune him out, and that’s a net loss for the Kingdom.  When he speaks of the saving power of the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ on the cross on our behalf, he is clear, he is potent, he is offering the only hope we have of eternal life.  But now, how many will ignore (or worse, discount with prejudice) whatever he has to say about Jesus Christ… all for a moment of snark?

When you are a Christ-follower, and a leader in the Church, no less, the consequences are eternal.

Snarky = sinfully caloused to the spiritual reality that we are ALL sinners who need the grace of Jesus.  No exceptions.  There is a place for watchdogs in the Church, calling out “Danger! Danger!” when false teachers are threatening to steal from God’s flock.  Wolves among the sheep.  However, I am wary of those who make “watchdog” their identity – if they wear the title with pride – and wield their opinions with more snark than love.  We are to be motivated by awe and love, yes, rather than sarcasm and guilt?  Snark is unkind, and it raises defenses. A kind word turns away wrath, and even those we disagree with are more likely to listen if we engage them with respect.

My world will be that much closer to heaven when I see less snarky barbs being hurled between brothers.  If you intend to hurl tomatoes at other brothers and sisters in the Church, I’ll ask you to consider a less caustic approach to dialogue. And I’ll ask you not to get any of that pulpy mess in my Tex-Mex, thank you very much.

Talk to me…

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“yes, i’d like some sound biblical teaching with a side of discernment and extra intergrity… hold the snark” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


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Psalm 24:7 & Luke 10:42 >> Like David, and Mary, I'm in pursuit of my one thing. I'm the Pastor at St. Olaf Lutheran Church in Montgomery, IL. Pastor, teacher, writer, communicator, designer, and drummer. I definitely got the better deal in my marriage to Amy. And I couldn't be any more proud of my five amazing boys. Deeply grateful.

11 responses to yes, i’d like some sound biblical teaching with a side of discernment and extra intergrity… hold the snark

  1. This bums me out! I absolutely love Mark’s teaching, but that was such a silly thing to say. You are absolutely right that words like that come at a cost. Definitely a good example and reminder to think before throwing sarcastic remarks around like that.

    On a side note, between your (uncanny) hatred for Red Vines and your disdain for tomatoes, I think your credibility may also be taking a few hits… 🙂

    • Hey Liz. First of all, we’ve already established that the Twizzler vs. Red Vines debate has long been settled. I can speak with your father to set us some sort of “anoint you with oil” healing service with the Elders of Good Shepherd if you’d like. You can be free indeed.

      Secondly, tomatoes are of the Lord. They have their place, as I said… but there must be either cookery, sun-dried-ness, or salsafication of said tomatoes before they enter my cranium by way of mouth. Or by any other method. Wait…

      The point is, I do like many forms of tomatoes. Just not unwelcomed, unexpected fresh seed globules of gelatinous pulp hidden, say, on a burger, or otherwise lovely sandwich, or the aforementioned Chipotle sleeping-bag sized burrito. I don’t think my judgment can be called into question on such flimsy evidence. especially since you’re so wrong on the licorice debate.

      But yes, it bummed me out, too. I watched my wife reading through a laundry list of ill-conceived statements by Mark regarding gender roles and I watched years and years of fruitful, Christ-centered ministry losing any foothold it might have otherwise had with her. She no longer trusts Mark to be a wise, Spirit-led Christian leader. Doesn’t much matter what else he has to say at this point, from her perspective. And that’s a shame, because he’s right about so much. Good reminder for me, too.

  2. You don’t like tomatoes? Seriously? That explains why you didn’t follow my lead with the huevos rancheros at Fat Nat’s.

    I have Mark D issues. But they’re not snarky. The arrogance you’ve highlighted is a regular feature. Some of his shock-jock preaching techniques put him on center stage instead of saying “Let them see Jesus.”

    How easily we discredit our own ministry.
    Let them see Jesus.

    • Hey brother Wade. Yes, I DO like tomatoes, provided they are expected, and cooked… or made into salsa.

      However, having said that, I in no way can condone the mixing of salsa and eggs. In no way. I’ve made my case against Ranchos Huevos known to the masses before. >

      Regarding Mark, I understand what you are saying regarding his teaching style, and maybe this Facebook post is simply evidence of which you speak. He has still been a powerful voice of truth to me many times. He has the ability to clarify and communicate Biblical truth that is truly powerful. I have “excused” some of his shock-jockery in the sense that I recognize there are thousands of souls bound for heaven due to what the Lord has done through him, and due to the fact that there is ample room for different styles and presentation methods… as long as the message is Spirit-led and the content is the unwavering truth of the Word of God.

      However, truth be told, this latest episode has raised my concern meter for Mark’s discernment to an all-time high. Time will tell.

      Thanks again Wade. Bless your family.

  3. Secret Person ;) July 20, 2011 at 6:35 pm

    I’m with your wife on this one, probably not surprisingly. 🙂 Unfortunately this is not a bad apple in the barrel of Mark Driscoll’s ministry – it is a consistent and pervasive theme that comes up again and again. He comes under censorship from his elders and peers among the calvinistas and sort of apologizes (or advertises a new book, whichever) and then does the same thing again.

    People like MD, with a habitual issue, don’t just get over it. He will continue to hurt people and ostracize people from the faith as long as he has a platform in ministry. I absolutely refuse to have anything to do with him, not because he is wrong about everything, not because I feel he isn’t a Christian, but because I can get the same truth somewhere else. Presented with grace and honesty and a helping of humility.

    He may have some great things to bring to the table – like burritos. But his burritos don’t just have a bit of unpleasant tomato, he is serving his burritos on a plate covered with mold. That kind of meal makes people sick. Either sick of him, or sick with a blindness that can’t see there is nothing godly about the way he presents himself, nothing godly about the way he treats others and nothing godly about the way he is proud that his exegesis comes from “two hours of study while watching a ball game.” He is sloppy in exegesis, sloppy in what he says, rude in the way he treats others and can’t seem to change.

    He needs love, people to come near him and help him get help. He doesn’t need to be in such a public ministry until he can work through some of the issues that he so obviously has. I feel for him – I think I could easily be in his shoes.

    • Hey Secret. Thanks for joining us here.

      I going to cop out a bit. In my post above I said, “I don’t bring up the Mark Driscoll junk in order to join any bandwagons, or to make this debate about Mark and his ministry. Rather, this is an example…”

      Actually, I think it’s a pretty pertinent example. But I don’t much like debating the merrits of other ministers or ministries in this forum. So, maybe it’s a cop out, but I’m going to let my comments about Mark stand in the post above and not add to them here.

      Thank you for getting involved and for your passion for the Church, friend. God bless.

      • Hahahaha! i have to laugh because I can’t help but think that I have elicited more “cop outs” from you on your blog than all your other posters combined! 🙂

        I’m sorry you misunderstood me. I’m not interested in a Mark Driscoll debate. I do completely disagree with your assessment that this statement is a tomato in the otherwise good burrito. Perhaps you could say that about Martin Luther – about his statement that it doesn’t matter if women die in childbirth because that’s what they were made for. Now that’s a pretty distasteful tomato. BUT that type of thing did not characterize his ministry, as far as I can tell. 🙂 Maybe Piper would be a good example, he’s had plenty of nasty tomatoes lately – but despite my violent theological disagreements with him, at least he attempts to be gracious in most of his ministry. YOU would be a good example (IMHO anyway!) of a tomato in a delicious burrito. Love you and your ministry and work for the Lord, but have plenty of disagreements.

        Driscoll as an example of a good ministry with a few minor flaws? I think more research is in order. As Wade said, the problem is not snark – it is not limited to snark nor is it primarily snark.

        All I did was write a more wordy version of exactly what Wade said. You were ready to engage him? So I guess I am confused as to why you are “copping out” with me again. Don’t feel you have to respond, its your blog, your rules. But just know that I am not interested in debating MD’s merits or demerits – just the very basis of your post. I think it needs reevaluation. I *don’t* think it’s a pertinent example of what you expounded on in your post. You can cop out, ignore that, whatever. It’s totally fine if you don’t like that, or if you just disagree and don’t think you have any need to research further. Hey, you understand the concept of public blog, public opinion, public criticism. It’s your choice (just like it is of those at relevant, whom you criticized today) if you want to engage in conversation or learn from your commenters. 🙂

        • ALRIGHT! 🙂 I like it! Some witty banter and good-natured provocation! Well done, my friend. I will take up the gauntlet that has been cast at my feet…

          First of all, am I the tomato chunk or the mostly good burrito? That was unclear. But I digress.

          True confession: I know that Driscoll wasn’t a perfect fit in this discussion. Truth be told, this post wasn’t inspired by Driscoll at all. As it happens, I found this rather public broo-haw about his foolish Facebook post AFTER I had begun writing about my distaste for snark in church, and I decided that this was Church Current Events in real time… I could shoehorn him in.

          In reality, I was more focussed on “ministries” and a handful of specific watch-dog personalities who seem to garner more energy from pointing out the errors of others in the Church than they find real joy in the Gospel of Jesus. In fact, one recent sermon I heard was the catalyst here.

          So I indeed think you are correct in your assessment that this was different – to the degree that Driscoll’s emphasis on “macho” masculinity in church is a regular part of his teaching and ministry focus. But even for Driscoll, this was over the line. And although you suggest that maybe I should do some “more research,” Driscoll’s teaching and ministry has been a subject I’m probably more aware of than you realize. I’ve tracked him for years because of his effective ministry to men. As a church planting powerhouse. As a leading voice and innovator in leveraging technology for ministry. As a “founding member” and later vocal critic of the Emergent Conversation. I know Driscoll. He’s the burrito with some refugee tomatoes in the mix. I’ll stand by it.

          In any case, leaving the aptness of Driscoll as an example on the sidelines, i will also stand by the premise of the post – which is a call to abandon snark in the Church… NOT a post about the merits of Mark Driscoll, the chauvinist shock jock pastor from Seattle.

          So I don’t think I’m copping out anymore. I’m meeting your pointed repartee head on, Secret. I’m really glad you read and post here. Keeps us honest. God bless you, friend. Thanks again.

          • Secret Person ;) July 21, 2011 at 2:08 pm

            Thank you for your reply and explanation! 🙂

            You would be a burrito, not a tomato. 😛

            I agree, snark is rarely useful in the Body of Christ, and I thank you for pointing that out. 🙂

            We can agree to disagree on Driscoll – whether he was a good example of snark or not – but I wholeheartedly agree with you that there is a problem when you get more joy from snarking on others than sharing the Gospel. Some watchdog ministries have their place, but it is way too easy to go too far.

            Thanks again for the reply. Lots of respect for you that you could be honest and gracious. 🙂


    • Thanks for posting this. I’m not exactly lock step in my opinions with John MacArthur here – but he offers some good thoughts. This is honest criticism, and it seems to be fairly “snark-free.” Public servants of God should absolutely be held up to rigorous scrutiny to determine the degree to which what they teach lines up with God’s perfect standard. And that should be done, in my opinion as stated in this post, with civility.

      Thanks again, and God bless.