Saddleback Pastor Rick Warren encouraged the congregation at Mars Hill Church during its final Sunday service to refrain from bitterness and instead give grace to its leaders, including disgraced former pastor Mark Driscoll.
In January, the Seattle-based megachurch officially dissolves after a year of turbulence surrounding Driscoll, who stepped down from his position as senior pastor in October amid mounting controversy.
In his message via pre-recorded video, Warren, who reportedly volunteered to preach the church's last sermon, said, "Let me suggest this: number one, refuse to be bitter about what's happened. If you hold onto bitterness you'll only hurting yourself. Bitterness prolongs the pain."
"Number two, refuse to blame anybody. ... Stop the blame game ...," he continued. "Number three, refuse to gossip or judge. ... You've got to let it go ... Number four, show grace to your leaders. Why? Because every leader is flawed. ... Number five, be grateful .... You need to be grateful for all of the ways that God used Mars Hill Church. Be grateful for all the ways God used Mark Driscoll ... Number six, keep your eyes on Jesus."
Driscoll's resignation followed accusations of arrogance, a lack of transparency, and a "divisive" leadership style. He announced his decision after taking a six week hiatus from the pulpit while the church investigated numerous charges against him
Referencing the conflict, criticism and "chaos" that Mars Hill Church faced this past year, Warren, author of "The Purpose Driven Life," told the congregation, "I'm proud of you for hanging in there. You're still here."
"You know anybody can follow Jesus when it's [a] party, but the real test of spiritual maturity is how you handle the storms of life, the difficulties and even the changes that you didn't ask for," he said.
Warren added that it is important to know what to do when God changes your plan, and quoted Proverbs 19:21, which says, "Many are the plans in a person's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails."
"Not everything that happens in your life is God's ideal will," Warren clarified. Though plans get messed up, believers have the promise of Romans 8:28, he said. The verse reads: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."
Citing the unfortunate circumstances regarding Driscoll and Mars Hill, Warren said, "A giant has fallen...but there are many young trees sprouting out of it." Warren made the statement as he held up a photo showing a sycamore tree that had fallen and eight young trees that sprouted from the dead tree.
According to ChristianToday, Warren was unofficially a mentor to Driscoll, who wrote in 2006 that Warren was "one of the most important Christians in our generation."
Pastor Matthias Haeusel also made some brief remarks to the congregation prior to Rick Warren's message.
"Lot of people have been loved real well at this church. Lot of people have come to faith at this church," Haeusel said. "I talked to someone this morning who had been here for 14 years and actually had a radically different trajectory from when before they came here to after."
Haeusel called the church's closing a "bittersweet end" and added that he prays for Mark Driscoll often.
"God did great things even through broken people," Haeusel said. "If we look at scripture that is what God always does, because he is God not because we are great."