1. Voyeurism is a real temptation. It’s possible to listen to this series in the same way that someone might watch Big Brother, Survivor, or Temptation Island (not that I’ve seen Temptation Island). Rise and Fall is amazingly well produced. The patching of excerpts and interviews and soundtracks is brilliantly done. The story is captivating. However, I suspect I’d view this experience very differently if it was written about people I knew well, or if I’d been part of the church, or one of the staff. I suspect there would be way more pain and tears.
2. Emotional manipulation is a real possibility. Mike Cosper, the producer, director, and host of the show, describes this series as ‘long form journalism’. I’m not familiar with this genre and I haven’t followed any of the investigative crime podcasts. However, this seems to me to be something beyond journalism. The musical score carries your emotions—empathy with some and hostility toward others. The introductory sequence of soundbites and music is very powerful. It started to have the same impact on me that The Eye of the Tiger does in the Rocky movie. As I look back, I’m thinking that I don’t want to be entertained by this stuff.
3. Over-simplification is a real danger. Rise and Fall is a long and detailed series. While the focus is on Driscoll, many other villains are uncovered along the way. There are implicit or explicit critiques of mega churches, celebrity pastors, complementarianism, firing pastors, multi-site churches, ministry brands, long sermons, plagiarism, lack of accountability, narcissism, and way more. Listeners need to be discerning. There are editorial agendas. This is not a package deal. Each part needs to be examined carefully and weighed against God’s word.
I can see how this series is a balm to some who have experienced some of the horrors of abusive or dysfunctional pastors, churches, and systems. It gives a voice to many who’ve suffered. It’s an important and sobering warning to those of us in leadership and authority. It highlights blind spots and dangers for people ambitious for the gospel. It’s an important podcast. But it’s not for everyone.