It could be since the release of Real Marriage, but these days, there is a steady barrage of jokes, posts, and youtube clips about Mark Driscoll. Lately, I probably click on one out of ten tweets/posts which got me wondering a little how I/we got here. To be up front, I am among the offenders. I’ve been guilty of retweeting, I’ve been guilty of hating on him, and I’ve made my jokes – and some of them have been down-right funny. I’ve repented.
The other day, I clicked on the Hitler video that said he was “pissed at Pastor Mark”. I generally find humor in these remakes but this one crossed the line for me. I haven’t researched who made it, I don’t care and if you search for it, know that this is an example of how Christian critics of Mark shouldn’t respond. That not only includes the creation of it but also the sharing of it.
This post is a bit different for the “somewhat regular” readers here but it’s been on my mind. Maybe some of you don’t know who Mark Driscoll is. Maybe some of you love him. And maybe some of you can’t stand the guy. I consider this to be an “in-house” post so what the unbelieving world says about Mark is a shame but beyond this rebuke/confession. But for those whose tribe I am a part of, I am hoping we can do better.
For those eavesdropping here, if you have never heard of him, Mark Driscoll is a pastor at a mega-church called Mars Hill Church in Seattle, WA. He’s written a number of books, helped start a church-planting network and is a sought after speaker in the neo-reformed crowd. He’s loved by many because he’s a dude who “says it like it is” and likes women, beer and MMA. On the surface, that doesn’t so bad, many guys can be described like this.
I have a number of friends who see Mark this way and have expressed that his preaching and writing helped them to connect the dots in their faith. I’ll argue with those friends about that in private and persuade them to read better books but I mention it here for two reasons: 1. To help you see my context and 2. to reinforce his influence – people I care about say he has helped them.
And that’s among our concerns. His influence is so great in some circles that it causes great concern for many of us who love the Lord and the Church. His bluntness combined with his opinions that he preaches as dogma is dangerous. Take these lines for instance:
“Avatar is the most demonic, satanic film I’ve ever seen.”
“Jesus was no ‘limp-wristed hippie’ who came to earth wearing a robe like some fairy.”
A more recent controversy:
On the state of the church in Britain: “Let’s just say this: right now, name for me the one young, good Bible teacher that is known across Great Britain. You don’t have one – that’s the problem. There are a bunch of cowards who aren’t telling the truth.”
Because his microphone is turned up so loud, many counter by trying to yell over him. Many others have chosen to insult him at every opportunity. They are on “the watch” waiting for him to say something else that will be spread online. They take his colorful terminology and use it against him (he’s been known to be a “potty-mouth”). But instead of trading jabs and ridiculing, there are better ways to confront the negative aspects of him.
We shouldn’t ridicule Mark because it’s not good Christianity.
I am critical of many of Mark’s views, opinions, convictions and the ways he chooses to express some of them. I see him and members of his tribe as the older brother in the prodigal son story. I don’t mean that to be be derogatory though I know it’s not a compliment. But in the story, these two are still brothers. (It would be something though if the Father kicked out the older brother upon the return of the younger, wouldn’t it?)
One, Mark professes to be a Christian, we need to treat him as a brother. We should hope he gets his act together not that he goes away. At times, I find him to be immature, chauvinistic and a bit narrow-minded. A similar list can be made for each of us. Though the number of critics we have will vary, we should hope that those who identify themselves as our critics would actually try to help us in a genuine way. This leads to the second.
Two, is to engage, confront him and hold accountable. I think what Matthew Paul Turner is exposing about his ministry at Mars Hill is a good thing (Part 1 and Part 2 and there are a number of follow-ups). What MPT is reporting of MHC is that it’s “cult-like” and is a poor demonstration of Christianity. It would seem that this should have begun as a private matter, some have argued that it did but this is the part of the new world of things. My hope is that pastors and churches that have relationships with Mark will take up these matters with him and his leadership.
And three, be in a posture ready to be faithful with opportunities provided. I’m not suggesting that this needs to be the priority of the church but it isn’t enough to ignore him. Being in that faithful posture means to do good when the opportunity presents itself.
Mark is a polarizing figure. I know many who have considered him to be a great encouragement. I will even admit to the fact that I heard a message on leadership by him that I liked. The test I was confronted with was if I didn’t know who said it, would I like it? Not sure why I chose not to lie to myself, I’ve done so before but hey whether it’s that broken clock cliche or he is knowledgable about certain matters, I had to admit I liked that particular speech I heard. I then subscribed to his podcast and after a month unsubscribed. Maybe it’s him, maybe it’s me, whatever, that message on leadership told me that he is able to contribute to the Kingdom in a way that even encourages me.
Honestly, I hope he gets some of these things right. If Jesus teaches us to love our enemies, we ought to hope the best for our brothers and sisters in the Lord. It is my hope that he changes his trajectory (and that of the church he pastors) learns the value of restraint and grows in his wisdom. Not so much for my sake, but especially for those that hear his microphone.
So for those of us outside his circle, critique him, hold him accountable but pray for him. This isn’t to spare his feelings. This is to spare us. To spare us from being the type of people that use ridicule to get their way. Instead, may we be the people that we are called to be – loving, kind, and among other things graceful.
Thoughts? As always, feel free to push back.