This will likely be my last post on Mark Driscoll for a while. As one who has critiqued him, called to stop making fun of him, and in a recent post, called him a cautionary tale, this feels like an appropriate time to close this loop for a while.
If you haven’t heard, earlier this week Mark willfully resigned from being the lead pastor of Mars Hill Church. It’s been a big deal for some of us for a while and you can read up on the details here and elsewhere but there’s been a significant abuse of power, a series of inappropriate actions and years of inappropriate conduct.
While it’s always awful to hear this type of news, I’m grateful for Mark choosing to resign and see this as a best possible outcome to this scene for at least three reasons:
- No one wants an ugly scene of a church removing their pastor from power. Mark choosing to resign contains more dignity for him, his church, and us as onlookers. This also removes the need for all the gritty details and the endless rebuttals and counter-rebutalls. Resignation makes much of this significantly less relevant
- In the eyes of people like me, Mark was abusing his power. It’s a poor testimony of Jesus to allow this sort of behavior lead any church as it communicates that leadership is more about talent, success, and protection from the right people and less about character, accountability and the leading of the Holy Spirit. It’s the story of Saul again.
- It also speaks volumes to all those that say something to the effect, “Mark was preaching the gospel straight up!!” and somehow this justified misogony, homophobia, and the abusive words/actions that has unfortunately marked his career. Christian leadership is far from perfect but this sentiment is blatant pragmatism at its worst. There simply is no such thing as a “Bully for Jesus” and that needed to be communicated.
So where does that leave Driscoll defenders? Aside from being prayerful, I’m not sure really. But now that he has resigned, I find myself sympathizing as well.
I’m praying for Mark, his family and Mars Hill. But I’m actually praying for them. I’d like to personally avoid and kindly caution the use of prayer as a polite “high road” sympathy tactic. You know that story of Annaias and Saphira in Acts 5 when they told Peter they sold a piece of property, kept some of the profit but said they gave away the full amount (“Wow, that’s so generous!”). Yeah, I think it relates sorta.
I’m certainly not saying that God is going to strike you dead if you say you prayed for someone and didn’t. But I do see this story as God’s clear warning against spiritual posturing. I get that prayer is a convenient catch-all basic sentiment but for those of us who know what prayer is, if we say we are praying for Mark, let’s actually intercede for this man, his family, and the people affected at MH (including the many who have been hurt by this ministry). I really believe in the power of God and it’s in this power that hearts can be healed and lives be changed.
Mark is likely in for a tough stretch. I imagine he’s not going to know what to do with his Sundays for a while. His phone will have different callers and his inbox, different senders. He will feel the loss of authority, influence, prestige, and decision-making. Things will quickly move on without him and this and more will bring him some hurt. But his resignation is the best outcome until he finds himself in a significantly healthier mindset. I’m not talking about a comeback, I’m talking about redemption.
And so, I hope he surrounds himself with a Christian community that loves on him and his family, encourages him, challenges him and helps him move forward in the most redemptive of ways. I hope he continues his counseling as it’s apparent that he must confront his control issues, address his chauvinism, put the tough-guy thing to rest and discover the virtues of sensitivity, listening, yielding, sharing and perhaps uncover his hidden relational skills.
Everyone’s story is different but I hear that Mark is an intelligent individual. He’ll likely read, hopefully a wide spectrum to inform his perspectives. Maybe he’ll travel some. Stretch out a bit and chase his curiosities. I hope he will resist the urge of writing a tell-all book and having it published in the next couple of years. Though it will garner much attention and though it will sell, it will also likely leave him dissatisfied and short-change this whole road to redemption.
In my strange imagination, I’d like to think it would be the Rob Bell’s and his old friends like Tony Jones and Doug Pagitt that would connect with him again (link is from Tony’s post a few weeks ago that mentions him reaching out again). Not for an “I told you so,” (from what I can see, they are not spiteful people) and not for a cheesy photo-op for us, but because all in their own way have experienced the spotlight and backdoor of popular evangelicalism. These and a handful of others could actually relate to what he’s feeling right now. In re-reading this paragraph, I’m only being speculative but we shouldn’t assume that it will only be the Keller’s and Ttchividjian’s and the Carson’s and Piper’s reaching out. I mean, from the little that I know, our assumptions would likely surprise us. In any case, may Mark be surrounded by people seeking to help in the most honorable and Christ-like of ways.
I also hope all this provides time and opportunity for Mars Hill to reach out to their staff that has been unceremoniously dismissed and to members of their congregation who have been hurt for one reason or another. I hope this is not strange imagination but an outworking of the Biblical principles of reconciliation and pursing unity that we often read/preach/and attempt to apply.
The story is never over for us as believers, Mars Hill is certainly not an exceptions and nor is Mark. I’d like to think that when the time comes, Mark will re-emerge. My hope is that he’ll be more relationally, emotionally and even theologically generous. People always want to see the transforming power of the gospel of Jesus truly at work and if the gospel can change Mark, the gospel can change me and you.
To be clear, I don’t need Mark to come back more like me (or you, even though you’re likely pretty awesome). Like all people, Mark needs to become more like the person the Lord has called him to be. And alongside, all the redemptive practices he’s already put into motion, his resignation helps usher him further in that direction.