What We Learned From Mark Driscoll and What We Can Pray For Next

Image from Mars Hill Church

On Sunday Pastor Mark Driscoll announced to his Mars Hill congregation that he will be stepping back for six weeks as the elders examine the charges against Mark and determine the appropriate next steps. It’s hard for me not to see this as a good thing as I’ve discussed him on this blog a few times and he’s come up in countless conversations over the years. Too much has gone on for too long and Mark needs to be held accountable.

Being a pastor and in this space, an amateur blogger, I know how this can look. I’m another kicking a guy when he’s down, another example of the church eating their own and clearly motivated by jealousy, etc. I am also well aware of Jesus’ warning of judging others as you will be judged by the same measure (Matt 7:1-2). May the Lord judge my heart here but I hope to communicate as “Christianly” as possible of where I am coming from.

It’s actually healthy to talk about this in loving and restorative ways. It’s not only ok, it’s actually necessary because this scene in Mark Driscoll’s life is a cautionary tale for all of us. Further, hopefully some goodness can be found in the mess of all this. And lastly, should the day come when my personal behavior has become such a distraction to the Christian mission, I hope my faith community would be courageous enough to ask me to step down. May God give the Church the wisdom to discern between judging, rebuking and enabling.

In the meantime, here are three lessons learned.

Good, acceptable, conservative orthodox doctrine does not give you license to do whatever you want. In so many words, Mark has acted like a jerk. Like many, I had heard of Driscoll more than ten years ago. He was the “cussing pastor” out of Don Miller’s soul-worthy [Read more…]

3 Options and My Reaction to the Mark Driscoll Apology

Many have been reacting to Mark Driscoll’s apology letter for the tactics used to get his book Real Marriage on the New York Times Bestseller list.
I wanted to add my reaction too. You can read the apology letter sent to his church but got leaked out here (can you actually have a private letter among a few thousand people? Anyway…)

But first a bit of context. To say it politely, I’ve never connected with Mark Driscoll on any level. His style, personality, theological differences, the hyper-masculinity comes across as more desperate than macho to me and his outright chauvinism have made it easy for me to focus my attention and appreciation elsewhere.

Oddly, over the last ten plus years, a good number of my friends have loved/liked/man-crushed on Driscoll and I’ve had too many conversations that have started with, “Tim, how can you not like him?” Some of them like the Red Sox or the Phillies so yeah, they have many problems.

Among my frustrations regarding Driscoll is how celebrated he is when there is just so much better content and character out there. I’m at the point where I’d rather watch Kirk Cameron in Left Behind than read a Driscoll book (I’ve always preferred comedy to horror).

But despite my intent to not give him any of my attention, his name inevitably shows up on my social media feeds and comes out of my friends’ mouths. “Did you hear Driscoll said Avatar is the [Read more…]

Reflecting on Driscoll, The Inauguration & State of Evangelicalism Today

I really wanted to avoid posting about Driscoll and his condescending tweet about President Obama during the Inauguration but when your fingers touch the keys and these words keep coming out – well you got to let them out. Here’s the tweet.

What??  I don’t follow Mark but when I saw this RT pass through my feed, again and again, I was so embarrassed and decided to give up on social media for the day.

First, let me admit my bias – I am not a “Driscoll guy” in any way. Aside from having a post entitled, “Why We Shouldn’t Make Fun of Mark Driscoll By a Guy Who Likes To”  I rarely talk, gossip or hate on him. I may roll my eyes at times but I really try to avoid his name (among a few others) in conversation. My experience is that it brings disunity to some of my brothers and sisters in the Lord.

Second, I could never understand why some of my good friends who are intelligent, relational and have access to better minds would [Read more…]

Why We Shouldn’t Make Fun of Mark Driscoll By a Guy Who Likes To

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.

Reflecting on Driscoll's NY Times piece, Who Would Jesus Smack Down?

I read through the NY Times article “Who Would Jesus Smack Down?” about Mark Driscoll.  For those who don’t know, Mark is the pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, WA, he’s authored several books, speaks nationally, blogs, among other things.  For those who do know, I encourage you to read it anyway.  ;-)

There’s a lot about Driscoll that I agree with.  There’s even a lot I like.  I appreciate his passion, the desire to invest in others, and his love for the Scriptures.  Undoubtedly, he has done some good things for the Kingdom.  But in heaven, we will both sit embarrassed of our theology and this will be true of all of us.  But I have some glitches too.  One is that he’s overly critical of the emergent church conversation. Not to imply that he needs to become a poster child for it, nor am I asserting the only way to be a faithful Christ-follower today is to be a part of emergent, but I wish he had continued with the conversation instead of abandoning and criticizing it.  I also wish he was more gracious with who/what he disagreed with.  My hope is that he does not age into the common perception of a Pat Robertson.  He’s not that now, because he’s young and accepted as “cool”.

Perhaps my greatest issue with Mark is how he speaks about women.  I find it embarrassing.  As one who grew up with the teaching and example of a strong complementarian model, I find him to be “off the mark”.  Perhaps you may know more about this subject than I, are there varying degrees to this?   To me, his views sound like a delicate balance between chauvinism and slavery.  His is not the complementation position.  My favorite example is his message from July 11, 2005 on Genesis 39, Joseph and Potiphar’s wife (available on itunes podcasts and probably through the Mars Hill website).

Here’s another thing that always annoys me.  While I can nod my head in agreement that Jesus wasn’t only always snuggling with children and cuddling with lambs, he wasn’t Braveheart 24-7 either.  (By the way, Mel was balanced, fluent in French and gifted in brutally dismembering people).  I submit that Jesus is even more well-rounded.  But not only is Jesus perceived differently to many people but he was different to different people.  He’s a warrior and a poet.  He fought the Pharisees and cried with the mourners.  He blessed the meek but passionately overturned the corrupt money-changers.  We know all this, right? Agreed, Jesus wasn’t the “limp-wristed, wussy” that some have allegedly created but stressing the tattooed, demon bounty-hunting, “Roadhouse”  Jesus does not seem to be an accurate picture either. He’s not Fabio and not Stone Cold Steve Austin.

We are all different relative to our context.  We behave as fools in front of infants, saints in our churches, cheering fools at our ball games, and hope to be courageous in the face of danger.  Do not dismiss this as hypocrisy, but this is appropriate for humans for we are not one dimensional.  Can I assume that Driscoll makes an attempt to not use profanity in front of his children?

Concerning the article, it’s well written and am grateful it’s in the Times.  If this were my first time hearing of Driscoll, I’d be interested in learning more about him.  Some things are a little over-stated though.  It creates (unintentionally, I presume) this paradigm between seeker sensitive churches and churches like Mars Hill.  Sentences like these “They are not ‘the next big thing’ but a protest movement, defying an evangelical mainstream that, they believe, has gone soft on sin and has watered down the Gospel into a glorified self-help program.” imply that it’s one or the other.  Was this written by a modernist?  Is this meant to say if you are not part of Driscoll’s protest movement, you are soft on sin?  Again, probably not intentional but that’s what I am reading.

I encourage you to read the piece; I found this paragraph to be interesting is this paragraph.  Try to read through, the last line is brilliant:

“Mars Hill — with its conservative social teachings embedded in guitar solos and drum riffs, its megachurch presence in the heart of bohemian skepticism — thrives on paradox. Critics on the left and right alike predict that this delicate balance of opposites cannot last. Some are skeptical of a church so bent on staying perpetually “hip”: members have only recently begun to marry and have children, but surely those children will grow up, grow too cool for their cool church and rebel. Others say that Driscoll’s ego and taste for controversy will be Mars Hill’s Achilles’ heel. Lately he has made a concerted effort to tone down his language, and he insists that he has delegated much authority, but the heart of his message has not changed. Driscoll is still the one who gazes down upon Mars Hill’s seven congregations most Sundays, his sermons broadcast from the main campus to jumbo-size projection screens around the city. At one suburban campus that I visited, a huge yellow cross dominated center stage — until the projection screen unfurled and Driscoll’s face blocked the cross from view. Driscoll’s New Calvinism underscores a curious fact: the doctrine of total human depravity has always had a funny way of emboldening, rather than humbling, its adherents.”

While, I know I need to be careful of that too, the line made me laugh.