Some Thoughts on the Mark Driscoll Situation

Posted: October 17, 2014 in Uncategorized

Driscoll1In case you haven’t heard, Mark Driscoll, the controversial speaker/author and pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle for the last 18 years, has resigned from his pastoral position in his church. Here are a few things that led up to this…

Driscoll has always been known to be blunt, outspoken, and oftentimes offensive when it comes to many things, but especially when speaking to men (or, as he would often put it, “Boys who shave.”). In a culture where the idea of biblical manhood has been all but totally disregarded, his voice (however vulgar at times) was a pleasant change. In fact, it appears that sometimes you have to speak with a certain degree of “shock value” in order to be heard. Seeing as though his church consisted of a large amount of young men, I’d say his target audience was listening. While most churches, even in the Bible Belt, are trying (and failing) to reach young men, Driscoll seemed to have their ears. Did he use crude and inappropriate language at times? Yes. But he also publicly apologized and repented of that on several occasions. The truth is, when you clean up as many messes as he had resulting from men acting like idiots, you have the right to “speak straight” with them.

Another point of controversy was the marketing strategy he used for the release of his book “Real Marriage,” in which enough copies were bought by inside sources to immediately put it on the New York Times bestsellers list. This was a form of manipulation, and he admitted as much in his open letter of apology ( Again, he admitted it was wrong, explained his misguided intentions in doing it, and has taken steps to try and fix what can be fixed of the problem.

Mark has also been accused of plagiarism in another of his books, which turned out to be a mistake and overlook in proper citation, as he often works on books in conjunction with others who help with research. Again, he has acknowledged this and apologized for it.

Perhaps what gets me the most, and what tipped the scales for Driscoll’s apparent downfall, is when his church leadership recently came to him accusing his leadership style of being too aggressive. This, I believe (and he has admitted), is indeed true. I don’t have a problem with their church leadership bringing concerns to the table and working them out. What I do have a problem with is the way the church community has handled this.

Rather than leaving things in the hands of the Mars Hill leadership, it seems as though the entire Christian community has jumped in to tear Driscoll apart. Lifeway pulled all but a couple of his co-authored books from their shelves. Why? What purpose does that serve? Is the content of these books heretical or inappropriate? Some might say there is some inappropriate content in his books. These people have obviously not read their Bibles, which contains enough violence, sex, and vulgarity to make a pretty gritty R-rated film, if it were to be all put on screen. The great thing about Driscoll’s books (and the Bible, for that matter!) is that they speak to real issues. Having read several books on marriage before getting married, I so appreciated flipping through his “Real Marriage” book to find a Christian writer who was not afraid to tackle questions that Christians are actually asking. This is often ground others fear to tread. Was it a little uncomfortable and crude at times? Yeah…but so is life. Anyway, back to Lifeway. To me, it seems like they are simply trying to avoid controversy by pulling any books that might align them as “supporters” of this man. To me, this is not only cowardly, but pointless. The same is true of the several places that canceled upcoming speaking gigs they had Driscoll billed for. It’s a display of looking out for oneself, rather than the content of what they will now be missing because of the cancelation.

All of that to say this: Why is it that we, as a Christian community, so love tearing down the ones we used to revere, just because they make a mistake? To be honest, it could have been a lot worse! The Mars Hill Leadership admitted that Mark was not found guilt of any kind of moral failing or illegality. It mostly comes down to a leadership style that left people with hurt feelings, frustrations, and a sense of being intimidated or bullied.

As a pastor, watching what is happening to Driscoll, I can say that I’m now even more scared to mess up. I don’t have the following he does (not by a long shot!), but what were to happen to me and my ministry if I were to make a mistake? Would Lifeway pull my books? (not that anyone would notice!) Would I be put out in the cold? Would people on the internet weigh in on me and call me a despicable false prophet? I’ll be honest, I am not innocent of expressing my disapproval of Christian leaders and teachers. At times, I’ve brought up men like Joel Osteen to address, what I think, is a seriously misguided reading of Scripture. But I try to deal with their ideas, not their person. I hope I never get into the business of character assassination. We all hate those political commercials that try to tear down the opponent, rather than deal with the real issues at hand, don’t we? So why have so many been so quick to jump on the “Out with Mark Driscoll” bandwagon?

Should Mark have been called out for his aggressive and insensitive leadership style? Absolutely. If those he is trying to lead are feeling this way, then this issue certainly needs to be addressed. I just wish we would have let them address it as a church, rather than bringing out the pitchforks and torches and getting thousands to join in on what should have been a private issue for Mars Hill leadership to deal with.

It saddens me to see Driscoll step down from a church he started from nothing 18 years ago. Let’s be honest: His church is reaching people that very few other churches are reading, and they’re doing it in a place that is notoriously secular and closed off to the gospel. If anything, I think we need more Driscolls who will have the courage to speak straight, even if people don’t want to hear it. I believe that the truth must always be spoken in love, but sometimes tough love can be a good thing. The audience Driscoll was speaking to seemed to think so to, and he was seeing results because of it.

So let’s all be slow to anger and to speak, and quick to listen and build up. Driscoll made it clear that he was not forced out of his leadership position, and I’m glad for that. I hope and pray that whatever he does next, he will learn from this and continue to allow God to shape his character and his leadership style. He’s definitely got some rough edges. But you know what? So do we.

  1. Kathy Seidler says:

    Excellent post, Mike. It saddens me when Christians attack without the proper research and understanding of the situation. Thank you for your perspective and I, too, hope the Mark continues to let God lead him into the ministry that will bring God honour.

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