Somewhere between the 21 Mars Hill Church elders bringing formal charges against the founding pastor Mark Driscoll and the process of dissolving the Mars Hill Organization, the lead teaching pastor became a victim.
After his resignation became public in mid-October of last year, Driscoll sought the help of other mega church personalities. Most recently, Driscoll made an appearance at James River Church in Ozark, Missouri which is pastored by John and Debbie Lindell.
John Lindell, by way of introduction, stated that Mark Driscoll went through a very hard time last summer and fall. The result was that he stepped down from ministry at Mars Hill Church (Driscoll has claimed this was as a result of hearing the audible voice of God releasing him from ministry). John Lindell doubled down on Driscoll appearing at his church stating that he made “no apologies” for Mark Driscoll being at James River Church and that he was “honored” to have Driscoll speak. Incredibly, John Lindell went on to say, “there is a whole lot of stuff that is out there that is being said, much of it is just simply not even close to true. And how many know, not everything you read on the internet is true.” This phrase has been oft repeated at virtually every speaking engagement that Driscoll has appeared at post Mars Hill. The context is always clearly involving the accusations and charges against Driscoll which have proliferated online. Never is any specific information given about which story, accusation, or leaked document is untrue.
Driscoll’s sermon was called “Paul the forgiven”. The former Mars Hill pastor has been known to preach sermons that run parallel with his life experience. The theme of the sermon centers on forgiving one’s enemies. For a part of the message, Driscoll focuses on the stoning of Stephen which is found in Acts 7:54-60. His commentary includes the description of a mob forming and “now the issues have gone public” (my paraphrase) and Driscoll graphically describes how the religious leaders through rocks at Stephen until he died. Before Stephen died, he asked Jesus to not hold this sin against them (Acts 7:60). Driscoll uses this text as a launching point to discuss how Christians should forgive their enemies. He quips that Stephen was “an innocent man who had done nothing wrong” (again, my paraphrase).
Listeners to this sermon may not be stretching if they view some of these comments through the prism of Driscoll’s experience toward the end of his Mars Hill days. Or atleast, how Driscoll perceives that experience. I listened to the sermon through once and then went back and listened to certain segments. Note how many times Driscoll mentions packs of wolves rising up to attack men of God and that each of these wolves was led by an alpha. He seems obsessed with this idea.
Does Driscoll view himself as a victim of packs of wolves (bloggers, elders within his own church, members of his board of accountability) as rising up against him in order to strike him down from his pastoral post? There have been rumors, which Wenatchee the Hatchet has written about, that people view Driscoll as being “taken down by bloggers”. In other words, a victim. A victim of jealous people, disagreeable people, or even worse, people who have been demonically inspired according to the potential thoughts/narrative of Driscoll or his defenders.
A community of people in Seattle and beyond are concerned about leaders continually giving Driscoll a platform. Many have written emails to James River Church and posted comments on social media pages expressing their concern. One of my friends, who has subsequently given permission for me to post the following exchange, engaged James River Church:
My Friend: “How can you give Mark Driscoll a platform to speak at your church and claim that he is absolved from the very issues which imploded his 13,000+ member church, without doing your due diligence? Your lead pastor referenced one report that claimed Mark Driscoll was not disqualified from ministry. Are you aware that there have been multiple groups of Mars Hill Church leaders that have found Mark Driscoll to be disqualified from ministry? The only group that has considered him “not disqualified” was a group that Mark Driscoll hand selected as his insular Board of friends to protect him in the event that the lower non-partisan Board of Elders found him to be guilty of disqualifying sin. So, prior to the period of time and after the period of time when Mark Driscoll resigned from Mars Hill, multiple pastors have gone on public record of describing Mark’s character and behavior as unfit for an elder. These are all pastors who have worked at Mars Hill, who were vetted by Mark Driscoll and his team of elders and who faithfully served Mars Hill for years. They number in the 30 or more men and women. The number of leaders who have defended Mark’s fitness as a elder/ pastor are in the 4-5 range and most of them are business men and not pastors but men who were appointed to the “Board of Accountability and Advisors” by Mark. I fear that as a church who is in a position of influence and authority over younger believers that you may be held responsible to a higher degree if Mark’s continued abusive character and style have a destructive effect on anyone who gives him ear as a result of your explicit endorsement of him and his teaching.
James River church response: “Hello (Name withheld), we understand your concern. Our pastor along with many other notable church leaders have worked closely with Mark through this process. Mark has shown great humility and restoration to a degree that is above and beyond that which would be expected. As our pastor mentioned in the beginning of the message, the Apostle Peter had gone as far as to deny Jesus 3 times. No more than 50 days later Jesus forgave Peter and restored him to public ministry. The maturity of believers is not found in a pharisaic stance of shooting the wounded, but being a beacon of forgiveness and grace. In doing so, our desire is to seek the restoration of believers as Jesus has instructed us to do through his example with Peter.”
My Friend’s response: “Thank you for the thoughtful and timely response.
You mention your pastor along with many other notable church leaders have worked closely with Mark throughout this process. Isn’t it more important that Mark work through these things with the people in his community as opposed to leaders across the country who do not know him on a day to day basis and who have not been involved in his day to day life for the past 10-15 years.
I am thinking of God’s heart for reconciliation here. 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” And this: Matt 5:23-24 ” So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. My thoughts are that if your pastor and other notable church leaders are seeking God’s heart for reconciliation, then a part of the work will be to facilitate Mark reconciling with the former elders of his church who were God-appointed spiritual authority.
It is my understanding that those men were considered Mark’s spiritual authority and proposed a plan of restoration for him which he chose not to pursue. These are the men that have known him the best over the last 10-15 years. Even according to Mark’s own teaching, he would consider himself to be “under discipline” for having left a church while the spiritual authorities were urging you to deal with specific sin issues.
Perhaps I am misreading your comment and you are saying that your pastor along with many other notable church leaders have assisted Mark to reconcile with the many that he has harmed, slandered and/or sinned against. If I am misreading, please forgive me.
You mention Jesus forgiving Peter for sinning against Him. Great example of the sinned against forgiving the one who had sinned. As you are aware I’m sure, there are also examples of Jesus expecting individuals to make restitution or take actions toward the people they have wronged (Luke 19:8 Zaccheus repaying taxes he had stolen to the poor. Mark 10:17-29 Rich young ruler who followed every commandment but is unwilling to sell everything and give to the poor, as Jesus commanded him)
You mention pharisees shooting the wounded. Who is the wounded here? And who are the pharisees. And what are the shots? I fear you have fallen victim to the classic narcissist’s ruse – that of portraying himself (the actual abuser) as the victim. If you are referring to critics of Mark Driscoll as pharisees, then perhaps you should look at the log in your own eye as you have just judged those who you do not know about things that you know little about. The majority of things I have read about Mark Driscoll written by those involved at the ground level have been 100% true. You are now doing worse than what you claim Mark Driscoll’s critics to have done. Mark Driscoll’s critics are very specific in what they claim he has done that is sinful. You, by contrast, are casting a broad net accusing a vague group of people of non-specific things that cannot be proven or disproven, due to the lack of detail mentioned.
Of course, it is possible that your comment was purely rhetorical and not related to Mark Driscoll or his critics — though I’m not sure why it would’ve been relevant, if that were the case. If it were rhetorical, then I would offer that the maturity of believers is not in a pharisaic stance of shooting the victims of the “wounded”, but in being a beacon of safety, understanding, in protecting the wounded and seeking reconciliation for victims, “wounded” and offenders/ abusers. Over and over in scripture, it seems that God’s heart is that we as Christians would be a voice for those who do not have a voice. To stand up for those who are disenfranchised. Mark Driscoll in this situation and over the last 10+ years is the one who has had the platform while his victims remained silent and isolated.
With regard to your last comment, I hope and pray that you consider the restoration of believer as something different than the restoring a teacher/ leader to ministry. I sincerely hope for Mark’s restoration as a believer. As I’m sure you are aware, the biblical standard for being a teacher is much higher and the responsibility (James 3:1-2 “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.”)
In closing, I have great concern from personal experience and from the testimony of many friends, that Mark Driscoll is unfit for ministry. I am happy to point you to the public testimony of many who make very specific statements as to why they believe this to be true. I believe that unless you have investigated both sides of the story with regard to the issues with Mark Driscoll (and by that, I mean conversation with his critics and former elders who see him as unfit for ministry) that you are shirking your responsibility as a spiritual authority in people’s lives. Recall the wisdom from Proverbs 18:17 – “The one who states his case first seems right,
until the other comes and examines him.”
In peace and for God’s glory,
At press/posting time, my friend had not received a response. The “shooting the wounded” motif stated by the James River response team (or whoever) has shown up before. Just days after his resignation letter was publicly unveiled, Driscoll made an appearance at Gateway Church which is led by Robert Morris in October 2014. Morris made these introductory comments:
“Here’s what I figure. We’ve got two choices. One is, we could crucify him, but since someone’s already been crucified for him… [applause] The other choice is we could restore him with a spirit of gentleness considering ourselves lest we are also tempted. [applause] It’s very sad that in the church we’re the only army that shoots at our wounded, and I want you to stop it. I really do. Thank you. I’d like for you to show your love for him, and I’d like for you to just welcome him. Mark would you stand up? This is Mark Driscoll.”
Morris also repeated “not everything you read on the internet is true.” He also offered no specific examples on which stories or accounts or leaked documents were untrue.
While on stage, Driscoll shared about how he had cried a lot, the pain his family was experiencing and even a horrifying story about unknown individuals throwing rocks in the direction of his children at his Woodway mansion. There is no evidence that the individuals tossing rocks over a high fence, apparently early in the morning, were critics of Driscoll specifically but not much information is known about the incident.
At Thrive Leadership Conference 2015 at Bayside Church, Driscoll gave a message on forgiveness that positioned him even more as a victim. The transcript can be read here. With loads of audacity, Driscoll declared himself a “struck shepherd” and directly implied that he was like Jesus being crucified in what he had endured during his latter time at Mars Hill. To be fair, he did say, “I won’t in any way say that everybody was Judas and I was Jesus in this situation” but this is the only statement that I noted where Driscoll even mentioned that he might have done some wrong things.
One of the foundational aspects of Mark Driscoll’s ministry for years was a challenge to young guys. No one would dispute Driscoll’s targeting and tailored messages (and occasional mockery) of young men during his years as pastor of Mars Hill. Here is an example of such a message. Many will remember that Driscoll would call out guys who would blame shift, not clean up their own messes, not take responsibility for their actions and…play the victim. There is always irony when the message is compared with the actions of the messenger.
Ultimately, Mark Driscoll is a genius communicator. I would love to see Driscoll restored to ministry in time. I have written before on some ideas for repentance and restoration last year that I pray would happen regarding the tragedy that became of Mars Hill. In regard to Driscoll’s sermon “Paul the Forgiven” at James River Church, I agree with him that people should forgive and not be bitter.
However, people confronting abusive behavior, serious questions about financial handlings and potential fraud, the use of a deceptive marketing scheme to inflate the sales of a book, and misogynistic rants does not necessarily mean that these people are unforgiving. It could very well mean these people are sounding an alarm that genuine repentance and a sound plan of restoration is needed before a leader who has engaged in these actions and schemes can return to ministry. Repentance cannot involve playing a victim but rather, coming to terms with the amount of hurt that has been caused and deeply desiring a new course. Ideally, this will mean being reconciled to many of the ex-leaders and former elders who have been alienated. I pray that this will happen.