I was saddened to learn about Mark Driscoll’s resignation from Mars Hill Church yesterday. You can read what they posted on their website HERE.
First, I am sad for him and his family. Undoubtedly this is a difficult time and I don’t like to see anyone suffer.
Second, I am sad for Mars Hill Church. Going through such a traumatic transition away from the founding pastor is going to be a tough challenge, as they themselves acknowledge.
Third, what makes me the saddest and even angry is that the Mark Driscoll and the Mars Hill leadership still don’t get it. They haven’t learned anything valuable from this experience.
They refuse to understand abuse!
One of the clearest admonitions Jesus apparently gave that could be applied to church leadership is this:
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant…”
It’s very clear. In fact, Jesus makes it clear that this is not a suggestion, but a reality. “It is not this way with you…!” It sounds like a command.
I can hear in the background of Jesus’ words the abusive shepherds of Israel in Ezekiel 34. Can’t you?
The Mars Hill leadership reached a conclusion that…
“Pastor Mark has, at times, been guilty of arrogance, responding the conflict with a quick temper and harsh speech, and leading the staff and elders in a domineering manner.”
That clearly violates Jesus’ understanding of leadership, ministry, and church life. It definitely disqualifies someone from being a pastor. But not according to Mars Hill. In fact, they dismiss these devastating accusations by suggesting that Driscoll needs to work on these things, but…
“… we do not believe him to be disqualified from ministry.”
Actually, they get defensive by saying that he hasn’t done anything “immoral”, “illegal”, or “heretical”, and that most of the charges “involved attitudes and behaviors reflected by a domineering style of leadership”. I found it interesting that they didn’t include the word “unethical”. They continue their defensive posture by insisting that some of the accusations brought against Driscoll are “altogether unfair or untrue”. They also say he’s already confessed and apologized for a lot of these charges, some of which occurred “as long as 14 years ago”, as in “get over it already!”
The primary problem is the spiritual abuse in a bullying church culture.
The tenor of the letter expresses not only their defensiveness but their disappointment that this is the way it’s turned out. It also gives off the scent of victimhood, that Driscoll and Mars Hill are the ones who are suffering. There is still no mention of the countless victims of their bullying style of spiritual abuse. In fact, the letter intimates that Driscoll and Mars Hill will rebound soon with God’s help. Just be patient.
Although it should have been the reason, it was not because of spiritual abuse that Driscoll handed in his resignation and Mars Hill accepted it.
They still don’t get it!
My summary of the letter is this:
- Driscoll didn’t do anything wrong.
- It’s just his leadership style.
- He confessed and apologized.
- This isn’t fair, but we accept his resignation.
- Driscoll is a gifted pastor who’s been victimized.
- We will rebound.
They want our sympathy for Driscoll and their church.
The truth is they haven’t shown any sympathy towards their victims in a meaningful way, the best way being by changing the way they do church, community, ministry and leadership.
This is still just damage control.
It isn’t over.