Why Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church Still Don’t Get It!

"The Lost Gospel of Jesus" by nakedpastor David Hayward

“The Lost Gospel of Jesus” by nakedpastor David Hayward

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:

  1. Driscoll didn’t do anything wrong.
  2. It’s just his leadership style.
  3. He confessed and apologized.
  4. This isn’t fair, but we accept his resignation.
  5. Driscoll is a gifted pastor who’s been victimized.
  6. 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.

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22 Responses

  1. Jarred H says:

    I suspect that determining that he’s not done anything wrong (or at least nothing that “disqualifies him from ministry”) does a couple things:
    1. It prevents the remaining leadership from answering for allowing Driscoll’s behavior to go unchallenged (and often even defended) for so long.
    2. It sets the possibility for a future “redemption” narrative for Driscoll and a return to the pulpit.

  2. Gail says:

    EXACTLY!!! This is so frustrating – there has not yet been a true apology by Driscoll or Mars Hill for the horrible way people were treated under Driscoll’s leadership. Shameful!

  3. denise hopeman says:

    I could see a cartoon of the elders in full pharisaical costume discussing their thoughts around the time they were writing this letter.

  4. irreverance says:

    >>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!<<

    I have to wonder if it is even possible for a system like this to "get it". The community is bound (theoretically) by sharing a common belief system, which is at the core of the issue. Without that belief system, cohesion dissipates, and the community folds. Indeed, if they were to truly comprehend the issue here, I suspect that the community would cease to exist.

  5. Caryn LeMur says:

    Good deconstruction, David. Another person offered that Driscoll gave a good solid ‘corporate’ resignation: “Not a good mix; hey I tried; had some great successes; looking forward to leaving and starting over with a new company.”

    The person wondered if church was a corporation or perhaps… well… maybe something more Christian…. and therefore, quite a different resignation letter was needed.

  6. Good observations. That sounds like a good analogy.

  7. Holly says:

    By your definition the Apostle Peter would be disqualified … none of us are perfect and while Pastor Driscoll may at times be brash, crass and overbearing he preaches sound doctrine (from all the sermons I’ve seen of his) and therefore one cannot or should not discount spiritual warfare in the midst of all this as well. Has he done things wrong? Probably. Have I? Yes Have you? Yes…. having been in leadership myself I can tell you it is much easier to assume you know what’s going on from the outside then to walk in their shoes.

  8. No Holly, I’d have to disagree. Yes, we all make mistakes. We all, at times, can say or do something that may be controlling, manipulative or even abusive. Sometimes we might even resort to bullying. Maybe. However, when your ministry is characterized by bullying and abuse, that’s entirely another matter.

  9. Caryn LeMur says:

    Holly: I have been a deacon, elder, pastor, non-commissioned military officer (NCO), officer, and team leader in a major IT company. I have been a leader many times over.

    The Mars Hill church committee found 50 witnesses that spoke against Mark D.’s conduct. It would not have taken 50 witnesses to remove me as an officer or as an NCO…. and far less to remove me as a deacon, elder, or pastor. The preponderance of evidence is sufficient in these cases.

    To remove me from the ministry completely (if possible within a non-denom church), or to subject me to courts martial that desires a dishonorable discharge (a military trial with military excommunication), normally requires stronger evidence than preponderance.

    My first option: Given that the church is like the military, then I would offer that Mark’s resignation in lieu of a trial was a good move. Mark’s mistakes do not disqualify him from serving within his denomination, nor do they remove him completely from serving as an officer. After all, the military has a mission, and people are expendable.

    My second option: Given that the church is NOT like the military… then I come to quite a different conclusion. The trial should continue even in Mark’s absence so that the full record can be documented, and the wounded can have their grievances heard and addressed, and the church can apologize in light of Mark’s inability to apologize.

    Furthermore, if people are NOT expendable within the church system, then the church committee must examine removing Mark D.’s credentials as an officer in the church, and further examine its own ‘system’ that created, abetted, and covered up the massacre(s) and gunning down of the innocent civilians.

    No officer I knew ‘enjoyed’ serving as a juror in a military court-martial. It was a necessary duty. I therefore think highly of the Internet blogs that are continuing to encourage, by humor or by direct demand, the complete and full second option.

  10. Caryn LeMur says:

    Holly:

    “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.” [Proverbs 25:2]

    This verse is in the Bible, and points to two different roles: one for God, and one for those that are in power. This ‘division of roles’ is shown again in the Revelation, in the letters to the Churches.

    Being honest, I do not like this division of roles. I like the idea of being cool with everyone, listening to everyone, attacking no one, investigating no one, and letting God handle the matter. Indeed, the Letters to the Churches show that Jesus will handle the matter if the church will not.

    But… my personal dislike with some of the duties of given to church officers is my personal disagreement with God’s word. I may therefore wish to decline to serve as an investigator in church matters (though in my current job, I do supply evidences to investigators for charges of misconduct or computer crimes).

    Perhaps you are like me, in that regard. Perhaps we are best in sticking with the duties and responsibilities assigned to the non-officers in Berea: “they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” [Acts 17:11] So, we receive messages each Sunday (or other days), and compare them to scriptures during the week. We notify the speaker privately if we disagree; and enter into a discussion to understand their viewpoints.

    Perhaps we should not be officers.

  11. mike says:

    Many of the popular Emergent and Avant-Garde evangelical preachers out there today suffer from Megalomania. Driscoll is a prime example of the psychological phenomena that often develops when they are given a stage and a regular audience, It’s called a “Cult of Personality” and once the shift of allegiance has been cemented it’s all but impossible to help the mesmerized follower.

  12. Jeff says:

    God IS love, and God’s love is Co-Suffering Love. It would appear that not only do these folk NOT understand this, but they are in denial that he/they have CAUSED or perpetuated suffering, and are not willing to embrace their victims, and their suffering, and that these folk are doing EVERYTHING they can to AVOUD any self-suffering. Just the way it appears to me.

  13. Caryn LeMur says:

    I thought I would review the charges against Mark Driscoll carefully:

    http://blog.seattlepi.com/seattlepolitics/2014/08/21/21-former-mars-hill-pastors-lodge-formal-charges-against-driscoll/

    Which linked me to:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/2014/08/21/former-mars-hill-church-pastors-bring-formal-charges-against-mark-driscoll/

    Click on the link “brought charges” in the first paragraph of the above Warren Throckmorton link. Originally, this was a private letter of charges; it was apparently released to Warren for publication. At any rate, there are 21 senior leaders/pastors filing 25 counts against Mark Driscoll.

    I’ll say that again, 21 senior leaders/pastors signing on. That is an exceptional preponderance of witnesses.

    I say again: 25 specific counts being brought forward – with approximate dates. With the phrase “disqualifying” in the letter. There is no mistaking the intent of this letter.

    It is about Jesus calling himself a Good Shepherd, and thus alluding to Ezekiel Chapter 34. Here is just one verse, “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them.”

    This original statement of charges, let alone the complaints validated later by the investigation, in my opinion, further strengthens the ‘second option’ I proposed, “My second option: Given that the church is NOT like the military… then I come to quite a different conclusion. The trial should continue even in Mark’s absence so that the full record can be documented, and the wounded can have their grievances heard and addressed, and the church can apologize in light of Mark’s inability to apologize. ”

    Then again, maybe Mike is correct… and the church followers are mesmerized and will just find another ‘cult of personality’. In that sense, (and adding to Mike’s logic flow) the church PR group and board have no stake in bringing healing to the wounded… after all, they were expendable. They are casualties in the great military picture – and deaths are always expected. Let us press on with the Great Mission of the Church.

    Hey, as the scripture says, “They knew the risk, were trained, and got a free headstone at Arlington….” [First Christian Soldier, 3:12] and furthermore, “Sweep it under the rug, let the dead bury their dead, this is bad PR and only god knows how long it will take us to recover as an corporate enterprise.” [First Christian Soldier 4:1]

    oopss…. sorry …. I just sorta thought …. given that the original bible was being abandoned, I could just make up my own…. why not?

  14. Rick Dancer says:

    There are a lot of commandments we as Followers of Christ fail to follow. What I find most interesting is how surprised many followers are by this one particular incident. This happens in churches more often than we hear about. Usually people are silenced and excommunicated from their congregation. We call it (asked to leave) that sounds much nicer, much more Christian. God is judging the Institutional Church. We “add” to the law and fail to follow the one he left behind. His bride is on her way to perfection and sometimes (usually) the process is painful.

  15. DEE says:

    Holly
    Do you really think Driscoll saying ” I am all about blessed subtraction. There is a pile of dead bodies behind the Mars Hill bus (chuckle), and by God’s grace, it’ll be a mountain by the time we’re done…. ‎You either get on the bus, or you get run over by the bus. Those are the options.” is an example of sound doctrine?

    What about those piles of bodies? Have you shown any care for them in your statement?

  16. Dawn says:

    Strong authority based leadership still has miles to go in understanding the various abuses of power. It is very, very difficult to change these kinds of large organizations.

  17. JJH says:

    “Yes…. having been in leadership myself I can tell you it is much easier to assume you know what’s going on from the outside then to walk in their shoes.”

    The problem, Holly, is that so many people who very much do know what’s going on, better than both of us put together, have sounded the alarm. It is ignorant or arrogant (or both) to proclaim that this mess was instigated by nosy outsiders. I think you might be the one in the dark.

  18. Steve says:

    I just want us to be praying for Mark and Mars Hill as least twice as long as we are thinking and writing about the problem. This is so sad and I know ultimately God will use it to lead to repentance, but we should be very careful and prayerful about our comments. Yes, Paul called out Peter, and I know there is a place for stark, bold honesty but make sure anything you say as a christian, you would be willing to write about your dad who screwed up publicly or your pastor who first led you to Christ when you saw no hope.

  19. So where did Jesus teach how to follow and practice a bully style of leadership? Last I checked, a bully style of leadership is still abuse. And it’s not true leadership at all. “They will know you by how you love one another”-Jesus

  20. LauraA says:

    While acknowledging that this is difficult also for the MH congregation, I’m conflicted on one point. There are Driscoll apologists in the MH congregation–not its leadership–that are now hurting. I find it hard to have sympathy, because some of the abuses of power haven’t been a secret for several years. Did some of these congregants now hurting ever offer their empathy or sympathy or actual assistance and friendship toward those that Driscoll and other MH leadership abused? Everything that I’ve read and come into contact with suggests otherwise, including Driscoll and MH-defensive posts that I’ve seen here and elsewhere on the web for years. The accountability also doesn’t simply start and stop with Driscoll and the leadership, IMO. They weren’t the only ones who shunned, or completely lacked grace toward those who needed help.

  21. The GodSquad says:

    Burn in the firey pits Driscoll.

  22. FU *SSHOLES says:

    Driscoll was always a power mad scam artist. He took dumb dumb Leif Moi for a ride. I HOPE MARK BURNS FOR ETERNITY FOR WHAT HE’S DONE!!!!