Mark Driscoll: he is risen indeed!

"Mark Driscoll: He is Risen!" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

“Mark Driscoll: He is Risen!” cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

Mark Driscoll not only launched his new website and thereby his new ministry. He was also slated to speak at the annual Hillsong Conference. The senior pastor of Hillsong, Brian Huston, says,

”Rather than having Mark preach or teach, I am excited about interviewing Mark and his wife, Grace from our main platform during our Hillsong Conference 2015… I am looking forward to having this opportunity to speak openly with the Driscolls about life and ministry, as well as recent events and lessons they’ve learned through personal and ministry trials during the past year… My aim is to have an in-depth conversation that gives insight into their hearts… Mark has been candid about mistakes he has made, and if we can, through our conference, help others through his life experiences, we think that will prove valuable.”

What is being communicated here is this:

1. Driscoll made some mistakes;
2. He apologized;
3. He is still a Christian leader.

When Driscoll was told by his church that he needed to take a sabbatical and take some time for personal healing… for example, for his domineering spirit… he quit instead. He signed himself out of treatment.

In his resignation letter, he admits he is an “imperfect messenger of the gospel of Jesus Christ”. In the same paragraph, he insists that he has confessed to past (emphasis mine) pride, anger, and a domineering spirit”. He also suggests that there was simply a conflict of personality or style between him and the church when he says, “Other issues, such as aspects of my personality and leadership style, have proven to be divisive within the Mars Hill context.” He continues to claim that he did not do anything criminal, immoral, or heretical and that he should not be disqualified from pastoral ministry.

If I wrote the above paragraph, what I would be communicating to the church is:

1. I’ve apologized;
2. you have an unforgiving spirit;
3. you can’t handle my personality;
4. you don’t appreciate my style;
5. I’ve not really done anything seriously wrong;
6. I’m going to keep being a Christian leader.

Do you notice how identical the messages of Driscoll and Huston are? Other Christian leaders have delivered the same message when one of them falls.

This is the spin:

1. they’re only mistakes;
2. he’s apologized;
3. this is not enough to disqualify him from ministry.

They are being dismissive. They are dismissive of character. Character doesn’t matter anymore. In fact, it seems to me that no matter what you do, if you follow the Christian essential and apologize, even poorly, you can start with a clean slate immediately. Repentance used to mean transformation of character. Now, it means a non-apology for superficial mistakes.

In fact, with the ongoing saga of Tony Jones, I find it fascinating that he and his friends can dismiss his narcissism and allow him to continue as a Christian leader unchecked. But as Driscoll and Huston show, this is not unique to Jones. It’s happening everywhere all of the time. It is the modus operandi of Christian leadership today.

By their fruits you will know them. Fruits reveal the roots. We have become obsessed, distracted, and wowed by fruit. Roots are out of sight and out of mind, so we don’t bother with them. Ever.

Being a bully is not a mistake, it’s a flaw. Having a domineering spirit is not a mistake, it’s a flaw. Being abusive is not a mistake, it’s a flaw. Being narcissistic is not a mistake, it’s a flaw. A flaw in character. A flaw that needs serious and extended attention. Flaws can be repaired, but it takes a lot of work. These may not all be curable, but they can all be manageable.

Instead we quickly dismiss these flaws, diminish their import and impact, sweep them under the carpet, and move on with the program. There will always be enough fans, followers, and customers to keep the enterprise going and the industrial complex alive. Of course, these fans turn into fodder, fuel, and aftermaths. But so what? There are still more people out there. The show must go on!

What if we changed the spin to a healthier model? Like this:

1. your mistakes betray serious flaws in your character that hurt people;
2. repentance means a complete turnaround which may involve an extended sabbatical with therapy, accountability, and time;
3. we recognize your gift, and will trust you with the lives of people once you’ve proven you’re healed by managing your character in ways that doesn’t harm other people.

This would be better for the church and for us all, would it not?

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35 Responses

  1. John says:

    Yes!

  2. Reuben says:

    1. your mistakes betray serious flaws in your character that hurt people;

    What does mistakes betray serious flaws mean?

  3. Reuben says:

    All the rest, bravo.

    Mark has not repented. I doubt he ever will. I bet he repeats the same abuses.

  4. betray as in “your mistakes mistakingly reveal to the rest of us that there are major flaws in your character”.

  5. Reuben says:

    Gotcha.

  6. wanderer says:

    Thank you!!!!
    Very well put: flaw vs mistake.
    I have very little faith that evangelicalism can expect flaws/roots to be addressed, though. There is way too much that has to be swallowed whole and without question in the evangelical realm. It’s not likely that anyone will start saying “wait…… let’s think about this”. If they start expecting leaders to address roots they might have to question their whole faith.

  7. Ducatihero says:

    I want to support the flaws vs mistakes.

    I also want to ask for opinions about evangelicalism in the light of events with leading figures and something that has has also been written in the recent press.

    “One of the saddest moments during my time as Education Secretary was the day I took a call from a wonderfully generous philanthropist who had devoted limitless time and money to helping educate disadvantaged children in some of the most challenging areas of Britain but who now felt he had no option but to step away from his commitments because his evangelical Christianity meant that he, and his generosity, were under constant attack.” Michael Grove

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/11510368/Christianity-now-written-off-as-fixation-with-sky-pixie-Michael-Gove.html

    How are we to prevent abuses happening? Does someone being evangelical automatically make then party to abuses? Should someone who is evangelical be made to feel there is no alternative but to step away from commitments with helping others?

  8. Donna in Austin says:

    I noticed on Mark’s new website that he does not describe his upcoming Hillsong conference as an interview with him and Grace about past mistakes. I noticed as well that the support the ministry takes up quite a bit of page one. He has not changed at all and will continue to damage others in Jesus’s name.

  9. Led Juarez says:

    His wife? Spiritual or legal ex-wife. His terms btw.

  10. Led Juarez says:

    So we are gonna act like the adultery and abuse never happened? So you are in essence launching the new and improved Mark Driscoll brand. What does Jesus think of that? And not to mention the wife.

  11. Led: You are referring to Tony Jones, not Driscoll. Right?

  12. Linda says:

    The handwriting was on the wall as soon as Driscoll ditched the very people to whom he should have been accountable. Anyone who follows or promotes him at this point is at best foolish and more likely complicit in enabling and supporting an abusive leader.

  13. I also note that the fella in Louisiana (Jimmy the Swaggart) is back on television along with his (divorced) son and grandson. The corporation is alive and well, as “followers” send in their money to the amount of millions. According to the internet (not always accurate) he finally told folks that what he did in motels was none of their business. Evidently that is true.

  14. Dave Paisley says:

    Evangelicalism has always been obsessed with meddling in other people’s lives. It is, by its very nature, designed to badger and harass people into listening to what the “evangelist” has to say. And any personal shortcomings of the evangelist, or any evangelically-minded Xtian, are shrugged off because they are “DELIVERING THE GOSPEL TO THE UNBELIEVERS!!!!” And that trumps, forgives and brushes under the carpet any flaw in the messenger.

    If you object to their methods, then you are “AGAINST GOD AND THE GOSPEL!!!” and are to be either ignored or swept aside.

    It’s a weird dynamic.

  15. Brent says:

    I’m in no way suggesting that what Driscoll has done is excusable. Nor am I Driscoll apologist.

    I just feel like if we look at Biblical leaders, they all get a pass for much worse sins and atrocities than “being a jerk” and “misappropriation of funds.”

    David raped and murdered. Moses murdered. Peter cursed God publicly. Paul murdered Christians.

    But we condemn Mark Driscoll because he too has flaws? If anything, God is humbling him for another ministry. A better (don’t read bigger) ministry.

    Because that is the business God is in…

  16. Laura Beth says:

    How many years did Paul spend healing, being fed, led and taught to move from being a zelot that persecuted the church (a flaw, not a mistate) to being an apostle embracing the mission God called him to? More than just a couple! And it took even longer for many – even some fellow apostles to trust him again. This was a man who God personally endorsed with a loud voice from heaven and there was still a process to be had! I have been hurt, not by Mark but by those who have followed his lead. I still have some major damage control to do in my opinion.

  17. JRD says:

    Brent, if he could make a believable apology that isn’t rife with non-admissions and blame, then OK. Unfortunately, every problem that he was involved in, getting to the bottom of it had the same pattern. Deny, deny, deny, and once proof surfaces, change the story, pretend you’re sorry, make passive-aggressive non-apologetic public letter that places blame at other people’s feet. And repeat. Even his resignation letter, he tries to fence off a very small area of things that he thinks would disqualify a person from ministry, just so that his deeds just happen to not fall within them. Frankly, the character flaws he admits to are flaws that a megachurch pastor shouldn’t be allowed to have. He holds a far lower standard for himself than he’s applies to others. He quit his church rather than be held accountable to it. People shouldn’t be suckered by his narcissistic BS.

  18. Joe says:

    Why is it only evangelical churches have these kind of leadership failures?
    And do we need a reminder, Driscoll’s theology was about as repulsive as it comes. “God hates you” he was fond of saying.

  19. Rob Grayson says:

    As usual, what it comes down to is this: what matters is not character, or integrity, or even theology; what matters is money and celebrity.

  20. Gary W says:

    On the road to Jericho, Hillsong pastor Brian Huston hasn’t just passed by the man who was robbed, stripped, beaten and left half dead. He has joined the robbers.

  21. Lydia says:

    This is what Mark Driscoll does. He sells Jesus for fame and profit so don’t get in his way. It is who he is.

  22. Lydia says:

    “I just feel like if we look at Biblical leaders, they all get a pass for much worse sins and atrocities than “being a jerk” and “misappropriation of funds.”

    Seriously? You view it as “they got a pass”?

  23. irreverance says:

    @David, I really like how you broke this out into mistakes vs flaws, and then went on to illustrate what a healthy process of reintegration would look like.

    @Brent, who said, “But we condemn Mark Driscoll because he too has flaws?”
    No one is being condemned. The issue being identified is this: A pastor has engaged in emotional/spiritual abuse within the context of a congregation and has actively done harm to the wellbeing of individuals. What we see is evidence of a willingness/desire to engage in exactly the same form of abuse again. There is a difference between condemning someone for past behavior and protecting people from being damaged by continued behavior.

    Overall, I believe that this whole issue of spiritual/emotional abuse if for the evangelical community what the sexual abuse cases have been in the past for the Roman Catholic Church. Just as the Roman church protected its own, I expect the Evangelical community to do the same. The difference is that the sexual abuse cases are legal issues, which makes them obviously bad. Meanwhile, the emotional/spiritual abuse cases are not protected legally, so they take us into the next phase of justice for the abused.

  24. Since some of us liberals are fond of saying “God Loves You”, perhaps Mark was searching for an alternative theme? He could find plenty of literal texts for the “God Hates You” theme. Never took the time to listen to him. He did something right for lots of people.

    I once served a church one mile from a Jerry Falwell type of preacher and he attracted thousands with his message while I attracted hundreds and make that the low hundreds. He was once picketed by a group with devil masks. Turned out he hired them. The congregation never missed a beat. They purchased him a new suit to deal with the embarrassment in the press. I complained to my congregation. They never bought me any clothing. He arranged it so that even the janitorial staff were ordained, so they could deduct their housing expenses from their American income taxes. Pretty good idea, if you can get away with it.

  25. Joe says:

    @John “plenty of literal texts for God hates you” ? Chapter and verse please. Wait, you’re not taking the OT at face value are you? Come on.

  26. Well, I just spent a little time in a commentary and the list of the word hate is less than a page. Deuteronomy 16:21-22 us very specific about things God hates. And then chapter 17 tells us how we can stone persons who transgress what God wants. Hate is not a stretch there.

    Even better is Job 16:9 “He has torn me in his wrath, and hated me.”

    I must confess that I don’t know if Mark has used that as a text, but I can assure you that I have not.

    Why not take the Old Testament at face value, as my favorite Old Testament professor loved to say, “everything that Jesus taught can be found in the Old Testament”. Love you neighbor. Check. Love mercy. Check.

  27. Jill says:

    Whoa. “Being a bully is not a mistake, it’s a flaw.”

    I needed to read this today. And it is truly a choice. So well said.

  28. ccws says:

    ACK.

  29. Mr. Chris says:

    It’s just…Driscoll, when stripped down, was a great teacher. I’m praying for a more humble reemergence. Folks, Christ used him greatly in a land (Seattle) where people could care less about the Lord.

  30. He used his church and his church used him. What does Christ have to do it? Christ affirmed lots of people and gay bashers are not affirmers. Now if he had spent some energy bashing state legislators who have not been doing so well lately, then I would have been impressed..

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