I generally don’t comment on Mark Driscoll controversies. I refrain partially because it feels like click-bait most of the time. Also, because there’s plenty of commentary on him already. Finally, because part of me still feels some sad affection for him. As a young man (like 19) I used to listen to him and I’d be a liar if I didn’t say I learned a lot and grew to love Jesus more. He was funny, he preached the Bible, and was free to download. (Ironically enough, this was the same period that I was also podcasting Rob Bell and learning from him too. Needless to say, like most 19-year-olds, I was a theologically confused young man.) In any case, though I stopped paying attention to him a long time ago, and have been increasingly saddened and frustrated at his antics, I really, really haven’t wanted to weigh in.
This week, though, even more dirt on Mark Driscoll came out beyond the aggressive church practices, plagiarism, and such. If you haven’t already heard, apparently about 14 years ago, Driscoll used to go around on the internet commenting under a different pen name ‘William Wallace II’ or something like that. Now, he admits as much in his early book and says that under that name he was a little, well, aggressive. So, after some consideration he shut it down and moved on. Well, recently someone took the time to dig up about 140 pages of comments made by him about theology, men, women, and so forth. I won’t repeat it because you can find it on a number of sites, but I gotta be honest, even though it was 14 years ago, it’s really, really ugly stuff.
Well, what follows are a few quick reflections on the whole thing. They’re incomplete, but here they are.
First, this whole thing just makes me sad. It makes my heart sad as a younger pastor, as a Christian, and as a brother in Christ. It makes me sad both for him, and for the congregation that was dealing with that at the time. It makes me sad for sake of Christ’s church whose name is being dragged through the mud again. Both the tone and the content of what was said are things that are unfit for an elder in Christ’s Church. I’m not sure you can read that stuff with a love for Christ’s Bride without any sense of grief. Please be praying for his church, his community, his family, and for Driscoll himself. This has to be a rough last year and I hope the Lord is doing a work there.
One of the things my parents consistently warned me against as a child and young man was self-righteous pride. Whenever we saw someone involved in obvious sin, or a scandal on TV, my mom was always warned me never to utter the words “I could never do that”, but instead “Lord, protect me from that.” The reality is, because of indwelling sin, I could do that. Maybe not easily, but I’m not so far removed from that so that I could become haughty about these things. In the same vein, my dad always reminded us, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” If you find yourself cultivating anger, scorn, malice, or pride as you think about Driscoll right now, take care and turn over these things to the Lord. Without saying there shouldn’t be accountability, Paul reminds us that discipline and correction ought to be done by those who are “spiritual” and who “watch themselves lest they also be tempted” (Gal. 6:1-2).
Young Pastors and Their Words
For other youngish types in the ministry, be careful. Yes, if the math is correct, at 30 Driscoll was two years older than I am now, which means he wasn’t a kid. Still, take this as a cautionary tale. I know I am probably far too careless in ordinary speech, but now, in the age of recordings and the internet, we’re beginning to see little hints of what it’ll be like on the day of judgment when Jesus says “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak” (Matt. 12:36). Nothing we write or say dies or fades away.
Young pastors, I’d suggest a few tips in this area:
- Read and re-read Proverbs and pay special attention to what it says about wise speech. Soak in that.
- Do the same with 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus.
- Go find an older, wise mentor whose judgment you can defer to as a spiritual discipline of humility and guidance. Look at their speech. Model yourself after them as much as you can.
- Do something similar with your preaching and writing models. Young types don’t need help to be aggressive, and brash. We do need models of passionate wisdom. In other words, try to find more old dudes to listen to. This is part of why I started listening to Keller instead of Driscoll and Bell. Well, that and a bunch of other stuff.
- When it comes to your writing practices:
- Write everything like your Elders (who presumably have some authority) could read this. Also, if you aren’t in a church where you have godly Elders who can speak to this, fix that ASAP.
- Don’t give yourself the privilege/temptation of an anonymous online alias. It’s just too tempting. Anonymity is the death of restrained, godly speech.
I’ve written about mentorship before, but please find the young ones starting out. They need your prayers, your wisdom, and your help. Desperately. To some degree the younger pastors in the Church are only as good as they were mentored. If you care about the future of, not only your church, but the Church, you’ll find someone to mentor.
This one sounds weird, but, it makes me trust God. Somewhere in the middle of all of that anger, foul language, and so forth, God managed to save a lot of people and change a lot of lives at Mars Hill. I know there are a lot of survivor stories that tell a different side to it, and the more I know, the weirder and sadder it gets. That’s a side of the story that’s real as well. Still, in the middle of it, God is gracious. God takes care of his people through it all.
Well, these are the reflections of a young man, so take them for what they’re worth.
Soli Deo Gloria
Update: Given my youth, it’s unsurprising that I have to clarify myself. So, for those of you reading this, please, please don’t take this as my total thoughts with respect to the situation, or a sign that I don’t care about the people who struggled there and so forth. I was thinking about this kind of introspectively and with regard to my own role, so, that’s kind of what shaped this.
hey derek, i appreciate your comments but have to admit the angle struck me as odd and a little unnerving… you seem to be full of empathy — for Driscoll — yet missing any empathy for the people, the men (gay and straight) and the women who he unashamedly abuses in speech and in what passes at Mars Hill as “pastoral care.” I’m biased, but I wish folks like you who have the lion’s share of pulpits, would lead with “Woe to you …” rather than “poor you, I feel your pain and there but for the grace of God go I.”
Ya, as I posted it, I figured that would be maybe a comment that could come up. And I get that.
I guess the thing turned me introspective given that I’m kind of a young pastor, and I thought of my wife and possibly future kids who would have to deal with the aftermath of my stupidity were I to write things like that. So, ya, it’s a short, incomplete blog, so please take it for what it is.
I do hear you, though, and I don’t want to minimize that at all.
Thanks for commenting, Karen.
I don’t think empathy is zero-sum endeavor. It is possible to have empathy for both Driscoll and those whom he has hurt, as we’ve all been on both ends of anger and abuse. I know that I’ve been hurt, and hurt others. After all, Jesus died for the forgiveness of the sins of all of us. If we allow our empathy to be subject to the popular dualism of our culture, we run a grave risk of limiting our witness, and ultimately, God’s glory and restorative justice.
It seems like with Driscoll people either have an undying allegiance to him or they use a lot of the energy on social media to verbally bash and demean him. I too was heavily influence by his teaching as a young adult and I am thankful for that (compared to where I was theologically beforehand). I have cut ties with him a few years ago, but I think your call to pray for him and his church is a important. We can’t forget that he is heading one of the biggest Gospel-proclaiming churches in the least-churched part of America. God be with them all (and us, as you said, that we might not fall into the same traps).
Derek – Thanks for consistently modelling what the words of an actual pastor are, as opposed to Driscoll’s prophet/father schtick. As an older sister in the faith who has made it a practice to keep an eye out for up and coming pastor/leaders in the church (as they’ll likely influence my pastor, and my children and grandchildren as they grow up), and who prayed for Mark from his earliest days, first in hope and then in fear, can I offer up a couple more?
Calling – we have got to get better, as an entire church body, about discerning what calling and gifting is as it relates to pastoral ministry. We have got to know what the qualifications are and aren’t, how gifts and common graces operate (similarly and differently), how God confirms a man’s gifts, and (equally importantly) what “keeping watch over your life and doctrine closely” means for when it’s time to get the crook and use it to pull the pastor out of the pulpit (and when it’s *not*). (We also have to do better at getting under and behind young men who really *do* have the goods, financially and in all other ways – seminaries are at fault for a lot of this stuff too.)
Women – While Mark used some spectacularly vile language to espouse his attitudes, the attitudes themselves are shared by a far broader community of churches/pastors than just Mars Hill. Pastors who find ways to incorporate the wisdom of women, especially significantly older women, into the life and direction of the church proactively, instead of obsessing over the small fences around preaching and eldership, will not be as prone to abuses of authority such an inordinately male-dominated approach to church life inevitably produces.
Exit strategies – I have known so many men in ministry who wrecked their ministries, or who were suddenly in a season of family or physical trial, but who had no Plan B for something in secular life. That lack not only led to them letting a potentially overcome-able sin issue become enormous and totally disqualifying, but then put enormous pressure on their families when they were unable to find work that could meet their basic financial needs while they got their life together. In the early days of ministry it always seems like this will be your entire life’s work. But you can’t presume on God’s ways like that.
Sorry for the long comment. I’ve actually had a heart to email you something along these lines, but didn’t want to do it in any kind of private forum out of not wanting to create any kind of stalker fangirl impression. 🙂 The fact that you are close to the same age Driscoll was then is not insignificant! You have, at least from Internet appearances, tremendous gifts. You are modeling what a pastor/theologian looks like in such an amazing way. Beg God to keep you from the idea of the thought of any sin that could make you lose your ministry and all the good that could come of it for the Kingdom. Surround yourself with men (and women) who will tell you the kind of truth, in love, about your flaws that hurts like all life-saving surgery does.
God bless you.
Thanks so much for the kind words.
Also, thanks even more for the wisdom you offer in those comments. I can only say amen, and then beg for prayer.
I’ve been fairly outspoken against some of your stuff in the past, but I have to admit I’m really growing to like and respect you as a writer, theologian, and human being.
Why couldn’t you just allow me to comfortably write off all Calvinists? Why?!
Thanks for a thoughtful and sober reply. I suppose what concerns me is that this aggressive, macho-Jesus persona is what has drawn so many to him – especially young males, and especially young male clergy like us. I admit I am an unconvinced Arminian. It must be possible to have strong convictions without being a prideful jerk, though this is a rare combination in practice. Again, thanks.
Ya, the strong conviction w/out being a jerk element is very important, but I do think I’ve seen it done well. Tim Keller, as always, comes to mind here, but he’s not the only one.
Thanks for the comment!
Yes, that’s true. It took me a long time to figure out he was Reformed, which was a bit of a disappointment. 🙂
Whenever I hear about things like this I am reminded again and again of how important elders are in a Church and the relationship between the Pastor and the elder (or Elders). The role of “senior pastor” doesn’t get much space in the New Testament, really. Paul focused on appointing elders in the churches he started, but American Evangelicalism is in love with this Lone Ranger mindset of a charismatic leader who rides a white horse and sets everything right – and that leader is not Jesus.
I’ve never read your blog, and usually avoid reformed leaning blogs at all costs. But, you came up on my Facebook feed. As you said, Driscoll bashes are “clickbait.” Thus, I find myself here. I appreciate the maturity and humility that you showed in this post. That is not something I find in reformed thinkers very often, despite the fact that humility is supposedly necessary for a person to be reformed. I appreciate yours. It was refreshing in the face of the sad subject you are writing on.
I have always thought of Driscoll’s preaching as something you outgrow. His theology is spot on for many people. He preaches with a depth and bold honesty that many people are drawn to. But, his antics out of the pulpit reveal an arrogance that I think should cause a mature Christian to reconsider their affiliation with his teaching.
I loved Driscoll when I considered myself reformed. He was everything that the “stuffy” reformed guys were not. I appreciated the brutal honesty in his sermons and I certainly grew from them. But, that honesty seemed to evaporate when comparing his actions with his preaching. This is just another sad revelation about the character of a Christian leader in our country. Sadly his position, like the position of other popular Christian “leaders”, will ultimately protect him from the accountability he desperately needs.
Reblogged this on misterjoshuaray and commented:
Good thoughts on and for young pastors
I appreciate your willingness to engage in a plank-eye reflection. That is, rather than pointing a finger of accusation, you have asked, “This could be me”. That is refreshing; heck, it’s even Christ like.
Just came back from a three week vacation and online detox to find that things have gotten even worse for MD. I’m one who agrees with him on most matters but yet has been wary of tone/character/antics. These thoughts are some of the best I’ve glanced at.
Like you, this has given me pause and caused me to pray. For MD, who by God’s grace can still be made more saintly and perhaps even through this season. For all those who have apparently been hurt under his ministry. For all those who haven’t been hurt but have benefited through his ministry, who must be confused. And for myself, another young pastor.
Driscoll is a bigotted and dangerous flim-flam man… it was all about him, at your expense. Open your eyes folks… believe in whatever God you like, but don’t believe in deceptive and sick humans.