Why I Think Mark Driscoll Should Pastor Again
What you are about to read is me allowing you to see what I want to say to my brother, Mark Driscoll, concerning his return to church planting and pastoring. In fact, my intentions are that Mark himself gets to read this. I am sure some friend of his will pass it on. At the same time, my hope is that for all the dissenting voices out there, my small voice will play a part in the healing process and the advancement of the Kingdom in and though Mark’s and Grace’s lives. I don’t know them. In fact, while I liked the things I personally heard Mark preach, I didn’t always agree with him and I cannot say with integrity that I am a follower of Mark Driscoll’s teachings. For some that will disqualify me. However, it at least puts me in a place where I can speak without the pain of others who are either close to Mark or feel they were wronged by him. In an age of mass media, many of us know who Mark is. Fifty years ago we may have heard of him. And 100 years ago it is likely we would have had no idea who he was. So enjoy, get mad, or have some other emotion, but least give me the courtesy of reading what I wrote and prayerfully contemplate any meat that may be on the bones of this editorial.
Mark Driscoll announced on February 1st that he would be launching a new church plant called The Trinity Church in Phoenix, AZ. The Trinity Church is scheduled to open early this year. Immediately there was push back, encouragement and a media frenzy about the former pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington. Even this article, though a few days behind the curve, is part of that frenzy. But my hope is that what I have to say about Mark (and to Mark) and this situation is far reaching beyond Mark himself and is a plea to the greater body of Christ. (For more information about Mark’s removal from Mars Hill and the Acts 29 Network just click the link.)
Mark messed up. Mark was a bully, power hungry, arrogant and not Christ-like. You heard me. I wanted to get that out in the open from the start. And, just so we are clear, you can hear Mark say these same things by clicking the links of an interview Mark and Grace did with Brian Houston of the Hillsong movement. Mark openly repents of his wrongdoings, does not try to defend his actions and demonstrates a humility in speech that anyone who has ever seen or heard Mark preach would find rather uncharacteristic. Mark is known for being bold and having an in-your-face delivery when preaching and teaching.
Now that I have that out of the way, let’s move on to what matters. While I share about Mark’s restoration to his calling and why it is important for the Body of Christ that he returns to his passion of ministry, I want to also deal with some elephants in the room (pun intended).
“Mark hasn’t really repented.”
Some believe that Mark hasn’t really repented. Just google it. Even the Brian Houston interview I linked you to has all sorts of nay-sayers that say Mark is playing the victim in the interview and that he is doing so because of his arrogance. Others that I have been introduced to through social media by those close to Seattle who actually worked with Mark say he has never repented to them personally. I have no reason to not believe them. And if Mark has not made amends with the folks from Mars Hill that he “bullied” or “abused” then I think he should reach out to them as much as possible.
But I also wonder if those who have been hurt by Mark’s actions can’t accept Mark’s repentance to God or his public repentance. Neither seem to be good enough. I mean, it isn’t really forgiveness-worthy repentance unless there is some begging involved, right? Or perhaps true repentance would be admitting he is wrong and agreeing to never serve Jesus in the capacity of pastor again. That sounds about right. Not!
I just cannot find biblical grounds for that kind of repentance. Yes, he needs to go to his brother or sister and repent to them directly. And I think that may be a two-way street. If you know you are unforgiving to a brother or sister then you are suppose to go to them, as well. So, the whole repentance and reconciliation thing seems to go both ways. In fact, if you look at the story in Matthew 5 and Matthew 18, the burden seems to be on the spiritual one who sees the sin of his brother or sister who has sinned against them. And the goal, according to Matthew 18:15, is that “if he listens you gain a brother”. In other words, you are keeping the family together!
William Brandt in his fabulous book The Heart of the Problem sums it up this way. You have either been sinned against or you have sinned against another. But there is only ONE solution for both…FORGIVENESS. Brandt also points out in his book that a lack of forgiveness for something that someone has done to you will in fact turn into your own sin. Ouch!! You mean that if my wife mistreats me in some way it actually becomes my sin if I don’t forgive her? Well, yeah. It does. In fact in Matthew 5:22-24 here is what Jesus had to say about it:
“But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. 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.”
Or perhaps Matthew 6:14-15 applies here:
“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Did you catch that? The “victim’s” lack of forgiveness actually becomes a barrier between them and God. And since when did forgiveness require someone to repent to me? Is that how Christianity really works? The only way someone can be forgiven by God is if they come to me and repent for what they did to me, then they can be forgiven? If that is the way to forgiveness, we are all in trouble.
So why do we even approach people for forgiveness, then? Well, apparently to our heavenly Father, family matters! Not to mention human relationships are the intention of our Father as the Creator. It goes back to that whole Genesis thing when God said it wasn’t good for a man to be alone. Lack of forgiveness within the Body of Christ, in fact, cuts off spiritual circulation and keeps the blood flow from reaching where it needs to go. Yep. Blood flow. You know that “soul cleansing blood of the Lamb.”
For the dissenters, I am not giving Mark a pass here. In fact, I am encouraging him to reconcile to as many as he can. And I am encouraging those who feel animosity or anger who were hurt by Mark to make sure they find a way to give him the opportunity to do just that. I know for a fact that I have done things to people and have never seen them again. And I am sure I have done things to people without even knowing I did. You know, the open mouth, insert foot method. And that plank in my eye requires me to yell “DUCK” everytime I turn my head to see the dust in someone else’s eye.
“But it just hasn’t been long enough since Mark stepped down for him to return to pastoring.”
Here is an actual quote from someone I respect as a writer:
“That Driscoll should be forgiven is a no-brainer for anyone who is committed to the Gospel. That he should be restored to Christian fellowship is presumed by anyone who is committed to the church. But pastoring again as a well known celebrity preacher now under his own brand just two years later? Surely not. But that is how the American Dream works, right there.” (For more click here.)
The writer makes another point in the article concerning Mark’s website that has a banner that reads “It’s All About Jesus” – Pastor Mark Every Year Since 1995. The tagline, I am sure, was at the least approved by Mark. And frankly, I like it. I would encourage you to read the article. In fact, I would encourage Mark to read the article. But the writer implies that somewhere along the way Mark dropped the Jesus ball and picked up the Mark ball. And, as I stated earlier, Mark probably did let himself increase and has admitted it.
**But I think it may be slightly harsh to read into the tagline that Mark is lying. In fact, I would probably go as far as to say that Mark’s tagline is more theological than a testimony of his own perfection. If you ever listened to Mark preach, his entire ministry revolved around preaching Jesus. He preached the Gospel. Sure, he messed up in preaching. And what preacher has not allowed self to get into the mix?
I sometimes have a tendency to take 1 Corinthians 13 just a little too literally. “Love believes all things.” I believe, even with ALL of Mark’s personal and relational flaws, he really loves Jesus and really loves people. And before you draw and quarter this article, Mark didn’t always operate in that love. The same chapter teaches us that “love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices with truth.”
Someone just thought to themselves “Well, isn’t that what Mark didn’t do?” Yes. He failed to love according to his accusers and according to Mark himself.
“DUCK!” Sorry, I just turned my head again. I, too, have often failed to do those exact same things. Granted, I am not a “celebrity preacher,” but I have been impatient, not kind, proud, rude, irritable, resentful, rejoiced at the wrongdoing (like flipping the guy off in traffic and telling everyone about it), and not rejoiced in truth. “DUCK!” Just turned my plank-eye again. Sorry!
The point of 1 Corinthians 13 is a standard I am suppose to live by, not a standard I am suppose to measure others by. It is a way that according to Philippians 2:12 I can “work out my own salvation with fear and trembling.” Man, fear and trembling. Seems to be a missing ingredient in many of our lives when it comes to walking out our faith.
See, when I look at Mark I get scared. Not of Mark. Of my own self. I know that deep down inside I have the ability to mess up just like Mark did. And quite frankly, I am glad that Mark is my example. Why miss an opportunity here? According to Romans 8:28, “All things work to the good of those who love the Lord and are called according to his purposes.” How many things? All of them. So, that means that Mark’s establishment of Mar’s Hill and the Acts 29 Network are for the good of the Body of Christ and the unified purposes of the advancement of the Kingdom on earth. And guess what. So does Mark’s failure.
In the Kingdom, God doesn’t waste anything. We do. We take the failure of a brother or sister and we retire them depending on how bad the sin is. We have a tendency to amputate from the Body of Christ far too soon. And the greater the “celebrity preacher” the more likely we are to “rejoice in wrongdoings” and kick them to the curb.
Is that the way a sibling should treat another sibling? Or a father treat a child? Just imagine me for one moment, looking at my son and saying, “Hey, you have repeatedly hurt your sister and shown a lack of love to her. I have punished you and sent you to your room for all that you did to her. But I have decided that even though you have said you were sorry and you have taken your punishment, I need you to move out now. You really are not fit to be a part of the family, nor to speak on our behalf.”
Yet we have done that to many, many brothers and sisters in the body who have fallen. We have forgotten that our role is not only to discipline the Father’s children, but to reconcile them in due time.
But here is the rub for me. I cannot find any biblical reasoning behind not restoring him to the ministry. And I definitely cannot find a biblical timeline that requires a waiting period for the restoration of a minister to his or her calling. And I especially cannot find a waiting period for a “celebrity preacher” to be held back from the ministry; mainly because I cannot find a “celebrity preacher” in the Bible. And I have a feeling that title is more projected onto Mark by friends and foes than by Mark (especially right now) or Father God.
Galatians 6:1, in fact, says this:
“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.”
WHAT?!!! Did I read that right? I am suppose to be spiritual. And the way I measure that spiritual approach is to restore my brother in a “spirit of gentleness.” Notice that there is no timeline mentioned here.
But wait, it gets better. I am suppose to watch myself. And why? Because I may be tempted. The implication is tempted to do the same thing!!! Another way of saying this is the way that John Bradford, a 19th Century Reformed minister from Massachusetts, is said to have said it. As Bradford witnessed the execution of a poor criminal he is credited to have stated, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”
It is God’s grace that keeps me from making the same mistakes that Mark made. And it is God’s grace alone that has and will restore me from myself. Should I not afford Mark the same restoring grace?
What I can say about Mark’s restoration to the pastorate and his plans to plant a new church in Phoenix is this:
I extend grace to you. I am believing that God, your Father, has disciplined you sufficiently according to your own testimony and those to whom you have submitted spiritually. According to 1 Corinthians 13:7-8a, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” Mark, I choose to love you accordingly. I am also believing that you have sought wise and godly counsel; that you are not just arrogantly planting a church, but you are getting back into the “good fight.” And brother, we need you. We need the Gospel spread through every believer. I am also believing that you are seeking to reconcile with any and everyone that feels you have wronged them. I am believing that this experience will not be wasted, but will become the reworking of the foundation of the Gospel into your life and ministry. Mark, I choose to bless you. I choose to believe in the love of the Father working and doing his good pleasure in you. I choose to believe that he is not finished with you. I choose to believe that you love Jesus. And, Mark, since you and I don’t know each other, I choose not to judge you from a distance, but to pray for you, Grace, and your family.
A Loving Brother,