Further thoughts on Mark Driscoll’s leadership

Driscoll preaching

The conversation remains ongoing on my post from over a year ago entitled I Love/can’t stand Mark Driscoll, and I’d encourage any and all to hop over and see each person’s contribution.  A person named R. Schmale just entered the conversation and raised a good question for consideration on the topic of repentance and whether Mark knows what that means in a deeper sense.  Here’s the question;

Is just saying “I repent” equal repentance? Do we just accept that when someone says “I repent” that they have truly repented?

I think that’s a great question; one to chew on for a lifetime as we seek transformation as disciples of Jesus.  I responded to R. Schmale’s comment, and my thinking evolved enough in that comment that I felt it deserved another post here.  My comment (pasted into this post) basically focuses on how the method of Driscoll’s “up-front” ministry lends itself to him making the same destructive mistakes time and time again that cause pain and, in a  relational sense,  stain the integrity of the larger body of Christ.

Here’s my further thoughts:

I would agree with you (R Schmale) that Driscoll’s repentance(s) don’t come off as legitimate when he keeps saying the same destructive stuff over and over again.  He does seem to have a watered-down approach to repentance.  If it’s worth anything, I’d say part of his method that leads to such missteps is two-fold;

1) preaching for over and hour on a regular basis.

It’s extremely hard, on a weekly basis, to come up with a sermon that is intentional, faithful, interesting, and contributes to the larger picture of faithfulness.  Mine tend to be about 35 to 40 minutes, because I respect Mark’s point that to respect the Bible, we can’t de-emphasize (or you could say “Guidepostize”) the sermon to the point of it offering no real guts.  But I don’t think it’s wise to take it over an hour as a habit, especially when much of that hour is spent in free-flowing thoughts.  Knowing people’s attention spans are shorter leads Mark to “spice up” his sermons with quips that keep people on their toes and attentive; and the compulsive need for such quips can lead to dangerous territory.  Especially when one has developed a reputation for overstepping boundaries in the past.

That being said, I don’t think the length of time is necessarily the full issue, because I know of any number of pastors who speak for long periods of time, yet are deeply intentional about every word that comes out of their mouth.  If they’re going to offend, they offend well and are committed to letting the gospel offend rather than their personality; they are deeply intentional in their public presence.  It seems Driscoll doesn’t value intentionality.

Ariah Fine just posted on Driscoll the other day saying something along these same lines;

“(John) Piper, someone who is brilliant and extremely intentional with his choice of language, seems to have blinders on to the dehumanizing and sexist attitude and choice of words that Driscoll seems to promote. It breaks my heart that Piper hasn’t spoke up on this (Piper, if you’re out there listening, I’d love to hear you speak up on this).”

Fine highlights that the Reformed community’s leaders need to speak up and call Driscoll to account instead of silently standing by (while inviting him to leadership at conferences); they’re enabling his unwise behavior.  Basically, while Mark doesn’t care about what others have to say, if Piper spoke up, Driscoll would listen.

2)  In “Confessions,” Driscoll admitted he styles much of his “stage presence” after stand-up comedians like Chris Rock.

Now, Chris Rock can be funny, but Chris Rock is not  someone that a pastor should be emulating their communication after, in my book.  Church is not a place where we go to be entertained or “oohed” and “ahed” as one charismatic personality keeps us hopping from issue to issue.  Church, Biblically speaking, is the gathered community of Jesus’ disciples offering their gifts to God in humility and commitment.  Worship gatherings, then, should reflect a commitment to letting the church family express their worship in a communal, authentic way to who they are as a group.  When Chris Rock as a stage entertainer becomes the focus for Mark rather than leading his family to express their worship in a uniquely Mars Hill way, then something is fundamentally missing.

But that’s just the way I see it.

Feel free to offer your thoughts either on this post or the original.  I promise to commit myself to weighing your words rather than seeing how I can destroy your approach through ridiculing you and exalting myself with witty humor.

12 thoughts on “Further thoughts on Mark Driscoll’s leadership

  1. It seems Driscoll doesn’t value intentionality.

    On the contrary, I think Driscoll IS intentional in his use of language. That’s the problem. However, I’ve been listening to his podcasts lately (I’m interested in what makes him so popular more than anything), and I’ve noticed a lot less crudeness in his sermons. I could be wrong, but still. Bottom line, however, is that in his [possibly] former crudeness, I think he was/is being intentional. That’s the scary part.

    Interesting thought that he uses all the humor and whatnot for to make up for preaching too long. I’ll have to listen to him some more, but that seems at least very possible.

    I’ve never read the Confessions. I did read Radical Reformission, but not the former. However, that is a disturbing comment–a preacher taking lessons from a crude, secular comedian. It’s certainly important to have good presentation as a preacher, but I think you make a good point about the “entertaining” aspect of it. Never having read the book, can I ask one question? Does Driscoll consider that a good thing, even a thing that other, future pastors should emulate?


  2. I think Driscoll’s line in the book runs something along the lines of “I went to see Chris Rock live and it was the best homiletics course ever”

    And on that note – I deeply love stand up comedy, it’s easily my favorite kind of entertainment, but as a preacher, it’s toxic. I say this from personal experience – laughs are addicting. You start to look for jokes and ways to exaggerate things in a way that isn’t helpful. As you walk off the stage, you feel like you won if you got a laugh or three. And worst of all, you discover that your congregation remembers your jokes much more than they remember the Gospel.

    About halfway through the talk, Matt Chandler gives some thoughts on this problem here: http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/MediaPlayer/3571/Video/

    If you’re someone who is comfortable speaking in front of people, you have to work very, very hard to know exactly what you’re going to say on stage, and say it well.

  3. The Song of Mark Driscoll

    And Mark said,

    Loving is for sissies, and Jesus was a dude–
    I don’t just mean he had a pair, I mostly mean he’s rude.

    Acts of sinful nature are transformed in my eyes
    To manly concupiscence, so I extol them to my guys.

    I’ve got “daddy issues,” the likes you’ve never seen.
    So I ignore all fruit of Spirit and insist real men are mean.

    I’m groping for my manhood, but not inside my slacks
    For I prefer the lies of culture to all the Bible’s facts.

    I call Jesus “Macho Man” and re-cast him in my fears,
    And I won’t admit my problems, ’cause problems are for queers.

    I posture on the podium, and posture in the home!
    And I posture in the coffee shops and posture on the phone!

    I’m a man, O yes, I am! Don’t say that I am meek.
    Jesus said that he would bless them, but it’s not Him I seek.

    It is the image in the mirror that’s all I need to know,
    Plus a little crush on Calvin to put on a good show.

    Grace is crying in the kitchen but I’ll turn the other cheek–
    For now that I am famous, she knows better that she’s weak.

    Love for Jesus is for chicks–and I’ll not say “I do.”
    I’m no Bride of anyone–especially a dude.

    Just try it, Jesus, go ahead–I’ll punch you in the eye!
    Don’t talk of love and unity and how for me you died.

    A different Jesus! That’s for me–a bully like myself.
    “Relationship” is for the girls, and machismo is true wealth.

    I won’t love you! No I won’t! Don’t say that you’re the Groom.
    I’d rather have you emasculated, then put back in the tomb.

    And it came to pass, that the audience of Mark Driscoll could no longer put up with the preaching of a “different Jesus” as the Corinthians had, and so they feared God and repented of their idolatry. And some of them were courageous and confronted Mark as did the brave priests in King Uzziah’s time, but they were persecuted and sore abused. They continued to intercede for their deceived brother, but Mark’s sin had not yet reached full measure and the outcome of their intercession was not yet known . . .

    • This is disgusting rude and crude. If your trying to make a point that driscoll is too brash you’re sinking past his level with this “poem”. You are not only using your language to build anyone up.This is NOT helpful. I know Mark has his faults but stop biting at him. If you have an issue talk to him. Rebuke him man to man. He is a very effective preacher and is very convicting. All this talk is so poisonous. I hope he doesn’t read these blogs. He has enough to stress about already.

  4. Thom,

    If I remember correctly, he spends more than a sentence on reflections on Chris Rock, and I’ve been struck at the parallels of his “stage presence” with Rock since then.

    I really appreciate your thoughts on the temptation to alter our message to bring laughs, etc. It is vitally, vitally important for those who dare to speak of God’s truth to be aware of your caution. Thanks.

    Veritable Heresy,

    Like the other contributor, I applaud your creativity and I appreciate the message I see you seeking to give. Like Mark, I think your methods here obscure the message, but I’ll let it stand as a contribution to the conversation. Sometimes we need to get outside our linear, rational methods of discussion and work with poetry and rhyme.

    I have to agree with you. The more I hear of Mark, the more I hear a different Jesus than I see in the gospels; even as he confronts the different Jesus of the Christian institution of today that is, frankly, overemotional, sappy, and senile. It strikes me as a classic over-reaction to an extreme that is in reaction to another unhealthy extreme.

    And I do also appreciate your exploration of the possible psychological things that drive Mark’s “gospel” and his portrayal of Jesus.


  5. When I first moved to Seattle as a 19 year old teenager coming from the rural areas of Ohio, Mars Hill was exactly what I thought church should be. How wonderful it was to be able to go to church yet still be an elitist jerk whether I was at church or not. Plus – a music venue / art gallery inside a church playing good music, worship music that sounded like indie music, alt country, or whatever was popular in Seattle (so non-traditional worship music) it was perfect for me.

    Anyways – regarding Driscoll (or drisCOOL as we jokingly referred to him as). I was somewhat blinded by all the things that I loved about the idea of the church that I somehow looked past all the degrading and un-apologetic things that he said. After going there for a year, I never second guessed any of the things he said, even though some of what he said I wouldn’t even repeat even if I was joking. My room mate used to go there and eventually left because she felt like some of the comments made about women were directly related to who she was as a woman. Still, I somehow looked past all of it.

    When I moved back to Ohio I got a good glimpse at what I was really looking for which was community and a deeper look into who Jesus was in the Gospels. A year after living back in Ohio, I moved back to Seattle. With this new view on Jesus and the Church, I visited Mars Hill once and decided that I could not return as a regular attender because I was so offended.

    Sorry that this is long, I just felt like my personal experience with it may be of some help. I don’t really have much input regarding his style, his theology, or what other Reformers have said….I just remember what I had heard and seen. I hope this sheds some light on the situation that goes on for people in Seattle that have been to the church and experienced Driscoll.

    • I just wanted to say I really appreciate the way you approach talking about this problem. So many of these people are grown men taking petty jabs at a man who I admire. However, you make a good point and I respect your opinion. Thank you for being decent and helpful in how you contribute… I’m sure mark would appreciate that kind of rebuke. He cant change with this other stuff. It’s just not helpful.

  6. Ryan, thanks for willing to be honest about your change in perspective.

    I have a close relative who was a part of the church when it first started, and they tell me that most from that time have left after being abused and swore at. Driscoll claims to be grateful to his critics and claims to have repented of the ways he’s treated people, but as John the Baptist said, we need to bear fruit in keeping with repentance. Merely saying that we’ve repented is not enough. Where’s the fruit, Mark? When are you going to confess your sin, contact those you abused, and apologize and seek reconciliation? They’re praying and waiting . . .

  7. Ryan,

    Thanks for your perspective, and I didn’t think it was long at all; just contributing your voice. Thanks. I really appreciate your self-confession in looking back at how you used to flow with whatever Driscoll said, and then how in the second time in Seattle you could see how unhealthy that was. That sort of thinking definitely does not apply to Driscoll alone; I hope people in my church family take that approach with me as well.

    Your confession also reveals the danger of what most persons say who are either Driscollites or feel the need to defend him. They often say some variation of this;

    “Why are you attacking a man of God who’s bearing such great fruit for the gospel in America’s least-churched city? You run the risk of stifling the spirit, creating disunity, and tearing down a brother doing good work.”

    My response to that is this, “Yes, we must be incredibly careful in our comments on others’ leadership in the church, because God can work through all of us. But, Biblically speaking, what ‘fruit’ are you talking about specifically? Large numbers? People who never question his theology or leadership? There is some important Bible teaching going on there, which is good in a place like Seattle, but does Driscoll teach distorted images of Jesus? distorted images of God? distorted roles of male headship and female submission? Does he inhabit an unhealthy position of leadership where elders and members who don’t submit wholly to him are excommunicated? Should we not be concerned about such things if those teachings are staining the body of Christ?”

    I’ll say this, it’s usually the numbers that come up first in people’s minds when they’re talking about his great ministry; and if that’s the primary reason we refuse to provide alternative perspectives, may God have mercy on our confusion.


    Important questions. I really like how the conversation here has come full circle back to solid, Biblically-defined repentance. May we all bear fruit in keeping with a humble, self-giving life lived before God and others; and continue praying that our brother who has been given so much in Seattle will seek healthy leadership as he follows Christ.


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