Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Mark Driscoll Considering New Ministry, Still Has Not Repented, Sought Reconciliation Say Former Members & Elders of Mars Hill

Posted by Christine Pack

Warren Throckmorton of Patheos, who has been doing a bang-up job of keeping us current on the very fluid situation of Mark Driscoll, is reporting today that Mark Driscoll is considering re-establishing himself as a pastor, under the auspices of Word of Faith false teacher Robert Morris. This should not be surprising, given that it was just three short weeks ago that Robert Morris gave the recently resigned Mark Driscoll a very warm and sympathetic welcome to his stage at the Gateway Conference. (For a thorough analysis of Robert Morris's unbiblical teaching, go here and here.) One wouldn't even have to be a PR expert to guess that that appearance by Driscoll was in all likelihood his way of gauging whether or not he can still captivate a crowd without being asked too many pesky questions. And the crowd, indeed, did warmly receive Driscoll, who has been under fire in the last few years for plagiarism, a potty mouth, spiritual abuse, threatening to throw church members "under the bus," partnering with heretics, and most recently, fleeing church discipline.

The cumulative weight of what Driscoll has done in his time as a pastor (read this article for documentation) should at least give a person pause, I would think. A pastor linking to a sex toys website? A pastor chuckling about breaking the noses of his elders? A pastor joking about throwing people under the bus if they don't catch his vision with him? A pastor lying about how security personnel at the Strange Fire conference handled his gate-crashing stunt? These are not the marks of a 1 Timothy 3/Titus 1 pastor.

Driscoll's supporters, however, and they are legion, rush in to say, But wait! He has repented! And here, they claim, is proof of that:

But this video is not in fact evidence of Driscoll's repentance, given that fleeing the discipline process of one's own church in order to find a more sympathetic, more removed pastor who is willing to take you on should not be missed here (as Driscoll appears to be doing with Robert Morris). Below is the video of Robert Morris's sympathetic introduction of Driscoll, and what appears to be Step One of Image Rehabilitation for Mark Driscoll.

There is a real absurdity to Driscoll positioning himself as a victim (as he did in this video), in light of the fact that he is one who is documented to have spiritually abused so many at his former church, and yet he has completely disdained the repentance/reconciliation process with those he abused, and is apparently seeking corporate forgiveness as if he had handled this the biblical way. So nobody needs to rush in with hugs and cuddles and forgiveness for him just yet, when he has not even repented and sought forgiveness from those he specifically and personally wronged.

So my response to this video is that a vague public pronouncement of "mistakes" that were made is not the same thing as genuine, godly, personal, specific repentance, in keeping with the Matthew 18 model.

 A Timeline of Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill  

Below is a brief timeline of Mars Hill history. This timeline is by no means comprehensive, but merely gives a brief overview of some of what has taken place in the former megachurch Mars Hill under Mark Driscoll. I consider three of the events below to be pivotal moments, and which taken together were the events that caused Christians outside of Mars Hill to sit up and start asking questions about Driscoll. I have highlighted the date of those events in red. This timeline will serve as the backdrop for the rest of this article:

April 1996 - Mark Driscoll founds Mars Hill church in the Seattle, WA area with Leif Moi and Mike Gunn

September 29-30, 2006 - Mark Driscoll, still a relatively unknown pastor, is introduced to the world by respected pastor John Piper at Piper's 2006 Desiring God conference at which Dr. Piper highlights Driscoll as one of his keynote speakers (as of November 2014, Dr. Piper insists he has no regrets in befriending Mark Driscoll, characterizes Driscoll as a good teacher despite "mistakes that Mark may have made" or instances in which "he might have walked out of step with the truth" - transcript of that interview here)

October 2007 - Mark Driscoll moves to change the by-laws of Mars Hill church; the change would consolidate power with Driscoll and a smaller group of elders handpicked by Driscoll.  Two highly respected elders (Paul Petry and Bent Meyer) at Mars Hill resist this change, and are fired when they try to hold Driscoll accountable.

2006 - 2012 - Mark Driscoll, who earned a degree in Communications at Washington State University and is an effective speaker with an aggressive, edgy style, skyrockets in popularity. During this time:
▪ Under Driscoll's leadership, Mars Hill is one of the first churches to go "multi-site," in which a pastor's sermons are piped in via video screen. 
▪ Driscoll writes several books and is a highly sought after speaker at Christian conferences 
▪ Driscoll founds The Resurgence (a Christian resources organization), co-founds The Gospel Coalition (a Christian parachurch organization of prominent Christian leaders), and co-founds Acts 29 (a church planting organization)
January 25, 2012 - Driscoll hosts an event entitled Elephant Room 2 (the first one having been the year prior) in which he features Oneness Pentecostal teacher TD Jakes, who holds to an unbiblical, non-Trinitarian view of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Jakes is also a prosperity/Word of Faith teacher who is known for his lively ability to $hakedown the flock for ca$h. Pastor Chris Rosebrough, an outspoken critic of syncretism and ecumenical alliances, attempts to attend the ER2 event, having paid and registered for it online, but is charged with arrest at the door if he enters the building where the event was taking place. Several Christian writers begin asking questions about why Driscoll, an evangelical Christian, would affirm heretic TD Jakes as a Christian brother at this event (herehere, herehere, here, here, and here). This event proves to be a pivotal point, after which concerns about Driscoll begin to grow as more and more eyes are on him.

March 29, 2012 - Driscoll resigns from The Gospel Coalition (TGC)

October 18, 2013 Mark Driscoll stages a bizarre publicity stunt at the Strange Fire conference that backfires on him after security personnel treat Driscoll far more graciously than he apparently anticipated. He leaves the event and begins broadcasting on social media the lie that security personnel had confiscated his materials. In reality, he had handed them over as "a gift" (his words). Video surfaces later that documents the encounter, and shows that Driscoll lied.

November 21, 2013 - Christian talk show host Janet Mefferd interviews Driscoll, and asks him about plagiarism in his newly released book A Call To Resurgence. Mefferd, in preparation for her interview with Driscoll (who is making the rounds on talk shows promoting his new book), had read Driscoll's book prior to her interview with him, and had discovered several instances of plagiarism. Janet came under heavy fire for asking Driscoll these questions, and her show producer ended up resigning in the midst of it.

November 23, 2103 - Dr. Paul David Tripp, a well regarded biblical counselor, joins the Mars Hill Board of Advisors and Accountability (BoAA), a board set up ostensibly to bring accountability to the Mars Hill governance

March 6, 2014 - Pastor Chris Rosebrough of Fighting For the Faith radio reports that Mark Driscoll bought his way onto the New York Times Bestseller List "through anonymous third parties"Warren Throckmorton of Patheos publishes the contract that was in place for artificially inflating book sales for Driscoll's book Real Marriage.

July 30, 2014 - Dr. Paul David Tripp resigns from the Mars Hill BoAAlater calls Mars Hill "the most abusive, coercive ministry culture I’ve ever been involved with"

August 1, 2014 -  More allegations of plagiarism by Driscoll emerge. Warren Throckmorton of Patheos publishes a chart that documents plagiarism in seven books authored by Driscoll.

August 8, 2014 - As Driscoll comes increasingly under scrutiny, with some of his actions being called into question by former Acts 29 pastors, the board of Acts 29 removes Mark Driscoll, the man who co-founded the Acts 29 organization, from membership, (video here). Former Acts 29 co-founder Ron Wheeler goes public with concerns about Mark Driscoll (Wheeler's entire open letter to Driscoll here)

August 13, 2014 NPR (National Public Radio), a secular media outlet, reports that Lifeway Christian Stores have halted sales of Driscoll's newest book (A Call To Resurgence) due to Driscoll's having been "accused of plagiarizing sections of the book and artificially inflating his book sales by bulk-buying copies."

August 21, 2014 - Twenty one former Mars Hill pastors bring formal charges against Mark Driscoll, alleging bullying, abuse of power

August 24, 2014 - Mark Driscoll steps down for 6 week timeout while Mars Hill Board of Accountability (BoA) reviews charges against him

August 28, 2014 - Nine elders at Mars Hill call for a change in Mars Hill by-laws that had been illegally changed by Driscoll in 2007, call for Driscoll to submit to plan for discipline/restoration

October 6, 2014 - All nine elders calling for by-laws change/discipline are gone, having either resigned or been fired

March 2014 - Present - Former Mars Hill pastors, one after the other, begin publicly confessing their sins of bullying, spiritual abuse and/or standing by while such behaviors were taking place during their tenures at Mars Hill (Repentant Pastor website)

October 15, 2014 - Mark Driscoll resigns from Mars Hill church, defiantly claiming however that he is not "disqualified from future ministry"

October 19, 2014 - It is revealed that Mars Hill elders were going to discipline Mark Driscoll, who then resigned rather than be disciplined (listen beginning at the 37 min mark) (Patheos article by Warren Throckmorton here)

October 20, 2014 - Gateway Word of Faith pastor Robert Morris welcomes Mark Driscoll onto the stage one week after Driscoll's resignation even though Driscoll has fled the discipline process at Mars Hill, and still has not repented and sought forgiveness of those he has abused  (video of Mark Driscoll's appearance with Robert Morris can be seen here)

October 31, 2014 - It is announced that Mars Hill will officially dissolve

November 9, 2014 - Driscoll is reported to be considering a return to public ministry, with the help of Word of Faith pastor Robert Morris; former members and elders say he still has not sought to be reconciled to them through the Matthew 18 process

 Matthew 18 - What does it look like? 
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” (Matthew 18:15-17)
So let's examine in detail the biblical model for repentance and reconciliation, which God graciously lays out for us very succinctly and elegantly in Matthew 18:15-17. I think this discussion about the Matthew 18 process might be helpful, since there seems to be some ongoing confusion among Driscoll's supporters about what that process should look like. Here are a few comments that have been made to me about Mark Driscoll, with respect to the Matthew 18 process:
"How do you know that Mark Driscoll hasn't repented?" 
"The world is watching. Why does the American Church have a hard time showing grace and compassion? It baffles me." 
 "Let it play out between Mark and God....he doesn't need a 'watch dog' bully group going after him." 
"How do you know that Mark is not broken-hearted. Don't just go along with all the hype..always verify." 
"Calling for Mark Driscoll to go specifically to those he has sinned against is legalism."
"Does Mark reach hundreds of thousands? Absolutely. Did he offend hundred of thousands? No. Did he sin against you? No."
I will address the above comments in the rest of this article, but it was this last comment that bothered me the most. What that commenter doesn't seem to understand is that Mark Driscoll has set into motion within the body of Christ hundreds if not thousands of young men wanting to emulate their idol. Here's how it worked: along with being doctrinally solid, he (Driscoll) is angry, aggressive, abusive, edgy and combative. Along with being doctrinally solid, they (his followers) are angry, aggressive, abusive, edgy and combative. Get it? It's like a dandelion being blown into the wind. The spores have gone everywhere and taken root. I live in Atlanta, far away from Seattle, and yet I am in contact in my area with those who have been impacted in an incredibly negative way by leaders who have taken on Driscoll's model for pastoring and doing church. Leaders who are young and immature, and too impatient to actually tend to their flocks due to their desire to mega-size their ministries. The entire body of Christ has been affected.

The Matthew 18 process has been going on with Mark Driscoll since at least 2007. The fall of 2007 was when, according to former elders Paul Petry and Bent Meyer, Driscoll made a move to unilaterally change the by-laws of Mars Hill church in order to consolidate power for himself, and then fired the elders (Petry and Meyer) who resisted and sought to hold him accountable.

This sign at the 8-3-14 demonstration documents
that former members attempted to work things out
with Driscoll via the Matthew 18 process, but
he would not listen to their concerns or repent.
He wouldn't listen when one and then a few
went to him (Matt 18:15-16)....
so it went to the church body (Matt 18:17a)....
and now it's in the process
of going out to the world (Matt 18:17b).
Thus, we're no longer in the beginning stages of the Matthew 18 discipline process ("If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses." Matthew 18:15-16). Those private attempts by Petry and Meyer to hold Driscoll accountable did not have the desired outcome of bringing about repentance in Driscoll. That step of the process was done as it should have been done: quietly, and at the local church body level, with only a few aware of what was going on. Is it not merciful of God to have set up the discipline process in this way, as a kindness to sinners so that their sins are not trumpeted to the world? After all, who wants sins to be broadcast for all to see, either for themselves or for others? I know I don't. I appreciate that God keeps the circle in the restoration process small in the beginning. In fact, the circle is ONLY widened if the sinner refuses to repent and do what is right, but the sinner can stop that train at any point by repenting and reconciling with those he has sinned against, and the circle of those who know about it would still stay relatively small. By all accounts, however, Driscoll did not do this, which means, sadly, that we are somewhere in the mark-him-out-as-an-unbeliever-and-put-him-out-of-fellowship territory ("If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” Matthew 18:17).

As I am part of the larger body of Christ, I am thankful for my fellow Christians in other congregations who are willing to do their part in the discipline process, and warn others in the body of those who would claim the name of Christ, but who have demonstrated that they are not willing to be corrected or disciplined over ongoing sin patterns. We're to treat those as lost people. However, I do not want that for Driscoll, even as I go about the sad business of documenting, for clarity's sake, the massive amounts of damage that Driscoll has done to the body of Christ. My genuine desire is that he will come around, that he will repent and be restored, not to ministry, from which he is forever disqualified, but to fellowship within a local church body. But those in his fanbase who are defending him in a way that makes it come across as if he is somehow above this Matthew 18 procedure (evidenced in the quotes I isolated above) are not doing him any favors.

 Driscoll Can't Reconcile With His Accusers Because He Doesn't Know Who They Are? 
Mark Driscoll (July 21, 2104): “A lot of the people we were dealing with in this season remain anonymous, and so we don’t know how to reconcile or how to work things out with people because we’re not entirely sure who they are.”
When Mark Driscoll addressed the Mars Hill congregation on July 21, 2014, and stated that he was giving himself a six week timeout, he said at the time that he wished he could repent to those he needed to at Mars Hill, but that it was difficult to do so because so many of them were "anonymous." In response to Driscoll's statement, a number of former Mars Hill members and elders set up a Facebook group in order to help Mark Driscoll out in finding those he needs to repent to. (Some of them also called for Driscoll's resignation and protested their denigration to "anonymous" status in the eyes of their former pastor in a peaceful demonstration outside the main Mars Hill campus on Sunday, August 3, 2014.)

The Facebook group that was set up is named Dear Pastor Mark and Mars Hill: We Are Not Anonymous. Catchy title, huh? This was and is a very active Facebook group (linked to above), which exists for the purpose of making it clear that those who have been disdained by their former pastor as insignificant, anonymous voices are not, in fact, insignificant. (I am also a member of this group, being sympathetic to their cause in particular, and to spiritual abuse in general.) Driscoll's fanbase insist that poor Driscoll has suffered enough, it's time to just move on, there's nothing to see here, people! Well, those whom Driscoll bullied and spiritually abused have also suffered. And unlike Driscoll, they don't have a fanbase of hundreds of people rushing to their defense and pleading their cases for them. After all, they are (for the most part) nameless, faceless nobodies. But just because they're not a big celebrity pastor who can draw a crowd doesn't mean that they're not every bit as important in God's eyes as Driscoll, whom so many are rushing to defend and give a pass to. Sadly, the fact that biblical reconciliation has not taken place between these former Mars Hill members and their former pastor doesn't seem to slow down Driscoll's fans.

Dear Pastor Mark & Mars Hill: We Are Not Anonymous facebook group

 No repentance from Mark Driscoll 

The people in the Dear Pastor Mark and Mars Hill Facebook group have given heartbreakingly candid testimonies, one after the other, of being abused and cast aside by Driscoll as he leveraged himself up over their dead bodies. This group is an open group, which means that anyone can feel free to post in there, and and ask the members for themselves if Driscoll has repented to any of them. Trust me, they are very candid, some of them almost painfully so. And no, they say, Driscoll has not come to them and repented.

 Closing Thoughts 

While I recognize that commentary about Driscoll will be perceived by some as piling on, my concern is that because Driscoll is so adept at manipulation and spin, he will spin his way out of this box he's in by convincing onlookers that he has repented and apologized and that we all just need to move on now, nothing to see here, folks. The reality is that this hasn't occurred. Documentation of this is important almost in an historical sense, because what Driscoll seems to be banking on (as many other false teachers before him have done) is that Christians will hasten to move on, thinking this is all dealt with, when the reality is that, biblically speaking, it hasn't been.

In some respects, I see my role almost as a documentarian: I document and log facts, and of course, I am hoping for the best. But if at some point down the road Driscoll tries to say look, the board dealt with this, it's done, it's time to move on, I just want to get on with my life, I (and others) can and should hold up the documentation that testifies to the fact that, no, he has not dealt specifically and personally with those he has wronged, bullied and spiritually abused. We don't do this in order to be unkind or malicious, but because when our fellow Christians* are ensnared in sin, we're not being biblical with them if we just look the other way. Sin needs to be called sin. Driscoll needs accountability, I need accountability, we all need accountability. We don't need to be enabled in our sin, because unrepentant sin that goes on and on and on has the effect of hardening the heart and turning the unrepentant sinner further and further away from God. I don't want that for Mark Driscoll.

By now, it should be clear to the body of Christ that Driscoll, by his unrepentant abusiveness, has completely disqualified himself from ever pastoring again. But worse than that, his soul appears to be in jeopardy. To loosely quote Taylor Swift, it is never, ever, ever a good thing for someone to continue in unrepentant sin, unchecked by either outward accountability or by conscience. Driscoll does need prayer, but so do the many sheep who were entrusted into his care and who were spiritually abused by him. Spiritual abuse can take years to recover from, and I have the deepest sympathy and sorrow for those who were abused by Driscoll. But at the same time, we should also hold out hope that God will work genuine repentance in Driscoll's heart, and that he will bear fruit in keeping with Godly sorrow. What a miraculous testament to God's grace and restorative power if Driscoll were to publicly repent and confess his sins! Repentance first starts in the heart, so perhaps Godly sorrow is beginning to work in Driscoll's heart. But in cases in which one's sin has been public and impacted others, true repentance will also manifest in the one who sinned going personally to those he sinned against, and specifically and personally repenting and asking their forgiveness. I hope for Mark Driscoll's sake that this takes place. Not only that, I will be more than happy to rejoice with him over that and report about it, should that occur.

* Of course, it's debatable at this point whether or not Driscoll is a believer, but as he is still a professing believer who holds to an orthodox gospel proclamation, I am still going to deal with him in that way.

 Additional Resources 

Mark Driscoll: A Timeline of His Downfall
 (Sola Sisters)

Thoughts On Driscoll and The Biblical Qualifications For A Pastor

John Piper and Mark Driscoll: Lessons Not Learned? (Pyromaniacs)

Mark Driscoll Repents? Not So Fast, Say Phil Johnson and Chris Rosebrough

Documenting the Problems with Mars Hill Pastor Mark Driscoll [UPDATED]

Mars Hill Pastor Mark Driscoll Resigns, Claims He Is Not "Disqualified From Future Ministry"

What John Piper Said When He Finally Addressed the Issue of Mark Driscoll......What We Wish He Had Said Instead

Pastor Chris Rosebrough Deconstructs Robert Morris's "Blessed Life" Teaching, Part 1 and Part 2