Mark Driscoll, based upon the charges brought against him from Mars Hill leaders and members, was unfit to be a pastor, but, if you didn’t attend Mars Hill, is that any of your business? What is your role (if any) in this painful experience?
When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. – Proverbs 10:19
MIND YOUR OWN AFFAIRS
Paul tells the Christians in Thessalonica to “aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders.” I’m not sure the creators or listeners of The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill podcast have heeded this divine council. In one of his letters to Timothy, Paul identifies the certain type of carnal ladies who are prone to “be idlers, going about from house to house [podcast to podcast?], and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies.” Are we being those ladies?
DWELL ON THE LOVELY
“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” This command, if obeyed, would almost single-handedly silence the Rise and Fall.
Jon Tyson, in the context of Christianity Today’s podcast “The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill” said “There is a fine line between cautionary tales and failure porn…” The podcast feels more like a tabloid that uncovers the latest celebrity gossip, and the anticipation for it is similar to that of the groveling that took place for a new episode of the Game of Thrones or the Mandalorian. Liam Thatcher sees it this way:
I am increasingly perturbed by the cult following that is developing around it. The drooling anticipation that fills my Twitter timeline ahead of each episode. The cries of “I can’t wait”, or “I need the next episode NOW!” The eager anticipation of what new controversies the next instalment may unveil. The plethora of mocking memes that get shared after each installment.
That’s not normal for religious journalism.
It’s normal for reality TV.
It’s normal for celebrity gossip.
It’s normal for addictions.
WAS MARK DRISCOLL YOUR PASTOR? IF NOT, WALK AWAY
“Do not contend with a man for no reason, when he has done you no harm.” Proverbs 3:30.
Mark Driscoll has done much wrong. He has hurt many. Therefore, he should have had charges brought against him. He should have been in the pipeline of Church Discipline from the members and clergy of Mars Hill Church. And he was!!! The biblical way to address Mark Driscoll’s (and any wayward saint’s) folly and wickedness is prescribed in the Bible and was, in fact, in place by Mars Hill Church (now, of course, he didn’t receive their council or rebuke and path to restoration – instead he started another church, but more on that below). Herman Bavinck makes it clear how Driscoll should have been (and was, as far as they were able) handled:
Therefore, if anyone has been insulted or unjustly treated by his brother, he must first seek to win him over by rebuking him personally, then by rebuking him in the presence of two or three witnesses, finally by rebuking him on behalf of the entire church; and only if all this does not bring about the desired result, the insulted one (σοι, soi, you [sing.]; v. 17) may view him as he would a pagan or a tax collector; then he has tried every available remedy with him and is free of his blood. Such a judgment, then, has power in heaven. This is the ordinary way by which discipline in the church according to Jesus’s command must be conducted.
There you have it; at the end of the day, since Driscoll didn’t submit to the correction from the leaders of Mars Hill, then the next step was to excommunicate him (which they were on the path to do, and would have since he, as far as I can tell, never repented) and place him outside the church treating him as you would a pagan. Here is Calvin:
If anyone either stubbornly rejects such admonitions or shows that he scorns them by persisting in his own vices, after having been admonished a second time in the presence of witnesses, Christ commands that he be called to the tribunal of the church, that is, the assembly of the elders, and there be more gravely admonished as by public authority, in order that, if he reverences the church, he may submit and obey. If he is not even subdued by this but perseveres in his wickedness, then Christ command that, as a despiser of the church, he be removed from the believers’ fellowship.
All that to say; there is a biblical way to deal with disqualified pastors and that way was put in place by Mars Hill Church (even though Mark didn’t receive it). Since this is true, there is no need, or precedent, for Christianity Today (or anyone) to get involved and adding to the steps already laid out in Scripture.
That said, if you personally (or someone you know who needs an advocate) were on the receiving end of Mark’s disqualifying sins, you should have, and still can follow these steps (in fact, you still can, and should, reach out to his new church, after you have tried to reach out to him first, if you desire), following the prescribed manner given from above. If, however you were not personally on the receiving end of Mark’s disqualifying sins, then, “mind your own affairs” (1 Thessalonians 4:11) and remember Proverbs 20:3 when we are told “It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife, but every fool will be quarreling.” We would do well to, instead of listening to the tabloids on Driscoll, instead listened to the wisdom from Provers 26:17 that warns the thirsty-for-entertainment listening ear that “Whoever meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a passing dog by the ears.”
PRIVATE VS. PUBLIC SIN
Did Mark Driscoll sexually exploit someone? If so, let the church and the authorities know at once! Was someone a victim of assault and battery from the hand of Mark Driscoll? If so, shout that from the rooftops and have him defrocked pay in court! Did Mark Driscoll talk down to you, cuss and shout at you, humiliate you, silence you, lord it over you, manipulate you, offend you, annoy you, put words in your mouth, or anything else diabolical (but not illegal)? Then, that belongs in the sphere of the Church! And not just any church, but the local church that it happened, namely, Mars Hill! And, as we mentioned above, that did happen – all these charges were brought against him. The steps were taken.
You might say, “I didn’t attend Mars Hill, but I listened to all of his sermons, I read all of his books, and I was affected!” Was there anything in what you read illegal?! If so, shout it from the rooftops! Did you disagree with him, his tone and theology and conclusions? Then, stop reading the book and maybe shoot him an email! Was it heresy of the highest order that you read in those pages? Then, email him, and if no response perhaps reach out to his current church or write the publishers!
“BUT HE WAS A PUBLIC FIGURE, SO THE PUBLIC CAN REBUKE HIM“
Mark Driscoll, in addition to being a local pastor of a local church, was also a “public figure.” He wrote books for the “public” (those not in his local Church care). Ok, fair enough, if then his public books, or public para-church activities, (Acts 29, cspeaking at para-church conferences, etc.) then, indeeed, he is open to public rebuke in those areas. However, just because he was a public FIGURE, doesnt mean everything that man does is your business.
George Clooney is a public figure and he puts himself “out there” for the public in his movies, cameos, red carpet appearances, interviews, etc., but just because he is a public figure (famous), it doesn’t mean that the fact that all his private business is open to the public (unless it is illegal activity). If he has a huge wart on his butt (that he wants to keep but his wife thinks should be removed and his kids are embarrassed about) is that any of your business? You might be interested in hearing the story of his gross wart and how it’s shaped like the state of Texas (and maybe in the second episode about how it smelled like gouda cheese), but, is none of your business. Its the business of George, his family and his doctors and nurses in his local physicians office. Just because someone is a public figure doesn’t mean that everything about their life is publicified-life is game for you to weigh in on (even if the information is readily available for your consumption and enjoyment and even if you think that warts are ugly and he should get that thing zapped off).
THE CHURCH SPHERE AND THE PARA-CHURCH SPHERE
Christianity Today and Mike Cosper are NOT church but para-church labors. The Laymens Lounge is NOT church. Christianity Today, Mike Cosper, myself, and The Laymens Lounge are para-church labors. Mark’s books, Mark’s interviews, Mark’s Acts29 labors, etc. are PARA-CHURCH labors and are open to any manner of Christian critique.
BUT HE DID ILLEGAL ACTIVITY WITH FINANCES AND SHADY BOOK SALES STUFF
Then let the church know, yet they already know! Let the authorities know, yet they too were already notified, and it was investigated! If legal justice was still not served, by all means, shout it from the rooftops!
“BUT I HAVE LEARNED SO MUCH FROM IT”
I’ve heard of people who were high on peyote and the Lord was pleased to use that diabolical drug for good. Sometimes the Lord uses drugs to teach his children, but that doesn’t mean we should all go to the desert and get wasted.
t best, remember Proverbs 10:2 “Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit, but righteousness delivers from death” and at worst, “The Pharisee [and podcast subscriber], standing by himself [with his headphones on], prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men [especially that narcissist Mark Driscoll], extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.”
“BUT HE HASN’T REPENTED!”
Then don’t attend his church (and if you so see him in person treat him as one outside of the faith).
Driscoll was a jerk, unfit for ministry, any many people were hurt but him. Yet, for these failings it’s still just sad to have a dedicated podcast that chronicles his demise (could not we all have a podcast on the carnage in our wake?). Maybe I would wish an expose on my worst enemy, but I wouldn’t wish it on someone whom I have never met.
Mark Driscoll is someone’s son, husband, and dad. I get sad when I hear that someone doesn’t want me to come to their birthday party just cause there’s not enough room in the car, but can you imagine having your dirty laundry (or the dirty laundry of someone you love) actually trending on Twitter? Let he who is without sin be the first to hit play. Perhaps Driscoll is so in love with himself that he doesn’t care, or perhaps he is a real human being just like you and I: “A man’s spirit will endure sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?”
Abraham Kuyper, in the context of a congregation’s working through failed leadership, sets the tone well:
All this should proceed in an atmosphere that embodies a spirit of sadness rather than complacency in the hearts of all, so that in the end people will be led to confession of guilt, find comfort in their sorrow, and find peace in their dismay through earnest supplication to God.
LOVE YOUR ENEMIES
Driscoll was a jerk, Driscoll was disqualified from being a pastor, Driscoll hurt people, and so it’s that’s all the more reason that he needs the work of the Spirit in his life (is it not the sick who need the doctor?!). What if Mark Driscoll repented?! What if he stepped down from his current position, connected again with those who were in leadership and finished his restoration process?! What a modern prodigal tale that would be! Dear fellow Christians – perhaps instead of burying him under shame and hours of (true) podcast material, we instead flood the heavens with prayer for Mark? Instead of listening to that next episode, perhaps you bow your head and pray the Lord would do a mighty work. He knocked Saul off his high-horse and what’s to say he can’t do the same with Mark Driscoll?
Let us pray!
A few things to consider. You seem to take a rather local and limited view of “church” and “public” (admonition). Those verses could just as easily be used to substantiate the need for the podcast if viewed in a more universal sense. The local view also misses the much broader context of Driscoll’s ministry that went far beyond the walls and lives of a single assembly of believers, reaching beyond his city, region, and nation. Not only was his “church” not local, his voice competed for the attention of believers under other shepherds. Many local pastors were adversely affected by… Read more »
I was coming to the comments to say something similar but you articulated this so well. If we do not learn about the failings of those before us, we are doomed to follow in this footsteps. This podcast may center on Mars Hill, but it is a case study for how to lead in ministry in this era.
Brother, if you are trying to convince those of us with a differing viewpoint, I think you need to address the big church discipline issue a number of us have mentioned: since church discipline does not seem to be isolated to a given, local congregation in Scripture, and publicly calling out those committing public sin is a part of Scriptural discipline, why must criticism of Driscoll be confined to the local church? (And why should it matter what legal processes are involved when our deepest concern is sin, even if the law permits it?) I’d be all for Driscoll repenting… Read more »
Not sure I agree with this. It’s the wider influence of that culture that was problematic. The ripple effect was huge among many, and the resultant “I’m like Mark” types who perpetuated that same system was worrying. Driscoll was a Diotrophes and if he was worth calling out publicly, so is Driscoll.
Just cause hes a good example of a chump doesnt mean he should be THE example. If the MEANS is sin (gossip) then it doenst justify the ends.
And how is what you are doing here different in any way?
Its different because Im NOT A LOCAL CHURCH and the CT is NOT A LOCAL CHURCH. We are both para-Church organizations intentionally bringing our media to the world.
He started a new church. What obligation do we have to our brothers and sisters to protect them from a disqualified pastor?
Thanks to the author of this article for stimulating our thought on this matter. I agree that CT has created a “tabloid” podcast with The Rise & Fall of Mars Hill, but I’m not so quick to agree that whatever happens in the local church stays in the local church. Did the apostle Paul apply this principle when he wrote epistles to the local churches? Not really. He actually brought some of the sin issues of local churches into the public (just read 1 & 2 Corinthians!). So did Jesus in His letters to the seven churches of Asia Minor.… Read more »
Anonymous, judgey article that basically takes the same vein as people who want to shut down conversations on abuse. Hard pass.
Is there a point where you’d grant an exception for historians studying any history that includes failure and if so when and why? Your argument would seem to preclude much of the historian’s task. Is reading the Rise and Fall of the Third Reich also gossip? (not equating the two regimes, but there’s sufficient overlap for an argument by analogy) Does the fact it happened in a church require more privacy than had he been a political figure? Is it too recent to be history? I listened to it primarily as history that touches the modern day more than as… Read more »
so now a podcast cannot recount history? the ct podcast di nothing more that describe what happened.
I no longer buy the excuse that talking about a church leadership’s abusive and manipulative practices is gossip. That stuff needs to be brought into the light and addressed, no matter who it is.
I honestly think you posted this because you genuinely thought it was a good argument but there are some concerning gaps in logic. Some of what you are saying is the same argument used by the catholic church to hide inappropriate behavior committed by certain priests. They keep it private and move priests to new locations where their past behavior is hidden. That’s objectively dangerous for vulnerable people. I attended one of the Act 29 church plants. I had no idea about who founded my church network until a friend made me aware. It made some of the concerns I… Read more »
I can appreciate your sentiments, but I don’t agree. I go to a small Reformed Church. It’s quiet, is run by a team of Elders and two pastors. Lots of safe guards and Calvin. It’s meek, has an organ and sometimes its a bit boring. My point is, it’s a Church not a show. Mark Driscoll used people and he used God, it was a circus and a spectacle but not a Church. The fact he felt it was ok, to start a new “church,” less than 2 years after the fall is crazy, it’s not remorse, it’s not restorative… Read more »
As a woman who has experienced spiritual manipulation, mistreatment, shame, and dare I say trauma over many years at the hands of a pastor of an Acts 29 church, several of the episodes were very difficult to hear. Triggering, in fact. And simultaneously helpful in processing my own story, understanding some of the context of the ministry model of those years, and the framework and support of the Acts 29 network. I do not glory in Driscoll’s downfall or the dissolution of Mars Hill, or so many other congregations like it. It is heartbreaking. I think this podcast now occupies… Read more »
I am also a woman who has experienced spiritual abuse from church leaders. This podcast gives a voice to those of us who have suffered and been made to feel like we were crazy when we were not.
I would guess the author of this article may not have experienced church abuse, as they find it easy to dismiss the need for this kind of truth-telling, and even easier to judge those who listen to the podcast. I would encourage the author to allow for the fact that there may be experiences they have not had and don’t understand.
Driscoll has a new church where the people there are not aware of the history or even what’s going on in leadership now. I would strongly disagree that it is gossip.
I get what you are stating, I was not a member of Mars Hill. However, Mark is found on speaking circuits and in researching potential platforms I would participate in, it is important for me to be sure that the speakers are of sound character. HE continues to make his past a current story by continuing to be in the public eye.
Just asking, how do you or does anyone know if Mark repented?