I found out about Mark Driscoll’s resignation from my Twitter feed. It has been very sad to see the downfall of Driscoll – firstly from the church planting network that he co-founded ‘Acts 29’, then his 6 week break from ministry in response to the many allegations around his leadership, and now his final letter of resignation as pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. Prior to these difficult turn of events, I had followed his sermons online and found many of the biblical series he taught interesting, informative and helpful. Although I sometimes found his loud and bold way of sharing his sermons quite theatrical at times, I did not think the persona behind the preaching would be similar. I did not want to believe the accounts made against him such as bullying, plagiarism in his books, misusing church funds, his domineering character and arrogance, to name a few of the accusations.
I understand that if these allegations are true, it comes as a shock and perhaps it is time for Mark Driscoll to reconsider his actions, motives and behaviour. It is important for him to be accountable and honest about his struggles and to accept that he has done some serious damage within the church and wider ministry. Nonetheless, the more I have had time to reflect on this, the more I feel challenged by the responses from several within different Christian circles. I will mention 2 examples, Pastor Tim Keller and Editor of Christianity magazine Justin Brierley. However, there are many others who have commented on Mark Driscoll, and I also must note that I have great respect for Tim Keller and Justin Brierley, but wanted to use their responses to highlight my own thoughts!
Pastor Tim Keller stated that the “brashness and the arrogance and the rudeness in personal relationships — which he [Mark] himself has confessed repeatedly — was obvious to many from the earliest days, and he has definitely now disillusioned quite a lot of people’ in a New York Times article. I always find it hard when Christians knock one another down, especially in mainstream, secular publications. What image does this give to the wider world about Christians and their pastors? One pastor is being scrutinised, and the other pastor is doing the scrutinising!
Justin Brierley from Christianity magazine was quick to recollect a 45-minute interview with Driscoll in a fairly balanced manner, but I do not see how it adds anything fruitful to the debate. Justin even says at the end: ‘This article is not meant to kick Driscoll while he’s down, nor do I claim to be an expert on the man, having spent the grand total of 45 minutes interviewing him on one occasion.’ I cannot help but ask, why blog about it then? The truth is, none of us are an ‘expert’ on anyone. Ok, we are entitled to think through what is being presented and weigh up our own opinion, but I just feel that you cannot really know someone, except from what is being presented to you from different sources. If some of what is being presented is true, or if all of it is true, how can we handle such controversies with grace and truth?
Moreover, I am forced to think about my own sin and lack of accountability at times – I think about the deepest sins in my heart that only the Lord can locate and convict me of. I realise that Pastor Mark Driscoll is in the limelight, admittedly a position he has built up over the years, but his sin, shame and serious misconduct has become worldwide news. The world is judging him, condemning him, forcing him back. Whether we like it or not though, none of us are really any better. Whether our shame is witnessed by a few people, the world, or done in secret, who are we to judge as the saying goes?
“Let him who is without sin cast the first stone” (John 8:7).
Take the plank out of your own eye, before you start trying to take the speck out of the eye of someone else. (Luke 6:42)
I am not condoning the sin of Mark Driscoll anymore than I condone the sins of anyone else or myself. I believe that Mark is being held accountable for his actions and we also must be held accountable for our sins (which may not be brought to light in the same way as Driscoll’s in front of the world, which is a frightening thought if people knew all the bad stuff you didn’t want them to know about you). We need to be brought onto our knees to the point of true and sincere repentance.
It is also important to remember that Mark Driscoll has done good things for God’s Kingdom too – church planting, encouraging men into church, discipling many, discussing challenging topics, bringing more people to know the Lord Jesus and much more. We should be thankful for the good that Mark Driscoll and his family have done for Mars Hill Church and for the world, rather than paint a distressing caricature of a sinner. He is clothed in white robes because of Christ, remember?
I found the most helpful response to Mark Driscoll’s resignation was written by Martin Saunders and you can read it here.
Maybe we should stop discussing one man’s sin, and look instead to the one man who conquered sin – Jesus. When we turn to Jesus, we are brought down low and made humble to the point that we need forgiveness – and Christ forgives our sins if we come to him and repent. We do not like the idea of saying sorry. We do not like being wrong. But it is vital to realise that there is no condemnation for those that trust in Jesus. That does not mean we can carry on doing wrong things. Of course we are not perfect so we will make mistakes. But the true, saving grace of God says, ‘I do not condemn you’, followed by, ‘go and sin no more’ (John 8:11). Jesus does not condemn us. Neither does He want us to keep choosing wrongly, but to trust in Him and let Him work in our lives daily so that we choose God’s way, not choices that will lead us further away from God’s best for us.
This verse is most apt to end on and goes back to the fundamentals, which are often overlooked:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)