When I first learned of Mark Driscoll he was well on his way to superstar status.
He was notoriously earthy and abrasive [which I liked] and equally ignorant about the bible and under-trained for ministry [which frustrated me to no end]. But there was another quality that struck me and that was his desire to serve God completely, unhindered by the baggage of the cultural folk religion of the American Christian Church.
So I watched his star rise as he successfully was used by God to establish two great works, Mars Hill church and the Acts 29 Network, in a part of the country which is as spiritually barren as it gets. Did he do everything right, by no means, but his commitment to a missiological approach to American culture was virtually unpracticed until these two works.
For these reasons, controversy swirled around him from the beginning. There were those who disagreed with his straight-forward interpretation of the scripture on sensitive issues like homosexuality and gender roles. There were those who didn’t like the aggressiveness and hardheadedness which characterized his leadership style. And then there were those who were offended because he didn’t seem to care about playing well with others in the American Church.
And yet Driscoll was able to stand above it all, because there is nothing Americans like more than success.
So for a time, most people overlooked the controversy… until now.
American Christians are like sharks, they smell blood and they circle.
Over the last year there has been a steady stream of controversy about Mark Driscoll, both within Mars Hill church and on the national stage. Now I am not a Mark Driscoll acolyte by any means, but if you dig into the complaints, much of what you find is far less sensational than it at first seems.
In fact the sensationalism appears to be driven by two basic things: an unwillingness receive God’s Word as authoritative on a range of issues such as sexuality, marriage, gender, sin, holiness, etc. and an unwillingness of some within Mars Hill to submit to Mark as the lead/ founding pastor of the church.
Do I agree with all of what Mark Driscoll believes or with all of his leadership decisions myself? Of course not. But there are aspects to this situation which deeply disturb me, not the least of which is the similarities between Mark Driscoll’s experience and the experience of Moses as recorded in Exodus and Numbers.
Moses is remembered as the one whom God chose to use when delivering the children of Jacob from slavery in Egypt. He is the one whom God used to reveal the Torah and to make the covenant which transitioned the children of Jacob into the Nation of Israel. He was the one God used to organize both nation and religion, establishing the oldest expression of monotheism and outlining God’s intended method for establishing a society based on His character.
But Moses was not perfect by any means. He was easily angered, lashed out when challenged, evasive in the face of adversity, prone to self-pity and often expressed frustration with both God and the People.
Likewise, the Nation of Israel spent more time whining about how offensive and cruel Moses was, than they did celebrating their freedom. They complained about everything and regularly wished to return to the safety of their slavery than to continue forward in Faith. In the end God was faithful to them, not because of their own Faith but because of His covenant promises to their Fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
In the end, Israel suffered because they refused to submit themselves to the authority which God had vested in Moses and Moses suffered because he didn’t trust God enough to be his advocate in the face of such rebellion.
Like Moses… Driscoll exhibits many of the same character flaws… is accused of many of the same abuses… and will inevitably suffer for his shortcomings if he doesn’t entrust himself to God.
But Mars Hill will also suffer, and perhaps theirs will be the worse suffering, if they think that God will honor a coup d’etat against His anointed one [even David refused to go this route with Saul (1 Samuel 24:10)].
And make no mistake about it, with regard to Mars Hill, Mark Driscoll is God’s anointed. That church was birthed through him, nurtured & raised to maturity through him. The organization may exist separate from him, but without him it is not the same Mars Hill. This is not up for a vote or for an opinion poll, it simply is the reality of the household and headship design which God established from Genesis forward.
The Acts 29 Network is in a slightly different position being that Driscoll released that work some time ago into the hands of Matt Chandler. Never the less, I have concerns for its future as well.
Be that as it may however, let Mark Driscoll stand as a warning to all American pastors.
If you desire to further your career and be successful you will need to be inoffensive, uber-tolerant of others’ views [aka – don’t be too concerned with the places where the bible is out of step with contemporary culture] and you will need to play well with others, maintaining a ministry that is safely similar to every other ministry in the American Church franchise.
Ignore what God did through Mars Hill in Seattle and through Acts 29 across the nation; that was apparently the result of a winsome cult leader whose mindless followers just didn’t realize what they had gotten into.
What the world really needs now is love… sweet love.
In other words don’t strive to be a prophet. There’s just no place for that kind of leadership in the American Church anymore. For the American Church prefers the massaging of its ears to the chaffing of its back (2 Timothy 4:3).