What I Learned from Mark Driscoll’s Failures

driscollPhoto Credit: Mars Hill

I’ve never been a huge fan of Mark Driscoll. Despite his widespread stardom among the evangelical world, I found a deep disconnect between his abrasive tone and the pastoral heart required for ministry. He was the variously the cussing pastor, the angry preacher, and the pugilistic defender of gospel.

Yet there he was preaching to thousands at his church, headlining conferences across the globe, climbing the New York Times bestseller list, all the while berating adolescent men for not being masculine enough. Sometimes it felt like he purposefully phrased his words to generate the maximum offense.

He was everywhere and unavoidable. At one point, it seemed Driscoll’s podcast inhabited the pocket of every young male Christian in the country. His church planting network, Acts 29, was at the top of its game. He sat across the table from the most well known and respected church leaders in the country. And he could evidently say whatever he wanted and get away with it.

But then came his fall from grace.

A misogynistic forum post from the past popped up. A controversial book deal went down. A blatant instance of plagiarism surfaced. Last summer Driscoll and his church were officially removed from the Acts 29 network. Finally, faced with accusations of verbal abuse and bullying from current and former staff members, Driscoll was placed on probation by his board last October. Two days later he resigned from the Seattle megachurch he founded.

For a man who routinely invited controversy through his harsh preaching and public rebuke of those he disagreed with, Mark Driscoll had made himself an easy target. He had caused so much damage and hurt and operated outside any outside authority for so long that his resignation and the subsequent implosion of Mars Hill did not come as shock to many outside observers.

A preacher of grace who did not understand grace himself, it appeared that Driscoll had finally been convicted of his need for repentance, accountability, and healing.

There is nothing happy about the pain and devastation that was left in his wake. How many people have been wounded as a result of his actions? It is hard to know.

It may be impossible to ever fully figure out what happened or why, but a new piece of the story has emerged this week in Driscoll’s first public interview since the fallout.

Brian Houston, founder of Hillsong Church in Australia, took it upon himself to interview Mark and his wife Grace in what is perhaps the most candid and raw interview I have ever seen. In the video, Mark spend much of the time basically apologizing over and over for the deep hurt he has caused.

The most powerful bits of the nearly one hour interview are when Mark and Grace talk about how his actions have affected their marriage and their five children. Clearly it has not been an easy year for them. The Driscolls never had the chance to say goodbye to the church community they had once shepherded. The sense of loss is palpable.

Driscoll offers no excuses for the vicious bile that once spewed from his mouth. He blames no one but himself for the hearts that have been wounded through his harmful actions. He appears genuinely and wholeheartedly sorry.

I see all the signs of an individual in the process of changing his heart, shedding his unhealthy ways, and trying to turn a new leaf. Although I wasn’t personally affected by his abuse and can’t speak for any of his victims, I hope that he continues to seek the forgiveness of those who got caught in his crossfire.

I am deeply moved by this interview. Here is a broken man who somehow missed the point of the gospel in his efforts to proclaim it. But I am so glad for him all the same that God is restoring him. As he sits on that couch, defrocked, unemployed, despised, and rejected, I see a man closer to the heart of God than ever before. I see a man no longer able to point out the sins of others because he is now so overwhelming aware of his own. This is an older wiser soul than the one we knew a year ago.

His story is not over. With God it never is.

Thank you Mark Driscoll for choosing to make amends for your past mistakes. Thank you for taking responsibility for what you did and working to make it right. May your best days be ahead of you and not behind you. May God work through you once more with a new sense of hope, grace, and love than you ever thought possible.

I took several things away from his tearful interview:

1) Don’t Rush Into Ministry Too Early

Driscoll started Mars Hill in his living room when he was 25 years old. He admits that he was far too young at the time and lacked the necessary maturity to enter ministry. If he could go back, he would wait longer before starting. You can have God’s calling, but miss God’s timing, he says.

2) Have Outside Accountability

The Mars Hill board was set up in such a way that the pastor was equal to the elders. Driscoll did not have strong enough oversight from his board and he essentially operating outside of everyone else’ authority. No one could tell him no or disagree with him and that became a huge problem.

3) Seekly Godly Counsel

Because Driscoll was paving his own way, he and his wife Grace did not have older couples watching over their ministry nor true mentors that they could learn from. In the interview Driscoll states that he has learned from his current mentors that he should have been a loving encouraging parental figure to his staff that led through personal influence, not through harsh authoritarian methods.

4) You Are Who Your Family Thinks You Are

Driscoll’s sons recently told him that he had the spiritual gifts of mercy and encouragement. While that might seem laughable to his critics, our family is arguably the best judge of our character. The most impressive thing about Driscoll is that his wife is still standing strong beside him and they appear to have a deeper friendship than ever before. The people you minister to will come and go, but your family is your greatest legacy.

5) Forgiveness Means Going Back and Making Things Right

One of the pastors that Driscoll publicly attacked was Joel Osteen. He has recently contacted Osteen and many others that he once condemned and is personally asking for forgiveness. It is not just enough to try to do better but to pursue peace with those where there has been hurt and misunderstanding.

6) Keep the Main Things the Main Things

Driscoll admits he no longer has any desire to argue with people about non-essential doctrinal matters. Holding true to his own convictions no longer has to mean being outspoken about his views on women in ministry and Reformed theology. Instead he wants to focus on the centrality of Jesus and building bridges with others outside his tribe.

7) Your Friends Come From Unexpected Places

When Driscoll resigned, he had became a disgrace to his own theological camp. Many who befriended him afterward came from outside the Reformed movement, including people he had once criticized. It was both very surprising and deeply humbling to see who reached out to him at his moment of need.

Few of us will ever be as famous or influential as Mark Driscoll, but perhaps we can learn to be as honest with ourselves as he is today. There are no superstars in God’s kingdom, only wounded healers and broken vessels that God chooses to use. If we can be humble enough to learn from Mark Driscoll, it would be a wise thing indeed.

I’ve Been Praying Wrong Lately

A church in ruins

Whenever I think I have the Christian life down, I discover something new that I had overlooked.

Today I read this word from Ephesians 6:18 with fresh eyes:

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Paul tells us — commands us — to always be praying for other Christians.

How did I miss this?

So often my prayers are about me. My bag of stuff. My issues.

That’s perfectly okay, but there’s more to it. I’m supposed to be alert. I’m supposed to have all kinds of prayers. And I’m supposed to always be praying for others that God might give them strength and meet their needs.

It’s so easy to go throughout my whole day thinking of myself, missing this simple proposition. But it’s not a suggestion, it’s a command from God: I should pray for fellow believers and keep praying for them in perpetuity.

Is This Goodbye?

So it takes a lot of time (usually at least two or three hours) to write long posts here on this blog. In recent weeks and months, I have starting working on some other special projects.

One or two of these projects are top secret.

For the time being, I won’t be able to keep writing here as often as I have. Back in January I initiated a campaign to unleash a fury of new posts and although I am writing more than ever, most of it is now happening outside of my old stomping grounds.

There are some great advantages to having a personal blog, but at this point it’s either time to gird up or go home. And in this case, I have quietly decided to withdraw.

So What Can You Expect From This Blog?

  • More infrequent and less formal writing
  • Tragic neglect and creeping obsolescence
  • Something less like stunning prose and more like eerie silence

What Can You Expect Elsewhere

  • Tiny miniature thoughts daily over at my newfangled microblog
  • Incessant and mind-numbing tweets
  • World-class articles on faith and creativity over at the 360 Blog

One day I’ve love to finish my top ten Biblical metaphors series.

One day I’ll probably have a need to write longer articles that no longer fit on the other places that I write for.

One day I might revive, resurrect, or revamp this blogging format that has been so kind to me the past two years.

That day is not today.

Every good story has a beginning and end. The beginning is always the most exciting. The air is thick with potential, you can almost taste it. The characters don’t know where they are going or how it’s all going to end up. It’s riveting.

But there comes a time for a proper ending. Often times these endings leave us unsatisfied. A rushed ending might not wrap up all the remaining questions. There is perhaps no good way to end a story, except with the beginning of another one.

This blog is ending. It may continue on in some shape or another, but it will not be the same as it was. It’s not a sad ending, but it is an ending. And although endings are not as exhilarating as beginnings, often times they are much more meaningful.

Thank you for reading :)

Where Did I Go?

This blog is changing.

What it is changing into I’m not quite sure.

As Seth Godin once wrote:

I don’t want to have the most popular blog. I want to have my blog. Whatever that means for it in the moment.

Bottom line? I’m still writing, but just not here. Where exactly? I don’t know. Is it actually possible to manage more than one blog at a time with any degree of consistency? Probably not. I’ll let you know when I find out.

But anyway, here is some of my more recent articles in various places across the web.

(I’m also tweeting more, ignore that last article up there)

Am I Blogging For God?

I started this blog over two years ago just for fun. After graduating from college, I noticed that my writing skills were growing rusty and that the only impetus to develop them further would have to come from somewhere deep down inside myself. No one was going to order me to keep writing except me.

And so here we are, 26 months and 70 posts later.

It’s been lots of fun and I still have some things left to write here. After all, this is MY blog. I can write whatever I want here (well, not anything but at least I can pick the topic).

There are no rules here except that I shouldn’t make myself look stupid or threaten my future employment or needlessly anger people outside of God’s will.

All and all, it’s a happy friendly place to be.

Occasionally (if I think it’s worthy of the public) I have tweeted or Facebooked my writings here to my friends and followers. There’s been a link here and there in my various profiles to this place, just in case a curious soul wanted to venture over here.

You see, for the last two years my writing has mainly been for me. Sure, I wouldn’t mind if someone stopped by and secretly hoped that my writings might make a difference for somebody.

But I didn’t really care for a large subscriber base. I had no expectations of making the top ranked Christian blogs anywhere. I didn’t really expect to be read outside the few friends I know with RSS readers, a few family members, and the occasional Googler.

It was low pressure, low expectation, and low key. That was how I wanted it. There really was no end goal except to become a better and more consistent writer and hopefully to put a new spin on things here and there, maybe provoke a few people to think.

Failure wasn’t an option because there was nothing to lose.

But now all that has changed. At the beginning of April I began a new online venture with my church in Berkeley called the 360 Blog. And the plan was, this thing was going to be FOR REAL.

I’ve done the personal blog thing for a while now, and while it has its rewards, I noticed a strange string of connected ideas:

  • The vast majority of blogs out there are low expectation personal blogs.
  • The vast majority of highly visible and successful blogs are pretty mediocre in what they have to say. That is to say, they might have some helpful tips, but they will not particularly change anyone’s life or make them think outside the box.
  • The vast majority of church websites are static pages. Instead of being a vibrant and living organism, they are a lifeless self-promoting advertisement.

What if instead of spending my free time on a tiny personal blog, I spent it building a viable cultural and spiritual habitat connected to a living breathing church, updated by multiple authors several times a week? What if this new online ecosystem grew a subscriber base outside our geographical city limits that stretched across physical and national boundaries?

What if people found out about our church in Berkeley because of the QUALITY of what we had to say?

What if people attended our church virtually long before they were able to attend our service physically?

This is what I hope for in the 360 Blog and I have no idea what its impact will be. It don’t know if it will work. I don’t know if we will get more than 10 people to read it on a weekly basis. I don’t know if anyone will ever come to church because of it. I don’t know if anyone other than our church leadership will actually read it on their Kindles.

I have no idea.

It’s a huge risk.

It could be a colossal waste of time.

There are all sorts of hidden pride issues that happen when you actually start wanting people to read what you write. There are all sorts of negative reactions humans have when they actually start to gain some traction with a larger audience. Fame distorts reality really quickly. Celebrities often seem to be miserable people!

But guess what? I trust that God knows what he is doing. He knows what we need and when we need it. I know he can work through silly broken human beings. I know that Jesus alone will be glorified and our deeds will be revealed for what they are on that last day.

The question I have to continue to ask is am I blogging for me, or am I blogging for God? The rest is in his hands.

Was Jesus Raised From Dead?

Multiplying like Guinea Pigs

Outside the shocking conclusions of the four gospels, is there evidence that Jesus was raised from the dead?

For many Christians, the natural answer to this question usually has presented itself in the answer of the early Christian community. The most plausible historical explanation for the birth of the early church is that the cold dead body of Jesus got up and walked around three days after he was laid in a tomb.

It seems like an unlikely conclusion indeed.

But if you examine the writings of the earliest Christians in the New Testament, you will find that the whole message of Christian proclamation, the central focus of Christian worship, and their underlying theological framework all rests on the singular point that he got up and walked.

The early Christians had nothing, absolutely nothing, to believe in if Jesus had not come back from the grave. Paul says it bluntly and painfully:

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile.

– 1 Corinthians 15:17

If the cross was the end of Jesus, then Christians are living an absolute and despicable lie. It’s all for naught, and those are the Bible’s words, not mine.

However, if Jesus died and remained dead, there needs to be some kind of explanation for why the church found a sustainable vision and multiplied like guinea pigs, all while suffering the extremes of humiliation, ostracism, and martyrdom. If all that was for a lie, that’s almost as impressive as a resurrection event.

Any way you slice it, the advent of the Christian faith is improbable. And it’s not something that we can test using scientific tools and methods. History never is. All we have with which to make our guess are the evidence, testimony, and witness of the early church.

We can call them misguided and sad, but if we want to understand their historical situation we have only their words to evaluate. And when we peer outside the gospels to try to interpret their reasoning, we hear but one determined and unified voice on the matter:

  • Acts 2:24 – But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.
  • Acts 2:31-32 – Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.
  • Acts 3:15 – You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.
  • Acts 4:2 – They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead.
  • Acts 4:10 – It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed
  • Acts 4:33 – With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all.
  • Acts 5:30 – The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead—whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree
  • Acts 10:40 – But God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen
  • Acts 13:29-30 – They took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead
  • Acts 13:34 – …the fact that God raised him from the dead, never to decay
  • Acts 13:37 – But the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay
  • Acts 15:19 – They had some points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive.
  • Acts 17:2-3 – He reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead.
  • Acts 17:18 – They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.
  • Acts 17:31-32 – He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead. When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered
  • Acts 23:6 – I stand on trial because of my hope in the resurrection of the dead
  • Acts 26:8 – Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?
  • Acts 26:23 – …that the Christ would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles
  • Romans 1:4 – and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.
  • Romans 4:24-25 – For us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.
  • Romans 6:4 – We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
  • Romans 6:9 – For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him
  • Romans 7:4 – So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God.
  • Romans 8:11 – And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.
  • Romans 8:34 – Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.
  • Romans 10:9 – That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
  • 1 Corinthians 6:14 – By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 – For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures
  • 1 Corinthians 15:12 – But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?
  • 1 Corinthians 15:17 – And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:20 – But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:32 – If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”
  • 2 Corithinians 1:9 – But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.
  • 2 Corinthians 4:14 – We know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence.
  • 2 Corinthians 5:15 – And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
  • Galatians 1:1 – Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead
  • Ephesians 1:19-20- That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms
  • Philippians 3:10 – I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection
  • Colossians 2:12 – …And raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.
  • 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 – They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.
  • 2 Timothy 2:8 – Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David.
  • 1 Peter 1:3 – In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead
  • 1 Peter 1:21 – Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him
  • 1 Peter 3:21 –  It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ
  • Hebrews 13:20 – May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus…
  • Revelation 1:5 – …and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead
And finally through John’s vision, Jesus speaks for himself:
  • Revelation 1:18 – I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.

The Jesus Who Leaves (Part 1)

Now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.

– John 16:28

Whenever I read John 16, immediately I begin to wonder what was going through the minds of the disciples. Here they are patiently following their master around Judea. They have risked their lives, careers, and families for Jesus’ sake. They’ve given it all away to follow Jesus.

Now he announces in so many words to all of them: “Goodbye friends, I’m leaving for good.”

  • Abandonment Issues

Nobody, absolutely nobody, appreciates it when the person you are looking up to for leadership and guidance suddenly quits on you. It doesn’t matter if it’s your boss, your doctoral advisor, your parent, or your soccer coach. If you’ve invested your hope and trust in someone, you expect a return on your investment. We demand a promotion, a degree, a mother figure, a father figure, a winning season!

What we don’t expect is abandonment.

I think the disciples were completely and utterly stunned when Jesus made his announcement. Sure, he’d been dropping hints for a while but assuredly he was just being vague and mysterious like he always does, right?

Jesus wouldn’t actually leave.

This spiritual leader and friend in whom they had placed their whole future, their entire reputation, and their financial viability wouldn’t just abandon them on the side of the road like a box of unwanted puppies?

That’s just not kosher.

Goodbye Jesus
  • Something Bigger In Mind

Yet their master insists that it’s time for him to go. It’s been part of the plan all along but the disciples just haven’t grasped it. They had expected political revolution. They were ready to crown him King of the Jews, a champion who would lead the nation to military victory over Imperial Rome.

But none of that could happen if Jesus left the party early. Revolutions don’t fair very well if their leader quits before they get started. This was going to wreck that whole celebration parade that they had been planning.

As the disciples struggle to follow along with Jesus’ announcement, he tells them why it is so important that he leaves town:

None of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things.

– John 16:5-6

The disciples are bummed out that Jesus is leaving but they never even stopped to ask where he was going. They couldn’t conceive of Jesus being somewhere better than right here on earth with them. In their minds, nothing could ever replace the physical person of Jesus tangibly walking and talking in front of their eyes.

While his disciples sit filled to the brim with sadness and despair, Jesus explains:

But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. – John 16:7

If Jesus goes away, things will get better?

That’s a strange thing to find in the middle of the Christian scriptures. You would think that if Jesus was going to raise himself from the dead that he would then go on a world tour or something. Why wouldn’t he march back up to the religious leaders and Roman officials who executed him and smite them with lightning beams (or at least make them apologize)?

  • Not What What We Thought

I can think of many many things that Jesus should and could do, but none of them involve quietly slipping back to wherever he came from.

Yet Jesus decides to leave. Why?

Jesus was about to destroy the snare of evil, overcome the power of death, and usher in a new era of universal amnesty to any willing to believe in him. He was quite literally shifting the course of history. You don’t leave unless you know there’s someone else who can take your work and promote it better than you can.

Like a best selling author, perhaps he knew he was entrusting his life manuscript over to a publisher who could get it into the hands of the people who needed his message the most.

Jesus tells them that if he leaves, then he can send this second person, the Advocate. Somehow and in some way, the disciples will be better off with the Advocate than they ever were with Jesus.

Is this startling? Very much so. But is it worth looking more into? Most likely. We’ll take a look more at the Jesus Who Leaves next time.