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.