So About Mark Driscoll and Pastor Implosions

pumpsandgarters asked this question:

I’m lost on what’s happened recently to Pastor Mark Driscoll and his removal from the Acts 29 church planting network, can you give me a brief summary of what’s going on or send me a link to a reliable source so I can understand what’s going on? Love this blog by the way it helps in the most arduous of moments!

Hey my dear friend, thank you for your very kind words.  Though I might not be the best source on this, I won’t pretend that I haven’t been reading on it.

If you don’t know Mark Driscoll, he’s a “famous” megachurch pastor in Seattle, which is the second most unchurched city in America.  He’s written a ton of books, is a very strong speaker, and is especially geared towards young men.  He’s an unapologetic Reformed Calvinist with an encyclopedic memory and a sharp sense of humor.

In the last few years, he’s been accused of: plagiarism, verbally bullying other pastors and staff, paying $210,000 to get on the New York Times bestseller list, posing as a commenter on his message boards to make purposeful misogynistic statements, and misappropriating a charity fund to an unknown place.  I’m sad to say that many of these accusations have turned out true or worse, most by his own admission.  He has apologized numerous times, but I suppose most people want to crucify him.

Here are a few things to consider.

– The only reason the general public discuss Mark Driscoll is because of our current state of celebrity culture.  If this happened in the 1980s, we’d laugh him off as another Jimmy Swaggart or Benny Hinn, and it would be a footnote in history.  While I really endorse social media, it’s also made an unnecessary circus out of dang near everything. To be truthful, I’m a bit embarrassed to be writing about this.  The fact that we even put Driscoll on a level to attack in public really speaks volumes about our insane voyeuristic blogosphere.  It’s a drunken idolatry that’s gripped the Western church, while our faithful brothers and sisters are getting killed for their faith overseas and have never even heard of a podcast.

– The Christian commenters on every online post about Pastor Mark is unsettling and disturbing.  Of course, Christians love to shoot our wounded and devour our own.  The church doesn’t look any different than the world when it comes to the internet: we’re just as much an orgy of hate, whining, name-calling, and immature butt-hurt slander.

– But the truth is: I’m no better than these commenters.  I’m no better than Mark Driscoll.  I’m no better than Adam and Eve.  If any one of us were given the immense power and under the same pressure as Pastor Mark, there’s no telling how awful we would become.  That’s not to absolve his behavior, but that’s to say I understand.

– I have zero authority in disciplining Pastor Mark.  I only have authority over what I myself say and do: and I’m unqualified even for that about half the time. All these pastors and bloggers calling for “repentance” and “stepping down” are probably correct, but that’s like going over to my next door neighbor’s house and trying to spank their kids.  So really the Christianese internet needs to sit down, close their laptops, and eat a cake or something.  All of Driscoll’s woes need to be handled internally, and it seems like steps are being made (especially by Acts 29, the network he founded) to keep him in check.  Some of these protest groups are probably justified, but if he’s broken the law, they can go through the appropriate channels and press charges.

– I’m 99% certain that “Christian watchdog bloggers” are going to hell.  I’m not kidding, and it hurts my heart.  Every Christian blogger who writes a TMZ-like column to be the “gatekeepers” of faith are wasting their damn lives.  You know who I’m talking about (just Google any famous megachurch pastor, and you’ll find the critics).  What the hell do these people even do?  Do they even care about truth?  Or site views and ad clicks?  I’m sorry to sound so harsh, and I’m normally not this way.  But it doesn’t matter if they serve their church or love their kids and have “a heart of gold” — they’re absolutely destroying the church from the inside, and they know exactly what they’re doing with the controversy.  They make Jesus look like an idiot: and anyone who does that is like messing with my mama.  I’m sort of defeating my own point here, except really I’m just heartbroken about it.  They have no idea how much they’re hurting the body of Christ with all this blatant innuendo and trashy classless garbage. Before we call out some megachurch pastor, let’s call out the so-called watchdogs.  Unless you’re okay with one of them bullying a pastor’s 15 year old son to suicide.

– Instant forgiveness is cheap and pointless.  Half the online world is jumping to Pastor Mark’s defense (including me sometimes), but the truth is that he’s done some terrible things.  Forgiving someone must always directly acknowledge what they’ve done wrong, or else it cheapens the forgiveness.  So yes, Pastor Mark needs to be held accountable for what he’s done.

– But we need more grace and prayer and unity, and not less.  In the long run, whether he steps down or not, Pastor Mark still needs his brothers and sisters to love on him.  I’ve really been blessed by Pastor Mark’s ministry.  He’s one of the first podcasts I ever really listened to regularly.  I’ve heard him preach in person and I grew to like him.  He has a wife and kids.  He’s very gifted.  So I’m rather grieved over the whole thing, and if even half the accusations are true, it’s disappointing.  All this is more reason he needs our prayers.  Our faith is about restoring the losers and bums and bad guys.  To the degree which we receive them: that’s the degree to which we understand what Jesus has done for us on the cross.  Plain and simple.

– I’m a little more interested in alleviating poverty, human trafficking, and addictions in my own community.  I don’t mean to diminish those very real hurts that were suffered by members of Pastor Mark’s church.  Certainly there needs to be justice there.  But eyes on the mission.  There’s a bigger story here.  Our tight little Western ghetto subculture of Churchianity is not the only thing happening.

— J.S


19 thoughts on “So About Mark Driscoll and Pastor Implosions

  1. What you say is not only true, it is not enough! It is not just pastors in the wide-public eye that get trashed. I’m a nobody and got trashed out of ministry. The Clergy Support Network has a list of thousands of pastors who were brutalized – by the institutional church and its agents and agencies. The denomination that holds my ordination has, and has had, so many court suits brought against it the system had to find a way to hide the huge costs. Someone I know had their ordination threatened for asking for disclosure! You are right, and I will magnify it – make the distinction between the Body of Christ in faith and the organization that has stolen the name “Church” as a vehicle to work for the devil. Rise up people of faith and demand justice, mercy and heavenly love.


    1. I’m sorry that happened to you. I hesitate to say that every church can have the same blanket solution, whether it’s more accountability or less lawsuits or more sit-downs over coffee. While I believe Pastor Mark has made some very obvious errors, I think the Christian-internet has done nothing but bury him and bury each other. It’s all quite ugly.


      1. Alas, no blanket solution except love – heavenly love – that we will die for each other, instead of “burying” each other. Seems so simple, yet seems so out of reach!


  2. Before I comment, let me say that I knew nothing about anything happening with Mark Driscoll until I read your post. I do not follow much news media and even less when it comes to Christian/Church news. That said…

    You wrote:

    “- The Christian commenters on every online post about Pastor Mark is unsettling and disturbing. Of course, Christians love to shoot our wounded and devour our own. The church doesn’t look any different than the world when it comes to the internet: we’re just as much an orgy of hate, whining, name-calling, and immature butt-hurt slander.”

    This makes me SO glad that I started bashing Mark LONG before he was wounded. 😉 Just kidding. Seriously, though, I have never appreciated his message, and I still believe it’s the wrong one he’s giving. In my opinion, the pastors who continue to rant and rave against everyone else, creating an “us vs. them” Gospel (that is no Gospel of Grace whatsoever), the fall from fame will continue to happen.

    I have long believed that God is in the process of blowing apart organized Christianity, and Mark is just a huge chunk of that process. (sorry for him, but maybe he will learn something about God’s heart through his failure – maybe he will even come to understand the Truth …? I can hope).

    As to Mark’s getting bashed on message boards … it was his choice to live his ministry through social media. Why shouldn’t his fall from leadership be show-cased there as well? We do not get to pick and choose what is broadcast once we put ourselves in the limelight. Which is why I hope to stay mostly ‘under the radar’ my whole life (comments on your posts notwithstanding). 😀

    Grace and Peace to you, J.S.,


    1. Sorry couldn’t leave without acknowledging this little gem:

      “- I’m a little more interested in alleviating poverty, human trafficking, and addictions in my own community. I don’t mean to diminish those very real hurts that were suffered by members of Pastor Mark’s church. Certainly there needs to be justice there. But eyes on the mission. There’s a bigger story here. Our tight little Western ghetto subculture of Churchianity is not the only thing happening.”

      AMEN! Mark’s ‘fall’ looks whole lot like a first-world problem, doesn’t it?


    2. I still have to say that I’ve been blessed by Pastor Mark’s ministry, and though I never agreed with 100% of his methods or message — when do we ever? I also still have hope for repentance here, from both him and the Christian-net community at large. No bets on who will go for that first. 🙂


  3. A sane voice. Thank you for your thought. I am a current seminary student and have studied an article or two written by him for my classes. I’m sure in my behavior I am no better than him or anyone else. I’m sure I’ve acted in a way that people looking might say “she is a Christian”???? I’m imperfect, but I love the Lord my God and by His grace alone I am saved.


    1. Right on. I’ve read several of his books and used to watch his sermons all the time. He’s no doubt a gifted speaker and communicator, which of course doesn’t make up for his actions: but I have hope for him and his church.


  4. I like how you bring out the idea of a celebrity culture. That has no place in the church, especially if we have a proper understanding of the fall. While we can rejoice in the gifts that God has given some, we need to understand that the glory goes to God and the one with the gift is made of the same stuff we are and prone to error. To put them on a pedestal is not fair to the one with the gift or the gift giver (God).


    1. Yes. I’ve heard it both ways: some work hard for the fame, others do not. Some see fame as a way to share Jesus, others accumulate it for ego. I think it’s a fine line that very few pastors tread well. Maybe the best example of correctly using influence are both Francis Chan and Timothy Keller. Pastor Francis partially left his church because he was uncomfortable with the celebrity-hood, and Pastor Tim was faithful in his home church for decades before going to New York and becoming the well-known writer he is today.


  5. It seems that “celebrity culture” is infused into all facets which have a political tone to them,which are born into a compartment and classification of thinking. And, it might well be said that this isn’t anything new or confined to our own culture in the USA. Who knows, perhaps in the 1st century B.C. the Romans went around saying “Did you hear what the Scriba said this morning about Caesar?” And so on…

    We talk about Driscoll not because of anything that has to do with the man, Mark Driscoll, but because of something that is missing within ourselves. We prop up people like Driscoll to celebrity status because of something we feel is missing within ourselves. That’s how any guru or provider of “truth” earns their living. I’m not discounting earning a living by doing what one feels passionate about or lead to do, simply the reasoning for why many pastors earn the huge sums that they do, because there are many who feel they have something missing that is filled by whatever message someone has to give.


    1. That’s a possible explanation, yes. I remember in the Book of Acts when some were arguing about where Paul or Apollos were the better teachers, or in John when John the Baptist was pretty much asked, “Who’s better, you or Jesus?” Nothing new, as you said.


  6. A spot-on post,JS.
    I have struggled with this so much. Go to look up some teaching from a particular church or preacher and, boom, there they are, all the blogs that publically denounce this person and fail to remember the whole “in love” part of correcting someone.

    If anything could turn people off the church, our own worship of celebrity inside the worldwide church and our tearing down of those who fall is nothing short of revolting. As a Christian, I have fallen badly and a number of times. Thank God that I am not well known so haven’t had the scrutiny that these guys have.

    I may not agree with everything that comes out of their mouths or pens but savaging them is not helping others, it’s adding to the fire.

    As you say, all this pales into comparison with how the persecuted church is going in places like Iraq and China, the tragedy of hunger, of enslavement of human beings, sex-traffiking.
    This is where our energy should be going.

    God forgive us for our lack of love and our conforming to worldly ways!


    1. Amen on every point. I mean imagine if some of these gifted speakers actually received helpful criticism from the Christian-internet, and then changed their ways. Like if a “false teacher” suddenly said, “Wow, these gracious online Christians are right, some of my sermons are too soft / too hard / not Christ-centered.” Nobody is helping when they just blast these guys. If I were Pastor Mark, I wouldn’t listen to all the chatter either.
      And yes, God is doing a bigger thing here, and I want to be part of that.


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