Standing up to the "bully" Mark Driscoll

Mark DriscollRachel Held Evans writes Mark Driscoll is a bully. Stand up to him:

Mark Driscoll is wrong. 

Godly men stick up for people, not make fun of them.

Godly men honor women, not belittle them.

Godly men love their gay and lesbian neighbors, not ridicule them.

Godly men celebrate femininity, not trash it.

Godly men own their sexuality, not flaunt it.

Godly men pursue peace, not dismiss it.

Godly men rise above violence, not glorify it.

Godly men build up the Church, not embarrass it.

Godly men imitate Christ—who praised the gentle and the peacemakers, who stood up for the exploited and abused, who showed compassion for the downtrodden,  who valued women, and who loved his enemies to the point of death.

This was prompted mainly by what Driscoll wrote on Facebook:

So, what story do you have about the most effeminate anatomically male worship leader you’ve ever personally witnessed?

But the links Rachel offers show that she has collected a lot more evidence that Driscoll is a bully. She concludes:

Mark’s bullying is unacceptable.

Stop talking about it and do something.

Yes, but what can we do? Sadly I don’t think it will help much to join Rachel’s campaign requesting the elders of Driscoll’s church to take action against him. The website of Mars Hill Church states that

Pastor, Elder, and Overseer are all synonymous terms in the Bible

and names three “Executive Elders”, the first of whom is the “Preaching and Vision Pastor” who is none other than Mark Driscoll. The other two, the “Executive Pastor” and the “Mars Hill Network Pastor”, are surely Driscoll’s personal proteges and are very unlikely to turn against him on this matter.

But if we can mobilise a tide of public opinion against this kind of bullying, maybe we can persuade leaders whom Driscoll does respect, like John Piper, to have a word with him and rein him in. Piper was a guest preacher at Mars Hill Church last year. But he has not been afraid to rebuke Driscoll publicly before, on a rather trivial matter. Now is the time for Piper to rebuke Driscoll again. I’m not saying this needs to be public. But if it is not, Piper needs to keep an eye on Driscoll to make sure he stays within acceptable bounds. He should also try to obtain what even the macho Mark has been known to offer in the past: a public apology.

Rachel is right that we need to do something about this. But in this case the best thing to do about it is to talk and write about it.

Thanks to Joel and Scott for the link to Rachel’s post.

14 thoughts on “Standing up to the "bully" Mark Driscoll

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  2. I’m in Seattle, have never gone to a Mars Hill service, but have read Driscoll’s books and followed his church’s progress over the years. He’s said some things that offend me. In one book about his church’s history, he titled a chapter something like “Lord, please rapture the charismaniac lady with the tambourine.” I politely disagree with him on other points. He says he believes in demons and casting them out, but doesn’t want to do it publicly so as not seem like some kind of guru. That’s entirely at odds with Jesus’ ministry (and the disciples and Paul’s ministries).

    Still, I have to say that I really appreciate the new church culture that Driscoll and his team have built up. You have to realize what type of society here in Seattle that we are dealing with. Amazingly, people respond to the Mars Hill style that would not respond to other church cultures. The overall effect, despite what may be valid criticisms from Ms. Evans, is good for the cause of Christ. Say what they like, Driscoll’s critics must admit that his abrasive approach is effective in getting people’s attention and even leading to real discipleship.

  3. Tyson, as I have written here before, in many ways I appreciate Driscoll’s unconventional style. And it is certainly good that he appeals to people outside traditional church culture. But there are limits to where people should go in Christian love, and he has surely stepped beyond them in this case.

  4. Several of those links Rachel provides aren’t even issues. MMA is surely a matter of Christian conscience, the blog post about Jesus being a prize fighter was to provide a necessary correction to those of us who see Jesus as a long haired limp wristed weakling and the article from the New York times was very oddly taken by Rachel to be Driscoll embarrassing the Church.

    Some of the others, and some of the things he’s done and said about the past few years have been unbelievable. The comments about Haggard’s wife were stupid in the extreme, that blog post re homosexuality was in extremely poor taste and the sermon he gave in Ireland a few years ago from which those oral sex quotations come almost beggar belief. (he’s since preached through Song of Songs again and reportedly done a better job.)

    This latest tweet probably wasn’t especially well advised. I think he’s making a point about the way worship leaders talk about Jesus as much as how the worship leaders looks but that Tyler L Clark’s blog post seemed to be a fair criticism. This is the problem with tweets, they’re so short that they can be taken the wrong way very easily. People can go for short sound bites for subjects that should only be dealt with in a proper form. Piper’s tweet re Rob Bell is a good example, I’m fairly sure he could have said what he meant in a blog post and he wouldn’t have got the stick he got for it.

    All in all Driscoll seems to get himself in hot water more than most. And yet he’s clearly been used by God to bring about much fruit in Seattle and elsewhere. Funny how God works through arrogant out spoken loudmouths isn’t it?

  5. Thank you, Joel. Yes, the apostle Peter put his foot in his mouth several times. So has this Peter of Gentle Wisdom. And so has Mark Driscoll. The apostle was eventually able to take criticism, mend his ways, and go on to an even more fruitful ministry. I would rejoice if the same could happen with Driscoll.

  6. I should also have added, he’s publicly apologised for nearly all of the above things that I’ve flagged as issues. It’ll be interesting to see how he reacts to the uproar over this tweet.

  7. Peter, it’s interesting that you’ve just brought this up as (in case you’re not aware) CJ Mahaney of Sovereign Grace Ministries has recently announced he’s stepping down for a while due to issues of sin. He’s been accused of bullying for many years (loads of people have been badly hurt at SGM churches) but nothing has been done until now. It wouldn’t surprise me if Driscoll’s behaviour eventually catches up with him, but again I sadly think there will be a lot of broken people before something is done.

    Regarding Driscoll’s church, it used to have a congregational style of government, but a few years ago switched to an elder-based system. I have read their constitution and it would seem more at home in a third-world dictatorship – it is convoluted and hard to understand, but basically gives a small group of senior elders (including Driscoll) jobs for life with no effective accountability. When the church was asked to approve it, those who raised concerns were accused by Driscoll of “sinning by questioning” and I think some had their membership removed.

    What really concerns me about both Driscoll and Mahaney is their acceptance by many other evangelical leaders who seem blinded by the growth of their churches and their oratorical skills. Driscoll recently visited the UK by invitation of some conservative evangelicals (he spoke at the London Men’s Convention at the Albert Hall) and again, their lack of discernment is very worrying..

  8. Joel, I was aware that he had apologised for some of the issues. It would be wrong to complain only about things that he has apologised for. But there is still something wrong if he repeatedly shows bullying behaviour and then apologises after a public uproar. An apology is real and should be counted only if it is followed by a genuine and lasting attempt to change one’s behaviour. Driscoll has not yet demonstrated that.

    Sidefall, I had read that Mahaney was stepping down, but not the reasons for it. Was this just about bullying, or were there accusations of more traditional kinds of “sin” e.g. sexual or financial? I have had other issues with Mahaney in the past.

    On church government, I’m not sure if I would approve of what Driscoll has imposed, but I certainly reject the kind of congregational government in which the pastor, who is supposed to be the leader, has to compromise his work to avoid summary dismissal by a board of elders or a church meeting. There needs to be a proper balance between the pastor and the congregation.

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  11. Peter, there’s a statement from CJ at:

    http://www.sovereigngraceministries.org/blogs/cj-mahaney/post/2011/07/06/Why-Im-taking-a-leave-of-absence.aspx

    Whilst this is considered to be rather incomplete, particularly because it only references pastors, the essence of it is correct – abuse of authority, manipulation, deceipt, refusal of correction, even blackmail – bullying is a good way to summarise it.

    There’s definitely nothing financial or sexual, as far as I am aware.

    For more analysis and information on the background, see http://www.sgmrefuge.com and http://www.sgmsurvivors.com.

    As someone with experience of baptist-style congregational government, I can say that the situation described in your last paragraph is unheard of. There are generally safeguards against this – decisions about the pastor’s employment generally require advance notice to be given and a 2/3 majority vote. No church is going to sack their pastor on a whim – it would make getting a replacement very difficult.

    The key thing is that there are sufficient checks and balances to make the pastor and other leaders genuinely accountable. At both Mars Hill and SGM, these are lacking.

  12. Thank you, Sidefall. I have seen Mahaney’s statement already. But I don’t want to get distracted into this discussion.

    As for congregational government, I have heard of cases where pastors have been fired on the spot, and I understand it is common for pastors to feel constrained in their preaching by the threat of being voted out. I’m glad that there are proper procedures in many cases but that does not completely solve the problem.

    MRWBBIII, LOL!

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