Why Mark Driscoll Needs an Elephant

So there’s this fundamentalist, ultra-Calvinist , hyper-macho leader of a mega-church in Seattle named Mark Driscoll. He’s known for reaching out to young males by appealing to their latent misygony and homophobia; i.e.,

to build them up by putting others down.

Disturbing as that is, that’s not why I’m writing today.

I write because I care about Mark, the members of his Church – and us. You see, he’s so in control that he’s out of control. He and his ministry are heading toward a train-wreck. And if all we do is point fingers and say “Look at that!”; or merely drive by, slowly rubber-necking as if it were a freak-show on the side of the road; or somehow assume that “someone else will get involved,” we’re no better than the priestly leaders Jesus told about who walked past the beaten up man on the side of the road to Jericho.

It’s been apparent to many of us in the wider Christian community that Mr. Driscoll is likely dealing with some serious demons and that he’s repressing his shadow side to the point that he’s acting-out more and more. There is evidence that he may be self-sabotaging himself and his ministry. I fear that some of us may have a selfish delight in watching his ministry gradually implode and are on pins and needles waiting for the final card to be pulled so we can watch his entire house of cards come tumbling down.

To the extent that any of that is going on within us, let’s name it, admit it, engage in a small amount of it, and let God’s grace help us release it as we move forward. That’s the best way to deal with shadows. Sure, it’s a little embarrassing for me to admit to this, but, there’s no judgmental shame or guilt-trip here (those are counter-productive. hint, hint). I’ve had some of that going on within me. I’d admit to being slightly jealous of Mark’s fame and success. I admit to wondering what it’d be like to speak to so many people on such a regular basis. I admit to being envious of him having a young man in his ministry whose youtube clip went viral.

To remind us, in the past year Mark has mockedeffeminate-looking male pastorsand denied women’s role in church leadership. The 2nd of those could be a valid stance for a Church to take. A couple of weeks ago, Mark’s thoughts about women in leadership were made known. Quite a few Christian denominations and ministries choose to employ archaic, patriarchy as their norm. Whatever. There are plenty of churches that do affirm and celebrate women in leadership. The critique there is in Mark’s language that implies that women “can’t be protective.” I dare him to get between a mother bear or deer, or even my son’s mother, and their offspring. He’d also do well to become more familiar with that Bible that he thumps as there are several passages where God is described as a protective mother bear or eagle.

The first of those two instances of his acting-out is completely out of line. For someone to go out of their way to mock men who he deems as looking “effeminate” suggests someone with issues. Serious issues. It was a female Church leader, Rachel Held Evans, who called him out on that — proving that women can indeed be protective.

I wouldn’t feel inspired to get involved with all of this if it weren’t for the most recent mirror being held up for Mark’s Church to gaze upon. In the past three days a series of blogs have been written by Mattthew Paul Turner where he recounts the horrific story of “Andrew” – a young member of Mark’s Mars Hill ministry. Andrew approached Pastor Mark for some help regarding his sex life and… instead of responding pastorally

— for instance: thanking him for feeling safe enough to meet with him, deeply listening to the young man, extending Christ’s unconditional love, normalizing his experience, sharing about Church teachings on those matters and why they might be helpful for him to embrace, and then reminding him of God’s forgiveness and grace, praying with him, and offering to be there for him as he continues on his journey –

…Mark (and/or other church leaders) threw the book at the poor chap, read him the riot act, and demanded that he sign a “legally binding contract” to

repent — or be ex-communicated!*

That description about what unfolded understates what happened and how. The blogger provides all of the emails between the young man and his church.

Here’s Parts II “’Gospel Shame’: The Truth About Discipline, Excommunication, and Cult-like Control at Mars Hilland III  “Spiritual abuse must stop.

Matthew’s blogs tell Andrew’s story well and his intention (I think) is to wake up the Church to help prevent these sorts of things that happened to Andrew to happen in other churches in the world.

My intention is to try to inspire those who are in connection, or who could be in connection, with Mr. Driscoll to find some inner courage and to help him get the help he needs. I’m urging such people to do an intervention.

You see, I have some skin in this game. I’m a Christian pastor who works with young adults in campus ministry. Increasingly, young people are falling away from Christianity – and in no small part because of the kinds of rhetoric and behavior exhibited by Mr. Driscoll. Simply put,

Mark is making it harder for me to do my work as a pastor.

One of the beauties of being a part of a Christian denomination is that there are generally established mechanisms to help rein in pastors who go off the deep-end. The United Methodist Church which I belong to, seeks to allow pastors freedom of the pulpit, but there are structures in place to help rein in a pastor who goes off the deep-end. Each Conference of the Church has a cabinet comprised of a bishop and district superintendents, there are resources for spiritual direction and psychological counseling, and there’s a Board of Ordained Ministry that ultimately can place a pastor on probation or even revoke their credentials.

Mark’s Church, while having a board of elders, is an independent ministry, and it’s one where the buck stops with him. Mark’s ministry reaches thousands of people and with such success comes responsibility and danger.

I’m not calling for Mars Hill to adopt an episcopal form of polity, I’m not calling them to adopt more of the “religion” that they seem to loathe, but I have a hunch about what might work.

Mark appreciates strong males. He respects them.

As I understand it, in India where rural people live and work with elephants, they’ve come to learn things about elephant behavior. Like humans, elephant calves stay close to their mothers side longer than most other animals. When young male elephants are finally sent forth on their own, they sometimes form wild gangs that terrorize villagers with their rampages.

The villagers have learned that introducing a fully grown bull elephant into the gang of hoodlums mellows them out almost instantly. They thrive when there’s a large male around who they all know could kick their butts (that’s the paradigm that Mark operates out of). It’s not really about the potential to kick-ass. It’s that they respect a fully grown mature male and know that they can learn much about how to socialize from being around him. They learn patience, self-control, and they blossom into maturity.

I would submit that

we need to introduce the Christian equivalent of some bull elephants into Mark’s village where he is on a rampage.

I’m willing to be part of such a team.. though I’m fully aware that I’m still maturing myself.  Aside from being in ministry for 17 years and have served a wide range of churches. While not particularly big in stature, I’m disproportionately strong for my size and age. I’m currently a fit 43 and weigh in at 155 lbs and can bench press 230lbs (if you give me a couple of months to work back up to it — I’ve been doing a lot of yoga recently). I realize that I may not be big enough or bull enough … and he’d likely dismiss me out of hand because I’m a progressive Christian who embraces Arminianism instead of Calvinism. And, he probably doesn’t care for my style of masculinity.

Rev. Jim Wallis however, may be the sort of guy we have in mind. Jim has been a major leader of the liberal wing of Christian evangelicalism. He’s been significant player in Church leadership, has been on the evening news a lot, has spoken before thousands of people on countless occasions, and he helped negotiate a truce between the Bloods and the Crips. Moreover, the guy has been lifting weights for most of his adult life and could bench-press Mark several times. Jim’s burly.

Blogger, Jonathan Martin might also be one to consider, or perhaps Stanley Hauerwas (“a pacifist who you want on your side in a bar-fight”), Tex Sample (a blue collar theologian and preacher) or Vincent Harding (veteran activist of the Civil Rights movement – who may be the most non-anxious presence on the planet)– we need to utilize them while we still can!

But let’s not get too literal here. What Mark needs is for some seasoned, mature brothers (and sisters) in the faith who have “done their work,” who have integrated their shadows, who are used to the pressures of the public eye, and who have practiced being a non-anxious, pastoral presence.

Based upon the amount of time and energy that Mark devotes to sex, sexuality, and gender issues, my personal hunch is that Mark may have issues with his sexuality. Given the pastoral adage

“that which we criticize most in others is that which we struggle with most ourselves,”

the logical tool of Occam’s Razor would suggest that this simplest cause is what’s likely going on here.

It’s an example of someone repressing their shadow. Shadows don’t like being repressed and they tend to explode like volcanoes if not dealt with, owned, and integrated into our lives. An obvious example of this is what happened to Ted Haggard former head of the New Life mega-church and former leader of the National Evangelical Association.

Jesus told a story about someone helping a man who’d been beaten-up and left for dead by highwaymen by the side of the road. Though a stranger, a good Samaritan proved himself to that man’s neighbor by getting involved and taking care of the man and restoring him to health. Church, we’ve just heard about Andrew who was “beaten up by the side of the road” (a victim of clergy abuse). Left unchecked, Mark may well do the same thing to other people in his ministry. That simply will not do.

What do we propose to do about it?

In the scriptures, Jesus came across a man whose town felt he was out of control. When he arrived, they’d chained him to a pillar outside of the community. Jesus unbound the troubled man and freed him from his demons.

That is our prayer for Mark. Mark has great talent and potential to be a wonderful pastor of God’s grace and love. He has much of what it takes to be a great Christian leader.

But, he needs help.

And liberating this troubled man is more likely to happen if we don’t walk-by, or rubber-neck, or gawk, or encourage him to self-destruct. He needs some elephants who

… feel safe enough to meet with him, deeply listen to him, extend Christ’s unconditional love, normalize his experience, share about Church teachings on those matters and why they might be helpful for him to embrace, remind him of God’s forgiveness and grace, and pray with him and offer to be there for him as he continues on his journey..,

Mark and Andrew need healing hugs and that can only happen if we get involved.

May God’s amazing, transforming, comforting, strengthening, and healing Grace, Peace, and Love be with Mark, Andrew, and the Mars Hill Church during this difficult time. Amen.


Rev. Roger Wolsey

* we don’t know for certain to what extent Mark himself was involved in the incident with Andrew, but we can be certain that Mark is a proponent of this form of “discipline,” and, likely was an actor in Andrew’s experience.


Wolsey is an ordained United Methodist pastor. He is the author of Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like christianity. He blogs for Patheos, Huffington Post, and Elephant Journal.


Muslims for Lent? – True story.
A Christmas Grinch – and a Christmas Hope.
Why I’m Spiritual *and* Religious.
Why I’m Spiritual *and* Religious.
About Roger Wolsey

Rev. Roger Wolsey is an ordained United Methodist pastor who serves as the director of the Wesley Foundation at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He's the author of "Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don't like christianity."

  • http://www.travismamone.net Travis Mamone

    Mark Driscoll should just leave the ministry altogether. He has absolutely no value as a pastor or a human being. Fuck Mark and fuck his church!

    • http://www.progressivechristianitybook.com/ Roger Wolsey

      Travis, um.. tell us how you *really* feel.

      I think that Mark can be a powerfully effective minister for God if he gets his apparent control issues under control. Wait – that sounded ironic. I guess everything’s ironic when it comes to ministry.

      • http://www.travismamone.net Travis Mamone

        I’m sorry. I just get really upset when people talk about him. He reminds me way too much of all the jocks in school that used to call me a “faggot.”

        • http://www.progressivechristianitybook.com/ Roger Wolsey

          Yeah, I can see why you’d come to that conclusion.


          • Dee

            Yall are just a bunch of haters. Yall killed Jesus.

  • Rebecca

    You may be right, and he certainly needs someone to bring him back to his senses, but only a man would say there are “plenty” of churches that embrace the gifts of women. As long as there are any churches represssing the gifts of women, there are not enough that aren’t. How you can be more offended by his swipes at men who look a certain way is beyond me.

    • http://www.progressivechristianitybook.com/ Roger Wolsey

      I am offended by his swipes at women and said as much. I am sorry if I didn’t drive that point home enough. However, it is the case that many churches don’t ordain women and many do. I would love it if all churches ordained women and valued them in leadership. However, that particular matter isn’t the focus of this blog. My focus on this blog is on helping Mark get the help he needs.

  • http://writegina2.deviantart.com Gina

    I don’t know, Roger…. I kind of think that MD will only seek help or accept it when he hits bottom (as they say) and that would be very sad, as he will take down a lot of people with him on the way there. So, even though there are strong male leaders within the wider Christian community who could come along side Mark, I just don’t think someone with his degree of success will accept the help without some major disaster. With the Matthew Paul Turner story (and many others that have been posted since), I am very concerned for those who are being victimized by these church leaders (at Mars Hill). I am glad that there is so much dialog on the web about this — I hope that some of those people will be reading it and it will help them to see the truth of their situation in someone else’s story and be able to get out. (Also, I didn’t know all of that about elephants… that was very interesting.) Anyway, I am glad you addressed this controversy. Thanks.

  • http://www.progressivechristianitybook.com/ Roger Wolsey

    Just in. Mars Hill has released the following response to their approach to Church “discipline.” warning – not a mild read. http://marshill.com/2012/01/27/church-discipline-in-the-bible

    • http://www.unchainedfaith.wordpress.com Amy

      Good grief. I love that “promoting legalism” is on the list of very legalistic items. “Habitual doctrine debator”? What does that even mean? I also loved their example of the adulterous husband showing up with his girlfriend and sitting in front of his soon-to-be-ex-wife. Yes, let’s find the most extreme example and then try to make it sound like recent events are just like that.

      I’ve had as much as I can stomach of this man. Good for you for calling on others to help him work through his issues (not that he’ll take you up on it, but it’s a good idea). God bless you, because I wouldn’t last 5 minutes in a room with him.

    • http://breakfastreading.com M Davis

      Woah. That church document is INCREDIBLE. Can you say “control?” Sounds like that’s what Driscoll thinks Christian ministry is all about: control, control, control. Sadly, some people don’t seem to think there is anything wrong with that. :(

      And as much as I wish that the adult bull elephant thing would work (and great post, btw)…I think Driscoll has something like a full on case of Narcisstic Personality Disorder…and so I’m not sure anything works on that other than warning others to be near him at their own risk. A sociopath is a sociopath is a sociopath. In this case, the church is providing him with the ideal cover.

      Run, sheep. Your pastor is eating you for lunch. :(

  • http://strawberryroan.blogspot.com Shanyn

    I agree with your post, and while I’ve been appalled by what has been going on with that church and fearing for the people there who are still trying to seek God, and fullfill the commandment to love one another I’ve also been very disturbed by the tendency to stand back, criticize and then have a betting atmosphere on what will happen to that church and the man who assumes leadership there.

    Spiritual abuse is a serious charge and using the church as a hammer when Christ clearly teaches that isn’t His way really saddens me.

    I hope as a family of believers we can pray for him and his followers. Pray for grace to rain down upon them, and that they will see God’s love living in their world instead of hatred, condemnation and fear.

  • http://www.progressivechristianitybook.com/ Roger Wolsey

    I’d like to recommend this book to anyone who has been a victim of spiritual abuse and/or religious addiction: “Healing Spiritual Abuse & Religious Addiction” http://www.amazon.com/Healing-Spiritual-Abuse-Religious-Addiction/dp/0809134888

  • Erin

    I suspect Mark Driscoll has Narcissistic Personality Disorder and therefore don’t ever see a point where he will change or seek help. It’s unfortunate but Narcissists tend to leave a path of destruction behind them and never learn from their mistakes. They blatantly do things that hurt other people and deny that it ever happened, or if it did, it wasn’t intended and everyone misunderstood them.

    People with NPD think they are above everyone else and the rules that judge everyone else. The very nature of their illness means that they will never seek help from psychologists or anyone else. Narcissists are incapable of loving anyone but themselves.

    I realise these are hard truths to recognise, especially from a Christian perspective where we have all been shown so much grace, that we want to keep showing grace to others. I am not saying that we don’t show Mark Driscoll grace, but honestly, the best thing to do is to run from a Narcissist. They can’t be reasoned with and they won’t change. Any relationship formed with them damages the other person in the relationship and the Narcissist stays unscathed.

    Really, in this situation the best we can offer, is to understand what is going on with Mark Driscoll, understand his personality disorder so that we can best work out how to help people left floundering in his wake. Narcissists mess with your head and leave you thinking that you are the one that is not right. It takes a lot of affirmation to and validation to help people realise that they are not the problem. The more they trust, the harder it is for them to understand what has happened to them.

    Just my opinion anyway. I have had a Narcissist in my life and once the signs become recognisable, they are hard to ignore in other people as well.

  • Bez

    There is nothing godly about Mark Dricoll’s “ministry”.

  • Lauralew

    One of the reasons I left non denomination Christian churches for the Episcopal Church was the lack of accountability the pastor has in non denoms. As one of my friends said, “If the pastor is heretical, he is the one who should leave–not me.” This Driscoll story is a case in point. My son is going through something similar in a non denom church as the pastor thinks my son has too much Biblical education for a lay person (my son is a Greek and Hebrew scholar! Of course!) and has been told to sit down, shut up, and don’t tell anyone what he has learned. This type of Christianity seems to be more about power and control than the Gospel of Christ.

  • Kay

    What Mars Hill is doing is not that uncommon. There’s another megachurch in nearby Bellevue, a fundamentalist nondenominational (but really Baptist GC) Bible church that has similar behaviors and procedures about church discipline. Their own tract on the subject reads very much like the Mars Hill tract.

    The men are the only ones who are allowed leadership positions over the entire church, members – women especially – are expected to submit to the leadership, women are expected to submit to their husbands, and members are expected to get “very involved” in each others’ personal lives. If that’s not a recipe for abuse I don’t know what is.

    A liberal church not far has 75% converts, most came from abusive churches like Mars Hill and needed a place to be accepted and pastored to, not bullied into submission.

  • CF2K

    Maybe it’s my own failing, but the pastor’s reference to the “whorish girlfriend” was as far as I got through the Mars Hill “church discipline” document.

  • A. Nuran

    Classic straight-out-of-Bob-Altmeyer Right Wing Authoritarian Dominant. I’d lay even money he’s also gay and repressed.

  • http://www.durfeewest.com Amy

    Thank you for your thoughtful analysis and creative thinking. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. We all need elephants, I think.

    I know it can be a pain to be accosted by an English usage stickler, but here goes: Reigning is ruling, like kings and queens do. Reining is pulling on a horse’s reins to get it under control. You mean he needs to be reined in, not reigned in. (And, of course, raining is when that wet stuff is falling from the sky. Though some people think heaven must be wet, when they hear, in the Hallelujah Chorus: “And He shall rain forever and ever. . . .”)

    • http://www.progressivechristianitybook.com/ Roger Wolsey

      Thanks for your kind words about my analysis. And thank you for your good eyes! I knew that correct spelling and am surprised that I ended up typing it that way. I’ve contacted the folks at Patheos and they’ll fix it tomorrow. : )

  • http://www.thecg.us Rafael

    I don’t belong to Mark’s congregation, I belong to Jesus’ congregation. If the guy wants to continue the patriarchal system, no one but his congregants can stop him and since it looks like that isn’t going to happen, then let us be thankful that we are not part of Mars Hill.

  • Ally

    And he (Jesus) answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

    (Luke 13:2-5)

    • http://www.progressivechristianitybook.com/ Roger Wolsey

      Ally, that’s a good reminder for us. I hope you convey that to brother Mark too.

  • Paul

    So Roger, besides the dress you wear on Sundays when you preach to grandmothers, do you have any yellow or seafoam green sweater vests in your wardrobe?

    • http://www.progressivechristianitybook.com/ Roger Wolsey

      Paul, While I own two clerical robes, I rarely wear them any more. I do campus ministry working with college aged students. Mostly a blue jeans sort of ministry. So, Paul, besides unfounded, pathetic allegations, do you have anything else to say punk?

  • Michael

    Roger, thank you for your insightful and (what I’m most thankful for) merciful insight. I am not personally familiar with Mark Driscoll and his ministry but am familiar with his overall “style” of ministry. I think you’re on to something with the “elephant”. Mentoring is an absolutely integral part of faith-formation; I recently read both Joseph Campbell’s Hero With a Thousand Faces and John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart and both (in their own way) pointed out the need for mentors in initiation processes (e.g. transition from adolesence to adulthood). I would argue this is the case in spiritual maturation, as well. While you no doubt have your criticisms of Mark (and probably should), your reaction bespeaks a pastor’s heart and desire to see his healing. Thank you, and bless you.

  • Donna Cole

    I have friends who believe Pastor Mark is a great leader… I have not personally listened or read any of his messages. However, from what I’ve read here and a few other places, it sounds like he’s going in the same direction as Jim Jones. Younger folks may not remember but that ministry started out great and a few years later, almost a thousand died.

    More to the point, I remember what Jesus said

    21 At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. 22 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.

    (Mk 13:21–22 NIV).

  • Cheryl Woodcock

    I actually watched a few of this fool’s you tube videos and felt the need to pull out my copy of Abuse of Scripture and 10 Lies the Church Tells Women to dispute him. The experience of watching him was like watching some small little fool of a man shaking his fist at God saying’ But God, I really wanted you to tell my wife (women) she has to OBEY me (women obey men) and since you didn’t say that, I’m going to twist the scripture and tell them that anyhow. I’m so sad that so many women admire him!

  • http://kaitygrace@blogspot.com kaitlyn

    You seem to have your head-screwed on…There seems to be so many loud screaming voices, baying for blood, that I had almost forgotten what a soft one sounded like. Thank-you, sir. Hope to become your friend!

  • Lumi

    I do not understand the appeal of someone like Mark Driscoll. From his words, actions and sermons he is doing more harm than good and to use Mars Hill vernacular bringing “gospel shame” on himself . He is an insecure misogynist who uses legalism and a hermeneutic of biblical literalism to justify his and his church’s actions. The buzz is that he must be doing something right because of the people flocking to the numerous Mars Hill church plants. He is authoritarian and appears completely convinced that his theology is correct, this can be attractive for many who don’t want to think for themselves and wrestle with scripture, black and white thinking is the easy way out.

    I say shame on him and even more shame on those that stand idly by and allow this crap to be presented as love and grace.

  • http://www.progressivechristianitybook.com Roger Wolsey

    This just in. I’ve come to learn that when the Episcopal Church elected a woman as its bishop, Driscoll wrote on his blog, “If Christian males do not man up soon, the Episcopalians may vote a fluffy baby bunny rabbit as their next bishop to lead God’s men.” I haven’t verified this, but I have little reason to doubt it.

  • Paul

    Roger, please accept my apologies for my comments which were strictly intended to be “tongue-in-cheek.” I presumed, wrongly, that you were aware of these references:



    • http://www.progressivechristianitybook.com Roger Wolsey

      Paul, LOL! I wasn’t aware of those remarks of Driscoll’s until I saw that the folks at Sojourners included a link to one of them (the sea-foam sweater vests) in their re-posting of my blog on their God’s Politics blog today! When I saw it, it almost made me wonder if “Paul” was a fake name that Mark was using to post on here! : )

  • Barry

    Funny watching everyone psycho-analyze here. I dont like the looks of what is going on at Mars Hill either. But let me analyze half the posters here. You are making yourself feel good by trying to “figure out” a man you do not know and probably have never met. I dont know how many are believers here, but if you read Paul on church discipline he instructs Timothy to “openly rebuke” those who persist in sin. I AM NOT saying “Andrew” at Mars Hill persisted in sin. What I AM saying, is that we are so far removed culturally from Bible times, so inundated with American individualism that we would never think it proper or loving to rebuke someone. The scripture critiques our culture, not the other way around.

    I do think whats going on at Mars Hill is a good reason for churches to be a part of larger governing bodies. I pray Mars Hill will join a fellowship and come under authority itself.

  • http://www.progressivechristianitybook.com Roger Wolsey

    on a related note, this blog explores the control issues at work: http://thewartburgwatch.com/2012/01/25/mark-driscolls-mars-hill-a-tutorial-on-spiritual-abuse/

    • http://www.progressivechristianitybook.com Roger Wolsey

      Chas, Curious that you interpret what I wrote as being about gossip or as ugly. Most of the other readers read it as rather balanced and pastoral. That said, you and I may have different understandings about what it means to care for someone and/or be their friend. Here’s a blog that I wrote about how Michael W Smith has failed to be a good friend to Rick Santorum. Good friends point out the spinach on each other’s teeth. http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/01/why-you-dont-want-michael-w-smith-as-a-friend/ I care for you Chas. Peace.

  • David

    I heard MD interviewed. In the interview he said, “the Body of Christ has a colon”. It seems to me that he enjoys fulfilling that role. He has flushed out some crap in that area. But I think we need a colon-cleansing too.

  • http://www.twitter.com/willsimpson62 Will Simpson


    I’m a twenty-year-old college student, and we probably have a lot of theological ground between us. You appear to be well on the left of the theological spectrum, I’m more along the lines of writers like JP Mooreland and bloggers like Justin Taylor. You seem to associate with political leftists; I’m a pro-life, adoption-promoting activist and volunteer who’s also an economics major and a strong believer in free markets and limited government. But we should still have some common ground in the gospel.

    I’m a guy, so I hesitate to talk about gender roles for fear of being deemed chauvinistic or misogynistic, but my Biblically-based conviction is that the scriptural qualifications for pastors, bishops, and elders precludes the possibility of women. I see no reason to find that terribly offensive, aside from secular cultural norms, there’s no Biblical precedent for such a move–and as elders are called to be husbands of one wife, it seems like the expectation.

    Same with issues like church discipline. I understand it can seem harsh to new believers or those investigating Christianity, so I think it must be incredibly delicate, respectful, and sensitive, but there’s nothing antithetical to scripture about the body of Christ keeping itself accountable to the standards God’s word calls us to pursue and Christ’s love compels us to embrace.

    Obviously, we could have much more involved theological conversation without resolution, but my point is very simply that there’s nothing /offensive/ about Driscoll’s teachings. The only thing offensive is that you disagree with them.

    I’ve read Real Marriage, and continue to be amazed at the controversy it stirs. Reviewers call it a “sex guide” and cherry-pick his sermon quotes to make him sound creepishly anti-women. It’s hogwash. Anyone who listens to him in context understands the unending respect he has for both genders, his sacrificial love for Grace, and how he continually explains that he believes women submit to their husbands because BOTH husband and wife SUBMIT TO EACH OTHER. (I should clarify, I had caps-lock–I am not yelling, I just don’t have a bold function or italics, which is what I would have used. So read it accordingly.)

    That’s my short and non-comprehensive defense of the powerful, gospel-centered ministry of Mars Hill. My real conclusion is that you make wildly judgmental extrapolations based on small bits of observation, outlier assessments, and generalizations. I find it absurd that you draw such intense and harsh conclusions from small bits of data.

    In the end, Driscoll preaches that we are more sinful and flawed but Christ is loving and forgiven. It’s the gospel. Calvinistic or not (I’m not particularly), it should be the unifying theme of the movement and the church.

    It blows my mind that Driscoll explains Biblical-based ideas and you call for an intervention, but a commenter says that he has no value as a human being, f**** his church and you quickly wind your assessment down to “*hug*.” Not suggesting that’s wrong, just that it’s a mind-blowing double standard.

    • http://www.progressivechristianitybook.com Roger Wolsey

      My young friend, please know that Driscoll’s interpretation of the Gospel is not “the” Gospel. He’s a neo-Calvinist who things that we’re not merely sinners, but that we’re wretched sinners who are as low as worms and vomit in God’s eyes. Calvinism isn’t the only valid interpretation of the Gospel. Just as, if not more, biblically based is Arminianism which holds a slightly higher estimation of the human condition.

      Moreover, re: “Obviously, we could have much more involved theological conversation without resolution, but my point is very simply that there’s nothing /offensive/ about Driscoll’s teachings. The only thing offensive is that you disagree with them.”

      Why on earth is it offensive for me to disagree with Driscoll’s teachings? He isn’t Christ. Let’s get that straight. If your theological system and way of being Christian cannot handle or tolerate differing views, you’re in for a rather small life with a small circle of friends.

      As John Wesley put it, “Though we may not all think alike, may we not love alike? If your heart is as my heart, give me your hand.”



  • http://www.progressivechristianitybook.com Roger Wolsey

    Here’s Driscoll talking about how he wishes he could “punch people in the mouth” and “go Old Testament” on leaders in his church. Apparently it was from a sermon he preached just before firing the gentleman who wrote the blog referenced in my post. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YE3FHMTAWHY&feature=youtu.be

  • http://www.progressivechristianitybook.com Roger Wolsey

    And wouldn’t you know it… here’s a blog that shares about Driscoll’s less than Christian way of handling dissenting colleagues in his ministry. Caution, not for those who wish to remain wearing rose-tinted glasses as they consider Mars Hill.

    “Mark Driscoll’s House of Cards”


    Click the “Joyful Exiles” link at the bottom of it to see the full story.

  • http://sfazotus.tumblr.com/ Mac


    Well those are a lot of ideas firing off in many directions. I’ll add a few personal ones having just come from Seattle where I attended one of the Satellite Mars Hill campuses in West Seattle.

    I appreciate your concern. I attended Mars Hill (the West Seattle campus) for four months while living briefly this year in Seattle). Personally, I didn’t much of anything pro or con. The messages were no better or worse than most stuff served up on Sundays anywhere.

    I had heard about the discipline issue; read up on it, and kept a wary eye open for it.

    Response to your review:

    1) I think the Arminian and Reformed thing is a losing proposition. ANY theological overlay on scripture is going to enhance some very real connections in scripture but also make others opaque by doing violence to the texts. The better approach is to simply go where the text goes. Using these overlays can be helpful. My somewhat reformed overlay (which I learned while pastoring in an Arminian Calvary Chapel) is very helpful…to a point But I hate to be limited in my hermeneutics by it.

    2) I liked your distinctions on mysogeny (sp) and the role of women and also that it is women themselves who need to join many men in taking a truly open and biblical view. It may be as simple as there was an historic problem in “Diana-based” Ephesus and that it was therefore a localized situation. Or we may have to go deeper in our understanding what God’s Word actually teaches. But surface-level legalism is not helpful.

    3) We should remember at all times that the two great enemies of the infant church are the same two enemies today: Legalistic religion and Gnosticism. One is trying to earn God’s favor via rules; the other is to acheive spiritual power via knowledge. The Fundagelical chuches of America (liberal or conservative) are rampant with both.

    Alternative? Christocentric relational reliance on God, openness to the Holy Spirit, fulfilling of personally given gifts and abilities given by the Spirit for others and not ourselves; understanding it is not what we know, but Who we know and Who knows us.

    I have serious doubts, knowing human nature as I do all too well from within, that Mark Driscoll is going to heed anyone but God at this point. I have empathy. I was a young buck with a large congregation and much influence and I had not failed…yet.

    When I did, it was catastrophic and there was no one there to care, or restore (this as back in the 80s before they had restorative ministries…ahhh.. ever the trail-blazer). But God was with me in my utter brokenness.

    And God was with my “peeps”. My right hand guy ended up filling in perfectly and is now a wonderful pastor of a large but personal church in Sacramento, CA. I had mentored many men and we talked years later and I asked what they had learned from my demise?

    “That only God never fails”. Good lesson. They are all doing well. Nine of them are in the pastorate.

    Me? I have avoided ministry, by choice, for most of the last 30 years…for pay. But I have served the homeless, lived with them, written books, walked alongside other men who have fallen from their callings looking after them with a compassion only experience and true empathy can produce.

    Mark may implode, or God may save Him (as He does all of us) from himself if he is truly so off course.

    Having been on the ground at Mars Hill..anonymous and unknown, I simply met the people of one of the larger satelltes. I picnicked with them, met at a home study, went to worship and was, like I suspect many of them were…boed out of my mnd with sermons clocking in at over an hour.

    (Note to preachers: If your church is gonna defund the biblical education pastor and have no members with evangelistic gifts allowed to do anything like events…just chalk it up as loss because trying to do Biblical education, the Proclamation of the Word and also to evangelism in every fricken service is insane. Gosh how I hate having to state the obvious).

    I did not experience Mars Hill as “healthy” as I very much did Imago Dei in Portland and now do Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz (where I am ecstatic).

    We lead in faith, hope and love. We lead by exalting Christ Who has first place in all things (Colossians). And we love each other tenderly. Isn’t that what Paul says in almost evry letter he writes somewhere in it?

    Mark is the biggest elephant in the PNW. If he implodes let’s hope there are folk who love him enough to care for him, and also for those who should not have been lioning him to begin with.

  • Jenna

    Hi Roger-

    First, I think it’s awesome that you take the time to respond to your reader’s comments. My question is how or why do you think pastors like John Piper and Matt Chandler support MD? I understand that the Gospel can penetrate any culture (i.e. Hip-hop culture with Lecrae), but I feel like MD wants to be so modern and so accepted that he often uses shock-value to gain attention. I mean, do you really have to say “stimulating her clitoris” in a church sermon to get the point across that Songs of Solomon promotes marital lovemaking? I just don’t understand why these pastors and theologians support MD..

  • Harvey


    Get down on your knees

    Open the word of God

    Ask Him to identify all the shortcomings in your own life

    Then confess and repent of those shortcomings

    Then ask God to use you to proclaim His name

    You are not on this earth to bitch jealously about men who preach the word of God

    You are not on this earth to water down God’s word and bend it to meet your sin

    You are not on this earth to remake the gospel in your own likeness

    You are on this earth to make disciples of Jesus Christ …

    “baptising them and teaching them to obey EVERYTHING I have commanded”

    It’s time to be obedient to God’s word and watch what he might do through you.

    Quit your whinging and become a vessel that God can use for His glory. Don’t be surprised if God takes you to a particular sub-culture to proclaim His name. But its up to you to be ready and available to speak His truth and if you have to speak in frank and candid terms to connect with that sub-culture … then understand your audience and know your message … and you might just have a productive ministry.