Mark Driscoll’s House of Cards

Mark Driscoll

Believe it or not, I take no pleasure in the flailings and failings of Christian leaders who hold dissimilar views to me. I’ve had my own failings, including divorce and foreclosure. And these failings have humbled me. I’m regularly told by friends and acquaintances, especially those who’ve not seen me for a few years, that I now seem more gentle, more humane. I attribute much of that to the love I’ve experienced, most notably from CourtneyDoug, and my family.

Mark Driscoll and I were never close. In the early days of proto-emergent, I was on the fringes and he was an intimidating figure in the inner circle. He made it abundantly clear that he had no respect for a youth pastor like me. By the time I made the inner circle, he’d left. I’ve attempted to correspond with him since — even to get together with him when I was in Seattle — with no success.

I say all that as prelude to the buzz that’s been making the rounds this week. A pastor who was fired by Mark a few years ago, and the pastor’s spouse, have gone public with their story. It is, I think you will agree, a chilling story. It’s full of intrigue, and could easily devolve into a gossipy sin feast.

But that’s not why I’m posting it.

I am posting it because I think it’s a cautionary tale. I think, as my headline indicates, that the particular theology that Mark Driscoll has embraced since he left the emergent posse (n.b., he was not a Calvinist when I met him in 1998) is untenable. John Piper excommunicates his son, C.J. Mahaney is removed from leadership because he is jerk to his colleagues, and now it turns out that Mark Driscoll has fired pastors and elders who had the gall to question his leadership.

When you read this story, make note of this: Paul and Jonna Petry are not liberals. They didn’t go off-message. That’s not why they were fired, excommunicated, and shunned. Their website is rife with the theological language of Calvinism, language that I and some readers won’t find compelling (e.g., spiritual warfare, “biblical eldership”). Paul Petry was not only a pastor, but also a practicing attorney. Petry expressed concern that Driscoll was having the by-laws rewritten to consolidate his power. Petry was fired, and shunned.

Our theologies have consequences. My hope is that Paul and Jonna Petry — and others like them — will reconsider their theological predispositions in light of what’s happened to them at Mars Hill. I hope that they will seek a theology that is more loving, open, and progressive.

Fired Mars Hill Church Pastor Releases History

Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

Those who do not remember the past will have it rewritten for them.

Well, not in this case. Not anymore. Four and half years ago, I was fired from Mars Hill Church because I refused to resign under pressure. I was a pastor on staff, an elder, and an officer of the corporation along with a group of other men.   I spent months seeking formal reconciliation and years hoping for a better course.   I have not spoken about these matters publicly until now. With the mounting stories and “histories” coming out regarding Mars Hill Church, it no longer seems right or beneficial to remain silent.

This website serves as a depository, a historical record of the events I and others  experienced at that time - including documents, written correspondence, and personal narrative - with the hope that greater love and reformation will emerge    and transcend our weaknesses and failures.

READ MORE AT JOYFUL EXILES

  • http://www.winter60.blogspot.com Lausten North

    Thanks for the personal disclosure and the inside info on Mark. I haven’t pursued him much, I listened to one YouTube of his about the book “The Shack”. I have reasons for not liking that book, but his reasons were classic theology that I also don’t like. From the few presentations I have seen by him, he seems to be about the “look” and not about exploring spirituality. I get the sense he goes home to relax and takes off the faded jeans and puts on a 3 piece suit, to be comfortable.

    This fake progressiveness usually comes out at the leadership level. When people are taken in by the show, but when they get close to the leader and try to act like the type of leader Mark says he is, they find out he is just another guy on a power trip.

    • Leslie

      The Shack was written by William P. Young, not Mark Driscoll. Just wanted to clarify.

  • Sarah

    I never cease to be amazed at how people, no matter how well-meaning, splash every intimate detail of their lives (and others’) on the internet. As weird as this dude Mark may be, posting a 14-page personal history (I skimmed to the end to find that detail; did not read it) that includes full names of multiple players is also extremely weird. Maybe this community needs to deal with the drama, but does the world? I know I don’t need it.

    • http://tonyj.net Tony Jones

      That’s a good point, Sarah. It is amazingly revealing. Makes for uncomfortable reading.

    • Joel

      I agree with you in theory, but the reality is that Driscoll (and his extensions through Mars Hill and Acts 29) is now an international figure. Hundreds of thousands (if not millions) are reading his material, watching his sermons, and trying to emulate his church.
      The devil is in the details, as they say, and if people are willing to put Driscoll on a pedestal to be worshipped, they need to see that there are more details to the story that what is presented by his public persona. His actions and decisions (and theology) have real consequences that have hurt hundreds (if not thousands) of people. A more detailed re-telling of the story will leave less room to accuse one of sensational reporting or hearsay.

      • Brett

        I totally agree. At some point I had a hard time following her story because she didn’t provide much proof other than what her and her husband claimed happened. I don’t want to doubt these people’s story but without corroboration or at least some proof all it is is just here-say. Who is to say that this guy isn’t just a disgruntled employee who is mad. I just wish they had more evidence than personal stories.

    • Jim Henderson

      You ought to read the entire thing. She deserves at least that much before being categorized as being out of line for printing it

    • April

      Sarah, this is my observation about the internet: There is now a much higher level of accountability.

  • Patrick Moore

    I am with you on hoping the Petry’s rethink their theological commitments. Throughout reading their story I kept thinking, “Leave the damn church.” These stories are complicated: people with big “belonging needs”; a church and pastor providing black and white answers to people in a life cycle of ambiguity; and the fun to be in the inner-circle of an organization riding a success wave.

    • http:/dancingpastthedark.com Nan Bush

      Perceptive points, nicely deflecting from the gossip character of the Petry piece.

  • Phil Miller

    There really isn’t very much in the way of what I’d call “intimate details” in that document. Most of the details have to do with the internal politics of the church, and, really, even though it could come across as over the top, I can understand why people involved in these things want to tell their stories. Spiritual abuse is a very real thing, and it deserves to be brought to light. People who are abusive, regardless of the type of abuse, thrive on their victims being silent or convincing them that if they do speak up no one will believe them.

    • Phil Miller

      Upon further review of that site, there are a lot of personal emails and thinks linked on the sidebar that I didn’t see before. I don’t think putting all those up is all that helpful. I was referring only to the 14-page PDF in my comment.

      It seems to me that there’s a tone of desperation in the whole site. It’s very sad, really.

  • http://adammclane.com adam mclane

    I find the whole thing so disturbing. And for those just getting exposed to it, know that (at least from what I’ve seen) people sharing stories with all the details have gone to every extreme to avoid this outcome. From what I can tell, the Petry’s and others who have shared, are only doing so because they don’t know how else to warn others who might be in the path of being hurt.

    The thing that shocked me most was that at no point did the staff take any sliver of ownership for the pain they had caused. No matter how many times Paul genuflected to their power they ALWAYS blamed him. Even when he had no idea why he’d been fired… it was all his fault.

    I don’t wish any ill will on the people of Mars Hill. I still remain hopeful that God’s grace will prevail and they’ll deal with the problems that have been brought up. Sadly, the pattern that has emerged is that they’ll just assign this to their PR manager to deal with.

  • John

    I’m a pastor – I’m encouraged by other pastors who go through struggles and transitions, personal failures, and oppression, challenges and mountains of circumstance that could cause the disengagement from faith altogether, but, instead, their hearts warm to a loving God, Jesus, alive to save, redeem, and rebuild from hurt or nothing at all.

    I have only heard rumors of Mark Driscoll, confusing him with a Trumpet player from the 80′s, and at other times confusing Mars Hill with the one in Michigan.

    My heart goes out to his congregation. Spare the rod, spoil the child, often creates an ecclesiology of beating the sheep, when the rod is meant to guide the sheep and fight off wolves.

    I feel your tension with the encouragement of reading the blog, feeling like a boundary-less participant in a triangulation within an unhealthy family system. Ironically, these kinds of suppressive systems don’t encourage counseling from trained LPC’s, which passively throws salt on the wound, creating scars instead of recovery.

    May Jesus be lifted high, may his Kingdom come, his landless, selfless, deathless, upside-down kingdom that only invites rebirth to innocence through the denial of power and ambitious prosperity. May the enemy accuser be bound from planting or using the lies that dehumanize and may the Church be forgiven from the black eye of dysfunctional churches. May the forgiveness of Jesus actually break the power of sin and shame and reclaim the lives of the abused.

  • Bobby

    What a mess but I’m not surprised. Some people want a king and don’t want to accept that any king they exalt will be flawed. A better letter would have just said we were naive…entrusted a king,… bought into it until we got on the shitlist and now we are angry and letting everyone know. The wise among us never buy into such empires.
    Still, the whole leave the judgment to God thing…nah…if injustice was done then take it to the courts.

  • http://urbanmennoniteblog.com Ryan

    Sometimes Driscoll angers me. Other times I actually pity him. I think he is doing what he genuinely feels is the right godly thing to do. He’s just never been held accountable and quickly rose to power because of his speaking skills. Now he has too much power and not enough maturity to know what to do with it, so he continues to rule with an iron fist to make sure he doesn’t lose that power. Like you, Tony, one part of me wants to see such a harmful theology fall apart in spectacular fashion, sending a message to others, but I also don’t ever like to see the kind of pain that is inevitable once that house of cards falls.

    I always feel sorry for those who are trapped within his church. They want an easy Christianity where one man (not a woman) tells them what to do. They don’t want to think or actually be challenged, just beat down enough to feel like they’re following the right rules and believing the right doctrines to qualify as a good Christian. And then Driscoll encourages that and applauds that it is true Christianity so it makes it even harder for them to ever grow beyond that.

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

    To be honest, there’s actually a part of me that loves to see Mark’s house of cards crumble down. It’s as if I’m somehow being avenged for all of spiritual abuse I’ve gone through in the past.

    (Not by Mark, I should point out, since I’ve never set foot inside Mars Hill in my life. But I’ve known plenty of people like Mark. In fact, I almost married into a family of Marks!)

    But just like you, Tony, I’ve had my fair share of failings, so I don’t want anything I say about Mark to bite me in the ass later on.

  • Kenton

    We imitate the God we worship. When a spiritual leader teaches of a God who kicks @$$ and takes names, it should be no surprise when he does the same.

    • Chris

      I wonder who imitates the gossipy, shrill, & sarcastic god?

      • JoeyS

        Sarcasm begets sarcasm.

      • Kenton

        Whom are you calling out for being gossipy, shrill and sarcastic???

      • Headless Unicorn Guy

        “Imitating the gossipy, shrill, and sarcastic god” is just the passive-aggressive version of “imitating a god who kicks ass and takes names”. A lot more common in churches, a lot easier to camouflage when its a sweet smile and a knife in the back than going face-to-face and beating you up. Much more Church Lady. At least Driscoll and his ilk are more direct — “I CAN BEAT YOU UP! I CAN BEAT YOU UP! I CAN BEAT YOU UP!”

  • JoeyS

    I read the whole of the wife’s letter. That is heartbreaking. My broken heart and contrite spirit hopes for reconciliation here. Unfortunately, if this comes to a head somebody, maybe even Driscoll, is bound to suffer.

  • Nate

    I was just reading a book by Dan B. Allender called “Leading with a Limp.” In it he writes, “This is the strange paradox of leading: to the degree you attempt to hide or dissemble your weakness, the more you will need to control those you lead, the more insecure you will become, and the more rigidity you will impose – prompting the ultimate departure of your best people.” Maybe I simply project my own failures on others, but I do feel for Mark. It seems that a culture of perfection has been created and there is no room for grace or failure (not that these people appear to have “failed”). It’s sad. I agree with Tony. The theologies do have consequences.

  • jc

    i’m always hesitant to draw conclusions from reading someone’s account like this. obviously, i wasn’t there, and we’re only getting one side of the story.

    • rick

      What you wrote is somewhat true about one side of the story. However, I just spent several hours reading everything on the site (as a pastor, spiritual abuse is an issue I take incredibly seriously).

      They provide in (incredible detail) correspondence from both sides, communication from the church elders to members, and more. It might not be the complete story, but it’s definitely not “just one side.”

      • http://tonyj.net Tony Jones

        Rick, I agree with you there. There is an abundance of evidence, even if some pieces are missing.

        • http://18thandfairfax.wordpress.com Bo Eberle

          I’ve corresponded with one of the Mars Hill pastors, Brad House, on twitter some (@PBHouse) to get a reaction or rebuttal to no avail.

    • Curtis

      Well, Driscoll’s side of the story is easy enough the find. He has massive website archives and a huge YouTube presence, his books land him interviews on major TV networks, and he gets to say whatever he wants from his internationally-broadcast pulpit whenever he wants to. This new blog may be one of the few times when we actually get to hear both sides of the story.

  • Nathan

    Amazing how this Paul kind kept a constant posture of submission and still had the crap kicked out if him.

  • JoeyS

    Here is a series of clips from the sermon he preached the day he fired Paul: http://www.youtube.com/user/ReallySad1

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

    Thank you for this genuinely Christian sharing. It doesn’t come off as a “rub in in their face” screed, but rather as a true cautionary tale motivated by an authentic love for all parts of the Church. Indeed, our theologies do have consequences and the people of Mars Hill and the related “Acts 29″ churches that they’ve birthed across the nation are experiencing it.

    That said, I think it’s overstating things to say that Mark’s house of cards is falling down. Granted, he’s received some harsh (and needed) blow-back in the past year, but it isn’t clear that his ministry is in decline at this point.

    Here’s a blog I wrote about the previous scandal that Mark generated a few months ago. “Why Mark Driscoll needs an Elephant.” http://www.patheos.com/blogs/faithforward/2012/01/why-mark-driscoll-needs-an-elephant/

    Thank you for this blog and for your increasingly loving spirit Tony.

    Roger

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

      I’ll add that, as I argued in my book Kissing Fish, we tend to live out our beliefs about the God that we worship. If we believe in a wrathful, angry, punishing God, that is how we’ll live. That said, Driscoll, Piper, et al add to it their own unique neuroses to manifest things in the particular ways that they do.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy

        If we believe in a wrathful, angry, punishing God, that is how we’ll live.

        And the more “wrathful, angry, and punishing” we become (especially to our inferiors), the more Godly we become.

        That does explain the Taliban and Handmaid’s Tale

  • Jim Henderson

    as someone who actually lives in Seattle and has been following Driscoll for close to 10 years, Jonna’s story is the most credible piece of information to emerge. She is no gossip and her husband is no fool (attorney). They waited for years weighing the painful consequences of telling the truth against the damage Driscoll is doing. Speaking for myself. I view Driscoll as an untreated sex addict who is triangulating thousands of young people into his addiction. Everything else flows from that. His presenting problem is that he’s a bully who leads his leadership like he leading a gang. He is dangerous straight up. You don’t coddle addicts/bullies you call them to repent. If they don’t you intervene. Thats what Jonna has done (please note that it’s a woman whose doing the leading ) and she ought to be commended for it. check http://www.ismarkdriscollabully.com

    • http://tonyj.net Tony Jones

      Thanks for your comment, Jim. And for your new book — it looks great!

      • Jim Henderson

        Thanks Tony and thanks for standing up for Rachels’ Vagina” Campaign :-)

    • http://adammclane.com adam mclane

      Wow. I’ve never quite heard someone apply the labels like that. Is this a theory or a bonafide fact?

      • Luke Allison

        I think I recall Jim saying something like that back in Jim and Casper go to Church.

        There does certainly seem to be an obsessive/addictive quality to Driscoll’s personality.

      • Jim Henderson

        hunch based on 40 years of observation. Some up close and personal and others just watching all the power guys go down that the rest of you have watched. Actually its pretty easy to predict.

    • http://marshillrefuge.blogspot.com Sophia

      I actually agree with Jim on this one…and I am also an ex Mars Hill person who told my story. I have been told multiple times how Mark’s sexual addiction plays out in counseling sessions with couples.

      And, Jim’s book Resignation of Eve is awesome!

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      I’ve long suspected “Bee Jay” Driscoll is sexually obsessed, possibly even a male nymphomaniac. His “Visions (TM)”, Song of Solomon sermons, and Sex books are just a Christianese-acceptable form for it to come out. He might not even be aware he is indulging his obsession that way. He might be trying to self-indulge, self-medicate, and self-treat all at the same time — he’s a CELEBRITY Megachurch Leader, and cannot admit any flaw or problem or weakness. Especially when you factor in his control-freak hypermasculinity.

      And one day it’s all gonna blow sky-high. Some day, he’s going to crash and burn hard, probably in some sort of sex scandal.

    • JR

      This is sad. How can you recklessly speculate on somebody’s sex life like this?

  • http://thepracticeofbeauty.blogspot.com/ David Bunker

    Why are we surprised at this outcome when power is amassed at such a young age & with such personality flair and expressiveness? Conversely, there is downward slope to Christ’s example. It is a foot washing posture, a life of walking away from the opportunities for mobilizing forces, riches, notoriety or even causing an insurrection, etc. As one “around” the early days of the emergent world, I saw that stuff coming down the pipeline with Mark. Truth is, we all want the primetime spotlight and when we get it early on, it is an addictive elixir we guzzle like a street drunk wasted on cheap tequila. My heart ached with this women’s recollection as I feel in my own chest the weightiness of any man or women bearing the load of acting God-like to others (i.e. Mark D.). As a preacher’s kid and a lifelong ministry person, I am so grateful for a group of men & women (my community) who have loved me in & through my brokenness. Mark is missing a life of laughable self forgetting as his brothers and sisters see his weakness & love him still. Oh that he might find that place of safety and freedom.

  • megan

    The current state of the Pipers and Driscolls of the world sort of remind me of the current state of the Republican party. I’m reminded of when a Republican debate audience applauded the idea of letting someone without health insurance die. I grant that’s the logical extension of the positions that (some) Republicans have taken. But if you find your positions lead you to an absurd, heartless, joyless place–for God’s sake, reevaluate your positions! Instead, it seems like a race to embrace the most ridiculous thing possible in order to prove that you’re the most committed person to your principles.

    I’m not Republican, but a robust, common sense Republican voice in politics would enrich the discussion. I’m not a Calvinist, but a robust, common sense Calvinist voice in theology would enrich the discussion. We all lose. Not to mention that in the meantime, people are getting run over in the name of Jesus…

  • http://www.thestevechastain.com Steve Chastain

    He’s a sad, sad little man. But having served at Saddleback, most “pastors” with this much power are all the same. Sad little men in big churches with huge egos.

    The ego of a mega-church pastor (youth pastor, music pastor, etc) knows no bounds. And if you think I’m using a broad brush to paint with… you are right.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      Notice the picture that leads off this posting.

      With Comrade Dear Leader’s larger-than-life face on the repeater telescreen behind him.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    At my church, a new church that I joined after its founding but while still holding services in a school gym, I was a trustee, hosted the website, head teller (I counted the money each week), head of finance, I hosted the website, and I would talk during services (and gave more than a bit of money too). I would tell people, each week, that we had different rules and would not vote, we promised that we would keep the facility open for those who needed to pray, we would not take giving into account and keep it from the pastor, we would not pass the plate. We would be a different kind of church.

    After we finally built a building, things changed. We would not keep the church open. I was delayed and delayed when trying to get a second bible study that it would have to wait until we had more room. Once we had a building they insisted that we did not have the room (we did). We never met anymore to figure out what to do, the Pastor and two of the trustees would do it all.

    There were some serious rifts in what the church strategy would look like and we did not have one. So I wrote one and gave it to a bunch of the active people in the church.

    You would have thought that I told the old folks to worship the devil. You see, it was all a sham. We were not a new kind of church, we had a constitution that required all sorts of things around voting and membership and different levels of membership. What they did was keep those documents from everyone and lie about the nature of the church.

    I resigned my positions and told them that I wanted to address the congregation, they threatened me with a lawsuit and issued a no trespassing warrant so I could not go on the church property.

    Churches can be sooooooo evil.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      Welcome to the Body of Christ.

      “And they’ll know we are Christians by our Love, by our Love,
      Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our Love…”

  • Luke Allison

    In the wife’s document I see a few things: 1. When you get to that level of notoriety/leadership/fame, the Howard Hughes effect seems to kick in
    2. It’s only natural that an entire movement that stresses the glory of God at the expense of broken people would plug their ears and ignore the cries from the wounded. After all, those wounded very well could be distractions planted by the enemy to throw the faithful remnant off course
    3. This is clearly a different side of Driscoll than we see in his congenial good ol’ boy demeanor on things like the Elephant Room
    4. I can’t help but notice that nothing like this has come out about John Macarthur ever, regardless of my general disagreement with his theology. Maybe he’s an example of how to do the Calvinist thing without becoming a paranoid alpha dog.

  • Jeff Straka

    Sadly, micro versions of this saga play out everyday in churches large and small, progressive and conservative. I think there’s good reason why Jesus kept his group small, intimate, organic and non-institutional. (Include some of the Nag Hammadi gospels into your readings and this is simply reinforced.) The path of kenotic love (the path of the Heart) requires it.

  • Tom S

    It’s no wonder that the younger generation is disenchanted with the “institutional” church. This is gut wrenching. As a youth minister for 25 years in 4 churches, I can say that every senior pastor I’ve worked with, with the exception of one has had these characteristics. Two years ago our church split in half as a result of it. It’s tiring and hurtful. I appreciated how Paul and his wife at least attempted to practice Matthew 18. Jesus had a few things to say about power too.

    • Jim Henderson

      killer observation from a veteran… wow
      “As a youth minister for 25 years in 4 churches, I can say that every senior pastor I’ve worked with, with the exception of one has had these characteristics.”

  • Elane

    Tony, I hear your disappointment and dismay, that kind of “but he was always quiet and polite” the neighbors say after a parent slaughters his family. I don’t think the theology created the monster (not Driscoll, but the culture). I believe that abusers seek their places of power and set up systems to maintain and conceal that power. My brother Jim (above) compared it to sex addiction. But the culture that this situation reveals is much more like the complicity and cooperation that happens in an abusive family.

    No surprise, given the avarice and anger in his books. Had he not found the church, he would have found another place to abuse, to belittle, to bludgeon and betray. He would have created — not a theology — but a coach’s “win at all cost”, a father’s family code, a politician’s favoritism (for lack of a better word). The theology, coaching, code, favoritism, whatever are what manages and maintains the culture.

    Which is why liberals can do it too.

    • Jim Henderson

      Couldn’t agree more – not theology but power

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  • Matt

    I think your premise is false. I’ve been part of a large Arminian denomination that is all about “love” with the same spiritual abuse issues. It has nothing to do with Calvinism although you’d like to make it about that. Having been down this road, I can say that it has everything to do with church government, power issues, refusal to be accountable (by and large). This can happen in a Reformed church, an Arminian one, or a liberal one…

  • http://marshillrefuge.blogspot.com/p/our-story.html Sophia

    Tony,

    I am another person who spoke out and told my story about my experience at Mars Hill, although it was quite uneventful compared to the Petrys’. I will say that my experience has caused me to question my theology quite a bit. It does not mean, that at the end of that questioning, that I will necessarily change all of it, but just the process of questioning what I believe and why has been good, challenging and healthy. Here are some things I have questioned:

    1) Calvinism…do I really view God this way?
    2) Complimentarian vs. egalitarian…Does God really see women as second class citizens? (Still reading Resignation of Eve and it is challenging)
    3) The way we do church and whether or not I want to be a part of it
    4) Is the church really emulating the character of Jesus and living a Spirit led life? Or is the church emulating the Pharisees who crucified Him?
    5) Why do I prefer to hang out with non believers, and why are they so much nicer and less judgmental than Christians?

    Having been raised in the church, I have never had my foundations “shake”…but I trust in a good and loving God that allowed Thomas to touch his bloody palms. I also believe that God loves me even if I get some of the answers wrong on the theology quiz.
    I have also come to the conclusion that all the labels we put on ourselves detract from our focus…Are you Calvinist, Wesleyan or Arminian? Comp or Egal? Pretrib or post trib? Emergent? Modalist? Charismatic? I think God laughs at us quite a bit. These are the wrong questions…

  • Matt

    Again, having been down this road I’ll say this. Biblically, churches are autonomous. Churches that are part of a denomination, or a “ministry” or “multi-site” church or a “non-denominatial denomination” and then overseen by a central church or authority will fall into this trap that Driscoll and Mars Hill has. For instance: Mahaney was the founder of Sovereign Grace churches and the power trip bug bit him. Driscoll was the founder of Mars Hill campuses and the same thing. Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel (Arminian) fame was the founder of their chain of thousands of churches – there have been tons of spiritual abuse issues within their numbers. The Roman Catholic church has had the same issues. The theme throughout – a governing set of laws that oversee a number of individual churches with a centralized authority that is NOT the local body of elders. That is not the way the Bible outlines church government. It’s authoritarianism. And that’s why this has happened. I’ve been in two church splits in Arminian churches for this very issue. It was due to authoritarianism, not Reformed theology.

    • Curtis

      I see what you are saying, but I’m not sure your theory holds up. Do we see the same level of abuse of power in mainline denominational churches — Lutheran, Anglican, Episcopalian, etc? Or maybe, the denominational structure in these bodies is fluid enough that when abuses of power do occur (and they do), the denominations are able to split and splinter, as they have throughout their history.

      While mainline denominations are centrally-controlled churches, they have enough fluidity to split on occasion and not remain rigidly monolithic like the Roman Catholic church. Perhaps it is their semi-rigid, more fluid structure that allows mainline denominations to occasionally, if slowly, adjust to abuses of power when the occur?

      • Curtis

        (I know Anglican and Episcopalian are the same, I was typing fast and didn’t give myself enough time to edit)

      • Rich

        The other thing to consider is that mainline churches aren’t generally very large compared to many evangelical churches. They’re a dying breed, and I don’t know of many (if any) mainline mega-churches. So it makes sense that abuses of power in mainlines would both be not as serious nor as prominent in the news.

        • Curtis

          It is true that mainline churches are generally smaller compared to many evangelical churches. So congregation size may be another important factor when developing a theory about what causes church abuse to spiral out of control.

          But I wouldn’t lable mainline church as a dead or dying breed just yet. They are still the preference of 15% of American adults — not an insignificant part of the U.S. church landscape. And they served a vital role in the establishment and development of the greatest country on earth, and the greatest democracy in human history. So there may be some important lessons to be gleened from them, even if it is post mortem!

          • Matt

            Also…one of the things that seems to be a theme is the person of Mark Driscoll. I don’t know the guy, I don’t dislike him. I even have some of his books. But by many accounts, he seems to be a guy who doesn’t take questioning well, does not take criticism well (at least not behind the scenes) to the point that he calls any questioning “sin,” which is a ridiculous statement. If people have legitimate questions, they should be answered – instead of being accused of having sinful attitudes. It’s an effective technique to silence your sheep, however.

            I think that really points the finger in the right direction – authoritarianism.

    • Frank

      I tend to agree with Matt. I don’t think the issue is Calvinism but authoritarian leadership structures without proper oversight. I now attend a Reformed church in a presbytery where the teaching pastor is mutually accountable to the non-teaching elders. It works well and fosters mutual love and grace between leaders and congregation.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy

        But Calvinism (like Islam) gives such a great justification for “authoritiarian leadership structures without proper oversight”. GOD! HATH! WILLED! IT!

        As Christian Monist put it, “you end up with a God who is Omnipotent but not benevolent.” And since Omnipotence Uber Alles sees God only as Infinite POWER, does it really surprise you that the Godly of such a God are into power trips?

    • Larry Barber

      If you look around a little, you won’t have any problem finding independent churches that have similar problems, or even worse. If you’re in an independent church there is no bishop to appeal to, and no standards to appeal to that are independent of the local church. Things can go seriously haywire in that kind of setup, too.

  • Adam L

    The main concern that I find popping up in the Emerging church is a kind of fear of church discipline (Stuart Murray wrote an excellent book on the subject) and accountability. Driscoll does not seem to be accountable to anyone and if he is he has probably forgotten.

    Another concern that I find exacerbates the situation is that preachers just preach and that is where the accountability begins and ends, it does not seem to flow into the rest of their lives it seems.

    I have a similar story and have been hurt by the church as well, but thankfully I discovered the 16th Century Anabaptists and the Quakers who definitly challenge me continually and inspire me to live with integrity by their example. I did not want to leave the church, but the other side did not seem to want to reconcile so what can you do?

  • Neal

    Looks like the site is now just a blank page …

    • Curtis

      Looks like Paul’s lawyer instincts probably got the better of him. Too bad, I’d say. In general, free speech is good for the goose AND the gander.

  • Frank

    It’s working for me.

    • Curtis

      Hit “refresh”. Oh wait, save it as a a full HTML site before you hit “refresh”! Some people may want to look through your archive!

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  • http://charlieschurchofchrist.wordpress.com Charlie’s Church of Christ

    Hey Tony I think many people would find it helpful if you, or someone else who knows, brought people up to speed on Driscoll’s involvement in the emerging movement. When I first heard of him that was the camp he was with, and then when I heard of him years later he was a new calvinist – and I don’t know any of the bits in between. So I’m curious how he became emergent and what happened that he went a very distinct and different direction.

    • http://tonyj.net Tony Jones

      I wrote about Driscoll’s falling out in chapter two of The New Christians. http://amzn.to/vGD3n8

      • http://charlieschurchofchrist.wordpress.com Charlie’s Church of Christ

        I don’t own that one yet, thanks for pointing that out!

  • http://quarterlifechristian.com Jeremy Stephens

    Thanks for your candid and open reflections. It is less often that the critiques of Driscoll and his ministry come from someone so connected and aware of the reality. It is easy and tempting, especially as a fellow blogger, to dive into criticisms or praise for church leaders from the nosebleed seats and have them crumble into a pile of emotion and attack. But from the dugout, you can use the situation more readily as a caution to others. I would be interested to hear of any updates in this.
    Thanks!

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  • Andrew Raymond

    Get a life, dont you have anything better to do than run another Christian in the ground publicly?

  • Scotty Newman

    We usually worship a god who looks like us (that is called idolotry) or we become like the God who is (Christlike). I look at the fruit Mark puts out (Jesus said in Matthew 7 that by their fruit you would know them) and sadly I see someone so akin to the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day. In Luke 10:29 a religious lawyer of Jesus day asked “Who is my neighbor?” This really hit me this week. It said that he was “seeking to justify himself”. It struck me that we all can seek to justify self by making Jesus like us. I sadly see Mark doing this. He thinks Jesus is like him, instead of trying to become more like Jesus.

  • Jason

    The bible is not the word of god.

  • Jacob

    I think that this is all a reminder that we must not put our hope in any man. Every man and woman fails , and does so quite frequently. We are an imperfect race because of sin so it should not come as a shock if someone, even a pastor, sins and messes up. Our hope must be in God and his perfect nature! Even if everything said about Mark is true, it is still on us as Christians to love our brother and forgive him

    • mike D

      you still have to be realistic, he is a pastor and as such is held to a higher standard because of his influence and effect on people. If i wrote a letter with a bunch of nonsense in it and sent it out to an entire church it would raise some eye brows but ultimately, if it was untrue, everyone would tell me to eff off and it would be over. Mark on the other hand has such power and influence that he needs to show more dissernment in what he publishes to that church.

  • caucazhin

    Im sorry but driscoll is a loveless, arrogant, self centered, self agrandizing NOTORIOUS PIG.
    I mean cmon ” who would jesus smack down ” ???

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/11/magazine/11punk-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

  • mike D

    the common cliche’d saying “there are three sides to every story, yours, mine, and the truth” rings true with all of this. I just have a few questions.
    1. when did joining a church become like joining the military? seems a bit ridiculous to have a a contract and a “members only” website for a church. There is ONE church and every church should reflect the ONE church, JESUS. If Jesus wants to enstate a “members only” website then i think he would have done that by now. but his website is the THE HOLY BIBLE, the most available and printed book on the planet.
    2. when did publicly humiliating someone or a family bring anyone closer to Christ? If this mark driscoll is so big on “family” then he should think of how this husband a wife’s kids would be affected by all of this and how he may have caused the children to lose respect or even dishonor their parents by hearing all of this. They trusted Mark (from what i read) and looked up to him. seems unecessary and actually more accurately the WORST way that this all could have been handeled. This seems like it was between Paul, Mark, & Jaime. I work for a very large corporation, recently my bosses boss (whom i respect and admire) was put on administrative leave, no one knows why. Why is that? because it is none of our damn business. The parties involved have a right to know, and no one else. So if Mr. Mark wants to run his church like a corporation (and from what i have read, that is exactly how its run) then he should take a few pages out of an HR handbook from a real corporation.
    3. When did the having closed door meetings for “executive elders” and having “trials” become, for lack of a more elaborate description, “a thing”? its like the G8 summit meeting. hahahaha its actually laughable. I am my own man, and have my own identity in Christ, and with my friends and family. If anyone wanted to make me sit in a room and grill me and patronize me like what was said in the letter, i would graciously give them a GIANT middle finger and let them know that i answer to ONE person. JESUS. and if they think i did something wrong, they can come to me and treat me like a man, not a witch from salem, and discuss their greivances or problems with me. Heck, lets get a beer and talk about it over a game of pool, not behind closed doors and like i am a defendant at the nuremburgh trials. I am man enough to say i am sorry when it is warranted, I can correct faults when someone brings it to my attention as long as they are coming to me in love, and maybe with a cold beer.

    Anyways thats just my two, maybe three cents.

    Love Jesus, love your wife, love your kids, and love the fact that this is what you have to worry about, not famine, starvation, civil war, your child being forced into being a child soldier, and love the fact that Jesus loves you back.

  • mike D

    oh and just a couple more cents. I actually LIKE watching Mark Driscolls videos on you tube and listening to his pod cast on the gospel of Luke. I find them to be uplifting, challenging, and edifying, and it really bums me out to read something like this. All that aside I do really feel like he has a problem with power. “If you want to test a man’s charachter, give him power.” Abraham Lincoln. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aVyFyauE4ig at 4 minutes exactly he tells a story about a woman he had a vision about when she walked by him. visions? really? where is this Biblical? but i digress. He says he saw a vision of this woman being abused by her husband and he says that she said, and i quote “thats it I’m telling the pastors”. Huh? really??? thats what she said? This is case-in-point text book narcisissm. SHE SHOULD BE CALLING THE POLICE NOT YOU DRISCOLL!!!! that is a crime not a church issue, you are not the police nor do you have any business dealing with something like this. Police train for YEARS to deal with spousal abuse and domestic distrurbances. After the asshole is taken into custody, and she is trying to heal from the abuse is when Mr. Mark should step in to play his part. I seriously doubt that anyone of your wives would say, after you hit them, “thats it!!! Ive had it!!! im telling the pastors!!!” no!!! they would say eff you, im picking up the phone and calling the police you abusive bastard. This is just laughable. really.

  • Philip

    I can’t comment about what the couple went through, but to say that Calvinism is at fault is about the same as saying that your loving, open and progressive emergent theology was the reason you got a divorce and that perhaps you and your former wife should check out New Calvinism since Piper and Driscoll are still married.

  • Bill Simmons

    Sounds to me like some folks that called out on obvious and blatant sin and didn’t like it so their trying to dismantle others in the process of their fall.
    Any counselor that believes in personal responsibility will not ask “What did they do to you?” and then lick your wounds for you. What a responsible, BIBLICAL counselor would ask is, “What did YOU do?” Or “What is YOUR sin?” Talking about someone else, while not seeking their benefit, is blatant gossip. Romans 1 gives me a very clear understanding of how God views this whole website.

  • Ian Docker

    Like many I’m not privy to all the facts in this matter. However, one thing seems to stand out, church leaders who want to go to “another level” In truth, sometimes its a lower level – no matter what the visual success – not a higher one.

  • matt

    Very sadly, men have a propensity to twist things towards violence. However, throwing a particular theology under the bus, in this case Calvinism, based on a person’s actions is classic ad hominem. I think we need to be careful to further the conversation and not the divide between brothers and sisters. Please keep in mind that over the centuries even our most basic, agreed-upon Christianity has been twisted toward godlessness but this would not change the truthfulness of our claim. Criticism of a theology requires thoughtful, loving, biblical critique rather than a critique based upon the failings of those espousing the theology.

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