Déjà Vu All Over Again: Mark Driscoll’s 2007 Apology

Yesterday, I reported that Mark Driscoll addressed his church regarding some of the controversies swirling around him. The tone of the letter posted on The City (Mars Hill’s private online community) was conciliatory but to some long time Mars Hill observers, disappointingly familiar. One can find similar themes in a November 11, 2007 sermon titled, The Rebel’s Guide to Joy in Humility. In the earlier sermon, Driscoll acknowledged, at times with more candor, some of the same things he told Mars Hill yesterday that he had just realized within the last two years. In 2007, Driscoll preached:

We’re calling tonight’s sermon “The Rebel’s Guide to Joy in Humility”. And I will start by saying I have no right to teach on this subject. I know many of you are probably thinking, “Pastor Mark is teaching us on humility. That’s funny.” I guess Brittany Spears will come in and do a parenting seminar at Mars Hill as well since we’re at it.

It comes up in the book and so I need to preach it. But let me say this, that in all honesty, having reflected on this, I believe that humility is the great omission and failure in my 11 years of preaching. I believe that this is my greatest oversight, both in my example and in my instruction. I therefore do not claim to be humble. I do not claim to have been humble. I’m convicted of my pride and I am a man who is by God’s grace pursuing humility. And so in many ways, this is a sermon that I’m preaching at myself. This is a sermon that you’re welcome to listen in on as I preach to myself. But I truly believe that were there one thing I could do over in the history of Mars Hill, it would be in my attitude and in my actions and in my words, to not only emphasize sound doctrine and courage and strength and commitment and conviction, but to add in addition to that, humility as a virtue.

And so I’ll start by [asking] your forgiveness and sincerely acknowledging that this has been a great failure.

Furthermore, I apologize and repent publically to you, the church, for whom I am responsible for much pride in the history of my ministry that some of you have poorly imitated. And for that, I’m deeply sorry. And thirdly, to say that I am not a humble man. But as result of study, I’m a man who is acknowledging his pride and pursuing humility by God’s grace.

I would have been someone up until very recently who would have said, “Well, I know my tone was bad and my tactics were bad and my attitude was bad and my actions were bad, but my objective was good, so” – the ends justify the means.

Paul would say, “No. It’s the motive and the method and the mission.” They all count. You can’t pursue a good thing in a bad way and expect God to be well pleased. That in addition to a good cause, you must have the humility to go about it in a good way.

Here’s the bottom line. Your name really doesn’t matter that much. My name really doesn’t matter that much. Our name, Mars Hill Church, really doesn’t matter that much. The name of Jesus, that matters. That matters, because Jesus is wonderful. Jesus is good. And Jesus is loving and gracious and merciful and kind. And Jesus is sinless and Jesus is God who became a man who lived humbly and allowed us to murder him, and he rose in victory to give us new life. And he has been exalted and he is worthy of our speaking of his name honorably, gladly and humbly and continually.

You will be miserable if you live for the glory of your own name. I will be miserable if I live for the glory of my own name. We will be miserable if we live for the glory of the name of our church or our ministry or our organization or our mission. Above all of that must be the name of Jesus, which means that the right answer to every question is this – “What will exalt the name of Jesus? What will make Jesus look good, because Jesus is good?”

Now I tell you this in great sorrow because I have not told you this enough and I have not demonstrated it well. I have failed you in that regard.

In conclusion, I apologize for my failure to both exemplify humility and to emphasize it in my instruction. Furthermore, I am exceedingly glad that Jesus is our God. And in that, I find much hope for our future.

I love you guys, and I believe that this issue of humility is the defining issue for the next season of our church. The question is not, “Will we grow?” The question is, “Will we grow in humility?” I pray that we do.

When one compares this sermon to the letter from yesterday, it appears that he acknowledged more and and apologized for more in 2007. It also seems as though the issues haven’t changed that much in seven years.


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