The Storm at Mars Hill Church: Mark Driscoll Explains It All

Apparently for a series titled Men Stepping Up, Mark Driscoll explains what happened in 2006-2007 and why the by-laws had to be changed and why good men had to be sacrificed. Watch:

(Note: predictably, the video has been made private. See the transcript below for what Driscoll said).

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Transcript:

I don’t know what the most courageous thing I’ve ever done is. I know the one thing that was one of the hardest was, the church was growing, it had exploded, it had grown to, I think, maybe six thousand. So it made it one of the largest, fastest growing churches in America in one of the least churched cities, and in a conversation one night it was just up in our bedroom on a couch we were visiting, Grace and I were talking about past relationships and just kind of a casual conversation and we’d been together at that point for maybe seventeen, eighteen years or something. I mean we’d been together a while between dating and marriage. And she just explained to me a few occasions where she had been sexually assaulted, raped, and abused. Prior to my meeting her I just broke and I just started weeping, thinking that I had not known that about my wife, and she just said it matter of factly, like she was just reading the script of someone else’s life. And there was no emotion in her, and I could tell she didn’t even really understand what she had just explained. That sort of led to a season of me really getting to know her, and her getting to know her past, and us getting to know Jesus in a deeper way.

It was around that time I could just tell that she’s gonna need me available more. Emotionally present more, we just had our 5th child. So the timing’s not great. We just decided to go multi-site in video, cause we had outgrown our location and everybody’s looking and all the critics are around and is this gonna make it? A couple of things combined at that season as well, overwork and stress and everything else. I fatigued my adrenal glands, I was in a bad place health-wise, was not sleeping. It was a pretty dark time for me, and I told Grace, “For me to recover, for you to recover, for us to build our friendship, I feel like we’re kind of at that watershed moment where our marriage is gonna get better or it’s gonna get colder, and you’ve really opened yourself up and I need to love and serve you better and pursue you more.”

I said so I got to change the church. I mean all the way down, I have to rewrite the Constitution, bi-laws, I got to let some people go. I have to put in place some hard performance reviews. I’ve got to be willing to lose a lot of relationships, endure criticism, preach less times, hand off more authority, and I said I don’t know if the church is going to make it and I don’t know if I’m going to make it.

I told Grace, I said “I’m going to give it one year, and if it doesn’t get fixed, I’m going to quit, because you’re more important to me than ministry, and I feel like if I quit right now, the church will probably die, and there’s all these thousands of people that met Jesus.” I said “So we’re either going to change it or I’m going to quit, but we’re not going to do this forever and you’re my priority,” and that led to everything that I feared, quite frankly.

It was really brutal, and I couldn’t tell the story at the time of and here’s why- because Grace is really hurting, and I love her, and I’m broken, and we need to pull back and make some course corrections because it’s Grace’s story to tell, and she wasn’t ready at that point to tell that story, and I had no right to tell that story for her.

And so everybody got to speculate for years what the motive was, “oh he’s power hungry, he’s controlling, he wants to take over, he doesn’t love people, you know he’s just a bully.” And no, it’s actually he’s broken and his wife is hurting and the church is gonna probably literally kill him or put him in the hospital and his wife needs him right now, so he’s gotta make some adjustments. So, you know, by the grace of God, we weathered that storm.

This is a similar narrative to the one he tells in Real Marriage on pages 16-18(1):

As Grace began working on her root issues, I hit the wall physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. I had been working way too many hours a week for more than a decade as the church exploded and became one of the largest and fastest growing in the nation, in one of the least-churched cities. I wrote books and spoke at conferences, traveling to make extra income so Grace could stay home with our children.

My pay was still low, we had nothing in savings, and we accrued a bit of debt— in a city where the cost of living was high. I preached as many as seven times a Sunday for more than an hour each time, year in and year out, nearly every week of the year, until my adrenal glands and thyroid fatigued, and I finally came to the end of myself in my midthirties. I was breaking, and it seemed there was no help, relief, or sympathy. My veneer of tough, self-reliant husband without any needs was gone. I really needed my wife in ways I had never told her and she was surprised to hear. I needed a new life. I did not need a new job, but a new plan for that job . I also needed a new marriage, but wanted to have a new marriage with the same spouse. So we cleaned up the church, lost around one thousand people due to changes amid intense criticism, laid off a lot of people (many of whom were great), and decided everything would change or we would walk. I refused to die from stress or destroy my marriage and family for the sake of “religious” people and outgrown organizational systems. I found a good doctor and did what I was told to rebuild my health.

I am not unsympathetic to Driscoll. While adrenal gland fatigue is not a real diagnosis, he obviously was burned out and needed time off. He needed some family leave time. I don’t know if he asked for time off or not but in hindsight, he should have had a sabbatical. Perhaps the situation now would be different if he had. Perhaps it’s not too late to take that advice now.

What is striking about this narrative is the self-focus. Instead of “men stepping up” perhaps this video should be named “men stepping on” others. The implication is that the damage to others (culture of fear, lay-offs, firings, shunnings, the pile of dead bodies under the Mars Hill bus) was necessary because Mark and Grace Driscoll needed time to repair themselves and their marriage. Driscoll wasn’t a bully; that infernal church was going to kill him so he had to act first and “make some adjustments.” But praise be, the Driscolls weathered the storm.

Or did they? Given recent events, I would disagree with Driscoll on that. It seems more accurate now to say that the storm was postponed and the “adjustments” refuse to be adjusted. A significant number of people who have been raising issues about Mars Hill point back to the 2006-2007 years when the church went from an elder led church to the corporate model in place today as the source of current unrest. The storm continues.

(1)Driscoll, Mark; Driscoll, Grace (2012-01-03). Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, and Life Together (pp. 16-17). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

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