My thoughts on the latest round of Mark Driscoll and Acts 29 controversy

My thoughts on the latest round of Mark Driscoll and Acts 29 controversy August 9, 2014

mark driscollAs most of you may have heard by now, Acts 29 has removed Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church from their network of churches, stating,

 “It is our conviction that the nature of the accusations against Mark, most of which have been confirmed by him, make it untenable and unhelpful to keep Mark and Mars Hill in our network. In taking this action, our prayer is that it will encourage the leadership of Mars Hill to respond in a distinctive and godly manner so that the name of Christ will not continue to be dishonored.”

There were two different forms of communication from Acts 29 about this decision, one of which was not intended to be made public, but was immediately leaked and placed in full on several Christian sites, as has happened before.

Within hours, a response from Mars Hill’s board was written and sent to a private church members list, and was predictably and immediately shared on the same Christian sites.

When God calls leadership he does so with a view to them representing Him in a loving and caring way. When He has gifted people to such an extent that they become a strong influence, He expects them to represent Him even more. With such a position comes great responsibility. When that responsibility does not get handled properly, people get hurt. This certainly seems to have been the case with what has happened over years in Mars Hill Church.

I feel for the brothers and sisters who have been hurt. I feel for leaders who have made mistakes. I feel for our brothers and sisters all around the world who are affected by this. I feel for our Faith, which seems to be under attack from all sides.

The situation at hand is real, and it is raw, and it must be dealt with.

The big question for us to consider is how should we all respond as Christians, especially those of us who do not have a direct stake in these events.

Firstly, I think it is vital that often we should choose not to take sides. When a ministry disagreement is taking place, it is not at all helpful for us to “pile in” shouting “fight, fight, fight!” and adding our own metaphorical punches.

Nor should we be surprised when such splits happen. It is not as though, for example, that Paul and Barnabas’ argument was a pleasant thing. We are told it was a sharp disagreement. But, when it became clear that this could not be resolved, they went their separate ways. A bit of distance is often the healthiest response when ministry relationships break down. This may feel hard to achieve in the world of social media where you can “follow” someone who you should be giving some wise space to.

Emotional entanglements sometimes need a bit of calm and room to work through. It is a bit like dating. I can only imagine how much Facebook and Twitter can contribute to causing the wounds of a break-up to fester. Surely the advice to those suffering from a relational break-up, whether it be romantic or ministry-related, is to block that social media account, at least for a while.

Also, as far as we know the respective followers of Paul and Barnabas didn’t write articles for and against their positions on the 1st century equivalent of Twitter or Facebook. There are some disputable matters in all controversies, even when the main points seem clear cut. Outsiders can never fully understand what has really gone on.

In the 21st century pastors are subject to a form of scrutiny that has never existed before. Every word a pastor says in private can now be reproduced online for the world to see. Words written in some online forum in a moment of angry foolishness are also preserved for decades, and can be used against you at a convenient moment.

This sounds rather like what Jesus taught when He said, “what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops” (Luke 12:3).  Jesus was of course talking about the final day, when the One innocent and righteous Judge will judge all things. On the Internet, judgment is often passed by people who have no concept of what it is like to carry the pressures of being a pastor, and who themselves are far from perfect.

Before rushing to judgment against any pastor we should ask ourselves, “What if everything I had said or done in private were to be made public? Would I stand up under such scrutiny? What if that included things I had said decades ago?”

We should all be concerned about this. I am witnessing a growing and worrying tendency for everybody to be surrounded by their own personal paparazzi.  You cannot go to a party these days without someone posting a photo of you on Facebook. You have lunch with someone, and the chances are good they will tweet about it.  Much of this is harmless, but if published unwisely without reference to the context, these things have the potential to be easily misunderstood, and may even be harmful.

Increasingly the scrutiny that the famous are all too used to is being focused on everybody. People today will find more and more that they cannot get away with the things our forefathers used to be able to get away with.

Mark Driscoll has become perhaps the leading target for intense criticism among Christians online. There are many who are reporting and promoting controversy after controversy. Some seem like they would only be happy if he quit preaching altogether.

Driscoll himself accepts that he has made a number of mistakes over the years. He acknowledges that many of the criticisms are accurate. He has withdrawn from social media for a season of personal reflection. He has engaged in an ongoing process to bring about change in how Mars Hill is led. Surely there comes a time when outside Christians who were never part of the church should for a season allow him, the leaders and members of Mars Hill, and their board of accountability to have the space to work all this out together.

If we were to examine the lives of great preachers of the past as closely as we do today, we would also see great flaws. What of the intense rows between Whitfield and Wesley, or for that matter the overly harsh way that the Apostle Paul treated Barnabas and Mark?

We live in a fallen world. If we examine our pastors under the microscope, we should not be surprised if we find out that they are also fallen, and that they are a work in progress.

Driscoll has now made something of a habit of giving public apologies for a whole list of his errors from the past. But what those of us who are not currently close to Driscoll cannot judge is to what extent these apologies have led to real, sustained change. The leaders of Acts 29 presumably feel that Driscoll has not changed sufficiently. One can only assume that if their form of church government allowed Acts29 to fire him they would have. But in common with many church groupings, the only significant form of discipline they can meet out is to remove the church as a whole from their affiliation, as they do not have any formal power over the churches in their network.

Many Evangelicals uphold the idea that the local church should be an independent body, which may ask for advice from outside, but is ultimately autonymous. Local churches may be congregational, where all members voting is the ultimate decision-making body, or elder-led, where the body of elders make spiritual decisions. In both cases there will also be a board, often comprising of elders. And in fact, the methods of government are more overlapping than you think. In an elder-led church, the people will only ever be led by consent, and if they strongly disagree, their vote will be counted as they leave and cancel their financial giving. By the same token most healthy congregations who vote will also surely be heavily influenced by the wisdom of their leaders.

Mars Hill has a board of accountability comprising three executive elders and some outsiders. So far this board has been clear that they feel Driscoll should remain as pastor. They are the closest to Driscoll and they report significant change in his life. It does seem that the complaints being publicly aired, and which are being dissected by so many, stem from the past rather than the present.

Mars Hill publicly reports that Driscoll and the leadership are involved in a reconciliation process with ex-employees and members who say they were hurt by their experience of the church. They also make clear that for some while now they have been endeavoring to change the church’s culture. I hope and trust that this process will bear fruit, but such fruit will take time.

The simple fact that most people who are so eager to jump to a judgment about what the Mars Hill board should do are not in a position to do so. As much as we might like things to happen quickly in our instant gratification age, change takes time. It was interesting to see in that context that Jonathan Merritt, a journalist who has been one of Driscoll’s previous critics, argues that we should accept his apologies.

With everything that one has read online, one encouragement is that many of those sharing their criticisms, including many of those who have been directly hurt by all this, do not seem to want the destruction of Mark, but his restoration.

It seems clear to me that one of two outcomes to all these controversies is inevitable: either Driscoll and Mars Hill Church will succeed in changing and putting their errors firmly behind them, or they won’t. If change is not genuine we will know it because there will continue to be a constant stream of elders and deacons leaving as a result. Longevity in the Mars Hill leadership team has seemed to be an anomaly rather than the norm. A stable team is a healthy team. And if change doesn’t come then the church will also hemorrhage members, and if that happens to a significant extent to any church, eventually that church simply ceases to exist.

The Evangelical movement has always put a lot of faith in the One who is building His Church to also be the One who opens churches and closes churches. He puts out the lights. He also determines how He will distribute His blessing. And, He works through His people inside each local church giving them wisdom and discernment. No church is ever perfect. But Jesus loves them all.

Those of us who are not members of Mars Hill, and never were, should be prepared to take a back seat and let the local church get on with this process. Perhaps the most dominant form of church government among Evangelical groups broadly says that each local church must lead themselves. Let’s allow Mars Hill to lead itself.

It is time us outsiders stopped talking about Driscoll for a season. It is time the local church be allowed to do its work, with whatever external help they choose to bring in. I understand that those ex-members who feel they have been hurt will have an opportunity for meetings to discuss this. But even that process must stop at some point. Indeed, for some people getting involved in such meetings might be as unhelpful as a premature “reconciliation” meeting would probably have been between Paul and Barnabas. Wisdom will give a different answer to different cases on this point, and great care is needed to ensure that such meetings do not make matters worse for everybody involved.

The reality is, that for all his failings (which he himself acknowledges) Driscoll has been a powerful voice for the gospel. Many preachers were reminded to preach Jesus first through him. Through listening to his preaching thousands have come to faith, and tens of thousands have had their walk with God strengthened.

I am praying that a renewed Driscoll will emerge from this season of controversy as a mouthpiece for God. The church desperately needs vocal, bold, men who will roar about the gospel. It is in such preaching that Driscoll is such a gift to the global church. It is in the pulpit that he is strong, and has an almost unique voice.

I hope Driscoll will increasingly focus his attention almost exclusively on proclaiming Christ and him crucified. The pressures on a mega-church pastor are massive, especially during seasons of great growth.  Even the Apostles felt the need to find trustworthy men that they could leave to run the organizational side. They said, “we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” (Acts 6:4)

Driscoll would do well to follow the Apostles’ example. I think the whole world now knows he is a much better preacher than he is an administrative leader. Anyone who functions outside of their true gifting will stumble and make errors. A truly strong leadership team requires each member to be humble about the areas that they are strong and weak in, and necessitates a proper division of the responsibilities accordingly.

To any who don’t merely wanting Mark to change but genuinely seek his downfall, I think that Jesus would probably say, “let him who has no sin, cast the first stone” (John 8:7).

Surely I know that for me, and the leaders in our church, we will be praying for the hurt and for the humbled, for the sheep and for the shepherds.

For all of us who love the bride of Christ, our primary response should be to pray. To pray for those who have been hurt, that they may find avenues to share their hurts and be healed. To pray for those who are members of Mars Hill Church that may support one another during this storm, and that the church and its witness may continue to be a force for good in Seattle and beyond. To pray for leaders who have been wronged that they be helped and be restored. To pray for the body of Christ which feels under attack, that it not be divided but be united, and be stronger than ever. To pray for the leaders of Acts 29 that their ministry would continue to flourish and plant the churches this world so desperately needs. And to pray for Mark, for his wife Grace, and for his five children, that they would feel the hand of God in all this, know a fresh revelation of the Grace of God, and be protected, transformed, and restored.

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  • Daniel

    Adrian, what do you do with the specific accusations of sinful lying, slander, gossip, and quarrelsomeness, all contrary to general Christian standards and the qualifications of elders in specific?

    What do you do with the accusations of legions of former Mars Hill elders and staff members that the BoAA is staffed by people who were appointed by Mark and are beholden to him?

    I think the point that Acts 29 and others are making is that Mark has never addressed any of these issues. He’s glossed over “mistakes” or addressed things in his past about online forums where his accusers/opponents were nameless, but what about the people who he has purportedly removed from his church and destroyed them, their reputations, and their families?

    Again, regardless of what you think of the veracity of the first-hand stories about Mark, there are tons of them. Taking up the mantra of “he’s obviously ill-equipped to do administrative things” or “he’s making an impact for the gospel” doesn’t excuse that he’s never addressed the specific accusations of specific people, many of whom were very close to him at one point.

    Until he speaks to those specific situations, either with “I did no wrong” or specific repentance for the wrong he’s done, Mark should not be leading the ministry at Mars Hill. He’s a textbook case of “poor report from outsiders”, and apparently from those who were once insiders too.

    • Greg

      Having read a well reasoned defense of Mark from you and others, but having heard little with substance from him, one could conclude that he owns his own media communication group comprised of other notaries, and a cleverly orchestrated public whitewash is under way.
      As it is in heaven, so on earth indeed!
      This is the Achilles heel of the modern church. Truth, as it is in Jesus, has been usurped & genetically modified by our own leaders, and is now a patented hybrid Frankenstien masquerading as the Word.
      And Gods people seem to like it.

      • This is not intended as a well-reasoned defense of Mark. I am just trying to share my own thoughts as I grieve for all sides involved in this. And I do not have any insider track to Mars Hill, nor did they ask me to write this. It is also not intended as a Whitewash. Clearly there have been real and grievous errors, sins even, and these need to be dealt with. But there is nothing that someone like me who is not directly connected with Mars Hill can actually do really except pray and determine to try and think the best of all parties to this complex web.

        • There is a lot more you can do Adrian.

          We have been calling for the British press to make their response to wrong doing proportionate to the initial issue. That is the same amount of coverage.

          You, Newfrontiers, and others have opened a door to Mark Driscoll into the British church by your recommendation of him and you fervent support.

          You have a leadership position. Now use that proportionately.

          • I have tried in this post to strike a hope-filled but realistic balance. I love the Acts 29 board, and I love Mark Driscoll. My hope and prayer is for restoration and for the Kingdom of God to advance.

          • That’s not what I am calling you to do.

            Senior leaders in the UK have allowed Mark a platform to influence our churches. Mine included.

            Rather than calling for quiet we need prophetic leadership that speaks to our our people not asks them to be quiet in the name of some unity that is only believed in when it is people from our own tribe.

            Adrian you specifically promoted Mark Driscoll’s ministry.
            If you hadn’t asked us to be quiet and leave everything along I might well have not even commented but this is not good enough.

            People in UK church’s (especially young men) have consumed his version of manhood in part because we, the leaders in the UK, have said ‘yes it’s good stuff’.

            We need to tell these same people, in proportion to the support we gave, that some of this teaching is built upon a false premis.

          • I am not calling for us to stop teaching what we think is right, nor for us to stop correcting errors we think our people have picked up from whatever source. Just wanting the Mars Hill Church to have some space to sort these problems through, in conjunction with their reconciliation process. Thats all. Those of us, myself included, are not in a position to make a judgement about these matters.

          • I think you are a little naive in this request. I know you mean well with it and that you care.

            These issues would not have been dealt with without the bravery of people who got together through social media and shared their stories of abuse. Some of which has been admitted.

            Acts 29 would not have acted as they have had these brave people not have taken a stand.

            They have been supported by some in the wider church.

            I don’t this is a time to let them down by going silent.

          • MKulnir

            “Those of us, myself included, are not in a position to make a judgement about these matters.”

            When the men who are considered “leaders” in the church make these sorts of flaccid statements, is it no wonder the faith of many is shaken and wickedness abounds?

    • Well, my understanding from my distant position is that Mark and the eldership board have often and repeatedly owned up to these problems. I certainly don’t think I have ever heard of a pastor who has made public apologies so frequently. Please be clear, I am not in a position to make a judgement about whether there has been sufficient change as a result of these apologies or not. To me that is the job of the local church, and any denominational type group the church is in. Clearly the closest thing to a denomination Mars Hill was in has now spoken. That is a voice to listen to for sure. But ultimately, even Acts 29 acknowledge in their statements that what happens next is for the local church to decide.

      • Tsveti Marcheva

        “I have ever heard of a pastor who has made public apologies so frequently.” Well we should be thankful for his apology, because it’ rare case pastor to do that. This is very dangerous “christian” culture to think that pastor is like boss and when he apologize we have to shine. Read people magazine and look how famous people apologize every day for DUI,because their PR said so

  • Hi Adrian

    Thank you for being brave enough to speak about this when many others haven’t. I appreciate that you are trying to hold some peace together on this but I think you may be mistaken in some of the things you have written.

    Firstly, we are encouraged by scripture to follow a particular model when we have an issue with someone. Take Matthew 18:15-17 for example:

    This is completely valid in the context of a local congregation where such a possibility exists. It was Mark himself and Mars Hill who created the environment where Matthew 18 could not be observed.

    1) Mark has purposefully acted in a extra-local church way. He has actively sought both influence and revenue streams. This alone means that the wider ‘congregation’ he might affect for both good or for ill have no access to a relationship with him that makes Matthew 18 a possibility.

    2) The mega church model (although sometimes produces some helpful resources) generally excludes the possibility of the Matthew 18 pattern. If you add to this the bylaws adopted by Mars Hill then it is easy to see how congregation members are excluded from enacting the teaching of Jesus in these verses.

    Secondly, your description of Mars Hill’s governing body is not completely accurate. In truth they have 3 Executive Elders who are under the covering of 5 members of a Board of Control. The problem is that the 3 in the first group are members of the 5 of the second group. No right thinking church would accept this as a correct way to govern.

    Thirdly, if we remain silent on this, as you suggest, then it is likely that the wider church will learn nothing from this. It has been clear to many that Mark has had a continuing problem and that the wider body has turned a blind eye to this by inviting him to their conferences. As we debate Hillsong have announced that he is a key speaker at their London and Sydney conferences in 2015.

    Very few, if any, of the senior leaders who invited him (and by implication endorsed his ministry to church members) have spoken out against the damage he has done to people and the church. This is not insignificant.

    It is my contention that Mark has a problem, and I prayer he gets help, but the problem is with the wider church that lacks discernment when supporting the constructs that allow for such things to happen and then asking us to be silent so that their culpability can be hidden.

    The world watches and far from being put off from the gospel by our mistakes it is more likely driven away by our willingness to cover up abuses of power by leaders. This is not a time for cover up. It is a time for public repentance and a time to learn so that these things do not happen again.

    I will take a lead by saying that I am part of the problem because I have been silent in the past when things like this have happened. This is not just about Mark’s shame but mine also.

    I hope this makes sense to you Adrian


    • Alan, I appreciate what you are saying. It is just hard for those of us who are not directly involved to know with clarity what is really happening, and importantly what is happening now. I am just saying I believe in the local church. And I believe in God’s work in the local church. I want to give the local church time to try and work this all out.

      • Thanks Adrian. Mark has been acting in an extra-local church way. He has revenue streams for people in all of our congregations.

        If this were just a local church issue I would totally agree with your position. As it is he is accountable to the wider church by his own making.

        I have to say that the number of people, including yourself, who have helped to build his global platform and are now asking for quiet seems a bit odd.

        I charge you again to become part of the answer by our mutual repentance of allowing him to have a voice when clear issues where pointed out to many before this

      • Jimmy Shnebby

        So Adrian if your buddy Tope is about to speak at Mars Hill isn’t that
        an endorsement? Either he knows more and feels good about endorsing the
        leadership at MH or he’s going in with a bit of purposeful ignorance.

  • forehand

    Hi Adrian,

    It’s been a long time since we’ve gotten to talk, but it’s good to see your avatar again. I was at first encouraged to hear you acknowledge that those who are not closely involved in this issue should take a back seat. You then though, as someone who is not closely involved, proceeded to tell everyone in large part what to do and what to think in a way that is largely at odds with what those who are closest to this situation have said:

    – Almost 50 elders have left Mars Hill in just the past few years.

    – Over 25 of them have brought charges against Mark Driscoll and more are coming.

    – 1000s of former members have left, in large part believing that Mark Driscoll is disqualified.

    – Acts 29, the very church planter assessment network that Driscoll helped start, has assessed that it is best for Driscoll to step down for an extended period of time to deal with his sin because it is not be addressed adequately.

    – There are elders currently at Mars HIll that are so alarmed they are speaking to the press anonymously.

    – So many of Mark’s friends are sharing their grave concerns for him, pleading for him to get help.

    Given all of this and far more, the executive elders at Mars Hill respond that: Everything is fine, don’t worry, you are wrong about how serious it is, we have it under control.

    The overwhelming response from close friends of Marks, former elders in and outside of his church and even current elders is this: Mark needs help now and he is NOT getting it from his local elders. The responses to this, which I endorse, have been to 1) continue to call for him to get said help and/or 2) to warn the body of Christ to leave that church. I don’t take those public acts lightly at all, but I feel that given the examination and conclusion of so many people who are close to the situation, they are the only reasonable ones at this time. Giving them more time has simply not worked Adrian. Take it from those who are close.

    Looking forward to the resurrection with you,

    Dwayne Forehand

    • Dwayne, I am not telling those involved what to do. Clearly that is a matter for them and their consciences. I grieve for those who have clearly been hurt. But I dare to believe that God can bring restoration. I am sure that recent events have grabbed the whole eldership team’s attention. And I am sure that the ongoing reconciliation meetings need time to do their work. I am a great believer in the grace of God to turn things round for good, however.

      • forehand

        I think I understand what you are saying. I have seen my fair share of commentary that seems to be coming from a place of hopeless in regards to change for Driscoll. I’m with, God can and it’s in his nature to often) bring restoration to dire looking situations. Sorry for misunderstanding your advice to those like me who are closely involved Adrian. Here’s to hoping in Christ for restoration in all of this!

        • It is hopelessness that I am always against…in fact even when hope seems like it is totally lost, it can be reborn…that sounds like a book title 😉 See

      • MKulnir

        Adrian, You comment shows that you really are underinformed on the issues. There is no “whole eldership team.” Mark Driscoll forced the bylaws change in 2007, which stripped the elders of the right to vote and removed them as directors of the corporation – all the elders except Driscoll and his handpicked cronies, of course.

        So while your statement that “recent events have grabbed the whole eldership team’s attention” is true, the elders at Mars Hill are “elders” in name only. Driscoll holds all the power, while under the church bylaws, the “elders” are neutered, impotent. They have no power to do anything. Their titles are just so much smoke and mirrors. And that is just how Driscoll set it up.

      • Tsveti Marcheva

        What is the problem Mark taking a break and waiting God bring restoration? Maybe the problem is that :it’s all about him, not about Jesus

  • MKulnir

    Dear Mr. Warnock,

    You have had a reputation for years of being a fan of Mark Driscoll.
    Even your letter here is a tepid response to the overwhelming weight of offenses committed in the name of Christ. You and others are as responsible for the situation as Mark Driscoll himself. Why? Because people look to you for leadership, and instead of calling out wrongdoing, you chose to look the other way – all in the name of “Christian unity.” It is no wonder so many are disgusted and the name of Christ is dishonored among the heathen when they see those who should be speaking out against injustice remain silent.

    There was a time I recall when you were in communication with Wendy Alsup, the former women’s group leader at Mars Hill Church. She has been a voice for justice and righting the wrongs committed in the name of Jesus, while you have remained largely silent, or else submitting mealy-mouthed pieces like the one above, casting your lot with the strong, the powerful, the abusers, while shaming the abused. Sad. As someone once declared, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil.”

    • SaintLewis

      What’s interesting to me is, talking to a number of my close friends at Mars Hill Church – both staff & members, the impact of the Gospel locally on their community & on the majority of individuals within & around the church is still just astounding. Everyone I know who works there displays incredible wisdom & humility, & the growth of those I know of who are recent believers associated there is like none I’ve seen before. I just wonder: if the poison were so thorough at the top, could the fruit still be so incredible? I like across the country, & I find myself blessed by the ministry of Mark & Mars Hill often. I pray that the truth is rightly discerned (I’m sure some of this is the usual junk that tends to happen at churches – gossip, & exaggeration), that Mark owns where he’s done wrong & grows from it, the church re-structures itself to operate better, & that God continues bless the impact they’re having in that area of the country.

      • sracer

        Is Machiavellian pragmatism to be embraced within the ministry of the Gospel? Does the servant get “a pass” on his behavior and conduct if he appears to be producing fruit? What does God’s Word say about a pastor/elder’s conduct? Is the Lord on board with “the ends justify the means” approach to Gospel ministry?

        Is your being blessed by Mark Driscoll’s ministry a mitigating circumstance for how we should view this situation?

        How many bodies in that “pile behind Mars Hill” ™ are those who were faithful servants of Christ?

        • SaintLewis

          My point is that, if the leadership is as corrupt as everyone says (which – listening to critiques – it appears that Mark is more evil that the devil himself), would there be any fruit at all? When one person is discipled by another, that person takes on the disciplers character – that’s what discipleship means, literally – “to get someone else’s dust on you”. Since most of the most faithful, incredible christians I’ve ever met worship at or work for Mars Hill, I’m a bit suspicious of more than a few of the accusation. Fruit – not gifts – is how you judge whether or not someone truly is a believer… good fruit goes a LONG way with me. That’s not to say Mark hasn’t made mistakes – he’s admitted to many, & apologized profusely. I also acknowledge that we people are really good at demonizing people, too. I, for one, prefer Adrian’s balance.

          • Keith Russell

            Scandal is the real fruit of Mars Hill.

  • Tsveti Marcheva

    He has not made mistakes and errors like Jesus:))) How about we call it sin and this need more than apologize, but repentance and change a course of actions!

  • Marcia Kirby Rios

    Driscoll’s theology is the things he has DONE…not the things he has SAID about Christ and the gospel. If you want to know what he REALLY believes…look at what he DOES and there’s your answer! It’s the same for all of us. Driscoll looks like Tarzan, but plays like Jane! Or as we say in Texas…he is ALL HAT-NO CATTLE!

  • Simon

    I find a lot of the comments being made about Driscoll in extremely poor taste and seem to me filled with anger. Anger is not a Christ like response in my understanding to a wayward brother, even if you accept all the reports about Driscoll. Love is, compassion is, a heart to forgive and restore is, to correct absolutely, but out of a heart of love and care for this person.

    Even reading the below and posts now attacking Adrian for not adding fuel to the fire but rather saying he wants to leave it to the local church to handle… Please, some perspective here people, that is a sensible response right now.

    My response is to pray for Mark and Mars Hill and all those involved. I pray that reconciliation can take place, that love and forgiveness can take the place of anger and hurt… And that Christ’s love would be evident in what happens from here. That God’s church would end up being represented well and growing as a result eventually.

    To the point someone made that Driscoll has an extra-local ministry. That might be true, but the accusations being made are ALL about the workings and decisions being made in the local church… Hence they are all local church issues to be addressed. I have listened to marks sermons and read his books for many years but have not been mistreated in any way… I have been well served. If his books or extra-local ministry had theological error or some other issue, then the extra-local ministry can legitimately be criticised and critiqued extra-locally… These issues, however, are none of my business just because I have been touched by the global aspects of his ministry. That said, I am grieved for the man, his family, the church, and all those who have clearly been hurt by this situation so am far from indifferent. I’m praying for them in hope… I would have thought that would be the natural reaction of most Christians but I see very little of that in much of the response. for me that is also very sad in this whole thing.

    • The problem with judging tone is that you have no way of knowing whether you are correct. You might hear anger that isn’t present.

      As for it not being our business it is a matter of opinion and in that respect you could be right.

      When I see him teaching women that they need to serve their unsaved husbands by giving them oral sex I feel I need to speak against such nonsense. Not that oral sex is wrong but that a Pastor can instruct a woman on what to do with her husband in such a way.

      If his teaching has helped you then I am happy. I have met too many who have had warped views of maleness and femaleness from what he has said and written.

      Mark chose to have a wider platform. I didn’t invite him into our local church. But leaders who write blogs and run conferences have recommended him and so people listen and read and are sometimes hurt.

      If my role as a local pastor does not include speaking about this then I will be remiss in my responsibility.

      For Adrian to suggest that we should be quiet is quite wrong.

      • Simon

        Hi Alan

        I think you’ve illustrated my point in your response… Driscoll’s teaching on marriage and the roles of men and women… Go for your life critiquing publicly as he has put his teaching out there publicly and is hence inviting debate, comment, disagreement, etc . for the record I’m not in agreement with Driscoll on many of his teachings in that area but it doesn’t mean anything to this discussion.

        For me this is a different issue to wading in or weighing in on the issues of hurt between former members of the church and pastor mark. That is the business of the local church and for them to work towards a Christ like conclusion together on. That is there responsibility before the Lord and between themselves as brothers and sisters in Christ. That is where I believe our best response is prayer for the individuals and that local church… And not public criticism. I just don’t see how it helps or serves anyone involved is what is obviously a very painful and difficult situation.

        I pray too for your work as a pastor and wish you every blessing in your continued ministry to your congregation and community.

        Blessings to you

  • Gabriel Powell

    Scripture says than an elder/pastor should be “above reproach” (1 Tim 3:2) and “well thought of by outsiders” (v. 7). It does not matter whether or not Mark Driscoll apologizes every time he recognizes he’s wrong in the sense that continual wrongdoing mars one’s reputation, and disqualifies them for leadership in God’s church.

    Adrian, what bothers me about your post is you come across as though you think the world (and thus, God) needs Mark Driscoll’s preaching voice regardless of whether he actually meets the qualifications for being an undershepherd.

    Regardless of you feel about this or that charge against him, do you not agree that his reputation in the body of Christ and the world is not above reproach?

  • jkdfhjkdsfhkj

    All this church drama is why I quite going… it’s all crazy contentiousness, one pitted against another on one issue, denomination or another thing.. all that’s left of the dying faith in America is the angry contentious reminant.

  • Jimmy Shnebby

    You might want to get your hotkey for bolding text fixed.

  • David Matthias

    I commented this on the Think Theology blog too. It’s a very sad situation, and an excellent post (as is this), but I do wonder why
    from our spectrum of the Church Steve Chalke doesn’t appear to warrant
    similar responses during recent controversies.

    But just to go on, I do wonder whether you can look back at your posts about Steve Chalke over the years and whether they pass the same litmus test of tone and what we do or don’t discuss as this post demands for Mark Driscoll.

    I just fear we “weep” and “grieve” for Mark Driscoll because he was / is our mate, and within Newfrontiers we have received greatly from his ministry, but I am not sure we have given others the same grace.

  • savedbygrace

    Adrian, please take a few minutes and read this?

  • Jeff Featherstone

    Thanks for an excellent, very helpful article Adrian. I absolutely agree that what is needed is for people to pray for Mark Driscoll and his family and also to pray for Mars Hill church and Acts 29 for wisdom, grace and unity.

    What troubles me about the reactions of some both over recent months and to the current developments is severalfold. Firstly, their objections often seem to be still reacting to events from several years ago that were not only well known but have long since been acknowledged with regret by Mark Driscoll-for example, how can the William Wallace issue be treated as some surprise revelation when Driscoll referred to it in one of his books over five years ago? Even for more recent issues, the critics seem to be giving no time for Mark Driscoll and his church to work through and address these. I am left with a strong feeling that at the heart of the objections of many are either a disagreement with Mark Driscoll’s theology in areas such as complementarianism or a disagreement with his preaching style in terms of directness on issues such as sex and other life issues. Neither are any reason to press harder to have someone removed from ministry than for someone whom one theologically agrees with-and yet that is what seems to have been the case here.

    With regard to the sex and directness issue, again I am left wondering whether any of his critics-indeed in some cases people who in other respects are theologically closer to him-have actually read any of his books or listened to any of his preaching during the last decade. They treated Mark preaching directly about sex as some kind of scandalous revelation when in reality it was no different material or approach to that which he had long used. (I am also left wondering why some of these critics were left so shocked. Are they really saying that they is no clear addressing of biblical approaches to sexual issues in their own churches? If so, I think they may have more problems under their carpet than they recognise)..

    The fact is that, whilst there are clear examples of Mark Driscoll having character issues that he needs to address-and appears to be addressing-much of the objections seem more to be against an overall style of ministry, despite the fact that this approach has brought thousands to faith and has sought to help those thousands to really address the practical implications of following Jesus in the day to day decisions and choices they make. Such critics seem to forget an apostle Paul who was willing to use phrases such as wishing that those who promoted circumcision would go the whole way and emasculate themselves, or that we have a God who devoted an entire book of the bible to the pleasures of sex and intimacy.

    Let’s pray for Mark Driscoll, his family, church and network but let’s also pray that an approach to ministry that really helps people to grow in the knowledge of God and grow in how to live lives and make choices that reflect the implications of following Him continues to prosper and appear in many different places.

    • The man is dangerous and his teaching is dangerous. And I have listened to his later teaching. The issue is not just about things that happened years ago. In addition the idea that people are concerned because he has made sexual references is not correct. The issue is that he has created a scenario in the use of his teaching that demeans women. Not all Complementarians do this but Mark does. His teaching on Esther was a shameful misusing of scripture. Have you listened to it.

    • Dave Warnock

      I am with Alan.

      A great deal of the call for a response is not to interfere inside Mars Hill’s decision making (although a recognition of the way Driscoll has manipulated the eldership and bylaws to consolidate power and protect himself from any challenge is needed). Instead, we want to see a response that recognises the unwavering support or Adrian and Newfrontiers for Driscoll despite what you admit are examples of bad theology and power manipulation that go back of many years. Claiming this is just for his Church to sort out absolves responsibility for the way his teaching has been used, despite warnings, to hurt people in the UK.

  • Jeff Featherstone

    In all these discussions I think we are losing sight of one of Adrian’s key points-that if we looked into church history we would see all kinds of flaws and relationship difficulties in those who are rightly esteemed as key fathers in the faith. We are in great danger of assuming that Mark Driscoll’s flaws are somehow worse than these. Just as badly, we are in danger of using his character flaws as a reason (in some people’s case the excuse they were looking for) to reject all of the theological approaches he takes).

    Character issues can only be addressed via real, individual relationships within the local church. Just because Mark Driscoll is well known does not make the resolution of the issues a matter best dealt with by shouting with a megaphone at a distance.

    • I think it is you that might be missing the point. Adrian’s call on history is just a smokescreen for the fact that he and others have supported Driscoll even though clear concerns had been raised.

      Again the problem is not just about Mark, he needs restoration through grace (and I accept that ) but the wider church has enabled his particular brand of harmful nonsense for too long.

      The reason that Adrian is wrong for requesting that we remain quiet because it is a local church issues is because 1) it isn’t 2) we need to learn from this and stop the enabling that has happened with Mark and others.

      I am not saying here that Adrian is not sincere here but that he underplays the leadership that he and others have offered in the past and is nit seemingly refusing to respond with the same level of leadership now.

      People in our churches need to be told that Mark’s brand if complementarianism is not healthy for either women or men.

      • Jeff Featherstone

        So there we have the very issue I referred to earlier. It’s not actually the wider Mark Driscoll character issues you object to. It’s his view of complementarianism. And, even if you think that, are you really saying that people ‘need to be told’ that that view of complementarianism is not healthy? Is it not the mark of a mature believer and a properly functioning approach to teaching in a church that they should be applying what they know in terms theology to to reach conclusions for themselves on whether they agree with that particular take on complementarianism?

        • Jeff. Re-read what I put. I actually said his brand of complementarianism. I am not calling all Complementarians. I am saying that what he represents a dangerous kind.

          Hope that helps.

          • Jeff Featherstone

            Alan, I recognise that’s what you said and I sought to reflect that in my response. I think the queries I raised are legitimate ones within that context.

          • Your specific assertion was ‘It’s not actually the wider Mark Driscoll character issues you object to. It’s his view of complementarianism.’

            I am responding by saying you are wrong in this conclusion. So let me be clear.

            I am saying that Mark’s behaviour is influenced by his worldview which in turn is influenced by his brand of complementarianism. He has been supported by people who presume that he is speaking their language – when in fact he is not.

    • Dean

      You know, this entire approach is just wrong. MD does not have a ministry, there is only one ministry, and that is the ministry of Jesus Christ. We are not of Paul or Appollos, why do conservative Christians who say they take the word of God literally so often ignore the most literal passages of the Bible? MD is irrelevant, if he is compromised as a leader, he should simply step down, but he probably won’t because his ego is too big and his family would be ruined financially, that’s usually how this works. There shouldn’t be any crying about it, or worrying about his “ministry”, he is simply not important in the whole scheme of things. He is supposed to be “servant” of God, the lowest of the low, washing feet, taking care of widows. Since when did serving God mean having a PR team and speaking at mega conferences, selling more books and making fancy videos? This is how the world works, not the Kingdom.

  • Dave Paisley

    Just another “Mark Driscoll has been a naughty boy” apologetic. Driscoll is a spiritual abuser, and is not far removed from the Catholic priest child abusers in nature – his abuse is more subtle, but no less harmful to the recipient.

    As he chooses to make his ministry global, and certainly doesn’t confine it to Mars Hill, he invites criticism from basically anyone.

    He had no trouble weighing in on the election of a woman to be the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in 2006 (the notorious fluffy bunny comment) and so I have no qualms about making exposing him as a charlatan my business.

    He’s a bully who is now showing the cowardly underbelly that is characteristic of the vast majority of bullies – they can dish it out, but they can’t take it.

  • peabuddi

    Much of what you say is wisdom, however I do not believe that the Paul and Barnabas example is in any way relevant. They had a sharp disagreement regarding the attitude of Mark. Mark was related to Barnabas. The issues surrounding Mark Driscoll are in whole different category than a simple disagreement about whether a family member should accompany a mission. This is no simple human disagreement. Much more can be said on this but I agree that those of us not involved directly in the MH community need to be prudent, wise and prayerful.

  • Harry

    Just reflecting, how would we treat King David after the Bathsheba- murder event? The same way God did? This weekend, I read Rachel Evans blog comments on Mark – interesting in that her approach is secular (values held today by most not necessarily Biblical) – whereas I see the comments Mark has made that she has commented on – as almost prophetic appraisal of the today’s church.

    Having said that, some of the Old Testament even John Baptist including Christ were at times ferocious in their judgement of false righteous religious folk. They didn’t hold back.

  • Dean

    What I find troubling and hilarious about this entire sideshow is that non-Christians must see this and think how silly but entirely expected it all is. I am now old enough to have seen this so many times, it seems odd to me how Christians react to the fall of a powerful Evangelical leader in exactly the same way each time (with “shock” and “deep sadness”) as if it has never happened before. Remember Tammy Faye and Jim Bakker? What about Oral Roberts? Jimmy Swaggart? More recently Ted Haggard, Eddie Long? Do you know what the real problem is? We think these people have some access to God that we don’t have ourselves and that fundamentally is a lie. In fact, that was the precise lie that Satan told Adam and Eve in the garden and that was the lie that Jesus came to completely tear down. If we believe that the Church is instructed through the power of the Holy Spirit, there is nothing that these mega-pastors have access to that we don’t have as individual Christians. What they do have is charisma, big personalities and a golden tongue, but so what? Does that make them better than everyone else? Does that give them authority over people? Over doctrine? They stand up on that raised pulpit, with every chair pointed in their direction, a whole congregation hanging on their every word, and they start judging, proclaiming what is right and what is wrong, who’s in and who’s out, as if they’re speaking for God! Oh really? Who said this is how the Church needs to be organized? Where was Paul’s mega-church located? The reason this model persists is that we are trained in the Church not to think for ourselves, not to challenge authority, not to question dogma and to look to these self-appointed popes for the answers to all of life’s questions. Well, guess what, there is no reason to do that, no biblical basis for that, we have direct access to the Father through the intercession of the Jesus Christ. These personality cults always lead to these kinds of abuses. You can see it in the glassy-eyes of his parishioners who continue to support him despite the overwhelming evidence that he is simply unfit for ministry on any level. When a church lives or dies on whether or not it’s lead pastor is there to “shepherd” the flock (or even when a pastor begins to think that’s the case), there is something seriously amiss.

    I hope that this is the beginning of the end of the cult of celebrity pastors, but something tells me that would require a level of sophistication, for at least the American evangelical church, that is simply not attainable.

  • Simon

    I have followed your ministry and have been so encouraged by your wisdom over the years, that’s why it’s so surprising to me that you would write this with almost no knowledge of the situation from 5,000 miles away. It appears you are writing out of naivete and ignorance. Would you say that’s true? If you knew lots of people had been abused would you still say the same thing? If you knew people had been abused would you still use the same Paul and Barnabas analogy? How much research did you do before you wrote this?

  • katie

    I am a member at mars hill. It is so hard to hear people who aren’t even involved in the situation , comment and judge from their distant places. The things that people say about the man that is our preaching pastor are not about the pastor I have known over the years. I see amazing fruit growing, people coming to Jesus and changing. As a woman I’m respected, heard, and treated so well here. The word preached is completely and only biblical. Mark has always been humble from the pulpit but I have always known that just because someone is a pastor doesn’t mean they don’t make huge mistakes. They are man! how you Adrian quoted the verse about let him who has not sinned cast the first stone. I see people casting stones that they have no right to throw. I see a lot of bitterness that is truly only destroying those that are bitter. I no longer see people seeking restitution but seeking to harm. I know our church will abound through this trial because God is who we serve and love and even amidst all this ridiculous attention that is really doing nothing productive to mend the situation, God is growing or churc, saving people, healing hearts , and renewing and changing his people. I pray for this situation for those hurt. And I pray for those who seek nothing but to gossip and do harm. God is above all of this and I know that he is greatly saddened at what continues to go on here but I know he will use everything for good.

    • Dean

      Then how do you explain the accusations coming from so many people who have detailed knowledge about the inner workings of Mars Hill?

  • BrendtWayneWaters

    Adrian, I find it utterly fascinating (and yet, not at all surprising) that no one is even remotely capable of merely disagreeing with you, but have to bag on MD, Mars Hill, and you. I can only imagine if it makes someone who’s been a believer for 40+ years genuinely want to bag this whole Jesus thing, what do unbelievers think?

    • I can’t comment for all believers but I think there is plenty of evidence that they are more dismayed by our willingness to cover up wrong doing than the fact that we fail in the first place.

      I could cite examples like Sovereign Grace Ministries to add to the list of groups, churches, and ministers who have been enabled in their wrong doing by others.

      Please note that for some of us who comment that this is nit about Mark not being offered forgiveness or restoration but about the church learning not to repeat its almost wholesale support of models of ministry that area unhealthy.

      The call for ‘peace peace’ when there is no peace may seem the holy option but there are times when blogs like Adrian has offered here should be shown as part of the problem.

  • Jez Bayes

    Hi Adrian,
    2 points:

    1: Both sides on this dialogue need to think about the implications of their own words for themselves before climbing in.

    People love to have a figurehead, a unifying figure who ‘we’ are for.
    People also love to have a common symbol of what ‘we’ are against.

    Just as Reformed Evangelicals love to support MD and critique progressives, so progressives communicate that “anyone who can spread bad news or land a punch on Driscoll or Piper is hot.” (1)

    It’s strangely symmetrical.

    So, I agree with the comment that it’s very odd that you tell people at a distance from Mars Hill to keep silent about what they cannot know, while then offering several hundred words of just that yourself.


    2: I would observe and state very strongly that Mars Hill is not really a local church.

    That’s why, in contradiction of your point outlined in my point 1, I AM commenting.

    What it has deliberately set out to be is a global internet phenomenon, so when its own cultivated audience see things they feel are worthy of comment, in an online social media internet world, people will comment.

    They are allowed to. That’s how it works, and Mars Hill knew that when they got into that game.

    For example, if you didn’t want dialogue, Adrian, you wouldn’t blog, you’d talk to friends in a room, and leave it there.

    You didn’t. You like comment and dialogue, and you cultivate it.

    So do they.

    If they didn’t want any outside comment, they should shut down all the church websites and podcasts, and focus on the people in the present community. Plenty of healthy small churches do that, but they haven’t because their target audience is deliberately global, with a clear eye on numbers, hits, downloads and budgets, etc.

    As long as that is the case their audience WILL comment, and so they should, just as a church member should be able to comment on a local church leader if they have misgivings about their communications, theology or conduct. MD acts like someone who is trying to lead more than just the people in his building or community, so the full group of people he is trying to lead are going to feel appropriately able to comment.

    That’s That.

    So for what it’s worth, I think Acts 29 were correct ……….. and much more importantly I think that everyone should rethink what the mission and shape of a local church should look like in the light of the Holy Spirit on all flesh egalitarian communities you see in Acts and Paul’s letters, devoid of celebrity culture, and focusing only on groups that can actually be community with each other, eating, sharing lives, spilling into each others houses, meeting needs and loving one another.

    The current global phenomena pumped out into the internet by all flavours of ‘church’ is really just competitive industrialised merchandising and profiteering of various tick box definitions of ‘belief.’ Not Church.

    So, if you don’t want that audience, it’s very easy to not have it.

    Speaking as a fan of this internet globally connected age, and the way it can call millions quickly to pray for people suffering anywhere on the planet, I think that Mars Hill, and quite a few other churches and movements, would be well advised to unplug the server and look again at what it means to be a New Testament community of disciples learning how to follow Jesus together. That won’t involve ‘Boards’ and CEOs, nor unconvincingly hollow humble bragging apologies about online bad behaviour that then stays there still online 8 years later, 14 years after the event.

    Then the world would stop commenting, but they might start turning their world upside down.

    Until they do, every member of their target audience has the right – or even the responsibility – to point out suspect, bad or abusive behaviour.


  • I do want to thank all of you who have commented on this post for your decorum, and for your keeping within the spirt of my comment policy which urges us to deal with principles not people. I want to follow my own advice in this post, however, and so I am closing comments on this post as I want to move on and blog about other things.