What You’ve Been Searching For
Mark Driscoll and Accountability
Well, it seems there are some people that you just can’t talk about on the internet without going viral. Mark Driscoll is one of them. There are some podcasts out about him, and sure enough everybody’s talking about it, everybody’s searching for it, so that’s what we’re here for. I’m Joel Fieri, stay tuned.
Mark Driscoll was pastor, if you don’t know, was pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle for about 15, 20 years, and about seven or eight years ago his church basically fell apart. His ministry fell apart. He had to leave his church, and his church is no longer there. And there is a series of podcasts called The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill that Christianity Today is doing, and I had a chance to listen to the opening podcast on that, and it brought back some thoughts and memories I had back then seven or eight years ago when all this was going down, and I wanted to just reflect on them since that’s what we’re here for is to talk about what all of you have been searching for and what’s going on on the internet as it pertains to the Christian world.
So basically the story is, back in the ’90s, Mark Driscoll was really one of the first of what they call punk rock spirited pastors. Hip, urban pastors that were reaching out and trying to reach people who were urban, postmodern, had that kind of vibe to it. As far as I know, he was one of the first to have the slicked back, kind of Carl Lentz hairdo kind of thing that so many pastors adopted. He was young, and his church kind of had a young, industrial, kind of urban vibe to it, which if you know Seattle at all, I lived in Seattle for a while, really appealed to Seattleites. And his church was huge. He had tens of thousands of people attending his church, hundreds of thousands if not millions of people downloading his sermons and podcasts. He was really the first Christian internet star, maybe along with Rob Bell, some other people. But Mark Driscoll was huge.
Along with that though came a lot of controversy with him. He was very outspoken and blunt about a lot of topics. He didn’t have much of a filter sometimes. A lot of people wished at the time, and now certainly wish that he would’ve toned down some things, but a lot of what he said appealed, especially to young men, young men who were feeling lost in postmodern culture, who didn’t see themselves as having a place in traditional church, and maybe in the culture as a whole. And he told them, “Hey, man up. Stop playing video games, stop watching porn. Provide for your family. Protect your family. Do things right,” and that appealed to a lot of young men.
He had a lot of success early on at a young age, and one of the things that this podcast brings up, and I remember thinking at the time and when I was reading about it, and I have a little bit of a connection to it as I’ll get to in a minute. But I remember thinking, “This is an accountability issue.” Driscoll and his church were part of a larger network called the Acts 29 network, which was a group of at the time nationally known megachurch pastors who had kind of a internet based, long distance network going of discipling and mentoring. And I remember several… at least a couple other members of this Acts 29 network who were nationally known having similar problems and similar experiences with their churches. Conflicts with their church boards and elders and things, same things that Driscoll had at Mars Hill. Battles with the congregation, questions about his leadership, who really has the power? Is it elder based, is it pastor always had the power? What is the ministry? Is the ministry the pastor? And all kinds of things.
One of the pastors in the Acts 29 network who didn’t have this controversy nailed, I remember reading in an article, he said, “We tried to do accountability long distance and it didn’t work.” You can’t have long distance accountability and long distance discipleship. It has to be face to face, it has to be person to person, especially with men. Pastors or Christian men, it doesn’t matter. Men, there’s a lot of dynamics that go on with us when we’re together, when we’re in the same room or in the same space. Men size each other up. We read body language, we read handshakes. You can tell a lot about a man by the way he shakes your hand, you really can. Tone of voice, facial expressions, all these things are key and crucial in holding men accountable, in discipling them, in gaining their respect, in gaining their ear, in you gaining a voice with them.
I don’t think Driscoll had this. If he did have these kind of men in his life, I think they were probably, their jobs probably depended on pleasing him because they were part of his church under his employ. It doesn’t seem like he had any outside, wise mentoring people who could be in the same space with him without fear of their job or whatever and tell him or ask him questions. “Mark, what are you doing here? What happened here? Are you sure this is what happened? What are you doing with your finances here, with the church’s finances there? What is this conflict with this person all about?” Things like that, things that need to go down face to face. I think it was just an early experiment in the internet, and something that this particular network and this particular church structure that he set up got wrong.
The internet doesn’t work, ask anybody who does Zoom meetings all the time, people doing church just online, not going to church and meeting people. It doesn’t work. We’re not built that way. The body of Christ doesn’t function that way. We need to be in the same space face to face talking with each other, holding each other accountable, encouraging one another. All the things that go with being part of the body of Christ.
Now as I mentioned, I had a short experience. I’m not claiming to have any insight into this from it, other than just a general impression. But I did meet Mark Driscoll one time at my church. He was here after all this went down. He was at a church I was attending at the time spending time with the head pastor of this church, who had been a discipler and a mentor of his. A very wise man who’s known nationally for mentoring pastors, and Mark just came down and said, “Hey, can I spend a week with you? Can I just walk around with you, see how you do ministry?” And this man was obviously loving and gracious enough, this pastor, to do that and let Mark do that.
And I remember meeting him in the parking lot, meeting and saying I was glad he was with us. I met his wife and I thought, “Well there’s a face to pray for,” because his wife I’m sure went through a very bad time through all of this, all of this controversy. Spouses and wives always do when these things go down. So I got the impression, and again, sizing him up in just meeting him, that he was in a place at that point where he knew he needed this kind of face to face accountability, and face to face mentoring and discipleship. That was my impression, and at the time I remember thinking he was just with exactly the right person. So I know that Mark has resurrected a ministry in the Phoenix area I think it is, and from all accounts he’s doing well. How this will affect his ministry I don’t know. I guess we’ll see. But he is definitely back in the news.
In my next podcast, I want to not necessarily look at this podcast so much, but look at his ministry. And the podcast does go into why it was successful, and I mentioned how he talks to men. And I think that’s something that we really need to take a second look at. One of the topics is male roles and female roles in the church, how can we disciple men, how can we get men engaged? We talked about what is masculinity, toxic masculinity versus godly masculinity, what are the roles and expectations of men in the church and the body of Christ. So stay tuned for that.
Again, check out The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill. It’s on Christianity Today’s website, it’s on Spotify. Look it up, I think it’s worth looking at. So stay tuned for next week, and we’ll talk more about this subject. I’m Joel Fieri, thanks for listening.