Mark Driscoll scares Churl here on A Christian Thing. In fact, Driscoll scares a lot of people. There are blogs all over the web like Mars Hill Refuge, Wenatchee the Hatchet, and The Wartburg Watch, most of whom hint that Mars Hill Church is cult-like (a thought recently seized upon by Seattle’s independent newspaper The Stranger).
I think that debating whether or not Mars Hill is a cult is unhelpful, though, and it isn’t entirely fair to Pastor Mark either. Sure, it might give some disaffected people some comfort that they’re justified in leaving Mars Hill without “drinking the Kool-Aid.” But we should remember that Driscoll does talk about how he deals with critics; following Billy Graham’s axiom to “turn your critics into coaches” (and not Jim Jones’s path of alienation), he reads his critics, even the most critical, as helping him improve his ministry by providing “trials and tribulations” through which he can grow (James 1:2). To talk about him and his church as a cult will only read like persecution, framing Driscoll as the oppressed crying out to God for vindication.
But if we are critics coaching Driscoll, I’d like to try another tack.