September 29, 2020

Driscoll on Nightline

I’ve both defended and critiqued Mark Driscoll here at IM. He’s one of the good guys, and for those of you who don’t know what God has done through him in Seattle, here’s a Nightline piece that does a good job letting Driscoll be Driscoll.

I especially want Catholic, Orthodox and other friends to get an intro to Mark Driscoll. He’s a significant person in the current version of evangelicalism. His churches won’t collapse. Solid. (No nit picking please. Keep the comments civil.)


  1. Good piece, thanks for making us aware of it. There was a nice shot of the ESV Study Bible a couple of minutes in. 🙂

  2. Mark is the quintessential frat boy on the Goodship Zion, but God love him he’s real. What you see is what you get, and what you get is a guy who’s heart is solid for Jesus. Say what you will about how he goes about it – and there is certainly room for criticism – you know that he spends time on his knees, and I’ll take a messed up guy who prays for real over a less controversial Christian who’s a functional atheist. One thing’s for sure, with Mark around things are never boring.

  3. You can see this coming, can’t you? Just substitute Driscoll’s “dude”:

    “The Christ that Harnack sees, looking back through nineteen centuries of Catholic darkness, is only the reflection of a Liberal Protestant face, seen at the bottom of a deep well.” – Fr. George Tyrell.

    Driscoll is wrong on sexual libertinism. It was wrong twenty years ago when a staffer for Campus Crusade taught it to me and it’s wrong now.

  4. What do you mean “libertinism?” Married sex?

  5. I don’t see how Driscoll and Mars Hill are different from a dozen pastors and churches I could name. The report said he is a Calvinist but he seems to have the Pentecostal’s knack for adopting popular culture.

  6. Matt: I see that you are Orthodox. You might want to look at a book called “Young Restless and Reformed” to see how this kind of evangelical Calvinism is growing. See and the ACTS 29 Network.



  7. Shhh, don’t tell anyone, but I have subscribed to Mars Hills CD’s in the past. In fact, if finances were not tight, I would still be receiving his CD’s. They were quite enjoyable.

    Much of the theology that I heard on the CD’s is very good. Mind you, I think that his “sex” talks all to unfortunately reflect the current American preocuppation with doing it. Nevertheless, at least he is getting the message across that it is to happen only in marriage.

    I do not agree with his ecclesiology. I do not agree with his Calvinism. I do not agree with his “sex” talks. I do not agree with his overly loose worship style. Ahhh, but . . . his theological musings are incredibly good.

    In fact, more than many other “modern” preachers, he embodies a faithfulness to logical, sound, biblical, faithful to the Reformation, faithful to many of the Early Church Fathers, faithful even to many parts of Holy Tradition,that is hard to find in today’s world.

  8. Fr. Ernesto:

    Do you mean the Mars Hill Audio CD with Ken Myers?

    I have never heard of Driscoll using CDs. All audio/video download.

    There are three prominent “Mars Hill” ministries right now:

    Ken Myers Mars Hill Audio, which is like a Christian version of NPR interviews.

    Rob Bell and Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids. Very emerging. Very fringe of evangelicalism. Not a Calvinist, to say the least.

    and Driscoll, who is basically John Piper for 20 somethings in Seattle.

    BTW- Driscoll’s worship isn’t very loose. Hymns- mostly- done by usually rather dark sounding band. Communion every week. Sermons are expositional most of the time (at least as Driscoll does it) and last about an hour. Pretty “Calvin” style. Nothing like the usual evangelical megachurch show.


  9. I have to confess, when I saw the headline I was afraid of where this would go. I am relieved that my fears were misplaced.

    I also have to confess that I am an unabashed fan of Mark Driscoll. I stumbled across his sermons on iTunes. I was hooked from the start. I love his vision of being culturally liberal but theologically conservative. Given the opportunity, I would love to attend Mars Hill for awhile and see how well it actually plays out. I couldn’t stand it for too long because I have to much of my Pentecostal/Holiness background still in me. I like the IDEA of being open to tatoos, rock-ish music in church, etc but I don’t know if I can LIVE that yet. I’m not entirely convinced that I should.

    As a young at heart male, it’s nice to hear a preacher who isn’t ashamed of some of the more ridiculed traits of being a man.


  10. I was pretty pleased with this! As opposed to the recent NYT silliness…

    Thanks for the vid, Michael. You’re a swell guy.

  11. Not my style, but that’s OK. Despite a few areas of silliness, at least his doctrine and Bible teaching have substance and depth. Besides, anyone who likes and speaks up for baseball is definitely on the side of the just.

  12. I’ve heard of this church but this was the first time I’ve heard Driscoll. Thanks for the link. I will have to take a 60 mile field trip down south and visit one of the Mars Hill Churches.

  13. Now we will have a hundred preachers saying “dude” and ripping their jeans. It is easier to imitate success than to obey the Spirit.
    If you want to give Driscoll credit, credit him for obeying.

  14. driscoll is faithfully delivering the straight up gospel to swaths of 18-35 year olds weekly. being thats generally the least likely group to have anything to do with church or god i find it fairly inspiring.

  15. I see very little to defend in Driscoll. Never have.

  16. The question is whether Mars Hill can survive without Driscoll. Many Churches are built around a personality, but will they be there after he is gone?

  17. *Not* a fan (sorry, iMonk). The recent NYT piece on him pointed up a lot of highly problematic things – the part about him slamming people for “questioning” in particular. (There was a good discussion about the article on the Arts & Faith board, btw.)

    Am sure there are many good things to be found at Mars Hill and related churches, but it’s hard for me to square that with the overall attitude toward women, the insistence on a “dude’s dude” version of the Lord Jesus Christ, and – especially – what appears to be an authoritarian stance toward those who disagree with Driscoll.

    Perhaps some time in the background would do him a lot of good. (Not meant as a slam; he’s way too high-profile for his own – and his church’s – good, I think.)

    If this be nitpicking, well… here I stand (figuratively speaking). 😉

  18. It is a benefit to Christianity when a highly popular show like Nightline runs a balanced piece on a pastor who is admittedly controversial, admittedly flawed, but is still reaching out to those who think church in general is irrelevant.

    Far better to have this than another piece on a prosperity pastor along with his jets and mansion and accompanying IRS problems.

    Driscoll may have his drawbacks, but any guy who can get up there and preach a solid, coherent, Biblical sermon for over an hour and still hold your attention (6-7 times a Sunday!) is someone with a real gift.

  19. I have listened to a number of talks by Driscoll over the internet and read some interviews done with him and though I know he is a sincere Christian and has likely helped thousands of people, personally I wouldn’t want to listen to him very much. I don’t like to listen to loud people and I don’t agree with some of the attitudes he has toward those who think differently than he does. For emerging Christian leaders, I prefer Erwin McManus I have listened to some of his talks too and read interviews. Again, I have not read entire books written by either of these guys or attended their churches. But I find Erwin to be a guy who could inspire me to want to know Jesus better, to want to be more like Jesus, to want to be more loving. I also am a big “fan” of N.T. Wright and now Michael has interested me in reading Robert Capon’s books. I listened to some of his talks and read excerpts of his books and I plan on buying some of his books very soon! Thanks, Michael. I think we tend to listen to leaders whose personalities kind of “mesh” with our own. I wish Driscoll all the best in his ministry and respect what he is doing, but I think it is his personality that gets in my way and like I said, I disagree with him enough on some points that I wouldn’t put him out there as “the” one to listen to. (I know you are not saying to just listen to him.)

    Joanie D.

  20. A few notes on Driscoll:

    1) Mark Driscoll has labored for more than 20+ years to evangelize Seattle. Out of that labor is one of the great church planting mega-churches in our nation, one built over-whelmingly on conversion growth and real evangelism. No matter who you are, this deserves appreciation. Many of the denominations on this board- from my own to all of yours :-)- aren’t doing this in America and don’t even seem to know how.

    2) Driscoll had a very specific vision (read Radical Reformation) that is compelling and ought to be imitated by new churches everywhere. As a missional church planter, he’s amazing.

    3) Megachurches have probelms. MH has problems and will have problems. Most of those problems will come about because of the same reasons they are successful: where they are, who they reach, Driscoll’s personality and gifts.

    4) I have a list of suggestions for Mark, but I am in awe of what he does. Hymns. Communion. Preaching. Baptisms. A theology class as a membership requirement. Taking on a massive counseling load. Constant criticism in the most secular city in America. It’s mind boggling. Really.

    5) The gender/sex issues are things Driscoll has picked up from his context and the emerging/missional movement. (Lots of other missional pastors deal bluntly with these topics.) Driscoll’s take on them is controversial, but even them, 99% of what he does in this area is solid, Biblical, basic stuff. He’s dealing with Corinthians, so he has to have some Coritnthian topics. In what letter did Paul talk the most about sex? yep.

    6) The authority issues raised in the NYT are typical for any megachurch these days. When you’ve dealt with probably 12-15 thousand people, there are going to be some disgruntled and some mistakes. I don’t think Mark expresses himself well when he’s angry, and I hope he learns to say its ok to question appropriately. (He would say the inappropriate questioning was simply a way to be divisive, and every megachurch has to deal with that call.) I believe he’s made a lot of progress as a leader and is learning all the time.


  21. Oh dear! iMonk, I meant the audio CD’s with the NPR style interviews. Sigh, OK, in that case I know nothing about Driscoll. I will listen again to the YouTube clip and look up more on him.

    [Hmm, three Mars Hill ministries. Talk about confusing!]

  22. I believe Mahaney has taken him under his wing regarding the humility issue and that you’re seeing the fruit of it.

  23. Honestly, I really don’t understand why everyone is so excited about this Nightline interview. I think the only thing it did was paint Pastor Mark perfectly into a stereotype that invites people to marginalize and ignore him. I counted the actual seconds that showed him preaching and about half of them are Mark yelling or looking angry. That’s not Pastor Mark. Does he yell sometimes? Certainly. But if he actually did it half the time he was on stage week in and week out for the last 10+ years then he’d be mute from all the damage done to his vocal chords.

    Besides that they primarily showed the things about his church that are controversial, specifically the demographic, his Calvinism, his sex talks (which are a small fraction of everything he’s got on the media server at Mars Hill’s website), his “indie rocker” lifestyle, the stylish and technologically advanced megachurch setting, and the very masculine attributes of Jesus. I’m not saying these aren’t important parts about Mars Hill. I’ve listened to plenty of his sermons and seen enough video to know these are real characteristics of Mars Hill, but they’re out of context of all the things that most people and Christians find basically agreeable.

    My complaint is that Driscoll isn’t nearly as simple or controversial as Nightline presented him. They went with an agenda to expose all the things that will make people question whether or not they could go to “that” kind of church. I think this Nightline interview will turn more people away from Mars Hill than bring in.

  24. Blake: Those are good points, but I think most of the people on this blog are very savvy to Nightline and what to expect.

    If Mars Hill is concerned about people being turned away by a Nightline interview, why would Mark do the interview or the church allow the cameras in? THEY are certainly aware of what the media does with these kinds of profiles. This isn’t the 700 Club and Driscoll and the leadership and people at MH know that. Their reputation survives just fine, even with secular media distortion.

  25. People have the bad habit of reading a New York Times article, watching a Nightline interview, and concluding from this—because both these things are as “in-depth” as serious journalism gets—that they know everything one might need to know about any given subject.

    We do it all the time with news about politics and business and scandal. But—now that they’re covering Mark Driscoll—suddenly that’s not enough anymore? We have to look this information up on our own? We have to independently verify what sort of guy he is? ‘Cause a Times article and a TV interview isn’t in-depth enough to really understand the guy? Hm.

    Was this ever enough?

  26. I’ve known of Mark Driscoll for a long time, before anyone on Nightline ever heard of him for sure. I’ve never met him but have friends who have in different contexts. Mixed reactions: He let a friend of mine who was planting a church in Seattle stay in his house for a while when he needed it – good stuff – that was years ago and before Mars Hill was big. Also negative stuff – his attitude, sort of being an “ass” – not trying to “cuss” the guy, that’s just my language (and his I think).

    Generally, I’m not a fan of the guy, but I don’t keep track of him. I never have, even in my emerging church days. Our “sector” of the emerging church wasn’t fond of the type of church Mars Hill became – too big, same old stuff except with cool people and coffee. I’m not fond, at all, of his hard Calvinism. I think it can be harmful, so I have to say him preaching it and Acts 29 requiring it of their planters, is not a good thing. That’s from my perspective though. Others may think it’s great.

    And the whole multiple locations to hear him is not good to me. It perpetuates the cult of personality thing too much. Break that thing up into 40 smaller churches – OK, I’ll stop on that one, Catholic mega-parishes and all – God help us.

    His sex talk stuff doesn’t bother me at all. The Church in general needs to talk about it more, be more open about it, act like it’s normal and good for married couples. Catholics in particular need to break down some old ways of thinking about even married sex if you ask me. But nobody did, so there you go.

    In general though, I’m not a fan of the dude. And we should be careful of holding him up too high as some kind of example. In the end, of course, I don’t wish him any ill. Peace on him and all here.

  27. Chad Winters says

    Blake: I agree, they focused on his one series on sex (which was open and honest in a way Christians aren’t “supposed” to be.

    No mention of course of the incredible sermon series he did last year on “Doctrine”. A sermon series that starts with a sermon all about the Trinity with a disclaimer that he is going to use a lot of big words and define them? Or his Vintage Jesus series which promoted the authentic Biblical Jesus over the Americanized version?

    You just don’t see that in American Evangelicalism. If you can make 20 somethings in Seattle listen to and believe orthodox creedal Christianity…..I’m not going to be legalistic that you don’t dress in a suit or speak like a upper middle class businessman.

    If more Churches were like that I wonder if Michael’s recent State of Evangelicalism series would be different.

  28. IMHO, the concerns I have, brought up peripherally in the interview, are not really about Driscoll, but about the megachurch, multi-campus model. I just don’t see how their ecclesiology will provide lasting communities of genuine spiritual formation for generations to come.

  29. OK….Don’t make me repost 🙂

    In evangelicalism, you get to see a lot more flaws than you do in the RCC. Things have to get pretty damn bad before a priest makes the news, right? But Driscoll makes the news, and the blogosphere circuit, etc, because he’ a very entrepreneurial guy with all those entrepreneurial flaws. A lot of Christians are jerks, but a lot of Christians jerkiness never shows up on the news because they can’t spell evangelism or church planting. Driscoll can, and like any salesman, he has his edge. But in the cause of Christ in the most pagan city in America, he’s a warrior.

    On the multiple sites, I agree that it is a thing not good. But I am aware that Driscoll has a large staff of teachers and preachers who do a lot of teaching and preaching. He is the Sunday a.m. guy, but an immense amount of teaching and preaching goes on at Mars Hill using other elders.

    Driscoll brings in a lot of quality people: Carson, Piper, etc. He is not shy about sitting under his mentors and being mentorable. I don’t know anyone in evangelicalism more publicly mentorable than Driscoll.

    He’s also pretty open about being a jerk. There are some good stories on Driscoll. One of my faves was his meeting in his home with angry feminists who protested the church for a while. He won them over by admitting his errors and being gracious.

    When I read Confessions of a Reformission Rev, I winced more than a few times, but then I’m sitting in Eastern Ky preaching to high schoolers who HAVE to come hear me, and he’s spending his ENTIRE LIFE building a church that will be the core of evangelical missions in the NW for a long time to come.

    As I said, gotta respect the man. He’s young, rough, in progress, and one heck of a church planter in a world of Christians that just want to sit in their small group with 10 friends and sing choruses.

  30. It perpetuates the cult of personality thing too much.

    Indeed. His “style” is highly authoritarian. But in saying this, I’m partly reacting to past experiences with abusive church “leaders” who were/are dictatorial and graceless. It’s entirely possible to sound pretty “doctrinally correct” *and* be running things like a tyrant.

    See Wittenberg Gate’s articles on “Controlling Personalities in the Church” – very insightful.

    I think I’d better exit this discussion for now – it hits too many nerves for me personally.


  31. Good words, Monk. Philippians 4.8-9 time.

  32. As presented in the video, MH might be good place for young seekers to start. But is that church a place for anything other than young people and young families? Is this a church where you would meet your extended family at, without them feeling uncomfortable? Is this a church that I would come to with pre-teens?

    In terms of the possible future collapse of Evangelicalism, I cannot imagine this church surviving the loss of Driscoll or being anything like its present form when Driscoll is 65. And when’s he’s 65, will it only be filled AARP’ers talking about the good old days?

  33. One of my responses to e2c and others is that while I agree Driscoll has sounded a bit authoritarian, he is in the most anti-authoritarian culture I know of. He also teaches a whole class on what you have to believe to be a member and is quite open that LOTS of people at MH don’t affirm the membership covenant. Some stay some leave. You can also see that indiviuality apparently isn’t a problem at Mars Hill.

    I cannot use a musician with a single visible tat or piercing in my SBC setting. There’s your authoritarianism.

  34. no tats or piercings in the SBC?? wow! maybe it is a good thing I left…

  35. Joe M: Driscoll has had a lot to say about the evolution of MH to a full family congregation with Children’s and youth ministries. I don’t beleive they exit you when you get married 🙂

    You question on those age 65 is going to be answered by the boomer megachurches very soon. We’ll see how it goes.

  36. But are you allowed to openly question leadership and disagree with the people running the church/denomination?

    Forbidding tattoos is dumb, but it’s not equivalent to the kind of authoritarianism I’m talking about.

    anyhoo…better split. 🙂

  37. Here’s the interesting thing about the NYT article.

    (And I know nothing about this situation.)

    Driscoll public said some lame-brained things and publicly owned up to the controversy and publicly talked about it where the whole world was listening in.

    Whatever is going on, obviously there is considerably more openness about it than most “abusive” have.

    I could name another major reformed church with a similar thing going, on but they’ve buried it and won’t even acknowledge its existence.

    And look at New Life Church paying off Haggard’s boyfriend to buy his silence.

    So whatever is happening, it’s out in the open.

    That includes Driscoll saying in his books that if you weren’t supportiive of MH’s leaders, you should just leave. He has stories about that from when the church was much smaller.

    So it my be obnoxious, but I have to question if its abusive. It’s too much on the record.

  38. imonk, if you do a bit of Googling, you can easily find out a *lot* about the situation from a number of different POVs. I don’t want to take sides either way, since I’m not close to that church, but… to me, a lot of what’s being said (about “questioning” and more) sounds pretty bad. (As I’ve said here before, been there, done that… )

  39. And though it might not be all that germane to this post, I’ll re-post the link to Wittenberg Gate’s series on abusive churches (how to spot them, etc.) because it might be helpful to at least one other “someone” out there. I sure needed something like WG’s posts a few years back!

  40. e2c:

    Two points:

    1. I’ve been at the end of unfair actions of abusive leaders. I’m not at all unsympathetic.

    2. In 2006 and in the spring of last year, I was the subject of emails sent to reformed magazines that I write for, publishers I review for and to my employer. This were from blogosphere Calvinists who were completely unhinged at my criticisms of some Calvinists, and were prepared to say anything to destroy me. Much of this was libelous and some of it was dangerous. There were threats and completely invented accusations. These kinds of people do seem to gravitate to everyone with a higher profile in the Christian world.

    Your point is well made, and thanks for the links. I’m glad you connected this up to your own experience, and that you do realize Driscoll may not be identical to other people who are clearly abusive.

    (BTW- given the culture in Seattle, I would assume that Driscoll and other Christians will be automatically labeled a lot of things.)

  41. Driscoll’s churches are independent, aren’t they? *That’s* where the rubber hits the road; when there’s nobody “higher” than the pastor/elders, and no governing body to which the leaders are accountable.

    I wish I could believe that what happened to me won’t happen to other people, but you know… it does, all the time. WG makes some very good points about reasons that it’s hard to spot, accept, believe (etc.) that supposedly “good” people are acting in manipulative and abusive ways.

    At any rate, this could all be a very good topic for another post or thread….

  42. Patrick Lynch says

    I like this guy.

  43. Scott Miller says

    I don’t think that the Nightline piece was very fair to Driscoll. They focused on sound bites of hius preaching where he is riled up and making a fool of himself looking Pentecostal. I’ve listened to his podcasts for a couple of years and he is pretty steady.
    His Doctrine classes as a required step for new membership and his resulting book Vintage Jesus are top notch doctrine and theology.
    I am concerned about his cult of personality. The non-Ballard locations in Seattle show him on the big screen for the service. They have regular pastors there, but Driscoll’s message on the screen is the big draw, which must be a problem for the pastor who is normally there. If Driscoll is hit by a bus, will his church remain faithful? And will Driscoll still be cool when he is 50?

  44. Enigmatic and engaging, to say the least. I appreciate that he does appear to preach Jesus.

    “For no other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw — each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. (1 Cor 3:11-13)

    So I guess we’ll see on the Day when each man’s work is made visible.

  45. Michael, it’s my observation that you are more sympathetic to Driscoll than you are to other megachurches simply because you are more sympathetic to his particular brand of theology, though you don’t fully espouse it anymore. I have a very low personal opinion of Osteen. But I think that ultimately he does less harm than Driscoll.

    You’ve made some general predictions about evangelicalism. I’ll make a specific one about this megachurch and its charismatic leader. When his cult of personality collapses — and it will inevitably implode — the state of that city will be worse than if he had never been there at all.

    That’s a personal opinion, of course. And I’ve been wrong plenty of times in the past. I’m certainly not some sort of prophet. But cults of personality are generally destructive. I believe his particular theology is not helpful, but the manner in which he presents it makes it much worse. And making his particular views on men and women so central to what he is doing is extremely destructive. Further, the ‘macho’ image he produces and models for both ‘proper’ manhood and into which he distorts Jesus actually enflames and glorifies passions (particularly anger) which have no part in true Christianity.

    I wasn’t going to say anything beyond my one-liner. After sleeping on it, I decided to say a bit more. But it’s also perfectly fine with me if you don’t publish this comment. I’m torn about whether or not I should just keep my mouth shut as it is.

  46. I’ll make a specific one about this megachurch and its charismatic leader. When his cult of personality collapses — and it will inevitably implode — the state of that city will be worse than if he had never been there at all.

    That’s a personal opinion, of course. And I’ve been wrong plenty of times in the past. I’m certainly not some sort of prophet. But cults of personality are generally destructive. I believe his particular theology is not helpful, but the manner in which he presents it makes it much worse. And making his particular views on men and women so central to what he is doing is extremely destructive. Further, the ‘macho’ image he produces and models for both ‘proper’ manhood and into which he distorts Jesus actually enflames and glorifies passions (particularly anger) which have no part in true Christianity.

    thank you for this – and (just to back you up), here’s link to an official MH “teaching” pamphlet that really made my hair stand on end. (The part that literally says “In sum, the greatest threat to Christianity is Sex” in particular, though I believe Driscoll is playing *very* fast and loose with the Bible – and the SoS in particular – in this series of sermons.)

    he’s angry, and he’s arrogant, and he really doesn’t care who knows it. He’s also very closed-minded about the role of women in the church, and (dare I say it) insulting to LGBT folks in general.

    There’s more I could say, but Scott M covered most of those bases for me. 🙂

  47. We certainly are hearing different Gospels. Despite whatever flaws are there in application, Driscoll preaches the Biblical Gospel. Watch his Desiring God videos. Osteen has repudiated the cross and calls himself a Norman Vincent Peale follower. No Gospel at all.

    Appreciate your views. Just wanted to intro Driscoll to the IM audience that didn’t know him.

  48. Oh, I should have qualified my last comment by saying that I think “Be angry, but sin not” is important – that there’s a place for appropriate expression of anger as long as it does not harm others. However, I think Driscoll’s brand of anger is potentially quite destructive.

    And the remarks about giant screens (etc.) speak all too eloquently of what I was talking about in some earlier comments.

  49. Thanks to all, but I think we’ve actually moved on to another topic which, though not mentioned by name, is actually controlling the discussion.

    Thread closed.