August 12, 2020

Goodbye, Angry Young Prophet?


In the last year or two, I have been deeply convicted by God that my angry-young-prophet days are over, to be replaced by a helpful, Bible-teaching spiritual father. Those closest to me have said they recognize a deep change, which has been encouraging because I hope to continually be sanctified by God’s grace. I understand that people who saw or experienced my sin during this season are hurt and in some cases have not yet come to a place of peace or resolution. I have been burdened by this for the past year and have had private meetings one at a time to learn from, apologize to, and reconcile with people. Many of those meetings were among the most encouraging moments in my time at our church. Sadly, not all of those relationships are yet mended, but I am praying that God is gracious to get us to that place of grace. Now that others have come forward, my desire is to have similar meetings with those who are willing.

– from Mark Driscoll Addresses Mars Hill Church

* * *

Mark Driscoll has written a frank letter to his congregation. In it he confesses that he has been an unhealthy and immature leader. He acknowledges his own shortcomings in knowing what to do about fulfilling his responsibilities and admits that there have been times when he acted sinfully in his anger.

Driscoll then outlines some of the changes that have made in leadership structure at Mars Hill to allow for more wise counsel and accountability. However, he confesses that changes were not always made in good ways, and that many people were hurt in the process.

He addresses the recent controversy about using the company ResultSource to market his book Real Marriage. Driscoll claims no bad intent in using them, but now regrets the choice. He says he won’t do it again, and he has asked his publicist to stop using references to the NY Times bestseller list in publications.

What got my attention the most was the next part of Mark Driscoll’s letter:

Second, in recent years, some have used the language of “celebrity pastor” to describe me and some other Christian leaders. In my experience, celebrity pastors eventually get enough speaking and writing opportunities outside the church that their focus on the church is compromised, until eventually they decide to leave and go do other things. Without judging any of those who have done this, let me be clear that my desires are exactly the opposite. I want to be under pastoral authority, in community, and a Bible-teaching pastor who grows as a loving spiritual father at home and in our church home for years to come. I don’t see how I can be both a celebrity and a pastor, and so I am happy to give up the former so that I can focus on the latter.

When I was a new Christian at the age of 19, God spoke to me and told me to do four things. Today, I see that calling as:

Love Grace and our family — Preach the Bible — Train leaders (especially men) — Plant churches. Other things may be good, but I do not have the time or energy for them right now. My family and our church family need me focused and energized, and that is my deep desire. Therefore, I will be spending my energies growing in Christ-like character by grace, staying connected to Grace and our kids, loving and serving Mars Hill Church which continues to grow, teaching the Bible, and serving Christian leaders through such things as blogs and podcasts at Resurgence. Starting this fall, I will also be teaching at Corban University and Western Seminary in Bellevue to invest in young leaders. For a season, I want to pull back from many things in order for us to focus on the most important things: glorifying Jesus by making disciples and planting churches as a healthy, loving, and unified church, with our hands on the Bible and our eyes on Jesus.

In order to focus on his most important callings, Driscoll has committed to taking a break from using social media, cutting back on speaking and travel, doing fewer interviews, and working with his publisher to figure out a less intense writing schedule. He calls this a “relief” and says he wants to use this important season in his life to invest in matters of highest priority.

These decisions have been worked out, says Mark Driscoll, with his “Senior Pastor” Jesus Christ, his wife Grace, and his Board of Advisors and Accountability.

* * *

My take?

Good letter. Right things said and said well.

Some of my fundamental opinions haven’t changed. I still think the ecclesiologies and systems in which pastors like Mark Driscoll function are deeply flawed and I can’t see myself ever recommending a church like Mars Hill. I also continue to have a number of disagreements with Driscoll’s teaching and theology. I wonder if we will see any changes there.

But with regard to this letter, it is not my place to question Mark Driscoll’s sincerity, or indeed, express any opinion on something he wrote personally to his congregation.

Others will not be so reticent. Some will take a cynical view and see this as pure damage control. Others will automatically reject the possibility of change because they wouldn’t believe anything good could come from Driscoll even if a dove descended from heaven and God spoke his approval out loud. Loyal supporters will cheer and urge the haters to stop hating.

I try to be as fair as I know how to be in a situation like this. The guy wrote a good letter. I hope he follows up on it. I hope he becomes a better pastor. I hope the church becomes more healthy and mature. I hope in forgiveness, reconciliation, and peace.

I hope great grace will be upon us all.


  1. I’ll be interested in how this plays out.

    I for one give people the benefit of the doubt when they say things like this, unless they have a track record of false apologies.

    For instance, I wonder sometimes where CJ Mahaney’s debacle will end up. I think things will never be the same for him, certainly, as a minister. But with grace, and true repentance and self-examination in an ongoing way, it could be that he ends up becoming a decent pastor after all. I wouldn’t get starry-eyed over the possibility, but it seems that falling publicly and having your sin on display can sometimes lead to real, honest-to-God redemption. I don’t have detailed knowledge, but some things Ted Haggard has said since his fall have made me think “gee, there might end up being real substance there.”

    So, as one never having been burned by the influence of Driscoll’s personality or authority, I find it a bit easier to hope that this apology is sincere, and that there are better days ahead for he and Mars Hill.

    • Christiane says

      Nate, it looks like a number of comments here were made by people who WERE impacted by Driscoll’s teachings, most in a negative way for sure, some making the teachings sound definitive abusive and more cult-like than not. The great harm abusive leaders do includes making it difficult if not almost impossible for their victims not to become as cynical as they are, and if a victim is badly harmed then it may be impossible for them to see the possibilities of redemption for the abusive leader, even AFTER he has ‘said he’s sorry’ . . . I don’t blame the victims here, because if they are unable to take their former ‘leader’ at his word now, it is not their fault, it is his. That they are left cynical is like having to bear a bad scar as proof of what they have endured under the ‘leader’s’ rule. Some may have taken hits that cause them to question their own discernment.

      Abuse like this goes on, and on in peoples’ lives, as its power to destroy their ability to trust will seemingly protect them from another bad situation, but it will also cause them to build a wall around themselves that keeps good relationships from forming,
      and that is why spiritual abuse is so very sinful in the ways it continues to impact a victim’s life.

      Way out of this?
      Grace to overcome the anger, the cynicism, the inability to ‘let go’ of bad feelings and be restored to peace of mind. The help is there. There are whole ministries who reach out and try to help former victims. And God can and does bring good out of bad situations, and He can bind up the wounds, and offer shelter and a calm port once more.

      I hope one day to see misogyny discredited among fundamentalist Christian evangelicals, but it has a very strong hold on many and the damage being done is severe.

      • I have no doubt that what you say about people wounded in such ways is true. I’ve known a few in my time. My prayer is that, even if they can’t prevent cynicism from swallowing their hope when they look at these situations, that perhaps they might see a person who is unscarred in that way, and maybe at least find a lifeline in that. If not a line TO the abusers, then simply a line to a go-between. Someone who isn’t an abuser but who can still hold out hope.

        • CalvinCuban

          You’re right. My a above comments are less than charitable. Forgive my tone. The spirit I wrote those were out of anger and frustration at the new reformed crowd. One can only be told god hates you got so long before it does something terrible in you. Despite that, my response should not be out of anger.

          • It may surprise you to hear that I have many issues with the new Reformed folks myself. They often have a very shallow understanding of Reformed theology and are as uncharitable as anyone else.

            And in my quest to be fair and charitable to people I can often be unfair and uncharitable myself. If I said anything which offended you ten please forgive me.

  2. CalvinCuban,

    I don’t think you did! And I am glad your daughter found healing at MH. For myself, i’ve found that in Orthodoxy, though frequently, I shoot my mouth off because it’s how i want EVERYone to find it. I’m truly trying to stop. It takes time to learn to see the good rather than all the bad.

  3. A beautiful, balanced perspective, Mike.

  4. “Do you honestly know enough personally about the man to know he is an “unethical, greedy tyrant charlatan”? Like you’ve been to Seattle, heard both sides and could prove it in court? Really?”

    I have to attend Mars Hill to have an opinion? I cannot go by his very public words, teachings, behavior? He spent a ton of money and time marketing himself internationally, I might add. But I am supposed to believe that if I knew him personally he woujld be a totally different person that his public persona he invented? That does not bode well for him either, Brian. That would make him a fake.

    Your view reminds me of those grandma’s interviewed on the news when her grandson, who has a rap sheet a mile long, says he is such a sweet boy with a good heart. ooookaaay. If we only knew him all that other “bad stuff” would not matter? This thinking is so silly I have a hard time understanding how people can be so naive.

    “If you can, then John Piper should resign for ever having anything to do with him. Matt Chandler has to go to. So does Tullian tchividjian, Tim Keller, Ed Stetzer, and hundreds of pastors who’ve quoted him, used a video clip, everything. They’ve all enabled him, so let’s TRULY disinfect it and run them all out.

    Funny how quiet they are about him, eh? But the whole marketing world of YRR was beneficial for quite a while with these guys until….it became too embarassing. Hey why not just to spit in the face off all those thrown under the MH bus Driscoll bragged about? Go read Joyful Exiles including all the documentation.

    An Acts 29 church planting group here cannot distance themselves from him fast enough. They literally say, Mark who? And their leadership was trained at his boot camp where he taught the wives to offer up their backsides when they could not…..if you get my drift. I say, Driscoll is reprobate. If you think his Jesus is YOUR Jesus, you need to rethink it quick.