January 19, 2021

Why Mark Driscoll Shouldn’t Bug Ya

driscoll-coverUPDATE: In addition to criticizing Driscoll for his nutty exegesis of Song of Solomon and his less than impressive analysis of The Shack, I’ve backed up Pastor Mark before.

It became painfully/strangely/humorously obvious at this week’s SBC meeting that a lot of people are worried about Mark Driscoll.

I’d like to suggest a brief program to calm you people down before you hurt yourselves, or worse, start a preaching series on cursing preachers who link sex toys on their sermon pages.

1. First, cards on the table: I am, for the most part, a supporter of Driscoll. I’m not in agreement with him on gender issues, and I’ll criticize him without mumbling on a collection of boneheaded maneuvers. But the guy’s vulnerability, passion for the Gospel, missionary’s heart, vision for church planting and insight into contemporary ministry far outweigh his flaws. Give him a few years and some room to be a goober.

2. The 75% of the problem you people have with Driscoll is that he’s bone-headed enough to hang some of his laundry out on the clothesline where we can see it. Trust me: all your preacher-heroes are flawed in ways that would disappoint you. Driscoll’s flaws simply have to do with his public persona. The other 25% really are flaws that, while not disqualifying, do need to be repaired, and I am confident they will be.

3. Much of the Driscoll hysteria is pure hype. Donald Miller called him the cussing preacher and most of you think Donald Miller is an emerging church apostate. Can you locate a quote of Driscoll “cussing” in a sermon? (We’ll talk about his topical and vocabulary choices in a moment.) I heard him say “Who the hell do you think you are?” once. If you have the impression that Driscoll’s language is the swearing equivalent of Good Will Hunting, you’re misinformed.

4. Here’s the deal: when he’s on the topic of sex, he talks like he’s on late night television. IOWs, he discusses sex very much unlike any preacher you know, and more like a typical guy in Seattle. He needs to change this. The problem is that Driscoll’s success has given him an audience of people who have no place whatsoever to process a joke about masturbation, etc. or to see Driscoll as embarrassing, but not dangerous.

5. My good friend- and I mean that folks- Frank Turk and I are going to have a mini-debate on here sometime regarding whether and how Driscoll should apologize for the extent of his poor example and distraction to the Gospel. I believe Driscoll’s willingness- imperfect as it may be- to be mentored by men like John Piper is as good an example as his occasionally crude words are a bad example.

6. Most of Driscoll’s problems relate to a sermon series that I believe was an unmitigated disaster. I’m willing to give the guy that one. I expect him to learn a few things.

7. If your pastor or youth minister is behaving poorly, it’s an issue in your church and in his context. Don’t think a motion at the SBC is going to make your little Driscoll fanboy sit up and fly right. That’s your bad choice of a person to work at your church. I’d advise you to get him a mentor and some feedback, and see if he grows.

8. Definitions of “holiness” in evangelicalism can get pretty prissy. The Bible has a lot of characters who are a lot more like Driscoll than they are like some prissy, fussy, fainting, prude of a morality cop. Men respect Driscoll for his imperfect holiness. People who are offended at his imperfect holiness may be in a zone that the rest of us should avoid anyway. Sometimes what offends you is offensive, and sometimes it’s an indication you ought to be doing something more constructive with your time.

9. Banning Driscoll at Lifeway will do exactly nothing…..except maybe make him more interesting. The man has millions of mp3 and video downloads a month. Lifeway books aren’t actually where those who like his preaching plug into him. This is the way the world works now. Denominational approval is not required. Piper GIVES AWAY his books for Pete’s sake. If the SBC votes that Driscoll is bad, a few people feel better and Driscoll’s stuff sells 5% more than last month.

10. Listen carefully: preacher boys liking Driscoll has to do with Driscoll getting about 25 things right most of the critics have been complaining about for years. If he grows as a person in the next 5 years in the directions most of us think he will, I don’t think you are going to want to have dumped him in the trash for being young and arrogant on occasion.


  1. Memphis Aggie says

    The controversy around Driscoll sounds a little like the controversy around Christopher West (although it’s more subdued in West’s case). Not familiar enough with Driscoll to really comment further.

  2. Disclaimer – I’m coming from a place where I think actions and our words are way more important than having the perfect theology.

    I have such mixed feelings about Driscoll. Mostly, I just feel very uncomfortable.

    The good – being direct, real, and honest, creating space where some Seattle urbanites are more likely to want to learn about Jesus.

    The problem – what is he really teaching them about the character of Jesus?

    I went to a Seattle Mars Hill satellite church service once, and Driscoll was doing the preaching, via satellite of course. 🙂

    In the space of less than half an hour, he put down Catholic Christians (I cannot remember for certain whether it was an attack on their salvation or their sincerity, but either way, very bad), he publicly castigated a couple of his own satellites, and essentially stated that all the ‘real’ men in Seattle were attending Mars Hill. Now, the rest of his message might have been a theological wonder, but I was way too horrified and distracted to care anymore.

    From local news this last winter, one couple who lives way south near Portland did risk life and limb to drive up to his church service in snow conditions that were so bad authorities were begging people not to drive in it. Driscoll made a big point to hold them up as wonderful examples of dedication, while putting down those people in his church who had shown some common sense and stayed home.

    So my concern has nothing to do with an occassional sermon that some might consider ‘out there’, or so called vulgar language.

    My concern is what is he really teaching people, many of whom are new Christians , about the true character of Jesus and how we are to relate to others?

  3. Driscoll wouldn’t be such a bad guy if he wasn’t a jerk.

  4. Good thing Mark abandoned His Catholic upbringing to become a voice of the Charismatic,Reformed,ex-emergent, stylish exciting ever old ever new brand of protestant Christianity that highlights gender roles and a Jesus tougher than Rocky, with revolutionary insights on human sexuality that pre date Christianity. I can’t wait to see the next Driscoll in years to come, if their is any consistency in this world I’m sure he or she will provide us with some novel doctrine or moral taboo to question.

  5. Ya know – I never really had a problem with him. I’m in Seattle. I’ve attended his church. I won’t say that I came away from his sermons unfed – but I will say I came away from his church unloved. I’m sorry, it may be just Seattle or the mega-church that is Mars Hill but after a month no one spoke to me.

    The person at the “Welcome” counter pointed me at a box to put my “new visitor” card in and then turned their back on me and walked away.

    The girl tending the children’s ministry counter pointed me at an application packet and likewise turned away.

    The signing up I did at the proper counter for a Bible study group never got a response at all.

    You will know them by their love? Um… not at Mars Hill.

    Oh – and when I mentioned any of that in my blog? Their team of techno-professionals apparently Googled the reference and responded with a vague, “nobody’s perfect” but still didn’t bother to leave their name or even say hi.

    The shape of his church / business – that’s the problem I have with Mark Driscoll.

    (For the record – it took me a year to find a solid Bible preaching, God loving church in Seattle. I found a tiny fellowship called Emmaus Road and couldn’t be happier.)

  6. Jerry Redman says

    Karl Kroger’s post was the best of the entire thread.

  7. Imonk et al,
    Contextualisation is important, being culturally in touch is important, and I think MD has some very helpful insights but I think holiness is more important. We are to be set apart for God’s special use and not be like the world (which is what Ephesians 4:17 – 5:20 is all about). Our ministries will not glorify God if our actions are subverting the very gospel that we seek to proclaim to unbelievers. And this is my greatest concern regarding Mark – that he is unwittingly subverting the very gospel he is proclaiming to unbelievers.

  8. The word “but” appears 59 times in the comments so far.

    Isn’t it an old truism that using “but” in effect negates what was said before? That being said, it seems there is quite a bit of faint praise being given ahead of more firmly held beliefs.

    Just my observation – but I could be wrong 🙂

  9. Michael, regarding your comment regarding my comment earlier about imperfect holiness, I was picking up on your own phrase about Mark Driscoll’s “imperfect holiness” in your original post. I was thinking more of the whole context of the first chapter of I Peter and not in a “law vs. grace” sense.

    All of us are exhorted to “be holy” and of course all of us are imperfectly holy. But some of us (I include myself here) do seem to be more imperfect than others ….

  10. In a few years we will not be able to recognize Mark Driscol from any other upward mover in the SBC he to is subject to co-opting by the big machine of progress. New Chapmans are just around the corner but we SouthernBaptist have a problem recognizing the truth even when it is obvious. JB

  11. When I look to Mark as an example, I tend to look to his theology.

    When I’m looking to Christian men on how to conduct one’s self as a minister, a pastor and human being, I find myself looking to other men.

    How we treat people says a lot about us, and if we treat them poorly it can negate just about everything good that we do. For some reason, Christians in general just don’t seem to get that.

    Nor care.


  13. I’ll admit that I’ve had problems with Driscoll in the past, mostly from sermon clips I seen or read about, and I have a big problem with big egos. But after reading his books I’ve come to trust him. A lot. It’s easier for me to extend grace and the benefit of the doubt now. Thanks for the post, Michael.

  14. Wordgazer says

    I’ve read some of the stuff Driscoll says about men’s God-given right to rule women. I don’t care if he swears; I don’t care if he talks about sex. I do care that he clearly, honestly believes women are second-class citizens of the Kingdom. Enough said.

  15. Dovetailing with #8 on your list, how much of the hooplah from SBC and others that get offended by Driscoll reflects a probelm with the offended rather than the offender? If the major issue is that he’s too earthy, I gotta wonder what bible the offended folks are reading.

    I’m reading where he puts the marriage between Christ and his bride (i.e. the church) in a polymorphously perverse subtext — for laughs. And no, although I wouldn’t chose to attend a sermon (or lecture) about the SoS as an instructional manual, I could not care less. That’s just the class I wouldn’t sign up for, or the Sunday I’d play Holy Hooky. I’m talking about when Driscoll gets all homophobic (and frankly, offensive) about the idea of marriage being a shadow or type of Christ and the church. It’s gross and immature and benefits no one.

  16. You say in towards the beginning of your post that Driscoll is too loose with his speach on sexuality and should change. I wonder if you are fully considering the culture that he is speaking into. sure, you never hear any pastor go where he goes on the topic, but given the age demographics and lifestyle of his church I have to think that he spends more time there because it’s one of the his churches bigger issues.

    It is Seattle, ya know..

  17. Banning Driscoll at Lifeway will do exactly nothing…..except maybe make him more interesting. The man has millions of mp3 and video downloads a month. Lifeway books aren’t actually where those who like his preaching plug into him. This is the way the world works now. Denominational approval is not required. Piper GIVES AWAY his books for Pete’s sake. If the SBC votes that Driscoll is bad, a few people feel better and Driscoll’s stuff sells 5% more than last month.

    This is so very true. I think we all get our stuff from Amazon.com anyways these days. 🙂

  18. > It’s clear to me that whatever version of this
    > you’ve heard on the Catholic side, you’re far more > interested in using it to …

    > Good thing Mark abandoned His Catholic upbringing…

    Monk – the undertones in your and a lot of your readers’ responses are coming across as a little patronizing to Catholics. Let me remind you that we are *knowingly* reading a blog written by a Southern Baptist, so please respond with some humility– realizing that we’re interested in your opinion. We all are here because we love Jesus and we’re looking for your insight. I’m not personally offended, but I do feel like you were a little condescending to Martha earlier, and I’m not even sure if she caught on to it.

    In any case, your blog actually turned me on to Driscoll, and I watched one of his sermons this Sunday– the one about false teachers. I like his style a lot because (1) he comes across as a teacher and not as a condemner, and (2) he is frank in his lessons. Driscoll comes across as a real human being who is preaching the Word because he has a passion for it, and is trying to share it with the world.

    That said, I’d be afraid that in a few years Driscoll’s passion might diminish and that he’d be just going through the rote. He preaches with so much fervor now that I’d worry he won’t be able to keep it up!

  19. Steve R: I didn’t condescend to Martha earlier. I was answering her in kind, so you are correct I was not making a demonstration of humility. Martha is not bashful and she posts with plenty of vinegar. She’s well aware that I will answer in kind and she never shrinks from having her say. We acknowledged that discussion via email. It was Martha who brought Driscoll’s Catholicism into the discussion. Please note her quips following my “unhumble” reply. She dishes it out as well as anyone I know, and I respect that.

    I may be lacking humility in my answer because I wasn’t trying to be humble. Martha and several other Catholic commenters occasionally trod into evangelical conversations and say their peace. I answer as addressed. And the favor is returned to me when I step into RC territory.

    Martha wrote me via email and acknowledged our exchange. We remain friends and we remain very opinionated. That’s good for business and makes good friendships off line.

    For the record, the “humble Christian” blogs do not usually impress me with humility, but with false piety. I could name names. So I appreciate an admonition to not be a jerk, but I’m not about to become a timid soul.

  20. Wasn’t aware that you and Martha had some history; I’ll leave it alone and let you two sort it out.

    > For the record, the “humble Christian”
    > blogs do not usually impress me with
    > humility, but with false
    > piety.

    False piety? *Now* you’re being a jerk. How can you accuse me of being falsely pious when you don’t even know where I’m coming from?

    No, I’m not falsely pious. Believe me, I’ve been been taught humility MANY times in my life. Trust me buddy, when you raise yourself up on a pedestal, it hurts that much more when God knocks you down.

    > I’m not about to become a timid soul.

    Humility and timidity are not synonymous. Jesus was humble, but He didn’t have any qualms overturning the tables at the temple. Humility means realizing that everything you have: knowledge, power, wealth, etc. are gifts from God and not created by you. I didn’t ask you to be a church lady, I said we were interested in your opinion, and that alienating religions like Archie Bunker isn’t going to help your point.

    I like a lot of what you have to say, but I can easily throw away the parts where you snipe at Catholics.

  21. I nearly thoroughly enjoyed the SoS series he “produced” / taught on. I don’t care for the shouting at all, whether by him or any other pastor for that matter. You know it goes too far when he loses his voice. 🙂

    Of course, I also don’t care for any pastor or teacher or whatever that calls us to honor the wives, mothers, etc, but then tears about man, fathers, husbands a month later. And you guys and gals know exactly what I’m talking about. Just look at your congregations the 2nd Sunday of May vs. the 3rd Sunday of June. What does your pastor preach on?

    Sadly, in the same manner, but without losing their voices, as Driscoll. And yes, I’ve seen this for years, too.

    I wouldn’t say I’m a fanboy. I hated that he got so much PR from his renouncing of “The Shack” despite never having read it. Of course, I’m learning the same thing about Harry Potter and how much truth and the Larger Story are within that. Maybe Twilight next?

    On that topic, I think he did a fantastic job with the ABC discussion of Satan and the realities of spiritual warfare.

  22. Thanks Michael,

    I think your post was balanced. My son attends Mark’s church and it has been used of God to cause amazing growth and vibrancy in my son. When he arrived in the Seattle area to work for Microsoft he was far from the Lord…God used the ministry there to get him back into Scripture study, love for the LORD and for His people.

    Someone commented that the church was not friendly; but my son has found the opposite to be true…then again my son is out-going. He joined a community group—yes, he had to speak to them twice about it , but they did plug him in to one.

    Anyways, thanks for your balanced approach to Mark. I think any pastor would have problems to one degree or another if the spotlight is placed on him ;-). Everyone falls short at times.

  23. Steve R: I was not calling you falsely pious or thinking of you when I wrote the sentence. I see how you made the connection, but that wasn’t my intention.

    Sorry for lack of a proper emoticon to say “not talking about you.”

    peace man


  24. My mistake Monk – sorry to jump to conclusions and for briefly getting up on a soapbox. feel free to delete or moderate my comment. Your blog is terrific; I’ve enjoyed your opinions and reading it daily.

    Peace to you as well

  25. It seems like Jesus gave an easy “test” for Mark or any of us.

    “You shall know a tree by its fruit”

    Does Driscoll preach the gospel?

    Does the gospel bear fruit?
    Colossians 1:6….” All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth.”

    Therefore-Philippians 1:18 “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.”

Speak Your Mind