Archives For Mark Driscoll

The elders at Mars Hill concluded the investigation into the concerns raised against Mark Driscoll. In the wake of this conclusion Mark Driscoll resigned. Christianity Today has also reported on Driscoll’s resignation.

I confess that is easier to sit on the outside away from the fray and to make comments on decisions made than it is to be in the midst of difficult situations seeking to make wise, God-honoring, Christ-exalting, people-serving decisions. I make this statement experientially, having been on both sides. However, because this situation has been so public, which is partly to explain why/how the church grew (remembering Christ builds His church [Matt. 16:18]!) and the influence Driscoll has had, what has now unfolded in more of a difficult and challenging manner has also been public.

With this confession and concession made, here is my brief assessment: I think they missed this one. Before explaining my rationale for this assessment, there are also a few other matters to address.

It is, on the one hand, disappointing that the full process could not have run its course. One would have desired that the process begun could have been completed. This is good and right for all. Hurts, pains, sins, misunderstandings, etc., could have been addressed through being spoken and then, in turn, listened to and then the appropriate response and follow up could have been implemented, that of repentance, discipline and restoration. The right place for this to occur is the place where it happened, the context of that local church. That is always the best course. The reason is because the gospel that was foundational to creating new life is also foundational for life together as the people of God. This new community created by the gospel lives by and manifests the gospel. This is why it is always the best course, because it is the right course as established by the gospel. It is sad that any attempt to work through these issues and manifest the fruit of the gospel in this church, the new community created by the Lord, are now aborted.

On the other hand, unless Driscoll resigned, it ultimately put the elders in a very awkward position for the ongoing well-being of the church. Rather than wait for the elders to make the decision, it was almost necessary for Driscoll to make this decision himself. As much as one would think the biblical principle would prevail, often in these settings relationship trumps principle. Although it is not often done purposefully or with the intent of compromising the gospel for the sake of relationship (as with larger matters in churches and denominations, this would be similar to unity/relationship vs. purity/truth), it does often occur. In these kinds of situations, for the pastor who is at the center of the discussion/debate, to force the congregation to decide is to divide the congregation based on the relationship with the pastor. That is not a biblical basis for making principled decisions. It then becomes more about the pastor/person than it does about Jesus Christ, His Bride, and the gospel. Better to be wronged than to tarnish any of those (cf. Phil. 1:18).

I considered in confusing and disingenuous to claim that there was no immorality, illegality or heresy. I have no reason to doubt the last two. From the outside, I have no basis to discern. Regarding the first, granted there was no sexual immorality. But his character issues of pride, arrogance, temper, domination, bullying, etc., are character issues. In fact, the report stated that they do “not believe him to be disqualified from pastoral ministry.” These character issues which are moral issues I believe disqualified him from pastoral ministry. They don’t fit under the list of qualifications of elders found in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. In accepting Driscoll’s letter of resignation, two of the five responses from the Board of Overseers were as follows:

  1. We concluded that Pastor Mark has, at times, been guilty of arrogance, responding to conflict with a quick temper and harsh speech, and leading the staff and elders in a domineering manner. While we believe Mark needs to continue to address these areas in his life, we do not believe him to be disqualified from pastoral ministry.
  2. Pastor Mark has never been charged with any immorality, illegality or heresy. Most of the charges involved attitudes and behaviors reflected by a domineering style of leadership.

In Driscoll’s resignation letter, he notes this as one of the items of affirmation/encouragement:

Last week our Board of Overseers met for an extended period of time with Grace and me, thereby concluding the formal review of charges against me. I want to thank you for assuring Grace and me that last Saturday that I had not disqualified myself from ministry.

As noted above, I think his character issues were moral issues that did disqualify him from ministry. I do not believe it necessarily would have had to disqualify him permanently, but repentance and time would have to be the “test.” For the present, I believe they disqualify him. This is what had not been addressed for all these years, and it led to this.

This is not just an end of Mark Driscoll’s ministry as a pastor at Mars Hill, it is also a beginning to a new season, the next chapter in the life and ministry of Mars Hill Church. As they follow the Lord’s lead in this next chapter, may they – and we – remember the following seven truths:

  • the church is created by the gospel and exists for the gospel (Rom. 1:16).
  • Jesus Christ alone is the Head of the Church (Eph. 1:22; 4:15; 5:23; Col. 1:18; 2:10, 19) and He authoritatively rules over the church through the Word.
  • the church is about people, not a person (1 Pet. 2:9-10).
  • although the church is influenced by pastors/vocational elders, it is not determined by them. There is one chief Shepherd (1 Pet. 5:4).
  • with many and varied changes, including people and pastors, the church goes on governed by its Head and guided and led by the Holy Spirit (cf. Jn. 16:13; Acts 15:28).
  • we all, especially pastors/vocational elders, must watch our lives and doctrine closely for in this way we save both ourselves and our hearers (1 Tim. 4:16).
  • in these situations, whether we are living it from the inside or watching it from the outside, we grieve, we pray and we hope in God.

In another response, Trevin Wax writes of four lessons gleaned from this recent course of events and now this decision, though he does so “with a heavy but hopeful heart”: leadership matters, church polity matters, character matters as much as doctrine, and the celebrity culture hinders our witness.

Mark Driscoll Repents . . . Again

Greg Strand – March 20, 2014 3 Comments

You have probably heard or read Mark Driscoll’s letter of apology read to members and attendees of Mars Hill Church. Christianity Today commented on it by stating “Mark Driscoll Retracts Bestseller Book Status, Resets Life.”

I hesitate saying too much because this is from a distance and I was not personally wronged. However, there is a sense in which those of us who listened to, read or were influenced by Driscoll have been wronged, though in a different way with a different impact/outcome. This means a confession can be approached differently than one who is close, one who is a friend and one who has been personally hurt or offended. A general biblical principle is that repentance, confession of sin, ought to be as broad or as public as the sin. In today’s world with the many forms of communication and publications, the impact can be quite broad. Rightly, this confession began with his own church family.

Repentance is foundational to the message of Jesus: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mk. 1:15). It is the grounded in the gospel and the basis of initiation into the kingdom. Repentance initiates one into new life in Christ and is an ongoing mark of that life. When a sinner repents, there is joy in heaven (Lk. 15:7, 10). As we live life together as brothers and sisters in Christ, as long as one repents, we are to forgive (Lk. 17:3-4). Unlike the elder brother, we are to rejoice as those in heaven over a sinner who repents rather than being stingy in our forgiveness of the repentant (Lk. 15:24-32). We must not begrudge God’s extravagant grace of giving and forgiving (cf. Matt. 20:15), which become a model for us. Even more so, it reflects true sonship since sons and daughters take their Father’s (Matt. 5:45) and Son’s (Rom. 8:29) likeness. Finally, the manner in which we love God and others, which includes repentance and forgiveness, reveals whether or not we have experienced and grasped God’s great love and forgiveness of us, because the one who has been forgiven much – which is all of us – loves much (Lk. 7:47).

In light of this biblical teaching, someone commented that Driscoll also apologized in 2007 in a sermon. That is great, in that it evidences a repentant lifestyle, at least twice. In fact, I would hope that one would not question one’s present day confession because one made a prior confession. Confession/repentance really ought to be a way of life for the Christian. In fact, the person pointing to the confession made in 2007 read that as evidence of a negative thing in Driscoll’s life; one causing him to repent again. I read and understood it in a different way – as a good thing. In fact, it raised the question about whether that was the last time he repented. Truth be told, he could probably have pointed to the day prior as having heard another confession. I am quite certain 2007 was not the last time Driscoll repented, even publicly. There ought to be evidence that he has repented numerous times since then. Repeated repentance is a good thing, a mark of a new life lived in the kingdom of God, an evidence of the gospel. This is why the first of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses addressed ongoing repentance, stating, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said ‘Repent,’ he intended that the entire life of believers should be repentance.”

I greatly appreciate Driscoll’s acknowledgement and confession. It evidences God’s grace, not just theologically, not just abstractly, not just for others, but in his own life. These sorts of things are not generally said or done apart from the Holy Spirit convicting, guiding and leading to repentance. It is, indeed, God’s kindness that leads us to repentance (Rom. 2:4).

Ray Ortlund wrote positively about Driscoll’s repentance as explained in “What Just Happened?” The point Ortlund makes is that Driscoll owned up and repented. That is amazing. But based on his relationship with him, it did not surprise him. What is even more amazing “is not how often he repents but how rarely other Christian leaders repent.” That is a good point and an important observation. Here is another person who commented on Driscoll’s apology, one who has been a critic. He appropriately assumes the best and voices his support.

I don’t mean to be skeptical or a cynic or to detract from Driscoll’s repentance, but I am going to make an observation that might make it sound as if I am (forgive me if it does): Why is it in so many (all?) of these instances, these decisions, conclusions and responses are initiated and generated by the person, the “celebrity?” Then, and only then, once he presents it to the board of advisors or a similar accountability group, they joyfully agree. Where were they before? Had they been completely blind to these issues previously? (Anyone who has followed this at all from a distance could have written this list Driscoll included in his letter of apology. Those more closely related could probably have included even more.) Had they remained silent? Had they addressed it only to be rebuffed? Though I celebrate with what I read, the true test of repentance will be changes that follow, i.e. fruit-bearing in keeping with repentance (Matt. 3:8), which I trust will be true and manifest.

One of the true tests of humility is to listen and submit to that group of elders or board of advisers and accountability even before I see something in my own life. The reason I have them in my life is to help me to see those issues I cannot or will not see on my own. In these situations, the “celebrity” often becomes doubly untouchable in that he is determining his own life direction and that those to whom he is to be accountable, those who are to be helping him, often simply say what he wishes anyway, a sort of echo of his wishes and desires. This does not just rest on the person, the pastor or “celebrity,” but it is also the responsibility of the elders or board of advisers who also become culpable. It may be fitting for them to repent as well.

Another interesting thing about this is that Driscoll says he is following his pastor, the Lord Jesus. This is true. The Lord Jesus is the Chief Shepherd of our souls (1 Pet. 5:4), the Great Shepherd of the sheep (Heb. 13:20) and He pastors through the Word. Now, He leads through the Other, the Comforter, the Holy Spirit (Jn. 14:16). But this understanding and approach is lacking because it is not just “me and Jesus.” The Lord Jesus is our Head, and we submit to His authority by submitting to the Word. The Holy Spirit illumines that Word and convicts us by that Word and transforms us into the likeness of the Son. As we come short, He convicts us (Jn. 16:8) and leads us to repentance. But here is what is important, vital, and yet missing. This submission happens in the context of the local church in which there is a God-ordained structure of elders and others.

What about us? Is repentance true of us? Is repentance a mark of our lives, an evidence of living a life in a manner worthy of the gospel (Phil. 1:27)? Do we need to initiate all repentance and change, or can others speak into those issues in our lives? Do we have ears to hear and hearts to respond?

Having written this, it is time for me to repent: I confess this is something I know better than I live. This is, I confess, something I have not always or often lived well in my own life. But I desire to, which gives me hope – hope in the gospel because one of the evidences of it is repentance. I am thankful for God’s kindness.

One final thought. It is much easier to repent in this way to everyone (in general) and no one (in particular) than it is to my wife and those closest to me, those who know me and my sins better than I know them myself.

Though this is old news by now, I thought it would be helpful to give a summary with a final statement. Often we hear about these matters initially, hear a few updates along the way, but seldom hear about how they end. Or if we do, we don’t say anything about it. This post is an attempt to do that.

This past November Pastor Mark Driscoll was interviewed by Janet Mefferd about his new book, A Call to Resurgence (Tyndale), which was arranged by Tyndale House Publishers. During this interview, Mefferd pointed out what appeared to be plagiarism in the book. Driscoll brushed it off during the interview, but later Mefferd added more to her charges including additional charges of plagiarism discovered in another book published a couple of years ago, Trial: 8 Witnesses From 1 & 2 Peter.

Christianity Today picked this up and gave updates as they became available: “Mark Driscoll Improperly Copied Paragraphs from Bible Commentary Plagiarism.”

Jonathan Merritt wrote about this discussion in the Religion News Service, and he also provided regular updates on the discussion.

Andy Crouch responded in an article for Christianity Today, “The Real Problem with Mark Driscoll’s ‘Citation Errors’, And it isn’t plagiarism,” which was one of the better treatments of this discussion. Crouch pointed out the problems of plagiarism, collaboration and what ought to be expected from Christians. He concludes,

Mark Driscoll is a human being, created in the image of God, with great gifts, real limits, and very likely a genuine calling to ministry. But “Pastor Mark Driscoll,” the author of “literally thousands of pages of content a year,” the purveyor of hundreds of hours of preaching, is in grave danger of becoming a false image. No human being could do what “Pastor Mark Driscoll” does—the celebrity is actually a complex creation of a whole community of people who sustain the illusion of an impossibly productive, knowledgeable, omnicompetent superhuman.

The real danger here is not plagiarism—it is idolatry.

All idolatry debases the image bearers who become caught up in its train. Idols promise superhuman results, and for a time they can seem to work. But in fact they destroy the true humanity of both those they temporarily elevate and those they anonymously exploit. Nothing good can come from the superhuman figure presented to the world as “Pastor Mark Driscoll”—not for the real human being named Mark Driscoll himself, and not for the image-bearers who may be neglected in his shadow.

Jared Wilson, who has been greatly helped in his Christian life by Driscoll, wrote a post of how disappointed he was with Driscoll and his silence in the wake of the accusations: “Re: Mark Driscoll.” This was written just days before Driscoll’s apology appeared in Tyndale’s update.

InterVarsity Press, whose New Bible Commentary was plagiarized in the writing of Driscoll’s commentary on 1 Peter, released the following statement, which indicates that it was not “a case of fair use”:

Several paragraphs from the New Bible Commentary edited by G. J. Wenham, J. A. Motyer, D. A. Carson and R. T. France published by InterVarsity Press appear in Mark Driscoll’s now out of print book Trial: 8 Witnesses From 1 & 2 Peter. These improperly appeared without quotation or attribution. With proper citation the material would have been a case of fair use.

InterVarsity Press believes all writers should use great care as they do research and prepare texts for any use to make sure that proper acknowledgement is given to source material.

Tyndale House also released a statement after they had looked into the charges of plagiarism which Christianity Today also summarized, “Tyndale Releases Results of Mark Driscoll Plagiarism Investigation” It includes both a statement from Driscoll and their own conclusion regarding the accusation of plagiarism regarding the book they published, A Call to Resurgence, they concluded it was “properly cited in the printed book and conforms to market standards.”

This is what Driscoll wrote, which was included in the Tyndale report:

In recent weeks, it was brought to my attention that our 2009 Trial study guide on 1&2 Peter contained passages from an existing work for which no proper citation to the original work was provided. The error was unintentional, but serious nonetheless. I take responsibility for all of this. In order to make things right, we’ve contacted the publisher of the works used in the study guide, offered an apology, and agreed to work with them to resolve any issues they had. Also, I personally contacted one of the editors of the work that was not rightly attributed. Thankfully, he and I have a longstanding relationship, which includes him teaching at Mars Hill and publishing a book with us through Resurgence. He’s a godly man who has been very gracious through all of this. I am deeply thankful for his acceptance of my apology, as I deeply grieve this mistake with a brother in Christ whom I appreciate very much.

Our Full Council of Elders and Board of Advisors and Accountability have all been thoroughly informed, as I am gladly under authority both internally at Mars Hill to a team of Elders, and to a formal leadership team from outside of Mars Hill.

We’ve removed the free PDF version of Trial from our website, and we are reviewing the rest of our self-published materials to ensure that no similar mistakes have been made elsewhere. We are also making changes to our content development process to avoid these mistakes in the future. In addition, we are working with all of our past publishers to review other books we have published. If other mistakes were made, we want to correct them as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, when we removed the Trial PDF from the Mars Hill website, we replaced it with a statement that claimed the book was never sold. That study guide was originally created for in-house small group use at Mars Hill so we gave it away at our church. We first believed we did not receive any revenue from this, but we later discovered that Trial was in fact previously sold on the Resurgence website and by Logos Software. To the best of our knowledge, total profits to Mars Hill from these sales are $236.35. We have corrected the previous statement on our website, and apologize for this error as well.

Mistakes were made that I am grieved by and apologize for. As a Bible teacher, I know that Jesus loves us and uses everything for good. I know he cares very much that we do things in a way that reflects his glory. As a result, I have been praying that he would help me learn through all of this to become more like him and more effective for him.”

This is the final word from Tyndale:

To his credit, Mark Driscoll has moved quickly to make all necessary changes where mistakes were made in the study guide” said Ron Beers, Senior Vice President and Group Publisher for Tyndale. “Moreover, he has assured us that he has personally spoken with the primary editor of a commentary that was inadvertently used in the study guide without adequate citation, and all parties spoken to have told Pastor Driscoll that they are satisfied with the steps he has taken to correct the errors. Because of the biblical manner in which Pastor Driscoll has handled this situation, Tyndale strongly stands behind him and looks forward to publishing many additional books with him. Tyndale believes that Mark Driscoll has provided a significant call to Christians to unite together in translating the message of Jesus faithfully to a post-Christian culture, to proclaim clearly, loudly, and unashamedly the Good News of Jesus.

I am encouraged to see acknowledgement of and repentance from this serious offense of plagiarism. It is a sin. With the availability and accessibility of sermons and writings online, either audio or written, it is easy to engage in the sin of plagiarism. That is not an excuse but an important call and reminder to give extra caution and care when speaking or writing.

For those pursuing credentialing in the EFCA we include in the “specifics of the paper” a statement about this: “Quotations from other scholars are to be avoided, or used minimally. Though you will consult, read and use sources, this is a paper expounding what you believe. Do not engage in plagiarism, either intentional or unintentional. It is a matter of integrity and truthfulness and speaks to your character. If discovered it will be addressed strongly and will affect your process of credentialing.”

How have you processed this?

How do you approach this matter in your speaking and writing?

Abortion is Murder

Greg Strand – October 22, 2013 Leave a comment

Mark Driscoll affirms the sanctity of life. In a recent writing he affirms life over against abortion, which he rightly calls murder. Moreover, he refers to this egregious act of murder against the youngest and most vulnerable of humanity as “America’s great denial.”

Driscoll asks, “What do 55 million people have in common?”

Both science and Scripture are absolutely clear that life begins at conception. Taking a human life is murder, by definition, which makes abortion a murderous act.

Consider this: On December 5, John Andrew Welden will be sentenced after pleading guilty in the murder of his unborn baby. Welden’s girlfriend, Remee Jo Lee, was six weeks pregnant when he gave her an abortion pill and told her it was antibiotics.

Welden was prosecuted for violating the Unborn Victims of Violence Act. Believe it or not, federal legislation forbids the murder of an unborn baby—except in the 55 million instances when it doesn’t. And a father can be convicted of murdering his unborn child without the mother’s consent, but if a woman decides to end her pregnancy against the wishes of the father, that’s her right to choose.

Choose murder? Can’t follow all of the logic? Perhaps that’s because it’s illogical.

Consider once again: “federal legislation forbids the murder of an unborn baby—except in the 55 million instances when it doesn’t.”

It is illogical.

It is murder.