Mark Driscoll was at one point in time a huge hero of mine. I was young and young in ministry when I first learned of him. I began to read his books and listen to his sermons veraciously. I couldn’t get enough. Truthfully, I idolized the guy because I felt that I should be like him. I heard my heart saying: “I should be 26, start a church and by the time I’m 35 it should be a mega-church, just like Mark”. If I’m honest, this was my hearts desire. I thought: “I can learn to be like him and plant a church and be famous just like him”. I even thought at one point in time that Hilary and I should move to Seattle so I could plant a Mars Hill Church satellite.
His manly approach to the Gospel was endearing to me. He was no nonsense and didn’t fear speaking the truth. However, as I listened to his sermons, read his books…I began to sense a change in his writings. He began to seem more angry, more arrogant and speaking the truth as he “knew it” not as it really was. I quickly became disillusioned and began to listen to other preachers and read other authors.
He still shaped me though. His preaching style is one worth studying. His heart for Jesus is one worth emulating. Yet, his approach to many other things are not worth following, as so many have recently pointed out. He’s been called out all over the blogosphere, the twitospehre and the facebookospehere. Many have called for him to step down. Numerous ex-pastors from his staff have called him out and accused him of many transgressions. For many years some of these things have been going on and Mark didn’t reply, nor did Mars Hill. Mark didn’t own up to many of his mistakes.
This past month however, that all changed. Early August, Mark wrote a statement of apology.
Jonathan Merritt wrote a little over 3-weeks ago a controversial blog titled: Why We Should Accept Mark Driscoll’s Apology, which I thought was right on. I say controversial because many disagreed with Merritt and it got a big dicey. They seemed out for Mark’s Mega-Church-Pastor blood, so they were not content with accepting an apology but rather wanted the man defamed before the entire evangelical world.
They seemed to have gotten their wish. This past Sunday, Mark Driscoll formerly, from the pulpit apologized and announced he would be stepping down for a minimum of 6 weeks to allow the process to happen. He says: “This process will better be served with me not in the pulpit and not in the office”. I’ve known about this since Sunday, but didn’t watch the video until last night. It was hard to watch. A man who spent 19 years building something will now have to walk away from it; some speculate he will do so for good. When someone puts that much into something and then needs to step-away…it’s hard to watch.
I’m not going on a smearing campaign here as many have. Nor am I going to celebrate that Mark got what was coming to him. I’m not even going to lambast those who helped raise this man to the celebrity he has achieved. I want to discuss how hard it is when a pastor steps down as well as how we should respond.
This move took guts. Granted it may have been forced or coerced, but that doesn’t negate its difficulty. Whether its misconduct, or age that causes a pastor to step down, its hard. I’ve known pastors who’ve just up and left the congregations, no real good-byes. Simply a weaklings way out by just moving out. I’ve also seen pastors resign and leave due to coercion of a dishonest and harsh elder board. My point is, doing so, no matter what the reasons behind it is hard. Doing it publicly the way Driscoll did…in front of his congregation was gutsy. I agree it was also necessary. It affects the pastor, his family, the church they serve. In this case however, the fallout of this goes beyond those and into the Evangelical world as a whole. It brings into question the validity of Christ and His ability to redeem. It gives the world more fuel to throw on the “Church sucks- down with organized religion” bandwagon.
What then should the Global Church’s response be when a public, celebrity pastor steps down?
Lambast those who allowed them to get so high and influential?
Publicly berate the theology of the pastor?
Say they got what they deserved?
I think with a fallout this big, our response should be prayer. Like it or not, Drisoll has been a leader in the Christian church. He helped shape much of the evangelicalism we live in today. He has represented Christ to many. If the global church doesn’t unite around something like this through prayer and love, we’ve lost a great chance to show the unity of the body of Christ. “They will know us by how we love one another?” Then let’s step up and love Mark, Mars Hill and the Church at large through prayer, not public blog-beatings. Pray for healing. Pray for restoration- of those hurt and of those under scrutiny. May we show the world we are not like they think we are. We have something different, something better to offer.