Sunday, September 28, 2014

Mark Driscoll and the power of the sob story: a survey and a proposal

You will not be able to read this analysis adequately without first having read the other posts in the tagged set that this post is part of.  Please go back and read the previous posts in this series, if you would, so that you can have a narrative framework for this piece.  Or, of course, you can read this first and go revisit the other parts in whatever order you see fit.  The point is that this analysis won't make sense and shouldn't be considered as a stand-alone analysis. It presupposes a working knowledge of all the materials tagged in this series of posts.

There have been many stories from former members and some former staff and elders about their time at Mars Hill.  There have been a number of high profile writers and bloggers who have attempted to shed light on things at Mars Hill.  In many cases this has been done through sharing the stories of those who have been hurt by practices or teachings people encountered, or in some cases believed they encountered, at Mars Hill Church.  Those stories, to be sure, have value and are worth bringing to light as people feel comfortable and confident going on the record.

But there's a problem with this that may not be apparent to people embroiled in the midst of reading all these stories.  A story like Andrew Lamb's is informative but not necessarily normative. That is to say that it showed us a great deal about how things could play out at Mars Hill under certain circumstances but might not be indicative of everyone's experience.  Joyful Exiles is a personal narrative told through some very impersonal means, correspondence and documents as well as intermittent flashes of narrative.  Then there are websites like Repentant Pastors and We Love Mars Hill and others and these are all valuable for the contributions they are working to make to inform people about the history of Mars Hill.

There is, however, a substantial limitation to these avenues which is that they are many and Mark Driscoll is one.  Rather, they are a variety of blogs and platforms that are sharing dozens of stories spanning campuses and years while the story of Mars Hill has increasingly been the story of Mars Hill has told by Mark Driscoll about Mark Driscoll. 

When Wenatchee The Hatchet published various writings of William Wallace II (better known as Mark Driscoll) earlier this year one of the aims was to bring back to public consideration the actual content and discussion that happened on the old Midrash so that people would no longer have to read about what Mark Driscoll said he said under the pen name William Wallace II and have an opportunity to go see for themselves what he actually wrote. 

One of the things that is worth mentioning about how Driscoll has engaged Mars Hill and his audience at large is to observe that one of the key ways he has done this is through telling the story of his own life, of his marriage to Grace Driscoll, and telling that story as a way to sum up and define the history of Mars Hill overall.  This has particularly been the case at certain controversial moments or periods in the history of Mars Hill. 

One of the reasons sharing individual stories or trying to highlight individual stories that critique Mars Hill or Mark Driscoll is that these stories simply don't disseminate along avenues swift or forceful enough to gain traction in most cases.  An individual story has to shed some light on systemic problems in the corporate culture of the church or corporation known as Mars Hill to gain any traction.

But at a more fundamental level you can't fight fire with fire (unless you're Prince Zuko having a showdown with Princess Azula).  Most Driscoll critics have simply failed to fully grasp the way Mark Driscoll has controlled the public narrative because it's so simple and so obvious, he simply controls the public narrative.  Driscoll has been able to rhetorically position himself as a sensible centrist against whom liberal secularist pagan heathens on the left and uptight fundamentalist anti-charismatic non-missional wingnuts on the right can all be presented as foils.  To the extent that critical media attention focuses on the persona and person of Mark Driscoll he has not only been able to cope with this he has arguably thrived on it.  Negative attention actually plays a crucial part in a long-running narrative technique Driscoll has practically used to define his career in public ministry.

No, it's not the incendiary stuff, not by itself.  It's not stuff like William Wallace II.  No, that's the inciting first-stage way of defining the narrative.  The far more important secondary stage is how the public narrative really gets defined by Mark Driscoll in the history of his public career.

You may have already guessed it but if you haven't, it's the sob story.

Even going back to William Wallace II we can see that Mark Driscoll framed the emergence of that pen name as a reaction to the ways women were being treated by lazy, irresponsible, selfish and immoral guys.  William Wallace II may seem a knight errant at best and a thug and a fool at worst but William Wallace II presented himself as a knight in shining armor challenging immature adultescent men to find their pants and man up already.  It's worth noting that when the persona had consequences that literally met Driscoll where he lived he was swift to say "lighten up" and invoke the emotional distress of the wife and child.

Sure enough, guys can't take a joke or figure out that William Wallace II was just a character and someone troubles the wife and kid.  This is a small-scale form of a sob story.  At no point did Driscoll seem to step back in the moment and imagine that perhaps he wouldn't get weird antagonistic people shouting at him at 3am if he simply never bothered to write under the pen name William Wallace II and publish what he published to begin with.  Sure, later, sorta, in 2006 he could admit he sinned and cussed a lot but he was still saying God somehow drew a straight line with the crooked stick that was Mark Driscoll, even to the point of indicating that gay guys were going straight in the wake of his yelling at them to man up. 

There were nods here and there at the end of Confessions of a Reformission Rev about the travails of Mark Driscoll in earlier 2006 but the heights of pathos were attained in the November 8, 2007 letter he wrote to Mars Hill in the wake of the re-org and the controversial firings.  Here we saw fretting about death and a sense of tragedy tucking the Driscoll kids into bed at night.  Grace summed up the moment by crying and saying "It's good to have you back."  This was possibly the zenith of the sob story as a rhetorical technique to define the narrative of Mars Hill around Mark Driscoll's personal woes.

But at no point did Driscoll seem to get that nobody told him he had to be president of Acts 29 Network, president of the Resurgence, president of Mars Hill and chairman of the board.  There was no inherent reason he needed to be writing books (in 2006, it turns out, he had mostly finished the book that would become Death By Love, an overview of 2005 atonement sermons he preached the year before) while he and Grace had their fifth child and even that fifth child has to be considered in light of the fact that, according to Mark Driscoll, Grace was ready to be done with pregnancy after four C-sections and a miscarriage but it was Mark Driscoll who declined to do anything permanent to prevent the possibility of another child.  So even when Mark Driscoll has leaned on the travails of Grace via childbirth he can seem to soft-pedal his own decision as having a bearing on what she went through (scroll down to the part that quotes Death by Love if you're so inclined).  To be sure the born baby is such a joy to behold the mother forgets her agony.  The Puritan Richard Baxter once wrote that the miseries and agonies of marriage and motherhood are often so severe he speculated that had God not given women an inherent yearning to bring children into the world no woman should ever choose a married life.  Go look it up in the Christian Directory.

So in 2007 Driscoll shared how rough it was being president of Acts 29, president of Resurgence, legal president of Mars Hill, and how poor his health was and how many services he preached and yet at no point does it ever seem to have crossed his mind he voluntarily took all these things on.  At times Driscoll even seemed to indicate he threw himself into ministry and fatherhood as a distraction from the problems in his marriage relating to Grace but this is getting ahead of the narrative curve.

In 2007 Driscoll made a point of saying he feared he would die if things at Mars Hill didn't change.  He was also indicating that he needed Grace to not be in any kind of ministry so that she could be there for him.  In spite of saying in 2007 that he made a point that Grace Driscoll's photo would not be on a MH site, by 2012 and beyond ... well ... she's in photos with Driscoll these days.

Back in the 2007 period the sob story was about the travails of Mark Driscoll and if the travails were the result of him taking on too many things and bringing misery on himself that may not have been material to members or staff.  The core of the sob story was simply that Driscoll had it so rough and if you pointed out it was self-inflicted travail you might have just found yourself under the bus.

By later 2011 with the "ten lessons" and God's Work, Our Witness, the nature of the sob story had changed a bit.  Now the problem was Driscoll was doing all the big work alone and had not managed to raise up leaders to help him carry the burden.  Never mind how simply it can be proven Driscoll was the runt of the litter and had the lowest amount of practical ministry experience or formal theological education.  Never mind Doug Busby or David Nicholas or Antioch Bible Church or any of those people.  Driscoll was alone and had not raised up leaders to help carry the burden.  Except that he was raising up leaders like Tim Smith and Jamie Munson.  He was telling people he'd had dreams about them working with him.  He'd made a point of soliciting David Nicholas for money to give Brad Currah a salary.  The idea that Driscoll didn't have a team of elders backing him up from the start and that the elders were all young and new and green is difficult to square with Driscoll's own previous narratives. 

But for a sob story, well, the sob story didn't need to depend on the pesky details of Mark Driscoll's own previously published accounts.  Most of that stuff was on websites that weren't even live any more and in spite of the relish with which Mars Hill leadership poured mountains of data onto the internet it's as though not a single one of them ever thought that tools as simple as the WayBack Machine or members holding on to Driscoll content might ever come back to cause any inconvenience.

If up until late 2011 the sob story Driscoll used to curry sympathy from his church and fellow evangelicals revolved around his own travails a signal shift came in 2012 with Real Marriage and beyond.  At this point the sob story stopped revolving around Mark Driscoll as an individual and focused more on Grace Driscoll and to a lesser extent the Driscoll kids.  Rather than revisit what he wrote as William Wallace II as having anything at all to do with angry or unstable young men looking to fight, Driscoll could unleash "The Hardest Part of Ministry" as a litany of all the evil, crazy, terrible things his critics shored up not only against him but his kids.  When Driscoll did the video announcing the eviction of Mars Hill Orange County (for those who remember that video) he had two blonde tots in tow who at different times smiled at the camera while Driscoll talked about how Mars Hill Orange County looked like it was about to be homeless.  This was one of those moments that Wenatchee The Hatchet considered to be craven and mercenary.  Mars Hill Orange County getting evicted was not the kind of thing that needed little Driscolls in front of a camera for while Mark Driscoll claimed he wasn't sure what the deal with the eviction was.  This was a small way in which Driscoll kids could be integrated into the sob story at a level that would be almost subliminal for someone who was still inside the cultural system.

When chapter 7 of Real Marriage unfolded it told us very little about what actually happened to Grace Driscoll but packed in a startling amount of information about the developing Re:Lit line of books.  While in Real Marriage it seemed as though Grace Driscoll recounted "an" incident in which she turned out to have been sexually abused in a 2013 film "Stepping Up" Mark Driscoll recounted that there were several times where Grace had been sexually assaulted, raped and abused before he met her. At the risk of making an observation that will likely rankle some readers, it's possible part of the reason the entirety of mainstream Christian publishing and journalism didn't spot the startlingly obvious use of Dan Allender ideas and material in chapter 7 of Real Marriage that got no citation or credit in the first edition is because of, well, the story of Grace Driscoll.  If we consider the possibility that the sob story is a through-line for Driscoll as a public figure then adding Grace Driscoll and her story of abuse may be construed as a story of woe within the larger sob story Mark Driscoll has told as a way to define the narrative of his role as founder/leader/visionary of Mars Hill.

And from 2012 the sob story, if you will, of Mark Driscoll began to reorient itself toward the troubles of Grace Driscoll.  Her story became the reason so many controversial decisions and changes had to happen in 2006-2007.  The miserable state of the Driscoll marriage for apparently the stretch of 1996-2006 did not invite a question as to whether Mark Driscoll was ever fit to be in ministry to begin with but rather invited sympathy.  What was striking about the 2013 video "Stepping Up" was how Mark Driscoll took the entire narrative of 2007 as he recounted itself and cast it aside in favor of what he "had" to do to be more emotionally present for his wife. 

That fifth child and the challenges of Grace Driscoll working through her root issues (that kept Mark Driscoll from having as much sex as he wanted) became a big deal and a cause for ... rewriting the bylaws and the constitution of Mars Hill.  Why?  Just because Mark Driscoll said so, never mind that this flew in the face of the emphasis on Mark Driscoll nearly dying and being overworked by all the things he voluntarily took on up through 2006.  The new narrative moving from 2012 forward was about the wife and kids and how Driscoll wanted to be there for them.  And this is not an inherently "other" path than the 2007 invitation to pity Mark Driscoll himself.  If anything it's more potent because it takes the form of Mark Driscoll eliciting sympathy on behalf of his wife and children as a way to draw sympathy from readers toward Mark Driscoll himself as husband and father who also happened to be legal president of the corporation known as Mars Hill Church. 

As Wenatchee The Hatchet has noted before Mark Driscoll has shown that he's willing to filter sermons through the prism of daddy-daughter narratives--he made a point of sharing from the pulpit that Esther could have and should have said "no" to the Persian collection of virgins because Ashley said she would have said no.   This can be interpreted as another variation on the sob story, the story of the Driscoll family troubles and convictions, in the sense that you can't quite get through to the exegetical and historical problems of Mark Driscoll's take on Esther without negotiating with the story about Ashley Driscoll's gut reaction as to why Esther ought to have had a different path.  And for a 21st century American teenage girl, sure, that makes a certain type of sense ... but Esther wasn't a teenage American girl and it was intellectually specious of Mark Driscoll to leverage a story about his daughter as part of a rhetorical rather than scholarly case for his contentious reading of Esther.  But as a public incident in a larger rhetorical strategy through which Mark Driscoll defines and redefines the nature of Mars Hill around himself and the history of his family it could be seen as "all part of the plan", to borrow a line from a movie.

But perhaps the new zenith of the sob story as a way Mark Driscoll has invited sympathy was "The Hardest Part of Ministry", which has since been purged from the net.  It doesn't matter.  Wenatchee The Hatchet has had the full text sitting around for months ready to publish should the original content be pulled, which it seems it has been lately.  It's part of this series.

In the October 2013 tour de force of garnering sympathy Mark Driscoll explained that the most soul-aching part of his ministry was all the trouble his family encountered because he preaches the Bible.  Wenatchee The Hatchet has discussed a number of specific statements in that litany of difficulties and believes there is at least some evidence to indicate that Mark Driscoll shared events that really happened but neglected to mention some noteworthy details that former members of Mars Hill might consider to have been mitigating variables.  If a crazy guy comes looking to fight at 3am in response to the discovery that Mark Driscoll had been fuming under the pen name William Wallace II that surely DOES influence how a person interprets a Driscollian plea for sympathy that sometimes these crazy wingnut guys show up at his house looking to brawl.  It's not that the Driscoll kids don't deserve to be undisturbed, they surely deserve to be undisturbed--it's that the sum of historical evidence and documents available does invite a reader to wonder whether Driscoll's own close to twenty years of public trolling and intra-church explosions may not have brought at least some of the troubles his family has encountered upon them.

All of this is to make a suggestion, that those who would critique Mark Driscoll in the public sphere need to be cautious and careful in articulating a distinction between an objection to the substance of what Driscoll says and the way in which he says it.  If you fail to do this and react at a visceral emotional level then you're in some sense feeding a troll. Lamenting the visceral vitriol of the critics who just don't get it or can't take a joke or don't love Jesus or take themselves too seriously is part of the Mark Driscoll shtick.  In fact for as long as progressives and cessationists leaned on their usual hobby horses all they did was give Mark Driscoll a far more abundant reserve of words and experiences upon which to further build the sob story.  People who keep trying to make the problems of Mark Driscoll about the views and not about the products, the literal products, of Mark Driscoll's proverbial pen, will be missing the point.  We did not reach this point in the public discussion of Mark Driscoll because progressives and cessationists kept beating their drums about Mark's views on gays or women or speaking in tongues.  We got to the point we're at in the public discourse because someone compared books to books and found out how one of the books was promoted. 

In other words, people approached the subject of Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill in a way that could not and did not simply feed into the narrative frame of the sob story.  Once Driscoll was shown to have used a pile of materials written by other authors without giving them credit there was no refuge to be taken in the old sob story of how hard it was to be Mark Driscoll.  Once the Result Source Inc. contract was discovered, and the extent to which Mark Driscoll may have relied on Docent Group research and recycling his own material was discovered, it was no longer possible to take Driscoll at his word about how fast he did or had to crank out books for his publishing projects.  Some even wondered aloud who on earth thought it was a good idea for Driscoll to be publishing books in the first place.

And for all of that it seems no one has attended to the narrative of Mark Driscoll closely enough to wonder when on earth that vomit-inducing nightmare happened except Wenatchee The Hatchet.  If people continue to insist on making a point about what Mark Driscoll says about gays or women or other things they're missing the real point.  Study the books, study the narrative, ask where things came from, where they are going.  What Wenatchee The Hatchet has concluded is important is to consider the various ways in which the basic narrative of Mars Hill as mediated by the stories Mark Driscoll has told about himself and his family is a microcosm of Mars Hill and about Mars Hill as a social system.  Too many people have wanted to jump straight into the scandal-mongering stuff without turning an eye to the mundane things like real estate acquisitions or associated leadership appointments.  People have, to risk boiling things down too much, been taken in by the sob story or unwittingly contributed to it.  There's no way even the most striking story of an individual former member or elder or deacon of Mars Hill will, in itself, be capable of competing with the brand of Mark Driscoll.  But what is possible, that Wenatchee The Hatchet at times labors to show, is that if you carefully examine the narrative you can see where and how it changes.

What is striking about the sob story as a rhetorical device that may guide what Mark Driscoll says about himself, his family, and about Mars Hill, is how utterly simple it is.  It works, or it has worked, and it plays upon a natural inclination to offer empathy or sympathy from many.  What is also striking about the use of the sob story as a rhetorical/narrative tool is that as controversy has ratcheted up surrounding Mark Driscoll the sob story has shifted from Mark Driscoll pleading for sympathy to Mark Driscoll pleading for sympathy for his family.  It is, in fact, possible to extend sympathy to the Driscoll family while noting that for Mark Driscoll to plea for that sympathy while also rationalizing his own approach to public ministry is so craven and mercenary that it would be beneath the contempt of Wenatchee The Hatchet if it didn't seem at this stage so necessary to point out the longevity and pervasive use of this rhetorical/narrative tool.  Perhaps Mark Driscoll or someone close to him may have even shared this possibility with him, because now it looks like "The Hardest Part of Ministry" has become yet another 404 in the web presence of Mars Hill. 

Mark Driscoll and the power of the sob story: part 5 October 26, 2013 "The Hardest Part of Ministry"

This material was originally discussed over at this blog post and elsewhere.

The following link is now 404.  Don't bother with cache too quickly as robots.txt may preclude any useful results.  Why this material was taken down is hard to explain but since Wenatchee The Hatchet preserved the whole thing ... perhaps we can just revisit it.
The hardest part of ministry
October 26, 2013
Mark Driscoll

The hardest part of ministry
Mark Driscoll   » Church Leadership Heart Culture Suffering 

October 26, 2013
The Hardest Part of Ministry
Mark Driscoll

What part of your ministry is the most difficult? As our culture becomes increasingly hostile to Christianity, ministry can place an adverse toll on your emotional well-being.

Upon occasion, I like to answer questions that leaders (often young) ask about ministry. One that often comes up: What part of your ministry is the most difficult? Nearly everyone who asks this question is someone who is new to ministry and seeking to anticipate a possible landmine in front of them.

The most soul-aching concern I face

For me, the answer is simple: family safety. By far and away, this is the most constant, soul-aching concern that I deal with. Those ministering in more family-friendly suburban communities that welcome megachurches and gated neighborhoods may not understand the complexities of a ministry that is more urban and the dangers it can pose.

In 1 Corinthians 7:32–35, the Apostle Paul speaks about how a family, though a blessing, can also be a burden. I used to assume that he merely meant that someone who was single would have more time for ministry, but now I know the issue is much deeper.

Paul worked mainly in hostile, urban contexts where the backlash against the gospel was so strong that he faced very real danger. Having a family in such circumstances would have been even more difficult and dangerous. It’s one thing if opponents seek to harm or kill a single man, but a husband and father holding hands with his wife and little girl prompts an entirely different level of concern.

Facing danger

I recently celebrated 17 years of ministry at Mars Hill Church in Seattle. Before that I spent a few years doing college ministry, which means I’m knocking on the door of 20 total years of ministry service, by God’s grace. Here’s a partial list of some of the dangers I’ve encountered so far:

On two occasions, men brought large knives into the church and started approaching the stage to stab me while I preached. Our security team prevented this and law enforcement was called.

On one occasion, a man tried to get into my home in the middle of the night. Demanding to meet with me, he woke up and frightened my family. The police arrested him and put him in a mental health facility. The man escaped and started walking back to my home in his underwear. The police intercepted him when he was not far away.

Twice I have arrived home from work to find a registered sex offender seeking to engage with my family while waiting to talk with me.

A few times someone showed up at my home to cuss me out in front of my family.
I received a letter from a troubled man who said he heard voices telling him I either needed to stop preaching or he was supposed to drive to Seattle and make me stop preaching. When I checked the address on the letter, I noticed it was from a state prison. He was incarcerated for a violent crime and, according to the parole officer we contacted, in the process of being released.

On multiple occasions, while I was traveling out of town, people would post directions to my house on social media and encourage my critics to come to my home. This caused great anxiety for my wife and children because every time I travelled they felt unsafe and in danger. Nearly everyone who has ever done this to me has claimed to be a Christian, and none have children but they’ve shown no regard for the safety of my own.

Last year I came home from a day at the office to find an enormous pile of human excrement on my front porch. Not in a bag or shovel in sight, someone apparently dropped their drawers to leave a “gift” on my porch. This happened while my family was home and unaware of what was going on.
Whenever there is a threat risk according to a police officer, my kids actually know the drill: don’t go near dad at the church or event, sit far away, and pretend like he’s not your dad in public.

I literally had to hold back tears when the reality of the safety issue hit me in a big way. My two younger kids asked, “Dad, is it safe to go out and play today, or are the people who hate you coming over?” The fact that my little kids have to worry about harm invading their own yard is something I grieve.

Cruel and unusual

Add to this the safety issues posed by technology. I cannot fathom allowing my two teenagers to be on social media for fear of the venom they would receive. When my kids have to report on current events at school, they’ve learned to ask before they click on to news sites, since I never know who is saying what about me where.

Add to this the gossip that surrounds me, which once compelled an older woman to approach me at church and ask, while our children listened on, why I beat my wife, Grace. The woman just assumed that what she’d read online somewhere was true, despite the fact I have never and will never raise a hand in anger toward my wife or children.

In general, going out in public has gotten tough. People feel free to interrupt family dinners out to sit at the table and either cuss me out or talk for a long time without permission. My kids have gotten so sick of strangers handing them a phone to take a photo that one of my kids recently told someone, “I’m his child not his photographer.”

The fact that my little kids have to worry about harm invading their own yard is something I grieve.
Some people are just cruel. I was running errands with my youngest daughter, our most sensitive and affectionate child. She was holding my hand as we were walking around a hardware store when an older woman who looked like a sweet grandma came up, smiled, asked if I was Pastor Mark, and then asked if this was my daughter. The woman got down on one knee to look my little girl in the eye and say, “I’m sorry you have such a horrible man for a father. He hates women, which means he probably hates you, too.” And she did not stop there. In fact, she would not stop at all and just kept going. I did not engage, but rather walked away holding my daughter’s hand, since she was bawling at this point from being startled.

Then there’s the downright bizarre. Some years ago I was standing in line to buy burgers for my kids when they noticed my face next to a column in one of Seattle’s alternative newspapers, and they asked why I was working for them. Apparently, the paper took my photo and name and started writing columns pretending to be me.

Just as odd was when an amateur porn film festival announced the criteria people could meet in order for their movie to qualify. One option was to feature me and/or Mars Hill Church. Yes, if you had sex at our church or in my presence, your porno film would be shown in a local movie theater and voted on for a prize. With so much video of me available online, I feared being edited into a film, and my staff had to check the church and bathrooms before I walked around on Sundays to ensure that I did not end up in a porno. I also had to explain all of this to my wife in case she heard any rumors that I was in a porno, even though I am completely faithful to her.

Where are we headed?

All of this is just another stressful day at work for me. But given the direction in which society is headed, other ministers may get to experience some of these same scenarios, and some already are. I’ve heard horror stories from other pastors who have a higher-than-normal profile. One had a critic post large “Wanted: Dead or Alive” posters of him around town. Another received a letter containing photos of his home along with a threat to rape his wife. Another had critics waiting to cuss him out at his child’s school since they could not get a meeting through his office. The list goes on and on and on and on.

The complexity of diminished safety that technology brings is unprecedented in the history of the world. What will things look like in 20 or 30 years if the culture continues to trend less friendly toward faith in urban areas, and if technology continues to encroach on privacy and civility? I predict we’ll increasingly have to “evangelize through suffering,” as I put it at the end of A Call to Resurgence. It’s hard to think about this without getting anxious.

Other ministers may get to experience some of these same scenarios, and some already are.
When people learn that my concern for family safety is the most difficult part of my ministry, I usually get the follow up question: Why don’t you just quit and go do something else or go do ministry somewhere else?

Honestly, I’ve pondered that question myself on the darker days. I love my family. I love Jesus—and so does my family. I love our church—and so does my family. And I love our city—and so does my family. On average, we have seen 100 people get baptized every month for about the last five years. We are seeing lives change, and we find great joy in that. That said, I do all I can to care for my family and protect them, without being paranoid, and the truth is if I were not called to this line of work, I would quit.

Yes, sadly this question is all too easy for me to answer, so your prayers are appreciated. I just turned 43. Lord willing, we have decades of ministry left to go, and honestly if I think about it too much I get depressed and anxious. For those ministering in similar contexts, I’m earnestly praying for you and your families as well.

The Mark Driscoll of late 2013 may be a mellower one than the one of 2004 who published Radical Reformission (recently republished as just Reformission, which might signal a lack of radicalness)

Radical Reformission
ISBN 0-310-25659-3Mark Driscoll
copyright 2004 by Mars Hill Church
page 14

... So I married Grace, began studying Scripture with the enthusiasm of a glutton at a buffet, and started preparing myself to become a pastor who does not go to jail for doing something stupid. To pay the bills, I edited the opinions section of the campus newspaper, writing inflammatory columns that led to debates, radio interviews, and even a few bomb threats--which was wonderful, because the only thing worse than dying is living a boring life. [emphasis added]

Mark Driscoll and the power of the sob story: part 4 "Stepping Up" a 2013 explanation of a 2006-2007 process
transcript of Mark Driscoll statement in a video called "Stepping Up", discussed over at Warren
Throckmorton's blog:

I don’t know what the most courageous thing I’ve ever done is. I know the one thing that was one of the hardest was, the church was growing, it had exploded, it had grown to, I think, maybe six thousand. So it made it one of the largest, fastest growing churches in America in one of the least churched cities, and in a conversation one night it was just up in our bedroom on a couch we were visiting, Grace and I were talking about past relationships and just kind of a casual conversation and we’d been together at that point for maybe seventeen, eighteen years or something. [WtH, i.e. either 2005 or 2006] I mean we’d been together a while between dating and marriage. And she just explained to me a few occasions where she had been sexually assaulted, raped, and abused [prior to my meeting her, (WT's transcript differs from what is presented here and this is punctuation that WtH believes makes more sense of Driscoll's actual words)]. I just broke and I just started weeping, thinking that I had not known that about my wife, and she just said it matter of factly, like she was just reading the script of someone else’s life. And there was no emotion in her, and I could tell she didn’t even really understand what she had just explained. That sort of led to a season of me really getting to know her, and her getting to know her past, and us getting to know Jesus in a deeper way.

It was around that time I could just tell that she’s gonna need me available more.

Emotionally present more, we just had our 5th child. So the timing’s not great. We just decided to go multi-site in video, cause we had outgrown our location and everybody’s looking and all the critics are around and is this gonna make it? A couple of things combined at that season as well, overwork and stress and everything else. I fatigued my adrenal glands, I was in a bad place health-wise, was not sleeping. It was a pretty dark time for me, and I told Grace, “For me to recover, for you to recover, for us to build our friendship, I feel like we’re kind of at that watershed moment where our marriage is gonna get better or it’s gonna get colder, and you’ve really opened yourself up and I need to love and serve you better and pursue you more.”

I said so I got to change the church. I mean all the way down, I have to rewrite the Constitution, bi-laws, I got to let some people go. I have to put in place some hard performance reviews. I’ve got to be willing to lose a lot of relationships, endure criticism, preach less times, hand off more authority, and I said I don’t know if the church is going to make it and I don’t know if I’m going to make it.

I told Grace, I said “I’m going to give it one year, and if it doesn’t get fixed, I’m going to quit, because you’re more important to me than ministry, and I feel like if I quit right now, the church will probably die, and there’s all these thousands of people that met Jesus.” I said “So we’re either going to change it or I’m going to quit, but we’re not going to do this forever and you’re my priority,” and that led to everything that I feared, quite frankly. [emphasis added]

It was really brutal, and I couldn’t tell the story at the time of and here’s why- because Grace is really hurting, and I love her, and I’m broken, and we need to pull back and make some course corrections because it’s Grace’s story to tell, and she wasn’t ready at that point to tell that story, and I had no right to tell that story for her.

And so everybody got to speculate for years what the motive was, “oh he’s power hungry, he’s controlling, he wants to take over, he doesn’t love people, you know he’s just a bully.” And no, it’s actually he’s broken and his wife is hurting and the church is gonna probably literally kill him or put him in the hospital and his wife needs him right now, so he’s gotta make some adjustments. So, you know, by the grace of God, we weathered that storm.

Mark Driscoll and the power of the sob story: part 3--excerpts from Real Marriage (2012) describing the 2006-2007 period

Real Marriage
Mark and Grace Driscoll
Copyright (c) 2012 by On Mission, LLC
Thomas Nelson
ISBN 978-1-4002-0383-3
ISBN 978-1-4041-8352-0 (IE)

from pages 16-17
As Grace began working on her root issues, I hit the wall physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. I had been working way too many hours a week for more than a decade as the church exploded and became one of the largest and fastest growing in the nation, in one of the least-churched cities. I wrote books and spoke at conferences, traveling to make extra income so Grace could stay home with our children.

My pay was still low, we had nothing in savings, and we accrued a bit of debt— in a city where the cost of living was high. I preached as many as seven times a Sunday for more than an hour each time, year in and year out, nearly every week of the year, until my adrenal glands and thyroid fatigued, and I finally came to the end of myself in my midthirties. I was breaking, and it seemed there was no help, relief, or sympathy. My veneer of tough, self-reliant husband without any needs was gone. I really needed my wife in ways I had never told her and she was surprised to hear. I needed a new life. I did not need a new job, but a new plan for that job . I also needed a new marriage, but wanted to have a new marriage with the same spouse. So we cleaned up the church, lost around one thousand people due to changes amid intense criticism, laid off a lot of people (many of whom were great), and decided everything would change or we would walk. I refused to die from stress or destroy my marriage and family for the sake of “religious” people and outgrown organizational systems. I found a good doctor and did what I was told to rebuild my health.


I needed a new life. I did not need a new job, but anew plan for that job. I also needed a new marriage, but wanted to have a new marriage with the same spouse. So we cleaned up the church, lost around one thousand people due to changes amid intense criticism, laid off a lot of people (many of whom were great), and decided everything would change or we would walk. I refused to die from stress or destroy my marriage and family for the sake of "religious" people and outgrown organizational systems. I found a good doctor and did what I was told to rebuild my health. Grace and I pulled back from many commitments, got some help, including someone to help her one day a week and someone else to clean the house every other week, and carved out some time to intentionally work on our relationship with Jesus and each other.

pages 207-208

... I (Mark) had been pushing myself hard for more than a decade since Mars Hill Church opened up, and I had overextended myself so much that I had worn out my adrenal glands and gotten an ulcer.

Some Sundays were brutal. I would sneak in a back door, avoiding any human contact because I simply did no thave the emotional wherewithal to spend an entire day hearing of trauma in people's lives and arguing with religious types. At times I actually found myself nodding off on the side of the stage before one of the five services I preached lived. So I foolishly started drinking energy drinks all
day to power through Sundays. After preaching I would go home to sit in the dark and watch television, obviously depressed. Before long I was stressed each night at bedtime as the anxiety over whether or not I could sleep became constant. I felt like a car that could not turn off. I had multiple stress-related symptoms--heartburn, headaches, nervous eye twitch, aggressive driving, constant low-level anger, high blood pressure, and self-medicating with food and drinks packed with fat, sugar, and simple carbohydrates, along with caffeine.

Perhaps a few months after things had reached this level, a godly friend in the church, named Jon, scheduled a meeting with me. God had laid it on his heart to speak some wisdom into my life. He did so with great humility, and in that meeting he gave me some insights that were life changing.

Jon had been taking notes on how he organized his life, things he had learned, and what he felt the Holy Spirit had asked him to tell me. His wisdom was a priceless gift. He called it "Reverse Engineering." The big idea was to anticipate life forward and live it backward.

In the ensuing months I sought to add to his wisdom as much insight as I could.  For the church, I met with some of the pastors of the largest churches in America to see what I could learn about how we needed to reorganize. For my health, I found a doctor named John who was a naturopath and ordained pastor and started doing what he told me to do, which has changed my life. For my awareness, I started reading and studying material written by doctors and counselors on stress and adrenaline. For my marriage, I started spending more energy than ever to connect with Grace and get our time together. I also met a bible-based counselor a few times to inquire what I needed to learn and how I could best serve Grace as her friend.  I limped along through the winter and spring making adjustments along the way.
The above narrative seems to posit that Mark Driscoll determined that his health was at stake in how things were going at the church.  By 2006-2007 there were about two dozen elders in place and Mark Driscoll was holding on to a number of roles that he later described as divesting himself of.

Mark Driscoll and the power of the sob story: part 2b--12-06-2011 having no team meant everyone expected Mark to be there ... except there was a team
Pastor Mark Driscoll
December 6, 2011

2. Lead from the pulpit.

Another problem that came from not having built a great team is that everyone expected me to be their pastor in a therapeutic model where we had 1-on-1 meetings every week. In a smaller church, this works because, as the average church is 70 to 80 people, the pastor has time to meet with everyone and still lead the church’s vision. As a church grows, however, it becomes physically impossible for the pastor to meet with everyone for coffee and still lead the church through vision. For our church to grow and for me to survive, I needed to transition from being everyone’s pastor to being a missiologist preacher who led the church from the Bible in the pulpit.

well ... according to Mark Driscoll in a book he published in 2006

Confessions of a Reformission RevMark Driscoll, Zondervan

page 54

... The church started as an idea I shared with Lief Moi and Mike Gunn. Lief is a descendant of Genghis Khan and his dad was a murderer, and Mike is a former football player. They proved to be invaluable, except for the occasional moments when they would stand toe-to-toe in a leadership meeting, threatening to beat the Holy Spirit out of each other. Both men were older than I and had years of ministry experience, and they were good fathers, loving husbands, and tough.  [emphasis added]...
That looks curiously like a team.  It seems that Mark Driscoll by late 2011 not only forgot that there was a team at the start of men that he'd personally recruited, but that by late 2013 Mark Driscoll was starting to say stuff from the pulpit about how there was no kids' ministry at Mars Hill because there were no kids in spite of having publicly declared  that Mike Gunn and Lief Moi are fathers.  Did Driscoll forget the co-founding team members and their children to boot?  That seems a bit incredible if that's what happened.

Meanwhile, from an earlier Driscoll account in which he seemed to remember who his co-founding pastor/partners were ... :

page 69-70

... Lief was running a construction company, and Mike was running a campus ministry at the University of Washington, so I was the only person focusing full-time on the church.  I really wanted to just take the pulpit and figure out how to preach by doing it every week, but I also wanted to respect these older, more seasoned, and very godly men. In time, they sat me down and said that they believed in me, wanted to cover my back, and wanted me to take the pulpit and lead the church.

... To some degree I had been wrongly allowing Mike and Lief to shoulder the burden because I feared failure and hoped to share the blame if things went poorly. [emphasis added]

Learning by doing isn't the best way to approach homiletics.

Setting that aside now that it's mentioned, Gunn and Moi were both heavily involved enough in things more closely resembling stable day jobs compared to Driscoll at the time that they may not have had the time to spare for preaching anyway.  After all, if they were full-time employed and raising families while Mark and Grace Driscoll were a recently married couple with no children Driscoll would have had the time to spare, in theory, even if not entirely in practice.  And he was already the vision-caster by having come up with the idea of planting what became Mars Hill Fellowship and later Mars Hill Church.

But that sentence, set in bold, is striking.  If Mark Driscoll didn't have a team according to his late 2011 account of things, then what's with the 2006 account about the early years of Mars Hill where Driscoll said that he feared failure and hoped to share the blame of that failure if things went south with Mike Gunn and Lief Moi.  Was ... that actually a rationale for letting Gunn and Moi preach early on as Mark Driscoll recounted things?

The statements Driscoll made in chapter two of Confessions of a Reformission Rev could be construed as Driscoll saying that Gunn and Moi were doing preaching at the time and that Mark Driscoll wanted to be able to just take over the pulpit entirely and preach every week so he could learn how to actually preach.  Driscoll has sometimes come across as the guy who "learns by doing".  In any event, it was, according to Mark Driscoll in his 2006 book, when Gunn and Moi sat him down and basically said "You can do this" that Driscoll started doing all the preaching.  The second of ten hard lessons from the early years of Mars Hill could be interpreted as another case of Mark Driscoll describing in 2011 some tough spots he encountered not because there was no team but because the team was made up of guys who were already very busy and the guys apparently let Driscoll do what he wanted even when it was not a particularly good idea.

Mark Driscoll and the power of the sob story: part 2a 12-6-2011 "I was carrying the burden myself ... "

originally discussed here:
For the first five or six years of Mars Hill, I was the only paid pastor on staff and carried much of the ministry burden. I was doing all the premarital counseling and most of the pastoral work as the only pastor on staff. This went on for years due to pitiful giving and a ton of very rough new converts all the way until we had grown to about 800 people a Sunday. At one point I literally had over a few thousand people come in and out of my home for Bible studies, internships, counseling, and more. My phone rang off the hook, my email inbox overflowed, my energy levels and health took a nose dive, and I started becoming bitter and angry instead of loving and joyful. It got to the point where either something had to change or I was going to go ballistic and do something I really regretted.

Through much prayer and study of the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit impressed upon me that I’d done a poor job of raising up leaders along with me to help care for his church. I was carrying the burden myself and was not doing a good job because it was too much. [emphasis added] I needed to transition from caring for all the people to ensuring they were all cared for by raising up elders, deacons, and church members. This spurred me to make some dramatic changes to increase membership and train leaders.

We began a process of intentionally challenging qualified men to step up as elders to lead, finding and training men and women to serve and lead as deacons, and we started a Gospel Class to clearly articulate what we believed about Jesus, the Bible, and the church to make clear what we expected from members. Our first teams were not amazing, but some of those people, through years of maturing by God’s grace, are now amazing leaders and servants.
Another problem that came from not having built a great team is that everyone expected me to be their pastor in a therapeutic model where we had 1-on-1 meetings every week.

Who was this "we" Driscoll was referring to?  Didn't he say earlier that he had done a poor job of raising up leaders with him?  Didn't he just say in the previous paragraph he was carrying the burden himself?  This ... within the first six years of Mars Hill?

For the sake of review:
Confessions of a Reformission Rev
Mark Driscoll, Zondervan

page 54

... The church started as an idea I shared with Lief Moi and Mike Gunn. Lief is a descendant of Genghis Khan and his dad was a murderer, and Mike is a former football player. They proved to be invaluable, except for the occasional moments when they would stand toe-to-toe in a leadership meeting, threatening to beat the Holy Spirit out of each other. Both men were older than I and had years of ministry experience, and they were good fathers, loving husbands, and tough.  [emphasis added]...

But since it's conceivable that some people will get tired of reading the same material published by Mark Driscoll quoted again this time we've got pictures.

What exactly about all of that suggests that there was no team in the first six years of the history of Mars Hill? 

Driscoll went on to write:

We began a process of intentionally challenging qualified men to step up as elders to lead, finding and training men and women to serve and lead as deacons, and we started a Gospel Class to clearly articulate what we believed about Jesus, the Bible, and the church to make clear what we expected from members. Our first teams were not amazing, but some of those people, through years of maturing by God’s grace, are now amazing leaders and servants.

Within the first six years of the church?  But if that's the case then Mark Driscoll playing some role in getting Paul Petry and Bent Meyer into the leadership structure of Mars Hill happened after this first-six-years period.  Again, who is this "we" if Driscoll was carrying the burden by himself? 

Moving along ... Driscoll wrote more in the piece about ten lessons from the early years:

While the sentiment of being a unified team was good, since we required a unanimous vote of the elders to do anything, the leadership team went from being accountable to being adversarial, stifling, and impossible. But, we could not move leaders on unless they chose to resign and leave. The truth is that when a church is planted, the first elder team will not be in place years later—even Jesus’ team of a mere twelve people did not hold together for a full three years, and we cannot expect to outperform his leadership. The goals of the church are not to secure power and position for leaders but rather to glorify God, reach non-Christians, and mature Christians by putting in place whoever is best suited for these tasks

This claim that a unanimous vote was required by some group keeps being asserted but evidence for the claim is rarely (if ever) produced.  As for the claim that "we could not move leaders on unless they chose to resign and leave" the testimony of Mark Driscoll himself suggests that they were letting people go.

CHAPTER FIVE, 350-1,000 PEOPLEpage 135

We had to quickly reorganize all of our systems and staff.  Our administrative pastor, Eric, left, which we all recognized was God's call on him.  And our worship leader was a great guy and great musician but was unable to coordinate the multiple bands in the three locations, so we let him go. [emphasis added] This was one of the hardest decisions I've ever made because he was a very godly man who had worked very hard and would have been fine if the church had not gotten so crazy so quickly, and he and his very sweet wife were both close personal friends of mind. But I needed a worship pastor who could lead mltiple bands, coordinate multiple services in multiple locations, and train multiple worship pastors while keeping up with a church that was growing so fast that we had no idea exactly where it was going. I had no one who could possibly fill this role but felt compelled to wait until God let me know, so I just left a gaping hole in our leadership to create a crisis that would force a leader to emerge. 
Strangely, even though Mark Driscoll spent time repeatedly telling Brad Currah he'd seen Currah leading worship at Mars Hill in a dream that was taken as a divine oracle ... Currah didn't have that role for really all that long before "we let him go". 

For as much time as Driscoll spent in a post from 2011 explaining how he was carrying the burden of Mars Hill by himself anyone who visited circa 1999 to 2002 might have the impression there was actually a team of people and of people that Mark Driscoll actively recruited to join him in planting Mars Hill Fellowship. 

As a postscript, for those interested in reading an examination of pre-2007 bylaws to assess whether or not complete unanimity in voting was actually necessary:

There were decisions that executive elders made that had to have unanimous voting (with abstentions permitted) but the repeated claims that all MH elders all across the board had to agree on everything is simply not true. Not only was there a team but that team did not necessarily have to always agree on everything all the time at all levels for decisions to get made. 

Mark Driscoll and the power of the sob story: part 1--the November 8, 2007 letter in which Driscoll explained the re-org and the termination/trial process for Petry and Meyer
A letter from Pastor Mark Driscoll
November 8, 2007

Dear Mars Hill Church Members,

I grew up in Seattle not knowing Jesus. Thankfully, Jesus saved me when I was nineteen years of age while a college freshman. Shortly thereafter He led me to my first church, where a humble and godly pastor was used of God to change my life by teaching me about Jesus from the Bible. While attending my first men’s retreat with that church, God spoke to me for the first time in my life. He told me to marry Grace, preach the Bible, train men, and plant churches. It was then, at the age of nineteen, that I began preparing to devote my life to obeying His call for me. I studied speech in my undergraduate work to prepare for preaching. I joined as many as six Bible studies a quarter to learn Scripture. I began reading nearly a book a day, which continued for many years. I married Grace while still in college. In addition, I began recruiting college friends to one day be part of the core group for Mars Hill Church, which I intended to see planted in Seattle. Following graduation from college, Grace and I moved back to Seattle where we got jobs and started settling in as a broke young couple trying to figure out how and where to plant Mars Hill Church.

By the age of twenty-four we were gathering the core group for the church plant while I was working part-time at Antioch Bible Church and a Christian bookstore that was open in Greenwood at the time. Joining me in the plant were two godly men named Mike Gunn and Lief Moi who were very much devoted to the work and, although young and inexperienced, I praised God for the support of those men who remain friends to this day by God’s grace. At the age of twenty-five I had the privilege of preaching the opening sermon at Mars Hill Church and I have remained the primary preaching pastor ever since. I have learned a lot over the years. Much of that learning has been through mistakes, failure, and pain. The early years of the church, chronicled in my book Confessions, were very difficult in every way. In more recent years, our fast growth has been a wonderful blessing but also fraught with difficulties.

For me personally, everything culminated at the end of 2006. Despite rapid growth, the church was not healthy and neither was I. My workload was simply overwhelming. I was preaching five times a Sunday, the senior leader in Mars Hill responsible to some degree for literally everything in the church, president of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network which had exploded, president of The Resurgence, an author writing books, a conference speaker traveling, a media representative doing interviews, a student attending graduate school, a father with five young children, and a husband to a wife whom I have adored since the first day I met her and needed my focus more than ever. [emphasis added] I was working far too many hours and neglecting my own physical and spiritual well-being, and then I hit the proverbial wall. For many weeks I simply could not sleep more than two or three hours a night. I had been running off of adrenaline for so many years that my adrenal glands fatigued and the stress of my responsibilities caused me to be stuck “on” physically and unable to rest or sleep. After a few months I had black circles under my eyes, was seeing a fog, and was constantly beyond exhausted.

Nonetheless, the demands on me continued to grow as the church grew. We added more campuses, gathered more critics, saw more media attention, planted more churches, purchased more real estate, raised more money, and hired more staff. It was at this time that I seriously pondered leaving Mars Hill Church for the first time ever. I still loved our Jesus, loved our mission, loved our city, and loved our people. However, I sunk into a deep season of despair as I considered spending the rest of my life serving at Mars Hill Church. I simply could not fathom living the rest of my life with the pace of ministry and amount of responsibility that was on me.

Furthermore, the relational demands of the church and its leaders depleted me entirely. In short, I had lost my joy and wanted to lose my job before I lost my life. Tucking my children in bed at night became a deeply sorrowful experience for me; I truly feared I would either die early from a heart attack or burn out and be left unable to best care for my children in the coming years. [emphasis added] I have met many pastors who have simply crossed the line of burnout and never returned to health and sanity and that was my frightful but seemingly inevitable future.

One of the problems was that Mars Hill had essentially outgrown the wisdom of our team and needed outside counsel. The church had grown so fast that some of our elders and other leaders were simply falling behind and having trouble keeping up, which was understandable. To make matters worse, there was a growing disrespect among some elders who were jockeying for and abusing power. The illusion of unity our eldership had maintained over the years was kept in part by my tolerating some men who demanded more power, pay, control, and voice than their performance, character, or giftedness merited. While this was a very short list of men, as elders they had enough power to make life truly painful.

The consensus was that Mars Hill was poorly architected to be a multi-campus, multi-elder, multithousand person church. My administrative gifts had simply reached their capacity and the church needed to be re-organized so that campuses could be led by elder teams to ensure that our people were best cared for, our doctrine best taught, and our mission best led. This meant that I needed to give up a great deal of power and trust other elders, deacons, and members to care for the church with the same passionate affection that I have for our people.

To begin this process I had to go first and divest myself of a great deal of power. In the history of the church I have held the three positions of greatest authority. Legally, I was the president of Mars Hill Church the organization. Practically, I was the preaching pastor and primary voice of Mars Hill Church. Administratively, I was the president of the elder board and highest authority on
the staff. So, I resigned as the legal president, resigned as the president of the elder board, and resigned as the highest authority over the staff. I have retained the position of primary preaching pastor but have also started a preaching cadre to train many other elders in preaching so as to begin sharing that load roughly twelve times a year with other gifted men.

Having shared power, I was then able to establish a new Executive Elder board to architect the future of Mars Hill. I remained one of the men on that team to help lead the church but came under Pastor Jamie Munson, the team leader. [emphases added] [WtH, if you want to see how and why appointing Munson to this role clashes with other Driscollian sentiments head over here] I simply did not have the giftedness or time to architect something as complex as our church, which intended to grow to multiple campuses, possibly even stretching out of state or out of country. Yet, I wanted to ensure that our church remained theologically precise and committed to not just growing but also caring for our people. So, the new Executive Elder team sought outside counsel from bigger churches that we respect. At this time, Pastor Tim Beltz also became a valuable asset thanks to his many years of nonprofit management experience for ministries much larger and more complex than ours, along with Scott Thomas who had pastored at many other churches, and Pastor Bubba Jennings whose leadership and management gifts would allow the Ballard campus to become a center of excellence and equipping center for new campus launches.

The newly formed Executive Elder team began working on proposed new bylaws that would serve as the architecting document for a better Mars Hill. The big issue was empowering our campus pastors to lead elder teams. This would ensure the best care for the people at each campus by being accessible and able to make decisions quickly. Simply, we could not care for our people across multiple campuses with one large and fast-growing elder team that had to meet to make decisions across campuses many of us had never even attended. So, the bylaws had to be rewritten to break the elders into teams with campus areas of oversight as well as accountability. As an aside, the rewriting of our governing bylaws is something we had done on other occasions throughout the history of Mars Hill, so this was not a new experience.

Sadly, it was during the bylaw rewriting process that two of our elders, who curiously were among the least administratively gifted for that task, chose to fight in a sinful manner in an effort to defend their power and retain legal control of the entire church. This included legal maneuvering involving contacting our attorney, which was a violation of policy, one elder who is no longer with us disobeying clear orders from senior leaders about not sharing sensitive working data with church members until the elders had arrived at a decision, which has caused much dissension, and that same elder accusing Pastor Jamie Munson, who was the then new Lead Pastor of Mars Hill, of being a deceptive liar in an all-elder meeting with elder candidates present, despite having absolutely no evidence or grounds because it was a lie. This was heartbreaking for me since I have seen Pastor Jamie saved in our church, baptized in our church, married in our church, birth four children in our church, and rise up from an intern to the Lead Pastor in our church with great skill and humility that includes surrounding himself with godly gifted older men to complement his gifts. [emphasis added]

To make matters worse, this former elder’s comments came after my more than one-hour lecture in that meeting based on a twenty-three-page document I gave the elders as a summary report about what I had learned from the other pastors I had met with in addition to months of researching Christian movements. I had just explained the cause of the pains we were experiencing as a leadership team as largely tied to our growing number of elders and campuses, as well as ways that my research indicated men commonly respond by sinfully seeking power, money, preference, control, and information as ways to exercise pride and fight for their interests over the interests of the team, church, and mission of Jesus Christ.

The elder who sinned was followed up with following the meeting by a rebuke from a fellow Executive Elder, but repentance was not forthcoming. To make matters worse, some vocal church members ran to that elder’s defense without knowing the facts, made demands upon the elders, acted in a manner that was not unifying or helpful, and even took their grievances public on the Ask Anything comment portion of our main website for my forthcoming preaching series. Of course, this was done under anonymous names to protect their image in the eyes of fellow church members while maligning the elders publicly. Some church members even began accusing the other elders of grabbing power and not caring for the best interests of our people, which is nothing short of a lie and contradictory in every way to the entire process we were undertaking. It broke my heart personally when amidst all of this, a member asked me on behalf of other members if the elders really loved our people. Now having given roughly half my life to planning for and leading Mars Hill Church, the questioning of my love and the love of our elders, some of whom even got saved in our church, for our people was devastating.

Today, I remain deeply grieved by and for one man, but am thrilled that what is best for Jesus and all of Mars Hill has been unanimously approved by our entire elder team because I do love Jesus and the people of Mars Hill. Furthermore, my physical, mental, and spiritual health are at the best levels in all of my life. Now having joy and working in my gifting I am beginning to see  what a dark and bitter place I once was in and deeply grieve having lived there for so long without clearly seeing my need for life change. My wife and I are closer than ever and she is the greatest woman in the world for me. I delight in her, enjoy her, and praise God for the gift that she is. She recently brought me to tears by sweetly saying, “It’s nice to have you back,” as apparently I had been somewhat gone for many years. Our five children are wonderful blessings. I love being a daddy and am closer to my children with greater joy in them than ever. In short, I was not taking good care of myself and out of love for our church I was willing to kill myself to try and keep up with all that Jesus is doing. But, as always, Jesus has reminded me that He is our Senior Pastor and has godly other pastors whom I need to empower and trust while doing my job well for His glory, my joy, and your good.

The past year has been the most difficult of my entire life. It has been painful to see a few men whom I loved and trained as elders become sinful, proud, divisive, accusatory, mistrusting, power hungry, and unrepentant. It has, however, been absolutely amazing to see all but one of those men humble themselves and give up what is best for them to do what is best for Jesus and our entire church. In that I have seen the power of the gospel, and remain hopeful to eventually see it in the former elder who remains unrepentant but to whom my hand of reconciliation remains extended along with a team of other elders assigned to pursue reconciliation if/when he is willing. Furthermore, sin in my own life has been exposed through this season and I have also benefited from learning to repent of such things as bitterness, unrighteous anger, control, and pride. As a result, I believe we have a pruned elder team that God intends to bear more fruit than ever. This team of battle-tested, humble, and repentant men is now both easy to enjoy and entrust. Emotionally, I told our Board of Directors recently that I felt like I walked Mars Hill down the aisle and married her off so that she could be best cared for and loved in the next season of her life. I remain her father who loves and cares for her and is vitally involved in her growth and well-being, but now trust the elders to take good care of her thanks in part to a structure that enables her to be loved well. Subsequently, for the first time in my tenure at Mars Hill I am able to work in my area of gifting with men I trust on a mission I believe in with church members I love and a Jesus I worship. That harmony is priceless.

an old Sutton Turner tweet statement that has been lost to us.
Sutton Turner@suttonturner

Jesus wants to expose your private sin, not to condemn you but to free you.
9:05 PM - 5 Sep 2014

Of course the link is totally dead but the text has been preserved by Wenatchee The Hatchet, just because it could be done.  Executive elders past and present tweeting on freedom and sin ...

Of course Turner's resigned from being the "king" at Mars Hill Church and it remains to be seen who will fill in his roles of treasurer and secretary and whether these roles will be filled by one or two people.  Meanwhile, a little tweet that can be seen as a blast from the past.

Mark Driscoll tweets on forgiveness from the weekend of June 17, 2013 "Forgiveness is not covering up sin ... . If a crime is committed, you can forgive someone & still call the cops."

One of the things that has been proposed regarding Mark Driscoll is that he made some mistakes and he may have even sinned a bit but Jesus died for those sins and there's forgiveness for them.  But let us consider what Mark Driscoll's own tweets on forgiveness from days past might share with us about the nature of forgiveness.  Driscoll seems too practical and concrete to have twittered about forgiveness that weekend without some context and it may be worth revisiting what Driscoll had to say about forgiveness then. No, Wenatchee The Hatchet isn't going to explain anything at all about what may or may not have happened at that stage in Mars Hill history and comments are disabled so don't bother with trying to make comments.

On Monday, June 17, 2013, Mark Driscoll posted a few tweets on forgiveness amid thoughts about
things like Father's Day.
Forgiveness is not covering up sin committed against us. If a crime is committed, you can
forgive someone & still call the cops.
10:38 AM - 17 Jun 13
Healthy transitions in relays & leadership come down to the handoff. Train up your successor.
Don't chuck the baton & storm off the track.
1:20 PM - 17 Jun 13
Forgiveness is a gift to your offender...and to yourself, freeing you up to move on with your
5:25 PM - 16 Jun 13

Whatever happened in mid-June 2013 that inspired Mark Driscoll to tweet about forgiveness in the way he did is probably best saved for internal discussion, assuming that whatever inspired those tweets was something that should have inspired any tweets to begin with.

If you are a member of Mars Hill Church you may or may not have asked what on earth these tweets could have been about.

But what is striking about that first tweet is the forceful simplicity of saying that forgiveness does not mean covering up sins committed against us.  If a crime was committed we can forgive someone yet still call the cops.  Fascinating.  The tweet about transitions is just opaque and insider and not possible to interpret as having any meaningful context at all, though perhaps Mars Hill members past and present might be able to divine a reason for it.  That forgiveness is a gift to your offender and ... to yourself (?) is interesting.  Could that be construed as a type of moral therapeutic deism of some kind?  You don't forgive people to give yourself freedom to move on with your life you forgive someone who is contrite to restore relationship, don't you?  If the forgiveness Jesus modeled on the cross was forgiving all us sinners and then moving on with His life via resurrection how miserable it would be for us if moving on with His life was all He did.  No, Christians clearly affirm that Jesus didn't just forgive us our sins so He could move on with His life. 

This sort of reduction ad absurdum beloved by Driscoll is pertinent because it is a useful way to show the severe limits of "twitter theology".  Jim West has a whole set of posts on twitter theology that makes him sigh for the curious but go look that up yourself.  :)  Here the relevant observation is that Driscollian bromides on forgiveness seem geared toward someone who shares thoughts on forgiveness from the standpoint of someone who "forgives" in a way that severed a relationship and "moved on" without reconciliation, even though it might seem that a reconciled relationship would be the aim of Christian forgiveness. 

So if forgiveness does not necessarily entail or require reconciliation (go read the twitter responses for that); and if forgiveness doesn't preclude covering up sins; then a few possibilities may emerge from this.  First, if Mark Driscoll has sinned then forgiving Mark Driscoll does not, even according to the tweets of Mark Driscoll, involve covering up or ignoring that sins have been committed.  Second, since Driscoll made a point of saying you can forgive an offender and still call the cops would Mark Driscoll have wanted editors at Intervarsity Press to have dealt with him and Mars Hill Church according to that particularly Driscollian application of forgiveness?  After all, the citation problems in the Trial study guide weren't defensible under Fair Use and what would have "calling the cops" have been on an occasion of a citation error?  Something to consider   mid-2013 was, of course, months before the plagiarism and Result Source Inc. controversies.  It's worth asking whether Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church may be comfortable having a forgiveness that doesn't preclude a calling of cops. 

annotated copy of "Seasons of Grace" by Mark Driscoll, his dawn-of-the-millenium history of Mars Hill Fellowship

This was back when Mark Driscoll apparently had a firmer grasp of when to introduce paragraph breaks.  What's going to make this a bit different from a strict WayBack capture is hotlinking to names where it may seem pertinent.  So this is not exactly how it will appear over at the actual screen capture. There will also be intermittent asides from WtH at a few points.

Seasons of Grace: The Story of Mars Hill
By Pastor Mark Driscoll

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven..."

Mars Hill has breathed the grace of God through many seasons.
In the first season, in the fall of 1989, God was in the process of drawing me unto Himself. While attending Washington State University I began reading such classics as Augustine and Aquinas, and read through the New Testament in less than two weeks from the Bible my girlfriend Grace gave me as a high school graduation present . Aware of what God was orchestrating, but still unyielding in my heart, I had one Christian friend who asked me over a burger one late night what I was planning on doing for my career. I told him that God was going to make me a Christian and send me out to plant churches like I had read about Paul. He laughed, unsure if I was mocking him, being serious, or trying to discourage him from giving me any more goofy tracts. Within a month, my lingering struggles with the Gospel disappeared and I began teaching a Bible study and attending a solid church pastored by Doug Busby. In the spring of 1990 I attended my first retreat and after a late night of worship with a few hundred farmers and college professors I knelt down by an Idaho river and prayed. It was at that time that I quite unexpectedly received my call. God told me, "Mark, I have called you out from among many to lead men." I then began to serve in leadership for a ministry, and also became the editor for the opinions section of the campus newspaper; an adventure that included bomb threats, protests, and a handful of heated public debates. Grace transferred to WSU and we were married in the summer before my senior year. Upon graduation Grace and I moved to Seattle without a place to live, jobs to pay the bills, or a church to attend, but determined to somehow begin planting churches.
In the second season, Grace and I began attending Antioch Bible Church in Kirkland, where we volunteered our time working with their college ministry. We then located in Seattle to be closer to students and after a few months I was brought on staff as a part-time intern to oversee the college group. I served in that position for nearly two years and learned a great deal in my first position of ministry leadership in a church. At that time I met Mike Gunn [note the age of 41 and the M. Div from Talbot] who had moved from a pastorate in Southern California to begin a ministry to athletes at the University of Washington. I also met Lief Moi, a local radio show host, who came in to teach a class for us. [note the age was 37 and the real world job of construction] These two men and their wives and children became like family and together we began dreaming about the possibility of planting an urban church for an emerging postmodern generation in one of the least churched cities in the U.S. [yet in later 2013 Driscoll asserted there were no kids at the start of MH discussed over here We began praying, studying the scriptures, reading a great deal on postmodernity, and dialoging together to formulate a philosophy of ministry appropriate for our context. Helping us formulate our launch plan was Dr. Greg Kappas, who graciously mentored us and provided wise insight and counsel.
In the third season, we began a small Bible study in graciously loaned space from Emmanuel Bible Church in Seattle. The original small core of about a dozen people was a Bible study comprised largely of twenty-somethings from the college group, the Gunn and Moi families, and Chris Knutzen who had joined the Campus Crusade for Christ staff at the U.W. We began meeting weekly in an extremely hot upstairs youth room, and after a few months outgrew the space and began meeting in the sanctuary. It was during this season that the rest of our current elders - the Browns, Currahs [note that whenever this was written Brad Currah was apparently still an elder but he had already vanished from the elder roster by the time the web crawls featured here went up] and Schlemleins [Cindy]- and some singles and families joined us. It was also during this season that Pastor Ken Hutcherson and our friends at Antioch Bible Church began their generous financial support to cover my salary to ensure that I would not be a financial strain on the young church.
In the fourth season, we launched the church in October 1996 at 6pm with an attendance around 200, which included many friends and supporters. The attendance leveled off shortly thereafter, somewhere around 100 adults, and we continued meeting until the Christmas season. [in later 2011 Driscoll said "I was carrying the burden myself ... " but in 2000 it looked like he recounted a team of elders that seemed to include Moi, Gunn, Brown, Currah and Schlemlein BEFORE the fourth season, i.e. the official launch of Mars Hill in 1996.  These were, almost to a man, guys older than Driscoll and yet in later 2011 Driscoll claimed one of his problems was he had not raised up leaders to help him carry the burden.]
In the fifth season, we moved to a church building in the Laurelhurst district one mile east of the UW. We had been searching for space in the University District with no luck, but this move got us closer to our desired area. The location afforded us an opportunity to launch small groups, classes, dinners and other events throughout the week. We also opened a small office at the church and hired some office staff to begin formulating more infrastructure to organize our continued growth.
In the sixth season, I was invited to speak at a national conference in October 1997 with Leadership Network. Pastors from around the U.S. came to discuss the issues of postmodernity and emerging generations. My sermon at that session opened a great deal of national opportunities and media coverage that propelled Mars Hill into the national spotlight as a model church for emerging ministry paradigms. Since that time our church plant has been featured in such publications as Mother Jones [try this], the Washington Post, Seattle Times, Worship Leader Magazine, Current Thoughts & Trends, Arizona Republic, Vineyard Cutting Edge [here?] , Christianity Today, etc. We have also been featured on local radio programs, as well as the east coast affiliate of NPR, and on TV with the 700 Club. We now provide consultation and teaching for an enormous number of churches and denominations, a number of Christian colleges and seminaries, as well as numerous national ministry conferences. [it's fascinating how early on and how thoroughly Driscoll was attentive to press coverage of the movement he was trying to get started].
In the seventh season, we began to organize the church by adding elders, deacons and members. This step was an attempt to identify the core and heart of our church by distinguishing those committed to us as a family versus those coming to consume goods and services. [so "our current" may have been when they were added in the aforementioned "third season" paragraph, though by 2000, as noted, Currah wasn't listed as an elder].
In the eighth season, our worship ministry was in great disarray and I had a dream that Brad Currah, who had been a member of our core group before the launch, was leading worship. I repeatedly informed Brad that he was to be our worship leader and after numerous conversations he began volunteering time overseeing the worship and arts ministries. Brad had spent a few years playing the club scene with his band Springchamber, but was quickly overwhelmed with the demands of his first time pastorate and quit his job at Microsoft to free up time for ministry and hoped to live off of his wife Devonna's salary. But, she soon became pregnant and needed to quit her job. I then got a call from a pastor in Florida who had a network that funded church plants. Grace and I met with Pastor David Nicholas at Spanish River Church, and his church planting network agreed to help us financially. This gift allowed us to bring Brad on full-time, which has culminated in a fantastic independent worship album, multiple worship teams, and an aggressive set of new songs written by some of our many gifted artists. [it wouldn't be long before Tim Smith would arrive and Currah would be let go.  Driscoll opted to leave chaos to see who would rise up to lead the music scene and by mutual account of Driscoll and Tim Smith, Tim Smith lobbied to take the reins, though whether this was before, during or after Currah's dismissal has not been clear]
In our ninth season in the beginning of 1999 we were forced to move from our Laurelhurst location. Five days before the end of our lease we still did not have a location to meet in and were dreading the move. Then, pastor Rick Hull and First Presbyterian Church in downtown Seattle graciously welcomed us in. So, we shut down the 7pm service, and ran the 5pm service in their 1300 seat sanctuary. The move was nothing new, in three years we have had services in four locations and at four different times, and the office has had six different phone numbers due to all the moves. It was also during this season that we launched our first daughter church, The Gathering, one hour north of Seattle in Mount Vernon. A family, the Tackels, I had met while teaching at a conference purchased an RV to begin taking their children and their friends to our church. Their 23 year old son Ron Wheeler [who has a blog post over here] had returned from a one year missions trip in Africa and resonated with much of our ministry philosophy. He began a Bible study in his community that continued to grow until they launched their church at 6pm on Easter of 1999 in a beautiful old brick church in downtown Mount Vernon. Funding for Ron was generously given by Dr. David Nicholas and our Acts 29 church planting network, and funding for his worship leader Micah Kelly was given from Ken Hutcherson and Antioch Bible Church. It was also at this time that we hired Janet Sawyer and Eric Brown, both members of our church, to come on staff full-time as administrators who have very much helped organize and stabilize our chaos.
In our tenth season, amidst the chaos of our homeless wanderings, I was approached by Stan Scholl, transitional pastor of Christ's Bible Church in the Ballard district of Seattle. Serving under the auspices of Northwest Independent Church Extension, he was helping the church of aging but faithful saints to contemplate options for their declining ministry. The CBC congregation adopted a plan whereby we were able to inherit their 8,000 square foot church building as a base of operations, and location for a young, new Bible church to serve the Ballard area. After six months of negotiations, the deal was closed. When basic renovations were completed, we moved in. We plan to launch a morning church in the building in October of 2000.
We are now upon our eleventh season as we begin to realize a dream we have been praying for over the past three years. One of our elders, Lief Moi, purchased an old theater on 55th and University Way (walking distance to the University of Washington) that we are currently renovating. The 200-seat theater is now host to a 7pm Sunday night church plant, a Wednesday night church service run by interns preparing to plant churches, and the only all-ages concert venue in the city of Seattle. Lief is also building out a broadcast booth for the national radio show, Street Talk, that we host on Saturday nights from 9 to midnight. Live bands will be performing while we broadcast the show around the U.S. and dialogue with people in their teens and twenties about the Gospel. [for truly local coverage of the closure of The Paradox described in this paragraph go over here.]
In our twelfth season, we are seeking to press forward with church planting in hopes of planting 1000 churches in conjunction with the Acts 29 Network. Pastor Bill Keogh launched Harbor Fellowship in Kirkland at 6pm Sunday, September 19. We launched our 7pm University District church on Sunday, November 7. Pastor Rick McKinley will launch his Portland church on Easter 2000, and we hope to launch our Sunday morning Ballard church in the spring of 2000 [this would have been at the Paradox site, if memory serves, and must not be confused with the recently closed/closing Mars Hill U-District]