Saturday, March 31, 2012

Pirate Christian Radio: What do the changes in Mark Driscoll's roles mean?

Starts about minute 32 in.

As with 2007 Driscoll has presented his stepping down from a position of formal leadership or ifnluence as focusing on other things like growing the church. For folks who know how boards work the executive is accountable to the board not the other way around. By withdrawing from the Gospel Coalition and still being on the board of Acts 29 Driscoll hasn't given up any power at all.  He's only really given up the responsibility to manage things directly. 

Chandler has been brought on and Scott Thomas feels "released" from leading Acts 29 lately.  Given that Scott Thomas was active in every stage of the trial of  Paul Petry and Bent Meyer and used Acts 29 resources along the way to present a particular picture of conciliation that wasn't happening to Mars Hill members along the way, Thomas feeling "released" is a way to ensure that the man most directly involved in what looks like a kangaroo court is out. Acts 29 can't afford to have Scott Thomas anywhere in or near it now that Petry has gone on record with documents and correspondence that show Thomas was the beating heart of a kangaroo court, can it? 

So in a way the real news of late is Scott Thomas announcing his stepping down a week after Joyful Exiles went up.  But the other news that, so far, only Pirate Christian Radio has directly tackled, is that Driscoll has repositioned himself to increase his informal power and influence while divesting himself of more obvious formal associations.  I would suggest that Pirate Christian Radio is party right on the Gospel Coalition.  They haven't directly and publicly repudiated Driscoll in a way that most people want.  Take Don Carson's polite, friendly, but firm illustration of how Driscoll showed himself to be an ignorant troll in lampooning British evangelicalism. 

Most people might think it was nice, maybe even too nice, and pretty restrained, the exact opposite of a Driscollian approach.  For a guy like Driscoll, who hosted a big weekend years ago called "A Weekend with Dr. Don" even something as seemingly too-nice as what Carson said this year might be perceived as a brass-knuckled rain of blows to the face.  Driscoll has made it abundantly clear he doesn't want anyone publicly rebuking him, rebukes need to be private, even if the rebuke were over something Driscoll said on record in such a flamboyant way no one could avoid discussing what he said if they knew about it. Driscoll pulling out of the Gospel Coalition after a few months of Carson correcting his ignorant misrepresentation of British Christianity; Carson and Keller's lack of joy at the Jakes stunt; let alone Anyabwile's remark that only a mercenary gunning for numbers could ever endorse Jakes ... these are things Driscoll could easily read. 

Where as you might think the Gospel Coalition leaders aren't being firm enough for a man like Driscoll it may be even their indirect expressions are concern are too much for him to keep putting up with.  Better to pull out before things escalate.  Besides, none of those guys have a church big enough for Driscoll to learn anything from anyway, right?  Then again, as Carson put it, there's not just numbers to consider, there's things like the cultivation of character such as the spiritual fruit of self-control exercised over one's tongue.  Seems innocuous enough but for a guy with an ego as big as Driscoll's seems to be that could easily be a last straw. 

In any case, Driscoll has been eager tos ay nobody asked him to step down and he's got no relational difficulties with the men. The lady may protest too much. If members of the Gospel Coalition have thought of approaching Driscoll privately about Elephant Room 2 Driscoll's been on the road promoting Real Marriage and hitting big media outlets and the like.  There's not necessarily a real, present relationship to be strained that anyone could verify externally, and by being so hugely busy Driscoll wouldn't have to ever set aside time to even get privately corrected by members of the Gospel Coalition.  Driscoll has assistants who check his email for him and pass on important stuff.  How hard would it be for Driscoll to simply instruct aids to delete anything that might have been sent his way from pastors concerned about his doctrinal problems?  It would be a simple matter of Driscoll being able to truthfully say that if so-and-so sent a message to his office about this concern with Jakes that he, uh, just didn't get that email and can't account for that.  That's if emails were sent, and maybe they weren't.

This isn't just the case in the corporate world, it's also the case in non-profits.  How do I know?  Nine years of working in non-profit, that's how.  Sometimes for the people who are actually responsible for getting things done just getting board members to show up and recognize something is important enough to warrant their attention and initiative becomes a full-time job.  Ever look through job listings that are tagged "non-profit"?  Ever notice there are jobs where the whole job is being a liaison to a board of directors on behalf of executives?  I have. 
Driscoll gets to be on the board of Acts 29 and retain power without having to actually worry about the responsibility of running anything.  This isn't a new move for Driscoll.  He did this in 2007.  He described in early 2008 that having Munson in charge of things spared him the onerous task of having to fire friends in ministry and dealing with the related conflicts of interest.  Given the way the 2007 firings took place and the active role Scott Thomas took in them it could be taken as Driscoll and Munson deciding on the firing and then using Scott Thomas to implement each step of the firing itself. 

This let Driscoll and Munson be the authoritative "deciders" while Thomas was the muscle ensuring the elders as a group were led to decide what Driscoll and Munson wanted.  Then, if by some chance things went bad and stuff got public Driscoll and Munson had little more than a formal association with a process that Thomas got his hands dirty in every step of the way.  Driscoll just told the men they were fired and Munson levelled the accusations that included the claim that he was being disrespected and acsused of deceit.  Scott Thomas had the role of heading the EIT and determining the charges were credible.  Whether or not Gary Shavey, Steve Tompkins or the other member of the EIT ever even spoke to Petry can't even be confirmed. 

So if Pirate Christian Radio is right (and I think he probably is here) Driscoll has moved to a new stage where he divests himself of formal and visible power while increasing informal and institutional power and influence.  He gets to be the "prophet" at Mars Hill and produce more books and content.  He's lining up stuff on Revelation, he's lining up a book on Ephesians--which means that after ten years his recycling material won't matter to anyone who doesn't remember he used to say that the sign of a bad and lazy pastor is that he's recycling his best hits to a new crew at a new church that doesn't know any better. 

Let's remember that Mars Hill was "replanted" years ago.  Driscoll may have just forgotten that in replanting Mars Hill as though it were a new church he paradoxically and literally became the kind of preacher he warned us about ten years ago.  The "new church" wasn't some other place besides Mars Hill, it was a Mars Hill redesigned and with a mostly new crowd of people who hadn't heard the Song of Songs sermons from 1999 or material from 2002.  I guess congratulations are in order, Driscoll managed to avoid a literal realization of becoming everything he preached against in pastors back in 2002 by way of technicalities and formalities in bylaws and a "replant".

Now that it's become more apparent that when 1,000 members left in early 2008 during the doctrine series this meant, per Munson's letter in late 2007 that half the church left over the controversies that happened then.  Driscoll said in 2002 that if he ever went off the rails theologically or ethically that the biggest favor Mars Hill members could do for both him and the church would be to leave.  When that moment came he spun it as them leaving because they weren't down with the bar being raised on doctrine.  The bar wasn't raised then and to go by Driscoll's free and easy way with Jakes in contrast to William Young's The Shack; given Driscoll's patent misrepresentation of the Targum Neofiti and cavalier handling of Old Testament literature the bar was lowered.  As long as you kept giving money, were in a community group, and kept laughing at his jokes and accepting that he was preaching just what's in the Bible it's all good. 

He's preaching pastor at a church with 14 multisite locations.  He's set to become an even more remote control self-appointed pseudo-denominational Pope than before.  That Driscoll has long since transformed into exactly the kind of remote-control "air war" guy who has no connection to the trenches or real ordinary people in churches does not, as yet, seem to have gotten his notice.  Maybe he'll show up here and there at a campus to just see what's going on.  But he's a rock star pastor now and even this could just become a case of members saying, "I hear Mark's going to be attending our campus!" and folks will hope he enjoys the preaching of the local campus pastor.

Given even the polite criticism of Don Carson in the wake of the Brierley interview; Carson and Keller on modalism; let alone Anyabwile's dismay that Driscoll and MacDonald invited Jakes at all Driscoll has been in a position where none of those guys have churches big enough to help him grow Mars Hill to the next level.  Driscoll is a big boy who has been vetted by enough people in the Reformed "tribe" he doesn't need them anymore.  Jakes, on the other hand, has the kind of big church Driscoll hopes to get.  Jakes is the kind of preacher who can provide lessons Driscoll can learn for how to "grow Mars Hill to the next level."  For years Mars Hill has said that it's not about numbers but they want to make sure more people get to know Jesus.  This comes off sort of like a guy saying, "I don't have to date a woman who looks like a movie star ... but if Scarlett Johannson is free ... ."

He will need someone with a powerhouse megachurch like T. D. Jakes to get to the next level.  He can't really turn to Osteen because Osteen's too obvious.  He can't exactly go with Ed Young Jr. NOW because he made fun of Young Jr. in 2011 and Young Jr's Sexperiment is too close to Real Marriage in the marriage self-help market.  Jakes has the kind of numbers Driscoll eventually wants and if he runs with being open to learn from other tribes then if anyone questions why he's making nice with Jakes there's a ready explanation even if Jakes trinitarian bona fides turn out to be some pro forma stunt as Thabiti Anyabwile is convinced it is.

If all that fails James MacDonald has played the Uncle Tom card already and who knows whether Driscoll wouldn't follow suit?  In terms of theological and racial politics, as Anyabwile seems to be painfully aware, there's a dastardly genius to the public relations stunt MacDonald and Driscoll have just pulled.  They both get to be out of the Gospel Coalition and if anyone in the "tribe" expresses unhappiness about shaking hands with Jakes then their siding with the Man, so it seems.  Driscoll can seem peerless in casual ad hominems but for a few moments MacDonald may have had the prize.

For fans who haven't bothered to think through some basic stuff about organizational structures in corporate and non-profit settings Driscoll stepping out of formal leadership but staying on the board of Acts 29 looks like humility. But not removing yourself from the Acts 29 board means you haven't given up any power at all.  Driscoll has Sutton Turner as the "king", the executive responsible to get everything running. Bruskas is the "priest" who is in charge of all the actual ministries that dealwith actual members.  Driscoll gets to be the "prophet".  What do prophets do in Driscollian parlance? They write books of the Bible.  Driscoll's half-way there any time he gets near an Old Testament text but Driscoll is committed to writing more books and developing more content to help grow the church.  Cultivating leaders and developing childrens' education to prep kids in Mars Hill for leadership by the time their 18 and things like that.

Funny ... ten years ago Driscoll said age bracketed ministries were bad because they unnecessarily divided up God's people.  But with Re:lit expanding and all and people having been hired to create content for kids and coming up with a kids Bible that's going to be done "Mars Hill style" so the boys will like it there's a burgeoning internal market.  Where as I used to hear about Acts 29 church plants now I'm hearing, what, that churches can apply to be Acts 29 partners these days?  Transfer growth and assimilation doesn't seem like real "missional" activity to me.

So ten years ago Driscoll was not cool with kids' ministry or youth ministry and now?  Driscoll says there's going to be a kids Bible and they're going to do it Mars Hill style.   Last I checked Elsie Egemeier's children's Bible Story Book is still in print and there are options.  But they want to make a kids Bible boys will get into.  Hmm, then make sure to mention Eglon, don't forget the Levite's concubine.  Song of Songs has to be in their with the wifely stripteases and the oral sex because, hey, it's in the Bible!  I mean, if the young people at Mars Hill don't hear that stuff from Driscoll and Mars Hill they're just going to go learn it from porno anyway, right?  I suppose one more thing that could end up in the kid's Bible is the lying spirit who went to the prophets of Ahab.  Anyone remember that one?  Ahab ordered the prophet be locked up and given just bread and water until he returned from battle.  To that the prophet replied, "IF you come back then the Lord hasn't spoken through me."


Anonymous said...


I have 2 points for you.
1 - Driscoll is preaching the 7 series at multiple campuses. He also preached the majority of the Real Marriage content at multiple MH campuses. Driscoll is actually switching to preaching at all the campuses and not just the Ballard show.
2 - Driscoll has changed over the years, so why are you suprised that something he said 10 years ago as an early 30's pastor has changed now that he is over 40? Since you were at MH for so many years, I am sure you saw many of these changes as well. Don't be suprised they are continuing (i.e. Kid's Ministry).


Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

fair enough but consider these points you've mentioned with some caution

1. A book tour on a topical series is not normative for Driscoll either for content or delivery. He's announced live preaching is moving to Bellevue which is probably where it's going to stay for at least a little while.

2. Driscoll HAS changed a lot in tern years. He's turned into the kind of self-selected remote-control super-bishop running a denomination/institution out of touch with regular church life he warned us against in 2000-2002.

A lot of us saw this transformation slowly take place and decided we needed to land elsewhere. He didn't seem interested in hearing the case that he'd transformed into what he preached against over the years.

On top of that his character flaws are still the same. He has a double standard of wanting private correction for himself while publicly denouncing anyone he wants to; he's just as much a name-dropping respecter of persons now as he was years ago, if anything he's worse about it now. Six years ago he was going easy on Schuller and now he's telling us T. D. Jakes is on the same team. His partners at the Gospel Coalition are not so convinced and he's withdrawn from them. Not an encouraging indicator.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

I'll be first to say that on the basic of soteriology and the core doctrines we land on the same team, traditional Christianiity (well, at least traditional Christianity in terms of monergistic soteriology). It's good that Driscoll has mellowed on the second and third tier doctrinal points he used to be unbending about. He's not claiming Arminians are basically Pelagian. He's mellowed his stance on stay-at-home dads. He dropped the remarkably stupid courtship fad years ago, which was a wise move. If along with those relatively minor changes he had had the humility to actually step down a while and work on his marriage like he said a pastor ought to do if his marriage had trouble that would have helped. He seems to labor under the illusion that Mars Hill can't function without him. If it can't it's because it's built around him and not around Christ.