Driscoll was good and served a purpose (like the Pope), but it’s time to move on. There’s (now) little he has to offer as a preacher, teacher, writer, leader, “theologian”, or “pastor” that isn’t present in many other men that are far more qualified in education, theology, wisdom, sensitivity, and love.
Could he grow in these things? Yes, I pray he does, but he repeatedly errs on the side of doubling-down rather than reconsideration.
Burkhart isn't the only one to notice that Driscoll repeatedly errs on the side of doubling down rather than reconsideration. If he keeps doing that about church discipline or Redemption Groups he may find that doubling down costs him. This would be especially true if it turned out that those Redemption Groups Mars Hill has so fervently promoted had a co-leader who got canned for displaying a pattern of overstepping spiritual authority? Why? Because Driscoll and his team drafted bylaws that didn't provide any check on what elders were allowed or not allowed to do in cases of church discipline back in 2007.
I can’t tell you how weird it was going to the one Acts 29 conference I went to a few years ago with my old church (which is all about Acts 29 teaching, ethos, and theology). Seriously, everyone was dressed exactly the same–including me. They talked the same, threw the same names out, thought the same, and had read the same books. It was huge wake-up call for me. The point is this: I think Driscoll is good at creating a culture more than disciples. We need to cultivate both of those things in our people, but I think the priority should be reversed.
That sounds about right. Group conformity is inevitable. We all think we won't do it but then we do it and we don't realize it. As South Park illustrated with their satire of Goth kids, they think they're being non-conformist and different but Goth kids across twenty years still wear all-black, still listen to the Cure, still smoke, still lament the pointlessness of life, and so on.
A friend of mine once joked he gave advice to single guys at a church we were at. If the guy wore no jewelry except for a choker or a wrist bracelet and wore pin-stripped button-up shirts he might improve his odds. Why was this a joke? Because the joke was that if the single guys started adopting the dress code of the main teaching pastor the ladies would notice. One bitter single guy I heard out one evening remarked that he noticed all the guys who became community group leaders at this church seemed to get girlfriends within a few months. Not true, actually. I know a guy who bombed out in the love department once he became a community group leader and it wasn't until he had labored for a couple of years, realized it was going nowhere, and threw in the towel and went to another small group that he then met his wife. The humor there is not very difficult to savor in either case.
Now people may disagree that Driscoll and his team have done a better job of creating a culture than creating disciples. There's room for debate on that. Mars Hill does not want to be identified as a denomination but as interdenominational. Yet they bill themselves as Reformed, complementarian, evangelical, and missional. In other words they're basically TULIP anabaptists who won't commit on either theonomistic postmillenialism or premillenial dispensationalism but they won't take a stand on what they DO advocate. A denomination and its leadership would probably have the stones to say what they're for and not just what they're against. A church whose main teaching pastor advocates complementarianism in theory but has made his wife his "functional pastor" in practice isn't even meaningfully "complementarian" unless the buck ultimately stops at him. And maybe it does.
But if Mars Hill is not a denomination but a "movement" then the culture proposal is more salient. If you're not building an institution but you want to establish a movement then what you're doing is creating a culture, at least somewhere along the way. And how has that culture grown and changed? The older Mars Hill gets the more it looks like every other kind of mainstram megachurch the leaders used to say they didn't want to be like. Passing buckets for offering before a sermon? Altar calls? Childrens' ministries? Womens' ministries? Singles events? Yep, all those things have been done. As Burkart has put it, there's been some good we can point to but these are goods that are done equally well or better by other people already. I could write more but ending with this excerpt seems sufficient:
The beginning of Mark Knoll’s Scandal of the Evangelical Mind begins with him saying “this is an epistle by a wounded lover”. That’s how I feel. In the end, I really don’t actually “hate” these men. I see how much good they have done. But I also see how much more they could do and how they have made secondary things into things of such primary importance, while becoming so insensitive to others.