One of the things that someone who had never been a member of Mars Hill would be unlikely to perceive in the closing chapter of Real Marriage is that many of the events, thoughts and themes at the start of the chapter appear to not only be a description of how Mark and Grace Driscoll set about reverse-engineer for themselves a better marriage, but also a better church.
Mark and Grace Driscoll
Copyright (c) 2012 by On Mission, LLC
ISBN 978-1-4041-8352-0 (IE)
REVERSE ENGINEERING YOUR LIFE AND MARRIAGE
... 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 carbohydates, 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.
That summer we took a family vacation in central Oregon with Grace's family. ...
For those curious about "Reverse engineering your life" here's a pdf that shows it was copyrighted by Mark Driscoll and Jon Phelps in 2005. For what relatively little has been found by WtH about Phelps you can go here.
The general arc of the narrative at the start of chapter 11 of Real Marriage resembles this:
A letter from Pastor Mark Driscoll
November 8, 2007
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. 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. 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.
Any recent statements by Mark Driscoll in any venue withstanding, even the closing chapter of Real Marriage seems to recapitulate enough of Mark Driscoll's 2007 apologia for the re-org to constitute a reinforcement of the 2007 narrative as a defense of the controversial firings.
In fact in the opening of the 2012 book Mark Driscoll wrote the following:
from pages 16-17
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.
And if Driscoll had done something as simple as shared the pulpit with the rest of the elders he wouldn't have had to lament the stress of preaching five services a Sunday for months. Had Mars Hill adequately investigated land use and permit issues for its 50th street real estate purchase multi-site wouldn't have been necessary to pursue as an expensive plan B by going multisite in contrast to what Driscoll had told the world in his 2006 book was plan A.
And to read the way Driscoll tells the story in the 2012 book he had to contend with "religious" people who were committed to outgrown organizational systems. He also found a good doctor (who turns out to have been John Catanzaro whose appeal over the suspension of his license should be coming up soon) who told him what to do to change his health, a naturopath who was also an ordained minister. Both the beginning and end of Real Marriage seem to give us a story in which one of the obstacles that had to be overcome for the sake of the Driscoll marriage as Mark Driscoll wanted it to be was his own church and its organizational systems. Was that ... really a way of saying that the bylaws had to be changed in 2007 so Mark and Grace Driscoll could have the marriage and family life they wanted?