It may be worth prefacing this set of lengthy excerpts from a later 2001 sermon by Mark Driscoll by noting that this was a couple of months before the first anniversary of his stint as William Wallace II by way of "Pussified Nation". He was still clearly concerned that a lot of the men at the church were not stepping up.
Part 5 of Proverbs
Pastor Mark Driscoll | October 28, 2001
The world is filled – if there’s anything I see right now with young men at Mars Hill, it is complete avoidance of their masculinity. They think that because they sing a few songs and they don’t do anything real bad, that they’re men. No. [emphasis added] These are guys who – I’ll just give you some pictures. Should we do that? Should we just take the fig-leaf off and speak for a moment? These are guys who, 30 of them pack into a studio apartment and pay $25.00 each a month for rent, and have no plans of changing that, because then they only have to work five hours a week at their dead-end job, and spend the rest of their time doing whatever it is that they want to do. These are guys who don’t pick careers. They don’t pick jobs. They don’t go out and cultivate anything. They’re not building businesses. They’re not building their spirituality. They’re not building ministries. They’re not building relationships. They’re not building families. They’re really not doing anything. They’re just avoiding it altogether. Okay?
Some guys are like that. They’re looking for a short cut, all the time, but there’s no short cut. There’s only the long, hard road. [emphasis added] And God did that intentionally to build into the man toughness, resilience, patience, fortitude, strength, to keep chipping away until it breaks. And some guys go, “Well, I don’t know. That looks like a lot of work. I might, you know, break my nail. I don’t – I’m going to go home now and I’ll pray about it.” So, there’s where you get guys who are on their eight-year undergraduate plan. What are you studying? “Nothing. But, my parents said they’ll give me money as long as I go to school.” Well, great. I mean, that’s awesome. You’re now in your 40’s. You gonna declare a major? Like, you gotta get somewhere. You gotta step-up.
These guys are just – they’re avoiding all their responsibilities. What they want, they want food without working. They want drink without working. They want sex without marriage. They want a house without a mortgage. These guys look at means and ends, and they want the ends but they don’t want any of the toil that comes with the means. So, they try and find a short-cut. [emphasis added] “Well, I’ll just steal his money. And I’ll drink his beer. And I’ll sleep on his couch. And I’ll sleep with that girl.” [Whistles] Good. Whoa, short-cuts. Praise the Lord. And Solomon’s looking at his son and saying, “This is just foolish folly. This is just dumb. This isn’t going anywhere. You weren’t created for this.” Here’s how they get there; something for us all to think about.
Then as the sermon moves along Driscoll recounts a few incidents from his teen years:
Proverbs 29:21, “If a man pampers his servant from youth, he will bring grief in the end.” These guys are pampered; totally pampered. Okay? And again, this is not a boasting on me. This is a – this is actually a tribute to my dad. I was eleven years old. I was going out for the little league all-star team, and I needed a new glove. My dad said, “Good. Go make some money.” I said, “Hey, dad, I’m eleven.” He said, “Well, you’re taller than the lawn-mower. I’m sure you’ll figure something out.” True. So, I get the lawn-mower, and I go and I mow lawns to get my glove. And I come back and my dad says, “You owe me gas money. You used my gas.” It’s the nicest thing my dad ever did. Up until that point, I didn’t know gas cost money. Now, I do. Now, I appreciate gas.
It comes to the point where I’m 15 and I wanna get a car. I said, “Dad, I need a car.” He says, “Good. Go get some money.” I said, “Okay, fine.” So, I falsified my birth certificate, I lie about my age, and I get a job at a 7-11 selling lotto tickets and liquor and cigarettes to people that are twice my age. I was not a Christian, so – I shouldn’t have done it anyways, but I wasn’t a Christian. And so, I’m 15, working at a 7-11 selling stuff. And I make a decent living, and I buy my first car, a 1956 Chevy that I should’ve never sold. That’s a whole other sermon. And – and so I’m 15, driving myself to work without a license, because I gotta go make money to pay for my car. [emphasis added] Okay? And again, I was not a Christian. Okay? So, I’m not saying, “Thus sayeth the Lord.”
And I realize that, since I was young and I was strong, I could make more money. And so I started dinking around trying to figure out where to make more money. And I find out that guys in unions make a lot of money. And – at least compared to me working at the 7-11. And I got tired of getting robbed and held-up, too. ‘Cause if you run a 7-11 behind a Déjà vu, somebody’s gonna put a gun at your head. And after a couple of those, you realize, “For minimum wage, I’m not taking a cap. You know? I’m not gonna get shot for, like, a pack of cigarettes. I’m not gonna do that.” So, I lied about my age. I falsified my birth certificate again, and told them I was 18. Got a job working long-shoring down on the docks in Seattle. And I would go throw 100-pound sacks of peas, and unload trucks, and work hard. And they paid me tremendous money. [emphasis added] At the time, it was like $10.00-something an hour. This was, like, in 1986 or ’87 or something. And I’d work 40 hours a week, and over-time was double-time. And none of the guys would wanna work over-time. Usually it was on Friday, ‘cause they had to get containers out, and those guys all wanted to go to the topless club.
And so, I would work all the over-time at $20.00 an hour as a 16 year old kid. This is in the mid-‘80s. Right? So, I’m loaded. I have money, money, money, money. So, I buy a car, and I start saving for college, doing my stuff. And with my dad – I thank God for my dad. My dad’s like, “You’re a guy. You work. You pay your way. Good. It’s good for you.” And you know what? He’s right. He was totally right. Thank God for my dad. My brother and my other brother and myself, we’re all doing great, making good money, doing fine. My brothers are all in management leadership running companies or businesses. It’s great. You pamper a guy from his youth, and he just – he gets this course of action. All of the sudden he feels like if his hands are dirty, or his muscles are sore, or if he put-in a long day, or thought something was tough, that’s unusual; that’s abnormal. And so, he avoids it.
That set of extensive quotes with emphasis added is building up to a point, which is that having warned young men to resist the temptation to take shortcuts and go the quick route, even back in the 2001 sermon the anecdotes about falsifying his birth certificate two different times and driving a car without insurance are striking. Sure, it may be said by Driscoll's advocates, he wasn't a Christian at the time, but the observation here is that rather than wait until he was legally old enough to do the kinds of jobs he took he recounted that he was willing to lie about his age and claimed to have falsified his birth certificate to get work to make money. Driscoll does not necessarily endorse how he went about things and stressed that he was not a Christian at the time. Be patient, you know where this is going to go, but be patient.
Yet for those who can hear the sermon it's difficult to hear in Driscoll's voice an outright condemnation of his motive. His actions? Eh, a bit sketchy but he was a teenage boy and he had a lot of drive and it worked out okay for him, you know? There's a kind of apologetic for the shortcuts because he wanted to work hard and get paid well for his work and he was willing to work overtime. One might go so far as to say he may have thought that the sheer scale of his ambitions merited a commensurate reward, a reward he was apparently by his own account not entirely willing to wait for.
Thus fudging the birth certificate stuff, it seems.
Which at length gets us to the end of 2013 with the plagiarism controversy that rolled into 2014's Result Source Inc, controversy. It turns out a lot of citation mistakes were made. A lot of people who could have and should have been credited with their ideas and authorial work in first editions weren't acknowledged at all. Warren Throckmorton has a lot of material documented. Wenatchee The Hatchet has a little here and there that mainly refers to materials that were ostensibly written by Grace Driscoll but for which Mark Driscoll and On Mission, LLC own the copyright. That it turned out some shortcuts may have been taken in attribution and in securing a place for the book Real Marriage on the NYT bestseller list makes it seem as though Mark Driscoll was willing to let a lot of shortcuts happen in his 2012 book. He can't legitimately say that letting the Result Source Inc. contract thing go through was going to spread the message of Jesus because the Bible is part of the public domain in a number of venerable English translations.
Having preached against guys taking the lazy, cheater's route, it's still hard to shake the reality that by Mark Driscoll's own account he was in his teen years willing to lie about his age and falsify a document to get the kind of work he aspired to have. Then he became a Christian and was changed by Jesus ... right?
So what was the deal with "mistakes were made"? As Warren Throckmorton has managed to document "mistakes were made" across half a dozen books, including Real Marriage, for which Result Source Inc was engaged to rig a spot on the New York Times best-seller list. This could lead a person to surmise that Mark Driscoll didn't just take some lazy shortcuts in how he put together the book to begin with but also by way of Result Source. Real Marriage, two years on, can be seen as something of a sham not just from the standpoint of authors whose work wasn't properly credited in the first edition but also from the standpoint of having been bought a status it might otherwise have never rightfully earned.
And the scope of the plagiarism and Result Source Inc controversies may invite a further question, whether this level of shortcutting on the part of Mark Driscoll and his associates may not indicate at least the possibility that the Mark Driscoll of his 40s may not be as different from the Mark Driscoll in his teens as he or others may want to believe.
Should this seem pedantic, pointing out that it's problematic for Mark Driscoll to have taken up shortcuts in his books isn't the only part of the Mars Hill history under consideration. The questions that emerge in the wake of Warren Throckmorton lately publishing a memo about how Mars Hill Global was viewed as a sleeping giant of donations and what ways could be employed to cultivate that donor base ...
That suggests that both Driscoll as an individual and Mars Hill Church as a corporate culture may have some serious questions to answer about whether the quick and nimble innovation and content generation was worth the shortcuts that increasingly seem to have been taken up.
Now after all this Wenatchee The Hatchet would not suggest that Mark Driscoll's dreams of a Bible college or a music label or a book publishing imprint are at all bad things. The problem is more that over the last ten years Mars Hill has tried and failed to get that school going. Where is Capstone Institute these days? Where's the Resurgence Training Center? We can't be entirely sure how Mars Hill Schools will play out. Then there's the music label. How did Re:Sound pan out? It fizzled. There was a stand-alone Mars Hill Music that turned into a partnership with Tooth & Nail and word is even this partnership no longer exists. These are high-minded ideas to pursue and could be feasible in a second or third generation of a movement but Wenatchee The Hatchet suggests that a pervasive temptation Driscoll and Mars Hill succumb to is living for a legacy in such a way as to need to see it with their own eyes. If you walk by faith and not by sight then you can trust that whether or not there even IS a legacy that is left to divine providence, not rigging sales and taking shortcuts in assembling books that in the grand scheme of things fall under the warning at the end of Ecclesiastes, that of the writing of books there is no end.
Why bring up things from the past? Because understanding the past can be a way to understand the present. It's not as though Mark Driscoll never shared enough from the pulpit to help us understand what his peculiar temptations might be, a temptation to take a few shortcuts of his own to get where he wanted to go because he had a vision and a plan to do something. It's good to want to have your life mean something and it's even good to want a legacy ... but how much of Driscoll's legacy should be explicable by way of Docent Group, or ghostwriters (if applicable?) or Result Source Inc. or things like that? The citation errors that happened in the 2009 Trial study guide could have destroyed the corporation known as Mars Hill Church if a publisher and a few editors decided to show no mercy. It's worth noting that the 2011 trademark/logo scandal showed that Mars Hill was willing to let its lawyers send a cease-and-desist in the season in which the contract to buy Real Marriage a #1 spot was finalized. The problems in the leadership culture at Mars Hill seem acute, and it seems the leaders have been opting to hold themselves to significantly lower standards for themselves than they would have the rank and file live by.
One of the things American evangelicals like to tell ourselves is that in Christ there is new creation. Yet it would seem that that new creation is like a mustard seed and there is the disturbing fact that in the life of King David he did not seem to become a better husband or father as he aged. The heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11 who get mentioned in the book of Judges? They were, at least when mentioned by name, capable of some monstrosities and indeed those monstrosities tend to overwhelm their narratives in Judges in place of great acts and words of faith. Gideon set up an ephod and the Israelite slide into apostasy began before his death. Jephthah sacrificed his own daughter rather than rescind a foolish vow. Samson sought to live as a Phillistine rather than to defend Israel against them. The judges in Judges tend toward corruption and nepotism to a point where Israel may have simply wanted a king to make sure that a corrupt family dynasty was at least official.
So when we consider the case of a man like Mark Driscoll we should be wary about assuming that just because a guy converts to Jesus means he is a new creation right away. Progressive sanctification isn't that hard to understand, but what can be harder to understand within American evangelicalism is that the old man may stick around and keep on kicking and that the nature of our temptations change. So Mark fibbed on his birthdate to get jobs that paid. A lot of young guys with ambition have done that, right?
When decades later it turns out the not-so-young guy is embroiled in a controversy about whether everything in his books was really his thinking and whether one of those books was a legit best-seller in light of a contract ... maybe that's a warning to evangelicals that the story of life-change is one we should be cautious about. It may well happen, but it may be that life-change as American evangelicals talk about it doesn't always happen as swiftly or as thoroughly as we'd like it to. Plagiarism in half a dozen books and a rigged spot on a best-seller list are not a small-scale as fudging a birthdate to sell Bic lighters at a 7-11. It can look as though the temptations of Mark Driscoll might not have changed so much over time and it may be that the shortcuts taken were rationalized as worth it because of the greatness of the legacy desired. But these may be the times to most remember that there is a way that seems right to a man but it's end leads to death, whether for an individual or a congregation. The things that have been coming to light aren't just controversies around a single man but around the entire corporate culture of the church he co-founded.
There may be those who might defend Driscoll's drive to be productive and ambition to have a legacy as noble things, and they might have been if it hadn't turned out he was willing to take some shortcuts to becoming a bestselling author and forgot to have a few extra footnotes he should have had in his books along the way. There's still the old axiom that the road to hell is paved with good intentions and a legacy and a future hope, as good intentions go, aren't that unusual.
There's a pragmatism amok in the leadership culture of Mars Hill, perhaps, and it may not just manifest in what Mark Driscoll was willing to let happen for his books to get more exposure, it looks more and more like it's what may have been a guiding motive in using Mars Hill Global as a way to awaken a "sleeping giant" of donors who would be invited to give to a cause of international missions when the majority of the financial expenditures and investments may have been much, much closer to home.
Both Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill may have completely forgotten that Somebody said "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much."