In contemporary life, we respect failure only if we can interpret it as a stepping-stone to accomplishment. This is the premise of a raft of recent books, from “Failing Forward” to “The Upside of Down: Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success”. A week ago, a group of young writers asked me what my favorite writing achievement was; I proudly told the story of an essay that was at first rejected by a favorite magazine and then, after much work and rewriting, accepted at another. The tale, presented as a celebration of the necessity of making mistakes, was in fact a sly way of revealing not my fallibility but my tenacity. My reaction to initial failure, I was claiming, is what makes me not fail in the long run.
The real truth, though, is that most of our mistakes cannot really be said to have such obvious redemptive power. Most of the time, we simply lose time. We retrace our steps. We let friends fall away; we hurt our families. We do idiotic things in our work. We make mistakes from which we learn and, more often, mistakes from which we fail to learn. Aware of our errors, but frequently unable to do better, we hang our heads
The failures of a person, if they can be transformed into something through which they can ascend to even higher levels of success, just becomes part of the sales pitch.
Regulars who have read Wenatchee The Hatchet will not be shocked at an observation, that the publication of Mark and Grace Driscoll's Real Marriage introduced, as a framing narrative to their various bits of advice, the revelation that their marriage was "functional but not much fun" and that it was beset by problems. Even if the semi-dangling "r" in the title seemed to promise revelations that there were rough edges. The trouble was that the framing narrative of the disappointments and dysfunctions of the Driscoll marriage dismantled the continuity and solidity of the public narrative of the Driscoll marriage Mark had been sharing from the pulpit year after year (notwithstanding very-long-ago sermons in which he might say that in the first few years of the marriage he won all the arguments but ended up sleeping on the couch a lot).
But what if the Driscolls had written and published their book WITHOUT that framing narrative of marital frustration (or even failure)? Without that framing narrative would it have been more than what it turned out to be, a hodgepodge of variously useful would-be bon mots? That acronym "FRIEND" in the "Friends with Benefits" chapter? Strip away that framing narrative and how much of the controversy surrounding the book might have gone with it? Not the Result Source inc controversy, that was neither here nor there regarding the substance of the book itself.
No, it seems as though without that framing narrative the book would be a substantially different book. Leveraging the described failures as the background against which the better-than-ever Driscoll marriage could be part of the sales pitch might be a significant part of the sales pitch for the 2012 book.
It's just that in a variety of fairly conventional Christian interpretations and applications of biblical texts you're supposed to have arrived at that healthier and functional marriage before anyone greenlights you to ministry. If the Driscoll marriage was within acceptably average marriages, however, then the question of who decided Driscoll was married well enough to be in ministry becomes more moot. But the branding of Real Marriage might imply that having a "good enough" marriage wasn't going to be good enough for the marketing campaign that was settled on.
The book could be a case study of Eve Fairbanks' proposal that "we respect failure only if we can interpret it as a stepping-stone to accomplishment." The failures that have come to light in Driscoll's ministry since the 2012 publication of Real Marriage don't exactly seem like the kinds of failures that would lend themselves to being stepping-stones to further accomplishments.
If Driscoll's going to still show up at a Hillsong conference and is willing to get interviewed ...
if Mark Driscoll's been candid about the mistakes he's made then he's welcome to be candid in even more detail. How about the nature of MH PR response in the wake of Janet Mefferd's on-air confrontation and subsequently produced case for copyright infringement in The Trial study guide? How about the way that MH's public response was to distribute blame to research assistance even though only Mark Driscoll's name was on the introduction? How about the eventually revealed as errant statement that they didn't sell the study guide?
Would Mark and Grace Driscoll be willing to clarify to what degree, if any, William Vanderbloemen was authorized by them to say anything about the reasons for Driscoll's resignation? Would the Driscolls be willing to name names as to who counseled Mark Driscoll to resign? Would Mark Driscoll have anything to share about the short stint in which his daughter Ashley was featured blogging at Pastor Mark TV? Was there a process in which Mark and Grace Driscoll second-guessed that decision?
It might be worth noting that along his rise to his particular brand of stardom Mark Driscoll at one point announced Ashley was going to be blogging. Now it seems only for the best that Driscolls reconsidered that move but it's worth noting here in 2015 that that sort of celebrity pursuit by Mark Driscoll not just for himself but for a short time also for his daughter Ashley, is something to maybe ask about. It would seem implied the Driscolls thought better of Ashley as blogger who by dint of blogging could become a potential limited public figure but, if there's going to be questions, could somebody ask the Driscolls why they for a moment considered it a potentially good idea to feature Ashley at Pastor Mark TV?
It becomes more challenging to take the Mark Driscoll lament about the stories of the risks his family has faced when we keep in mind this was a man who advertised stories about his daughter amidst making cases for his unique take on Esther. It's also impossible to separate Mark Driscoll's stories about the risks he's described his family as facing without bearing in mind his own public testimony about himself.
After all, let's recall that when Driscoll wrote this at "The Hardest Part of Ministry" :
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.
it's as though he momentarily forgot to mention that he announced Ashley would be blogging at Pastor Mark TV at some point. If Driscoll couldn't imagine it in 2013 it's not because he didn't imagine it in 2011. Ashley kind of was a blogger for a little while. Observing a tension between the public plea for sympathy and the public conduct of the man has come up for discussion in the past. A question can be asked of Mark Driscoll, why he has made so much of his public career out of incendiary statements and provocation if he has feared for the welfare of his family. In 2014 he went so far as to declare:
That said, if there's a reason for Driscolls to have second-guessed their teens being on social media, Mark Driscoll's own history of engaging mass media and social media might be a cause for concern. After all, Mark Driscoll boasted in his early book:
ISBN 0-310-25659-3Mark DriscollZondervan
copyright 2004 by Mars Hill Church
... 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]
Oka, so how exactly does a guy like Mark Driscoll reconcile his pleas for sympathy for his endangered family with his own history of boasting that he inspired a few bomb threats and that this was wonderful because the only thing worse than dying is living a boring life? How can he reconcile his plea for sympathy for his children with the reality that at one point he announced his teen daughter Ashley was going to be blogging at his site?
But if there are going to be questions for Mark Driscoll pending how about these:
1). Which people advised Mark Driscoll to resign, by name? Driscoll mentioned getting godly counsel, so who were they?
2a) Is William Vanderbloemen in a position to speak on behalf of Mark Driscoll to any members of the press?
2b) Is Vanderbloemen authorized by Mark Driscoll to speak to any effect that popular bloggers had any role in Mark Driscoll's resignation?
3) Given how publicly well-documented the Driscolls' 2000-2006 acknowledgment of the work of Dan Allender was, why did neither Mark nor Grace Driscoll nor editors at Thomas Nelson think to include a footnote of acknowledgment in the first print edition of Real Marriage?
4) Why did Death By Love, which by Mark Driscoll's account was mostly complete as of 2006, end up published as a book co-authored with Gerry Breshears?
5) Given the thoroughness with which the scholars Christian Brady, Robert Cargill and Scott Bailey publicly addressed the historical and interpretive errors of Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears' statements about the Targum Neofiti (that it was not advocating any Trinitarian views and that it was a 2nd century CE rather than BCE targum), would Mark Driscoll like to change his public stance on that targum and the interpretation he and/or Gerry Breshears promoted in the 2008 Doctrine series?
6) Is Mark Driscoll still persuaded that T. D. Jakes is an orthodox Trinitarian?
7) How much did Mars Hill executive leadership know about zoning issues in the Orange County situation prior to the eviction?
8) With respect to the International Paper building, Sound Transit has publicly stated that it finalized the purchase before Mars Hill even expressed interest. Why did Mars Hill authorize a website initially indicating the property was taken by way of immanent domain?
9) Is there some explanation for why Jamie Munson resigned? The announcement was given but no actual explanation of the reason for Munson's resignation has ever been given.
That's just a few. If the new story about Mark Driscoll's resignation is that he resigned in response to bloggers that drastically changes the entire framing narrative of why Mark Driscoll would resign. He doesn't have a history of taking bloggers very seriously. Even if it could be established that bloggers had some role in Driscoll deciding to resign that does not address the substance of what was being said by which bloggers that could have informed the decision by Mark Driscoll, or potentially those advising Mark Driscoll, to resign.
Driscoll's story about how and why the 2006-2007 re-org needed to happen significantly changed over the last seven years, so much so that it's a matter that he might find beneficial to clear up for public record. But let's leave that aside, having mentioned it, and returned to a matter from the resignation days.
If Mark Driscoll was persuaded nothing in the investigation or the reportedly proposed restoration plan found him guilty of sins that ultimately disqualified him from ministry then why did he resign? Wouldn't it have made sense and have been positive for Mark Driscoll to have announced that he was complying with whatever the restoration plan was (or reported to be)? That way Driscoll wouldn't have had to resign at all.
But if Driscoll was advised to resign it matters who gave that advice and why.
Let's keep in mind that on October 26, 2013 Driscoll wrote:
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
Yet not quite a year later:
Mark Driscoll resigned.