Where is my Honor?
Pastors who steal sermons from other pastors are cheating. Pastors who expect their people to work and give and don’t work and give are cheating. You need to know that we track the giving of the leaders, not in a legalistic way, but to make sure that we’re not asking you to do something that they’re not doing. There’s nothing worse than parents who look at their kids and say, “Do as I say, not as I do.” That’s cheating. That’s cheating.
This sermon was preached mere days after Janet Mefferd presented evidence for why she confronted Driscoll on the issue of plagiarism.
It was months after Wenatchee The Hatchet examined whether or not Grace Driscoll (and by extension Mark Driscoll) had bothered to include a single footnote's worth of credit to Dan Allender in Real Marriage.
The news about Result Source had not yet erupted. The controversy about whether Mark Driscoll's books adequately gave credit to those whose ideas he was indebted to had just started. And Driscoll talked about how a pastor who preaches for some years and then leaves and reuses the same stuff elsewhere, that's cheating.
So by the measure of that rebuke, isn't Driscoll planning to "cheat"?
By Driscoll's account before he was a Christian he fibbed about his birthdate to get jobs he wanted. Then he became a Christian which, theoretically, leads to changed lives and such. Or ... well, Result Source could be considered a grander manipulation in its way.
It can seem as though the pre-Christian Mark Driscoll and the post-conversion Mark Driscoll were as susceptible as each other to the temptation to game a system for their benefit.
The thing is, at this point, those who are still fans of Mark Driscoll won't care. It won't matter because, hey, Jesus died for sin and nobody's perfect. But that may be the surface rather than the root. What might the root be? Here's an idea for consideration.
People who listen to Mark Driscoll preach may think they love Jesus and they may well love Jesus. But nobody needs Driscoll to be a Christian. Nobody needs Driscoll's preaching. But some people obviously want Mark Driscoll's preaching. And those who are looking forward to yet another rehash of Ecclesiastes want Driscoll back even if he is recycling old stuff.
If Driscoll were to take a cue from Spurgeon he would have touched the Psalms from the pulpit at some point in the last 18 years. Nothing. And his fans may be totally okay with this because it's possible that when people listen to Mark Driscoll's motivational speaking performances rather broadly and sometimes tangentially inspired by a biblical text it's not the substance of the biblical text they are soaking up, it's the narrative Driscoll creates in the performance. It can't be this way all across the board. Plenty of people came to a sincere appreciation of the scriptures through sermons that happened to be preached by Mark Driscoll. But if we stay close to the idea that can crop up in Reformed soteriology, Mark Driscoll merits no credit at all if the Holy Spirit providentially and paradoxically put his soapboxing to some actually beneficial use.
If after 18 years people feel like they need to hear from their pastor they may not understand what pastors do. Decades ago Wenatchee The Hatchet heard a Pentecostal youth pastor preach from Ephesians 4. That pastor explained that God appointed some to be apostles and prophets and teachers and that their responsibility was to equip the saints for service. The youth pastor said, and I have to paraphrase, "my job as a pastor is not to do the work of ministry. My responsibility is to train YOU to do the work of ministry. If ten years from now you can't interpret the Bible for yourself and I have to do it for you then I've failed to do my job. My job is to equip you to understand the bible so you can learn from it."
Wenatchee The Hatchet hopes to be able to say that that youth pastor succeeded, at least in helping Wenatchee The Hatchet. If Driscoll is to be a pastor and a shepherd the goal is to preach and teach in such a way that, well, he used to claim he wanted to be a father figure. Fathers raise kids to go out into the world and reach a point where they don't need dad to bail them out or clear things up. In that sense, if somebody comes off like an adultescent not embracing new vistas of thought and action it is now Mark Driscoll, revisiting his old hits in Ecclesiastes or Song of Songs, rather than moving forward to Lamentations or Isaiah or the Psalms or something where he would be tested in his competency handling the scriptures.
And his fanbase may not care. Their enthusiasm may be for Mark's performance rather than for the scriptures themselves. What they want may be Mark Driscoll's motivational speaking performance art as a simulacrum for an actual appreciation of the Bible.
If you dig into the narrative literature to figure out what was going on with Naboth's vineyard, that's digging into the text. If somebody were to struggle with wondering what the deal with the Joash fundraising to restore the Temple was getting at that's engaging an issue in the text. It's unfortunate to see Driscoll returning to Ecclesiastes because it speaks of his inherent laziness. He's going for the recycled insights, insights that by now no longer seem to be grounded in an exegetical approach. He can't just presume Solomonic authorship when even conservative scholars have expressed doubt about that in the last twenty years. If Driscoll wants to fall back on an unexamined tradition he could re-preach Song of Songs as a typology of God's love for the church. THAT would be new for him.
If it's all about Jesus Mark Driscoll is superfluous. John the Baptist said "he must become greater and greater, while I must become less and less." It would still seem best for Driscoll to shun the limelight for half a decade and just be a regular member at a church. No status, no prestige, no public voice. He could drive that bread delivery truck he used to say he wished he could drive instead of being a pastor. He could be a nobody who so trusts in the providential power and wisdom of Jesus that he feels no obligation to be a celebrity who isn't a pastor.
And those who are waiting for Driscoll to "come back", read the Bible. If you have salvation at all it has nothing much to do with Driscoll except maybe in instrumentality and if God can use a donkey God can use a Driscoll. But a divine commission is not inherently proof of lasting divine favor. King Saul is a reminder there.
If people wait for Driscoll to return they are waiting for the return of the wrong person. They are awaiting the return of a man who has slowly and steadily become everything he himself repudiated from the pulpit a decade ago. Adolf Schlatter wrote that the tragedy of idolatry is that the idol that is venerated is not even the thing itself which is the subject of veneration, merely an outline of its form. Mark can possibly revive his second-hand truncated catchphrase and talk about being a nobody who's trying to tell everybody about somebody. He can say it's all about Jesus but the Jesus Mark Driscoll has preached is a guy who had a dad named Joe who swung a hammer for a living and who grew up in a dumpy neighborhood, a backstory Driscoll has shared he has. When the backstory of Jesus so conspicuously parallels the celebrity it should raise a question whether the Jesus Mark Driscoll has come to preach is what evangelicals would call "the historical Jesus" or the Jesus that lines up with Mark Driscoll's ideals about manhood.
There are people who await a return from Mark Driscoll to a pulpit, possibly any pulpit. Those are people who are awaiting a second-hand enthusiasm. Driscoll's motivational talks may still entertain some folks but by his own account he is no longer a pastor. He quit the one and only pastoral role he had and he was self-appointed and practically self-ordained at that. Mark Driscoll has said for decades, more or less, that God told him to marry Grace, teach the Bible, train young men, and plant churches. Mark Driscoll wanted to be with Grace Martin before he was even thinking of being a Christian. Driscoll was also, as his dad Joe explained in God's Work, Our Witness, on the debate team on student council. Mark Driscoll was set to be a stand out sorta guy even before he decided to be a Christian. He was already pursuing leadership tracks. Mark Driscoll can claim the "trap has been set" stuff was stuff he didn't expect or anticipate but he was willing to quit. The stuff Mark Driscoll has claimed God told him to do can be understood as things that Mark Driscoll already wanted to do before he ever identified himself as a Christian. That goes most especially for the woman who became his wife.
One of the things Adolf Schlatter wrote was that it is a lie arising from covetousness to remake God into one's own image and to make your own lust to be God's will. It seems worth asking whether the stuff Mark Driscoll has kept saying God told him to do hasn't been precisely the things he already pretty much wanted to do anyway.
January 7, 2007
Part 1: God's Hand in Our Suffering
Let me wrap all of this up. As your pastor, who loves you very much – I say that sincerely – would you be as honest as Naomi today, and would you acknowledge that your life and mine are like Naomi and Ruth’s stories in which the providential hand of God is at work, in which he calls us to be honest and to run to him and one another as God’s people, to work out those parts of our life that we consider afflictions, but not yet have received them as sanctified? And would you identify yourself with someone in the story – who are you? How many of you, you’re Elimelech-ish? You’re Elimelech-ish. Elimelech is the guy – Everything falls apart. It looks dark. It looks bad. He takes a poll. He makes a plan. He decides Moab has a lower cost of living. Moab has more vocational opportunity. Moab has food on the table – I will make a plan. I will be the sovereign. I will take care of everything. Trust me, I know what I’m doing. He leads well. He plans well. He tries to be the sovereign. Everybody dies anyways.
I am Elimelech. I asked my wife, “Which one am I?” Oh, my wife – she didn’t even breathe. Didn’t even take a breath. “Oh, you’re Elimelech.” And his name means what? My God is King! That was me. If you ask me, Jesus, sovereign, Lord, King, God, and if I ever need ‘em, I’ll call, but I don’t think I do ‘cause I got this all taken care of. Elimelech-ish.
Mars Hill has been dissolving this year. It spiraled downward after years of controversy surrounding the man who tried to be the sovereign. It's interesting to compare what Driscoll said from the pulpit to what he shared in 2010.
The multi-campus strategy we are using is sustainable and healthy. Being able to distribute as campuses of various sizes and personalities is a bit like the joy of being a father watching children with various resemblances but distinct personalities grow up. Having such a large team of elders, deacons, and members deployed across the campuses is a great relief to me as I see us taking better care of more people than we have ever been able to.
Children he loved so much he bailed on them, citing God's permission and release from fatherly authority.
But there are those who are waiting in excitement for Mark Driscoll to come back to a pulpit, possibly any pulpit. If he's coming back with yet another series on Ecclesiastes it doesn't matter that he's recycling his old routine. What matters for them is they get to hear his voice again.