from October 12, 2015, apparently
Mark Driscoll's advice, in reflecting upon Ecclesiastes 7:11 in an October 2015 presentation, is that you can't move forward if you're looking back to the past. This axiom couldn't be more ironic since Mark Driscoll talked about how early in his preaching career he preached through Ecclesiastes and that it was like performing brain surgery on yourself. 1 John was a book of the Bible he went through in the earliest days of Mars Hill. For a man who is set on not looking back it could seem as though all he knows how to do is recycle stuff he preached through a decade or more ago. The forthcoming Ruth sermon series will cover material he preached through already in 2007.
But what's interesting about the Ecclesiastes sermon series is that it's an entirely new take on stuff Driscoll's already preached multiple times. Why not just keep bringing back the old sermons Driscoll preached from 2003?
Well, let's consider one sermon from the 2003 period. What you're going to find, if you can dig up the PDF transcript of the sermon is that the narrative aside that appears at minute 40:00 isn't in the transcript. But if you go over here and download the sermon you can hear that the following story is in the sermon.
Remember this anecdote isn't something you'll read in the sermon transcript and you have to download the audio from the marshill.se site to be able to confirm that Mark Driscoll did in fact say this stuff from the pulpit for the record:
GOOD BAD DAYS
Part 10 of Ecclesiastes
Pastor Mark Driscoll | Ecclesiastes 7:1-14 | June 01, 2003
How many guys, honestly (you don't have to raise your hands), how many guys in their teens or twenties (I'm in my thirties now so I'm at that place where I WOULD fight but it seems like a lot of work). But especially when I was in my teens I would, just all full of myself, I would just, I liked to fight. I would LOOK for fights. Certain guys are like this.
I actually beat up a guy on my OWN baseball team during a game. Usually, usually, you know, in a baseball game people why--baseball players are all wussies. They never fight. They all just run out to the middle of the field and look at each other which is, I dunno, like prom or something. They're all gazing into each other's eyes. I'm not sure what they're doing. They hardly ever fight and they NEVER take the bats which, to me, seems like the most OBVIOUS thing.
I love baseball and I can remember when I was playing ball. A guy on my own team in the dugout says something so I attacked him. Now very rarely do you see a bench-clearing brawl with just one team. Usually the other team's involved. I was a total hothead. I would fight through high school. I fight quite a bit. Guys would say something, give a cross--you got a problem? That's what he's talking about [the author of Ecclesiastes]. Especially you young guys. Some of you young guys, you're LOOKING for a fight. You want to legitimize it, you want to justify it. Some of you married people are looking for a fight. Provoke. Provoke. Provoke. Boom, off they go like the Fourth of July.
Within the same sermon Driscoll shared another story about coming to a new sense of discovery about who he was through one of the great catalysts for personal insight and epiphany bestowed upon parents since the dawn of parenthood, the reflexively emulative behavior of one's own child:
... How many of you, driving, really, is where you see your true self in its purest form?
It is for me. Driving for me--I think Jesus intentionally puts other people of certain mental acumen around me when I'm driving just to continually teach me the same lesson. I knew I was over the line when my daughter--she's five now. She's beautiful and brilliant--but, she was about two or so, and I was driving and I hit the brakes. And I hear from the backseat my glorious little daughter say, "Idiot!"
My wife looks over at me. My wife is very sweet, very kind, very patient. She looks at me and says, "You've discipled her." I said, "Yeah, I know, I gotta--" My two, three-year old daughter's beaten me to the "Idiot!" blow. So, I, okay. Slow to anger, abiding in turn signals. I got it. I got it. I got it. I got it. Fools just blow.
In a story in connection to discussing Ecclesiastes 7:11 in his 2003 sermon, Mark Driscoll said:
I went to my ten-year high school reunion a couple of years ago. Everybody was talking about the good old days in a public high school. Unless you've taken a ball-peen hammer to your own head you know it wasn't that great.
I was there. I remember. It wasn't that great. I had a mullet. I wore pastels. I loved my wife so much I took her to a George Michael concert, for the love of God. I was trying to court her and she liked George Michael and I was sitting here going, "This is not, these are NOT good days." These are terrible days! These are arduous, painful, toilsome days. I am in the house of mourning, listening to "Jitterbug". This is terrible.
You know, fools try to go back. Wise people, they go forward.
This next sermon excerpt is really long, but it features some interesting stories about Mark and Grace Driscoll's marriage as mediated through tales about the struggles to find and sustain workable automobiles. In keeping with the earlier jocular observation about how driving can reveal to you your true self, Driscoll shared the following:
He goes on to explain. This is what he means. “When times are good be” what? “Happy. When times are good, be happy.” “Hey! I gotta job!” “Hey, I got married!” “Hey, I got kids!” When times are bad, “Oh, man, I gotta job.”
“Oh, man. Have you met my spouse?” “Have you seen my kids?”
When times are good, be happy. When times are bad, consider this. God has made both days. God has made the one, as well as the other. Therefore, a man cannot discover anything about his future. What he says is this. People wanna be on mission. They wanna know everything and they wanna be sovereign. They wanna control everything. So, they’re trying to set up their life in such a way that they never have a bad day. And no matter what you do, you get bad days. I have had cars, okay? I’ll give you an example. My first car was a 1956 Chevy.
I was driving it and it had an electrical fire that came out through the steering wheel.
I was so happy. It was a good day. “I got a car!” Bad day? “The car is on fire.”
That’s a bad day. I got rid of that car. I got a 1966 Volkswagen. It was a little two door wagon, lowered with Porsche hubcaps. I thought it was cool. I pushed it more than I drove it.
I thought, “Cool. I have a cool car. I look cool.” I’m 16. You know, you gotta give me a little rope here. “I look cool.” I drive the car, a little Volkswagen, 1966 square back. It never, ever, ever ran. I pushed it all the time.
I’m gonna get rid of it. I’m gonna get another vehicle. I got a little, tiny pickup truck. Kept breaking down. Got rid of it. Got a Volkswagen Rabbit. Exploded. My dad, put a new motor in it, rebuilt it. It still ran rough. Got rid of it. Then, I decided, “I will get a truck.” I got a huge man truck. The tires were like this high.(Laughter)
I traded my wife’s car in for it. We were newly married. I didn’t ask her permission. It was the worst thing I ever did.
[emphasis added, and that's not audience approval, for those who haven't downloaded the sermon!]
It was so high, she couldn’t even get in. I didn’t even think about that.
The gas mileage was so bad. It had two tanks, but I loved it ‘cause it was huge. And we drove it to college first time, and something went wrong and the gas tanks leaked all over the road and we spent a couple of days in the Tri-Cities.
We ate Chinese food. It was not good Chinese food. Bad things happened. Never practice Chinese food in an unknown restaurant. After that, I decided I needed a different truck, so I got a 1966 Chevy pickup long bed. Happy day! Lowered it, Tonneau cover, mag wheels, redneck, Cadillac gorgeous.
My wife was going through an intersection. Some guy ran it. She t-boned him. Gone. Just totaled.
Out goes the front end. Dohhh.
Got my wife in. I said, “I love my wife. We’re gonna get a decent car. Got her a little Nissan. The thing kept breaking down. Got rid of it. Got her a Subaru wagon. Ran terribly. Got rid of it. Every day, I’d buy a car, happy day. The day I’d drive it the next day, bad day.
I’m also not a mechanic, so I don’t even know what’s going on. My poor dad’s been under the hood of my car so much. I mean, it’s been crazy. So, then, that’s it. I’m gonna get my wife a good car. An SUV. Something nice. Got her a black Jeep Cherokee. Leather, cruise, air, tilt, great. Drive it. All
the fuel injectors go. There’s gas all over the engine.
You don’t need to be a mechanic to know that gas all over an engine is bad. It’s just bad.
Bad things happen. Got rid of it. Got my wife a Toyota Landcruiser. She loved it. A nice, old one. It was like an ’88. Cruise, air. It was nice. Really sleek. It was perfect condition. The motor exploded.
We put a new motor in it and I said, “That’s it, honey. I’m gonna get you a Suburban ‘cause I love you as Christ loves the church.”
“I’m gonna get you a Suburban with a TV for the kids, leather. It’ll be a big Victorymobile. Anybody who runs a red light, you just go right over ‘em. You’ll win.”
Good day. Good day. Good day. We get it, first week, this light comes on, “Service engine soon.” We’ve had it a year. It’s got a warranty, but we’ve spent a total of over $5,000. Much of it’s gone to the warranty. Finally, got it all fixed. Good day.
Yesterday! Yesterday, we’re driving it up a hill and it starts shaking all over.
Like, “What is up?” “Service engine soon.” Bad day. Now, Solomon would tell me, “When days are good, be happy.” “Hey, I’m driving! Praise Jesus, I’m rolling! This is incredible!”
When days are bad, consider this. God made both days. I can’t get out and just yell at the car demon. It ultimately comes from the hand of God. Wise people accept that. Now, I’m not saying I’m wise and I’ve fully accepted it.
But, what he says is this. “Don’t think that the good days are from Jesus and the bad days aren’t. Every day’s from Jesus. And you can’t bend it back and make it straight, if he’s made it crooked. But, wisdom will help you navigate through it. Don’t get angry. Don’t surround yourself with stupid friends who let you sin and never rebuke you. Don’t go just get a lot of food to eat and a lot of alcohol to drink and listen to country western, and try and avoid it.”
You would potentially get the impression from Real Marriage that Mark Driscoll found his wife's issues with sex and sexuality to have been his primary point of frustration within the marriage. But for those who were attending Mars Hill for years and can remember to look up some stuff, it becomes easier to see that the kind of newlywed (by Driscoll's account in the above-quoted tale) to trade in his wife's vehicle without her knowledge or permission so he could get the truck he dreamed of could be a newlywed guy with some communication issues.
It seems probable at this stage that Mark Driscoll will keep trying to move forward as if the last twenty years of Mars Hill basically didn't happen. It may be that he'll continue to present his wife and children as intrinsically bound up in this new church plant that, as an homage to the church that Grace's father Gib Martin used to be pastor at, is an homage that is intrinsically backward looking in its disposition down to its very name.
If the key to moving forward is not looking back it's hard to be sure the future is looking rosy for Team Driscoll if so much of the church, ranging from the litany of recycled Mars Hill-era content to the explicitly filial homage to Gib Martin's church, is so steeped in conscientious nostalgia. If Mark Driscoll had taken his own axioms seriously it seems none of this would have played out as it has. But then for those who have been keeping track of these things the history of Mark Driscoll as a public figure in ministry has been full of moments where he's felt at liberty to instruct others by expounding upon principles he didn't live out in his own life.