Three years ago yesterday Mark Driscoll published "The Hardest Part of Ministry", wherein he described the most soul-aching matter he dealt with being the risk his family faced because of his life in ministry. At the time it was not known that Driscoll was no longer living in Seattle and no longer even living in King County but it played dramatically enough that Driscoll shared how not everyone understood the perils of urban ministry. He regaled us with a list of a few highlights or lowlights of perils his family had faced.
The hardest part of ministry
October 25, 2013
* Twice I have arrived home from work to find a registered sex offender seeking to engage with my family while waiting to talk with me.
As has been previously discussed on the of the delicate details of that bullet point is how many people who were around Mars Hill in the 2000-2003 period heard Driscoll share that, yes, in fact, a pedophile visited him. Over at the following website former attender Mark Yetman described the general situation:
In 2000 my wife and I moved 3000 miles to Seattle. We didn’t know anyone or anything about Seattle but we rented an apartment on the Ave. Everything was new and exciting for us and we sought out to explore everything this city. I don’t remember when we decided to enter the doors of the Paradox but I think it was late that summer. Entering those doors we were exposed to something we had never seen. Team Strike Force was doing their best Nirvana impression with deep and heartfelt Christian lyrics (no Jesus is my boyfriend lyrics). The pastor was dynamic, edgy, and speaking the Gospel with strength and conviction. What was truly radical for me was an evangelical church that served communion and you went up when your heart and soul were ready to accept Christ. For me it was a personal altar-call every time.
We would mainly go to the Paradox but occasionally go to the Ballard church (house). I remember going to Mark’s birthday party/5 year anniversary party and going to a retreat where Damien Jurado was there (He did a great rendition of Pink Moon). I started going to Mark’s house by the Montlake bridge for a men’s bible study. His uber-macho/hyperbolic public persona practically disappeared. He revealed a man that was Christ-filled caring and compassionate man. I remember one time him speaking about having a child-molester in his house and was uneasy about it but believed that Christ had changed this man’s heart. ... [emphasis added]
And from the early 2001 sermon series in the Gospel of John, Mark Driscoll's own account of how a convicted child molester visited him and was ministered to by his daughter Ashley presents his daughter as taking initiative to pray for the man.
FISHES AND LOAVES
Part 12 of The Gospel of John
Pastor Mark Driscoll | John 6:1-14 | January 21, 2001
And I remember – I’ll tell you one story that kind of just sort of summarizes how I view this. My daughter was upstairs. She was about two-years-old taking her nap, and she was laying in her bed sleeping away – the bed that her grandmother had given her. She came downstairs and I was meeting with a guy who was sitting on my couch really struggling with a sin. He had been a child molester and was wondering whether or not he could become a Christian and whether God could forgive him of what he had done. And if you know me, I have very little compassion on men, especially men who take advantage of women and children. So this was really hard for me, especially being a first time father with a little daughter that I adored. And I was like, “You know, scripture says though that Christ has died for all our sins and there’s nothing that is beyond God’s grace in Christ. There’s nothing that God can’t forgive you of.”
And he’s crying. He says, “Do you really think that that’s possible? Do you really think that I could be forgiven for this?”
And it was interesting because my daughter came downstairs from her nap, and he was sitting on the couch that was given to us, and she looked at him and she saw him crying and she said, “Daddy, why is he crying?”
I said, “Well because he sinned. He did a bad thing and he feels bad about that.”
And she says, “Well we should pray for him.” So she climbs up on his lap and prays for him. She had no idea why he was crying, but I thought, “Man, if this is not the whole world coming together right here.” I mean it’s fishes and loaves. Somebody helped us get this house. Somebody gave us that couch. My daughter comes downstairs, sits on his lap, and then all of a sudden God’s grace gets multiplied right in the life of someone who’s very guilty of their sin, but now God has given them grace through a little girl and she didn’t even know she was doing it. She just thought she was praying for someone in need. [emphases added]
We have seen this over and over and over. It’s just amazing. ...
So Yetman's recollection was not a misremembering, Driscoll's own public record of preaching is able to verify the basics. In Driscoll's 2001 account his daughter prayed for the man. So while in 2013 an older and wiser man could certainly look back and realize that there was plenty a father could be worried about, the 2001 Mark Driscoll shared the story of Ashley praying for a convicted child molester not just once in a sermon but more than once, the other occasion being discussing family ministry in April 2001:
2001-04-07 Women's Meeting Part 3
answering a question
Best case scenario, I think, in ministry, is husband and wife working together. Beautiful. Like Priscilla and Aquilla, that's ideal to me because it's not good for the man to be alone, that includes ministry. So the wife is very helpful when she's a good fit. All our elders have wives that I admire and that I hope you would admire because they're admirable women. [emphasis added] And that's what it talks about in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, that the elders should be a certain way and so should their wives, because those women will know everything that is going on in the church; they will have more responsibility and have a higher profile.
That's why, you know, how many of your are in a home group with one of the elders? Some of you are. You should be. The way we set those up is that the elders are opening up their homes and teaching with their wives so that you can get to know them in a natural context. That's the way it's generally working. And the reason is that because we feel that the husbands and the wives working together serve for the best model of how the church should work. It should NOT be 'the wife stays home with the children and the husband goes out and does ministry', it's that the WHOLE family does ministry TOGETHER. [emphases added] Our children are a part of our ministry. It's great. I love it. I love it when people come over and my daughter opens the door and welcomes them, sits them down--if you've been at my house you know how this works, she's little Miss Hospitality.
Now her big thing before our Tuesday night study [is], she likes to open it in prayer, and then she likes to take the children upstairs and be the little hostess, which is great. We have seen, I have seen, my daughter minister to people. I saw her, on one occasion, share the Gospel with a convicted pedophile, which was beautiful. She was about, I think, right around about three years of age. About two and a half, three years of age. We were talking and he wanted to know as to whether or not God could forgive him for his sin. She came downstairs from her nap, saw him crying on the couch, and sat on his lap and asked me why he was said and I told her that he'd committed a sin against God and so she prayed for him.
And so I view my daughter as having a spiritual gift, or two or three, and I see her knowing Christ, that means I see evidence of the spirit of God in her. That means she is a member of this church and she is a part of this church and that every part, as Paul says, is necessary and vital. So to kick her out, or to kick the women out, or to kick the children out, and relegate them to some secondary position, it harms the church and it harms them. [emphasis added]
Best case scenario--husband, wife, kids--doing the Gospel together as a family with Dad functioning as the pastor of that congregation. That's best case scenario.
If that doesn't happen because the man abdicates his responsibility or he sins, we'll put scenarios in to help work around that.
You'll get bored in your life if all you have is just you and your husband. When you're serving Christ and doing things NOW your life is going somewhere. You're doing something and it's fun. Most of my wife and my conversations are about OTHER people that are coming to Christ. People who are getting married. People who are having children. People who are learning Scripture. People who are getting their life together by God's grace. It's great because we don't get bored. There's always something to do. There's always something that God is up to.
What's interesting about these remarks from Driscoll in early 2001 is that they don't seem to match up readily with the tone and substance of what he had to say in his 2006 book. For instance, while Driscoll has at times affirmed how fantastic it is for husbands and wives and children to be in ministry together as a family, there's an obvious thread of resentment on Mark Driscoll's part about feeling he was neglected. This was years before Real Marriage, in which Mark Driscoll got more specific about what kinds of neglect he felt was suffering from:
Confessions of a Reformission Rev
Mark Driscoll, Zondervan 2006
CHAPTER FOUR 150-350 PEOPLE
During this season my wife, Grace, also started to experience a lot of serious medical problems. her job was very stressful, and between her long hours at the office and long hours at the church, her body started breaking down. I felt tremendousy convicted that I had sinned against my wife and had violated the spirit of 1 Timothy 5:8, which says that if a man does not provide for his family he has denied his faith and has acted in a manner worse than an unbeliever. I repented to Grace for my sin of not making enough money and having her shoulder any of the financial burden for our family. We did not yet have elders installed in the church but did have an advisory council in place, and I asked them for a small monthly stipend to help us make ends meet, and I supplemented our income with outside support and an occasional speaking engagement.
Shortly thereafter, Grace gave birth to our first child, my sweetie-pie Ashley. Up to this point Grace had continuously poured endless hours into the church. She taught a women's Bible study, mentored many young women, oversaw hospitality on Sundays, coordinated meals for new moms recovering from birth, and organized all of the bridal and baby showers. Grace's dad had planted a church before she was born and has remained there for more than forty years. Her heart for ministry and willingness to serve was amazing. But as our church grew, I felt I was losing my wife because we were both putting so many hours into the church that we were not connecting as a couple like we should have. I found myself getting bitter against her because she would spend her time caring for our child and caring for our church but was somewhat negligent of me.
I explained to Grace that her primary ministry was to me, our child, and the management of our home and that I needed her to pull back from the church work to focus on what mattered most. She resisted a bit at first, but no one took care of me but her. And the best thing she could do for the church was to make sure that we had a good marriage and godly children as an example for other people in the church to follow. [emphases added] It was the first time that I remember actually admitting my need for help to anyone. It was tough. But I feared that if we did not put our marriage and children above the demands of the church, we would end up with the lukewarm, distant marriage that so many pastors have because they treat their churches as mistresses that they are more passionate about than their brides.
Although I was frustrated with both my wife and church, I had to own the fact that they were both under my leadership and that I had obviously done a poor job of organizing things to function effectively. [emphasis added] And since we did not yet have elders formally in place there was no one to stop me from implementing dumb ideas like the 9:00p.m. church service. So I decided to come to firmer convictions on church government and structure so that I could establish the founding framework for what our church leadership would look like.
CHAPTER FIVE, 350-1,000 PEOPLE
A friend in the church kindly allowed me to move into a large home he owned on a lease-to-own deal because I was too broke to qualify for anything but an outhouse. The seventy-year-old house had over three thousand square feet, seven bedrooms on three floors, and needed a ton of work because it had been neglected for many years as a rental home for college students. Grace and I and our daughter Ashley, three male renters who helped cover the mortgage, my study, and the church office all moved into the home. This put me on the job, literally, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, as the boundary between home and church was erased.
We ran the church out of my house for nearly two years, including leadership meetings and Bible studies for various groups on almost every night of the week. It was not uncommon to have over seventy people a week in our home. Grace got sucked right back into the church mess. She was a great host to our guests. But I started growing bitter toward her because I was again feeling neglected. [emphasis added]
I was burned-out, underpaid, in debt, sexually frustrated due to an unspectacular sex life, under frequent demonic attack, and so stressed that my blood pressure hovered somewhere between heart-attack victim and mulch in the ground [emphasis added], and now found myself alone with an attractive woman in a foreign country. In retrospect, I think the decision I made in that moment was perhaps the most significant ministry decision I have ever made. ...
Shortly after returning home a few weeks later, I absolutely cracked. In one day I had around ten hours of back-to-back meetings with young single men in the church, which pushed me over the edge. Every one of them was older than me, a chronic masturbater, a porn addict, banging weak-willed girls like a screen door in a stiff breeze, not tithing, and wanting me to hang out with them a lot to keep them accountable. ...
... seemingly every guy in the church was a slave to his lusts. Frightfully, only a few weeks earlier, I had nearly taken Satan's bait myself without seeing the hook.
At this time, our church also started an unmoderated discussion board on our website, called Midrash, and it was being inundated with postings by emerging-church-type feminists and liberals. I went onto the site and posted as William Wallace II, after the great Scottish man protrayed in the movie Braveheart, adn attacked those who were posting. It got insane, and thousands of posts were being made each day until it was discovered that it was me raging like a madman under the guise of a movie character. One guy got so mad that he actually showed up at my house to fight me one night around 3:00am.
Later in the 2012 book Real Marriage, Mark Driscoll wrote that not only was his sex life underwhelming ... :
REAL MARRIAGE: The Truth About Sex, Friendship & Life Together
Mark and Grace Driscoll
Copyright (c) 2012 by On Mission, LLC
Before long I was bitter agaisnt God and Grace. It seemed to me as if they had conspired to trap me. I had always been the "good guy" who turned down women for sex. In my twisted logic, since I had only slept with a couple of women I was in relationships with, I had been holy enough, and God owed me. I felt God had conned me by telling me to marry Grace, and allowed Grace to rule over me since she was controlling our sex life. [emphasis added]
from pages 14-15
In the second year of the church we had a lot of single people getting married, and so I decided to preach through the Song of Songs on the joys of marital intimacy and sex. The church grew quickly, lots of people got married, many women became pregnant, and my counseling load exploded. [emphasis added] I started spending dozens of hours every week dealing with every kind of sexual issue imaginable. It seemed as if every other young woman in our church had been sexually assaulted in some fashion, every guy was ensnared by porn, and every married and premarital couple had a long list of tricky sex questions. Day after day, for what became years, I spent hours meeting with people untangling the sexual knots in their lives, reading every book and section of the Bible I could find that related to their needs.
Although I loved our people and my wife, this only added to my bitterness. I had a church filled with single young women who were asking me how they could stop being sexually ravenous and wait for a Christian husband; then I'd go home to a wife whom I was not sexually enjoying. [emphasis added] One particularly low moment occurred when a newly saved married couple came in to meet with me. I prayed, and then asked how I could serve them. She took charge of the meeting, explained how she really liked her body and sex, and proceeded to take out a list of questions she had about what was acceptable as a Christian for her to do with her husband. It was a very long and very detailed list. As I answered each question, she would ask related follow-up questions with more specific details. Her husband said very little, but sat next to her, looking awkward and smiling at most of the answers I gave. After they left the counseling appointment to get to work on the list of acceptable activities, I remember sitting with my head in my hands, just moaning and asking God, "Do you really expect me to do this as a new Christian, without a mentor or pastor, in the midst of my marriage, and hold on for the next fifty years?" Peter walking on water seemed an easier task.
So there was the gap between the Mark Driscoll who speaking at a womens' event talked about how amazing it was the whole Driscoll family was doing ministry together, even including three-year-old Ashley ministering to a pedophile, and the Mark Driscoll who would later recount how bitter and resentful he was toward hsi wife over the lack of sex in his life.
But the other shift that was observable by 2008 from 2001 was Mark Driscoll's perspective on women who wanted to get to know and befriend his wife Grace. He went from being the Mark Driscoll who said that relegating women to second class citizenship within the life of the church harmed them to talking about how having womens' ministry was like juggling knives and how there were women who wanted to befriend Grace who were just Satanic.
Spiritual Warfare part 2, The Devil
February 5, 2008
about 50 minutes in to the 1 hour mark.
How about this one? Idle gossip and busybodying. 1 Timothy 5:11-15. This one is amazing. Ladies this one is especially for you. Some of you say, "Oh, it's not me." Yeah, it is. 1 Timothy 5:11-15, but refuse to enroll younger widows for when their passions draw them away from Christ they desire to marry and so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith. Besides that they learn to be idlers
Women learn how to make a lot of free time. Going about from house to house. Well now it would be from email to email and from phone call to phone call. Technology makes idle busybodying far more effective than ever.
And not only idlers but also gossips. They like to talk about people. How are you doing? What are you doing? And this isn't sisterly accountability, this is "I need to know what everybody's doing because I like to know what everybody's doing and then I can tell other people what other people are doing and then I can say, `Hey, you need to pray for so-and-so.' and I can make it sound spiritual so that when I'm gossiping and busy-bodying I'm doing so in a way that seems really Jesus-like." And busybodies, they need to know what everybody's doing. They need to know what everybody's doing, saying what they should not. So I would have younger widows marry, bear children and manage their household, right? Stay busy, and give the adversary (that's Satan) no occasion for slander. For some have already strayed after Satan. Hmm.
A woman who's a gossip and a busybody; a woman who has to put her nose in everybody's business and knows what everybody's going on; know what they're doing, she's working with Satan. Now I know most women would say, "No, no, no. I'm not Satanic, I'm concerned. I'm not Satanic, I'm an intercessor. I'm a prayer warrior. I'm not Satanic, I'm an accountability partner. I'm not Satanic, I'm a concerned friend." Okay, you're a Satanic intercessory prayer warrior accountability partner concerned friend but just start the whole list with "Satanic" so that we don't misunderstand your job description.
Now there's a difference between someone inviting you into their life and saying, "I want to be friends, I want to have an accountable relationship." and you pushing yourself into everyone's life, okay? I'll tell you, in the history of Mars Hill, I mean, I have had to put up a firewall, a moat, guard dogs, and a high wall with barbed wire on top, and snipers behind it, around my wife. There are certain women who, they just need to know what Grace is doing and they are determined, they say things like, uh, "Hey, we need to have dinner with your family." [slight chuckle] No you don't.
"Hey, we need to have coffee." No you don't. "Hey, phone number." What? Nope. "Email." Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope.
"Oh, come on." Nope.
"But I thought you were our pastor."
I am and my first lesson is to tell you you're Satanic.
"Oh, come on, in our last church the pastor's wife [sob] she was my best friend and I got to talk to her all the time."
Well, she was Satanic, too. Give me her number, I'll call her and tell her. We'll help her out.
You ladies KNOW these women. Right? How many of you ladies know these women? They will try first with the hyper-spiritual, "Oh, praise the Lord! I'd love to pray for you. Let's get together. Let's do Christian community. Let's go to heart." If you decline, then they emotionally manipulate, [inhales, sobbing voice], "I thought we were friends, I thought you loved me. I don't have anybody to talk to." It's all manipulation. It's FEMALE manipulation. Some of you ladies, right now? You think, "I can't believe he said that." It's all true. It's Satanic, Satanic.
Paul says, "Don't be a busybody, stay busy." Right? Your husband, your kids, your family, your home, Jesus Christ. You got things to do.
Busybodies stay busy inserting themselves into everyone else's life. In some churches there are certain women, if you call them, they'll know everything that's going on because, somehow, they know everything. There's a difference between being a woman who is invited into someone's life for friendship, prayer and accountability, and a woman who emotionally manipulates and is pushy and is sometimes hyperspiritual and demanding and forces herself in because she's a drama queen and has to be at the center of all the drama. That is a Satanic woman.
You need to believe that and the worst thing you can do is accomodate it. Okay, we'll have you over for dinner once. And then, the next month, it's "Okay, buddy, we haven't been together in a month. We need to get together again. I'm sure a lot has happened in your life and I don't know what it is and I need to know because I need to know everything. I have a God complex of omniscience. I want to know everything about everybody." And what you find with these people, Paul says, they tend to be gossips, meaning you don't just talk to them, then they talk to other people. "Well, did you know their marriage is struggling? Did you know that she's depressed? Did you know that she's post-partum? Do you know that, sexually, her husband's impotent?" These are conversations I've heard in this building. Really?
Sometimes womens' ministry is the cesspool that this kind of activity flourishes in. Some have asked, "Why don't you have womens' ministry?" The answer is we do, but it's, you have to be very careful, it's like juggling knives. You put the wrong women in charge of womens' ministry, the drama queen, the gossip mama, all of a sudden all the women come together, tell her everything, she becomes the pseudo-elder quasi-matriarch; she's got the dirt on everybody and sometimes the women all get together to rip on their husbands in the name of prayer requests. Happens all the time. Happens all the time. [emphasis added] We have worked very hard so that the women who teach here are like Wendy Alsup who I really love and appreciate and respect. She's not like that. It is not that no woman should lead, that no woman should teach, that no woman should in a position of authority over other women under the authority of their husband, Jesus and the elders it's just that the wrong women tend to want it. The wrong women tend to want it and they tend to want it for the wrong reasons. [emphasis added] And sometimes it's the humble woman, who isn't fighting to be the center of drama, control and power; who doesn't have to be up front; she's usually the one who is most capable and qualified.
And for you single men as well I would say be very, very careful because if you're on staff at Mars Hill (everything I say sounds terrible, this will just be added to the pile) there are certain women who will tell you, "I want to marry a pastor." Really? You should want to marry a Christian who loves Jesus, loves you, loves your kids should God give them to you. I've lectured enough Bible colleges and seminaries, the young women who come up and say, "I want to marry a pastor" my immediate default question is, "Are you a gossip? Are you a busybody? Are you a drama queen?" "No. No, I feel called to serve the Lord." Well, you can serve the Lord without being called to be a pastor's wife in fact, take it from me, it's easier to be a woman and serve the Lord than being married to a pastor.
You single guys, you gotta be careful, man. There are some women, they want to marry a pastor so they can be the center of power, authority; they can be the first lady; everybody knows them, everybody wants to be their friend, everybody wants to tell them everything; and they can be the center of all the drama. Run for your life. Run for your life. Run for your life. It's Satanic.
See? I need you women to really search your own heart. Are you Satanic? Is this still part of your flesh, this sick desire in you to know everybody's business? I'm not saying you don't have friends but how much are you on the internet? How much time do you spend emailing? How much time do you spend crying nad freaking out and knowing everybody's business and on the phone and having to meet with people because, "Did you know so-and-so did such-and-such and so-and-so is feeling this way and did you?" Are you the center of LOTS of activity? Why? It's Satanic. It's Satanic. I think I've made my point.
At some length, obviously.
By 2008 there didn't look to be any vestiges of the Mark Driscoll who talked about how imperative it was that the whole family live ministry together. Perhaps that 2001 Mark Driscoll was speaking from a mixture of arrogance and profound naivety. Perhaps the Mark Driscoll in 2008 who said that having womens' ministry at all was like juggling knives and that the implied majority of women who wanted to befriend Grace in the history of Mars Hill were Satanic was wiser. Then again, this was the same marathon session on spiritual warfare in which mark Driscoll literally and figuratively demonized any dissent against decisions made by executive elders with respect to governance ... so a case could be made that this 2008 Mark Driscoll had become the guy who in later 2007 bragged about the pile of dead bodies behind the Mars Hill bus; he'd become the man who said that you either got on the bus or got run over by the bus but that those were the two options and that the bus wasn't going to stop. By 2013 Mark Driscoll had moved from Seattle to Woodway and became more and more remote from the congregation at large that was once Mars Hill.
And by 2013 Mark Driscoll had deigned to share with those who would read that one of the scary things that happened to his family in ministry was a couple of times when registered sex offenders sought to engage him and his family at his home. Well, yes, Driscoll had a couple of stories about that in 2001 that made it seem to be a wonderful, amazing tale of God's redeeming grace. Did something change? The events described in 2001 by Mark Driscoll on a couple of occasions didn't change. What changed was not the basic events or the core narrative of the events in question; the big change was in the rhetorical or even polemical use to which the narrative was put.
Three years ago Driscoll wrote that he was concerned enough about his family that if he weren't called to ministry he would quit for their sake. Driscoll said in 2015 that he was released from ministry and yet ... there is he is down there in Arizona back on the horse, it seems.
And "The Hardest Part of Ministry" is back up, too.
Mark Driscoll spent his years at Mars Hill Church telling guys to live for a legacy, and then a couple of years ago, of course, Driscoll bailed on Mars Hill. The church collapsed and has been reconstituted as almost a dozen church plants across the Pacific Northwest. Driscoll, by multiple accounts including his own, became a changed man. It is ... open to debate whether the man he changed into was a better man for all the change.