Monday, April 24, 2017

on the Walsh/Robison interview with Mark Driscoll, part 2: establishing Mark Driscoll's ambitions to "world domination" in his own words, and his account of how once Mars Hill was stable in 2002 he decided to blow things up because he was bored

http://lifetoday.org/video/a-journey-of-forgiveness/
That video has since become 404 since April 6, 2017.  This may be available for a little longer.
PART TWO: The founding of Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll’s jocular self-expressed desire for world domination

Having looked at the matter of the extent to which Mark Driscoll’s Catholic upbringing constituted a retroactive self-assessment on Driscoll’s part that he “didn’t know Jesus”; and having looked at the range of emphases and narratives surrounding his conversion narrative(s); we can turn to his recent account of the early years co-founding what was once called Mars Hill.
Sheila: It is what one does, people -- it is what one does.

Mark: At 22 we graduated; 25 we started a Bible study trying to reach primarily young College-educated singles in what was at the time among the nation's least churched cities. In the early years we were broke and we didn't have kids and I was working a job and didn't think it would amount to anything. Eventually, in God's grace, God did some remarkable things through some wonderful people. We saw about 10,000 people baptized. We saw the church grow to 15,000 on a typical Sunday. We saw 15 locations in five states, just kind of superseded all expectations.

This is more or less in line with what Mark Driscoll shared with one Brian Houston in the years after Driscoll’s resignation from Mars Hill:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/2015/06/29/hillsongs-brian-houston-interviewed-mark-and-grace-driscoll-after-all/
http://wp.production.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/files/2015/06/DriscollHillsong.mp4

03.00ish
I've made a lot of mistakes and one of them was going too fast. There's the Lord's calling and there's the Lord's timing and I should have waited longer. I should have been under godly spiritual authority, for Grace and I to be under a godly couple, that was [a] senior pastor, so that we could learn and grow. I, I, my character was not caught up with my gifting and I did start too young. And I believe God called us to start the church and he was very, very, very gracious to us, uh, but had I to do it over again I would not look at a 25-year old and say, "Do what I did."


03:57ish
... We went into the urban core and we felt, specifically, called to go after young, college-educated males. That was really my heart. I wanted everybody to meet Jesus but I felt particularly if we were gonna make in the city and the legacy of families and, you know, the way that women and children and culture treated, that getting young men to love Jesus would be paramount.
So that was really the focus and I didn't think the church would amount to much. [emphasis added] The first three years we didn't collect a salary; it was very small; we met at night; we moved a lot because we kept losing our rental location; the offices were in our house, so it wasn't a big deal and we didn't anticipate that it would become what it ultimately did.

We’ll get to the fact that Driscoll was the youngest of three men who co-founded Mars Hill eventually, but first let’s get back to Driscoll’s comment to Walsh and Robison on how he was working a job.

Unfortunately “… I was working a job and didn’t think it would amount to anything” is so divergent from what can be documented as being the case about Mark Driscoll in the earliest years of Mars Hill it requires an extensive correction from both Mark Driscoll’s own writings and from others.

One of the things that isn’t altogether certain is how many jobs Mark Driscoll was working in those formative mid-1990s years in which Mars Hill was founded.  At least one person who has blogged about the early years of Driscoll working toward ministry wrote the following:

http://alternate-readings.blogspot.com/2010/12/william-dembski-end-of-christianity.html

Eons later, in the early 90s, I was chatting with a sales clerk in Norman Baggs'  book store out on 85th & Greenwood (Seattle) — this young man was a voracious reader, working two jobs to support his young family and involved with some innovative street ministry in Seattle — some how we got talking about The problem of evil.  I told him to read John Frame's chapter on it in Apologetics to the Glory of God. The next time I saw him in the book store he told me he had read Frame but considered his treatment of  The problem of evil  "a cop out". Meanwhile, he had laid hands on a copy of A. Plantinga's book and was reading it and was impressed with Plantinga's argument. I had read some of Plantinga but wasn't excited about it. I think I had perhaps two more discussions with the young man before he became unreachable[1] . [said person is described as being Mark Driscoll]

http://alternate-readings.blogspot.com/2009/04/who-does-mark-driscoll-hate-most.html

When I first met Driscoll he was clerking in a bookstore in Greenwood (North Seattle). I had heard about him. He makes a lot of noise. I knew his father-in-law very well when I was in my teens and 20s but I was long gone when Mark became a regular visitor in that household. When Driscoll came back from college and started doing "street talk" on the radio I would tune in now and then and listen. I noted right away that Driscoll was a generation bigot. He hated 'hippies' with a passion. I suppose this has something to do with growing up blue collar in Seattle which is a northern clone of San Francisco. The war between the hard hats and the flower generation was still in progress when Driscoll was born into the world of hard hats. In the end the hard hats lost the war. The flower children and the neo-pagans took over the culture and nowhere is that more evident than in Seattle. So Driscoll hates what he calls 'hippies' because his people lost the war and now he would like to put the culture back where it was in 1955 and it just isn't going to happen. 

So Mark Driscoll may have been working a couple of jobs in the early years of Mars Hill.  There’s room for uncertainty on that matter.

Where there is very little room for uncertainty is the matter of how much ambition Mark Driscoll had about what he was co-founding.


RESISTING IDOLS LIKE JESUS

Part 22 of 1st Corinthians
Pastor Mark Driscoll | 1 Corinthians 10:1-14 | June 18, 2006
...
Here’s the tricky part: Figuring out what your idols are. Let me give you an example. Let’s say for example, you define for yourself a little Hell. For you, Hell is being poor. For you, your definition of Hell is being ugly. For you, your definition of Hell is being fat. For you, your definition of Hell is being unloved. For you, your definition of Hell is being unappreciated. That fear of that Hell then compels you to choose for yourself a false savior god to save you from that Hell. And then you worship that false savior god in an effort to save yourself from your self-described Hell. So, some of you are single. Many of you are unmarried. For you, Hell is being unmarried and your savior will be a spouse. And so you keep looking for someone to worship, to give yourself to so that they will save you. For some of you, you are lonely and your Hell is loneliness, and so you choose for yourself a savior, a friend, a group of friends or a pet because you’ve tried the friends and they’re not dependable. And you worship that pet. You worship that friend. You worship that group of friends. You will do anything for them because they are your functional savior, saving you from your Hell. That is, by definition, idolatry. It is having created people and created things in the place of the creator God for ultimate allegiance, value and worth.

So here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to get incredibly personal. This will get painfully uncomfortable if I do my job well. I’m going to ask you some probing questions. We’re going to try to get to the root of your idols and mine and I am guilty. I was sitting at breakfast this morning. My wife said, “So what is your idol?” I was like, “Hey, I’m eating breakfast! Leave me alone. I don’t want to talk about that.” I’m the pastor. I preach. I don’t get preached at. Eating bacon. Don’t ruin it. You know, it’s going good., And I told her, I said, “Honey, I think for me, my idol is victory.” Man, I am an old jock. More old than jock, lately, but I – I’m a guy who is highly competitive. Every year, I want the church to grow. I want my knowledge to grow. I want my influence to grow. I want our staff to grow. I want our church plants to grow. I want everything – because I want to win. I don’t want to just be where I’m at. I don’t want anything to be where it’s at. And so for me it is success and drivenness and it is productivity and it is victory that drives me constantly. I – that’s my own little idol and it works well in a church because no one would ever yell at you for being a Christian who produces results. So I found the perfect place to hide. [emphasis added]

And I was thinking about it this week. What if the church stopped growing? What if we shrunk? What if everything fell apart? What if half the staff left? Would I still worship Jesus or would I be a total despairing mess? I don’t know. By God’s grace, I won’t have to find out, but you never know. So we’re going to look for your idols, too. Some questions. Think about it. Be honest with me. What are you most afraid of? What is your greatest fear? See, that probably tells you what your idol is. Sometimes your idol is the thing that you’re scared of not having, not being, not doing. What are you scared of? You scared that you’ll be alone? Are you scared that no one will ever love you? Are you scared that you will be found out that you’re not all that smart? Are you scared that you’ll be stuck in the same dead-end job forever? What are you afraid of?

So that is Driscoll speaking to his ambition for victory and success in general.  Let’s consider what he’s said over the years about a vision for what was once Mars Hill in particular.


God's Work, Our Witness Part 1
Pastor Mark Driscoll
December 04, 2011
about 12:30 in
 
You know, and I thought, for sure, we’d probably tap out at two hundred. I thought if we can get this
thing to two hundred, that would be amazing.

And I had big vision for more. I put together a forty-page vision statement. I said, “We’re going to
start a school. We’re going to plant churches. We’re going to do a record label.” I had this whole vision, and I handed it out to, like, fifteen people, and they’re like, “Are you kidding me?”[emphasis added]


So I had big dreams. But to be honest with you, man, if we could just get up to two hundred, I thought that would be amazing.
 



Note the number 200.

 http://web.archive.org/web/20010305230251/http://www.marshill.fm/who/our_history.htm
From "Seasons of Grace" by Mark Driscoll

In the fourth season, we launched the church in October 1996 at 6pm with an attendance around 200, which included many friends and supporters. The attendance leveled off shortly thereafter, somewhere around 100 adults, and we continued meeting until the Christmas season.

So it would seem that the number that Mark Driscoll said, should Mars Hill reach 200 it would be amazing, was actually about the number of people at the launch of Mars Hill in 1996.  It seems pretty clear that over the last twenty years Mark Driscoll did not (and could not) settle for 200-some people being “enough”. When we consult Mark Driscoll’s 2006 book we can see that his account had it that when there were maybe 50 people he was, as he put it, shooting for the moon:

Confessions of a Reformission Rev
Mark Driscoll
Copyright (c) 2006 by Mark Driscoll
Zondervan
ISBN-13: 978-0-310-27016-4
ISBN-10: 0-310-27016-2
CHAPTER ONE: Jesus, Our Offering was $137 and I Want to Use it to Buy Bullets
0-45 people

from pages 53-54
So in an effort to clarify our mission, I wrote down on paper the first of what would eventually be many strategic plans. I shot for the moon rather foolishly and decided that our church that was not big enough to fill a bus would plant multiple churches, run a concert venue, start a Bible institute, write books, host conferences, and change the city for Jesus. [emphasis added] I started handing out these goals printed on boring white paper without any graphics, colors, or cool fonts, naively assuming that it would all happen eventually just because it was what Jesus wanted.

To get leaders in place for world domination, I also spent time trying to articulate the vision in my head to good men who would be qualified to rise up as fellow elders-pastors. [emphasis added] So, as Jesus did, I spent time in prayer asking the Father which of his sons should be trained for leadership. The church started as an idea I shared with Lief Moi and Mike Gunn. Lief is a descendant of Genghis Khan and his dad was a murderer, and Mike is a former football player. They proved to be invaluable, except for the occasional moments when they would stand toe-to-toe in a leadership meeting, threatening to beat the Holy Spirit out of each other. Both men were older than I and had years of ministry experience, and they were good fathers, loving husbands, and tough. ...

While we can easily grant the comment about world domination was a joke the comments about a vision for starting a Bible institute, running a concert venue, or forming a record label were still in earnest. There were, in sum, three documentable failed attempts on the part of Mars Hill leadership to start and sustain a music label, discussed at some length over here.

Also of note, with help from The Wayback Machine, is Mike Gunn’s account of the early years of Mars Hill:


The Harambee story is a bit wrapped up in my (Mike Gunn’s) story. The vision began around 1992 as I began to feel the need to plant a church that represented the diversity of God’s creation, as well as a gospel that centered on God’s glory and not our own needs. I was prompted by the Spirit to engage the culture in a more meaningful and direct way, so God decided to send me and my family on an unknown journey to Seattle to begin a campus ministry for athletes at the University of Washington. This began to hone our skills in apologetics, evangelism, and discipleship, creating a desire to reach the next generation with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

At that point, Antioch Bible Church in Kirkland and Mark Driscoll entered our lives. My family began attending Antioch in January of 1994, and we started helping the college group, which was run by Mark Driscoll, at that time, a 23-year-old intern recently graduated from Washington State University. [emphasis added].
It became obvious that we had similar backgrounds and ministry callings, so we began to explore the possibilities of our vision (reaching truly postmodern, post-Christian people for Christ), and it became abundantly clear that we were to begin a new work in the city of Seattle.

With the blessing of Antioch and the exodus of about 30 of the students, Mark, Lief Moi, and I began Mars Hill Church in October of 1996. [emphasis added]
We watched God work His mosaic miracle as He began to put together the matrix that became Mars Hill Church. The church grew to more than 1,200 people in five years, and because of facility limitations at the time, we were running seven services at three different locations in the Seattle area. One of these was Mars Hill South, which began as an evening service in October of 2001 with about 40 people. During that time it became evident that God was calling us to a different work, and that we needed to plant as an autonomous church. Subsequently, as of October 6, 2002, we became Harambee Church and began meeting at the Tukwila Community Center. [emphasis added]

The Harambee site is no longer on line, however, Gunn’s testimony does corroborate Mark Driscoll’s account of seeking out Gunn and Moi to help him work toward what he jokingly called plotting world domination. 

So Mark Driscoll co-founded Mars Hill with older and more experienced men, as he previously recounted the history of Mars Hill.  He also used to claim that David Nicholas was his pastor, per an article on David Nicholas and Mark Driscoll running Acts 29 that was published back in 2000 by Christianity Today. Though at some point the ties were severed Mars Hill had roots in shared ministry, per Mike Gunn’s account, at Antioch Bible Church.  It seems Driscoll did not lack for mentor figures or for ambition when he co-founded what was formerly called Mars Hill Church.  Nor could it be said that he didn’t have ambitions for Mars Hill.  Driscoll has repeatedly indicated the scope of what he wanted Mars Hill to achieve included a record label, a publishing house, a church planting network and eventually a Bible college or seminary.  He has said this so many times in so many contexts since the foundation of Mars Hill in 1996 it’s impossible to take at face value any more recent claims he has made in interviews that he didn’t think anything much would come of planting Mars Hill.

Crucially, by Mark Driscoll’s account when Mars Hill had managed to become a stable church at the dawn of the millennium he felt dissatisfied.  Quoting again from Confessions of a Reformission Rev:

Confessions of a Reformission Rev
Mark Driscoll, Zondervan 2006
ISBN-13: 978-0-310-27016-4
ISBN-10:0-310-27016-2
CHAPTER FIVE: JESUS, WHY AM I GETTING FATTER AND MEANER?
350-1,000 people
pages 135-136

A very wise friend who is a successful business entrepreneur, Jon Phelps, [WtH, for more on Phelps] shared an insight with me around this time that was very clarifying. He said that in any growing organization, there are three kinds of people, and only two of them have any long-term future with a growing organization. First, there are people on the rise who demonstrate the uncanny ability to grow with the organization and become vital leaders. Second, there are people who attach themselves to the people on the rise as valuable assistants who rise by being attached to someone else on the rise. Third, there are people who neither rise nor attach to anyone who is rising, and they cannot keep up with the growing demands of the organization. These people fall behind, and the organization can either allow their inability to slow down the whole team or release them and move forward with out them. [emphasis added] This is difficult to do because they are often good people  who have been partly responsible for the success of the organization. But the needs of the organizational mission, not the individual in the organization, must continually remain the priority if there is to be continued success. [emphasis added]

Up until this point, nearly everyone in the church had been connected to me, and I could no longer pull them all up with me. Simply, leaders needed to rise on their own or attach themselves to other people on the rise, or they would have to be let go.

So we made all these difficult decisions, and the church stabilized. Finally, we had facilities, money, men rising up to lead, intentional community housing, a successful concert venue, and a church that seemed organized to us. We had grown a church of one thousand people in a tough urban culture despite massive hardship. With things going so well, I feared we'd get too comfortable, and so I decided it was time to blow it all up, create some strategic chaos, and start over again. [emphasis added]

CHAPTER SIX

JESUS, TODAY WE VOTED TO TAKE A JACKHAMMER TO YOUR BIG CHURCH
1,000 to 4,000 people
from pages 140-141

It was a warm spring day and I sat in my office at the church, gazing out the window at large white clouds blowing through a clear blue sky, enjoying our success. I had lost about forty pounds by shifting from the Fatkins to the Atkins diet, had paid off all the personal debts I had accrued as a broke pastor, had fitted up the old home for my family, was getting closer to my lovely wife, was enjoying my three children while looking forward to a fourth, finally owned a vehicle with less than 200,000 miles on it, and was the pastor of one of the largest churches in our city at the age of thirty-one. My eye no longer twitched, I wasn't throwing up from acid reflux, and my vertigo had cleared up.

I was sitting at my new desk, which was the first piece of furniture I had ever owned that was not a donated hand-me down. ... We owned our church building outright and had money in the bank. I had a large staff for a church our size and was sleeping like a Calvinist at nights because things were under control.

On that day I had only a few appointments, with lengthy breaks in between. I decided to walk down to the deli a few blocks away and get a Reuben sandwich on sourdough bread and some fresh air. On the way back, I walked barefoot and remember thinking these simple pleasures had made the day one of the most relaxing and satisfying days I ever had. But by the time I walked back to the church, I realized I was already getting bored. There was no dragon to slay, no hill to charge, no battle to fight, and no foe to conquer. [emphasis added]

It was the winter of 2002, and our church had fought through hell and gone from homeless to one thousand people--a big deal in Seattle. I had nearly killed myself and had gotten the church to the comfort zone.

As I sat at my desk eating my sandwich, I ruminated on a simple talk that Richard DeVos, the founder of Amway, gave at our national Acts 29 conference, in which he explained four simple phases of organizational decline.  ...

So as Mark Driscoll told the story of Mars Hill 2002 in his 2006 book, the church had grown to a thousand attendees and was stable, finally. Fearing the church would be complacent and admitting to boredom, Driscoll recounted that he decided to “blow it all up, create some strategic chaos, and start all over again.”  That was how Mark Driscoll described his decision to re-organize and re-engineer Mars Hill leadership culture in 2002. By the accounts of many former Mars Hill members and leaders the biggest blow up surrounding the leadership culture of Mars Hill was arguably not 2002 but 2007.  Only in the year of Mark Driscoll’s resignation, 2014, did Driscoll concede that the consequences of the 2007 reorganization were far-reaching.  Yet even when he did this his accounts of what happened and why turned out to be variable.

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