Sunday, June 22, 2014

Mark Driscoll on "the hardest part of ministry", Driscoll compared to Driscoll on threats, and stories from the earlier days of MHC

Before Janet Mefferd made her on-air accusation that Mark Driscoll was a plagiarist Driscoll shared what was for him the most soul-aching part of ministry.
The hardest part of ministry
October 26, 2013
Mark Driscoll

The hardest part of ministry
Mark Driscoll   » Church Leadership Heart Culture Suffering 

Upon occasion, I like to answer questions that leaders (often young) ask about ministry. One that often comes up: What part of your ministry is the most difficult? Nearly everyone who asks this question is someone who is new to ministry and seeking to anticipate a possible landmine in front of them.

The most soul-aching concern I face

For me, the answer is simple: family safety. By far and away, this is the most constant, soul-aching concern that I deal with. Those ministering in more family-friendly suburban communities that welcome megachurches and gated neighborhoods may not understand the complexities of a ministry that is more urban and the dangers it can pose.

In 1 Corinthians 7:32–35, the Apostle Paul speaks about how a family, though a blessing, can also be a burden. I used to assume that he merely meant that someone who was single would have more time for ministry, but now I know the issue is much deeper.

Paul worked mainly in hostile, urban contexts where the backlash against the gospel was so strong that he faced very real danger. Having a family in such circumstances would have been even more difficult and dangerous. It’s one thing if opponents seek to harm or kill a single man, but a husband and father holding hands with his wife and little girl prompts an entirely different level of concern.

The Mark Driscoll of late 2013 may be a mellower one than the one of 2004 who published Radical Reformission (recently republished as just Reformission, which might signal a lack of radicalness)

Radical Reformission
ISBN 0-310-25659-3Mark Driscoll
copyright 2004 by Mars Hill Church
page 14

... 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]

Yet the Apostle Paul famously wrote that it is better for the unmarried to remain unmarried, an idea that Driscoll has never shown any significant public record of agreeing with.  If opponents (of what?) seek to kill a single man that's one thing (what is it?) but it's another level of concern if opponents seek to harm or kill a father holding hands with his wife and little girl and ... ?

So perhaps Mark Driscoll has over time begun to discover that if you ever revel in writing inflammatory columns and making provocative statements in broadcast and social media that you might get a few bomb threats.  In 2004 Driscoll said this was a wonderful thing because the only thing worse than dying is living a boring life.  Others who subscribe to the idea of living a quiet boring life being productive rather than catalyzing bomb threats may find this notion of the earlier Driscoll juvenile not simply on its own merits but because no one who starts a family can keep on that path without, at length, embroiling their family in the risks associated with being a deliberately and willfully provocative public figure.

Driscoll went on to list the dangers he has faced in his time in ministry.  Two are particularly noteworthy.  No, not the two knife incidents.  Let's consider this one.

  • On one occasion, a man tried to get into my home in the middle of the night. Demanding to meet with me, he woke up and frightened my family. The police arrested him and put him in a mental health facility. The man escaped and started walking back to my home in his underwear. The police intercepted him when he was not far away.
Driscoll has mentioned someone wanting to meet with him in the past. 

Mark Driscoll,  Zondervan
copyright (c) 2006 by Mark Driscoll
ISBN-13: 978-0-310-27016-4
350-1,000 people

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 portrayed in the movie Braveheart, and 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 a.m. [emphasis added]

Things were starting to get out of hand with the men, so I called a meeting and demanded that all of the men in our church attend. I preached for more than two hours about manhood and basically gave the dad talk to my men for looking at porno, sleeping with young women, not serving Christ, not working hard at their jobs, and so on. I demanded that the men who were with me on our mission to change the city stay and that the rest leave the church and stop getting in the way because you can't charge hell with your pants around your ankles, a bottle of lotion in one hand, and a Kleenex in the other.

On their way out of that meeting, I handed each man two stones and told them that on this day God was giving them their balls back to get the courage to do kingdom work. Guys put them on their monitors at work or glued them to the dash of their truck and kept them. The stones of remembrances from the Old Testament. The next week the offering doubled and the men caught fire. It was a surreal time, since I was basically fathering guys my own age and treating them more like a military unit than a church.

The life change was unreal. We had guys getting saved. We had gay guys going straight. We had guys tossing out porn, getting jobs, tithing, taking wives, buying homes, making babies, and repenting of the sins of their fathers. We had guys who had divorced their wives remarrying them. We had men adopting children so they would have a Christian father. It was a lot like Acts because the whole city seemed to be abuzz.

This season was messy and I sinned and cussed a lot., but God somehow drew a straight line with my crooked Philistine stick.  I had a good mission, but some of my tactics were born out of anger and burnout, and I did a lot of harm and damage while attracting a lot of attention.

This latter incident, the marathon of shouting, has been attested to elsewhere in the fundraising/documentary film God's Work, Our Witness.

The Men and Two Stones

Pastor AJ: There was an event at the Paradox, and Pastor Mark’s getting all the guys together.
‘Cause guys would repent of sin, and then they want to meet and they’d be talking, “Oh, I’m sleeping with my girlfriend.” “Oh, I’m looking at porn.” “Oh, I can’t get a job.” “Oh, I don’t know what I want to do with my life.”

[Driscoll] And it got to the point where I couldn’t have that many counseling meetings, so I just decided to bring all the guys together and absolutely yell at all of them at one time. And so I called an all-men’s church meeting.

Jason: People actually flew in to attend.

Pastor AJ: The instructions are, “Grab two stones. Read 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus. And when you finish, read them again. And when you finish, read them again.”

Jeff: And we all show up and they hand us a pair of rocks.
We literally filled up every single seat. I met every guy at the door and I told them, “I want you to shut up. You’re not allowed to talk. Nobody is allowed to speak. You guys all just sit down and shut up until I’m ready to yell at you.”

Pastor AJ: And you just keep reading 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus; 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, wondering, “Why do I have these two stones?”

Jason: I think half the people probably thought he was going to apologize for some of his harsher rants that he’d posted online and then say, you know, “You without sin, cast the first stone.”

Pastor Phil: And that silence was just so palatable, just like, “What’s going to happen?” Like you’re waiting for an earthquake, like, “When’s it going to hit?”

Pastor Matt: And Driscoll had just had it and he was losing his mind.

Pastor AJ: Pastor Mark then goes off on the guys.

Jeff: Pastor Mark gets up onstage and just starts yelling!

Pastor AJ: It seemed like a couple of hours, just yelling at us about all of our perversion, all of our laziness, all of our lack of drive and ambition, all of our ungodly living.
“You belong to Jesus. I’m giving you your stones back. It’s your church. We’ve got to fix this building. We’ve got to raise the money. We’ve got to do this thing. This is what God told us to do.”
So I got up there and I preached a sermon on what it means to be a man. I literally think the sermon went about three hours, screamed and yelled at all of the guys.

Pastor AJ: All of us just completely, like, laid open, and he says, “You guys are men, and until you find your own stones, use these.”
And then closed in prayer and told them to shut up and leave.

Pastor Matt: And for a lot of us, this is the first time we heard this kind of stuff.

Jeff: Hearing the truth that we needed to man-up and that God had something better for us, and we weren’t seeing clearly—

Pastor AJ: Guys glued those things to their dashboards. They kept them in their pockets all the time. It was just this reminder of God has made us men, and we will be men. Who does that stuff?

Jeff: We kept hearing that over and over and over again, sermon after sermon after sermon addressed towards men, specifically young men, specifically, taking initiative to lead and love well like Jesus. And that was life changing, life changing.

There were maybe 100 to 120 guys at that time. Probably the average age was maybe early twenties, twenty years old. You’re talking college guys. But a lot of those guys, to this very day, they did it, man. They’re running companies. They’re deacons, elders. They’re starting churches. They’ve gotten married. They’re having kids. Their lives are changed and they are still, you know, hands up, chin down, feet forward, getting it done. And it’s just really cool what God did in this place.

So to return to the bullet point incident:
  • On one occasion, a man tried to get into my home in the middle of the night. Demanding to meet with me, he woke up and frightened my family. The police arrested him and put him in a mental health facility. The man escaped and started walking back to my home in his underwear. The police intercepted him when he was not far away.

Back in 2006 Mark Driscoll documented that one guy who insisted on confronting Driscoll at 3am did so because he was angry when it was discovered that it was Mark Driscoll who was posting as William Wallace II.  By Driscoll's own 2006 account he cussed and sinned a bit in this stage of his ministry.  Did it ever occur to Driscoll to consider the possibility that his deliberately inflammatory and provocative approach to emergent and liberals might have in some way indirectly jeapordized the safety of his family?  Not that Wenatchee The Hatchet is either emergent or liberal but the point might be worth underlining, Mark Driscoll's antics as William Wallace II was, in a previous decade, given more direct credit by Mark Driscoll himself as catalyzing some violent and negative reactions to him that had an impact on his family.

Then there's a second bullet point.
  • 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.
So there was more than one case?  But people who were around Mars Hill in the earliest days only heard about one incident which of late has been recounted by one Mark Yetman
Mark Yetman


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]

So in at least one case Driscoll had mentioned to at least a few people that he had met a child molester in his house and concluded that the man was truly changed. 

That's a detail from one of apparently two incidents that Mark Driscoll didn't mention in "The Hardest Part of Ministry" that was relatively heard of in the earliest days of Mars Hill.

Near the conclusion of his October 2013 piece 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.

Driscoll has, by 2014, surely come to view the idea of bomb threats in reaction to his at times inflammatory remarks to be less wonderful.  But the question Driscoll mentions being asked is why he doesn't quit, not why he doesn't drastically alter the tone and in some cases the content of what he preaches and teaches.  Even Driscoll himself has taught over the years that you can win an argument and lose a person. 

Driscoll reaffirmed in late 2013 that he loves Jesus and so does his family.  He said he loved Mars Hill.  When he got to "And I love our city" he didn't mention that "our city", for the Driscolls, hasn't been Seattle since at least May 2013.  Perhaps the incident in which someone left a pile of excrement on the old property would inspire someone to move, that's understandable.  But Driscoll can't in complete honestly convey to Mars Hill Church or anyone else a statement of "I love our city" and have it refer to Seattle if he doesn't even live in Seattle proper any longer.  Woodway is not Seattle.

The case for continuing on as he has boils down to ... numbers.  100 people getting baptized every month for about the previous five years.  What is striking, nearly a decade since the publication of Confessions of a Reformission Rev is that every chapter had a couple of subheadings.  The first subheading was some pithy summation of that stage of the church history and the second was always a numeric bracket of how many people were attending or members.  Those numbers over that many years may sum up why Driscoll has convinced himself he needed to keep doing what he was doing as of October 26, 2013.

And then ... Janet Mefferd accused Mark Driscoll of being a plagiarist on the air in November 2013.  And then ... World Magazine documented that Mars Hill Church contracted with Result Source Incorporated to get Real Marriage a #1 spot on the NYT bestseller list.  Driscoll has since made statements to the effect that the angry young man stage has to get replaced by a fatherly type ... even though the fatherly type was how Driscoll described himself in 2007 in the wake of the terminations of Bent Meyer and Paul Petry?

Are those numbers worth the trouble still?  One of the things Mark Driscoll may not fully appreciate is that once you buy real estate county records aren't that hard to look up.  Even if things get obscured with trusts and transfers being obedient to government regulations requires that they know where you live and in the age of the internet it is fairly simple to find addresses and publicly accessible documents. 

As thoroughly understandable as it is that a father worries about the welfare and safety of his wife and children, Mark Driscoll may not have shared everything about some of the incidents that he recounted in his reasons for getting sympathy on behalf of his family.  Have sympathy for his family, by all means.  They merit it.  But whether Mark Driscoll has fully considered the role his own deliberately inflammatory statements and self-selected public activity may have on the safety of his family remains to be seen.   In at least the case of the would be late night fighter, it may be impossible to separate that man's desire to confront Driscoll (and this by Driscoll's own account) with Mark Driscoll's antics as William Wallace II.

And yet to go by both Confessions and God's Work, Our Witness, Mark Driscoll seemed to consider the unreal life change in the lives of the men he yelled at to have been worth it.  But ... worth what? 

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