Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Samuel James to Christian bloggers, "don't follow Mark Driscoll around", leading with a family snapshot kind of defeats that purpose

It has not been the custom of Wenatchee The Hatchet to comment about the blogs of others who blog about Mars Hill.  Sometimes exceptions get made. Samuel James has written a post of late requesting that Christian bloggers don't follow Mark Driscoll around. There's some concern expressed on behalf of Mark Driscoll's family for having to deal with so many things in the last year.  Those concerns are understandable.  The family should have been spared a great deal of trouble.

However, the four points enumerated by Samuel James at the following blog post ...


Let's present the four points as they came:
1) It really serves no good purpose.
2) It obscures Christian forgiveness.
3) It empowers skepticism towards the local church.
4) Finally, it punishes Driscoll’s family.

These are points that misunderstand what bloggers have done.  Tracking Driscoll's movements has not been what has gone on.  Documenting the statements and actions of Mark Driscoll is what's been going on.  As for tracking the movements, well, okay, that's happened but when a blog is written by someone who spent a decade inside MH and literally couldn't go a week without coming across people with MH connections and has set foot in at least one home each of co-founding elders ... it's not exactly following Driscoll around to keep track of what goes on in your neighborhood.

But more crucially, the four statements demonstrate that James may not be familiar with the breadth and depth of Mars Hill history.  It is also very simple to take Mark Driscoll's own public statements and demonstrate that to varying degrees the things James fears will come about by bloggers "following Mark Driscoll" were brought about by Mark Driscoll's public ministry approach over the last 18 years.

Now, Wenatchee The Hatchet doesn't follow Mark Driscoll around.  For that matter, Samuel James' post opens up with the sort of gambit that Wenatchee The Hatchet has repudiated across the board.  Photos of the wife and kids.  The blog posts here have scrupulously avoided publishing photographs of the Driscoll family.  Why?  Because despite various disagreements with Mark Driscoll on doctrine, theology, and a few reservations about his basic competence as an exegete and scholar and theologian, Wenatchee The Hatchet does not wish to hear that the rest of the Driscoll family has had any trouble on account of the foolishness and arrogance of the pater familias.

Which is more than can be said about Samuel James, who opened the above-linked blog post with a family portrait of the Driscolls.  There's such a thing as pity, dude.  If you want the family to be spared trouble don't broadcast to the whole blogging world what the wife and kids look like. 

A few additional observations.

1.  Mark Driscoll resigned from ministry at Mars Hill and resigned his membership and left the church after having spent his entire public career saying he wasn't going anywhere.  There's no reason to believe that privately he'd been dropping hints he might bail ... is there?  Well, actually ...

page 28 of 110

To date, governance has been structure on the assumption that Mark would outlive us all, yet the reality is that he will not outlive the organization. In fact, he made it clear that under the right pressure or discouragement he would bale [sic], which means the bylaw have to consider what would happen if the next lead pastor, had different doctrinal leanings and a different mission.

That's how Bent Meyer framed a concern he had about governance presupposing that Driscoll would outlive all other eldership. And yet as far back as the 2006-2007 period there were concerns that Mark Driscoll might bail on Mars Hill under the right pressure or discouragement. What circumstances were afoot? 

From "A letter from Pastor Mark Driscoll"
November 8, 2007

page 3 of 145
At the same time I began receiving other lucrative job offers that would allow me to study, preach, and write without all of the administrative duties and burdens for which I am not sufficiently gifted
to be responsible for. For the first time in my life, the thought of leaving Mars Hill sounded very relieving. Since I had given ten years of my life to the church and love the people desperately, it
was obvious to me that something was deeply wrong that such offers would even be intriguing.

So, I began pursuing counsel from godly men outside the church that I respected. I spoke with Tim Keller about the difficulties of an urban church, John Piper about how to sustain longevity in the ministry, C. J. Mahaney about bitterness that had grown in me against some elders of Mars Hill and my need to grow in humility, D. A. Carson about how to best study so as to become an even better Bible teacher and writer, Gerry Breshears about how to best train other men for ministry to share the load, Pastor Larry Osborne about how to best architect a multi-campus church, and Pastors Craig Groeschel and Ed Young Jr. about how to lead a church of thousands and possibly tens of thousands. On top of that, I pursued counsel from a Christian doctor regarding my health and what needed to change in my diet, exercise, and schedule. In short, I sought wise outside counsel regarding if I should stay at Mars Hill and make changes in my life and our church, or simply move on to another church and start over.

In other words, Mark Driscoll had already considered giving up altogether on Mars Hill, pulling up stakes, and starting over back in 2007.  Why?  Well, Driscoll kept changing the story about why that was over the years.  In 2007 it was the general lack of competence in leadership to handle the growth targets Driscoll wanted to attain.  In 2012-2013 it turned into Mark Driscoll suddenly needing to be there for his wife Gracie as she was dealing with travails that, on balance, seem to have been more than at least partly caused by none other than Mark Driscoll himself.

So Driscoll quit his ministry and abandoned the church he founded sorta like a deadbeat dad (to invoke Driscoll's own sorts of metaphors).  Yet bloggers are somehow enjoined to not document this stuff?  Documenting that Driscoll has betrayed everything he once stood for is just documenting the case.  So that's something to consider for James' point 1.  As for forgiveness ...

2.  Let's go back to some tweets from none other than Mark Driscoll himself on what forgiveness is not.

Forgiveness is not covering up sin committed against us. If a crime is committed, you can
forgive someone & still call the cops.
10:38 AM - 17 Jun 13

Healthy transitions in relays & leadership come down to the handoff. Train up your successor.
Don't chuck the baton & storm off the track.
1:20 PM - 17 Jun 13
Doesn't it at least sorta look like Mark Driscoll chucked the baton and stormed off the track without appointing a successor?  And in quitting has it not seemed that Mark Driscoll doomed the corporation known as Mars Hill Church to its death?  It sort of looks that way and this in spite of a public assurance he wasn't going anywhere and was planning to live out his ministry days just at Mars Hill Church. 

So by Driscollian measures forgiveness does not mean ignoring when wrongs have been done and if people think the platitudes and bromides of Driscoll and his advocates have been adequate the Mark Driscoll of 2000 would have some words for those sorts of people.

Now if it seems that people will be encouraged to be skeptical toward the local church, well, that also indicates some ignorance of the local history.  There have been campus pastors in the history of Mars Hill who retained pretty good reputations even as Mark Driscoll's infamy stayed the same.  Some of those reputations have been rightly tarnished by their involvement in 2007 but their reputations are still positive in a number of cases.  If anything Mark Driscoll's week-delay jumbo screen approach to "pastor" work has invited skepticism about the local church.  To put a number on it ...

3.  The greatest catalyst for skepticism against the local church at this point, in the Puget Sound area, has beyond question been Mark Driscoll himself by the way he resigned his ministry.  After spending about a decade and a half building up a conception of masculinity that was so truncated and impractical even he couldn't live up to it for the better part of his adult life, why would bloggers have any impact?  Didn't Driscoll spend years dismissing bloggers as having no impact?  So by the measure of Driscoll's own words about "bloggers", any rebuttal to bloggers is already wasted activity, even if bloggers may have played some role in bringing some issues to public consideration.

4.  What Mark Driscoll has done in cultivating his inflammatory public persona has brought some trouble to the Driscoll family.  As for Driscoll's plea for pity because "the media" published his address, Driscoll told a member of the press "wrong address, I dunno", in so many words.  Lying to a member of the press when cameras are rolling is hardly good PR and to date no one in the press has published the address of the Driscolls that Wenatchee The Hatchet is aware of.  So it appears that Driscoll may have simply lied about whether the press published the current address the Driscolls reside at and in case Driscoll forgot the Big E on the eye chart about real estate investment it's called public records.  If Driscoll had been less of a moron about the financial instrument he used to buy the house in the first place it couldn't have been found.

And, finally, publishing a photo of the Driscoll family at the top of a blog post lamenting that bloggers shouldn't "go after" Mark Driscoll and invoke family is paradoxically contributing to a problem of making the Driscoll family part and parcel of what Mark Driscoll has said and done that has catalyzed the collapse of the church he co-founded.  Driscoll has misrepresented by elision how many times he's actually moved in the last fourteen years.  Driscoll has also somehow failed to convey to one of his children that press coverage does not mean that helicopters have "bad guys" who will kill family members.  That a video-venue week-delay preacher on a jumbo screen and his media professional wife somehow failed to inculcate an awareness of what media coverage is for their 8-year old suggests a massive parenting fail.  8-year old boys don't have a reason to assume aircraft above a house are signs of enemies.  Wenatchee The Hatchet rushed out of the house at the sound of any aircraft to practice identifying the kind of fixed wing aircraft of helicopter that might have been flying above, for instance, as a child.  Presuming the worst about a chopper is more likely to happen in a family where the pater familias has instilled an inherent paranoia about outsiders

Wenatchee The Hatchet has spent as much or more time investigating the history of the real estate acquisitions and leadership appointments of the corporation known as Mars Hill as dedicating time to examining the writings and statements of Mark Driscoll.  That there is a great deal of overlap is obvious, but it's a point that can be missed by a blogger writing about bloggers.

Finally, Mark Driscoll is a brand and critiquing the shortcomings of the brand is not the same as subjecting the man (who has scrupulously avoided revealing anything of note about his own family background in contrast to the mountains of information he's unleashed on the public about his wife).  If Driscoll can't take the heat of being the public figure he's sought to be over the last 18 years he can still get out of the kitchen but it seems he's determined to stay in the spotlight no matter how hot the heat of that light may burn. 

And it is ultimately Mark Driscoll who has subjected his family to the risks of his antics, going all the way back to ... William Wallace II and that fine line where fantasy & reality blend.  Full size image available at the break below:

Anyone who fails to see the big E on the eye chart in the history of Mark Driscoll's public ministry either doesn't have enough of that history to know it's ... complicated ... or is presuming.  The Driscoll family deserves less chaos in its life but as Mark Driscoll used to say in the "headship" discussion at the dawn of the millennium, if there's chaos in a guys' family life and marriage he's responsible because he let it happen.  And if that still holds true then it holds true for the travails Mark Driscoll's let his family go through because of the way he's pursued being a public figure.  There's no doubt the Driscoll family deserves less chaos in their life but unless Mark Driscoll rethinks everything about his approach to ministry (possibly up to and including whether he was genuinely called to ministry to begin with) nothing's going to change in the long run.

Unless Driscoll's going to repent and forsake ministry and being a public figure in exchange for driving a bread delivery truck or something.  It's not too late to humbly work with his hands where the world can't see him even if he's gotten used to Docent Group research help.


C. Stirling Bartholomew said...

RE: MD "...has scrupulously avoided revealing anything of note about his own family background"

You haven't been listening long enough. MD did some bragging and so forth about growing up on the SEA-Tac Airport highway 99 famously haunted by Gary Ridgway (aka green river killer) in the era of MD's youth. He talked about high school, college, dating a preachers daughter, … and so forth. He also talked about his dad, his job and his physical problems. I don't know when this was perhaps on street-talk prior to MHC founding.

RE: Bragging is demonic

St Paul letters contain a significant percentage of mateiral about his past life some of which could be considered bragging. So if it is demonic then several letters need to be tossed from canon.

RE: prolific blogging on Wenatchee TheHatchet

30 years ago when I was hiring writers, I certainly would have been empressed with the volume of your output.

C. Stirling Bartholomew said...

I don't do a good job of copy editing my comments. I see all the errors after posting.

Sonja said...

Mark's press kit, still readily available, has the very photo S. James uses along with much info about his family.

In retrospect, I learned more in 9 years about Mark's kids than I did about anything else. It's amazes me how much I know about his kids. It's baffling.

It would be interesting to know if he uses those kids as some sort of human shields. The video of him stepping down for 6 weeks (that seems years ago now), you can see him giving a cue for them all to run up on stage. Props. I'm sure he loves all 5 very much, but if they must have a purpose beyond just being his kids.

Thanks for your blog.

Bridget said...

Samuel James doesn't know of what he speaks. Bloggers have been much more respectful and careful concerning MD's wife and children than MD has been. Mark has used them for his purposes throughout his ministry.

I remember a few years back when he was considering having his oldest daughter blog when she was a young teen. That was an aweful idea that didn't seem to come to fruition, thankfully.

Thanks for your hard work, WTH.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

I suppose a clarification might be in order, C. :)

Compared to what Driscoll's revealed about his family and in particular his wife's physical and sexual history Mark has shared relatively little about his upbringing and family life. He's mentioned his dad as a paragon of blue-collar street cred and can-do gumption but that's about it over 18 years of ministry. And what about Driscoll's mother? Anything? Anything at all?

So in a sense Driscoll's shared a lot about his family background but not much. In that sense, I think a case can be made that Mark Driscoll has been reticent to describe what his family life was actually like. He's unloaded more kid stories in sermons than, say, John Donne or Martyn Lloyd-Jones ever seem to have seen fit to use. But Wenatchee digresses. :)

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

Sonja, you've reminded me of an epiphany I had reading chapter 7 of Real Marriage, that we're told a whole lot more about the development of the Re:Lit imprint of books than about anything that may have happened to Grace Driscoll! Even though it was touted in some reviews as an notable part of the book it was one chapter that felt less about "real marriage" and more about "real advertising". :(

Anonymous said...

Thank you WTH. Your blog is so well written.