Saturday, September 13, 2014

a nod to Alastair Robert's The Ad Man's Gospel, part 2--how the left and the right find Driscoll a convenient scapegoat without addressing other concerns, Driscoll as a microcosm of a star-making machine

At this point to make the controversies associated with Mars Hill about Mark Driscoll and not Mars Hill Church as a corporation with a corporate culture that is vastly influenced and shaped by but not, in the end, entirely summed in Mark Driscoll, then there won't be any "lessons" to be learned that will have any lasting value.  Why?  Because the left and right have already made of Mark Driscoll what they want him to be in a way that does not require them to see any of themselves in him or in the history of Mars Hill Church.  A jocular post by Frank Schaeffer that they need Driscoll around for clickbait gets toward the edge of a possibility ... but since Schaeffer's the kind of person willing to leverage the death of Nelson Mandela to shill his own novels Schaeffer is arguably just for the left what he once was for the right and what Driscoll might have aspired to be, or been aspired to be, for some kind of right.

What is more astonishing is how swiftly and how mercenary some of those who have called for sympathy to Driscoll can turn around and make him a punching bag all over again anyway.

Stop the witch hunt.  Then make fun of him. Then remember to mention your book.  Swell.  If Piatt had a coherent and consistent take on Driscoll that would be one thing but he's devolved, so far as Wenatchee can tell, into some flavor of the hour pundit on Driscoll by now.

Now while the Team Pyro folks have surely been consistent in their public critique of Driscoll, and they have gotten some credit for having said "We told you so" about Driscoll in the last decade, no, they didn't.  Let's put it this way, were they on Driscoll's case over the last ten years about how carefully he gave credit where credit was due?  Nope.  They didn't say jack about plagiarism or the consolidation of power in the executive wing behind the scenes because it wasn't about those things for that crew, it was about Mark cussing and about Mark being too charismatic. 

That Mefferd made a point of publicly accusing Driscoll of plagiarism was what actually changed things and while that may have been a score for a team that happened to also be cessationist it's no more plausible as history or social media presence than it is for a feminist blogger to dredge up material published more than a month ago as some kind of story that Driscoll has gotten in hot water for calling women "penis homes".  Neither narrative is a particularly honest or accurate presentation of what has happened.  Has Driscoll said some crazy stuff regarding charismatic-style divine super powers?  Yeah, but lots of people say stuff like that and people make books and movies out of those things.  Once again, what separated Driscoll in this case was arguably the sheer tonnage of his contribution to and his presence in mass and social media.

It's not that the left or right as such really did anything special, it's that the sheer volume of Mark Driscoll that Mark Driscoll put out was liable to not quite withstand detailed scrutiny over the course of eighteen years because he's just a significantly fallible guy. 

When the Andrew Lamb scenario flared up Wenatchee The Hatchet proposed that one of the idols at Mars Hill is social media.  An idol promises something quickly in exchange for what at the time seems like a modest sacrifice.  As many an unfortunate celebrity will have learned those who live by the cloud get de-privatized by the cloud.  It's unfortunate that hackers hack, to be sure, and yet we are witnessing a vast and less easily discussed set of ethical questions about what is appropriate to share on the internet via networked devices at the outset.

Just as many a celebrity now wishes they hadn't done nude selfies there's a megachurch pastor in his house in some other county who really, really wishes he hadn't invented a pen name and written a whole ton of stuff that's resurfaced in the last few months.  It looks different to the inattentive but it's the same core set of challenges that we, as a culture, have not found answers for. 

Some of Driscoll's defenders at this point might point out that a lot of people have said terrible stuff about Driscoll.  That's true and lots of that stuff didn't need to be said and shouldn't have been said.  The trouble is that a substantive critique gets lumped in with just being a "hater" for the fans.  For the detractors pointing out that problems in credibility and platform actually do matter for those who would critique Driscoll will get summarily dismissed with "Puh-leeze! Shoot the messenger why don't you?"  Well, yeah, because the credibility of the person and their critique matters.  What has transpired in the last year or so wasn't some case of a feminist/progressive having some gotcha moment with Driscoll.  If that would have worked it would have worked twenty years ago and obviously it didn't because it would never work.  And we're not at this moment in public discourse about Driscoll because Slice of Laodicea had anything particularly compelling to contribute by way of complaining about Mark Driscoll endorsing some contemplative writers. 

To varying degrees neither Mark Driscoll's defenders nor his detractors have seen what an earlier Mark Driscoll might have called the Big E on the eye chart (or one of them).

The scandals that have involved Mark Driscoll that do not involve his approach to governance and leadership culture (still an under-discussed set of issues) have all centered around what?

His use of media.

Social media, broadcast media, mass media, most of the controversies surrounding Driscoll that have gained traction have involved media use.  Plagiarism?  Tweets?  PHP discussion forum pen names and inflammatory statements?  All media.  Mars Hill in general but Mark Driscoll in particular can be seen as a case history of a person and a community who went full throttle into the media world and seized at every tool available in media options over the course of nearly twenty years to discover that there are unanticipated side effects. 

The problem with mass media engagement is that if enough people read your books and begin to figure out which authors whose work you've made use of weren't adequately credited is that the internet doesn't seem to forget. 

The problem with saying incendiary things from the pulpit is that those things can be brought back and quoted seven and ten years later when you turn out to have done 180 turns on issues you made very public statements about for millions of people to download. 

The problem with announcing over and over this or that plan to start a school or start a music label is that when a year or two later all those projects withered on the vine or fizzled out or just plain failed the internet makes it easier to bring those failures to mind. 

But this is not exactly strictly a problem of mere access but of content generation.  It's also a problem that American society at large has not necessarily come to grips with.  More people seem to be leaping head first into the sea of social and broadcast media engagement without so much as having spent fifteen seconds imagining that there might be theories of the press and theories about how communication systems may work or how people process and convey information.  The internet may have changed the way we read and the way we read and the way we think and the way we think we read. 

When Driscoll was writing away as William Wallace II and then shifting seamlessly out of "character" and back into "Pastor Mark" (though Pastor Mark may also be a character depending on how you interpret his media presence) he was enjoying the process and was able to joke even in a frustrated moment that some people took themselves seriously and didn't realize there was this character-play-acting thing going on to provoke discussion.

The problem was that the character seemed so closely tied to actual ideas espoused by Mark Driscoll in more serious moments that this might have been a moment for a guy to remember a proverb that says as it is with someone throwing around firebrands and death is the man who deceives his neighbor and then says, "Was I not joking?" The problem with saying that William Wallace II was in any sense a put-on to spark discussion was that an awful lot of the ideas espoused by Driscoll as William Wallace II seemed to overlap with ideas that Driscoll would later promote under his real name.

Here's the thing, whether or not Mark and Grace Driscoll ever work up the moxie to publicly broach how much material in the first edition of Real Marriage was inadequately cited from the works of others (particularly Allender's work in the case of chapter 7 by Grace), what nobody has bothered to seriously discuss is where the editors at Thomas Nelson were in all this.

Let's suppose for sake of discussion that when Driscoll said "Maybe I made a mistake" he really, totally, actually somehow failed to remember all the citations that should have made it into half a dozen books, including 2012's Real Marriage.  Why did not a single one of Mark Driscoll's editors spot any of these citational problems or, if they found them, say not a single thing about them before the books were already in print?

There have been a handful of people who have visited Wenatchee The Hatchet over the years and remarked about how negative Wenatchee The Hatchet is about Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll.  Well, actually, Wenatchee commended Mars Hill for giving to the Salvation Army Port Angeles food pantry several years ago.  Wenatchee has also had very nice things to say about a number of the pastors who have been associated with Mars Hill over the years.  Wenatchee has long made a distinction between the people in general at Mars Hill and the leadership culture that has developed at Mars Hill.  If anything in the last few months it has been transpiring that even leaked memoes from and to executive leadership at Mars Hill has conceded points Wenatchee The Hatchet was privately making back around 2008, that the fiscal approach Mars Hill was taking was going to be a trainwreck. 

But largely what Wenatchee The Hatchet has labored to do is just quote people as accurately as possible, as in context as possible, and to observe how ideas expressed by leaders within and about Mars Hill Church has at various times shifted or changed or how interpretations of biblical texts and of doctrinal concepts don't square with other ways of interpreting the text or with some traditional understandings.  If quoting Driscoll accurately and in context to show how many times he's done a 180 on any number of things constitutes being a "critic" then, well, that's too bad, because as Wenatchee sees it, compensating for the shortcomings of mainstream secular and Christian journalistic coverage of Mars Hill is not the same thing as being a "critic".  And furthermore criticism is a venerable literary art form ... but never mind.

The point is that if Driscoll hadn't flooded mass and social media with so much content over the last sixteen some years Wenatchee The Hatchet wouldn't have had so much material to work with and from in mounting a case that the Mark Driscoll of the last few years seems to have betrayed everything he ever said about the core approach of a minister from ten years ago.  That Mars Hill has purged mountains of audio and written content has gone all but unremarked upon by any media outlets.  They don't even know that's a story there and yet a journalism professor once advised Wenatchee that very frequently the biggest story that's not getting enough attention isn't the one everyone is already talking about (cue the month-late penis stuff that Wenatchee the Hatchet published back in July) but the stuff NOBODY IS TALKING ABOUT. 

Why haven't more people discussed the publishing complex that helped make Mark Driscoll the star he pretty obviously wanted to become?  It's easier for progressives and conservatives to lambast individuals because that lets them spare themselves the harder task of confronting a potentially mercenary and possibly even dishonest media empire from which they themselves might one day wish to profit.  It's easy to rip on the other author who's conveniently on the other side of some ideological divide and harder to bite the hand that feeds you.  It was unfortunately telling to Wenatchee The Hatchet that Mark Driscoll and Rachel Held Evans both had their respective stunt books published by Thomas Nelson in 2012.  What if the problem with American Christianity is that the publishers and marketers let this stuff go on?  After all, if Driscoll has plagiarized in half a dozen books that's the kind of thing that an industry could have either spotted and crushed him for or have observed and quietly let continue, assuming that the question of whether or not the plagiarism happened has been settled. 

Let's go back to Driscoll's interviews over the last few years and his reactions to some of them.  He's been willing to tout his background having done professional journalism but to date has he ever produced a single non-editorial published work as evidence of his background as professional journalist?  Not saying he couldn't ever do it but that he's found it easier to name-drop his media credentials than to brandish the media that can prove the credential beyond all doubt on a few points. 

Years ago Wenatchee wrote that there's a distinction to be made between Mark Driscoll the actual person and Mark Driscoll the persona and that if Driscoll wasn't careful the persona could seriously mess things up for Mark Driscoll the real person.  But it is an open question whether such a distinction could ever be made for anyone who wasn't part of the place.

When Wenatchee The Hatchet started publishing "Pussified Nation" on July 27, 2014 and started getting into the historical and social setting for it
was to show that in spite of the recent assurance that Mark Driscoll has changed that the ways in which he has trolled on social media have not really changed either in the substance of his concerns or even necessarily in the overall thrust of how he sets about provoking controversy.

1. Incite controversy then
2. step back and rhetorically ask why everyone's gotta freak out when someone has a meltdown.
3. Express a modicum of regret some people got angry, promise to do better
4. Don't forget to tease the arrival of another product and
5. wait until another suitable time to repeat the process emerges

Step 3 is actually optional ...

The monkey wrench applied to his own decade of narrative turned out, paradoxically and ironically, to be Real Marriage.  It wasn't just that the Driscolls shared that for most of their marriage there was little sex and a lot of frustration and resentment, it's that it becomes impossible for someone who was at Mars HIll in the early years and read the 2012 book to not have a chance to remember  "Using Your Penis".  It's that the gap between what Driscoll said from the pulpit or "in character" as William Wallace II circa 2001 and what the Driscolls said was really going on at the time in their 2012 book introduces a rupture between ideal and reality that is not something that can be bridged. 

And it matters why the Mark Driscoll who was laying into single guys for their failures was the Mark Driscoll who lived in a house that was leased-to-own for him because of his credit history being poor, and the Mark Driscoll who had single guys covering some of his mortgage for him was the one who took up the pen name William Wallace II.

Take that history together and a person can reasonably ask how on earth and why on earth Mark Driscoll, who was bitter about the lack of sex in his marriage and also in a financial situation weak enough that he had to have single guys renting spare rooms to help him make his mortgage, was really in any position to vent under a pseudonym about how so many guys were failing to measure up to an ideal he was so far short of in his own life.  The problem for Wenatchee The Hatchet, who was at Mars Hill at the time, is that looking back on all this it's hard to shake the sense that when it came to what he demanded of other guys and what he was able to get to happen in his own life that in some sense Driscoll was a hypocrite from the start and the narrative in Real Marriage was the narrative that retroactively blew apart the narrative that Driscoll had been building up for himself about himself and Mars Hill in the previous twelve years.

In the visual arts one of the axioms given to art students is that you need to stop drawing what you THINK YOU SEE and draw what you're actually seeing.  Observation and perception are not necessarily the same thing.  Too many people on the left and right of the controversies about Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill are not so much looking at Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill as they are looking at pre-packaged narratives developed by the various strands of left and right ABOUT these subjects.  If Driscoll hadn't dumped so much content into social and mass media it wouldn't have been possible for anyone to analyze it critically enough to figure out there were citation errors or that there were some emerging questions about the continuity of the public narrative verses glimpses of a private reality. 

And the reason, arguably, it has taken so long for this process to even start is because the media saturation of the Christian right as well as the secular and religious left have been content to rehearse the same old bromides of ideological jousting topics rather than step back and look at the things that have been there.  This hasn't been the case all across the board, obviously, and some salutary reporting has emerged ... but what keeps happening is that people may see that Driscoll and his use of media has gotten him hoist on his own petard but they don't see this as a potential gateway into discussing how Christians in the United States have contributed to this thing.  Let's suggest there's a principality at work when Thomas Nelson can publish lazy stunt books by Driscoll and Evans and the respective fan clubs for both teams circle the wagons and don't stop to ask why these two authors got published under the same publisher if they're really so very, very different?

If what you think you see is a case of Driscoll and Evans at odds and representing two different approaches to a Christian faith step back and look at the publishing empire that sold both their books inside the same calendar year.  Try setting aside the narrative prisms of left and right and take another look because if all we "learn" from the Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll controversies is something that confirms our respective suspicions about teams and not about cultures and industries that make people like Driscoll and Evans into stars then we may be missing the real idol factories because we're too committed to ours against theirs to see how we may all be getting played.

a nod to Alastair Robert's The Ad Man's Gospel, part 1--Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill and the idol of media

... If the theologian of the 16th century was a lawyer, the theologian of the 21st century is an ad man.

... The ad man doesn’t persuade his customer by making a carefully reasoned and developed argument, but by subtly deflecting objections, evoking feelings and impressions, and directing those feelings and harnessing those impressions in a way that serves his interests. Where the lawyer argues, the ad man massages.

As Don [Draper] says, ‘You are the product. You, feeling something.’

The ad man knows this secret, and so do many contemporary evangelicals. Much of the time Bell isn’t trying to communicate a particular abstract theology to people. Rather, he elicits desirable emotive states from his audience and connects those with a heavily chamfered theology while tying undesirable emotive states to opposing viewpoints. All of this can be done without actually presenting a carefully reasoned and developed argument for one’s own position, or engaging closely with opposing viewpoints.

Alastair Roberts was writing about Rob Bell but the observation could be applied as readily to the other guy with a church named Mars Hill, Mark Driscoll.  Mark Driscoll could take the book of Esther and anchor it to a particularly tendentious interpretation of Esther that is filtered through the prism not of his master's in exegetical theology but a little anecdote about a conversation with his teenage daughter.  Wenatchee wrote a five-part analysis of a Driscoll sermon to show how this was pulled off but you may want to just stick with part 5.  Driscoll has clearly trained and refined a public and media-saturated approach to public ministry.  He's reached the point where he's not even anything close to a pastor so much as a public figure and he's only a "pastor" to the vast majority of Mars Hill Church by way of a camera feed and a week delay.  But there are still people there, right?  What are they drawn to? 

Alastair Roberts' observations about Rob Bell may well provide a clue.

What Wenatchee observed year in and year out was something that took a long time to discover.  It takes you a while to figure out that you're guided by a story and what that story may tell.  The story many of us believed at Mars Hill was that Mark Driscoll preaches the Bible but every once in a while someone might point out that Mark Driscoll preaches his interpretation of a text as though it were the plain meaning of the text.  Wenatchee agreed with this observation!

But how does he do that? Unlocking this rhetorical approach is crucial for understanding both the appeal of Driscoll as a public speaker and for why people who could otherwise grasp the shortcomings in his exegetical and hermeneutical approach simply don't.

Driscoll's sermons are ostensibly all about Jesus but the framing story is Driscoll's story, the story of his family, and the story of that family as a microcosm meets macrocosm of Mars Hill as a social unit.  If you want to pierce the veil of how Driscoll interprets the Bible you really only have one of two ways to do it and in our day and age the odds of success are low.

Why?  Because Driscoll uses his own personal narrative and that of his family as a way to frame his entire approach to a biblical text and this generally forces anyone who disagrees with his approach to a text to do one of two things. 

The first would be to take issue with his exegetical and hermeneutical approach but in the internet age in which we've been steeped over the last 20 years this will generally fail.  TL, DR.  Nobody wants to be engaged at the level of a digression into what Hebrew words do or don't mean when Mark Driscoll has just thrown out the word "vagina", do they?  Even though scholars left, right and center of dismantled Driscoll on biblical interpretation and historical research the vast majority don't care because the vast majority of the people Driscoll has been making his appeal to are not those kinds of "culture-makers". 

On the other hand, another way of addressing Driscollian eisegesis could be done by way of pointing out how Mark Driscoll uses narratives about his family to hide a failure of exegetical and hermeneutical competence.  But taking this route is fraught with the real risk that questioning why on earth a pastor would even bring his teenage daughter into a discussion of an interpretation of Esther will be interpreted by people as just being a jerk.  To Wenatchee the jerk move is really the cowardly, intellectually dishonest and lazy stunt of invoking one's teenage daughter as a purely narrative/emotional defense of a tendentious reading of a biblical text ... but to at least a few Driscoll advocates that would seem pedantic and unfair. 

In other words, to be blunt, you could critique Driscoll's irresponsible handling of biblical texts but if you get into the mechanics of how he does that people tune out because they don't really care.   If you get into how he leverages personal narrative about himself and his family as a way to get past all rational considerations to promote an absurd interpretation and application of a biblical text then Driscoll fans will just decide you're a judgmental asshole. 

In that sense Mark Driscoll, no less than Rob Bell (as Alastair Roberts addressed Bell's approach) peddles an ad man's gospel.  You are the product, you, feeling something. These are people who selling not a set of propositional beliefs but a narrative and if we don't gain and use the tools to study that narrative, how it's constructed, what it is used to promote, and why people will sincerely buy it then just dismissing or accepting a single narrative is ultimately failure.

If even people in the professional press can't figure out what to make of the fact that we can see more and network more content across more platforms than before without having ironed out the ethical and social implications of that power, then how much less have these things been considered by a megachurch pastor (who once referred to himself as a gigachurch pastor) and a Christian subculture that is rightly joked as being about twenty years behind the times?

more thoughts on what some call watchblogging, the problem of punditry from the nosebleed section about Mark Driscoll, if you're too far away from the history you may not know what it is

So it would appear after being very late to the news cycle in saying anything at all folks like Peter Rollins and Tony Jones have gotten the idea to say anything.

What on earth for is a puzzle to Wenatchee The Hatchet since neither of them brought anything remotely useful or interesting to the table.  It is the opinion of Wenatchee The Hatchet that Tony Jones' bromide about how the problem with Driscoll isn't his personality or the way he relates to people but his theology being the wrong sort is one of the most patently idiotic things anyone might say about Driscoll.  Lots of people have tried to pin the tail on the donkey of this or that doctrine that at some point has been endorsed by Mark Driscoll.  Some people have said it's because Driscoll's Reformed.  He's arguably Amyraldian and that means the hard-core Reformed don't view him as even really all that Calvinist.  Some have argued it's because Driscoll isn't pro-gay and yet lots of people seem to tolerate Pope Francis who hasn't exactly rocked the boat on traditional Catholic teaching on that subject.  Some have tried to pin everything on Driscoll endorsing charismatic pneumatology, which fails to account for how early on Driscoll was a functional cessationist, if only in the sense that he'd doubt that someone besides him could hear directly from God.

No, Jones is trumpeting the dumbest bromide about Driscoll Wenatchee has seen in a long time, perhaps because Jones takes the idea seriously.  The problem is that the way Driscoll has treated people over the last fifteen to eighteen years has been a function of his character and character can remain steady in spite of changes in doctrinal views. 

If Tony Jones has said something that is lazy and a bit empty-headed with respect to Driscoll and theology Jones can at least be said to have ever met Driscoll at all and yet even this simply further highlights the disconnect between what Jones has said (that the problem is Driscoll's theology and not his character) and what former co-founding pastor of Mars Hill Fellowship Lief Moi considered the problem to be.

Listening to Mark last Sunday and seeing his body language I can confidently say that he is not capable at this time of seeing or understanding what he has done. It is all mixed up with manipulation, rationalization, justification, self pity, bitterness, hatred, anger, confusion, and so much more. His statement is not breathed or moved by the Holy Spirit. There was not sorrow for the broken hearts, broken families, broken marriages, broken lives that have come as a result of the last many years at Mars Hill.

Now it's possible someone might conclude Lief Moi made the wrong call but there is no alternate universe in which someone could say that Tony Jones has more insight into the character of Mark Driscoll than Lief Moi in ministry history.  If Moi makes the call that the issue is character rather than making it about doctrine and he co-founded the church eighteen years ago even an atheist might grant that's probably a sturdier platform for voicing a public assessment.  Still, Jones has had some personal interaction with Driscoll of ... some sort.

Now over at Naked Pastor ...

David Hayward proposes that the problem hasn't been Driscoll's theology but his character and this not only makes more sense of the history of Driscoll and Mars Hill it's been getting to the point where even the leadership of Mars Hill Church has felt obliged to frame the controversies of the last two years in precisely these terms, that it's been their collective failure of character that has brought them to this point.  To suggest that the problem would be Driscoll's theology would be to forget how many times his theology on a variety of subjects has changed while his way of relating to people and courting controversy in the public sphere has been rather stable.

Precisely what or why Peter Rollins opted to say anything at all is even more puzzling to Wenatchee The Hatchet.  Let's take this particularly strange statement:

Mars Hill, like any ideological system, was able to maintain its equilibrium through a subterranean network of disavowed activities (plagiarism, manipulation of book sales, unfair sacking, totalitarian leadership structures, anonymous outbursts of rage etc.). These activities were, to a greater or lesser extent, known by many members of Mars Hill. But they remained part of the secret pact of the organization.

While Driscoll recently said that he had wished these transgressions were dealt with internally (rather than in the “court of public opinion”) the problem is precisely that these transgressions are generally already known internally (for example, many employees of Mars Hill will have known about how book sales figures were being manipulated and people were being unfairly dismissed). An internal process would then be an impotent gesture that would lead to little more than token changes. For real transformation to happen resistance needs to occur in a way that isn’t endorsed by the system it critiques.
It was only because many who left Mars Hill became increasingly vocal about the abuse, combined with the persistence of individuals like Stephanie Drury, Matthew Paul Turner, and Rachael Held Evans, that the implicit constellation of acceptable transgressions within the Mars Hill edifice (transgressions that enabled it to function), were directly exposed. An exposure that led to the exposure of a fundamentally unjust and oppressive culture.

Actually, in terms of public discussion and public controversy things didn't really blow up until Janet Mefferd who, like Driscoll, is pretty conservative, made a point of confronting Driscoll on air about the subject of plagiarism and then producing evidence to establish that plagiarism had, in fact, taken place.  There had been members and staff of Mars Hill sharing stories up until later 2013 and for the entire previous decade progressives of the Christian and secular variety had lamented Mark Driscoll's views on women and gays but that was not what brought things to where we are in observing Mars Hill today.  The First Amendment being what it is, the right of people to say and believe all kinds of crazy and offensive things is still protected speech so long as defamation isn't involved.  What changed in the last few years was that it turned out Driscoll and Mars Hill had taken an apparently cavalier approach to the intellectual property of others while simultaneously being willing to let the legal hammer drop on people they believed had infringed on their intellectual property. 

In other words, the progressive was sitting around waiting for Driscoll to somehow fail because of the longterm effects of his thought-crimes while conservatives and evangelicals began to nail him on the mounting evidence that copyright infringement had been going on.  When confronted with this rather brutal situation on air Driscoll suddenly started blurting out things like "Maybe I made a mistake" and all of a sudden learning this distinction between a "mistake" and a "sin", even though copyright lawyers and publishing companies probably don't see plagiarism as one of those "if you didn't mean to then you didn't really do it" kinds of things.  Intervarsity Press took the time to point out that the Trial study guide wasn't really in the zone of Fair Use permissions.

If anything it wasn't until conservative/evangelical Christians were willing to subject one of their own to both public scrutiny and a systematic analysis/rebuke that things started to change.  So in that sense Rollins' analysis not only seems wrong but incoherent to anyone who has actually been keeping close track of what's been going on.  Now Drury is in the Puget Sound area and has kept track of things.  Turner was in touch with a former Mars Hill member and got in touch with actual participants.  Evans has read some Driscoll books but it's more difficult to assess if she's ever set foot in a Mars Hill church or interacted with anyone who called that denomination-in-the-closet home. 

If progressives had just waited around for Driscoll to somehow mess up there wouldn't be any discussion of Driscoll as a lightning rod today.  Supporters of Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll have tried to make some assertions that public criticism has come chiefly from the secular and religious left, from egalitarians and from those who aren't really all that Christian.  The problem with that line of assertion is that it's difficult to dismiss Janet Mefferd, Warren Cole Smith, Warren Throckmorton and others as somehow not on the same team or as not being in some sense evangelical or even conservative.  Wenatchee The Hatchet isn't really progressive about anything and was recruited to the Theology Response Team by a pastor at Mars Hill Church and this blog is probably only known to anyone at all because of writing about Mars Hill.  Rollins may have overlooked the importance of intra-group critique as a necessary corrective activity within a movement. 

Wenatchee The Hatchet's take, not that anyone has a reason to care about it as such, is that Driscoll's controversies suggest that so long as the progressives and conservatives consigned themselves to their usual echo chambers of in-group reinforcement everything was in the usual deadlock.  When something emerged for which conservatives were willing to examine and publicly criticize one of their own the media dynamic changed and that the controversial figure at the center of things was Mark Driscoll and that the controversy involved the use of social and mass media is something else that will warrant more discussion.

But for now, it's kind of too bad that Tony Jones and Peter Rollins weighed in with what they've said.  It's too little, too late, and too bereft of an informed perspective on what's been happening in Mars Hill over the last eight years.  Things aren't the way they are today because Driscoll has a theology progressives don't like but because he took shortcuts in building a media presence he shouldn't have taken.  He alienated his former support base through his leadership style and through burning bridges with the kinds of organizations and on-team ministries that would have otherwise been available to guide, correct and support him. 

The problem with Driscoll isn't just that his theology is damaging or just that he's got some character issues that have possibly not improved with time, there's another problem, that American Christianity as an industry is perfectly happy with superstars on the left or the right as long as they get the results industries want.  The problem is that for every Mark Driscoll on the right there's a Frank Schaeffer on the left (and formerly right), celebrity Christians whose actual scholarship and propensity to say incendiary things to get attention discredit any and every stripe of Christian profession. 

If Driscoll hadn't so eagerly seized social and mass media throughout his career he wouldn't be famous enough that Jones or Rollins would feel any particularly need to note his existence this year.  Driscoll vaulted himself into the realm of the public figure through social and mass media.  He's made his own bed and now he's going to have to lie in it ... but there's more to be said about the way American Christians embrace the media and the stars it makes because it's not like any one side has a corner on this market ... .

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

a proposal for consideration, Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill Church and the idol of legacy

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?
Let's propose that Mark Driscoll's words about himself be brought back to mind, that he said his idol is victory.  That may be true, but it may also only be half right?

"What do you mean?" you may ask.  Well, why do victories even matter?  Didn't Driscoll at one point remark that video games are stupid victories in a realm of activity that doesn't matter?  Not just any victories will suffice for him.  He said he wanted more influence, more success, more people saved. 

Yet we must risk asking the obvious question, is all of that really about victory or is it about something else?  How about "Living for a Legacy".

But then whose legacy do we live for?  If it was all about Jesus then what was the point of getting Result Source Inc involved in promoting Real Marriage to begin with?  Why would Jesus need their help?  Whose message was spread abroad that way?  The message of Jesus?  You can find that in a King James Bible if you want.  It was Mark and Grace Driscoll's message about marriage, which is not necessarily an altogether bad thing ... but it's still not exactly Jesus, is it?  Whose name was made famous by signing that contract?

Wenatchee recently finished reading Jacob Wright's book about David, Caleb and Judahite Memory.  It's a remarkable book and in it Wright points out that David waged a war with the Ammonite city Rabah, besieging it.  If you cast about for a few passages in Deuteronomy 2, though, you'll see that God warned Israel to not harass or make war with the Ammonites because God would not give them a possession of the lands of a descendant of Lot.  It is important to bear in mind that while everybody talks about David and Bathsheba nearly everybody forgets that David was waging a military campaign delegated to Joab to conquer an Ammonite city when if he knew the Mosaic law he should have known better than to do that. 

Why did he do it?  The narrative lets us know, Ammonites made a mockery of David's courtesy and overtures of comfort out of distrust.  David, for his part, took to war, a war that ended with David finally fighting himself and having himself crowned with the crown of Milcom.  Jacob Wright points out that this larger narrative reveals that David was fighting a war now not for the national interests of Israel or Judah but over personal renown and glory.  It was the kind of war a king took up to make a name for himself and it was in this context, Wright proposes, that David fought a war that displayed royal immodesty.  David's reign descended into coups and chaos and disaster from that point on and ended with David quelling insurrections with his professional army and then taking up a disastrous census that led to the deaths of tens of thousands and on his deathbed David enjoined Solomon to break promises for him that he realized would be politically inexpedient to keep.  What was the starting point of all that chaos and madness? 

Was it really David and Bathsheba?   No, it started earlier than that when David took the power of royalty and royal office as a basis for magnifying himself rather than serving the people. Even though David loved the Lord it was, arguably, an obsession with legacy that simultaneously vaunted him on to the stage of the ancient near east and also into the chaos that brought his reign to a rather miserable end. David had to remember that his legacy was not through the designs he had and the battles he won but the faithful promise of God.  If the quest to start a war over personal glory and renown was ultimately disastrous for King David ... who wrote psalms and was regarded as a prophet then ...

Driscoll's made no secret since the founding of Mars Hill he's been aiming for legacy.  He wanted the music label and the Bible college.  He's wanted to see steady growth.  The problem may be that he wants a legacy and the problem with legacies is that ultimately you can never control what a legacy may be or even if you ultimately have one.  Driscoll's legacy may be to be forgotten within a single generation by any but his relatives.  Didn't James warn in an epistle against speaking too confidently of the future?  Some have called for Driscoll to step down because they consider him unfit for ministry but there's a positive way of framing that, if Mars Hill is truly a church that belongs to and was founded by Jesus then let Driscoll step down to prove it, to prove that the spiritual community will survive and thrive just fine without him because it isn't Mark Driscoll's church in the end, is it?  Not if everything he's tried to tell everyone in the last 18 years has any shred of truth at all to it.

But the problem is that while a legacy can be good it was also the driving motive to build a tower at the plain of Shinar, the old tower of Babel.  Babylon.  It's not as though the history of Christianity in the West isn't chock full of people who were persuaded they were the one true church who were eventually described as Babylon.  Protestant/Catholic "dialogue" on that set of topics got pretty violent, after all.  The scriptures are a double-edged sword.  We could invoke them to say we are experiencing trials because of satanic attack or that the suffering is the just discipline we receive for our sins.  Leaders can talk about how opposition or discord comes from the Enemy and yet the scriptures reveal that in the Old Testament spirits of calamity and discord got sent out by the Lord to correct and punish wicked and self-seeking leaders.  Yes, a double-edged sword, which is why Wenatchee is loathe to pronounce judgments of the sort so many on so many sides have taken on their lips.

Some have suggested, not without cause, that Driscoll and company were too eager to grow too fast too soon.  Yes, Wenatchee made that point privately in 2008 and it was not considered.  But what if the problem is deeper and graver than that, that the legacy Mark Driscoll wants to see is one's he's been determined to see within his own lifetime.  The problem with that is not necessarily wanting a legacy but with wanting to see it in one's own lifetime because that is where the temptation to walk by sight and not by faith comes in.  There's no particular reason that for Jesus' fame Mark Driscoll should have even been writing books to begin with but for Mark Driscoll's legacy ... .  There's no particular reason to have been so sloppy in the citations and credits for half a dozen books since the dawn of Mark Driscoll's publishing career but for the sake of a legacy it would look good to be able to say he wrote all sorts of books while being crazy busy like the apostle Paul.  Even the recent apologetic tone couches the apology in terms of a legacy that Mark Driscoll hopes to be remembered by.

It may be telling that as the decades have rolled by the legacy of Mars Hill as a fellowship of Christians has turned into the story of Mars Hill Church and while God's Work, Our Witness had a lot of first person plural whose story was it consistently returning to?  Who was narrating the primary story?  Whose story has increasingly defined and dominated the narrative of the community that has called itself Mars Hill?  When's the last time Mark Driscoll mentioned Mike Gunn or Lief Moi?  For all the talk at his resignation of how there would have to be a chapter about Jamie Munson when's the last time Mark Driscoll mentioned Jamie Munson?  Whose legacy has the story of Mars Hill been about?  Jesus?  Well ... maybe ... but it's been striking how superfluous so many crucial people in the history of Mars Hill have become, people who were supportive of Mark's advocacy for legacy, who are now names scrubbed from the official history.

That might be a hint that it is the legacy that is the real idol. 

Would Mark Driscoll serve Jesus even if it meant no earthly legacy anyone remembered?  Or would have find some other way to have a legacy?  That is a question that, so far, no one has even asked.  But the question of whether or not a man could have a legacy and a name in spite of having no earthly means to do so was one that struck the prophet Isaiah.  It may first be appropriate to consult Mark Driscoll on the technical definition of a eunuch.
Jesus Has a Better Kingdom
Pastor Mark Driscoll
Esther 1:10–22
September 21, 2012
about 8:39 into the sermon.

Number two, men are castrated. Men are castrated. I’ll read it for you. “He commanded—” and these guys got names. “Mehuman—” That’s kind of a rapper name, I was thinking, like, ancient Persian hip-hop artist, Mehuman. That’s how it’s spelled. “Biztha.” Sounds like a sidekick. “Harbona, Bigtha.” That’s my personal favorite. If I had to pick a Persian name, Bigtha. Definitely not Littletha. I would totally go with Bigtha. “Abagtha, Zethar and Carkas.”

Okay, a couple things here. The Bible talks about real people, real circumstances, real history. That’s why they’re facts. It’s not just philosophy. Number two, if you ever have an opportunity to teach the Bible and you hit some of the parts with the old, crazy names, read fast and confident. No one knows how to pronounce them, and they’ll just assume you do.

Here are these guys. So, you’ve got seven guys, “the seven eunuchs.” What’s a eunuch? A guy who used to have a good life, and joy, and hope. That’s the technical definition of a eunuch. A eunuch is a man who is castrated. [emphasis added] Proceeding with the story before I have to fire myself.
A future hope, perhaps?  An eternal future hope or a revocable living trust?  Well, see, by Driscoll's jokes, the eunuchs were the guys who used to have a good life, and joy, and hope before they were castrated, emasculated, and why?  Because while eunuchs (and Nehemiah was probably one) had prestige in the royal court they had no legacy because they were prevented from having heirs and if you had no heirs you had no legacy as conventionally understood.  If you had no lineage with land holdings in the region you also didn't have a legacy to speak of in many cases. And as Wenatchee has established in various ways, Mars Hill is certainly interested in real estate and Driscoll praised his friend James MacDonald as having the spiritual gift of real estate acquisition.  But for a eunuch, no heirs, no legacy. 

In one of his sermons John Donne noted the early divines observed that the first man named all the animals but did not name himself, a sign that the human heart does not observe itself so clearly as it observes what is around it.  There is a sense in which no one can necessarily discern the idol in his or her own heart, which is why the fellowship of believers, followers of Christ, is precious.  You or I may not even know what our idols are that another may see.  If you've read this far, consider that the idol of Mark Driscoll might not be what he's said it is, victory, but legacy.  What if that was the idol of Abraham?  What if that was why Abraham was commanded to sacrifice his son, so that Abraham would show through obedience he was willing to sacrifice who he thought was going to be his legacy to the God who made the promise to give him a legacy? 

But the prophet Isaiah wrote that the Lord had something to say to the eunuchs, who could legitimately have a lament that they had no legacy for their time and place.  They would die and be forgotten.  Isaiah gives to them a promise from the Lord.

Isaiah 56: 3-5 (NIV)
Let no foreigner who is bound to the Lord say,
“The Lord will surely exclude me from his people.”
And let no eunuch complain,
“I am only a dry tree.”
For this is what the Lord says:
“To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
who choose what pleases me
and hold fast to my covenant—
to them I will give within my temple and its walls
a memorial and a name
better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
that will endure forever.

Are there any eunuchs or places for eunuchs in the gospel that Mark Driscoll preaches?  Are there places for those who have no legacies or does Driscoll aim to preach a good news that is about legacy first and about Jesus as a means to such a legacy?  Repenting of idolatry and of worshipping your idols is important, about that Wenatchee would agree with Driscoll ... but what if Mark Driscoll has misdiagnosed what his idol may be?  If he's still fighting now to preserve his legacy and that turns out to be his idol then all is not well.  Things could be worse now than they were before.  We can't be sure.  Paradoxically a resurgent star for Mark Driscoll could be the worst thing that can happen both for the Christian community and also for Mark Driscoll if legacy is his idol and not just victory. After all, victory is usually just the means to an end.

The days that come will give the world a chance to find out whether the legacy that Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll are fighting for is really for the legacy of Christ or for the legacy and renown of Mark Driscoll because the last two year's worth of controversy suggest that these two legacies are not necessarily one and the same. The legacy of one might have to die so that the legacy of the other might be lifted up and that is obviously a scary prospect for a man who has said for decades what he believes God commanded him to do. God promised the birth of the son Isaac ... but then also commanded the sacrifice. 

members of Mars Hill, remember that the church is not a place but a people, and if that is so the corporation isn't really the church and it may not deserve your money

"The church is not a place but a people."  These are words that many a leader at Mars Hill, but most notably Mark Driscoll, have said over the last nearly two decades.  The leadership of Mars Hill has indicated recently that they can only give as much "church" as the members are willing to provide.

That may well betray a fundamental change in values that signals a profound sickness in the corporation.  If the church is still not a place but a people then whether or not the corporation technically recognized by the state of Washington as Mars Hill Church continues to exist the people will continue to be a group of professing believers.

Mars Hill leadership has begun to state rather than hint that times are bad.  The times are bad, they are even beginning to say, because leaders have sinned.

Yet which of the leaders of Mars Hill will say how much the salary or housing allowance is for any of the executive elders is?  Do they even know?  For that matter how much does your local campus pastor make?  Do members even know that?  How many people who go to hear Driscoll preach at the Bellevue campus even know where he lives, or that he hasn't lived in King County in years?  If he's not even in the same county as you are and you only see him mediated by a video screen on which is projected a sermon he preached a week ago in either another part of town or another town altogether how, exactly, is that guy your pastor?

Mars Hill has been indicating to its membership the ultimate power lays with them to pony up more money rather than in the leaders to spend it ... but if the leaders won't disclose where all that money goes and why they hardly merit getting more money. 

If all of the pastors at every level aren't willing to share with members how much they make the members who aren't even civil members of the corporation for purposes of Washington state law only have the power to give or withhold money.

Let Mars Hill as a corporation prove it can be trusted with money before they get any for a while.  Give to the local campus operation costs with gift restrictions if you like, but it looks like it's getting to the point where a full-scale embargo on giving anything to the corporation known as Mars Hill Church might be necessary?  Why?  Because money talks, and because Mars Hill's leadership culture apparently pays more attention to when the giving isn't enough for what they want to do than when they have enough money to feel like they can gamble on opening half a dozen campuses in five months. 

A financial embargo wouldn't have to be long, just a season, and could send a powerful message to its leadership that it truly owes an honest accounting of its expenditures.  It's not like Mars Hill didn't just lay off dozens of people recently anyway.  Wenatchee The Hatchet has attempted to articulate and also document how the Mark Driscoll of 2011 to the present has in various ways said and done things that publicly document a shift to being nearly everything he used to warn people against and denounce from the pulpit up through to about 2006.  Driscoll can say he's a nobody trying to telle verybody about somebody, but it turns out Driscoll's catchphrase is just a truncated recycling of a catchphrase that was often said by Denver Moore.  Even his catchphrase is demonstrably someone else's idea and has been truncated.  The Denver Moore version had it "Tell 'em I'm a nobody that is tryin' to tell everybody about somebody that can save anybody," .  It seems, at length, that Driscoll's omission of "that can save anybody" may telegraph a truncation of a populist theological aphorism that may reflect far more on the limitations of Mark Driscoll's understanding of the Gospel than most may be able to guess at. 

If Mars Hill isn't willing to explain to its regular attenders where the money goes and why, and its leadership insists that the accusations against Mark Driscoll specifically have to be addressed before anything about the by-laws or governance gets addressed, or any concerns about how and why money has been spent the way it has then they don't deserve the money they're asking for.  Driscoll has said that trust is gained slowly and lost quickly.  How much trust does the Mars Hill leadership culture merit these days?  The answer, even by the account of the leaders themselves in some cases is "maybe ... not so much." 

Wenatchee The Hatchet has made the tongue-in-cheek suggestion earlier that Mars Hill may only pay attention to the rank and file attenders if there is a financial boycott pending full financial disclosure ...and also a sex strike.  This is the less tongue-in-cheek proposal.  If the leaders of Mars Hill actually believe what they have taught about the church being not a place but a people they should love those people enough to be completely transparent about where the money goes and if not, maybe they don't love the people as much as they love the place and their place within that place.  Yeah, those will be construed as fighting words.  It is not Wenatchee's custom to agitate or suggest agitation but it increasingly seems that the leadership culture at Mars Hill pays lip service to the idea that they know they're not trustworthy without doing the simplest things that could be done to restore trust not just from regular members but to the public at large. 

Subject them to a financial embargo, withhold any and all donations, and that may be the only real test of your power you'll ever have, members of Mars Hill. 

A lot of people have made snarky remarks about how people must just drink the Kool-aid.  People keep speaking up on Driscoll's behalf in spite of Result Source and in spite of the citation errors.  Are they defending the plagiarism or the sales rigging?  No.  Are they even necessarily defending their pastor?  Well, only if their pastor is a face on a screen seen via week delay in most cases, which begs the question of whether he's even a pastor at all, since sometimes he's said he's an evangelist and other times he's said he's not even that but a missiologist and at other times he says he's a local pastor even if he doesn't live in the same county he preaches to people at.

Okay, well, let's propose that what people are defending when they speak up for Mars Hill is not the figurehead but the story and their investment of themselves into that story.

Wenatchee The Hatchet used to do that but the scandals of 2007 (no, not just the firings, look into the real estate and other disciplinary activities from around that time) began to shake the foundations of the narrative.  Seeing Mars Hill slowly transform itself from telling the story of a community co-founded by a group of families into the dominating narrative of a single man who has increasingly made the narrative of a spiritual community revolve more closely around himself even as he is at an astronomically greater remove from anyone in this group, persuaded Wenatchee The Hatchet that there's nothing about being an evangelical Protestant that necessitated sticking with this particular narrative.  It no longer even resembled the story of the people I was once part of and still consider myself in some sense part of.  I don't regret meeting any of the friends I met and made through my time at Mars Hill.  I still love my friends whether they have stayed or left there.  Everyone will drink the Kool-aid for someone or something.  It's too easy to mock the loves of others and one of the commitments Wenatchee has made in writing about Mars Hill here is to avoid demonizing people and to at least try to refrain from mocking the loves of others. 

What Wenatchee The Hatchet can keep trying to do is educate people about the history of Mars Hill so that they can reach informed decisions.  The suggestion of a financial boycott until transparency is provided is not made lightly, it's made because it's looking like the only thing that will work.  If at this point the only thing that gets the attention of the leaders is not the realization that rigging sales to promote books with cribbed content is a morally wrong thing to do but that people aren't giving enough money for the undisclosed salaries of leaders and staff then Mars Hill as a spiritual community might just have to administer to itself the tough love it has spent nearly two decades declaring it would give to others. 

You won't stop being the people, individually and collectively, that you have been if you take this path.  You can stop giving to a corporation that rented Ephesus for a day and signed a contract to rig sales for a NYT list.  You can stop giving to a corporation that let a law firm send a cease-and-desist letter to a little church in California while the church executive signed on the line with Result Source to promote a book that turned out to have cribbed from Dan Allender's work without giving him any credit in its first edition.  The problem, as it slowly emerges from years of headlines and public statements and scrubbed sermons and behind-the-scenes amendations to books with citation errors is a leadership culture that arguably has just as much, or more, of an entitlement sensibility now as in 2012. 

People who have defended Mars Hill in the past defended their investment of themselves into Mars Hill.  That story is not necessarily your story and you may not fully realize how expendable you are to the corporation.  Consider whether Mark Driscoll has ever said even two words about co-founding pastors Mike Gunn and Lief Moi in the last seven years.  If even co-founding pastors have proven to be ultimately expendable how much more are you, Mars Hill member who might happen to read this? 

This is the sort of open letter Wenatchee tends to dislike, but Wenatchee isn't writing as some unbeliever.  Wenatchee is also not writing as someone who takes this suggestion lightly but a financial embargo (temporary though it might be) is probably the only way for the regular attenders to make their voices heard.  After years of the leaders regaling you with how bad you are at giving while increasingly documents show a chaos of fiscal chaos it's starting to look depressingly like only money talks.  Think of it this way, even if the corporation dies (and it must eventually since it's just how the world works) the community does not necessarily die.  If the church is a people and not a place then it won't matter if that corporation known as Mars Hill Church stands or falls.  You can follow Jesus just fine without signing a membership contract that gives you a series of obligations and a handful of privileges but no actual rights.  Wenatchee isn't telling anyone to do anything but inviting a possible path.  Let your money talk.  It's not just a case of where your treasure is so goes your heart, it's where their treasure is so goes their heart.  Your campus pastor and your executive elders should love you enough to be able to tell you what they make and if they don't but let robo-letters be sent out to ask you to give more all that covenant talk may mask a strictly contractual relationship. 

Driscoll in 2008 and 2013 on lies and lying with a bit of spiritual warfare
By: Pastor Mark Driscoll
Posted: Nov 23, 2013

If you’ve read this far, I’m certain the Holy Spirit has convicted you of lying somewhere, sometime in your life. I’m guilty. We’re all guilty. But if we know it’s wrong, then why do we do it? Here are six reasons.
  1. We lie to avoid negative consequences for ourselves.
  2. We lie to create or protect an illusion of who we are.
  3. We lie to get what we want.
  4. We lie to remain in control of a situation.
  5. We lie to punish someone else.
  6. We lie about someone to be accepted by someone who despises them.
In short, we lie because we want to be God. We want to establish our own standard of truth. We want to control our own life and its outcomes. We want to look good.

By now it is widely recognized Mars Hill has been in some kind of crisis mode for the better part of a year.  Core to that crisis is the level of trust in the accountability and discretion and transparency of the leadership culture at Mars Hill and, particularly, at the upper echelons.  The plagiarism controversy and the Result Source controversy cast some generally legitimate doubt on the originality of Driscoll's content and the means through which his star rose in 2012.  The crisis is one that goes to the heart of how trustworthy the leadership culture of Mars Hill is from bottom to top, though most of the scandals relate to the uppermost leader himself.  Real Marriage was a touchstone in the public ministry of Mark Driscoll both for the plagiarism controversy and the Result Source Inc. controversy.  What is worth revisiting is a look at what he was saying and who he was saying it about when, arguably, his star was at its zenith.

Driscoll opted to provide a pre-emptive attack on the doctrine and character of Justin Brierley mere weeks before he was extolling readers at Pastor Mark TV with bromides about winning people and not arguments on the basis of his meeting with T. D. Jakes. In spite of a history of having denounced Jakes back in 2007 for Word faith teaching as a promoter of a doctrinal error, by late 2011 Driscoll
was hinting that Jakes might be all right and that:
Admittedly, sometimes when speaking, a teacher presents a belief in a way that is inaccurate and unclear. So called “discernment” bloggers who are usually not connected to any noteworthy or respected evangelical Christian theologians, schools, denominations, ministries, churches, or pastors make their living taking what people said wrongly, transcribing it, and then falsely—or at least wrongly—accusing them of heresy when it is untrue.

But ... that link is dead, isn't it.  So ...
you'll have to visit THAT link to see a document of the sort of stuff Driscoll was saying in late 2011.  The point is that Driscoll's by-now publicly documentable statements about Jakes have been all over the map.  And, more to the point, the handshake with Jakes was the same month Driscoll saw fit to do a pre-emptive jab at Justin Brierley.  Driscoll seemed to want to have it both ways and January 2012 was when Real Marriage was officially published and hit #1 on the NYT when it opened thanks, it turns out, to help from Result Source Inc.  It also turned out that the book used ideas from other authors without citation.  Between rigging sales and presenting material without citation as though it were original thought Real Marriage could be construed as a double deception. Then there's a synoptic ambiguity as to when that nightmare that had Driscoll puking actually happened, whether before or after Ashley Driscoll's birth.  There is also a more esoteric question as to the narrative in the 2012 book about how thoroughly sexless the Driscoll marriage could often be and why that bitterness on Mark's part wouldn't have been "satanic" if Mark had assessed himself on the basis of his own teaching about spiritual warfare. It was after Wenatchee The Hatchet published that post that Mars Hill apparently scrubbed the 2008 Spiritual Warfare material from its media library.
If someone deceives us, he or she is responsible for the deception. But we’re not always and only victims in every scenario. We’re also morally culpable and responsible for believing lies if we have neglected to seek the truth.

Is this an idea he has mentioned before?  Yep
February 5, 2008Part 2 - The Devil
Mark Driscoll
John chapter 8, Satan also likes to work through the ordinary demonic of lies. Jesus says there that Satan is a liar. He is the father of lies. He has been lying since the beginning. Lying is his native tongue.

Here's the situation with lies, lies work. [emphasis added] The vast majority of your demonic counseling will simply be figuring out the lies that people believe. Jesus says "You will know the truth and the truth shall set you free." That's, "People are in bondage to lies and the truth sets them free."

This can be theological but sometimes it's just really practical.
[short pause]

I'll give you one situation, I use this analogy all the time.  Let's say there's a woman and she believes that her husband doesn't love her and she believes that he's cheating on her committing adultery.  Let's say it's a total lie, it's not true. If she believes that will that effect anything? It destroys everything. Why? Because it doesn't need to be true to devastate it just needs to be believed and then acted upon as if it were true.

One of the things I like to do with people who believe lies--and it's amazing [the] lies people believe. We'll get into accusations and vain regrets and all of that--but one of the things I like to do with people is I just like to have them keep a journal. Tell me all the lies you believe about others, God, theology, the truth, Jesus, yourself. What are the lies?  I mean, what are the lies. 

I've had people come to me with pages and pages and pages and pages of lies. I've had woman tell me things like, "I deserved to be raped." That's a lie. "Well, I got raped because I had too much to drink and I was under-dressed and I was kind of asking for it." That's a lie. I had one young woman tell me (I've done more than my share of abuse counseling and rape victims and molestations and it's devastating but so many of them believe lies) [emphasis added] I had one gal who was molested by her father say, "You know, it really is my fault. When I was a little girl I would sit on his lap and I would rub his face and I would kiss his cheek and he did molest me but it was my fault because I, I  caused him to desire me."

No, that's a lie.  A little girl should sit on her daddy's lap and rub his face and kiss him on the check and that should elicit no sexual response in the daddy. In fact just the opposite of sexual response, pure fatherly love. Embrace, snuggle, hug, kiss encourage, nothing sexual. That's in him, not in you.  That's his flesh. That's not your affection. That's a lie. That's a lie.

People believe all kinds of lies, it's unbelievable. One of the first things you've gotta do is figure out what all the lies are. That's why I have them journal out, "What are all the lies that you believe." Just journal what you think might be a lie. And if they're married I bring in their spouse. I'll ask, "What are the lies that your spouse believes?" and usually the spouse has a better read on it.
I had one woman, wonderful gal, sweet gal, she was convinced of the lie that her husband was committing adultery on her. So every time he'd go to work she would literally have a panic attack and would go into the closet and shut the door and be there for hours having a literal, full-blown nervous breakdown panic attack. Her husband's a great guy. Loves Jesus, loves her. It [the idea that the husband was cheating on his wife] was a total lie but something in her believed that lie and I think, for her, that struck at the core of her sense of security and identity and Satan got her to believe that lie and it absolutely undid her.  She went to counseling; she was diagnosed bipolar, paranoid schizophrenic, multiple personality disorder (I believe that such things are true but sometimes they're a junk drawer for other diagnoses for people that are experiencing real spiritual problems); they put her on all kinds of medication, she still had panic attacks, still freaking out, still in the closet; and I just told her, I said, "Sweetheart, it's a lie." It's a lie.

Her husband's sitting right there, I said, "Okay, God's honest truth, have you ever committed adultery on your wife?"
"When you leave the house are you going to commit adultery?"
"No, I'm going to work."
"Have you ever touched another woman, are you looking at porn, are you doing anything."
He's like, "I'm not doing anything. I go to work and I come home. That's what I'm doing. I love her.  You know, I'm delighted to be with her. She's the best."

I looked at her, I said, "Okay, here's what faith looks like for you--believe the truth. Don't believe the lie. If you believe the lie, you're going to ruin everything. If you believe the truth, you'll be okay. And you know what?  By God's grace she repented of her feeding the lie. She needed to see that believing a lie was a sin. It was a sin to be repented of. Here's the truth, here's the lie, I chose the lie. That's a sin, I need to repent.  I need to believe the truth. I need to have faith to live in light of the truth, like Jesus said, then I'll be free in the truth.

[She] went off her medication, no more panic attacks, no diagnoses, she's fine. This has been some years, they've got a loving marriage, they're doing great, they love Jesus. They're wonderful people.  But she fed the lie.  Don't feed the lies. And they're everywhere and part of your art in counseling is asking enough questions to figure out what the lies are that people believe.

In other words, it would appear you can be opened up to demonic oppression of some kind for believing lies and the subject of whether or not the person who lied to you was being satanic in some way was sort of, well, not quite as important. 
So, with Driscoll's teaching about deceit in mind ...
at the 58 second mark whose voice is that?  It sounds like a voice that's been piped in through speakers and video feeds at Mars Hill for years, yes? 

"Sorry"  "Wrong address"  "I don't know." in response to a request to speak to Mark Driscoll.

Okay so ...

and part 5 ... "The hole we are in today was set in course when we decided to plant 6 churches in 5 months on top of the Real Marriage campaign." An invitation to members to start a financial embargo on Mars Hill the corporation

Executive Elders
Current Financial Situation
Saturday, March 17, 2012

The hole we are in today was set in course when we decided to plant 6 churches in 5 months on top of the Real Marriage campaign. Too much work for an 8,000 in weekly attendance church to undertake when there was a culture within the church staff of poor stewardship and a church body that did not financially support the church.

What may be worth revisiting is some material sent along to Wenatchee The Hatchet regarding the leadership culture at Mars Hill circa 2011 through 2013. It was the opinion of at least one former staffer who was employed by Mars Hill that:

This is just the opinion of a single person and so there's plenty of room for other opinions and convictions but in light of the statement from the 2012 memo about how Mars Hill had a culture of entitlement it's possible that that sense of entitlement started from the top down, isn't it?  It's at least something to consider. 

And as Wenatchee The Hatchet and others have been documenting for some time, most of the scandals associated with Mars Hill Church in the last few years started at the executive level and worked their way down.  Even in the case of Andrew Lamb the disciplinary precedents that led up to his case were made possible by by-laws changes in 2007 that permitted any two campus pastors to make any decision they deemed appropriate regarding member discipline with the member having neither the opportunity to appeal the disciplinary decision nor any assurance that the disciplinary action or any knowledge of a given case wouldn't be made public to local authorities or the local church. 

Warren Throckmorton publishes March 2012 memo on Mars Hill in financial trouble: part 4 "What are SOME of the areas we should focus on?" projects declared unsustainable at or even before formal launch

The date of March 17, 2012 is important for an excerpted list

1. OC Church is not sustainable in its current form.
And since Mars Hill Orange County got evicted in May 2012, that turned out to be true.  It does raise some questions about what the executive elders did and didn't know about the launch site and is sustainability not just on financial grounds but on city land-use grounds.  Go here and here for some background as reported by Warren Throckmorton.

2. UWD is not sustainable in its current form.
That was two years ago, this last Sunday it was announced the campus was closing.

3. #of Blogs on Resurgence, MHC, and is not sustainable.

Why this presented a problem is slightly less easy to understand.  It might be that, as the memo later explains, this sort of activity was not mission-critical and distracted from main goals.  This was an interesting concern to express relatively soon after the launch of, which was a platform through which Driscoll at one point said he could broach social issues in a way that wasn't available to him before (the pulpit, the Midrash (versions 1 and 2, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram all apparently notwithstanding ... .

4. Mars Hill Music is not sustainable as currently operating.

Now this one is particularly interesting because eventually ...

Did Mars Hill Music somehow become sustainable between March 17, 2012 and May 2, 2012?  Since less than a year after May 2, 2012 the label turned out to be a partnership with BEC Recordings/Tooth & Nail it might be that Mars Hill Music was ultimately no more successful as its own thing than Tim Smith's project Re:Sound was.

So if Mars Hill Music was considered a bit precarious in March 2012 why did Driscoll go to the trouble to pump the idea in a film a couple of months later?  What changed?  Anything?

5. ReLit is not sustainable as currently operating.

Re:Lit was described thusly in a number of books published under its imprint circa 2011 ...

Resurgence Literature (Re:Lit) is a ministry of the Resurgence.  At you will find free theological resources in blog, audio, video, and print forms, alogn with information on forthcoming conferences, to help Christians contend for and contextualize Jesus' gospel. At you will also find the full lineup of Resrugence books for sale. The elders of Mars Hill Church have generously agreed to support Resurgence and the Acts 29 Church Planting Network in an effort to serve the entire church.

Resurgence became a for-profit publishing company.  Whatever wasn't sustainable about Re:Lit might have been fixed.

6. Central Ministries are not sustainable (currently being disbanded to local church).
If Central had been working on God's Work, Our Witness and architecting launching about half ad ozen campus launches or relaunches and also putting everything in place for the Real Marriage multimedia campaign then, yeah, most of that probably wasn't sustainable, per the list statement.

7. Printing and Branding of sermon series as currently practiced is not sustainable. ($100,000
for banners, signage, popups per sermon)

One can only speculate as to what this was referring to, though a guess could be the sheer number of promotional materials that were out on the town plugging for Real Marriage as at least one possibility. 

8. Producing movie sermons like God's Work Our Witness is not sustainable.

It was a fascinating if in some ways revisionist history of Mars Hill Church while it lasted.  Yet if the film was an example of something that was not sustainable there's a triple irony afoot. 

The first irony is that the film culminates in Driscoll chiding Mars Hill for how bad they were at giving.

The second irony was that the film was presented as part of a sermon series in the aftermath of Turner signing the Result Source Inc. contract and this takes fuller significance if you remember that during this period Mars Hill got itself embroiled in a snafu in which Stokes & Lawrence issued a cease-and-desist letter to a church over a trademark/logo concern. A subset of this second irony is that it would turn out that Real Marriage, in its first edition, would make use of ideas published by Dan Allender without giving Allender any credit. In spite of the fact that Grace Driscoll had publicly shared with the whole internet Allender was one of her favorite authors, no less, which made the omission of any credit to his ideas in the first edition all the more baffling.

The third irony is that in the film Mark Driscoll mentioned how he had a vision of starting a music label and a Bible college from the earliest period of Mars Hill even though in 2014 he would write a statement to  members claiming that what Mars Hill has become is "not even close" to what he envisioned at the start of the church.

If Driscoll these days can't remember that he'd been saying for years that the vision to start a church/Christian movement that would yield a seminary and a music label from the start then that's of a piece with not remembering that there were in fact children at the dawn of Mars Hill, even if he claimed from the pulpit otherwise in late 2013.

So if it was proposed that God's Work, Our Witness was the sort of thing Mars Hill couldn't afford to keep doing, well, no argument from Wenatchee the Hatchet on that point, either.  The question now would be what donations were reaped by the fundraising film in which Driscoll chastised the flock for their lack of faithful giving verses the amount of money it cost to make the film.

Warren Throckmorton publishes March 2012 memo on Mars Hill in financial trouble: part 3 "... Mars Hill has a culture of entitlement."

Executive Elders
Current Financial Situation
Saturday, March 17, 2012

It is my belief that the reason we have such poor giving by our Church is the lack of stewardship in the Church staff. Churches with excellent stewardship see greater giving because people know that every dollar they give will go towards the mission of the Church. It is very clear this has not been the case at Mars Hill Church.

Secondly, Mars Hill has a culture of entitlement. This goes back to the beginning when church staff was poorly paid. When a staff is poorly paid, leaders feel convicted that they are not rewarding staff for their work. So the leaders then take the church credit card and give additional benefits to the underpaid staff. As this buying staff "presents" and "rewards" became the environment, people began to feel entitled to buy things on the church credit cards for others. This culture has grown and is the predominant culture within Mars Hill Church.

There's almost nothing, really, to add to that set of statements.

But Wenatchee The Hatchet shared with someone in Mars Hill leadership in later 2008 that he had a concern, the pastors and leaders at Mars Hill made quite a point of warning against consumerism on the part of the rank and file while in reality it seemed the biggest risk was a growing culture of consumerism on the part of the leadership toward the congregation, like the leaders would get this idea and the congregation was just supposed to pony up.  Having bitterly discovered that the up-for-sale real estate that became Mars Hill corporate headquarters was bought without the elders having bothered to look carefully into zoning and land use issues before spending $1.5 million, Wenatchee got a nagging sense that the elders couldn't have gotten into that snafu without some overconfidence about how "Jesus will build His church" regardless of whether or not a certain thing was observably a good idea.

Churches (and other non-profits) that have a strong donor base "can" tend to have that because they can demonstrate the money goes to effective causes.  At this stage Mars Hill leadership may not want to reveal where all the money has gone.  If even among executive leadership there was some concern about a sense of entitlement on the part of the leadership culture that might retroactively cast light on the whole point of the film God's Work, Our Witness, which built up to Driscoll gently chiding the entirety of Mars Hill for sucking at giving.  The March 2012 memo, by contrast, seems to imply that the entire film production process and finished project were "unsustainable" and that it was one of a variety of kinds of projects taken up by Mars Hill leadership that contributed to the financial mess.

And yet ... Turner signed the Result Source contract in October 2011.  To this day no one on the Board of Advisors and Accountability has displayed any interest in stating who the "outside counsel" was that came up with that idea.  Was that outside counsel given freely ... or was it paid advice?  That, too, might be a question for regular members to ask.

Warren Throckmorton publishes March 2012 memo on Mars Hill in financial trouble: part 2 the memo as a possible prelude to some leadership changes in MH and A29?

As has been noted already the memo published by Warren Throckmorton, apparently from Sutton Turner regarding the bad financial situation Mars Hill was in in 2012 in the aftermath of Munson's resignation, was dated March 17, 2012.

About ten days after the date of this memo ... a big change-up in Acts 29 leadership got announced.  It would have been under the radar for outsiders but this was roughly the period in which Scott Thomas vanished from both Acts 29 leadership and leadership at Mars Hill.

The content may be hard to find these days so, as is increasingly usual with purged or altered or outdated content dealing with the history of Mars Hill, Wenatchee The Hatchet ends up self-quoting materials preserved from Mars Hill past.  This material was originally made available via Phoenix Preacher.

From Pastor Matt Chandler

I am greatly humbled by the opportunity to serve our great God and King, as well as our movement, in the capacity of president of Acts 29. Our meeting in Seattle couldn’t have been more Spirit-empowered and unifying than it was, and I flew home excited and invigorated by the opportunities that are before us. There are few things that excite me like planting churches and seeing people come to know, love, and mature in Christ. So, this task allows me to serve in an area of my passion. I want to update you on what’s in our immediate future.

We are in the process of transitioning Acts 29 from Seattle to Dallas. At present that involves gathering all of the information we can on Acts 29’s budget, processes, setting up Acts 29 legally in Texas, etc.

Tyler Powell is relocating to Dallas and will continue to handle assessments and his other duties. Tyler and his family are excited about the move and the direction of the network. I personally can’t wait to get him to Dallas. He is a godly, hard-working, Spirit-led man, and I’m grateful he’s coming to DFW.

Scott Thomas is taking this transition as a chance to pursue other opportunities he has before him and will not be making the move to Dallas. Scott and I are on very good terms and had dinner just this past weekend, where he informed me of his deep love for you and the network but felt like God has released him from leading Acts 29. He is excited about what God has next for him. [emphasis added]
We are in the process of looking for a new executive director for A29 and plan on being meticulous, prayerful, and patient about getting the right guy. Once we’ve identified and hired the new director, we will finish out the national board and introduce the full team to the network.

I have asked all the network captains, as well as a few other men I love and respect in the network, to meet me in Dallas on May 14 and 15 to look closely at Acts 29 and pray about how we might get better at planting churches, coaching our pastors, communicating more effectively, etc. Please be praying for our time together.

We will report on any changes and our future hopes and plans at the pastors retreat in Newport in June. There is much to do between then and now, so I would deeply appreciate your continued prayers for not just the board and me but also for all involved.

Men, I really believe we have been positioned by God to be a part of a spectacular move of his Spirit in our day. It’s with great anticipation and holy fear that I step out to help lead us into what God would have for us. Please let me know how we can serve you.

Scott Thomas also made a statement of his own over at Acts 29, which has since been expunged but, again, Wenatchee The Hatchet kept the material around for reference.

I am thrilled that Acts 29 is moving to Dallas and will be led by my friend, Pastor Matt Chandler. I think it is good for the network that other leaders will add different perspectives, nuances, and emphases. It will only be a better network as healthy, reproducing churches will continue to plant churches for the glory of God.

I was honored to serve in Acts 29 as God allowed some amazing outcomes in spite of man’s feeble efforts. I never deserved the opportunity. I never deserved the love of so many planters. I never deserved the fruitfulness God enabled.

But I wasn’t planning to stay forever. I was anticipating a change for my ministry in the future, and the move to Dallas makes it a perfect time to allow new leadership to emerge. I am looking forward with great anticipation how God is going to shape the network and the planters to effectively pursue His mission with greater Spirit-empowerment and clearer gospel purposes.

[Updated March 28, 2012 at 3:30 pm]

I am deeply thankful for the generosity of Mars Hill Church, the unity of the Acts 29 Board, and for the friendship of Mark Driscoll. I am especially grateful for the hundreds of church planters in Acts 29 who I had the honor of pastoring and leading.
Now an anonymous commenter noted some time ago that Wenatchee The Hatchet's observation that Scott Thomas vanished in the wake of the publication of Joyful Exiles was an erroneous one.  Well, touche, if the memo Throckmorton has published somehow refers to a Scott with a last name of Thomas.  The Scott being referred to could be someone else who was on staff as a pastor at the time, perhaps?  In any event, that Mark Driscoll recommended Pastor Scott (Scott Thomas) replace Jamie Munson has already been documented by Wenatchee The Hatchet from Mars Hill online statements. 
As noted here before, it took a while before Scott Thomas was no longer a member at Mars Hill in spite of having taken a formal ministerial role at The Journey
Having revisited that the March 2012 memo published by Throckmorton was about a week and a half before it was announced Scott Thomas was out of Acts 29 and quietly and unofficially out of Mars Hill in eldership, there are a few other things about the memo to consider..

At this point whatever transpired in 2012 (or 2007) if Scott Thomas is willing to state something for the record now might be a good time to clear up how he ended up out of leadership at both Mars Hill and Acts 29 on the one hand, and what was going on with the conciliatory process/trial in 2007 on the other.  Anonymous commentary a while back indicated some kind of "rampage" undertaken by Sutton Turner without providing much by way of explanation.  It increasingly seems that what needs to happen is for people who were there to start making statements on the record.  In Scott Thomas' case if he doesn't take a risk in speaking up there could be some speculation as to whether the recently published memo was in some way referring to him.