Sunday, May 20, 2018

a Larry Osborne conversation with Mark Driscoll from 2016: Part Two: The plan announced in 2006 for growth runs aground on city zoning, Driscoll and associates regroup by way of a controversial re-org that leads to terminations in 2007

One of the first things that could be shown to have gone well afield of plan was the second Ballard facility acquired in 2005.  It turned out that the building that would become the Mars Hill corporate headquarters could not be used for the second campus aims announced in Driscoll’s Confessions of a Reformission Rev.  That meant the elders embraced an alternative to two Ballard campuses, what came to be known as the multi-site model and the expanded use of “videology”, video-taped sermons that were rebroadcast with or across campuses. 

Because Driscoll summarized the fateful conversation with Osborne there’s no way to be sure whether Mark Driscoll’s subsequent master plan announced in his 2006 book, or the alternative plan of rapidly expanding multisite, were necessarily informed by what Osborne actually advised.  Although Driscoll would continue to credit Osborne with an advisory role in the reorganization of Mars Hill governance it may be impossible to establish how “hands on” or “hands off” that advisory role was.  However, thanks to the website Joyful Exiles and some materials in the way of Mark Driscoll sermons we can highlight that the alternative plan of multisite expansion and governance changes turned out to be more controversial and volatile then, possibly, anyone anticipated.

There were only hints and asides as to just how volatile the situation may have been. By 2007, during the Nehemiah sermon series and what would prove to be the controversial 2006-2007 period of internal reorganization Driscoll rounded off the Nehemiah series with intra-sermon asides like the following:

Some of you will then push back, and say "But I've seen spiritual authority abused." and I would say, "So have I."  And what we do is not abandon authority, we appeal to higher authority. If a man is being a bad husband and father he's NOT the highest authority. You can call the cops. You can bring him in for church discipline. We'll pull up some other authority. We'll pull up another authority, of Scripture, and we'll bring God into the equation. 

If a leader in the church, or an elder or a pastor, is not acting in accordance with Scripture, then we appeal to Scripture and they get disciplined as well. No one, myself included, is above spiritual authority. We all need to be submissive and humble. And Nehemiah's frustration is with a bunch of men who will not respect Scripture, they will not respect God, they won't respect Nehemiah (their leader), they won't respect Ezra (their pastor), and he's very angry about that because he sees the devastation of the wives and to the children.

You either enjoy confrontation or you enjoy sin. You get to pick one or the other. If people sin and there's not confrontation then you better enjoy sin because that's what's going to happen. 

"Then I confronted them and I cursed them"

He's just cussing guys out. 

"and beat some of them." I'll read that again, "and beat SOME of them."

Now he's an older guy and he's beating up members of his church. What do we do with that? I'll tell you what I'd LIKE to do with that. I'd like to follow in his example. There's a few guys here that, if I wasn't gonna end up on CNN, that I would go Old Testament on `em even in leadership of this church.


Here's Nehemiah's deal. Now Romans 13 says we need to obey the government so you can't just walk around beating people up, tragically. 

It DOES simplify things. There's no, like, attorneys and blogging. It's like, "I punched you in the mouth. Shut up."  That's clean. It's simple.

Now in this Nehemiah gets so angry that he can't make these guys stop that he physically assaults them. ...

I'm not saying it's okay to beat people up, but I understand.

Notoriously, in an October 1, 2007 preaching cadre teaching event for Acts 29 associated leaders, Mark Driscoll said the following:
Here’s what I’ve learned. You cast vision for your mission; and if people don’t sign up, you move on.  You move on. There are people that are gonna to die in the wilderness and there are people that are gonna take the hill. That’s just how it is. 

Too many guys waste too much time trying to move stiff-necked, stubborn, obstinate people. (pause) I am all about blessed subtraction. There is a pile of dead bodies behind the Mars Hill bus (laughs) and by God’s grace it’ll be a mountain by the time we’re done.

You either get on the bus or you get run over by the bus. Those are the options; but the bus ain’t gonna stop.  [emphasis added] And I’m just a—I’m just a guy who is like, “Look, we love ya, but, this is what we’re doing.” 

There’s a few kinda people. There’s people who get in the way of the bus. They gotta get run over. There are people who wanna take turns driving the bus. They gotta get thrown off (laughs). ‘Cuz they wanna go somewhere else. There are people who will be on the bus, leaders and helpers and servants, they’re awesome.

There’s also just, sometimes, nice people who sit on the bus and shut up. (pause) They’re not helping or hurting. Just let ‘em ride along. Y’know what I’m saying?  But, don’t look at the nice people that are just gonna sit on the bus and shut their mouth and think, “I need you to lead the mission.”

They’re never going to.  At the very most you’ll give ’em a job to do and they’ll serve somewhere and help out in a minimal way. If someone can sit in a place that hasn’t been on mission for a really long time they are by definition not a leader.  And, so they’re never going to lead.

You need to gather a whole new court. I’ll tell you guys what, too. You don’t do this just for your church planting or replanting. I’m doin’ it right now. I’m doin’ it right now. We just took certain guys and rearranged the seats on the bus.

Yesterday we fired two elders for the first time in the history of Mars Hill last night. They’re off the bus, under the bus. They were off mission so now they’re unemployed. I mean (pause) you—this will be the defining issue as to whether or not you succeed or fail. I've read enough of the New Testament to know that occasionally Paul put someone in the woodchipper, y'know? [emphasis added]

For those who want the audio file source that would be the October 1, 2007 Preaching Cadre and the timestamp in the original file would be about 2:22:23 but since the audio may never have been released the audio at Joyful Exiles has to suffice for now.

What Driscoll shared from the pulpit as an aside and what Driscoll shared with associated leaders in a preaching cadre was not necessarily the same as what he formally told members of Mars Hill had been going on.  In a letter from Mark Driscoll to Mars Hill Church dated November 8, 2007 he wrote of the reorganization and the reasoning for its necessity:

One of the problems was that Mars Hill had essentially outgrown the wisdom of our team and needed outside counsel. The church had grown so fast that some of our elders and other leaders were simply falling behind and having trouble keeping up, which was understandable. To make matters worse, there was a growing disrespect among some elders who were jockeying for and abusing power. The illusion of unity our eldership had maintained over the years was kept in part by my tolerating some men who demanded more power, pay, control, and voice than their performance, character, or giftedness merited. While this was a very short list of men, as elders they had enough power to make life truly painful.
At the same time I began receiving other lucrative job offers that would allow me to study, preach, and write without all of the administrative duties and burdens for which I am not sufficiently gifted to be responsible for. For the first time in my life, the thought of leaving Mars Hill sounded very relieving. Since I had given ten years of my life to the church and love the people desperately, it was obvious to me that something was deeply wrong that such offers would even be intriguing.

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

The consensus was that Mars Hill was poorly architected to be a multi-campus, multi-elder, multithousand
person church. My administrative gifts had simply reached their capacity and the church needed to be re-organized so that campuses could be led by elder teams to ensure that our people were best cared for, our doctrine best taught, and our mission best led. This meant that I needed to give up a great deal of power and trust other elders, deacons, and members to care for the church with the same passionate affection that I have for our people.

To begin this process I had to go first and divest myself of a great deal of power. In the history of
the church I have held the three positions of greatest authority. …

To put it plainly more than just a few members of Mars Hill Church did not believe that Mark Driscoll had managed to do more than formally divest himself of a great deal of power.  Even the question of whether or not Mars Hill was poorly architected to be a multi-campus, multi-elder, multi-thousand person church was never really explained, it was simply asserted that there was a consensus and the implication had to be taken as given as to who constituted the members of the asserted consensus.  Had the elders not sought out a piece of real estate that was not even zoned for the publicly stated uses the problems tacitly assumed to have existed in the architecture of Mars Hill wouldn’t even have existed. 

But since there were real problems with achieving the goals for growth stated in Driscoll’s 2006 book, not least of which had to do with real estate zoning codes, a “plan B” had to be implemented. Along the way to articulating what the projected future governance would be for Mars Hill, Driscoll told Mars Hill members via letter that it was from Larry Osborne he learned how best to architect a multi-campus church.  Within the context of the leadership culture of Mars Hill Driscoll would have firmer, sterner things to say.

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