I have spent the last few days really thinking over the much publicized Letter of Apology from Mark Driscoll to his church. If you haven’t read it yet, go ahead and click that link and come back when you’re done. It’s a good read and worth your time. This post will still be here when you get back.
Look, I’m not here to judge Mark Driscoll or rail on his apology (past, present or future). I don’t know Mark Driscoll. I’ve never had the privilege (and I do mean privilege) of meeting the man. I can’t throw stones or judgements or opinions about a man I’ve never met. I would only be coming off half-cocked and, quite frankly, lacking first person knowledge. Oh, I’ve read the claims, insults and opinions of others. I’m well aware of how people feel about him.
Truth be told, I first encountered Mark Driscoll when a video that he created for a Pastors conference caused a bit of a stir. It was deemed “too controversial” to show at the conference and went viral on youtube instead. At the time it went viral, I was just beginning to really become involved in the church. I had grown up in the church my whole life but did so standing on the sidelines. For the first time in my life, I was on the playing field blocking and tackling. The video below sent a charge in my spine. Like a coach rallying his team on the sideline, I was ready to take a hill for whatever ministry I found myself in. Someone was finally bold enough to say what we were all thinking.
As you can see, Mark Driscoll came on the scene as a guy that was rough around the edges. After seeing this video, I began to follow his ministry, his podcasts and his books. Many of my close friends did too (and still do I believe). Over the years, I have seen his edge become a little (and I stress little) more smooth. Based on my 10,000 foot perspective, I think he allowed a select few people into his life that spoke truth to him. His humility began to change. He openly admitted to needing this and these people in his life. Yet at the same time, his ministry and his star was on the rise. He began planting more churches, writing more books and all the while using a style that very much fits the very city he lives in. His ministry is firmly planted in one of the least Bible-Minded cities in America.
So now that I’ve established some background, you may understand why his letter to his church caused me to pause a bit. Even though I don’t know Mark Driscoll…
I know people like Mark Driscoll
In some ways, maybe I’m like Mark Driscoll too.
Below are some of the clips that jumped out at me and why I believe we should all take these words to heart.
People often ask if our church today resembles what I had originally planned. Not even close. The smallest location of a Mars Hill Church is bigger than what my total vision was for the whole church when we started.
As the church grew over the years, it was clear that both the church and I were unhealthy in some ways, despite some wonderful people and amazing things that the Holy Spirit was doing in and through them. For years, I felt a joy in teaching the Bible and love for the people, but frankly was overwhelmed on how to organize and lead all that was happening. I felt the crushing weight of responsibility but did not know what to do, and I lacked the abilities to figure it out. I was frustrated at my shortcomings, but needed help from people who were more experienced and mature. In my worst moments, I was angry in a sinful way.
Lesson #1 – When success comes, be willing to admit that you need help.
From the jump of this letter, we see that growth, success and popularity went far beyond what Driscoll ever imagined. We also read that he was not equipped to handle this growth and success. No matter your field or occupation, when you are good at something, success will follow. The most successful people I know are the ones that are first to give the credit to their success to the people that both helped them get there and those that helped sustain it. Success at one level (small church for example) doesn’t equate to being a successful leader at another (large church). We must be willing to surround ourselves with others who have been at a high level and understand what it demands. This is true in any field. I think most Pastors would agree that seminary prepares you for the pulpit but doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of leadership of staff, elders, boards and a large church body. The “back office” should be handled by those trained for that area. This requires releasing control…..
In the last year or two, I have been deeply convicted by God that my angry-young-prophet days are over, to be replaced by a helpful, Bible-teaching spiritual father.
Lesson #2 – Success doesn’t give a pass to be a jerk.
I understand that people who saw or experienced my sin during this season are hurt and in some cases have not yet come to a place of peace or resolution. I have been burdened by this for the past year and have had private meetings one at a time to learn from, apologize to, and reconcile with people. Many of those meetings were among the most encouraging moments in my time at our church. Sadly, not all of those relationships are yet mended, but I am praying that God is gracious to get us to that place of grace. Now that others have come forward, my desire is to have similar meetings with those who are willing.
Based on accounts I have read and what Driscoll said above, he hasn’t always been the nicest guy. You really find out about a man when he is under intense pressure. You really see who you are when you are pressed. Anyone can lead the ship when the seas are calm. Leadership comes through when the storms are present. Success can sometimes feel like a free pass to treat employees, friends and even family like they are less than us. We must be careful and wise to not allow this to creep in. The feet we step on today will be the people we need tomorrow. The bridge you burn today I guarantee you will need to walk across again one day. Treat people with the highest regard. They are what made you successful in the first place.
Lesson #3 – Seek and accept wise council.
The Board of Advisors and Accountability is a great blessing to us all, as they combine wise counsel and strong oversight during this process. I have been a pastor for a long time, but have not had a close pastor since college. I now rejoice that God has been gracious to give me pastors for accountability and wise counsel. Through their counsel to confess my own sin, while not being distracted by the shortcomings of others, the Holy Spirit is making me a better man and pastor, which I pray helps us to become a better church. This is the truest and strongest pastoral love and accountability that I have ever had and I thank the Lord for it.
There is a HUGE difference between surrounding yourself with wise council and accepting their council. You can surround yourself with the greatest people in the world, but if you belittle them and blow off their advice, their being there becomes window dressing only. What may be even worse is if you eliminate anyone that disagrees with your view and only surround yourself with people that are either too scared or simply “yes men.” It’s toxic and unhealthy. Our organizations and personal growth will be a direct reflection of how willing we are to seek and accept wise council. Especially when it doesn’t jive with our opinion. From his letter, it appears that Driscoll not only didn’t receive the council over the years, he eliminated those that didn’t agree with his opinion.
I know this is a long post, but I felt it warranted some narrative and reflection. At the end of the day, I hate this. I hate it for The Church, I hate it for Mars Hill and I hate it for Mark Driscoll. It has become a very public matter and for that church body, their leadership team and Mark Driscoll, I feel bad. My prayer is that his letter begins healing within their church and those he has hurt. I pray he takes his reboot seriously and gets back to his first love and leading his church. If there is anything we can take away from it, maybe there will be positives in this after all.