Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.
English Standard Version
The essay you are about to read is probably one of the most difficult ones I have ever had to write. I do not always call out prominent men and women who are leaders in the faith, but when I do it is because God has placed a specific call on my spirit in order to do so. If you have been watching the news then you are probably aware of recent scandals surrounding Mars Hill Church in Seattle and its pastor Mark Driscoll.
For the last twenty years the latter has made a name for himself by using unconventional rhetoric to address controversial topics from the pulpit. On the surface it doesn’t seem like a big deal until one looks deeper. Just within the last five years Mark has asked followers to describe the most “effeminate anatomically male worship leader” and claimed that women who “let themselves go” are the reason for their husbands committing adultery.
Just this year it was revealed that Driscoll used church funds to promote his book Real Marriage to the top spot of the New York Times bestseller list. Although many readers were shocked at some of the sexually explicit material found in the later chapters a simple Google search reveals that this sort of language is the norm for Mark. In 2007, he gave a sermon in Scotland where he claimed that the Song of Solomon was little more than a Biblical sex manual, and has crafted sermons that were so explicit that he was banned from GodTube which is the Christian version of YouTube.
Unfortunately, these are just a handful of the disqualifying behaviors Mark has engaged in over the last two decades. Actions that have culminated in the implosion of the church he founded and a series of black marks on his character and his credibility. Not only that, but the church planting organization he helped found – Acts 29 Network – removed his church Mars Hill from its roster as a consequence of his continued unrighteous behavior. It is in light of these events that I am writing this essay because they are an important lesson for both lay and clergymen alike.
There is a cost for everything that we do in this world whether we are following God or Satan. While we are told in scripture that the price we pay for following the former is indeed steep, it is nowhere near as high as the one we and the world at large pays when we follow the latter. When that sin is committed by one who is charged with training others in spiritual truth the results are absolutely devastating. To that end twenty-four former elders have bought charges against Mark Driscoll, and have called for him to step down from ministry.
For those of you who are outside of the church bringing charges against an elder is a serious undertaking. A number of Mars Hill defenders have argued that the allegations are little more than a smear campaign being conducted by hateful accusers. Although, for that counter-argument to be true it would require a vast interstate conspiracy. Never mind the fact that Mark himself has admitted to engaging in these behaviors, and has continued to either defend or engage in them unless doing so has negatively affected the Mars Hill brand.
The allegations that the elders have made towards Mark have been documented in all three major media formats (film, radio, and literature), and have been corroborated through the testimonies of independent witnesses and Driscoll himself. This is all in line with the procedure outlined in Matthew 18:15-20 (ESV) for confronting a questionable elder -
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
At this time there are hundreds of witnesses ranging from parishioners to former elders who have provided concrete evidence that Mark has engaged in disqualifying behaviors. In a perfect world this should have led Mark to a season of repentance and restoration. Instead, he fired or shunned those who bought their concerns before him as part of his interpretation of “church discipline”. If their accusations were false then these actions would have been just per scripture. However, there are numerous blogs, essays, books, videos, and op-ed columns written or recorded by Mark where he confirms that he did the things he has been accused of doing and claims it was the will of God.
Spiritual and psychological abuse of elders and parishioners is not the will of God.
Therefore, I am not surprised that Mars Hill is experiencing a season of turmoil because Mark has continued to be stiff-necked and rebellious towards the men and women of God who have tried to lead him out of error. It is a turn of events that has left me saddened and disheartened since through my gift of Discernment I can see how this situation has had a negative effect on both the congregants of Mars Hill and the world we are supposed to be witnessing to. Basically, we Christians have lost more ground to The Enemy insofar as credibility is concerned which brings us back to my original point that the cost of serving The Adversary – either consciously or unconsciously – is far greater than the price we pay serving God.
To that end even though I know there are many who will likely disagree with this post I am writing this entry on Barefoot Christian Faith because God has called me to do so. I do not know why this is my particular lot to occasionally call out high-profile brothers and sisters who have erred, but at the end of the day I have two choices – obey God or obey man. Since you are reading this post I think it is pretty obvious which one I am going with on this one.
When God calls me to write posts such as this I usually spend weeks or even months poring over the evidence bought to my attention while soaking in the spirit. Why? To make sure that whatever I write is of God and not The Enemy, and that my hermeneutics are in order. With that said I would like to be absolutely clear in my intentions for writing this blog -
I do not hold any malice or hatred towards Mark Driscoll whatsoever. Having searched my heart and humbled myself before the Lord in the months leading up to this post I can say with absolute honesty and conviction that my desire is for Mark to be restored and redeemed by our Creator who tells us in 2 Peter 3:9 (ESV) -
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
Therefore I ask each and every one of you to keep Mark Driscoll and his family in intercessory prayer as you feel led by the Holy Spirit per the directive that God has placed in my spirit. For all his flaws and imperfections Mark is still a brother in Christ, and while we cannot and should not enable the disqualifying behaviors listed in this essay we also cannot damn him in order to satisfy the desires of our worldly natures. To that end I ask you to pray for a change in his mind and heart in accordance to however God would will that transformation to occur.
Now that I have clarified my intentions it is time to address the reasons why Mark Driscoll is an example that should be heeded by both clergy and laymen alike. Admittedly, others brothers and sisters have written far more on Mark than we will today, but to put things in perspective we need to travel five years into the past when God first bought Mark to my attention.
In 2009 I had just started on the first leg of my healing journey after being diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). To say that I was in need of spiritual support is an understatement. As part of my treatment my therapist had suggested I reconnect with my faith, and so I spent no small amount of time researching uplifting websites and blogs. Eventually I found myself greeted with numerous articles about Mark Driscoll who on the surface appeared to be a great source of spiritual renewal and growth. After all, he was a strong proponent of many of the things I believed as a Christian, and in no small amount of time I was patronizing the YouTube videos of his sermons on a weekly basis.
Yet, as I sat through his teachings I kept getting an odd feeling in my spirit that something was not quite right. At first I thought it was whatever spirit of rebellion that was still within me after having spent more than a year trying to get as far away from God as humanly possible. Prophesying the death of a close family member atop the loss of my career and a highly-public crap storm was enough to put me through a season of apathy and atheism. I had turned my back on God at a time when I was emotionally and spiritually unstable. Therefore, I was exceedingly vulnerable.
That awareness led to my asking God whether or not the uneasiness I felt was the result of my own restless spirit or something more. After all my main gift is Discernment and there are times where God will not shout but whisper when trying to get my attention. With that in mind I opted to humble myself and see what God would bring my way. Namely, whether or not Mark was someone whom I could entrust with aiding in my spiritual renewal. Within an hour of that prayer this came across my computer screen via a link in one of my news feeds -
“…the mainstream church has turned Jesus into a Richard Simmons, hippie, queer Christ…a neutered and limp-wristed popular Sky Fairy of pop culture that would never talk about sin or send anyone to hell.”
Shocked does not even come close to describing how I felt, but the minute those words sank in I heard the word ‘blasphemy’ loud and clear in my spirit. I also felt an anger I have not felt since the time when I was a kid and my father unwisely decided to curse God. While working on his truck a cloudburst moved in interrupting his work, and being the hot head that he was my father decided to start swearing at God. If that wasn’t bad enough he even went so far as to flip Him off while spewing vitriol. The result was a hail and rainstorm that hammered the neighborhood for more than five hours, and even though I had some sketchy beliefs at the time I knew that what my father had done had angered God. I knew because I felt it, and actually prayed for God to forgive my father for his previous actions which included his refusal to repent for what he had said and done.
The rain stopped less than an hour later, and when I told my father what I had done he turned pale and was quiet for a long time after that. It was one of the few times that I know of where he repented to God for a wrong that he had done. Not only that, it was an experience that left me with a number of unanswered questions atop the ability to discern the righteous and holy anger of the Lord. When I read those words I felt that anger and yet despite that anger I could feel God calling to me pray for Mark while encouraging others to do so.
That was more than five years ago, and during that time I have encouraged people to pray for Driscoll on numerous forums and message boards. I have also watched how God has continued to try to reach Mark over and over again only to be rebuffed. Whenever I have prayed for Mark I have felt in my spirit that whatever has taken a grip on him is part of a deeper stronghold that is firmly entrenched in his identity. It explains why he has continued to engage in disqualifying behaviors, and why God has started exposing them for all the world to see since Mark has been operating in the capacity of a pastor during this time. After all we are told in John 3:20 (ESV) -
“…the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.”
What this means is that when people are engaged in unrighteous behavior they try to conceal those actions either through purposeful misinformation or the disparagement of their critics. Unfortunately, when said individual is operating in the capacity of a teacher the wicked thinks they do will be exposed by God through His righteous people since we are told in Mark 9:42 (ESV) -
“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.”
When praying to God on this matter what was communicated to me in my spirit was that the cries of the children had reached the point where direct intervention was no longer an option it was mandatory.
Per that word from God I am certain that what little we do know is likely only the tip of the iceberg, and that whatever it is that we don’t know was enough for God to take drastic action since His other attempts at intercession had been ignored. In the days following the removal of Mars Hill from the roster of the Acts 29 Network, Mark announced he was taking a six-week sabbatical from teaching while the Board of Advisors and Accountability (BOAA) reviewed the allegations bought forth by the twenty-four elders. During his speech Mark claimed that the events that led to the Acts 29 decision had not been a part of his character for some time, a sentiment echoed by one of the BOAA chairmen.
Unfortunately, this is not true.
Bloggers like Warren Thockmorton have done an excellent job covering the scandals and abuses perpetuated at Mars Hill over the years, and to that end I do not wish to try to write up the entire back story. However, I will provide evidence of some of the actions Mark has engaged in while operating in the capacity of a pastor in order to demonstrate that for the last fourteen years Driscoll has consistently engaged in disqualifying behaviors:
2000 – While operating under the pseudonym William Wallace II on a forum board for his church Driscoll stated:
“We live in a completely pussified nation. We could get every man, real man as opposed to pussified James Dobson knock-off crying Promise Keeping homoerotic worship loving mama’s boy sensitive emasculated neutered exact male replica evangellyfish, and have a conference in a phone booth. It all began with Adam, the first of the pussified nation, who kept his mouth shut and watched everything fall headlong down the slippery slide of hell/feminism when he shut his mouth and listened to his wife who thought Satan was a good theologian when he should have lead her and exercised his delegated authority as king of the planet. As a result, he was cursed for listening to his wife and every man since has been his pussified sit quietly by and watch a nation of men be raised by bitter penis envying burned feministed single mothers who make sure that Johnny grows up to be a very nice woman who sits down to pee.”
“One day Johnny finally gives in to the pressure of his pre-humpers singles ministry and gets stuck with some gal left on the shelf long after her expiration date that is just like dear old mom who wants him to shut up like Adam, take his beating, and join a church men’s group that is really a woman’s group in disguise complete with cookies and crying and antidepressants to cope with the insanity. Poor Johnny is by now so completely whacked that he’s afraid of having kids and hold off his taking on any more responsibility as long as he can because Johnny is a boy trapped in a man’s body walking around in a world of other boys all trying to keep their pee pee behind their zipper and do just like their momma told them and be good women.”
2005 – Out of growing concern for Driscoll fellow pastor and friend Ron Wheeler attempted to address some of the allegations of disqualifying behavior that was being observed by parishioners and staff. According to Wheeler the following day he was treated to verbal and psychological abuse documented in the following account:
“…a phone call from Mark where he used the most obscene vulgar language that I can remember someone using with me. The next day, he sent an e-mail to the other elders, that I had no knowledge about until recently, that can only be defined as wildly inaccurate and slanderous. The current leadership of The Gathering considers much of where things currently stand in leadership to be directly related to Mark’s influence and conduct in the process.
Over the past many years, I have identified and struggled with issues in Mark such as: pride, speech (lack of self-control, sexually vulgar and slanderous, exaggeration that bordered on deception, gossip about others and confidential issues either about others to me, or about myself with others. Confidentiality issues carry legal implications for the church), and an impulsive/reactive spirit. It is because of the confidentiality and distortion of the facts, that I distrust individual communication with Mark, and need the involvement of the Board in these issues.
My frustration is that I have never been silent with Mark or with anyone else about where I stand. It is no secret to the past Acts29 leadership board that I have had frustration in many of these areas, and it ought to be noted by the existing board members that the two former board members have pulled out of leadership, one out of frustration with the conflict between Mark and David, one largely through dealing with conflict brought on by some of these same issues. This is now the second time that issues have gone on record with Mark regarding areas of character in speech and conduct. The fact that Mark is an incredibly talented leader and speaker, cannot in any way substitute for the simple Biblical requirements of being Christ-like, much less the qualifications of being an Elder. I can make a Biblical case from Titus regarding being overbearing, quick-tempered, self-controlled, upright, and holy, as well as 1 Timothy regarding above reproach, self-controlled, respectable, not quarrelsome, and reputation with outsiders.”
Ron Wheeler was fired and then subjected to church discipline through shunning by parishioners and staff.
2007 – Gives a sermon in Scotland where he describes the Song of Solomon as a “sex manual” and recounts the following exchange with a female parishioner:
She [the female parishioner] says, “I’ve never performed oral sex on my husband. I’ve refused to.” I said, “You need to go home and tell your husband that you’ve met Jesus and you’ve been studying the Bible, and that you’re convicted of a terrible sin in your life. And then you need to drop his trousers, and you need to serve your husband. And when he asks why, say, ‘Because I’m a repentant woman. God has changed my heart and I’m supposed to be a biblical wife.” She says, “Really?” I said, “Yeah. First Peter 3 says if your husband is an unbeliever to serve him with deeds of kindness.” How many men would agree, that is a deed of kindness. He doesn’t want tracts. Those won’t do anything. What we’re talking about here could really help.”
2008 – These excerpts are taken from his book “Vintage Jesus”:
“Jesus’ mom was a poor, unwed teenage girl who was mocked for claiming she conceived via the Holy Spirit. Most people thought she concocted a crazy story to cover the ‘fact’ she was knocking boots with some guy in the backseat of a car at the prom.” (p.11)
“Jesus’ humor was often biting and harsh, particularly when directed at the Pharisees. For example, he called them a bag of snakes, said that their moms shagged the Devil, and mocked them for tithing out of their spice racks.” (pp. 40-41)
“Joining them later at the party at Matthew’s house was nothing short of a very bad hip-hop video, complete with women in clear heels, dudes with their pants around their ankles and handguns in their underwear strap, lots of gold teeth, bling, spinners on camels, cheap liquor, and grinding to really loud music with a lot of bass. When word got out to the religious folks, they were perplexed as to how Jesus could roll with such a jacked-up posse. Jesus’ answer was purely priestly. Jesus said that they were sick and needed mercy.” (p.77)
“On the cross as our substitute, Jesus was made to be the worst of what we are. This does not mean that Jesus ever sinned. Rather, it means that he was made sin. As a result, in that moment when Jesus cried out that he had been forsaken by God the Father, Jesus became the most ugly, wicked, defiled, evil, corrupt, rebellious, and hideous thing in all creation. In that moment, Jesus became a homosexual, alcoholic, thief, glutton, addict, pervert, adulterer, coveter, idol worshiper, whore, pedophile, self-righteous religious prig—and whatever else we are.” (p. 114)
2012 – Berated the wife of UK radio host Justin Brierley for operating in the capacity of a pastor and stated:
“I’m not shocked by the answer, by the questions you ask. I love you, but you’re annoying. ‘Cause you’re picking on all the same issues that those who are classically evangelical, kind of liberal, kind of feminist do.”
Driscoll then called Brierley a “coward”, told him to stop “drinking decaf” and get “more courage”.
2013 – Used church funds to have his book Real Marriage promoted to the top spot on the New York Times bestseller list.
2014 – Arrived uninvited at the Strange Fire conference hosted by John MacArthur where he attempted to give out books and other information contradictory to the information being presented. Mark then claimed they were “confiscated” by security who then refuted his statement by citing that no such thing had occurred.
These comments and behaviors are just the tip of the Mark Driscoll iceberg, and they have left me both angered and saddened because of the effect his unrighteous conduct has had on both the church and the people were are called to reach out to. When one considers the cult-like atmosphere of Mars Hill, the first-hand accounts of spiritual manipulation and abuse, and the twisting of scripture to suit unrighteous agendas the cost is staggering. The only thing Mark has done at this point is further the agendas of The Enemy by discrediting God and driving people away from the Kingdom. The Bible tells us in Titus 1:9 (ESV) -
“He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.”
How can this be possible when the pastor in question is playing fast and loose with their theology, while teaching their parishioners that it is okay to visit unrighteous judgment and condemnation on other brothers and sisters who are not in error? God makes it abundantly clear in His scriptures that He holds teachers to a higher standard because they have been charged with the guidance of others who are seeking spiritual truth. In Ephesians 5:1-21 (ESV) we are told that we must be -
“…imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,
“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
It is not glorifying nor representative of God for a pastor to engage in any of the actions Mark has participated in. The opening scripture of this essay is one I live my life by as a teacher of the word here on this blog because I know that God will hold me to a higher standard and a higher level of accountability because I am operating in the capacity of a guide for brothers and sisters who are seeking Him along with sound instruction on the correct way to conduct themselves as followers of Christ.
That. Is. Huge.
2 Timothy 3:16 (ESV) tells me that all scripture is “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness”. Therefore as a teacher of the word it is imperative that I build my teachings on a foundation of stone which is the Word instead of one of sand which is what has happened at Mars Hill. It is imperative that I obey the directive of 2 Titus 1-8 (NIV) -
“You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.”
God can and will hold me accountable for anything I teach on this blog. Especially, if said teachings are contrary to His holy Kingdom and lead brothers and sisters astray by giving them a stone for bread. Therefore, before anything is posted here on BCF I make sure it is right with God because I could think it all right, but if I ignore that check in my spirit or sense of uneasiness then I have written something that is both contradictory and in direct disobedience to God who willed for something entirely different to hit the internet. That is not a position I ever want to find myself in. Yet, if the Bible is so clear on how we who teach the Word should conduct ourselves then how did we get to this point in the first place?
Earlier, I stated that God has tried repeatedly to stop Mark before things got further out of hand and that is true. Nearly a year ago when discussing the antics of Mark with my brother-in-law Phil, (a very wise brother in the Lord I might add), he commented that it was the job of the elders who were in a relationship with Mark, to come alongside and correct him if he was in error which is true. Per the guidelines of Matthew 18:15-20, before it reaches the point to where the church (parishioners) have to speak out against a questionable leader the elders are the ones who are supposed to do that first.
This occurred in 2007 when the elders of Mars Hill began to notice that Mark was engaging in more and more ungodly behaviors that were affecting the atmosphere and overall mission of the church. 2 Timothy 2:15 tells us that teachers are to present themselves to God as “one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” When it became clear that Mark was being stiff-necked and resistant to the cloak of humility that teachers must don while guiding others Paul Petry, Leif Moi, Ron Wheeler, and others came alongside and tried to guide and counsel Mark who at that time had consolidated all executive power to himself in such a way as to remove himself from the authority of the governing board through a revision of the bylaws.
Yes, that happened.
(Note: I would like to mention that I as of August of 2014 I have become acquainted with Paul Petry via Facebook and have found him to be of good character per 1 Timothy 5:17 which states that elders who rule well should be “considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching”. I have observed no disqualifying behaviors from Paul and like myself he has called for prayer and restoration for Mark, not condemnation or persecution. This observation holds true for the other elders as well.)
Concerned, the elders tried to address this matter with Mark. The result was the termination and shunning of said elders. Rather than submit himself to their guidance he instead launched on a campaign of slander and bullying that it still coming to light as more and more former staff members break their silence. Recently, in light of the latest scandals nine more elders came forward and through a letter requested that Mark step down from leadership, and submit himself to a season of repentance and restoration as overseen by the governing body.
Those elders have since been either laid off or fired.
Given the numerous testimonies that have been coming to light it is safe to say that there are more than three witnesses to the unrighteous conduct of Mark and his supporters at Mars Hill. When considering all of this information from the last several months I now understand something God quickened to me last year when was revealed that Mark had used church funds to pay a marketing company $200,000 to get his book Real Marriage into the top spot of the New York Times best seller list.
Back then supporters spurned the revelation claiming it was simply “judgment” and “slander”, and to that end I realize that some of you might not agree with this post because you either identify or agree with Mark. Yet, if that favor leads you to ignore the wise counsel of brothers and sisters who are citing objective evidence that is doubly backed by biblical precedent then that favor has evolved into idolatry which is a disservice to both you the follower and the leader in error. Enabling a leader who is in sin is to give both them and their followers a stone for bread. It protects them from the consequences of their actions while opening them and their congregation to further use and abuse by The Enemy. This in turn discredits the church and drives people away from the Kingdom of God.
In the last month it has been revealed that Mars Hill has been disingenuous about its profits and their use by the governing board. In August when the Acts 29 Network, the organization Mark originally founded to plant churches, removed Mars Hill from their network they issued a memo stating -
“Over the past three years, our board and network have been the recipients of countless shots and dozens of fires directly linked to you and what we consider ungodly and disqualifying behavior. We have both publicly and internally tried to support and give you the benefit of the doubt, even when multiple pastors in our network confirmed this behavior. In response, we leaned on the Mars Hill Board of Advisors & Accountability to take the lead in dealing with this matter. But we no longer believe the BoAA is able to execute the plan of reconciliation originally laid out. Ample time has been given for repentance, change, and restitution, with none forthcoming.
We now have to take another course of action. Based on the totality of the circumstances, we are now asking you to please step down from ministry for an extended time and seek help. Consequently, we also feel that we have no alternative but to remove you and Mars Hill from membership in Acts 29. Because you are the founder of Acts 29 and a member, we are naturally associated with you and feel that this association discredits the network and is a major distraction.”
Mars Hill chairman Larry Osborne responded to this decision by issuing a memo that contradicted the claims laid out in the letter sent by Acts 29 regarding their decision to remove them from their roster -
“I told the lead pastors at the recent annual retreat that we are making real progress in addressing the serious reconciliation and unhealthy culture issues that have been a part of Mars Hill Church for way too long. And we are. I also told them that more opposition would undoubtedly be coming, and it has. Friendly fire always hurts the most.
I have never in my life spoken with Matt Chandler or any of the A29 board members for that matter (except Darrin Patrick, once about 4 years ago as part of Pastor Mark’s employment review process which he used to be a part of). In addition, no one from Acts 29 contacted Larry Osborne of our board prior to this decision. And perhaps most significantly, Pastor Mark was not personally contacted by the A29 board prior to receiving this announcement.
So I am not quite sure what Matt means by “leaning on the board to take the lead in dealing with this matter.”
Be assured of this, the formal charges that were filed were serious, were taken seriously and were not dismissed by the board lightly. There is clear evidence that the attitudes and behaviors attributed to Mark in the charges are not a part and have not been a part of Mark’s life for some time now.”
Unfortunately, this has been revealed to be untrue since Ron Wheeler was in contact with Acts 29 as early as 2005 when he was being assailed by Mark for addressing the same concerns the other elders have had about his conduct. Plus, there is contradictory evidence from the last fourteen years where Driscoll has engaged in unrighteous conduct atop using perverse and crude language in his sermons. I have personally watched or read the transcripts for the videos where he mocks scripture and the men and women of God therein. In one he referred to Noah as -
“…a guy with blue tarbs, a guy in swim trunks and cowboy boots, drunk on moonshine with a John Deer cap, sitting around playing Texas Hold ‘Em with his uncle daddy, eating hot pockets.”
According to Driscoll the man who found favor in the eyes of a God who was ready to destroy all of humanity was part of a “redneck hillbilly saga”. This rhetoric is not an anomaly since Driscoll has also referred to Gideon as a “coward with an empty colon”, made pornographic comments based on his interpretation of the Song of Solomon, and told women to perform sexual acts on their husbands as a form of “worship”. While Mark has tried to downplay these antics as being part of his “younger” days the problem with that claim is that some of these behaviors have been a large part of his older ones as well.
Hebrews 4:12 (ESV) tells us that the word of God is “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” While we do not know whether or not Mark is a deceiver or deceived we do know that he is a brother in the Lord, and in is desperate need of restoration and intercessory prayer for both himself and his family. We also know that he is not qualified, per scripture, to teach the word of God. Referring back to the opening scripture for this essay we are told in James 3:1-2 (ESV) -
“Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.”
Mark has been stumbling for over twenty years. Although he has stated that he felt God call him to be a pastor and plant churches that does not necessarily mean He meant for him to do it from the pulpit. God called me many years ago through prophecy that I would be a teacher “not just in the classroom but of the word.” Back then I had NO idea what that would even look like other than the obvious which was me behind a podium with a collar on my neck. Hence the reason I laughed a number of very patient brothers and sisters right out-of-town because if there was anyone who was aware of their lack of qualifications for such a calling it was me.
Ten years later I am teaching the word on a Christian blog in fulfillment of that prophecy.
Mark may have been called to do the things he claims that God called him to do, but given the outcome one must ask was this the method in which he was supposed to do it? We just don’t know. However, it is a prime example of the reason why we need to let God lead us on these matters instead of assuming we know what God wants us to do. Hagar and Ishmael is a testament to what happens when we do the latter, and if I had opted to go into seminary I do not believe I would have been doing so in accordance with how God would have willed me to teach. I would have been trying to do His will, but I would have been trying to fulfill it on my terms instead of His. It also means I would be opening myself to situations that would leave me vulnerable both spiritually and psychologically. This might be what is happening with Mark who appears to have issues with power, control, insecurity, and a host other frailties that we can only guess at.
Another lesson we can take from the situation involving Mars Hill is the importance of basing our identities on Christ and not on the person leading us to him. This is why the implosion at Mars Hill is so devastating because followers have tied up their concept of who they are as a Christian in the organization. One of the things I am grateful for at Riverside Community Church is a body of leaders who get this oft-overlooked principle. Pastor Ed has no qualms about telling people to look to Jesus instead of him just as Jesus used to tell his followers in John 5:19 (NIV) -
“Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”
If we are made in the image of the living God then it stands to reason that we should compare ourselves to Jesus who was the perfect incarnation and image of that God, and lived out the culture, practices, and customs of the holy Kingdom of that God. Therefore, we should strive to be more like Jesus in order to better fulfill that image and not more like Joel Osteen or Mark Driscoll. I even say this to you as a reader of this blog. I am not a great person. I have flaws and will likely get things wrong and make mistakes just like any human being. Thus, my instruction to you is not to try to be like me but like Jesus.
If I am indeed operating under the will and providence of my father then He should be able to use me to properly instruct you on how to become more and more like Christ who was the perfect incarnation of Him and His image. That is who you should try to be like more than anything else. I am just a guide. No more and no less. Paul echoes this sentiment while warning us of the dangers of throwing our loyalties and identities in with a particular leader in 1 Corinthians 3:1-23 (NLT) -
“Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in Christ. I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready, for you are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren’t you living like people of the world? When one of you says, “I am a follower of Paul,” and another says, “I follow Apollos,” aren’t you acting just like people of the world?
After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work. For we are both God’s workers. And you are God’s field. You are God’s building.
Because of God’s grace to me, I have laid the foundation like an expert builder. Now others are building on it. But whoever is building on this foundation must be very careful. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ.
Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames.
Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.
Stop deceiving yourselves. If you think you are wise by this world’s standards, you need to become a fool to be truly wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. As the Scriptures say,
“He traps the wise
in the snare of their own cleverness.”
“The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise;
he knows they are worthless.”
So don’t boast about following a particular human leader. For everything belongs to you— whether Paul or Apollos or Peter, or the world, or life and death, or the present and the future. Everything belongs to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.”
Another lesson we can take from this is the importance of community when addressing a disqualified leader. While we do indeed need to call Mark out and use this experience to train other brothers and sisters to recognize this particular trap we must also pray for the entrapped. As I said before we do not know if Mark is a deceiver or deceived. We only know that he was and is wrong and that God is personally addressing the matter due to how outlandish his actions have become. God is ultimately our provider and protector and while this season of turmoil is unpleasant for Mars Hill we can take comfort in the fact that God is intervening ultimately for the benefit of both Mark and those who follow him.
God does not wish for any of us – secular or religious – to perish and in hindsight has been trying to reach Mark. He first tried through strong brothers and sisters who were ostracized and shunned. The collapse of Mars Hill is God again trying to reach Mark while protecting His children who do not know they are being given stones for bread, and if God is calling for prayer for Mark then clearly despite all Mark has done does not wish him to be eternal kindling. Whatever God is doing we do not know the whole extent, but if He wants us to pray then we should pray. Hardening our own hearts and giving in to the ways of anger and retribution – while satisfying to the sinful sides of our human natures – will only make us vulnerable to The Enemy. For better or for worse Mark is one of our brothers and given his antics he is in desperate need of God. After all Jesus himself said he came for the sick not the healthy folk.
This then leads us to the third lesson which is best summarized in the scripture I mentioned earlier from 2 Timothy 3:16 which states that “all scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” The reason why Mark is so popular is because the congregants are simply hearing what they want to hear not what they need to hear, and to add insult to injury they are being kept in a state of immature faith which prevents them (for the most part) from discerning between the two. For those who are able to grow and see courtesy of the Holy Spirit the consequence of such wisdom is being shunned and ostracized by the very church they once considered their spiritual home.
This is right in line with scripture which tells us that the Kingdom of God and The Establishment* are natural enemies of one another. Excessive swearing, perverse and licentious speech, and everything else Mark has done is popular with the world because it comes from – you guessed it – the world. The issue is that God never tells anyone what they want to hear. Rather, He tells them what they need to hear and sometimes those things are not pleasant. I know this from first-hand experience where I have had to get down on either my literal or metaphorical knees and submit myself to the instruction and correction of God. Not only that I had to consciously choose to be open to that information because there was a large part of me that did NOT want to hear anything except that which would agree with what I already believed.
Honestly, it was a hardcore experience, but as much as it troubled me to willingly abandon my desire to simply seek out information that would reinforce what I already thought I knew in hindsight I would do it all over again and continue to do so because it has led me to a stronger faith atop a deeper and more intimate relationship with God that is backed with actual knowledge and truth instead of the counterfeit version so popular with The Enemy. It also means that I now understand that when one engages in the actions that Mark has used in order to become so wildly popular they have effectively compromised the gospel.
I truly believe in my heart of hearts that this blog will reach whomever God wishes it to reach. I don’t need the bells and whistles and all the ricketa-racketa that comes with your typical online personality. I am perfectly okay with hits and followers in the hundreds because if God wills for Barefoot Christian Faith to become more popular or reach a wider audience then He will open the doors to do so. In the meantime, I am not going to stoop to using worldly means in order to open those doors because the one rewarding those efforts will not be God but The Enemy. We Christians need to get the thought out of our minds that simply because someone is a “celebrity” within the faith that they are somehow blessed by God.
While that is indeed possible one must test those fruits far more stringently than they would otherwise because we know from scripture that The Enemy can elevate people within the faith as well in order to lead brothers and sisters astray. There are reasons we are told to guard our minds and hearts while testing everything, and the blowup at Mars Hill is one of them. Admittedly, there are Christians who are “popular” or “famous” but they are popular and famous in a way that is different from that of the world. Some of these folks aren’t even widely known.
Given the fact that God has began speaking through His prophets that we are living in an Age of Confusion the need for proper Discernment regarding leaders in the church is at an all time high. Long before the Mars Hill debacle I began hearing God speak that He was withdrawing His intercessory spirit insofar as it relates to redeeming heretical doctrines and tolerating their carnal perpetrators. When I questioned further what was communicated into my spirit was anger. Not the human anger that I or any other being would expect, but a long-simmering anger unlike anything that I have ever felt before. It is quickly reaching the point where God will no longer sit back and tolerate polluted teachings and heresies within His church. I have no qualms or checks in my spirit when I write that God is no longer in the mood for these shenanigans and it is starting to show with the deposition of these charlatans. People whom the rest of us have cried out to God for years on behalf of our brothers and sisters who have become drunk on their teachings unaware that they have been given a stone for bread.
Therefore, I ask you to please test everything to make sure it is good and true. Make sure that the leader you have submitted yourself to is of good character and teaching sound doctrine, and if they are not find a good church that is while keeping your previous pastor and fellow congregants in prayer. I sincerely hope that Mark comes through this season of turmoil repentant and restored to the narrow path laid out before us by God. We serve a merciful Lord who wishes that none of us should perish and as one who is created in that image my wish is the same.
Peace be with you.
*The Establishment is the Kingdom of Satan as it manifests in our world.