Mark Driscoll, Church Leadership, and Bad Hermeneutics

As my readers know, I have been openly critical of Mark Driscoll in the past. This started before Mars Hill imploded, but has found its focus on Mark’s behavior and return to ministry over the last year. Yesterday Mark announced that he will be starting a new congregation in Phoenix within the year (and “God willing” within the early part of the year).

As I posted in November, Mark’s engagement at the Most Excellent Way to Lead conference, and a post on his website explaining that God is a Green Light God, seemed to be signalling that his return was coming soon. In December I noted that the revelation of incorporation documents for the Trinity Church in Phoenix was right on schedule. While it seems I was a little off in my prediction for when he would announce (I said it would be at the aforementioned conference) it seems that my prediction was pretty much on target.

Timeline

I want to start with a brief timeline for your consideration.

October 2014

  • The elders at Mars Hill Church find Mark to be guilty of leading in a way that was prideful, angry, and domineering.  They stated that “In I Tim 5:20, it requires that an elder be rebuked for persistent sin. Our intention was to do this while providing a plan for his eventual restoration to leadership.”[1] It is clear that the intention was to place Mark under church discipline and to restore him to leadership upon reconciliation
  • Mark and Grace (his wife) receive a private revelation from the Holy Spirit which releases them from the obligation to be disciplined by the local church, and they claim that this revelation included the fact that a trap had been set. While it is unclear who this trap was set by, the context of the conversation seems to imply the elders as the agents of this trap.
  • Mark resigns from MHC, begins to hold church services in his home for his family, and attends the Gateway conference, hosted by Robert Morris, a week later. During this conference he delivers a short address where he claims to have been the victim of violence (a claim that has not been substantiated despite purportedly filing several police reports). He also receives a “prophecy” from Jimmy Evans in which it is said that Mark would again be a leader in the church and fill a more fatherly role, where he had previously been more of a brother.

July 2015

February 2016

  • The Trinity Church website goes live. Among the curious things on the website is the statement that “Prior to moving, the Driscolls spent months scouting the valley and meeting with dozens of local pastors who were warm and welcoming.” In addition, Mark will be joined by two former MHC staffers, and among his Governing Board is Robert Morris, and Jimmy Evans. The site also lists several prominent figures who serve on his prayer team (which includes to my surprise and dismay… Wayne Grudem It appears that Dr Grudem’s name has been removed from this list, without any explanation of why), which is basically just a list of endorsements.

 

At the Feet of Gamaliel

Brian Orme.jpgRecently, Brian Orme, who is the founding editor of ChurchLeaders.com and Faithit.com, posted detailing some of the same things I just have. However, he takes a different approach and perspective on it. Broadly supportive, Brian turns to the Scriptures toward the end of the article to support his benevolence toward Mark and the Trinity Church. Or does he…

Lets see what he has to say:

However, in the words of Gamaliel, when forced to decide about the legitimacy of Peter and the Apostles’ ministry, maybe, just maybe, we should leave it alone?

“So my advice is, leave these men alone. Let them go. If they are planning and doing these things merely on their own, it will soon be overthrown. But if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You may even find yourselves fighting against God!” (Acts 5: 38-40 NLT)

Brian, it seems, has decided that we should take Gamaliel’s words here and treat them as though they are prescriptive. While this is a classic mistake that people make, it is deeply concerning to me. Not only is this the mistake of confusing description for prescriptive, but it is also plucking the text conveniently out of context… and even misattributes the passage.

Gamaliel and his peers did not simply leave it alone. In verse 40, which Orme cites but does not quote, the council had the apostles beaten, ordered them not to speak the name of Jesus, and then released. So if we REALLY follow the pattern here, it would result in us telling Mark not to preach, and beating him. What Orme has done here is a grossly irresponsible twisting of God’s word, and he ought to be ashamed of himself for having published it.

However, rather than take the advice of someone who is hostile to the faith, perhaps we should take the advice of Gamaliel’s most famous disciple. You may recognize him… his name is Paul.

Writing to Titus about the characteristics of the ones that Titus would appoint as overseers of God’s church:

if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sounddoctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. (Titus 1:6-9, ESV)

He gives Timothy the same basic directions:

Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable,able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. (1 Timothy 3:2-7, ESV)

So my question for Brian Orme would be this: Who should we listen to?

Should we assess Mark based on the criteria that Paul gave us under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit? Or should we follow the advice and example, sort of, of Gamaliel… a Jewish leader hostile to the Gospel and ministry of the Apostles?

I think the answer is obvious. Mark was found to be guilty of pride, arrogance, anger, and domineering leadership by the overseers that he appointed as an authority over MHC. When they confronted him on this, rather than submit and be disciplined, he fled to the “care” of heretics and wolves. Whether Mark himself is a wolf, or just a very confused and lost sheep, is yet to be seen. But the men he has aligned himself with and consider wise council (specifically Evans and Morris, I know nothing about the other two men listed) are deeply involved with the Word of Faith heresy and the Prosperity gospel.

We don’t do Mark, Grace, his children, or the other two men and their families who have followed him, any good by tacitly approving of this venture. We do not show them love when we fail to point out the danger that he is placing them all in spiritually.


 

[1] This is part of a formal statement delivered at the Sammamish MHC location which can be read in full at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/2014/10/19/mars-hill-church-board-of-elders-mark-driscoll-resigned-instead-of-enter-restoration-plan-to-deal/

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