Elder Smackdown

Here is a link to a short video of Mark Driscoll sharing some thoughts about (former) members of his leadership team. Embedding was disabled, so take a minute to follow the link. I don’t know what is going on at Mars Hills, so I won’t comment on it.

In our situation, there were similar circumstances of rewritten bylaws, fortifying control, accusations of disrespect, firings cloaked as resignations, squelching of questions, threats not to gossip, insinuation of guilt, shunning of those in question, and an abundance of disinformation and guarded information. Of course, in our situation, what smelled like a rat turned out to really be a rat.

I have not written much about spiritual abuse on this blog. My old blog still has steady daily traffic, much of it directed to the spiritual abuse articles. The posts that I wrote at that time are linked on my *Recommended* page at this blog. While I feel like I have personally moved on from there, I cannot help but be drawn back to the importance of the issue by the many personal emails I still get from people when they run across these articles. It isn’t that the articles contain answers, but that when people read them, they realize that others have gone through and put into words something they are currently experiencing.

I posted awhile back about a spiritual abuse survey that Barb Orlowski was conducting of both victims and pastors for her doctoral research. If any of you would like to participate in her survey, you can use the email from that post.
A Winnipeg paper recently wrote an article about her study.

I may be absent for a bit while I try to remove the tax millstone from my neck. Apparently I am not the only one. Hopefully I will break free soon.

In the meantime, if you want to, you can go to the comment section of the Unbelievable! post and explain to Gary why God is more real than a unicorn.
Be nice!


22 thoughts on “Elder Smackdown

  1. This whole youtube thing smells. No embedding, comments turned off, and less than one one minute of a Driscoll sermon. And anyone who knows a Driscoll sermon knows they are over an hour. Also, no proof in the video of the claims made. The claims may be true, but come on, this is soundbite garbage. You are way too thoughtful to be posting this junk…

  2. It’s true. You can see the entire video at media.marshillchurch.org. It’s the Nehemiah sermon from Sept. 30, 2007. The 2 elders in question were fired that weekend and announced to the congregation on Oct. 2, 2007.

  3. Mark Driscoll has his fair share of detractors. And yes, the ‘cherry-picked’ element leaves one wondering what the real story is…

    I am waiting for a more objective review & fill-in from a woman that actually attends Mars Hill. I will include anything I find out here also…

  4. Rich,
    Aw come’on, I’m not that thoughtful. As I said, I don’t know the validity of claims made on either side. There will likely be casualties no matter how this is resolved. The more secrecy, control, and arrogance there is, the worse it will be.

    Concerning the soundbite, out of the heart the mouth speaks. My personal opinion is that the words from this clip should not come from the lips of any leader concerning other elders on his team. They portray an arrogant disregard for the other person and evidence of unresolved conflict that should be dealt with directly with the persons involved.

    Admittedly, I am biased. The rest of the sermon is of no concern to me.

  5. Grace,

    Agreed. No one should let those words come out of their mouth. They are evidence of a problem with truthfulness and trust which prevent the speaking of truth in love.

    If you have a problem with someone, you have to go to them and work it out. And if you don’t, then the situation will always be dirty…and that’s not good for the Bride.

    But I’ll stop there…I’ve processed my stuff in lots of ways, including responding to Barb’s survey, so I’m not going to go there today.

  6. grace,

    gotta be careful with bias in the kingdom.

    from all i know of mark driscoll, and not all of it comes from blogs, conferences, or any other source outside the church, says that he is not a power hungry, keep the people under his thumb, kind of pastor. he is not without fault, but he is also not without accountability. that’s why it’s a little tough to lump this in with abuse.

    should he have said what he said? probably not. but there are other ‘leaders’ out there that get to say what is on their mind with a free pass. they may say it kinder and gentler, but they cut just as hard and just as deep and do great damage themselves.

    for all of you that loath mark so, i wish you’d not hide behind anonymous blogs, where you yourself have no accountability, and would at the very least ‘man up’ (sorry, i couldn’t resist and find the humor in a mark-ism there. just laugh) and really put yourself on the line like he does every time he speaks.

  7. I’m not anonymous and Mark is more than welcome to talk to me any time he wants :) I’ll even talk to him in person. In fact, I might even pay half the air fare to fly there.

    I think if this were a one time thing for MD I would let it slide, but it’s not so I can’t.

    Clearly no love lost on my end for MD but I do feel a little sorry for him, after all, listen to the laughs, he clearly has lots of support so maybe it’s a surprise to him that so many people see him as abusive. I dunno, I’m just trying to empathize.

    I’m a leader who has fracked up on several occasions I’m sure so I’d like to extend to him the same grace others extend to me but he’s just too damn visible and he pulls this stuff far too much. I think we owe it to people to call leaders to the mat for this sort of behavior, especially when they choose to live by a rule of leadership that is so power dominated.

    oh, and grace isn’t anonymous either.

  8. oh and Rich, you’re making way too many assumptions in your comment – many of us are leaders who do have “accountability” and do “man up” and are “visible”

  9. Grace,

    I take it that brother Mark Driscoll is a celebrity of some sort? But this is certainly nothing new in church ‘leadership’.

    You said

    In our situation, there were similar circumstances of rewritten bylaws, fortifying control, accusations of disrespect, firings cloaked as resignations, squelching of questions, threats not to gossip, insinuation of guilt, shunning of those in question, and an abundance of disinformation and guarded information. Of course, in our situation, what smelled like a rat turned out to really be a rat. There are still a handful of people who have sworn their allegiance to said rat, hoping to be included in his inner circle of power.

    My, oh my…having run the gamut of denominations (and their characteristic political styles) I have seen that played over and over and over. We all have, right?

    That’s why it’s so humbling and heartening to see the modern-day revival and reformation in the Church, all round the world; the fact that right now, Christianity in general is more robust than ever before, praise be to God.

    It should be humbling enough to me as an Americans, to drive me onto my face before God, who shows grace to me and to my nation, after what we have been, and done for so long.

    After all, aren’t the political and theatrical games that I criticise in the ‘Christian industry’, just a reflection of the games that I myself have played with a holy and righteous God?

    Why yes…they are. My heart is just as perverse in spirit, most of the day long, and on most days, as the religious careerist that I like to poke fun at.

    Christ always had the same answer for us sinners: “Repent, and sin no more.” Oh, now if I can just leave off my voyeuristic blogging about the ills of ‘Christendom’ long enough to repent my own sins, I believe I would be most blessed!

  10. True. Mark Driscoll very postmodern in his approach, but very, bery conservative theologically speaking…

    Has a heart for youth & can be ‘unchurchy’ in practice, but still is very orthodox & Protestantly traditional in viewing scripture. He is not emergent or even emerging however loosely such terms are casually flung about. Rob Bell is definitely not in the same category.

    Driscoll takes flak for his conservative orthodox stance. Not at all wanting to challenge the traditional status quo. But his heart is in reaching young people that do not find much attractive in the so-called institutional church setting…

    The pastor of a small church I attend takes comfort in Driscoll’s conservative stance while incorporating a postmodern look or feel into his fellowship group/community. A strong view of historical/orthodox theology helps minimize the disconcerting postmodern whiplash that can be challenging to those not wanting to deconstruct down to the church’s very foundations.

    Driscoll is not ‘hip’ to women in roles of leadership or ministry positions over men. Just his brand of theological lenses he chooses to interpret scripture through. I think the term ‘complementarian’ has been bantered about in other threads, but yes, women that attend his church are not invited to participate in leadership positions on par with their male brethren. And that one issue has been the topic of heated contention on other blogs & message forums I have frequented. But from outside perspectives looking in. I do not know of any internal discontent that has arisen from his viewpoints & how he deals with controversial issues…

  11. you know Joseph, that all sounds really nice but here’s the thing. Just like MD insists on calling men to task for being “pansies” and “limp wristed” (an insulting reference to gay men), I insist on calling MD to task for those very same words and behaviors.

    So yeah, I’m totally cool with MD doing whatever he damn well pleases BUT, I will not back down from speaking out for justice and love and if that means calling his “brand of Christian” to task then so be it.

    I believe the phrase is “if you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen?” Well, if Mark is going to be a self proclaimed street fighter turned preacher then he better be willing to accept some harsh rebuke.

    Now, having said that, I really don’t care about MD much anymore, I find him old and boring and really tiring. And he’s not my pastor or ex pastor…BUT , there ARE people who have suffered under his leadership and they need to be allowed to give voice to their experiences. No spiritual leader should be exempt from that – – and this is coming from someone who has been the leader who someone felt the need to badmouth a bit .. I’ve been on both sides.

  12. “Has a heart for youth & can be ‘unchurchy’ in practice, but still is very orthodox & Protestantly traditional in viewing scripture. He is not emergent or even emerging however loosely such terms are casually flung about.”

    I’m thinking he is moving away from such a category, but there seems to be good reason to think that Driscoll has included himself within the emerging movement, at least until recently. Robert Webber edited a very, very great book called Listening to the Beliefs of the Emerging churches, in which five “emerging” leaders were invited to each write an essay on their beliefs, and each essay was followed by a short response from the other four. Mark Driscoll was one of these leaders.

    The book shows the spectrum and thought on key topics. Most interesting to me was the contrast between Dan Kimball and Mark Driscoll. Kimball, it sure seems, has just as much theological respect for Scripture, and to me it seems he is even better at taking Scripture as a holistic source and guide, rather than a club or tool.

    Scripture is the absolute foundation of my writing and I would even argue my high view of Scripture is the reason why I’ve increasingly aligned with the emerging movement. I have so high a view of it in fact that’s precisely why I’ve become fed up with a lot of folks who wave the Bible and use their favorite verses, but betray their beliefs in inerrancy by ignoring, dismissing, or discounting aspects that don’t fit into their own established theological stances. They have a canon within the canon, even as they throw a lot of verses around which makes it look like they are more Biblically minded.

  13. Mak: Points taken. I am neither fan nor critic of Driscoll’s praxis. He has been successful (not in a bad way) with the ministry efforts he has pioneered. I don’t think I would be part of his church(es) though. Simply because the structure he has adapted seems contrary to a more interactive one. It has outgrown the smaller venue I tend to appreciate. I like the small fellowship model with access to everyone that is part of the group.

    Driscoll seems elevated above the rabble he so successfully appeals to. And the one lady I wanted to get some insight into what was going on there said this (paraphrased): she does have some behind the scenes info on what happened, but feels it’s not cool to discuss it in an open forum out of respect for the pastors that were terminated & out of respect for their church during a traumatic season. She says Mark did not fire anyone. The decision was voted on by the entire elder board which she claims was virtually unanimous. She appreciated the men who were terminated, however, after carefully examining the entire situation, she feels comfortable with the decision that the leadership made.

    So, from a regular attendee & loyal supporter of her pastor, the issues were not as seriously divisive as what looking from the outside in may have perceived.

    Driscoll is verbally crude at times. Comes off as disrespectful to some. Is outspoken & can be abrasive. I don’t excuse such tactics nor do I condemn him either. And if those of pastoral function feel they need to hold him accountable, I would be interested in witnessing how that could be accomplished in a godly manner.

    Patrick: I have read some of Driscoll’s stuff (The Radical Reformission) & perceived in them a resistance to be labeled ’emergent’ or ’emerging’ in faith & practice. Definitely addresses a postmodern setting where he elects to minister. Can be candid & even funny in his anecdotes. Addresses much of the angst youth have with traditional, institutional church methodology. He is controversial. But he has stated he is not part of the emergent dynamic. He is a good example of choreographing a postmodern look in the way he does church, but he is nowhere near challenging traditional orthodoxy & how to pattern church from a different theological understanding.

    I do admire him though. Not as a point man for the new thing happening in churches today, but for being committed, of strong conviction, making a difference in people’s lives & representing a theologically conservative model adapted to a postmodern milieu. I do believe he is still learning, that he loves Jesus & is genuinely interested in people’s spiritual condition. I will remain neutral about the man, but do enjoy the discussion of what it is that does cause other people to cringe whenever he opens his mouth…

  14. grace,

    I think that you’re recognizing the difference between the church as an organization/institution and the church as people of God. While I have not looked into these particular situation, Driscoll himself wrote about similar instances in one of his books. A pastor was “fired” because he didn’t fit the new model they were using. In the organization, people are expendable. In the church, I think people are to be highly valued. This is the difference that I think you are observing.


  15. By the way, the above comment was not meant as a disparagement to Mark Driscoll. I do not know him, but I believe he is very sincere in his beliefs and is a brother in Christ. I think his understanding of the church leads him and others (plenty of others) to make decisions that hurt people – not because they want to hurt people, but because their first priority is to expand/protect the organization.


  16. Joseph – again, that all sounds very nice, but I maintain that there are MANY MANY people who would disagree with this “witness” and you can’t just poo-poo their experiences, it’s disrespectful. Not to mention that I have many concerns about MD, not the least of which is his obsession with homosexuality and using it in disparaging ways to drive points home and his obsession with sex – and frequency of it. Now, again, I really don’t care about the guy except that I feel a certain responsibility to point out where I believe he is in error (just like MacArthur feels the need to point out where my emergent friends are in error) and warn people away form him and his teachings.

    I’m all for being bold and strong and even crass – – but he does it in a way that is often personally hurtful and I cannot abide that sort of public pulpit behavior.

  17. oh and to be clear, this is a godly justice issue in my mind. He is very rigid on his ideas about women and “weak men “( basically any man who isn’t a bad ass) and homosexuals. I believe we are called to a position of justice and if that means opposing someone like MD then that’s what it means. Again, I pretty much ignore him now a days but sometimes it cannot be helped

  18. Mak: Just what are the hurts that current or even ex-members of Driscoll’s churches claim to have suffered?

    My only direct contact has nothing by glowing reports for him & the manner which Mars Hill is run. I know he has been the target of more pointed criticism, but I cannot remain objective if I simply concentrate on the bad press any highly visible pastor type gets…

    I don’t doubt your assesment based on your own strong convictions. Driscoll is not above reproach, but how can a godly confrontation be setup?

    Within the many streams of Protestant expressions there is no magisterium. Each pastor equally convinced their interpretation of scripture & its application the ‘clear rendering of Holy Writ.’ He has a form of accountability, but it is within the confines of the structure he built up and/or associates with. We may feel indignant, offended, embarrassed, etc. but how would a corrective arrangement be organized?

    He can be contacted directly. I have no reason to attempt to do so, but you could. He may have reasons for what he does that make sense to him, but then he could be willing to enter into discussions with others that aren’t out to vilify him. It is easier to be open to correction when someone actually cares or is willing to invest in personal interaction.

    But yes, I do understand your point. MacArthur is rigid in his theological perspectives that leave no doubt in his fan’s minds that anything emergent is ‘of the devil’. He is that way about anything charismatic or concerning spiritual gifts. His reformist/Calvinist zeal tiring IMHO. But he is very intelligent, scholarly, disciplined & another brother with deep conviction. I do not hold him up to my standard of Christian decorum. I do not listen to his perspectives. But he is not going to answer to me on Judgment Day either or be measured by my concept of good/bad.

    I would like to think iron-sharpens-iron a noble goal if only that sharpening resulted in rough spots being rubbed smooth, not ‘points’ being made more pointed. How would you go about talking to Driscoll if you had the opportunity?

  19. Patrick:

    They have a very interesting journey where they were together, paths seperated, and have intersected a few times. That could be a book in all of itself.


    It continues to make me sick in the stomache, the more and more I hear about abuse and spiritual authority going over the top. I think that they have really missed the element of grace and seeing the challenges and the life that Jesus lived and called us to follow.

    However, I think that comes from their misunderstanding of why Jesus came to earth.

  20. Mt 9:17 “Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”

    These guys want the “new wine” – but they are unwilling to abandon the “old wineskin” of traditional “pastoral” offices and engaging in power brokering. Nehemiah may have been a power broker. Jesus said – don’t be power brokers. (Matt 20″26 and Mark 10:43)

    The You Tube video is a picture of “old wineskins” bursting. Too bad about the “emerging wine” – lot of good things in there.

  21. Good comments and input.

    You are right RPV, Rob Bell is nothing like Mark Driscoll.

    I am not in a position to judge Mark’s life, ministry, or this particular controversy at Mars Hill.

    I can say that the sarcastic jab is the tool of bullies, and when it is directed to subordinates, it is abuse. If he made the same comments about his wife, I would hope we wouldn’t just be shrugging it off as a Markism.

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