To no one’s surprise, there has been great public discourse surrounding Mark Driscoll’s announcement on Sunday of his temporary absence from Mars Hill and public speaking. Much analysis has been given the words he actually said. I don’t want to focus on that here, except to say that, once again, I note worldly sorrow as opposed to godly sorrow in his words. Godly sorrow leads to repentance, and authentic repentance reflects sincere concern about how your sin affected the one you sinned against. Mark’s words were completely lacking in any concern about the specific people he has sinned against (though he said much about himself and his general love for the larger church). However, I trust that this season of reflection will help him grow in awareness of exactly how he has harmed specific individuals, and I am hopeful that sincere confession and repentance will take place.
Instead of focusing on what Mark said, I’d like to discuss the types of voices speaking up about this situation. I note three general types of voices (with some exceptions). There are strong voices of complete negativity – in their opinion, Mars Hill always was a cult, and they saw Mark Driscoll as a wolf from the beginning. Then there are strong voices of complete positivity – Mark Driscoll’s preaching changed their life, and though Mark isn’t perfect, he has been used by God and is now under persecution. The third voice includes mine and that of many friends I have in this area. I think our voice isn’t as loud, often drowned out by the other two, but maybe I’m wrong. We are the conflicted. We love Mark and Mars Hill. But we also dearly love those run over by Mark when they rightly sought to correct him. We saw Jesus work through Mark’s sermons. But we also felt the lash of his verbal violence through some of those sermons as well. We made precious friendships through Mars Hill. But we were also shunned by some of those friends when we felt the need to find another church. And, for many of us around in the early years, we saw Mark apologize and try to correct when he acted out in anger.
The specifics of my private experiences with Mark should remain private, but I will say generally that I felt the wounding lash of his anger during my time at Mars Hill. But he also specifically repented and publicly apologized in front of those who had heard his words against me. He sinned, but he genuinely repented. So when Mark Driscoll said in his announcement Sunday that he has sought out many to ask specific forgiveness, that is a truthful saying. The problem is that even in the situation with me, there was another woman that he sinned against with even worse words than he used against me. He said them specifically to her and her husband in a public members’ forum, and he dug his heels in the sand with them, to this day never asking their forgiveness. He’s often practiced a selective repentance, but he has repented clearly and specifically to some.
I also experienced legitimate one-on-one pastoral care of myself and my family in my early years at Mars Hill directly from Mark and his wife. I grew from many of his sermons as well. I’ll never forget his “Ho, Ho, Ho, Merry Christmas” sermon, about the whores in Jesus’ lineage. Of course, that title draws attention and ire in a classic Mark Driscoll move. Yet the sermon was also beautiful and redemptive, as he brought out the former shame of those women’s stories and the dignity and worth God placed on them by naming them in Jesus’ lineage. It was not misogynistic, and it treated wounded women with respect. But it was taught with women in the room who had read his pussified nation rant just a year before, where apparently the worst criticism he can think of to aim at a man is that he acts like a woman. Just one more example of the dissonance that contributes to the tone of voice of those who have experienced both deeply good things along with deeply bad things under Mark’s ministry.
James articulates well the tension felt by those who have experienced the good and the bad.
James 3 5 How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.
No passage in all of Scripture better describes Mark Driscoll’s ministry than verses 9-10. It is this dissonance between the proclamation of Jesus’ name and the verbal arrows aimed at His Bride that is the greatest sin of Mark’s and the greatest harm to the testimony of Christ. James says clearly that this dissonance “ought not to be so.” It is this very dissonance that James rebukes that is the worst of the issues at Mars Hill. If Mark had only been a heretic, that would open him to a different rebuke. But James’ rebuke is specifically for the situation Mark and Mars Hill find themselves in now. Blessing the Father in one breath but cursing (sometimes literally) His precious children made in His image with the next. Lifting up the name of Jesus while joking of running over the very ones Jesus came to save — these things should not be so.
I have a deep burden for those in the 2nd category I outlined in the opening paragraph – the ones who diminish the cursing because the blessing in their lives has been so profound. First of all, you guys say some really hurtful things to those who recognize Mark’s disqualifying sin. The motives you attribute to those with first hand experience speaking to these issues is troubling. But it’s not unexpected. My bigger concern is that the time will come when you will see the cursing for what it is, and then you will start to question the blessing you experienced. If you are at that point and happen to be reading this post, my encouragement to you is that the blessings you experienced were indeed blessings. Mars Hill is not the first church that God worked through even as He disciplined them for their systemic sin. God did real things in your heart to draw you to Himself, and I hope you won’t discount those things, the blessings, as you wrestle with the ugly things, the cursing.
But understand too that the good, according to James, that God has done in your life does not excuse the bad that was done to others. James says clearly that there is a major problem, worthy of strong rebuke, when both of these things coincide in one person and their ministry. It causes confusion. It causes people to question their faith. It’s like a pond that flows with both fresh and salt water – so out of sorts that the dissonance ultimately robs it of its usefulness. This is where Mars Hill now finds itself, and James says strongly that these things should not be. May God root out the cursing and the disrespect for individual image bearers of God. May repentance for each act of spitting upon an image bearer be confessed and corrected.
If you are in category 2, struggling because you have experienced blessing at Mars Hill, you are justified in resisting the words of those in category 1 who discount everything that ever happened at Mars Hill. Good did happen! But hear also James’ words, and understand it is the good that Mark preached that now makes the bad that much worse, because the bad undermines and takes away from the good. These two things can not coexist.
James 3:10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.