Blessings and Cursing: Reflections on Mark Driscoll Stepping Down

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.

24 Responses to Blessings and Cursing: Reflections on Mark Driscoll Stepping Down

  1. Anonymous August 26, 2014 at 8:38 pm #

    Thank you for your words on this subject! I can't begin to express to you the relief it is to hear a woman share boldly and humbly the truth of God.

    I ran into your blog on accident a few months ago and I have read almost all of your blogs at this point and I tend to lose interest very quickly in blogs…I don't read them really…

    but the authority you have in your words is similar to Christ and that should be very encouraging! Christ speaks through you in so many ways so thank you for sharing!

    P.S. Thank you for showing me that the authority of Christ is not gender specific.

  2. Rob Smith August 26, 2014 at 9:05 pm #

    This is powerful commentary. Thank you Wendy.

  3. jen August 26, 2014 at 9:24 pm #

    Boom. Good word. Thanks for bringing it back to scripture, too.

  4. Anonymous August 26, 2014 at 11:19 pm #

    Thanks for this, Wendy. I appreciate your words very much, along with the beautiful expression of the paradoxical nature of the Gospel, which absolutely will not be directed, packaged, controlled, or “piecemealed.” May the Lord richly bless you.

  5. Deanna August 26, 2014 at 11:55 pm #

    I appreciate the biblically-focused, gracious, and careful approach you took! May we all take this same approach as we pray over Mark, his family, Mars Hill, and the reputation of Christ. And may we definitely take this approach in our responses to this situation!

  6. Anonymous August 27, 2014 at 12:10 am #

    thoughts
    -very unfortunate if every lesson the Lord has is not learned
    -“these 2 things cannot coexist.” they DID coexist (ought not/no pain denial)…but now “we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”(Rom 8:28). His condition: for the called who love Him; not His condition: only if a certain outcome happens
    -‘2 things coexisting’ learning maximized too when the ‘3 voice-types’ ‘opinion’ relabeled as 'sin’ as applicable, sincerely assessed, just as is desired in pastor review

  7. Anonymous August 27, 2014 at 11:44 am #

    reminded it is the Lord who searches the heart and tests the mind; reminded the old heart is more deceitful than all else, desperately sick-who can understand it? even too as some, not satisfied to wait now, while this review is in process, continue to gossip, speculate, heart-judge, debate how recent the ‘cursing’, while themselves cursing today, perhaps even thinking the Lord approves this self-justification, which must seem only right and fair; so justified; much less sinful than the accused's sin. Hope you’ll address this too sometime for as we know, and John MacArthur says this am… unrepentant sin is a deadly spiritual cancer, it cannot be allowed to fester and corrupt the Body of Christ.

  8. molly245 August 27, 2014 at 2:02 pm #

    Thank you for bringing the sanest and most balanced voice I”ve read yet on this whole mess. I like how you use a clear scripture text to examine the situation.

    It's very helpful me as I have loved friends who are very tied up in MH, but I have never attended there myself.

  9. thespotts August 27, 2014 at 2:30 pm #

    I appreciate your words. This is a very balanced analysis of the Mars Hill / Mark Driscoll situation, judging from what I have read (and not having been there myself). I think it is important to point out that God works through many people, even in the midst of grievous sin. It is encouraging.

  10. Anonymous August 27, 2014 at 3:51 pm #

    AN EAST COAST VICTIM OF THE MARK DRISCOLL RIPPLE EFFECT

    I took all of the exchanges of online words and letters as a sign of answered prayer, and hope, and change. The news grabbed my attention like the sound of a helicopter heard at night in the distance by a prisoner held captive. “Is this it? Is it finally here? The freedom that I've been longing for for so very long?” I listened attentively and welcomed the glorious noise. I heard it grow steadily stronger and louder. I anticipated my subsequent relief and rescue. Then just as steadily it started to dim and fade and disappear into quiet silence.

  11. Anonymous August 28, 2014 at 3:29 am #

    I'm a deacon at Mars Hill (CG coach), have attended since 2006 but never experienced first hand the spiritual abuse that I've heard so much about. I recently read Paul Petry's letter to the elders in 2007, urging them not to adopt the new proposed by-laws. He described in detail his prediction of the results that would follow. As it turns out he was completly right. If only the elders would have listened at the time, I don't believe we would be in the situation we're in. In addition, Paul Tripp has gone on record as saying he doesn't think the current board structure can ever be workable, other than for financial oversight. I'm almost certain I will be leaving, the only questions are “when” and “how.” Very hard to leave behind people you've loved and served with (including Pastor Mark). But how long can you hold back, hoping that your leadership will take the right steps so that things will change? At some point you become an accomplice.

  12. Wendy August 28, 2014 at 4:52 am #

    Thank you for sharing, Anonymous. I'm sorry that you are in this place but trust that God will guide you as you move ahead. It's painful!

  13. Jen August 28, 2014 at 2:23 pm #

    God used your words to speak to me about my time at Bob Jones and my time spent in Bob Jones circles.

  14. Wendy August 28, 2014 at 3:41 pm #

    There are a lot of similarities. Thank you, Jen.

  15. Anonymous August 29, 2014 at 3:34 pm #

    My bible reading yesterday of John 10, referred me to Ezekiel, Chapter 34. I don't recall every reading that chapter. Relevant back then, and relevant now. Thank goodness for the Good Shepherd.

  16. Rob Smith August 30, 2014 at 6:30 am #

    Am praying for you!

  17. Anonymous September 1, 2014 at 12:00 pm #

    you might ask the Spirit about your 'enemy outwitting statement', for perhaps it may include even you in that the context is forgiving: “ But one whom you forgive anything, I forgive also; for indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, I did it for your sakes in the presence of Christ, so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.”

  18. Anonymous September 2, 2014 at 4:49 pm #

    I appreciate your thoughtful words here. I don't feel like many people are saying something very important to a large subset of Christians, one I would include myself in, who are familiar with the ministry of Mars Hill, have listened to Mark Driscoll's sermons/read books, have some connection to Acts 29, etc but were never part of Mars Hill Church. As a believer, I'm very grieved by what I'm hearing about all that has gone on at Mars Hill. And while I'm familiar with many of the parties involved, I don't know any of them personally and I haven't been personally wronged. This seems to be a local church matter & the best thing I can do as a completely peripheral party is to pray that God would grant wisdom, repentance & healing where it's needed…and then to, myself, just butt out. Am I wrong here? Why is no one saying this to the distant masses?

  19. Anonymous September 2, 2014 at 11:01 pm #

    anonymous, who would be the ones to do that? Would it be the ones who brought this so publically forward, successfully luring many into the very vitriol we see now? These you think would be the ones to say, now, mind your own business? It seems very sadly ironic those assessing another’s repentance condition, cannot see their own need for it. God is not mocked- whatever a man sows- he reaps; whoever causes a little one to stumble, it would be better for him if with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea.

  20. Wendy September 2, 2014 at 11:29 pm #

    Look, if only it were that simple. If only we could group all people using microphones into one tidy group that we directed in mass one way or the other. Blogs and social media are a tool of many different individual people. Some have used them well. Some have not. I am at peace with how I've used my platform. I am peace with how some others have used theirs. I am concerned about how yet others have used theirs. Scripture gives admonitions on keeping things quiet and admonitions on when to rebuke publicly. But who should rebuke publicly? Well … that's a good question.

    Ultimately, I see this as God's clear hand of discipline purifying His Church. What was going on in Mars Hill leadership was unacceptable in Christ. Sin is being rooted out. It's painful, but will ultimately be for the good of all involved. And we will praise God for the beauty He reveals after the ashes settle to the ground.

  21. Anonymous September 3, 2014 at 11:18 am #

    thank you for responding; thank you for loving the Lord and for trying to pursue to do only what He tells you to do and tells you to say – may He be glorified in it all because mostly thank you to the Lord for His great love for His people, for His great desire for what we will become, for His giving us such great HOPE in all things.

  22. Curious Thinker September 4, 2014 at 3:32 am #

    I'm not familiar with all of Mark Driscoll's teachings. From what I did read I don't agree with. I also read from other blogs about the spiritual abuse others received at Mars Hill including some of the leaders like Paul Petry and his wife. His sad that he had to step down but most likely necessary and long overdue. Still I only feel sorry for Mr. Driscoll who obviously has a lot of issues to work out himself and maybe he'll have the time to reflect on the negative side of his teachings, his treatment of his church members and his on views with God's strength and guidance and a lot of repentance.

  23. Anonymous September 8, 2014 at 12:59 pm #

    we could join in prayer..
    be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions; wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin for I know my transgressions and my sin is ever before me; against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are justified when You speak and blameless when You judge; behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me; behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom; purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow; make me to hear joy and gladness; let the bones which You have broken rejoice; hide Your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities; create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me; do not cast me away from Your presence; restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit.

  24. Anonymous September 10, 2014 at 11:48 am #

    https://marshill.com/2014/09/09/going-forward
    very hope-filled, don’t you think?

    My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, not faint when you are reproved by Him, for those whom the Lord loves, He disciplines and He scourges every son whom He receives. It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons; furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Heb 12:5b-11