Tag Archives: Mark Driscoll

To the Manufacturers of Mark Driscoll

A friend posted this Monday article from The Daily Beast on my Facebook page. It begins:

“Just when controversial pastor Mark Driscoll was hoping to make a new start, former members of his old stomping grounds at Seattle’s Mars Hill Church have filed a lawsuit alleging Driscoll and his chief elder ran the now-shuttered megachurch like an organized crime syndicate, in which church members became unwitting participants.

“The lawsuit was filed on Monday in the Western District of Washington U.S. District Court in Seattle under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, a law originally created for prosecution of Mafia figures.

“Former members have been threatening to file such a lawsuit for months to find out just where the members’ tithes—some $30 million yearly, according to church reports—actually went.”

I don’t know whether the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act really applies in this case, and I have no idea if pursuing that particular approach is a good idea — although of course someone needs to answer for the $30 million annually and any misappropriation of funds.

My reaction to the article, posted on Facebook, was aimed at those who helped Driscoll become a celebrity and a monster:

“He said Reformed things with boldness and strong emotions. That was enough to hide a multitude of sins. And while his influence and income increased, we were told that the mainline churches were dead, but it was purer, holier Driscoll who was dead inside. Sure, people don’t want to go to those old churches with their old facades and old ways, but the rotten wood was found inside new buildings in Seattle.”

 

NewSpring Church Pastor Shows No Common Sense, Never Mind ‘Discernment,’ With Driscoll Invite

Discernment would be really underemployed at NewSpring Church in Anderson, S.C., if it had chosen to work there.

In evangelical-speak, “discernment” is like well-worn knowledge with the spin of spiritual insight, like smarts with divine english of the billiards sort.

And common sense is only that human, worldly, fallible type of knowledge, a lowly type of discernment, if discernment at all. Common sense is mere chump change for the churchy crowd. At least it’s supposed to be.

The senior pastor at NewSpring, Perry Noble, should have enough common sense to know that Mark Driscoll destroyed lives, churches, and ministries not so long ago, in a place not so far away.

But the pastor demonstrated neither discernment nor common sense when he scheduled Driscoll to speak at a conference on — wait for it — leadership!

(“How did I know Trump would win South Carolina? Well, there was this little-noticed news item back in November 2015….”)

Driscoll’s website says, “This event is uniquely designed for leaders who want their teams and their organizations to succeed beyond their expectations.”

Driscoll’s churches fell apart after (very reasonable and accurate) plagiarism allegations led to additional allegations of misbehavior and cruelty.

One can only hope Driscoll’s conference topic is “What Not To Do Unless You’re a Shark Using Jesus For Fame And Profit.” Oh now I’ve given him a reason to cry a little at this conference — people are just so mean on blogs, nearly as mean as a former Seattle senior pastor who repeatedly degraded his own staff. And who would that former senior pastor be?

But since he left Mars Hill Church, Driscoll has been acting as if nothing happened.

You have got to question the judgment of anyone who invites Driscoll to make balloon animals at a birthday party, never mind to instruct any fellow human on leadership.

Warren Throckmorton gives the details on Driscoll’s speaking gig:

You can’t make this stuff up.

Next year Mark Driscoll will speak at a one day you-can’t-live-without-it leadership conference for Perry Noble. Check out the conference description.

And it’s only $79. What an affordable way to support the ministers who know how to get people to support ministers.

Throckmorton also links to blogger Wenatchee The Hatchet, who has the context:

The ministries Driscoll founded or co-founded at this point either don’t really exist in any functional sense as ministries that interact with the public or exist but have either no use for Driscoll himself or have publicly distanced themselves from any connection to him.

It might be a little too soon to feature Driscoll, even in 2016, as someone who can speak at a conference that has the goal of helping leaders who want their teams and their organizations to succeed beyond their expectations.  By his own account he’s the unemployed guy this year.

“It might be a little too soon,” indeed.

But NewSpring Church and its senior pastor, Perry Noble, have enough influence to overcome such basic human concerns as decency, trustworthiness, and so on.

NewSpring Church claims it “averages more than 30,000 people during weekend services at multiple campuses across the state.” Local campuses take “teaching via … video live-stream” from the Anderson, S.C., service. But the leadership conference will be held in Anderson, and apparently will not be broadcasted.

With influence like that, who needs truth or accuracy?

Leadership Success For All The Wrong Reasons

The truth is, Mark Driscoll is the ideal person to teach leadership, just for all the wrong reasons.

Seriously, I’m a little jealous of Driscoll.

He pioneered infotainment for the evangelicals and made money doing it. I want to make money. I’m a former journalist turned university lecturer with a wife and three daughters, so I’m always broke.

Driscoll also led the way with hip marketing for The Gospel Coalition’s ideology. He screamed about morality, claimed he was all about Jesus, and rose to heights of income, influence, and power nearly unprecedented for a humble minister of the Word.

By the way, there’s a U2 song about our mega-pastor, mega-church moment:

Jesus never let me down
You know Jesus used to show me the score.
Then they put Jesus in show business
Now it’s hard to get in the door.

“They put Jesus in show business.” Nailed it. They just dragged Jesus into their dog-and-pony show, then passed the offering plate.

It’s all about Jesus, Driscoll would say publicly, while behind closed doors, he was all about the Mars Hill Church brand. The brand, ladies and germs.

He also paid a firm to boost his book onto the New York Times Bestseller List.

Driscoll reeks of the info-entrepreneur in the Internet age. He is now an online-only minister. Who needs a church to be successful? Who wants all those overhead expenses? And all those annoying staffers?

All ya gotta do is write punchy copy, post it, offer some freebies, and hook ’em into the next conference or book purchase.

You can do all of that successfully — without even being a decent human being.

This Is What Has Become of Discernment

When Driscoll spoke at the Gateway Conference last year, soon after his departure from Mars Hill Church, I thought it was surely an aberration, just an oversight, and I explained why I thought the preacher who invited Driscoll, Robert Morris, was not thinking straight.

But it turns out Morris wasn’t going to be the last to hope Driscoll’s name would brighten up the conference marquee.

Do people have enough common sense to see the problems with having Driscoll at a conference while smoke is still rising from the remains of his previous ministry?

I hope so, because evangelical leaders seem to have more marketing strategy than discernment.

Or even common sense.

You should be able to tell the difference between wanting to punish someone and wanting to protect people from a man who has proven to be an untrustworthy bully.

You should know why, as a matter of principle, people who commit crimes have to wait a while before society fully trusts them again. You should understand the analogy here.

And you should be able to tell when your senior pastor has no common sense.

Is “forgiveness” an excuse for unleashing a wolf among the sheep?

I’m Just Jealous of Your Success in The Lord

Call it a Throwback Thursday moment, because I still love this:

I’m jealous of C.J. Mahaney’s ability to cover up ugly things.

I’m jealous of Tim Keller’s reasoning skills.

I’m jealous of John Piper’s articulation of positions that implode even as he states them.

I’m jealous of Bill Gothard’s way with the ladies.

I’m jealous of Bob Jones University’s keen identification of the sources of problems.

I’m jealous of Mark Driscoll’s ambition.

I’m just jealous of your success in the Lord.

I think, however, I’ve learned from these men how to be successful in the Lord.

Be forceful, be confident, be uncompromising, be direct, be confrontational.

Be rhetorically slippery; be illogical.

Be anything that makes someone successful in today’s world of marketing and media, for the world of marketing and media is the Kingdom of Heaven.

And I’ve learned you can have a great social club by gathering around the teachings of famous contemporaries.

Just save the discernment for later, when the facts are so obvious no discernment is necessary, which is how discernment seems to work in American churches, especially the most conservative ones, which start by dispatching all knowledge gained by human inquiry because it might get in the way of discernment. (It makes sense because it doesn’t make sense.)

One thing you should do in response to this post: Accuse me of “sour grapes,” because, as Andy Crouch has taught us, diverting attention from facts to abstractions is an easy way to sound spiritually wise.

The Pastor and Priest Fallacy; or, Why Ministries Must Earn Credibility and Trust

I like this guy’s doctrinal beliefs; therefore, he is trustworthy.

Imagine all American Christians understanding why that is a silly way of thinking.

Christian Publishing would collapse, and some ministers would have to do real work for the first time in their lives.

It’s like there’s an assumption running through some preachers’ ministries: “I believe the Bible, and the Bible affirms what I say, so get involved in my ministries, be accountable to my ministries, and give my money to my ministries.”

Because: Jesus.

It’s the magic word that gives narcissists and sociopaths instant power over vulnerable spiritual seekers.

Always, always wait until a supposed leader has earned trust and respect. He must earn it. She must earn it. Do not give any credibility or authority to a person until you’ve seen that person deserve it.

You will lose absolutely nothing by waiting to make a decision to commit yourself to a ministry. God’s got all the time there ever will be.

And He can make more.

I’m not asking for impossible tests for pastors, priests, or other ministers. Clergy can be observably human and humble. They can avoid controlling behaviors and controlling rhetoric. Just be aware. Keep your eyes and ears open. Commit yourself incrementally.

Most importantly, don’t believe a ministry’s hype. Pay attention to its substance — or, more likely, it’s lack of substance.

The story of America is a story of religious entrepreneurship. While I radically support religious liberty and freedom of speech, I know religious entrepreneurship has institutionalized as many dangerous ideas as nonsensical ideas or good ideas.

Read Under The Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer. It’s well-worth your time, and you’ll discover some similarities and parallels between some of the Latter Day Saints described in the book and many of America’s unaffiliated, entrepreneurial Protestants.

Look, the megachurches could last well into the future, or they could fizzle, but either way, I don’t need yet another preacher yapping at me from a spectacular stage, especially when I can suffer through the same guy’s sermon on YouTube.

The megachurch sales-and-marketing approach is completely obvious these days. I was in the same relatively small room with the senior pastor of a large church when he said he’s good at convincing people to come to church but not good at maintaining those relationships once they’re coming to church.

It really struck me as a bait-and-switch. You seem like a nice guy! I’ll try out your church! Then, later, I can never seem to have a conversation with that nice guy. Maybe I’ll find a smaller church or just watch Chuck Todd each Sunday morning. 

How bait-and-switch evangelism is a spiritual or even a human way to be, I have no idea.

But it’s also typical. I would generalize that mode like this:

Build the organization. Individuals are simply pawns in building my organization. People are second. I’ll say God is first — my God being my organization. I’ll say I serve the people by building my organization.

With any luck, in time, I’ll build the organization so big, I won’t have to spend any time with any real people. I’ll have secretaries and schedules and an office buried so deep inside an office suite, the mongrel hordes will never find me — and then I’ll escape to my home in a gated community.

You, entrepreneurial preacher, are probably a fraud. You’ll preach about the Holy Spirit without evidence of a single Fruit of the Spirit. You know, those Fruits of the Spirit, the alleged outcome of your alleged faith.

This isn’t important to you, because you’ll push the right emotional buttons next Sunday and keep the climb to fame and fortune alive.

You spiritual and moral fraud.

I wish there was some way other than just academic degrees and resumés and well-marketed books to affirm a person’s reliability and character. Pastor Mark Driscoll is just one example of a widespread problem.

(Driscoll, by the way, once boasted that he could walk from his office to the stage without having to see anyone—an explicit, specific example similar to my above generalized example).

Driscoll is not the only one.

Genuinely. Seriously.

If I really thought the Driscoll-Mars Hill Church disaster was an aberration, I would not have written so many blog posts about it.

I wanted people to learn a methodology from that situation, a way of seeing.

I wanted people to learn a kind of awareness.

I have no real platform to make that happen. I just wanted it to happen, wanted it badly to happen.

I want people to gain a healthy distrust. Don’t trust me, either. Be skeptical. Research and reasoning can prove me a prophet or a clown or something else. This is about you.

Let’s say I’m proven a clown. Throw a party about it. Take a few hours to tell Colin jokes.

Then, afterward, ask yourself how you are going to avoid being used.

Ask yourself how you are going to avoid being used by someone who is demanding your attention, your submission, your time, and your money because he talks about Jesus and your kids like the youth group. This is just a blog post. You can close it at any time. The social, emotional, and spiritual aspects of churches are a bit more tricky. Do you have the confidence and willpower to walk away from your church membership at any time? You need to develop that.

Jesus won’t magically develop it for you.

You’re too weak to navigate unaffiliated, entrepreneurial religion in America.

Most humans are, which is why the predators grow fat.

You don’t necessarily need to burn personal bridges, but you need to have a strong enough sense of who you are and what is right to walk away from a nonsense organization — or an unhealthy organization.

I’m not only focusing on professional clergy. The reality is the Pastor and Priest Fallacy can analyze any politician or community leader. I may really like what someone else says, but that doesn’t mean that person is trustworthy or credible.

People need to learn this, need to “get” it.

Astonishingly ignorant and manipulative people are running American Christianity and American politics.

‘A Question for Pastor Lindell: What Isn’t True About Mark Driscoll?’ by Warren Throckmorton

From A Question for Pastor Lindell: What Isn’t True About Mark Driscoll? by Warren Throckmorton:

In his intro (I should have video up later today), Pastor John Lindell told his congregation that most of what one reads about Mark Driscoll on the web isn’t true. Dan Kellogg at Gold Creek Community Church said the same thing.

My question for these two men is: What isn’t true? If you can show me anything untrue on my blog, I will correct it. Always have.

By making such a general statement, these men mislead their flocks (a serious responsibility in the Bible) and cast doubt on the well established facts.

Read the rest of Throckmorton’s post at: A Question for Pastor Lindell: What Isn’t True About Mark Driscoll?.

 

A quick question for pastors and ministers

Reflecting on the past few years, I’m stunned at the lack of basic character in your profession.

If you scream from your pulpits about the sins of the world and unorthodox beliefs in other churches, when will you scream from your pulpits about the sins of Mark Driscoll, C.J. Mahaney, Bill Gothard, Bob Jones University, Anglicans in the U.S. supporting the jailing of gays in Africa, the startlingly non-biblical beliefs (before their son’s troubles) of the Duggars, Doug Phillips, and the Roman Catholic pedophile priests?

I know, you can’t because you’ve been too busy picking on Rob Bell about universalism — you know, universalism, an idea, a belief, a way of thinking that does not bully or degrade or sexually assault anyone.

You’re too busy critiquing liberal theology in the mainline Protestant denominations — much easier, granted, than addressing the real problems in your own conservative houses.

Or it’s simpler than that. You’ve been friends with the conservatives. You’ve been enemies of the liberals. Defend your friends and kick your enemies. Like Jesus said, you’re just like everyone else. You’re like this guy.

You frauds.

Your Bible says, “Moreover, [the Christian leader] must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.”

That’s I Timothy 3:7.

You’ve failed that standard.

You are not well thought of by outsiders or insiders.

You are a disgrace.

What John Piper’s selective outrage says about New Calvinists

The blogosphere and Twitterverse move quickly, but perspectives stick around and change slowly.

I went back to the search engines after the recent shocks of learning that disgraced and disgraceful Pastor Mark Driscoll spoke at the Gateway Conference and at Thrive Leadership Conference.

While searching the Internet for Driscoll-related material, I found a November transcript of a Desiring God audio interview with John Piper in which he claims “no regrets” for partnering with Driscoll.

That should be peculiar. Driscoll’s track record as an untrustworthy, vicious bully has been established by numerous people who used to work in his own organization. Read the evidence here.

It’s extraordinary to hear someone as revered as Piper give a pass to a bullying pastor — while banishing someone who has a different point of view.

Look beneath the surface of Piper’s handling of Mark Driscoll versus his handling of Rob Bell, and you’ll discover the operating principles of so-called New Calvinism as well as old-fashioned fundamentalism.

Those principles may be articulated as follows:

1. If you state the correct beliefs and ideas, you will be forgiven for any ethical violation.

2. If you do not state the correct beliefs and ideas, you will not be forgiven for your incorrectness, even if you have a good ethical standing.

If the above sounds a bit like political correctness or Soviet communism, congratulations; you’ve understood a foundational theme of this blog: instances of authoritarianism might be driven by different ideas, but the methods are still the same.

Piper, you might recall, famously tweeted “Farewell Rob Bell” with a link to Justin Taylor’s blog post entitled, “Rob Bell: Universalist?”

In that post, Taylor quotes — wait for it! — Piper, who once wrote:

“Bad theology dishonors God and hurts people. Churches that sever the root of truth may flourish for a season, but they will wither eventually or turn into something besides a Christian church.”

That sounds good. But let me point out at least two significant problems.

1. First, Piper’s selective banishment of Bell. Has Piper said “Farewell” to notable Christian universalists like Karl Barth, Jacques Ellul, William Barclay, and George MacDonald? (Notice, too, Taylor’s selective treatment of Marilynne Robinson.)

2. Second, Piper’s self-contradiction when the topic is hurting people. There ought to be no question that bullying and bad-mouthing one’s own ministerial staff and underling pastors “dishonors God and hurts people.” That’s what Driscoll did, according to accounts by more than 21 former underling pastors in his own organization.

In fairness to Piper, he says, nobly:

“My regret is that I was not a more effective friend. Mark knew he had flaws. He knows he has flaws. And I knew he had flaws. He knew that I knew he had flaws. There were flaws of leadership attitude, flaws of unsavory language that I think is just wrong for Christians to use, flaws of exegetical errors, say, in regard to the Song of Solomon.”

I admire this much about Piper: “…I was not a more effective friend.”

However, Piper does not say, “Farewell Mark Driscoll,” despite Driscoll’s horrible behavior. On a separate occasion, Piper said, “Farewell Rob Bell,” never mind how hard it is to love one’s enemies after banishing them.

Maybe all that can be explained. In New Calvinism, only bad ideas, like universalism, hurt people. Nothing sensory, like bullying, really matters.

A fundamental problem underlies that mode. Traditionally, the Incarnation was considered a guide against heresy. Jesus was considered fully God and fully human, the ultimate illustration of humankind’s both spiritual and organic natural.

When emphasis is placed on only the spiritual (including ideas) to the exclusion of the organic (including the senses), humans and the Incarnation are degraded.

The New Calvinist mode degrades the concept of Incarnation, making the sensory world less than valuable. It’s almost ghostly — did Jesus Christ really suffer? Well, only if He had bad beliefs! Nails and flogs and thorns are nothin’. Embodiment is nothin’.

Christ sorta suffered — but then how could He possibly have suffered, when He had all the right beliefs?

Bell causes suffering through expressing Christian universalism, which at least has a precedent in Protestant theology (Barth, Ellul, Barclay, MacDonald).

Driscoll causes suffering through repeatedly degrading his spiritual flock, which has no justification anywhere within Christianity.

By most accounts, Bell is a sweetheart.

By most accounts, Driscoll is a narcissistic, unrepentant sociopath.

But, Driscoll has the right New Calvinist ideas, so who cares what he does?

Sure, Driscoll has faced his critics and lost his post at Mars Hill Church. But then he got speaking gigs at Gateway and Thrive.

And Piper came down oh so softly on him, calling him a friend, admitting he knew about Driscoll’s leadership problems.

Which suggests to me that abhorrent behavior gets a pass from New Calvinists, at least among New Calvinists.

Apparently, sensory suffering under Driscoll isn’t real suffering — otherwise, leadership problems would be seen as a real threat to real people, not a minor issue far, far underneath Correct Belief.

Furthermore, as Piper says, God made it all happen anyway. All sin has its source in God, according to Piper.

So this doesn’t make sense to simple-minded folks like myself: God made Driscoll into a bully, and God made Bell into a heretic, but only one matters to the people who insist God not only predestined individual souls but also preordained everything that happens in this (lesser, non-spiritual) organic realm.

Oh wait — God set up the contradiction, too. My fault.

God set up the selective outrage.

God set up this post.

God set up your reading of this post.

So quit complaining — it’s all God’s idea, from peonies to pedophilia.

He cues the earthquake and then He cues your tears — and He’s creating your sense of outrage at Rob Bell’s universalism and your lack of concern with Mark Driscoll’s vicious bullying.

It’s like your complaints and comments implode into nothingness. They weren’t even yours to begin with.

But rest assured — you’ll be held responsible for what your Almighty Creator made you do, whether He made you believe the wrong ideas or He made you bully people.