Perhaps the most controversial figure in American Christendom is Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle WA. He is one of the few figures in Christianity today who has critics on both sides of the fence. The conservatives criticize him because of his methods, his mannerisms, and his way of communicating. Liberals declare him to be a misogynist, a neanderthal, and hate the fact that he preaches the Gospel. The 2009 Southern Baptist Convention I nicknamed the “We Hate Driscoll 2009” meeting was when I realized just how ignorant people really can be. In conversations since then regarding Driscoll, I have found that a lot of people who don’t like him have never read or heard any of his messages. Instead, they are going off “what they heard” or are basing their opinion off sound bytes or out-of-context quotes. For starters, this is a lack of integrity, especially for those who claim to be academics. Academic integrity means going to primary sources, first hand accounts, to determine what authorial intent really is. Hearsay carries no weight in academic works (the equivalent to using WikiPedia as a bibliographic source), but in the church it’s enough to label someone as deviant.
That said, there are certain elements to who Driscoll is that I don’t necessarily agree with or like, but I do not find them central to his person or message. Sometimes his language can be a bit harsh, and you wonder if it’s necessary. But then I think to what Matt Chandler said once, that Driscoll can “walk into a room with a sermon called ‘8 Reasons You’re Stupid’ and then half the room gets saved.” There is something about him that is a unique Spirit-filled gifting, that is not me or my style, but I cannot fault the guy for being passionate. The label “cussing preacher” is a misleading one, making him sound like a biker in the pulpit. The coarse language is rare, and while I am not defending it, am saying that the label is inaccurate. I have almost slipped in the heat of the moment before, as many of us who preach passionately do. Simply, this is Romans 7 still at work, where we are in this tension point between Flesh and Spirit. My redemption is not complete, and neither is Driscoll’s. That said, there may be errors of the flesh that happen. It’s part of progressive sanctification.
He doesn’t do things the way we do, and that’s so very true. Seattle is a very unique city, a foreign mission field in and of itself. For us in the Southern cultural-Christianity Bible Belt, we cannot understand what an anti-Christian culture looks like. We cannot fathom a way of doing church that is anything less than traditionally-rooted and grounded in the “way it’s always been.” Engaging the culture means hiring a youth minister with a goatee, but not seeking to penetrate the lostness and seek to redeem the culture and the sinner. Instead, in many of our circles, we try to keep the culture out and isolate ourselves in the Christian Bubble. Need proof? Look at how many Christian alternatives to everything there are. Coffee houses, bookstores, baseball leagues, etc. Those sorts of things don’t happen in Seattle, instead the Church really understands what it means to be the “city on a hill” shining light into darkness. Their methods are different because their situation is different. That was the error in Imperialism, to assume foreign culture in indigenous missions (hence why the British tried to make the world British and have British Christianity imposed on India, Africa, and other places).
Here are 4 reasons why I am Pro-Driscoll:
1) Doctrine – Driscoll, among others, has become one of the leading voices of the new Reformed movement sweeping across the younger generation on college campuses, seminaries, and in basement small groups. Driscoll understands what it means to be Reformed, and not just because Calvin is cool now, but how it shapes your preaching, how it shapes church government, and how it affects how you deal with people. Truly seeing the devastating effects of sin in a way we cannot comprehend in our plastic isolation, the only answer is Christ. Outside the Bubble, the “church answers” don’t cut it. I really believe sound doctrine is the heart of the Gospel, and the heart of a healthy church. It must be rooted in a Jude 3 understanding of the Gospel.
2) Prophet – I don’t mean the “see the future” by that, which is a really lousy understanding of a prophet. Biblically, a prophet is one who speaks the Word of God faithfully. That’s why the Puritans referred to the preaching task as “prophecy” because they believed the one who faithfully and honestly deals with and expounds the Word of God was doing a great task. Driscoll’s position as a modern-day Prophet (which I know I’ll catch grief for, so just keep it somewhat nice) puts him in a place where he has to decide which is more important: Security or the Message. I really believe one of the reasons preaching stinks in the church is that too many pastors have compromised in this regard, instead of faithfully preaching and proclaiming the Word they have resorted to ‘felt needs’ and ear-tickling to keep the heat off their backside. I admire Driscoll for sticking to his guns, enduring the blogosphere hating, and remaining steadfast for the cause of the Gospel. I’ve read some of the stuff written about him in Seattle and the venom spewed by many people there who hate him and everything about him because of his stand for Christ. It saddens me to see the Church join in with the pagans on this.
3) Family – I love reading his Tweets and updates on what he does with his family. Ministry is a constant upstream swim, and often there’s busyness for the sake of busyness. In the midst of all Driscoll’s commitments, speaking engagements, etc. he still carves out weekly dates with his wife and is deeply involved in the lives of his children. In him I see an example that I aspire to be as a husband and father. It gives me great joy to see a pastor effectively manage his time and avoid having the church/ministry as a mistress.
4) Friendships – You can tell a lot about a person by the company they keep, and what company they do not keep. Early in the Emergent Church, Driscoll was a key figure in it. Then, a doctrinal wedge was driven between him and McLaren and others involved in the movement. To break fellowship with beloved friends over Truth takes guts, and I have to admire Driscoll for that. I find his company very strange, and I keep in mind that the commonality between all these men is a deep commitment to the Truth of the Gospel. To see men like Piper, RC Sproul, Bruce Ware, Wayne Grudem, DA Carson, and others partner with Driscoll says something about his theological and pastoral ministry. He has surrounded himself with godly men, and that says a lot about the man I believe.
These are a short list of reasons why I, even though I may not agree with everything, support Driscoll and have, in some small way, attempted to be an apologist for his work. I still remember the first time I was exposed to his preaching being very intrigued and captivated by a man who stood on the truthfulness of Scripture, who was not afraid to preach difficult messages, who had the command of Spurgeon with the humor of a seasoned comedian, and whose faith and preaching was rooted in a deep love for Truth.
I wish others took the time to read, hear, or investigate the man before they cast their ballot for him. Here’s some links to consider:
http://www.marshillchurch.org/media/doctrine – Great series on key doctrinal issues
http://www.marshillchurch.org/media/vintagejesus – Turned into a great book
http://www.marshillchurch.org/media/religionsaves – Great introduction to who Driscoll is, get the best of his theology, wit, and humor