The Downfall

Even while Mars Hill Church was appearing to prosper, and while Driscoll was in great demand as a public speaker, all was not well within the Driscoll camp. In October 2007 two Mars Hill Church elders were summarily fired by Driscoll because him deemed them to be ‘off mission’, and therefore no longer suitable for ministry. One elder revealed the shocking details of how he was treated, reporting ‘the harshness, abusive power, anger, manipulation, and control exhibited by Pastor Mark’.[1]Dave Kraft

 Formal charge of unworthy conduct

Six years later, in May 2013, pastor Dave Kraft, a longstanding Mars Hill elder, filed formal charges against Driscoll with the church’s Board of Advisors and Accountability. The charges included Driscoll’s lack of self-control; his domineering attitude towards people as a means of achieving of his own ends; his verbal abuse; his anger and ungraceful ways of dealing with those with whom he disagreed.[2]  Kraft commented: ‘I can no longer respect Pastor Mark Driscoll and submit to his leadership as a result of his persistent sinful behavior toward others. I believe we would discover that many other Mars Hill elders and leaders have also lost respect for Pastor Mark’s leadership.’[3]

 Plagiarism

In November 2013, during a phone interview with radio host Janet Mefferd to promote his new book, A Call to Resurgence (2013), Mark Driscoll was accused of plagiarism. In the aftermath of this controversial interview, during the following months other examples of Driscoll’s plagiarism came to light.

 Gaming the New York Times best-seller list

In early March 2014, an article in World Magazine, under the headline, ‘Unreal sales of Driscoll’s Real Marriage’ reported: ‘Seattle’s Mars Hill Church paid a California-based marketing company at least $210,000 in 2011 and 2012 to ensure that News reportReal Marriage, a book written by Mark Driscoll, the church’s founding pastor, and his wife Grace, made the New York Times best-seller list.’[4]

 Ungodly behaviour

On 8th August 2014, the board of Acts29 Church Planting Network, an organization founded by Driscoll, announced with deep sorrow, its decision to remove Pastor Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church from membership of the Acts29 Network. According to Matt Chandler, who had been appointed President of Acts29 by Driscoll in 2012, the reason for this drastic action was that Driscoll was guilty of ungodly and disqualifying behaviour.[5]

 Letter of nine current elders

On Friday 22 August 2014 a confidential letter, entitled ‘Concerns and Critical Information for the Elders of Mars Hill Church’, written by nine current pastors to their fellow elders, was circulated within Mars Hill Church. The letter expressed serious concern ‘about the state of our church, especially the state of our leadership at the highest levels and our continued lack of transparency in general’. Deeply critical of Driscoll’s ministry, the letter said his leadership had created an ‘abusive, coercive ministry culture’, and called for him to step down from ministry. ‘We direct that he steps down from ministry, submitting himself under the authority of the elders of the church, who will oversee the details of his restoration plan… He must step down not only from the pulpit, but from all aspects of ministry and leadership.’[6]

 Mars Hill makes the New York Times

An article in the New York Times, under the headline: ‘A Brash Style That Filled Pews, Until Followers Had Their Fill’, (22 August 2014), commented:  ‘But now Mr. Driscoll’s empire appears to be imploding. He has been accused of creating a culture of fear at the church, of plagiarizing, of inappropriately using church funds and of consolidating power to such a degree that it has become difficult for anyone to challenge or even question him. A flood of former Mars Hill staff members and congregants have come forward, primarily on the Internet but also at a protest in front of the church, to share stories of what they describe as bullying or “spiritual abuse,” and 21 former pastors have filed a formal complaint in which they call for Mr. Driscoll’s removal as the church’s leader. Mr. Driscoll is rapidly becoming a pariah in the world that once cheered him.’[7]

Leave of absence

On Sunday 24 August Driscoll announced to the Mars Hill family of churches that he had requested a leave of absence from the pulpit for a minimum of six weeks while a committee of elders conducted a formal review of charges made against him.

 Pastor Mark Driscoll resigns

Seven weeks later, in a letter of resignation dated October 14, 2014, Driscoll wrote: Founder-of-MH‘By God’s grace I have pastored Mars Hill Church for 18 years. Today, also by God’s grace, and with the full support of my wife Grace, I resign my position as a pastor and elder of Mars Hill. I do so with profound sadness, but also with complete peace.’[8]

But why did Driscoll resign as the findings of the investigation into his behaviour were just about to be made public? Indeed, he must have known that Mars Hill elders had reached the conclusion that ‘Pastor Mark has, at times, been guilty of arrogance, responding to conflict with a quick temper and harsh speech, and leading the staff and elders in a domineering manner. While we believe Mark needs to continue to address these areas in his life, we do not believe him to be disqualified from pastoral ministry.’

So Mars Hill elders concluded that Driscoll’s arrogance, quick temper, harsh speech and domineering manner did not disqualify him from pastoral ministry—this conclusion says much about Mars Hill Church. It is abundantly clear that the elders did not base their conclusion on Scripture.

 Pride goes before a fall

So why did Pastor Driscoll resigned? Is it because the Mars Hill business model, which had suffered a drastic loss of funds, had been so severely compromised that it was unlikely to return to profitability? The Driscoll saga is surely evidence of the truth of the biblical warning that ‘pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall’ (Proverbs 16.18).

In an attempt to rehabilitate his ministry, Driscoll has set up a website to promote his sermons and books. He describes himself as ‘a Jesus-following, mission-leading, church-serving, people-loving, Bible-preaching pastor. He’s grateful to be a nobody trying to tell everybody about Somebody’. He invites donations to help support his past and future Bible teaching.

 

[1] http://joyfulexiles.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/jonna-mhc-story-29.pdf

[2]Statement of Formal Charges and Issues by Pastor Dave Kraft, http://wp.patheos.com.s3.amazonaws.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/files/2014/03/Statement-of-Formal-Charges-and-Issues-by-Pastor-Dave-Kraft.pdf.

[3] Ibid.

[4] World magazine, ‘Unreal sales for Driscoll’s Real Marriage’, by Warren Cole Smith, 5 March 2014,  http://www.worldmag.com/2014/03/unreal_sales_for_driscoll_s_real_marriage

[5] http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton/2014/08/08/acts-29-network-removes-co-founder-mark-driscoll-and-mars-hill-church-from-membership/

[6] http://www.religionnews.com/2014/08/28/step-full-text-mars-hill-pastors-letter-mark-driscoll/

[7] New York Times, ’A Brash Style That Filled Pews, Until Followers Had Their Fill’, (22 August 2014),  http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/23/us/mark-driscoll-is-being-urged-to-leave-mars-hill-church.html?_r=0

[8] https://marshill.com/2014/10/15/pastor-mark-driscolls-resignation

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