A matter of conduct

Pastor Mark Driscoll’s unexpected visit to the ‘Strange Fire Conference’ of Pastor John MacArthur on 18 October 2013 has raised great interest in the blogosphere. There has been much comment, most of it highly critical of Mark Driscoll, for many viewed his unannounced visit as gatecrashing the Conference of another church.

Briefly, these are the facts of the matter. Driscoll at Strange Fire ConferenceJohn MacArthur, a world famous reformed theologian, and senior pastor of Grace Community Church, (a non-denominational, evangelical mega-church founded in 1956 and located in Sun Valley, California) was holding a conference to warn of the unbiblical nature of the Charismatic Movement, which has become very prominent in the USA.

When it comes to the gifts of the Holy Spirit, John MacArthur is considered to be a cessationist, for he believes that the charismatic gifts associated with the early church, like speaking in tongues and words of prophecy, ceased with the passing of the Apostles. Pastor Mark Driscoll, on the other hand is an ardent continuationist, who promotes the charismatic gifts as a sign of the Holy Spirit’s work in the Church. He has disparagingly labelled those who follow the cessationist position as ‘worldly’.

Driscoll has written:

‘In a cessationist tribe, the functional Trinity is sometimes the Father, Son, and Holy Bible: the Holy Spirit wrote the Scriptures through human authors, and then it’s like he’s been on vacation ever since. In a Pentecostal church, you know you have the Holy Spirit if you speak in tongues, the primary evidence to Pentecostals that a believer has the Spirit…’

(This is a wrong understanding of salvation in Christ, for every true believer is born again by the Holy Spirit, and in-dwelt by the Holy Spirit.)

In mid October 2013, Mark Driscoll, on his way to the ‘Act Like Men’ Conference, a profoundly charismatic conference where he would be a keynote speaker, along with James MacDonald, senior pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel, Chicago, Illinois, rap artist Lecrae and others, pitched up unannounced at MacArthur’s conference with a box of his new book, A Call to Resurgence: Will Christianity Have a Funeral or a Future?

As is his way, he used the internet to attract attention to his publicity stunt. Here are his tweets, directed to the Strange Fire Conference:

 Mark Driscoll ?@PastorMark 4h
Hey #StrangeFire friends – see u in 1hr. I’ll have free copies of my new book. The chapters on tribalism & Holy Spirit may be helpful.

Mark Driscoll ?@PastorMark 3h
Hey #StrangeFire Friends, I’m eating at In N Out Burger by the seminary. Come say Hi and get a free book.

Mark Driscoll ?@PastorMark 2h
Handing out free copies of my new book, A Call To Resurgence, at #StrangeFire http://instagram.com/p/fnicz1sgie/

Mark Driscoll ?@PastorMark 2h
Security confiscated my books. #strangefire http://instagram.com/p/fnmZF4sgoO/

An article in the Christian Post, entitled: ‘Mark Driscoll’s Books “Confiscated” at Strange Fire Conference?’ by Nicola Menzie takes up the story:

“After setting a box of his books on a patio table near the back side of the church property, he began signing while meeting people in a line that was starting to grow. After signing a few books, he was told by church and conference organizers that he was not allowed to pass out the books. At this point, Driscoll continued to talk and shake the hands of people in line, after which they helped themselves to his book from the box on the table.  Moments later, organizers said they would like to take the books away and Driscoll responded by saying that he had no problem with the action and to consider the books as a gift to the church and conference staff. The box of books was then taken away.”

Security people at MacArthur’s conference were taken aback at the effrontery of a Christian pastor gatecrashing their conference, and handing out his new book. They asked him not to do so, and to take his books back to his car, but Driscoll refused to do so and offered his books as a gift to the Conference. MacArthur’s people had no option but to take the unwanted books to the Conference Office, whereupon Driscoll claimed that the books he was handing out had been confiscated by security.

 Security confiscated my books. #strangefire http://instagram.com/p/fnmZF4sgoO/ 7:26 PM – 18 Oct 2013

Rich Gregory, assistant to John MacArthur, said that Driscoll’s books were not confiscated and there was nothing confrontational. He said: ‘We were happy to have him at the conference. He brought books to hand out. We explained to him that all the books distributed on campus need to be approved. He told us that he wanted them to be a gift to us from him. One of our conference directors took that gift and brought them up to the offices. If you hear from him and he wants them back, we can send those back if he wants them.’

These are the facts of the matter.  Some tweets add context:

‘Seriously, Mark! It does not take much commonsense that you just don’t hand out books at a conference that another church has organised without their permission. This is just common courtesy! And considering the differences of belief this could be looked upon as Mark trying to provoke Grace Community Church. Love does not provoke but love is long-suffering. I wonder which party was showing love. Umm… you don’t need to wonder too long!

 Another comment: ‘There was one ARROGANT minister who instead of disagreeing respectfully with MacArthur, decided that he was going to act like a child and show up there trying to cause problems with the conference. A real man would have found another way to respectfully disagree with the Strange Fire Conference. And why does he feel like he needs to interrupt this conference… And then to tweet about it like a little child. I just have no respect for this kind of behavior. He just wanted to get his name in the paper as far as I am concerned.’

 Another comment: ‘Do you think that, for a moment, Mark Driscoll thought that he would be received at the Strange Fire Conference with anything like JOY? Pastor Driscoll is a bully and expects everyone else to be bullies too. I was there and I guarantee that he was treated with the respect and dignity. He was treated much better than he would treat others if they had the audacity to do what he did. I’m glad the world is not filled with bullies like Mark Driscoll.’

 Another publicity stunt

To help us understand Driscoll’s motivation, we need to remind ourselves that a few weeks before he had devised a publicity stunt to draw attention to himself and his new book.  In early October 2013, Driscoll and hearseto make his point that the church is dying, Pastor Mark Driscoll pulled up to a worship service at Mars Hill Church U-District in a black hearse, wearing a formal funeral-style suit.

The purpose of this stunt was to promote his new book, due for release on November 5—the same day his Resurgence Leadership Conference 2013 is scheduled to begin.

Mars Hill communications director Justin Dean, explained to the Christian Post, “The hearse symbolizes death, and in the book, Pastor Mark shares that ‘the death of Christendom means life just got a lot more difficult for anyone who really wants to be a Christian and follow Jesus’.”

 A matter of conduct

These two publicity stunts reveal much about Mark Driscoll’s character, attitude and conduct.  Elsewhere on this website we have drawn attention to Driscoll’s unworthy behaviour, with regard to his crude language and casual dress in the pulpit. Here we see further evidence of his unworthy behaviour.

The Apostle Paul’s message is clear: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2.3-4).  “Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness” (Titus 2.2).  Pastors and church elders, who are in positions of leadership, should be dignified and courteous in behaviour and conduct (1 Peter 2.8). Christians are to “lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour” (1 Timothy 2.1-3). Scripture is clear that love of God (godliness) and dignified conduct go together.

Would a genuine Christian leader, concerned about the cause of Christ and His Church, gatecrash the conference of another church, showing so little consideration for other people?  The answer is clearly No! In his unbecoming behaviour, Driscoll has failed to show respect or consideration for senior Pastor John MacArthur and his church. Driscoll has again demonstrated his childish unworthy behaviour to the world.

And so we must ask, whose interest is Driscoll promoting? It seems that his actions are designed to promote his own selfish interests. Moreover, the provocative title of his book, Will Christianity Have a Funeral or a Future?  suggests that the Christian Church is dying. Indeed, his suggestion that perhaps Christianity will have a funeral is to demean the Church, which is the body of Christ, “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people”, who God has called out of darkness into his marvellous light (1 Peter 2.9). Christ is building His Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.  However, the counterfeit version of Christianity promoted by Mark Driscoll is indeed heading for a funeral.

But the story does not end here for Driscoll, undoubtedly aware of the widespread criticism of his actions, has issued an open invitation to Pastor John MacArthur to come to his Resurgence Conference.

Mark Driscoll’s invites John MacArthur to his Resurgence Conference

In an open letter Driscoll writes: ‘As you may have heard, I dropped by your recent Strange Fire conference. I happened to be in the area speaking at an ‘Act Like Men’ conference in Long Beach. I intentionally came during a break so as not to interrupt the sessions, and I met some great people. I got to pray with a number of great young leaders in your seminary who also podcast my sermons. Out of respect for you, I said nothing unkind about you or your ministry to anyone on my visit…

Security said I could not hand the books out, so I stopped. But people started helping themselves to the books that remained in the box, so security said the books had to be removed…

It was at this point that I told the security guard that, since they were going to confiscate the books anyway, they could just keep them as a gift from me. Apparently, someone recorded the final words of this conversation on video, but nothing of the prior conversations that led up to it…

At this point, I believe what would honor Jesus is for us to sit down and talk. So, I am formally inviting you to Seattle to join me on stage for our national Resurgence Conference on November 5–6…

Thank you for considering this invitation. A nobody trying to tell everybody about Somebody – Pastor Mark Driscoll’

You can learn more about Mark Driscoll’s ministry in the book, The New Calvinists (2014), published by The Wakeman Trust and Belmont House Publishing. The book is available from belmonthousebooks.com/