an analysis of Mark Driscoll’s update to Mars Hill Church

"Mars Hill Church Sinks" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

“Mars Hill Church Sinks” cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

Mark Driscoll came back from vacation with his family, delivered his update from Pastor Mark, and will now take a six week leave while the elders of Mars Hill Church investigate the accusations against Driscoll.

When I read the update, a mixture of apology, explanation, and announcements, I wondered, like I did when Rick Warren made his apology, how my wife Lisa would receive this if I had slapped her around and she had challenged me on it and I gave her this kind of speech.

Because we can do that, you know. We can analyze the words of Driscoll personally, and we can analyze the words as an articulation of Mars Hill Church’s attitudes and intentions. Organizations and institutions, places of power, can be treated as entities. Even the law recognizes the personal responsibility of corporations.

Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.

So we can dissect these words to discern what they are really saying to us, the abused. We can listen to what Driscoll is saying and what the church is saying. What is in their heart?

Here’s what I’m hearing:

  1. “Get over it!”: I’ve apologized for my mistakes, so it’s time to let it go and move on. These accusations are nothing but attack, criticism and slander. You attacking me like this is proof that you are not faithful to me.
  2. “Do we have to talk about this now? I’m important and have important things to do!”: These accusations are an unfortunate distraction from my amazing ministry. People are going to Hell and we have to deal with this nonsense?!
  3. “I won’t listen to what you have to say unless you’re nice to me and say it nicely!”: The accusations you level against me are done in an unbiblical manner and are therefore null and void. It’s the internet’s fault this has happened!
  4. “I’m not perfect you know!”: Sure I’ve done and said things in the past. Sure I was angry, short, or insensitive. But are these serious enough to prevent me from continuing with my ministry?
  5. “I’ll handle this!”: I will control this damage. I’m bringing in an expensive, professional group who will handle this mess and make me look good again. And I’m going to talk with friends who get me. This is just a blip on the screen and things will be back in normal operation soon. Promise!

So the general thrust I’m getting is:

  1. They don’t see these “attacks” as genuine grievances but as illicit, unnecessary, and unfortunate distractions from its important ministry.
  2. They refuse to realize and admit that these accusations point to a deeply rooted malaise of which they are arrogantly and blindly unaware.
  3. They therefore will not address the real issues but will effectively control the damage and be back on track soon.

Even though Driscoll apologizes for some actions, decisions and attitudes, it sounds superficial and slick. Perhaps over the next six weeks he might really hear the accusations for what they are: genuine calls for repentance, reform, and restitution.

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8 Responses

  1. Bart Breen says:

    I watched the video too and I pretty much saw what you’re characterizing here. Apologies have been made for tone and method and for his “wisdom” at the time, but no apology for the actual messages given which are misogynistic, homophobic, rude and demeaning.

  2. Jarred H says:

    Also, no apology for the fact that the whole Mars Hill leadership tried to sweep this under the rug and are only now taking these steps because they couldn’t hide it anymore. No indication of how they’re going to fix the system that allowed the Mars Hill leadership to sweep everything under the rug for so long to prevent them from doing so again in the future.

    In short, no acknowledgement that the system in itself is a part of the problem and needs to be fixed.

    But don’t worry, Driscoll has said he’s sorry and he’s supposed to be forgiven. And that’s all that matters, apparently.

  3. Brad says:

    It seems to me that even if Mark and Mars are really none of my business, you’ve identified some extremely important patterns of non-apologies that are not only prevalent in the church and world at large, but potentially in me. For me, your blog didn’t merely entertain me with someone else’s fall … you held up an important mirror for self-examination. Many thanks.

  4. Ya that’s a good point Brad… which is why I used Lisa and my relationship as an example. This is what happens in relationships. As long as we’re able to admit it and deal with it.

  5. Graham says:

    Even I have felt the shock waves of this in far off rural North Yorks in GB. Thanks for this helpful & insightful post. In GB, in a secular organisation, the normal process would be for the person to be suspended on full pay without prejudice whilst investigations were made- they would not be able to make a public statement like this. The statement does not read well IMHO, for all the reasons that you say. It have, perhaps, been better for his Board to make a statement and not him.

    From the stuff I hear and read, an awful lot of people say they have been hurt by his alleged behaviour. I think I would have liked to see some more acknowledgment of their pain in official statements.

  6. Bart Breen says:

    I’ve done MS level studies in Organizational leadership and what Graham is saying is spot on.

    Look at the example from Penn State with Joe Paterno. JoePa was so used to making the decisions in that Penn State Organization that he even assumed that the President of the University and Board would listen to his “instructions” when he gave them through the media that everything was being done and they could just leave him alone to finish out the season.

    It came as a complete shock to him when he was removed before the season was complete. He was the de facto leader of that organization and he wasn’t used to being second guessed or over-ridden.

    The Board and President had to re-assert and re-establish their official power over his informal power and make clear that he wasn’t running his own investigation into himself.

    That’s not happening at Mars Hill. The board is in disarray. Not only have the two primary leaders who had any chance of holding the line against Driscoll in this investigation already stepped down, but now other board members are stepping down and Driscoll is running his own PR campaign with his own PR specialist and he’s giving the BOAA there at Mars Hill the time frame (6 weeks) to give the appearance of listening to what Acts 29 communicated and what he thinks the church and public will accept.

    Mark Driscoll is still very much in control at Mars Hill and he will remain so behind the scenes for the token 6 weeks he’s dictating for himself for the sake of appearances.

    This is not disciplinary. This is managed damage control.

  7. Doug Webster says:

    I finally got around to posting my thoughts on the subject, sharing what I think the key difference is in people’s responses. The Key to the Driscoll Controversy

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