Some encouraging news out of Seattle’s Mars Hills Church from Mark Driscoll, by way of Benjamin L. Cory at Formerly Fundie:
Mark Driscoll, it appears, is repenting.
I didn’t think I would ever write this post, but I am. In a letter to Mars Hill that appears to have been leaked to Reddit, Mark Driscoll is apologizing for some of his behavior and committing to giving up being a celebrity in order to be a better pastor.
The chatter that has started online is understandable. I get it. It can be hard to know when someone is sincere, and it’s easy to be cynical. It’s also easy to believe the worst about someone. As someone who has been quite critical of Mark, I’m tempted to react that way too.
But, that would be wrong.
When someone engages in hurtful, even abusive behavior, the goal should always be for a person to come to repentance. Our hopes and our commitment should always be on the side of healing, restoration, and forgiveness.
Sure, there are some things in the letter that I could critique. Yes, my instinct is to be cynical and I would have good reason for that reaction. But maybe, just maybe, Mark has now taken the first steps in the right direction.
I think we must refrain from the former (for now) in hopes that the latter is true. In this case, I think that love offers the benefit of the doubt.
If this letter is validated as authentic, I believe the most God-honoring thing to do would be to pray for and support Mark as he attempts to change his life and hopefully heal damaged relationships. I don’t say this lightly– I believe Mark’s behavior has been outright abusive, and I have consistently spoken out against his behaviors very publicly because this was the right thing to do. Along those same lines, if Mark is now showing that he intends to begin a process of repenting, it is equally right for me to speak out and say that this is a beautiful first step, and that he has both my support and prayers.
You can read the rest of his post here, and here’s an excerpt of the letter:
Dear Mars Hill Church,
I have received a great deal of love and encouragement from you for more than 17 years. I genuinely appreciate every person who prays for my family and me. Also, I continue to find great joy in teaching the Bible every week to people I have grown to love with a father’s affection.
For those of you who have been around for a while, it is amazing for us to see all that Jesus has done. People often ask if our church today resembles what I had originally planned. Not even close. The smallest location of a Mars Hill Church is bigger than what my total vision was for the whole church when we started.
As the church grew over the years, it was clear that both the church and I were unhealthy in some ways, despite some wonderful people and amazing things that the Holy Spirit was doing in and through them. For years, I felt a joy in teaching the Bible and love for the people, but frankly was overwhelmed on how to organize and lead all that was happening. I felt the crushing weight of responsibility but did not know what to do, and I lacked the abilities to figure it out. I was frustrated at my shortcomings, but needed help from people who were more experienced and mature. In my worst moments, I was angry in a sinful way. For those occasions, I am sorry. As I’ve expressed in several sermons, I needed to mature as a leader, and we needed to mature as a church.
In the last year or two, I have been deeply convicted by God that my angry-young-prophet days are over, to be replaced by a helpful, Bible-teaching spiritual father. Those closest to me have said they recognize a deep change, which has been encouraging because I hope to continually be sanctified by God’s grace. I understand that people who saw or experienced my sin during this season are hurt and in some cases have not yet come to a place of peace or resolution. I have been burdened by this for the past year and have had private meetings one at a time to learn from, apologize to, and reconcile with people. Many of those meetings were among the most encouraging moments in my time at our church. Sadly, not all of those relationships are yet mended, but I am praying that God is gracious to get us to that place of grace. Now that others have come forward, my desire is to have similar meetings with those who are willing.
In the past few years, we have also made significant improvements to how we are governed and organized as a church. This has been difficult, but long overdue. The Board of Advisors and Accountability is a great blessing to us all, as they combine wise counsel and strong oversight during this process. I have been a pastor for a long time, but have not had a close pastor since college. I now rejoice that God has been gracious to give me pastors for accountability and wise counsel. Through their counsel to confess my own sin, while not being distracted by the shortcomings of others, the Holy Spirit is making me a better man and pastor, which I pray helps us to become a better church. This is the truest and strongest pastoral love and accountability that I have ever had and I thank the Lord for it. Pastor Dave and Pastor Sutton have also joined me as Executive Elders. They have been very helpful in getting my team and me to the most unified, loving, and healthy place we have ever been. I really love our church, and I see where it was unhealthy, where it has gotten healthier, and where we can continue in that path. I am very encouraged by where we are and where we are going.
However, this process has required a lot of changes, and admittedly we did not handle all of these changes equally well. We are fully aware of and grieved by ways we could have done better with a more effective process and more patience, starting with me. I am deeply grieved and even depressed by the pain we have caused. Many have chosen to air their concerns online, and I apologize for any burden this may have brought on you, and I will do my best to clarify a few things without, I hope, being angry or defensive.
First, a marketing company called ResultSource was used in conjunction with the book Real Marriage, which was released in January 2012. My understanding of the ResultSource marketing strategy was to maximize book sales, so that we could reach more people with the message and help grow our church. In retrospect, I no longer see it that way. Instead, I now see it as manipulating a book sales reporting system, which is wrong. I am sorry that I used this strategy, and will never use it again. I have also asked my publisher to not use the “#1 New York Times bestseller” status in future publications, and am working to remove this from past publications as well.
Second, in recent years, some have used the language of “celebrity pastor” to describe me and some other Christian leaders. In my experience, celebrity pastors eventually get enough speaking and writing opportunities outside the church that their focus on the church is compromised, until eventually they decide to leave and go do other things. Without judging any of those who have done this, let me be clear that my desires are exactly the opposite. I want to be under pastoral authority, in community, and a Bible-teaching pastor who grows as a loving spiritual father at home and in our church home for years to come. I don’t see how I can be both a celebrity and a pastor, and so I am happy to give up the former so that I can focus on the latter.
You can read the rest of the letter at Reddit here. So just to reiterate, this is supposedly a leaked letter, and as far as I know, hasn’t been authenticated. But if it is true, then I agree with Benjamin that this is a very good thing. If you step into his combox, a lot people are ripping Pastor Mark a new one. I understand the temptation to pile on- I have a lot of reservations about Mars Hill and Driscoll and have voiced them here and on my previous blog. But come on, we are ccalled to higher. Let’s pray for him, all those under his leadership and followers, the elders, pasotrs and especially those who have been so hurt by him. Pray for his wife Grace and their kids.