Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Mark Driscoll: A Leader We Shouldn't Follow

(Please read Mark Driscoll, Apology Accepted here)

As a young pastor I keep getting told that I need to learn from the leadership training of Mark Driscoll, who is the leader of the Acts 29 Network and pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington. He is considered to be a leadership guru for young church leaders, but I believe that his methodology is dangerous.

To Driscoll’s credit, he teaches a lot of good theology. Most of Driscoll’s fans seem to be in the emerging church, but Driscoll himself is no fan of the emerging church. He is the first to point out the fact that they do not believe in absolute truth, and that they care more about handing out “muffins and hugs” than they do about preaching the gospel. In a day where the emerging church spends more time giving happy pep talks, Driscoll is a teacher of theology. And while I do not agree with all of his theology, I do appreciate that he is teaching it. Unfortunately, it is guys like him that say just enough good stuff to give themselves credibility.

First of all, he admits to and even brags about committing theft in his book Confessions of a Radical Rev. He boasts that he never had to pay for electricity in one of his first buildings because “the building was illegally hooked up to the power grid and all our power was stolen (p.125).” And in case you think that is no big deal and I am just being picky, consider that he stole something tangible as well. “I stole an unused sound console from my old church, along with a projector screen, which were sins Jesus thankfully died to forgive (p.62).”

Talk about making a mockery out of grace! He is bragging about being a thief and making a joke about the blood of Jesus! It would be a different story if he premised these accounts by saying he regrets what he did or he has repented, but it is this type irreverence that makes him too immature to be considered a good leader.

I also disagree with him on the issue of drinking alcohol. I am not going to use this blog to make the case for abstinence from alcohol, but I certainly believe in it. Driscoll feels differently, making comments that “God has come to earth and kicks things off as a bartender (The Radical Reformission, p.30)” He makes comments about drinking beer frequently in his books and sermons, but the thing that gets me is that he requires the people he trains to brew their own beer at home. He has a chapter titled The Sin of Light Beer in The Radical Reformission where he makes the case that light beer came about to please feminists, and that good Christians should oppose feminism by drinking “good beer.”

With that knowledge of good beer versus sinful beer, Driscoll says in Confessions of a Radical Rev. that he holds boot camps to teach guys how to “brew decent beer (p.131).” He also says that he became convicted of his “sin of abstinence from alcohol. So in repentance, I drank a hard cider over lunch with our worship pastor (The Radical Reformission p.146).”

I also have a problem with the way that he uses the secular to make his points. I know that Jesus and Paul made illustrations of things like fishing, running, and farming, but those things are not sinful. In Driscoll’s book The Radical Reformission he includes examples of radicals on mission with him. Among them are David Bruce from Hollywood Jesus, who calls himself a missionary because he takes clips from movies and uses them to make comparisons to Christianity (I have been a long time critic of using movies that are full of curse words, sexual content, and God’s name in vain as “witnessing material”). He also features Icabod Caine, a country music DJ in Seattle, who said we are “basically clueless” as to the difference between the secular and sacred, and yet he views himself as a missionary even though he daily plays music that is filled with drunkenness, divorce, and profanity.

Another example of Driscoll using the secular in place of Scripture comes from his owning and operating of The Paradox, which was a venue that was designed to host concerts. Driscoll said he rarely used the venue to host Christian bands because his goal was to get unsaved people into the building. But the problem is that the gospel was never presented to these unsaved kids; they would basically pay secular bands to come perform (thus supporting what they stand for), then let the crowd leave unchanged. Instead of being a pastor, this makes Driscoll nothing more than a concert promoter. In his own words, Driscoll never “preach[ed] at the kids” or did “goofy things like handing out tracts (Confessions of a Radical Rev. p.127).”

The basement of the building, he says, was a place where local junkies would do black tar heroine, and the back is where junkies would “shoot up drugs and poop on the ground (p.125),” and he laughs about the Japanese punk band that randomly stripped naked during the show. Don’t worry though, because during these concerts Driscoll saw “many kids come to faith through relationships (p.127).” This might sound elementary, but relationships don’t save people, faith in Jesus and repentance does.

He also has one of his church leaders routinely lead discussions on movies they watch, including “unedited R-rated” movies, to teach people to think critically (Confessions, p.157). Humans are totally depraved; why do we need to look at sin in order to critique it?

But what drives me crazy about Driscoll is his crudeness. I will break down this final point into three areas: his general crudeness, his obsession with crude sexuality, and his crudeness when referring to my Lord.

His language is foul, crude, and offensive. I can’t even do justice to how crude he is because I refuse to write most of the words he uses. He makes no apology for the time he “cussed out the poor guy” who came to him for counseling when he was having a bad day (Confessions of a Radical Rev. p.128), or for the fact that he “cussed a lot” when he was frustrated (p.129), including cussing at the bare offering plate (p.47). On page 133 he uses a crude word for prostitute and a crude word for an illegitimate child.

In The Radical Reformission he uses yet another crude term to refer to a loose woman (different from the one mentioned above) on page 29. In Vintage Jesus he quotes Brad Pitt from the movie Fight Club, where he uses the longer form of being P.O.’ed (p.201).

His crudeness is also sexual. In Confessions he refers to intercourse as “banging (p.128).” On the same page he admits to being burned out in the ministry due to “an unspectacular sex life,” and he makes a reference to a woman being “hot like hell.” On page 96, when admitting that he isn’t like most pastors, jokes about using words in sermons like a term to refer to the male reproductive organ, as well as having “an aluminum pole in the bedroom.” Some of those “sermons on sex were R-rated (p.134).”

One of those R-rated sermons was when he gave all the guys two stones to symbolize what they needed in order to be real men (p.129). His lingo was cruder.

In Radical he says that Adam and Eve were “horny (p.28—on that page he also uses a crude term for a prostitute)” and he makes a joke about a gay orgy on page 33. He makes wisecracks about people using Viagra on pages 75 and 165. There is also a joke about a vasectomy on page 76.

Driscoll talks frankly about a threesome on page 92, and about girls’ tight pants making their backsides look big on page 95, about a girl having “junk in her trunk” on page 119.  On page 187 he references a man’s genitals, and on 185 he brags about teaching on subjects like the different ways that a woman can climax.

In Vintage Jesus he refers to intercourse as “knocking boots (p.11) and “shagging (p.41).” While attending a Monday Night Football game, he writes that “half-naked young women provide eye candy (p.164).”

On page 169 he says that our culture worships “good old-fashioned naked crazy-making” and he makes yet another reference to eating Viagra on page 183.

He also makes references to graphic sexual practices that take place, both as couples and alone, dozens of times. Not only does he talk about these topics that shouldn’t be mentioned, he does it in such a crass way. These references do not include his forthcoming book which will deal with these topics and much more (http://www.christianpost.com/news/mark-driscoll-answers-the-can-we-do-that-questions-in-upcoming-book-55728/print.html).

But the worst of all of his crude comments comes in a conversation he felt the need to include in Confessions when a member of his church called him during the night crying, and told him that he had just watched a dirty movie. Driscoll asked him, “Was it a good porno?” When the young man asked for prayer, this is the prayer that Driscoll records: “Jesus, thank you for not killing him for being a pervert. Amen.” Driscoll then told the man not to call him at night when he is sleeping, and said he didn’t have time to be his accountability partner.

But it gets worse. When the man asked for advice, here is Drsicoll’s reply: “You need to stop watching porno and crying like a baby afterwards…a naked lady is good to look at, so get a job, get a wife, ask her to get naked, and look at her instead (p.60).”

Not exactly a good leadership technique.

Mark Driscoll is also crude when speaking of Jesus. In Vintage Jesus he has a four-word sentence: “Jesus was a dude (p.31).” This dude “did things that normal people do, like farting, going to the bathroom, and blowing boogers from his nose (p.32).” 

On page 43 he says that Jesus acted as if He needed Paxil, that He was cruel for calling the Pharisees hypocrites, that He needed sensitivity training, and that He commissioned His disciples to “take a donkey without asking like some kleptomaniac donkeylifter.”

On page 44 he says that Jesus yelled at his disciples for sleeping “as an obvious workaholic who needed to start drinking decaf and listening to taped sounds of running water while doing aromatherapy so he could learn to relax.”

I don’t care who this offends: I’m not taking leadership advice from a “pastor” that calls my Lord a pill-popping, cruel, insensitive, workaholic kleptomaniac dude who farts and blows boogers out of His nose. And neither should you.

I know Driscoll defends himself by saying that humor is his thing, but there is nothing funny about belittling the King of the universe. Jesus is not a dude or my homeboy, He is my precious Lord and Savior. I would not let anyone talk about my wife that way, so why would I let him talk that way about the one who has saved me?

But that is just one book. In Radical he refers to “the God-Man” going “through puberty” and speculates that He had to have received at least one wedgie (p.29).

I have called Mark Driscoll a pervert from the pulpit, and will do nothing less here. If you are a pastor or leader who looks up to this man, or if you are a believer who reads or listens to him, please consider who he really is. I know the hip thing in churches is to be edgy and be the opposite of your grandparents preacher who wore a suit, parted his hair on the left, and used the KJV exclusively. And that is fine. But if you are looking for a good preacher, look for one who loves and respects the Lord and His Word, and do not turn your ears to these shock and awe men who are ear pleasing.

Consider Paul, who was a godly man that the young pastor Timothy looked up to. Paul warned Timothy to preach the Word because the day would come when people would recruit teachers to say what makes them feel good, and Driscoll is one of those men.

Finally, consider these paradoxical excerpts from Vintage Jesus. On page 159 he explains that lordship means that “Jesus has authority over the… shows we watch.” Then on 160 he says that we are to “say no to ungodliness in all its forms.” And on page 167 he uses the TV show South Park as an illustration, even referring to it as “hilarious.” If you know anything about that show you know it has the worst language on TV; South Park was actually the first show to ever use the “S” word on TV, and after weeks of advertising that they were going to do it, they kept a counter on the screen that kept track of each time the word was used, totaling 162 times on a half hour show.

Real hilarious, Mark.

And if Jesus has authority over the shows you watch, and you say no to ungodliness in all its forms, then how does South Park fit into that equation?

I wonder if Driscoll ever preaches from Ephesians 4:29: “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth.”

Pastors, if you want real leadership I have a suggestion. “Look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).”



Alicia said...

Thank you for revealing the immature and irreverent nature of this man. It breaks my heart that many young pastors and leaders follow men like this in the name of "being different".

I pray all pastors and church leaders will look to the Word of God for guidance in church leadership and stop obsessing over books and strategies written by men, especially crude men like Mark Driscoll.

Tommy Mann said...

Thank you for your comment Alicia. You are right about not putting too much stock in men. Even conservative Bible scholars like John MacArthur and Warren Wiersbe are still just men, and I disagree with them from time to time. Jesus is the only one that will never let me down.

But we can still look to these godly men with spiritual discernment. Driscoll is not a godly man, for no man of God would use the crude language that he does.

Erik Cudd said...

We knew it would come to this Tommy, Daniel and John the Revelator saw it coming. And it will only get worse. Keep standing up for the absolute truth of the Gospel, the infallable, inerrant, God Breathed Holy Scripture that is the only Word of God!

I'm with you!

Tommy Mann said...

Thanks Erik!

Good to hear from you, and glad you are with me! You're right: it will only get worse, so we must use the Bible as our standard, not hip or entertaining speakers.

Anonymous said...

God Bless you for speaking Truth, and standing firm (eloquently)- excellent message and most appreciated - stay STANDING! We are ! Passing this on...In His Grace

Tommy Mann said...

Thank you Anonymous! May you continue to stand in the truth of God's Word.

Nathan said...

It sickens me to see that you have taken the time to try and tare this guy down in the name of Jesus. I can tell you personally that when I began listening to Mark Driscolls sermons on Marriage and Dating, they changed the way I treated women, and made me want to be a better man. This type of thing you are doing is just causing division among people who all claim the name of Christ, and your devoting an extreme amount of time to it, instead of rejoicing in any good that might come from him preaching the Gospel. I am afraid you have stepped on to the judgement seat, where Jesus belongs. He is not a perfect man, and I even agree he has crossed the line in some instances, but to label him what you do is Pharisaic, not Jesus like.

Tommy Mann said...


Thank you for your comment, but you have confused me. Please explain why it is so wrong of me to “step on the judgment seat” and be “Pharisaical” by pointing out how grossly immature Mark Driscoll is, but it is ok for you to point out how wrong I am.

This is a typical example of the new tolerance—I must tolerate a man cursing from the pulpit, but his defenders do not have to tolerate me quoting the Bible to show that he is wrong for doing it.

Do you think Paul was Pharisaical and stepping on the judgment seat when he instructed Timothy to do exactly what I did?

“This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.” (1 Timothy 1:18-20)

Paul called these men out by name publicly, and called them a cancer. What was their grave offense? Perverting the gospel! That’s exactly what Driscoll does every time he says Jesus needs Paxil and that he was a kleptomaniac donkey thief and a bartender.

Please don’t misunderstand me; I don’t go around looking for a fight, and I am glad that you have benefited from Driscoll’s teachings. I do not think that I am better than anybody, but when I see someone pervert the gospel in such a crude way it bothers me. I will earnestly contend for the faith, and when wolves in sheep’s clothing come in to deceive and destroy the flock, I will continue to call it out.

God bless you, and may your walk with the Lord continue to be strengthened.

Anonymous said...

Natha, I am truly creeped out that you are getting advice from Mark Driscoll about women. Please try reading the Bible - at a basic level, the Bible tells you to treat women the way you do men, in so far as you are to "love your neighbor as yourself." With decent respect.

While he does mix in the occasional commendable comment about women (telling men to respect them), he does so also with a lot of sexist, condescending pap, which would, ironically, cause a man to disrespect them.

Driscoll ultimately seems to view women as being nothing but sexual play things for their husbands and does not encourage men (married or no) to practice self control in regards to sex.

I would not want to enter a relationship with any man who has taken advice from Driscoll about relationships or women.

And I feel deeply sorry for Driscoll's wife and any daughters he may have.

Tomi Ameobi said...

Tommy, can I ask you a serious question? Have you ever perverted the gospel in any way either by speech or action whilst being a Christian? We are all human, there has not been one sinless bible scholar on this whole planet barring Jesus Christ. Another question, what are you aiming for by posting this blog? As Christians shouldn't we resolve conflicting issues in a loving a peaceful manner not by trash talking.

For the person who posted the last comment, if you have sons or daughters, brothers or sisters do you interact with them in the same way. Yes we should love them equally but the way I interact/relate with my brother is much different to the way I do with my sister plainly because on an emotional level males and females are very different. I believe that is what Pastor Mark is trying to get at. Also I can relate with Nathan on the way I see women now is very different to my previous views and I believe much of that is from the teaching of Pastor Mark through the Holy Spirit.

Regardless of whoever is right, I believe God is at work in that Church.

Tommy Mann said...


Thank you for your comment and your questions. To answer your first question, yes, I have certainly perverted the gospel unintentionally in my life. I have preached parts incorrectly, and my life has not always backed up what I preach. Fortunately, when I have misspoken, misinterpreted, or misapplied Scripture people have been there to correct me. Paul even commended people for doing the same thing.

To answer your second question, my purpose for writing the blog was simply to warn people of the dangerous theology of Mark Driscoll. I know you read the other comments so I wont re-write them, but Paul called out people by name, even “talking trash” by calling them a cancer. A lot of my friends were posting Driscoll quotes on Facebook and Twitter, so I asked them how much they knew about him, and they didn’t really know much beyond the quotes they saw and reposted. I wrote this article to let people know what a foul-mouthed perverted man he is. I wouldn’t let my daughter read his books or listen to his messages because of the inappropriate content, so I know that a lot of my friends would like to know more about him before they turn him loose on their kids who they are trying to shield from his profanity.

Yes, solving things in Christian love is always ideal. But there is also a time to be bold and honest and expose what is not right. Paul addressed a man sleeping with his step-mother by telling the Corinthian church that a little leaven corrupts the whole lot, and that the man either needed to repent or be purged from the church. Christian love sometimes involves taking a hard stand.

Like with Nathan, I’m glad if you have experienced some benefit from Driscoll. I know he says a lot of good things, but for me, he is way too immature and obscene to meet the biblical requirements of a pastor. I see him as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and my job as a shepherd is to warn the sheep that there is a wolf out there that can destroy them.

Thank you again for your comment, and I certainly appreciate your civility, which is something I no longer come to expect from people who disagree with my posts. God bless.

Dave said...

The different between you calling out Mark and Nathan calling you out is Mark is trying to do good by spreading God's word. You are trying to tear down a man of God because you don't agree with him or his methods.

He admits to theft, well guess what, we aren't all perfect. He even said Jesus died for that sin. He is acknowledging it as sin. I don't understand why you would go after him for admitted sin that he repented from?

Additionally you call him a pervert because he uses words you do not like. Well not all of us are so easily offended. I haven't read or listened to all of Mark's sermons but out of the dozens that I have, he has never once offended me. And I have watched many of the sermons you quoted as so offensive.

What he has done is show me God's grace and true nature through his thoughtful, intelligent analysis of God's word. I can safely say that only three people led me God and he was one. For that I am eternally grateful to him. Perhaps you need to examine yourself more and worry about him less. If he is doing so much good(and he is), what is your real problem with him? Just because he doesn't preach the way you like doesn't mean he is wrong. It might just mean you are too up tight and are focusing on the wrong things.

As Augustine of Hippo said:
"In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity".

Certainly these are the non-essentials. The essential is the Jesus died for our sins and is the son of God. No?

Tommy Mann said...

Thank you for your comment Dave.

However, I’m not sure how you think you have pegged my motive (or Nathan’s). I’ve stated my motive for this post countless times in the comments, and it has nothing to do with methodology as you alleged. Please see my comment to Tomi.

Secondly, if he repented of his sin of theft, he sure didn’t write about it. Yes, he admitted to it, but in jest, making light of what he did. His reference to Jesus dying to forgive him was sarcastic (which is very common for Mark), and reminded me of the author of Hebrews talking about those who trample under feet the blood of Jesus.
I realize we are not all offended by the same things. If Driscoll’s constant use of terms such “grow a pair of balls” doesn’t bother you, that is your business; again, this post was written so that people could make a more informed decision before they turn his profanity lose on their children. Some parents may not want their kids hearing a pastor talk about cheerleaders being eye candy or about his “less than spectacular sex life” with his wife.

I may be too up tight, but I would disagree on your remark about the non-essentials. My personal opinion is that Driscoll is a false prophet—a wolf in sheep’s clothing. If I am right, then he is nothing short of a wolf trying to destroy the sheep of God. That is quite essential. 2 Corinthians 11:14 says that Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light, so his followers will no doubt find their way into the world’s largest pulpits, preaching as if they were messengers of light.

Anonymous said...

Pride and arrogance are the kindling that often lights the flame of other sins. Those that cannot heed the counsel of other godly brothers and sisters, brush aside that twinge of conviction and simply find fault with any criticism cannot legitimately accept a mantel of leadership. The key attribute of leadership is NOT always being right or selectively deciding on your own what your sins, faults and failures are.

It's sad and tragic for the entire body of Christ whenever any part falls or stumbles in spectacular fashion (Driscoll, Haggard, Swaggart, Bakers, etc) Unfortunately, even many in the body react in a very unloving manner. But scripture is clear that we are not unloving, but loving, when we confront and correct. And yes, we're called to do just that even with our own sinful nature and faults.

I'm not aware of a single NT passage in which Jesus gave allowance to live in a gray area of sin/worldly inappropriateness in order to share the gospel. I pray that those who feel emotionally attached to an imperfect "pastor" (every single one) to the point of defending what is widely considered indefensible by biblical standards, come to understand that is why we follow and serve Christ, not that imperfect human.

The pastors that love you and truly want to shepherd you for Christ are transparent, walk in the light, speak in truth and preach/teach the gospel message of our savior. THAT's how you know you're appropriately loved by a true pastor. Compassion, understanding, counsel, etc. all comes as an extension of that basis. When other activities and actions funnel the flock into unquestioningly following/obeying the flawed man in the front of the church, it's never going to end well.

It's become abundantly clear that Mark Driscoll has lost his way. As with any of us, but particularly one in the spotlight, it's difficult to accept and acknowledge. It's a humility we're supposed to cultivate so that we have a teachable attitude -- even pastors/teachers.

Pointing out the sins of another who has fallen, does NOT mean there is no possibility of redemption. But.....there is a reason that a process is outlined. True repentance and healthy restoration can never take place solely with "self-evaluation" and "self-reflection" and self-imposed time-out. Our human nature just doesn't allow for the mature growth to happen when we do that. No matter how we spin it or try to make it appear as a form of discipline, it's self-serving and the easiest path to follow. Any pastor who considers this appropriate is far too weak to lead anyone, including himself.

Unabashed defenders of Mark Driscoll or Mars Hill Church need to understand that the vast majority of the rest of us are praying for you, praying for Mark and the entire Driscoll family, praying for those remaining in the church. Losing the lead pastor or even the church (should that happen) is NOT the end of your relationship with Christ. A season of pruning is often needed to experience an abundance of fruit in the next season.

Thank you Tommy, for a well thought out and written piece. I realize it was written awhile back, but new young pastors over the past decade were being constantly encouraged to model some aspect of Driscoll's style in order to attract more people. Shining a light on what we should be asking the younger leaders to emulate, adopt, adapt and make their own is always a very good thing.