Farewell Mark Driscoll.
As a young and sometimes angry pastor I have been saddened with each toss and turn of the waves in the ocean that is the drama circulating Mark Driscoll’s demise. I really liked the guy. I was introduced to the testosterone filled, Seattle megachurch pastor by like minded friends about six years ago. Driscoll was raw, cutting edge, controversial and theologically conservative. He said many creatively hard things that I wished that I could blurt out to my congregation (yet never uttered due to fear of repercussion and reprimand by my authority). He was the toughest pastor I had ever downloaded. He spoke difficult truths that I would grapple with like a UFC fighter caged with diligent, savvy opponent. There were however, moments listening to Mark’s tone and delivery where I thought to myself “Wow, it would be hard to work for Mark, it seems like he can be very mean at times……I bet he’s overly stubborn/opinionated.”
I knew that many people didn’t like Mark. That fact fueled my interest in him, as it did the thousands who were downloading his podcast and buying his books, not to mention attending his church, Mars Hill.
I watched the recent circus unfold online this year with bated breath. All I had to do was google Mark’s name and the floodgates would burst open with various articles published 5 hours ago, updated an hour ago with the latest news surrounding the scandals. With all of the attention Mark was receiving you would have thought that it was a “Ted Haggard” sort of scandal or worse. The hits just kept coming. There were the plagiarism accusations, the use of church funds to inflate sales of his controversial new book, the unleashing of crude forum posts Mark had written 14 years ago and the various elders and staff who were crying out in unison that they had been personally bullied/verbally assaulted/ignored by Mark.
When Matt Chandler turned his back on Driscoll; kicking him out of the Acts 29 network I knew things were bad. Matt and Mark were friends.
It would seem that Mark’s “death” was one of a “thousand paper cuts.” It wasn’t one “big” sin such as adultery or murder, no it was a whole bunch of little ones, building over a lifetime, accentuated by Driscoll’s massive reach in contemporary culture and status as a “Rock Star Preacher.” Granted the bloggers and liberal and conservative social media that Mark had openly, creatively criticized so long finally found a way to chip away at his defenses, hit him when he was most vulnerable and bring the giant to his knees.
I can’t imagine the misery Mark is living in right now, watching his 14,000 person church shrink to 7000, having to lay off numerous pastors, his name and legacy indelibly stained and having to resign from the church that he loved so very much as his enemies, both Christian and Other laugh loudly as they watch the once proud pastor brought low. It’s not like Mark was spewing heresy or anything along those lines…..
Which brings us to one of Driscoll’s nemesis’s, a man who also ruled an entity known as Mars Hill (the two churches are so different it’s comical, yet the similarity of their leaders demises is deeply ironic) the bane of conservative Christianity: Rob Bell.
I remember liking Bell in college, he was far cooler than I was, or ever would be. Everything thing about him screamed “I’m here to chill.” His voice passionate, his tone mesmerizing and his thoughts so deep and poignant, you could chew on his words for weeks. He verbally crafted pictures of Jesus that seemed so real, you thought the son of God was about the reach out and take your hand (then lead you to a Starbucks around the corner and passionately discuss social justice and the environment with you).
Yet Rob Bell flew too close to the sun and dreamed a bit too much. He asked some questions (which led to answers) that scared many people. “What if God’s love was so irresistible that everybody would turn to Him even after they are dead? What if nobody is in Hell? What if Love Wins regardless of what we believe in this life?” The one that haunted me was when Bell questioned the existence of a personal Devil, leading us to believe that Satan is a myth or at best a metaphor.
In the blink of an eye and the click of a mouse Christians were pulling his books off the shelves (to ban not buy), breaking their replica Rob Bell Hipster glasses and turning Bell into a Christian culture joke.
Rob has since made public declarations about his feelings and convictions concerning various subjects near and dear to conservative/orthodox Christianity’s heart. He’s just come down on the opposite side, causing himself to become more estranged and reviled. Rob resigned from his Mars Hill (he’d probably tell us that it was amicable and mutual, but nobody reading this article is that naïve, correct?)
Farewell Rob Bell.
All of this is sad. It would seem that there is a mysterious force assassinating our “Rock Star Preachers.” It used to be that you had to sleep with your secretary, or snort a line of coke to fall from your perch as one of Christianity’s biggest and brightest. Is there any way to keep ones legacy intact in the upper echelon of contemporary Christianity (Joel Osteen fans be thee warned!)?
Well…….let me introduce you to Francis Chan.*
*No really; once at a youth event I had the privilege of introducing Francis to over 2 thousand people. It was a great moment; he’s an awesome guy.
Hello Francis Chan.
The author of “Crazy Love” a book so simple yet so profound there’s a real chance it may make a practical difference in your life.
A man who has made millions of dollars off of that book……..and he gave it away.
A pastor who had a huge church yet stepped down, of his own will, at his own time, with his legacy intact.
Do you know what he did?
He left to go serve in the inner city of San Francisco. To downsize and to radically give everything he has away, as he strives to live in true accord with the teachings of Scripture.
Francis isn’t perfect and I’m sure he has his faults that those close to him are deeply aware of, yet this guy just might be onto something. He may have realized that the fame, the status and the fortune would eventually devour him.
Perhaps Francis is on to something.
We are too frail to fly that high, the smallest errors can build and if we want to exist as heroes we must live among those we seek to serve. The “Rock Star Pastor” may share similarities with the Tyrannosaurs Rex; they are big, loud and deeply interesting yet ultimately their destiny is extinction.