Tim Challies: What Mark Driscoll Missed About Ministry

Editor’s Note: We encourage our readers to stop and pray for Mark Driscoll and his family at this time. May we always speak with love and graciousness, even as we learn from our mistakes and press on towards the goal.

Gallons of virtual ink have been spilled recently as people have discussed the latest news in the ongoing saga of Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church: Both he and his church have been removed from Acts 29, the church-planting network he helped establish.

This is only the latest incident in a long, steep and very public decline. The news has been reported in Christian outlets, all over the local Seattle media, and as far afield as Huffington Post, TIME and the Washington Post.

As the situation comes into focus through scandal after scandal, it becomes increasingly clear that there are, and always have been, systemic issues at Mars Hill. Many of those issues are directly related to the sins and weaknesses of the church’s founder and leader.

I am much too far outside the situation to comment on the particulars; there are many places you can go to get caught up and to learn details, with Wikipedia as good a place as any to begin. One area that I haven’t seen anyone explore yet is what the news means to the wider movement that has come to be known as New Calvinism.

I want to think about how it pertains to the majority of us who know Driscoll only by association as a prominent voice in a movement we share. What should we learn from it?

The first I heard of Driscoll, at least to my recollection, was after the publication of his first book, The Radical Reformission. This—late 2004 or early 2005—was the time when most of us first heard his name and when we began to read his books, to listen to his sermons, and to look him up on YouTube, even if only for sake of curiosity.

As I read his book in 2005, and followed it with Confessions of a Reformission Rev in 2006, I felt both admiration for what Driscoll taught and concern for how he taught it. I loved most of his theology, but was concerned about his coarseness.

In 2006, Driscoll was more formally introduced to the New Calvinism with his inclusion in the Desiring God National Conference, and even then he was a controversial figure. When Piper invited him again in 2008, he recorded a short video to explain why he had extended the invitation. These words stand out: “I love Mark Driscoll’s theology.” While Piper did not deny the concerns, he loved Driscoll’s theology and loved what the Lord was doing through him.

Many of us felt the same way. We didn’t quite know what to think about the man, but we loved his theology. We loved what he believed because we believed most of the same things.

Bear with me as I artificially divide Driscoll’s ministry into three parts: theology (what he said), practice (how he said it) and results (what happened). So many of us had genuine concerns over the second part, but were willing to excuse or downplay them on the basis of the first and third.

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Tim Challies
Tim Challies, a self-employed web designer, is a pioneer in the Christian blogosphere, having one of the most widely read and recognized Christian blogs. He is also editor of Discerning Reader, a site dedicated to offering thoughtful reviews of books that are of interest to Christians.

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