Breaking News: Mark Driscoll Repents

In the past few weeks, I’ve seen what many many many people have seen on Facebook news feeds – way too much of Mark Driscoll. First the hype about his new book about sex, marriage, and sex (which I have not read). Then about his insults toward the maybe-godly-but-definitely-wimpy preachers of the UK for not being famous enough. Then about the church discipline process enacted upon some members who weren’t willing to repent enough to be accepted back into fellowship after voluntarily confessing sin.

Just moments ago, I finally read something that I, and many others have eagerly been waiting for . . . a sincere word of repentance from Mark Driscoll, as delivered from the pulpit at Mars Hill Church. Yes, really. Read it yourself:

I believe that humility is the great omission and failure in my eleven years of preaching. I believe that this is my greatest oversight both in my example and in my instruction.

I therefore do not claim to be humble. I do not claim to have been humble. I am convicted of my pride, and I am a man who is by God’s grace pursuing humility.

So in many ways this is a sermon that I’m preaching at myself, this is a sermon you are welcomed to listen in on as I preach to myself.

But I truly believe that were there one thing I could do over in the history of Mars Hill it would be in my attitude and in my actions and in my words to not only emphasize sound doctrine, encourage in strength and commitment and conviction but, to add in addition to that, humility as a virtue.

And so I’ll start by asking your forgiveness and sincerely acknowledging that this has been a great failure.

And I believe that it is showing up in our church in the lives of men and women who have sound doctrine but not sound attitude. They may contend for good things but their motives are bad and their methods are bad and their tone is bad and their tactics are bad and their actions are bad because their attitudes are bad even though their objective is sometimes good. I see this in particular with the men. I see this with men young and old, men who have known Jesus for a long time and should know better, and men who are new to Jesus and are learning sometimes the hard way.

I will take some responsibility for this. Luke 6:40 says that when fully trained, disciples are like their teacher, and I am primary teaching pastor of this church and I can’t simply look at the pride in some of our people and say that I am in no way responsible or complicit.

and later . . .

Furthermore, I apologize and repent publicly to you, the church for whom I am responsible, for much pride in the history of my ministry that some of you have poorly imitated and for that I am deeply sorry.

And thirdly, to say that I’m not a humble man but as result of study I’m a man who is acknowledging his pride and pursuing humility by God’s grace.


Amazing, right? Too good to be true? Maybe, maybe not . . .

Yes, Mark Driscoll did deliver these words to Mars Hill from the pulpit. The catch is, he delivered those words in November 2007. (I found the transcript for this on the web here). Am I guilty of a sensationalistic headline? Perhaps . . . but there’s a point.

There are multiple ways to respond to this confession. One would be to read this and think that he, like all of us, has some persistent and pervasive areas of sin in his life, and this one just keeps popping up for him. Kudos to him for his public confession, but no kudos for follow-through. The recent church discipline debacle certainly opens Driscoll up for questions when it comes to ongoing habits of sin that don’t result in changed behavior . . . should he himself be under church discipline for this?

The thing I have been the most troubled about regarding Driscoll for a long, long time has been what he says in this confession about the example he sets for others. I re-quote:

I believe that it is showing up in our church in the lives of men and women who have sound doctrine but not sound attitude. They may contend for good things but their motives are bad and their methods are bad and their tone is bad and their tactics are bad and their actions are bad because their attitudes are bad even though their objective is sometimes good. I see this in particular with the men.

Here’s the deal for anyone who doesn’t know me – I lived in Seattle for seven years, four of which I spent doing college ministry at the University of Washington. A number of students that were a part of the programs I ran were faithful members of Mars Hill Church. And I can testify that Mark Driscoll was right, at least in part . . . good motives, good intentions, but sometimes some pretty bad methods, tone, tactics, and attitudes . . . in particular with the men. I genuinely believe that these guys loved Jesus, and tried really hard to follow him. I pray they still do. But these guys would go to Ballard on Sundays, watch Driscoll for an hour-plus each Sunday, and then try to emulate him, both in doctrine and in their pseudo-masculine (but actually cowardly) style. I saw the way they treated women. I saw the way they treated people who held other doctrinal positions than they did. Sadly, I saw Mark Driscoll discipling young men to himself, while convincing himself and them that he was discipling them to Jesus.


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  1. Brilliant, Steve. Thanks for sharing.

  2. interesting steve – i have been thinking a lot lately at the way “we” who think differently than mark have been dealing with his words and actions – to many people have been just as wrong as mark has been in their reactions to him – they have insulted him in so many ways – i am not sure what kind of reaction this has been, but i tend to think they have been more a “knee-jerk” reaction – nice to read something that is not that 🙂

  3. The servant of the lord must not strive, but be gentle to all.
    Tough lessons to learn for anyone with fire in their belly.

  4. While I agree with some of the things you say, be careful that you have helped by trying to restore him instead of entertaining an accusation against an elder in the church on a media like fb without a remedy. (see Galatians 6:1) Some of the multiple fb post may have been publisher pushed as fb is becoming all about marketing for churches and business.
    Keep the Main thing the main thing.
    God Bless you.

  5. Steve, thanks for stopping in and commenting. I appreciate the caution. However, I’ll say that having worked in the same city as Mark, I’ve had numerous occasions of having to deal with messes Driscoll created. I have had a number of common friends with Mark over the years, and I’ve had several interactions with him myself. I know first-hand that he’s been approached many times in gentle ways for restoration, but the result is always the same. I am not the ultimate arbiter of what is sin and what isn’t, but by Mark’s own definition, he has sinned in very public ways, and in my opinion, he needs to be brought to account in a public way.

    Driscoll will get his attention. I know it’s marketing. I know that in some ways, I’m feeding it. My motivation for writing this was more for the students I used to work with than for him and his spiritual restoration.

  6. The comment left by “annoyed” has been deleted under the following conditions:

    1. If you have an issue with Jim Henderson, have the courage to take it up with Jim yourself.
    2. If you have an issue with Jim Henderson, I happen to know that he will hear you out on it. “Staying in the room with difference” is one of his highest values, and I’ve seen him live up to this value for a long time now. In fact, that’s a good example of something he is “for” and not “against.”
    3. If you have a comment about the issue in this post, have the courage to use a real name. This blog is a forum for those who can be real. You have nothing to fear here, even if you strongly disagree. All I ask is that you be respectful to other commenters.

  7. Awe, how could someone have a problem with Jim? He’s too damn lovable.

    Steve, great post. I’ve read similar near-confessions or pseudo-confessions quoted from Driscoll over the last 6 years or so, and I’ve never bought into it because the vibe I’m struck with is more of an excuse or an “easy out” to avoid actually changing. Driscoll confesses – he does not repent, because I don’t think he actually wants to. If I “confess” my sin publicly, I don’t have to do any real changing– I’m “working on it.”

    It makes anyone who calls him out look like the @ssh*le, rather than the voice of legitimate conviction. After all, you can’t convict someone for something they’ve already copped to. Right?

  8. Brilliant post! I was reading it and I was thinking “YEAH BUT HE DID THIS A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO TOO”.

    I knew that because I used to listen to sermon podcast weekly. This was the last sermon I listened to. I deleted the feed. I have never listened to him again.

    This was a GREAT take. thank you -Bo I will be sharing it

  9. Here is the video of the repentance:

  10. At the risk of creepy self-promotion, I have written a follow-up to this post, which is a bit less contentious.

    In case you’re interested:

  11. Everyone has sinned. Nobody is perfect. All we as Christians should do is forgve and forget. Without forgetting (or not holding accountable) we have not truly forgiven. Mark and anyone else who wants to preach for God our Father is truly brave and striving to do their best to represent Him. I challenge you to forgive him, because ‘he hasn’t followed through.’ I’m sure EVERY ONE OF YOU reading this has quit or not followed through one time or time again.
    Are we to gossip and post every time we have somebody or something we disagree with? I sure hope not. Otherwise, Facebook and twitter would be charging monthly by now.

    Christ says to love. Consider taking my challenge and try it.

  12. Sorry – just noticed that someone brought my name up in you blog- Id be happy to interact with them directly if they really want to

  13. But it’s so much easier to through anonymous e-stones! 🙂

  14. Amber D.,
    Would you make the same defense of Mark if it were racial minorities he was abusing with his language and so-called leadership?

    No, we certainly can’t tolerate overt racists.

    But somehow our Evangelical subculture creates and sustains an economy in which women can be subordinated without reservation, men can be bullied and subjected to both chauvinist and homophobic scrutinies, and the perpetrator(s) are given free rein (or more fitting: reign) to practice runaway pride and narcissism as a “lifestyle choice,” while everyone says, “that’s his theological privilege.”

    If some few Christians are not accountable to others, the whole mess falls apart. And it’s falling apart. And it keeps on…

  15. Oops, THROW anonymous stones. Not “through.” My bad.

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