© 2014 John Casimir O'Keefe

My View of Mark Driscoll (and all this stuff)

To start out, I think I need to be open and honest and start with a qualifier. I know Mark Driscoll, well, OK let me say that differently, I knew Mark Driscoll. I am pretty certain that I am no longer a blip on his radar, or a thought in his mind. Way back in the day, in the late 90’s, we had several conversations about what he was doing at Mars Hill, and what I was trying to do with the Asylum in Vegas. Now, granted, the Mark of the 90s is not the same Mark today, but I found him to be a rather interesting guy, and yes, I liked him.

I remember during one of our conversations he invited me to go on a “Planter’s Cruise” – the big selling point was, “We drink whiskey and smoke cigars” I remember that so clearly, because to be honest with you, I saw that at the time as a great selling point – but I could not raise the cash to go – so sad.

While I knew Mark, I will also have to say that I am not a supporter of his brand of Calvinist, and to be truly honest I just can’t wrap my head around some (alright, most) Calvinist Theology taught the way Mark teaches. Keep in mind, I am not a big supporter of what he is sharing. Can he be a egotistic, self-centered person? Sure, but show me a Senior Pastor who isn’t (even in there humility) – but in that, I also have to say that I have very little to offer in making changes to Mars Hill – not because I think what I have to offer is wrong, but because I know Mark and Mars Hill would never think the same way I do. I welcome EVERYONE, Mark does not; I am open to women in leadership roles, Mark is not; I embrace the emerging/missional/conceptual understanding of the church, Mark, not so much. The reality is, my voice concerning Mark and Mars Hill can be seen as a fart in the wind. This article is not so much directed at Mark, or the Leaders at Mars Hill, but to all of us who see ourselves as Followers of Christ, and those who think themselves better than Mark at some level, or desire for him to fall flat on his face.

A few years back I learned firsthand the power and destruction of people who disagree with ministry style, different theological thought, and how harsh those who see themselves as church leaders act concerning the hearts of other. When I was planting a church in North Carolina we were different. We took an old bar and turned it into a church. We were one of the first churches to have couches, tables and chairs. We held an Open Mic Night on Fridays where any band in the community could play. We held Video Game Nights and many other activities to show the community the church had changed. Because of this, we had other churches in the area praying for us to close. Some local Churches even picketed our worship services and came in just to leave tracks (my very first introduction to “Chic Tracs”) on the couches. They would stand in front of our church, blocking the doors and telling people they were going to go to hell if they entered. Yea, I can tell you first hand that the feeling of knowing others who claim to follow the teachings of Christ praying for you to fail is not a very good feeling – it sucks. When I would meet with the Ministers from those churches, to discuss that we have more in common, CHRIST, then we have not in common, how we see ministry, I was always met with insults, shouting and distasteful words. Truly, one can only be told that they are going to hell because they have tattoos, earring and listen to that sinful rock music before one decides to simply ignore the conversation, and move on in ministry.

I learned it the hard way, I lived it; I experienced the feeling of being abandoned by those who should have your back. I remember being told by an older pastor that there are two ways we kill our young by stabbing them in the back, or by friendly fire. So, when I read all the articles concerning Mark and Mars Hill, concerning plagiarism, book sales, how nasty Mark is, or something else, I have to ask myself, “is the author of those articles pulling the splinter out of the eyes of others, and how can they do that with that huge plank in their eye?” What I find hurtful, is that those who claim to be emerging, progressive, and open are the loudest in terms of judging Mark and Mars Hill. If we are looking to judge others for what we believe are their sins, are we being honest with ourselves when we speak of not judging others? This riding Mark and Mars Hill and calling them into accountability seems crazy to me – I am not a member of Mars Hill and Mark is not my pastor, with that being said, let me add that this is an internal issue, and if it is solved to the satisfaction of those inside the church, who an I – or who are we – or who are you – to demand anything else? For any of us who claim to be a follower of Christ to condemn someone seems to go against everything I hear from emerging, progressive, open conversations in the Church; we don’t like it when others call us to repent of our sins, but it seems we are very willing to do it to others. To be honest with you, I am tired of hearing what we are against, and making the negative our focal point; we should be seeing Christ as our pivot point.

Would I like to know what happened? Sure. Would I like to be a fly on the wall when the Elders are discussing the issues? Sure. But, you know what? I am not a fly, and to be honest – if we are only seeking the juicy tidbits we’re swimming in some pretty murky waters. If all we are looking to do is “close him down” or “get him fired” or “put him in his place” – I wonder where our hearts are coming from. Over the past few months I have read more stories about how abusive Mark is, how cruel he is, how he can’t be trusted, how he simply stole the ideas of others – and you know, all those may be true, but how perfect are we? I have been reading some articles that seem to be almost giddy about the possibility of Mark falling. If others were to dig into our lives, could we pass muster? If we can, and we are using our life and example as a measuring stick – we are using the wrong tool.

If we are at the point in our collective faith journeys where we expect our pastors to be perfect, sinless, we are at a very bad place in that journey. I get a kick out of people who then add, We are not looking for perfect, we are simply asking him to repent. I find this interesting because, repent what? Repent for what you define as a sin? I know several people who are calling for him to repent of his sins, and they don’t even believe in sin, go figure. They also call for him to repent in public, and to be honest with you – if he did, I could just see some running after him like a jackal after a fresh kill.

What I think saddens me the most is that too many people are cheering for the fall of Mark and Mars Hill – to be honest, I find that disgusting. To push anything to the point of bringing down something is so not in the spirit of the Divine. As I said before, I may not agree with his theology, his style of ministry, or even how he views other people, but I will never wish him to fall, or Mars Hill to close. Anyone who has that in their hearts or that behind their motivations, I have to question where they are standing in relationship to Christ – I pray for him to have a changed heart, a softer heart. I see no reason to vilify Mark or Mars Hill. For those of us who have been involved in the emerging/missional/conceptual conversations in the church should be the last to judge others, because we know how it feels – we know what it is like to be told that we are heretics, we are a cult, and we are the ones killing the church. We have the scars to prove our pains, so why would we want to place that pain on another?


  1. Posted 2014/03/10 at 12:46 pm | #

    Interesting and challenging thoughts John. I don’t know Mark Driscoll, I only know what he teaches and communicates publicly and as far as I’m concerned it’s fair game and reasonable to interact with those thoughts, teachings and practices in the same forum that they’re shared. That can be done without being nasty and I admit I have difficulty with neo-reformed leaders such as Driscoll and there’s a sense of irony for me to see them subjected to the same things that they bring against other people (and yes I know that’s not particularly noble.)

    I don’t think I’ve followed or particularly cared deeply about this latest issue. It touches me a little because I am a prolific book reviewer and I am aware of the cutthroat practices in publishing today.

    It disappoints me to see personality cults formed and manipulative marketing methods associated with what is to be a message of truth and grace.

    That said, I don’t have much stock in Driscoll and I don’t have a need to go hunting as it were for him. Personality cults come and go. Always have and always will.

  2. benjamin ady
    Posted 2014/03/10 at 1:47 pm | #


    Thoughtful writing. I like it. The question arises–with regards to yourself–what would be your best imagined possible scenario, for yourself, I mean to say, looking back from 30 years in the future, if you could see from that vantage point that your current self was in a position of great power and that your exercise of that power was doing more harm than good to people–in a word, that you were being abusive and actively breaking people, in an emotional/spiritual sense? What would you want others to hope for for you? How would you want them to actively move towards those hopes?

    Beyond that, David, who was called the friend of God, had some pretty intensely negative things to say about his enemies. And Jesus certainly also had some pretty intensely negative things to say about people in positions of power/authority in the religious sense who were using those positions in abusive ways. Possibly these two fellows might have had more space than you seem willing to give for people who feel and say intensely negative things about Mark. Have you considered the possibility that you are defending the perpetrator, rather than the victims?

    Thanks for accepting my comment in the loving spirit in which it is intended.

  3. Justin Meier
    Posted 2014/03/10 at 3:38 pm | #

    I am with you all the way! Thanks for having the guts to say so. I pray for Mark and Mars Hill often. Not because I agree with them, but because they are God’s people.

  4. Posted 2014/03/11 at 12:16 am | #

    Hi John. I resonate with the thought of checking the plank in our own eye and keeping the peace and not wanting to see Mark orvMars Hill fail but I think you make the presumption that those things outweigh the need for people to speak out in order to protect the victims on this kind of problem church.

    Two things:

    1) For people like Mark to continue to speak his none sense and hurt people in his church it just takes good people to do nothing.

    2) when you and others take us to task for speaking out it sounds a little like ‘peace peace when there is no peace’.

    Speaking out is not necesarily the same as wishing Mars Hill to fail. In addition there are times when churches are so dysfunctional it would be better that they did close. That may not be true on this occasion but you and I don’t know that. It seems the many people being hurt would have different opinions.

  5. laura simmons
    Posted 2014/03/11 at 12:50 pm | #

    Finally someone is saying these things. I think it is absolutely despicable that people who call themselves Christ followers have made it their life mission to bash Mark and bring him down.

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