(This is one of the posts that was corrupted when our site was hacked in November, 2012. The old file was deleted. This is a newly uploaded copy of the uncorrupted original.)
Mark Driscoll has become a quite a lightning rod.
If you don’t recognize the name, he is a very young pastor of a church in Seattle, Washington(!) of 8000 members. And many people are coming into the kingdom of God as a result of his ministry.
He is not a Southern Baptist, and, as far as I know, he wasn’t at the 2009 Southern Baptist Convention in Louisville. But his name was on the minds of a lot of Southern Baptists. It turns out that some rather prominent Christian leaders are writing very negative opinions about him (while other prominent Christian leaders are being supportive of his ministry). It also turns out that he is having significant influence in the ministries of younger pastors across the land, including pastors in the SBC.
Dr. Danny Akin, President of Southeastern Seminary, has taken a lot of criticism for inviting him to the campus of Southeastern.
I think Driscoll himself would put his ministry in the relatively new category sometimes referred to as the “emerging” church (not to be confused with the “emergent” church).
Most of his critics seem to agree that his Biblical theology is strong. His soteriology (doctrine of salvation) seems solid. (That would be in contrast with many leaders in the emergent church movement.)
If you read only what his critics have written (as I did at first), you will probably conclude that he is disgusting. You may conclude that, as a Christian (much less as a pastor), he is a poor representative of Christ.
He has been accused of using crude language and illustrations from the pulpit–language and illustrations unbecoming of a pastor. I believe those accusations were likely true of his early ministry.
Anyone who knows me very well, knows how strongly I have always emphasized the importance of clean language. (You can read what I have written about it here, if you like.)
But, let us please remember that in any controversy, there is great benefit in deferring a final decision until facts are in from all sides.
John Piper (whom most conservative leaders have a great deal of respect for) invited Mark Driscoll to speak at the Desiring God 2008 National Conference. The title of his message was “How Sharp the Edge? Christ, Controversy and Cutting Words.” Before you make the decision to be too critical of Mark Driscoll, I would encourage you to watch that message. It’s a bit long (1 hour and 22 minutes), but I would encourage you to watch it anyway. I’ll include it at the end of this post to make it easy for you.
Mark Driscoll makes me cringe uncomfortably at times. (For the record, so does the great reformation leader, Martin Luther, the apostle Paul, the Old Testament prophets, and Jesus.) I also think it likely that, especially in his earliest years of ministry, Driscoll crossed the line into inappropriate speech many times. For that, I believe that he has repented. I have heard him express regret that he did not begin his ministry under the authority of a more experienced godly leader.
But I made up my mind not to form my opinion of Driscoll on the basis of what his critics had to say. I listened to the message below. And I used Itunes to download some of the messages he has preached at Mars Hill Church. So far, I think his messages are quite powerful–even having the potential to bring genuine revival to the church and awakening to our nation.
Does that mean I can vouch for and support all that he says and does? Of course not! But it does mean that for the time being I choose not to become excessively critical just because he doesn’t “fit into my mold.”
The truth is that God may choose to use some people that might cause some of us to ask, “Why on earth are you using him of all people, Lord?” That’s OK, isn’t it? I mean, God doesn’t need my (or your) permission before He chooses an instrument for His purpose, does He?
Does that mean that we should keep quiet when pastors (or other Christians) choose to sin?
Absolutely not! In fact, that kind of silence is one of the reasons that many churches have become so impotent and ineffective. In fact, Driscoll deals with that problem pretty strongly in the message below.
But I am primarily writing this article to encourage all of us to be very careful before we jump onto the criticism bandwagon of any Christian leader. Yes, there are times when we must expose wolves in sheep’s clothing. (Again, Driscoll deals with this in the video.) But before we make that decision we need to pay close attention to what is really being done or said. We must not allow loud voices to cloud our spiritual discernment.
There are pastors all across this land who are refusing to deal with sin in the church because of fear of causing offense. Is what Driscoll is doing worse than that? I think not.
This is a great opportunity to pray for discernment, to re-evaluate the status of my own personal discipleship, and to recognize that everybody doesn’t have to be just like me!
Stay in the battle!