On the controversy with Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church

Mars Hill Church, Bellevue WARecently, Mark Driscoll, the pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, has been in the news for alleged behavior that disqualifies him to be in ministry at all, much less pastor of a church. You can read all you want to about it here, here, and here if you wish.

In response, a private Facebook group was created for Mars Hill members and supporters to share encouraging personal stories about how Mark has touched their lives. The following is my contribution to that group.

Having read much about this issue I will reserve my comments on the issues for another time. For now, here is my personal experience with pastor Mark.

By 2006 I had become disillusioned with church. I had been a Christian for 34 years at that time and I was tired of sermons without any real meat; sermons that were rehashes of the same points from random selections of verses I’d already heard a 100 times, or presentations of pop psychology with a Bible verse thrown in here and there for good measure. I was tired of churches that had flat lined; that were the same size this year that they were last year and the year before that … and ten years before that.

I felt like there must be something more.

Then my daughter decided to attend college in Seattle.

She also decided that she should visit Mars Hill Church to hear this guy, Mark Driscoll, preach. She had heard good things about him and thought it might be interesting.

So, during the move-in time at her school, we went to a service at Mars Hill in Ballard. I was, to be honest, skeptical, having a hard time believing there could be a good church in the Godless Pacific Northwest.

So, I was impressed that my wife and I were, by far, the oldest people in the building. Where I come from, you just don’t see that many people under the age of, say, 40 years old in church. Especially guys. I figured any church that would draw that many younger adults — and men — had to be doing something right.

And then Mark got up to preach.

Then I knew why people were there. I mean, this guy could preach. He opened the Bible and started laying it out, explaining what it meant and not pulling any punches.

I was hooked. As soon as I got home, I began downloading Mark’s messages to my iPod and started listening. Since then I’ve listened to them everywhere: driving across the country, flying across the country, hiking the trails at Valley Forge, exploring the back roads of Wyoming and Nebraska, working in the garage, mowing the grass, painting the bedroom. But mostly in the car as I drive to and from work. And I’m still doing that, nearly every week.

Finally, the scriptures opened up to me in a way I had never seen.

For the first time I saw that the scriptures were all about Jesus, from the opening words of Genesis to the closing words of Revelation. Things that I had known were true but hadn’t understood finally made sense. I had known that I was a sinner since God saved me (or, I gave my heard to Jesus, if you’re Arminian) when I was 16 years old, but I finally I saw myself as I truly am: not as underserving of God’s grace, but ill-deserving; yet, clothed in Jesus’ righteousness and empowered with his Spirit to live a life I couldn’t live on my own (although I had tried).

As a result, I was better able to love and serve others; my wife, my kids, my family, my neighbors, my co-workers, and my church.

I don’t attend Mars Hill except when we visit our kids, both of whom now live in the Seattle area. (If our kids can’t live close to us, I’m at least grateful that they can attend a good church like Mars Hill.) But Pastor Mark’s messages rejuvenated my interest in the church in general and especially our local church. I serve, give, and pray for our church in a way that I hadn’t for a while and that I’m sure I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t heard Mark’s sermons.

I don’t like to contemplate where I would be had I not stumbled across Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll, but I think it would be a dark place. Would I have walked away from active participation in church? There’s a good possibility. Would my personal walk with Jesus have suffered? Absolutely. But, by God’s grace and his ministry through Mars Hill and Pastor Mark, I’m not there. Instead, I’m where I am today and I’m eternally grateful. And I hope that, in some tiny, tiny way, I’ve been able to pass on the things I’ve learned and the changes I’ve undergone to those around me.

Some have accused Pastor Mark of doing things that disqualify him for ministry. My perspective, and I believe that of scripture, is that we’re all disqualified for ministry. There is only One who is qualified, and his name is Jesus. Only Jesus can work though pathetic, misshapen, broken pottery like Paul, Moses, Peter, Elijah, David, Noah, and Matthew.

Like Mark Driscoll.

Like me.

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