The Seattle Times announced that Mark Driscoll, author and founding pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, has voluntarily resigned his position with the mega-church. This comes after a panel of seven Mars Church elders and one church member concluded an “investigation of charges” against him including “domineering leadership, arrogance, responding to conflict with a quick temper and harsh speech, and leading the staff and elders in a domineering manner.”
Driscoll founded the Mars Hill Church 18 years ago, and in that time became a public figure whose style was a cause of both admiration and outrage. Driscoll built the Mars Hill church congregation to an estimated 14,000 people at 15 locations across five states. Driscoll first came into national evangelical prominence as his multisite churches and podcasts rose in popularity, finding a niche within a largely secular Northwest culture.
Driscoll devotees were drawn to his straight-forward, direct style. His critics were put off by what they perceived as “arrogance, abuse of his power, and misogyny.” Though he has been controversial for years for statements on women, men, faith, and sexuality, several tipping points likely led up to Driscoll’s resignation. It’s important to note that Driscoll was not asked to resign from his church, according to a letter from the church’s board of overseers.
Here’s a few reasons why this is important and impacts the landscape of leadership across our country, regardless of your personal faith or belief system:
1. The court of public opinion is the only court that matters
Mark Driscoll has never been “charged” with anything. He’s committed no crimes or broken any laws. Reading the various “news” articles about him you could easily conclude that he was about to be pulled in front of a grand jury — not true. The “charges” against him have come from those that were offended because of his style of leadership. For what he was found the most “guilty” of: domineering leadership !?!?! (How many CEO’s or Board chairmen do you know who aren’t like that?)
“Recent months have proven unhealthy for our family—even physically unsafe at times—and we believe the time has now come for the elders to choose new pastoral leadership for Mars Hill,” Driscoll wrote in his resignation letter to the church elders investigating him. Driscoll also noted that he was not being disqualified from future ministry:
“You have also shared with me that many of those making charges against me declined to meet with you or participate in the review process at all,” Driscoll wrote. “Consequently, those conducting the review of charges against me began to interview people who had not even been a party to the charges.”
2. There will always be a piling on…
Once any leader acknowledge weakness (aka…also known as being human) their detractors, hidden enemies will not only jump to conclusions, but also rush to judgment. It’s not surprising how many reflecting on the Driscoll news are now using condemning and maligning words such as “abusive,” “bullying,” “misogyny,” and “narcissist” to describe him inappropriately. These false labels only serve to highlight the short-sighted view of those casting the stones.
We all tend to vilify what we do not understand. It is human nature. And I readily acknowledge that “hurt people, hurt people.” Leaders are looked to in their position to be a place of strength, vision, and refuge. So when people feel they have been misled or wounded by the leader, they are quick to react out of self-protection. We all do it.
3. Leadership is always done in a glass house
After I finished reading the original post on Church Leaders yesterday (10/14/14) regarding Pastor Mark Driscoll resigning his role and stepping down from Mars Hill Church. I quickly posted a few thoughts, here’s the gist of my original post :
This is just another example of The Church covering it’s backside by crucifying its leaders. How sad. Mark led, that’s what leaders do. If the people and staff in the #MarsHill church didn’t like his style of leadership, or attitude, they could have voted with their feet and left. Instead, yet again, they chose a passive aggressive approach that reinforces The Church’s irrelevant, weak, and hypocritical PR message to the watching world.
Mark should not have resigned. However, it is unfortunately the only way he and his family could possibly move on in order to live out the irrevocable gifts, calling, and passion God gave them. The Church in America is WAY to well known for eating it’s own and crucifying it’s leaders when their humanity shows up.
4. Leadership is a lonely place
I disagree with Marks leadership style, his dogmatic thinking, and much of his theology. I don’t think that Mark and I would ever be friends. However, I would stand with him any day, in any setting for the fact that the church he built has sold him down the river inappropriately, and without cause. For that, we share common scars. When fear infects people, instead of faith — all involved lose, the fallout is great.
I actually do think it was God’s will for Mark to move on. The proof to me for that, is in the responses of Mars Hill Church, as well as much of the Christian media attention. Each has shown their true colors if you will, in their judgment and advocacy against Driscoll. As I wrote in my post, I’m not a personal fan of Mark, nor do I think he and I would ever be friends. BUT, I would stand with him any day regarding the injustice he has just walked through at the hands of “fellow” leaders of the church he started.
It’s time we speak up and discontinue the gospel of punishment happening in our church’ and leadership culture. The leadership vacuum needs to start with each of us individually. This will take courage, and much grace to enter into conversations that are well known for being uncomfortable. If you want to make a positive contribution to disrupting this all-to-common status quo, one way is to join my friends and I here.