In Britain we often talk about Marmite, you either love it or hate it. I can’t help feeling that Mark Driscoll had been turned into a product for consumption. You either liked him, or his style was a mild, or indeed severe – irritant. The problem with evangelical culture is that we tend to make celebrities out of people. Their popularity depends on their ministry style. Unfortunately they may feel the need to live up to such expectations. I remember the first time I ever heard Mark speak, I generally enjoyed what he had to say. In some areas of my life I was left deeply challenged. Yet I had a concern I found difficult to identify. There was on my part a suspicion that what some people loved about him was his boldness and even this boldness at times had distracted them from considering the content of what was being said. My fear was that this boldness could also be his greatest weakness. The perceived bully boy tactics did not suddenly appear overnight. They had been fuelled by a desire of many listening, and perhaps even encouraged, by those attending his church that someone needed to stand up to the big problem of Christian indifference and mediocrity.
Christianity weakened by poor morals and insipid theology needed challenged, and Mark was just the man. Not necessarily self-appointed but applauded by his followers he stood to the malaise of contemporary Christianity. The problem with Christian ministry is that often we are a product of what others want us to be. Consequentially we can begin to foster and develop an image beyond what is appropriate. Mark I believe succumb to this pressure. Many people wanted him to be aggressive, and indeed what he might have been naturally without God, found endorsement in some Christian circles. It led him to speak and act in ways that were not always justifiable. The pressure to produce books, attract congregations, speak with authority, and generally always to be seen to be successful took it toll. It meant that he often traded on qualities that had given him notoriety but without humility. It is often the lack of humility that diverts our attention away from those who can help us put the breaks on – that is, if we are prepared to listen. The crash was indeed coming, and he was jumping all the red lights. Do I hold Mark responsible for what had happened? Yes I do, he must take responsibility for the things he did and said. Nevertheless, all of us need to reflect on a culture that helped place him in this volatile position.
The sad fact is that many mega churches need mega personalities to run them. Like boy bands and footballers they live in the limelight and some can handle it well, and some can’t. My worry was that the qualities many liked in Mark and encouraged him to promote, are the very ones, that eventually brought him to his Knees. Sadly, if he couldn’t be encouraged to fall on his own sword, then many were prepared to act as executioner. His intolerance was met by an equally aggressive intolerance, particularly by those who wanted him brought down a peg or two.
What can we learn from all this? Once again we must be careful that we don’t create an evangelical celebrity culture. One where success is monitored by targets and attendances. A business producing disciples, graven not always in the image of God, but in its leaders and prophets. The Christian press have to be careful that they don’t help promote such figures. Only to one day show them little mercy or grace. Leaders must listen to wise counsel and refuse to believe all the good press that leads to pride. Finally and most importantly for me Mark and his family, the must be given privacy and compassion to recover. Wounded and broken by his sins and the sins of others, we must restore him gently. If he returns to leadership, he must return having learned some valuable lessons. If not history will repeat. However, if he learns from his mistakes and the mistakes of others, Mark Driscoll could once again be a voice that brings challenge, and a new found wisdom. With a soft and courageous heart once again he could present to the nations the good news of Jesus Christ.