This post is some inside baseball for those who remember the end of Mars Hill Church. If you know nothing of that story, you might want to do some catching up.
So here is a little background for the post. Mars Hill Church was co-founded by Mark Driscoll. Driscoll was a lightning rod for controversy and attracted a large social media following and many detractors. Near the end of 2013, he did a radio interview with Janet Mefferd during which she credibly accused him of plagiarism. Driscoll was dismissive of Mefferd and it started a war which I entered. I thought Mefferd might be wrong but soon agreed with her and found citation errors of various sorts in more of Driscoll’s books. All of that led to various disclosures to me by Mars Hill insiders of problems heaped to the Seattle sky. Eventually, the church planting network co-founded by Driscoll — Acts 29 Network — removed Driscoll and Mars Hill Church from membership. Finally, Driscoll resigned while being investigated by his elders, and then the church closed, splintering into several smaller churches.
At the end when Driscoll resigned, a committee of then current elders were investigating formal charges filed by around 20 former elders. After conducting many interviews, the elders wanted to place Driscoll into a plan of restoration but he resigned. When he resigned, the governing board of Mars Hill (a super board including some non-member leaders) said Driscoll was not disqualified from ministry but did not release a report from the investigating team. In fact, the report of that team was one of the most carefully guarded secrets I have ever seen. There were more leaks about the Mueller report. I tried to get that report as did others, but no one would even discuss what was in it. Given how leaky Mars Hill Church had become, it was a surprise that the report didn’t slip out.
Well, yesterday someone who said he read the report (pretty good chance he’s right), disclosed at least one key fact. Here is what former Mars Hill Church Communications Director Justin Dean said in a tweet.
Yes the report said he was not disqualified as an elder but was found to have a pattern of arrogance so they wanted him to step down from management, get help for the arrogance, but still be the preaching pastor… then the 15 lead pastors would be in charge.
— Justin Dean (@justinjdean) June 22, 2019
Mark Driscoll has given several narratives about the end of his time at Mars Hill. He rarely mentions the name of the church but has mentioned his previous “two decades of ministry.” Blogger Wenatchee the Hatchet has a detailed look at six different narratives of how the end went down.
At the time, the governing board said he was qualified but gave no explanation about their assessment in light of what Acts 29 had said. Also, after Driscoll abruptly resigned, the elders investigation committee read a statement which said Driscoll resigned instead of entering a restoration plan he had previously agreed to follow.
Now Dean tells me that the church leadership was going to let Driscoll keep preaching but step away from management. He would no longer run the show and make decisions. At that point, he resigned. He said God told him a trap had been set and that he was released to leave. He said God told him and his wife this. Odd that God didn’t tell any of the elders or other leaders about this.
Since Driscoll didn’t go through his restoration plan, I have no idea what that signifies for his ministry after Mars Hill. He planted a church in Phoenix and rarely mentions Mars Hill.
Wenatchee the Hatchet put together 8000+ words on this last night so if you want the long version, you can go check that out. Let me give you the digest from WtH:
If in Driscoll’s understanding of church governance and ecclesiology leadership is from the throne down and not the pew up, and if Justin Dean’s account is accurate that the Mars Hill Church governing board offered Mark Driscoll a restoration plan in which he would stop being in a managerial role and would preach, then the most plausible explanation for why Mark Driscoll resigned that takes all of his accounts as factual, face-value accounts is this: he decided that a church as a corporate entity in which he was not seated on the throne (as president and CEO) was not a church in which he would be a member.
WtH provides the receipts but Justin Dean opened the door to consider this. Remember, Driscoll once told his communications staff that he was the brand. If the brand doesn’t control the brand, then is the brand really the brand?
Image: James MacDonald (left) Mark Driscoll (right)