As we become more and more exposed to the systematic abuse of members, staff and elders who raise questions at Mars Hill Church, coupled with scandal after scandal that clearly cause question raising, one must wonder about the many factors that helped create the environment that has allowed the current mess.
There is no doubt that other national leaders who have had a relationship with Mark Driscoll have seen what questioning members have seen. There are many men who could have played a role in tempering Mark Driscoll’s rush to un-accountability. But I think a good place to start is to look within the ranks of Acts 29.
Acts 29 was birthed out of Spanish River Church in Florida when its late leader, David Nicolas, met Mark Driscoll and proposed to start Acts 29. Spanish River Church had a church planting heart, having had a history of launching many church plants prior to the founding of Acts 29. It also had several members who were able to financially back a national movement of church plants.
In 2005, in a move very similar to the 2007 manipulative firings of Pastors Petry and Meyer and radically changing the bylaws of Mars Hill Church, Mark Driscoll succeeded to get David Nicolas ousted from the board of the very organization he help co-found, and Driscoll himself installed as the president.
The manner in which this was done has been the source of rumors of Mark Driscoll’s callous cruelty toward people. Witness to this were men like Ed Stetzer, Darrin Patrick, Rick McKinley, Steve Tomkins and others. Other men like Tim Keller and John Piper would have surely heard and seen Mark Driscoll in action, yet they said nothing.
Furthermore, these men continued to speak with Mark Driscoll at conferences and create organizations that named Mark Driscoll in a way that authenticated his ministry style. They shared the podium and limelight at Acts 29 boot-camps and other venues repeatedly. Their very presence on the same stage led the public to believe they were endorsing Driscoll – and by their actions they were.
Some of these men, including Piper and CJ Mahaney (now embroiled in his own mess), were called upon by Paul Petry when he unsuccessfully reached out for help after his world was turned upside down by Driscoll’s ruthlessness. Not a word from these men. I personally reached out to Gerry Breashears, who simply did and said nothing. Some, like Josh Harris, continued to heap praise on Driscoll
Others went on Driscoll’s defense. Several writers at the Gospel Coalition, even when mildly rebuking Driscoll for this or that, still heaped praises on him and his ministry. Anthony Bradley came out of the woodwork harshly rebuking Rachel Held Evans for her words condemning Driscoll’s comments about effeminate worship leaders. Apparently, Bradley failed to see how publicly rebuking Evans for publicly rebuking Driscoll was at the very least doing exactly what Bradley accused her of doing.
Maybe the gentlemen’s agreement among these men is that you do not rebuke one of your own. Is this why these men who have known of the aggressive and abusive style of Driscoll are quick to rebuke others, but hardly have opened their mouths when it comes to Mark Driscoll?
It is long known that many Acts 29 pastors were beginning to question and distance themselves from Mars Hill Church and Mark Driscoll in particular. So when Driscoll tried his takeover of Acts 29 in 2012, there was finally sufficient backlash to remove Driscoll as president and move the headquarters out of Mars Hill Church to Texas.
All this was well and good. But where were the truthful statements about the transition? All we got was flowery statements. If Matt Chandler knew about the abusive ways of Mark Driscoll, why has he not spoken up? Chandler shared the stage with Driscoll at Resurgence 2013. His presence continued to endorse Driscoll’s leadership style. Chandler’s continued silence and his association with Driscoll’s Resurgence organization, if not implying Chandler’s approval of Driscoll, is troubling.
The national leaders of Acts 29, as well the leaders in the Gospel Coalition have now increasingly distanced themselves from Mark Driscoll. But they have done so in a way that has not warned the church of his abuse. It is only recently that Acts 29 has followed the actions of the Gospel Coalition, scrubbing references to Driscoll from their websites. So why not tell us why?
It is my opinion that these men have failed the church by their silence. They are continuing to fail the church with their continued silence. Members are being hurt, yet we hear nothing from these men.
I appeal to them, even as lowly members are increasingly speaking out, to walk in the light and tell the truth to the church.
After all, are you shepherds meant to protect the sheep, or the pack of shepherds?