Depending on the crowd you’re in, the mention of this name will either send someone into a blind rage or make them swoon like a teenage girl at a Jonas Brothers concert. He is one of the most polarizing figures within Evangelicalism today; a man whose influence, whether you like it or not, is growing by leaps and bounds every single day.
Recently a featured panelist on Nightline’s “Does Satan Exist” debate (as well as in a piece profiling him on another episode of the show), appearing briefly on D.L. Hughley’s show on CNN, profiled in the New York Times, and name-dropped as one of the key leaders of the resurgence of Calvinism, Driscoll is everywhere.
So, what is it about him that gets so many riled up? Why is it that, while being so polarizing, he ironically unites the extreme left and the extreme right together in their distaste for him? And why do so many people dig Driscoll?
Here’s why I really appreciate Mark Driscoll: He is absolutely committed to unashamedly preaching the Bible-all of it, not just verses out of context that make people feel good. This is an incredibly rare and encouraging thing. Very few pastors of Driscoll’s prominence preach the Scriptures with authority. There are some, to be sure, but they are a rare breed.
When I first became a Christian in 2005, it was right around the time that Rob Bell in particular was the hot, rock-star pastor in Evangelicalism. And I, like many, was enamored. He spoke intelligently, said interesting things that I’d never heard before, and used a lot of words I didn’t know (which was an “obvious” sign of being on the level for some reason). While Bell spoke intelligently and wrote a popular book, eventually, I just found him to be… murky; he was (and is) extremely vague on things that don’t necessarily need to be vague.
In 2007, a friend suggested I listen to Driscoll; I had been really wrestling with the issue of spiritual gifts, so he recommended a series on them (from his 1 Corinthians series the year before). I was blown away. Here was a guy who spoke plainly, clearly, and confidently. He was (and is) the opposite of virtually every big name pastor out there: outspoken, honest (sometimes brutally), and deeply burdened to preach the full counsel of God.
Honestly, he is extremely refreshing.
In the two years that I’ve been listening to Driscoll and reading his books, I’ve found myself growing and challenged in extremely healthy ways. I’ve been inspired to read my Bible more and to know what it actually says, not what I think it says (which is a significant difference). And while I don’t agree with everything he says completely, I do appreciate his commitment to preaching the Word. He loves the Bible, he loves Jesus and it shows. He’s reaching a massive amount of people who’ve never heard Jesus’ name uttered much beyond when they’ve stubbed their toe, and it’s amazing to see how lives are being transformed through the ministry of Mars Hill Church.
That’s not to say that there aren’t things that don’t concern or trouble me, because there are. Sometimes he goes too far with his humor, and I do believe crosses a line periodically. Sometimes his content crosses the line of appropriate exposition, and becomes vulgar, as is the case with a much-talked about talk on the “good bits” of Song of Solomon (which Driscoll himself says was not well taught). And sometimes he comes across as extremely smug, whether he intends to or not.
But do these things, which are valid concerns, mean that anyone who disagrees with him is right to make war with him? Should we pick up rocks and get ready to stone a man who, I think most would agree, is being used of God to see many (and I do mean many) men and women become Christians? At the same time, because of the enormous fruit of his ministry, should we ignore the things that concern us?
The answer to both is absolutely not.
We must not make war with or excuses for Mark Driscoll. None of us should be waiting on the edge of our seats for the next thing that he does that we perceive to be wrong. It is shameful. It is demonic. And if we do that, we must repent.
Instead, we need to pray for him; that God would convict him in areas of sin and immaturity, and that he would repent. We should encourage those who rabidly follow him to not try to emulate him in all of his actions, because, frankly, there are things that he can do only because of the way God has gifted him. I can’t preach a sermon on how you’re stupid and you need to become a Christian (and not get beaten in the parking lot); yet for some reason, he is miraculously enabled to see much fruit from this approach. As in all things, we must examine what he says and does against Scripture, accepting the good and rejecting the bad.
We don’t need to shoot him. We don’t need to write nasty, hate-filled blogs about him. We don’t need to spread rumors about him.
We need to love him; even if we don’t like everything about him.