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Devotional - Mark Driscoll - When An Apology Is Not An Apology

Discussion in 'Thoughts for Today' started by anthony wade, Mar 18, 2014.

  1. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.Restore to me the joy of your salvationand grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. - Psalm 51: 10-12 (NIV)

    Let me start by saying that every moment God gives us should be a teachable moment. At the core of Christianity is forgiveness, Christ forgave us of everything and thus we are to forgive each other. My heartfelt desire involving the recent debacle with Mark Driscoll would be for genuine repentance and confession. Such would be met with a hearty devotional on forgiveness. Unfortunately, this will not be such a devotional because the recent "apology" from Pastor Mark Driscoll simply does not pass the smell test of sincerity or even from a details point of view is seriously lacking.

    Some may balk at this notion and wonder if too much is being made of this but the reality is that Mark Driscoll has accepted the mantle of the pastoral office. He is not some random Christian in the laity. He is held to a higher standard because of the office he holds. I know that we have dumbed down the Gospel in modern churchianity and diligently seek to sing kumbya rather than adhere to Biblical truths but that does not make it right. Let's take a closer look at the letter Driscoll wrote to his congregation which was leaked to the press this past weekend.

    I have received a great deal of love and encouragement from you for more than 17 years. I genuinely appreciate every person who prays for my family and me. Also, I continue to find great joy in teaching the Bible every week to people I have grown to love with a father’s affection.

    The first problem is that this letter, while gently addressing the recent controversy does nothing to address the previous scandals. The ones that were brashly covered over or ignored. For Mark Driscoll to say he has grown to love the people he teaches omits the fact that his love is reserved solely for those who agree with him. He has preached from the pulpit that there is a "pile of bodies behind the Mars Hill Church bus and by God's grace it will be a mountain by the time I am done." This pile of bodies he was referring to are the people who have disagreed with him over the years. A disciple of Rick Warren, Driscoll has learned to simply get rid of the sheep who disagree as opposed to pastor them. This despite the fact that he will answer for every sheep that was entrusted to him. While the recent allegations were quite serious, any "repentance" needed to start with apologizing to the soon to be mountain of bodies he mockingly admits have been left in his wake.

    In my worst moments, I was angry in a sinful way. For those occasions, I am sorry. As I’ve expressed in several sermons, I needed to mature as a leader, and we needed to mature as a church.

    Two quick points here. First of all, here is the first utterance of apology but it is lacking any specificity as to what he is sorry for. The general sense of being angry in a sinful way is simply not clear. Is he sorry for the pile of bodies? That would be welcomed. Secondly, one of the recurring themes in this letter seems to be to want to share the fault, this time with his congregation. The "I need to mature as you needed to mature" appears very unseemly. Especially since it is his responsibility as pastor to oversee their spiritual growth!

    In the last year or two, I have been deeply convicted by God that my angry-young-prophet days are over, to be replaced by a helpful, Bible-teaching spiritual father.

    Now we start to get to the larger problems in this "apology." Note here that he is not convicted for being the angry young prophet. No; he claims to be convicted that those days are over. The implication seems clear that he is actually not sorry that he played this role of angry young prophet at all. Not only that, but by claiming God is convicting him that those days are over seems to indicate that God still condoned that time. So while he vaguely admits that there were times he was angry to the point of sin, he generally still feels as if the role he has played was divinely ordered. Clearly it was not. God did not instruct Mark Driscoll to stack up a pile of bodies behind his bus.

    Driscoll goes on to claim that there have been changes to the accountability board at Mars Hill but the reality is that there has never been transparency and if these changes had already been implemented then why did the board initially stand by Driscoll and the decision to manipulate the NY Times Best Seller list? It was only after continued pressure did they change their tune. While these remain questions in need of answers Driscoll then takes on the meat of the latest scandal:

    First, a marketing company called ResultSource was used in conjunction with the book Real Marriage, which was released in January 2012. My understanding of the ResultSource marketing strategy was to maximize book sales, so that we could reach more people with the message and help grow our church. In retrospect, I no longer see it that way. Instead, I now see it as manipulating a book sales reporting system, which is wrong. I am sorry that I used this strategy, and will never use it again. I have also asked my publisher to not use the “#1 New York Times bestseller” status in future publications, and am working to remove this from past publications as well.

    Now, I have heard already good brothers read this as an admission of guilt but I would have to disagree. Take a close look at the couched words Driscoll uses. He is actually claiming that he was mistaken, not that he erred or sinned. He is actually claiming that he simply thought the arrangement with ResultSource was to maximize book sales when anyone who read the contract knows the specific goal was to land the book on the top ten list of the NY Times. The contract even went into specifics about how they would avoid detection! This was not a contract to spread the word. It was a contract designed to personally benefit Mark Driscoll. It is encouraging to see he is not going to use the title anymore but this is not an admission - it is an excuse. It is a poor one at that.

    Driscoll goes on to speak to his celebrity status and how he wants to give that up to be a bible teaching pastor and I say fantastic! But God is not going to build on a rotten foundation and backhanded apologies. As Chris Rosebrough said yesterday, it appears as if Driscoll is still at the point where David was when he thought he could cover up his sins with Bathsheba. Nathan has yet to visit Driscoll and make him realize that "he is that man." Yet Driscoll then continues to outline what changes need to be made as he "resets" his life:

    1) He will no longer refer to himself as a NY Times Bestseller

    2) He will go offline for the rest of the year (no social media)

    3) He will cut back on his travel and speaking

    4) He will not be doing any interviews

    This has to be one of the most self serving sets of punishments I have ever seen. First of all - he is not a NY Times Bestseller. That was a lie aided by his own deception, which he still has not taken responsibility for. The remaining three seem to be designed to lower his profile and avoid having to discuss this growing scandal, which could very well destroy his church's tax exempt status. Hunker down for the rest of the year and ride out the storm. Now let us deal with a subject no one likes to discuss - accountability. Who is it that designed this reset? Was it some authority over him? Was it his newly reconstituted accountability board? Nope:

    To be clear, these are decisions I have come to with our Senior Pastor Jesus Christ. I believe this is what He is asking of me, and so I want to obey Him.

    So Jesus told him to avoid the press, stop tweeting, and offer a lame attempt an apology? Color me skeptical but when David was in the throes of repentance for the Bathsheba sins he wrote Psalm 51 and the key verses we have today. Contrast that with the decision to not access your Facebook account for nine months! Driscoll's own confusion is not done yet however:

    I have also submitted these decisions to the Board of Advisors and Accountability. They have approved of this direction and are 100 percent supportive of these changes. It’s a wonderful thing to have true accountability and not be an independent decision maker regarding my ministry and, most importantly, our church.

    Beloved, this is not accountability. This is rubber stamping. Note that he did not submit suggestions to the board. He submitted the decisions he had already made. To then go on and claim that he did not make the decisions independently is patently silly at this point. The Driscoll supporters are already out in force declaring this to be a genuine apology and act of contrition but there are several problems with it that we have not even addressed yet.

    First of all the entire letter is solely focused on one person - Mark Driscoll. There is a lot of introspection and life decisions being made and nice talk about his wife and family. There is multiple mentions of how he just wants to be a bible teaching pastor and how much he loves his church. The admissions he does make are vague to the point that it sounds like he apologizing because he knows he needs to say he is sorry but unsure what he is truly sorry for. The only mention of sin is this short, obscure reference to sinning while angry because he couldn't take the weight of the responsibilities as the church grew. So even in the one admission, there is a built in excuse. It would be akin to David saying that he gave into lust but c'mon - being king is very stressful. The largest problem however is the refusal to even address the sins he has already been exposed for:

    1) There was no discussion whatsoever about using at least $210,000 in tithes and offerings to engage ResultSource in the cheating campaign to gain the top ten list. No discussion of how much that generated for him in royalties as the author. I have seen one analysis that claims a minimum of $500,000 profit was pocketed by Driscoll for this episode. What is the restitution plan? What safeguards have been put in place to ensure that the money the people entrust to him will not be spent on things that financially benefit Mark Driscoll?

    2) There was no apology for the plagiarism scandal which has now grown to seven books of Driscoll's needing to be redone and annotated correctly. When confronted, Driscoll had blamed the ghostwriters and editors instead of taking any accountability. Just like the $210,000 is essentially theft, so is plagiarism.

    3) There was no real admission that he knew full well what he was trying to do when he entered into the contract with ResultSource. The contract is very specific that the goals were to be personally enriching to Driscoll so he needs to stop hiding behind the obvious lie that he thought it was just to promote book sales.

    4) There was no substantive discussion about the bragging Driscoll has done about piling up bodies behind the Mars Hill Church bus. If that was what he was referring to when he briefly discussed meeting with hurt people one on one - that would be a great start but he needs to repent of the statements. Not make vague allusions to it.

    Beloved, there is always room for forgiveness in Jesus Christ. I prayed that this letter would be a great start of the renewal of Mark Driscoll for the benefit of the kingdom and his church. Let us not forget that before we rush to pat him on the back. This is not about Mark Driscoll. This is about the 13,000 people that sit under his teaching and pastoring. This is about the countless bodies he gleefully admits he has left in the wake of his shepherding. It is about what they all learn from their pastor. That you can get caught stealing money to cheat the NY Times Bestseller List for your plagiarized book after bragging about wanting a mountain of bodies left behind you and the self imposed "discipline" you can expect to face sounds like a mother grounding a 13 year old by taking away their laptop privileges. Mars Hill Church deserves better. The Body of Christ deserves better. The Kingdom of God deserves better.

    Reverend Anthony Wade - March 18, 2014

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