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I will not provide a “Monday morning play-by-play” critique. My aim in working through these episodes is to help folks think through the church they attend, the leadership culture of their church, and, potentially, identify things that might not be apparent. I hope you will gain personal insight through this review and applications to your teachers and the church you attend.
This episode is a postmortem of Mars Hill Church. It’s a reflective podcast as Mike Cosper talks to many of the members of the various campuses. You will hear various voices talk about how they see things differently now that there is some distance between themselves and Mark Driscoll. Hindsight typically provides clarity—an essential thing we should do after coming through a traumatic time.
It is impossible to see things clearly when you’re in the middle of a difficult time. Time and space provide an opportunity to understand with biblical insight and personal transformation. It’s so easy to become caught up in the hysteria, numbers, results, and even accept things you would never agree to if things were different. The bully culture is manipulative, and when the bully has charisma and force, many will fall prey as they did.
The person who believes they are not susceptible to manipulators or manipulative cultures has already opened themselves up to the possibility of being part of a cult because of their blindness to the potential. Once you say you’re not susceptible, you have already moved closer to it. —Rick Thomas
Mike opened this episode talking about a pastor platforming Mark Driscoll after leaving Mars Hill. He said that we should not judge Mark but seek to restore him. He offered Galatians 6:1-2 as his proof text to rewrite the Driscoll narrative into a pro-Mark worldview. There are at least two problems with what this pastor was saying.
Mike Cosper told the story about a young man who visited Driscoll’s new church in Arizona. He confronted Mark, appealing to him to make things right with the young man’s dad. It did not happen as he had hoped, and that conversation ended.
However, it was the young man’s attitude that was so striking to me. He talked about the problems with Mark Driscoll, what Mark did to his dad, and a few other Mars Hill pain points. But he did not come across as bitter or angry. I don’t say this to shame those who are still recovering from what happened to them, but it’s crucial to note how we talk about the bad things from our pasts indicates how we are with God and those who hurt us.
The first decade of this century saw the rise of social media and those who took advantage of this media for good and evil. Mars Hill, Sovereign Grace Ministries, The Gospel Coalition, Together for the Gospel, and the celebrity preacher grabbed the hearts and minds of the church. In many ways, it was a wild and messy time.
But we were not victims to the media. We chose to access social media and promote good and bad people and good and bad ministries. Each of us must self-assess to discern if our view of the local church is stronger or weaker today. We also should carefully judge those leaders who are brand-building on social media, including me.
One of the interviewees talked about Mark Driscoll’s effect on other Christians, particularly the men in that church. You don’t have to think too long to discern Mark Driscoll’s personality, brazenness, boldness, winsomeness, crude language, and bully teaching style. Perhaps you will need to give more reflection on whether Mark’s toxicity is part of you now.
A leader is a shaping influence; it cannot be any other way. We become some version of our leaders, taking on their views, personalities, tones, and preferences. The herd mentality is a good thing when the herd leader is humble and other-centered. Mark Driscoll is narcissistic. You either become part of a Christocentric community or a cult.
One of the keys to working through a traumatic season is to talk about it with folks who can help you. The point of counseling is for broken people to have someone to speak with to work through what happened. Of course, there are concerns about how, when, where, and why a person talks about what happened to them. I have shared my cautions about the format of the Christianity Today series, specifically the triggering effect for those who continue to struggle.
But if you don’t have someone to talk with about what happened to you and work through it, you could become bitter, walk away from Christ, adversely affect others, or sabotage gospel initiatives. Victimization is a debilitating soul phenomenon. If you’re coming out of an abusive context or relationship, I appeal to you to find competent biblical help.
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).