Methodism’s secret crush on Mark Driscoll

There’s something attractive about Mark Driscoll to Methodists in a Clint Eastwood (pre-chair-incident) kind of way. We often see our denomination’s attendance decline as punishment for our unwillingness to “stand up for the truth,” “call sin a sin,” use words like hell and Satan and wrath in our sermons, etc. We’re surrounded by independent evangelical megachurches whose preachers have booming baritone voices that tell it like it is, which is why they’re growing faster than any tower Babel ever built. And then Driscoll tweets this:

driscoll inauguration tweet

Wow Pastor Mark, when you say things like that, it’s like pitching a 60 mile an hour change-up to every Sammy Sosa in the blogosphere. I guess when you’ve got a big tree, your fruit hangs low. It seems tacky even to comment on this tweet, and I wouldn’t if it weren’t the fruit of a tree that many of my fellow evangelical-ish Methodists are pining after (see the comments on this piece).

Central Texas Methodist Bishop Mike Lowry wrote a glowing appraisal of Driscoll’s ministry, which he saw as “vibrant and courageous in the way in which it engages the city.” To be fair, Lowry did say that Mark’s “theology is more Calvinist and hard-core evangelical than I embrace.” But maybe if we Methodists were “hard-core” enough to accept the sober truth of Pastor Mark’s tough God, then we could have “vibrant and courageous” congregations too. How many of us secretly think that?

Charismatic hubris is not only attractive; it’s Biblical. Jesus impressed his synagogue audiences “because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law” (Mark 1:22). There’s something compelling about leaders who know that they’re right and act on their convictions. Others are reassured by their self-assurance so they tend to draw lots of disciples. Self-certainty is a very attractive vision to cast, particularly if your version of what’s wrong with the world resonates with a sizable demographic of people and especially if you prove that you’re willing to say politically incorrect things aloud that your disciples have felt shamed into not saying.

Self-certain heroes are very different than “teachers of the law” who trudge around with their Books of Discipline and the open-minded nuance expressed by their inability to avoid resolving every disagreement with a “both-and” statement. We want a hero who speaks the truth with clarity, not a confusing web of committees and boards that crank out long reports nobody reads and resolutions emphatically asking our government to please do something about poverty and climate change and tomatoes picked in Immokalee, Florida.

Clarity can build a big church, as long as it’s a clarity that speaks to the sensibilities of the people in the neighborhood. Clarity has a way of scratching our ears that feels good (2 Timothy 4:3). Now there’s nothing wrong with clarity as long as it’s the perfect truth. When the Truth becomes a human being and speaks with authority, that’s awesome. But we’re not Jesus. As Paul says, “Now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face” (1 Corinthians 13:12). Churches don’t do so well when their pastors speak about God’s truth as though they are describing a “reflection in a mirror.” They tend to shrink.

It was because Jesus often “knew in his spirit… what [other people] were thinking in their hearts” (Mark 2:8) that He would make very presumptuous, offensive statements, like calling Simon the Pharisee a terrible dinner host after Simon got an uncomfortable look on his face when Jesus’ feet were being eroticized by a prostitute (Luke 7:36-50). I imagine Mark Driscoll feels that he was emulating Jesus to speak with bold prophetic clarity in proclaiming that Barack Obama doesn’t believe in the Bible and “likely” doesn’t know God. Notice the precision with which he qualified the last part.

The main theological difference between me and Driscoll is that I don’t believe God picked teams before the beginning of time. I guess if you don’t think Jesus died for everybody, then it frees you up to say things that might otherwise make you worry about alienating people you’re supposed to share the gospel with, such as half the population of this country. If their destiny has been already set, then if they’re elect and you’re elect, they’ll agree with you even if you err on the side of clarity rather than tact.

And when you say these bold, politically incorrect things, the people in your church who know they’re on God’s good side will get even more fired up to find others who agree with you so that your church gets even bigger. You’ll even make Methodists want to leave behind their roundtables of nuance and niceness so that they can join you in the land of clarity where megachurches shoot up to the sky like Jack’s beanstalk.

I can’t rebuke Driscoll out of hand for his prophetic conviction, because I believe with perhaps as much hubris that God has given me a prophecy too. I actually think Mark Driscoll is a very important witness within evangelical Christianity today, along with others like Pat Robertson, Fred Phelps, Terry Jones, Dinesh D’Souza, John Hagee, Todd Akin, and my favorite Biblical exegete Steven Anderson. What if it’s true that God is bearing all of them with great patience so that, as our eyes are opened by their testimony, the riches of His glory can be revealed to the objects of His mercy?

I keep praying that God would make their fruit plain (Matthew 7:17), and He keeps on answering my prayer. The pigs keep stampeding off the cliff, and the exorcism of the American evangelical church continues. Who knows? Maybe all the Methodists will eventually ditch Methodism for the big churches with vigorous and courageous preachers. We’ve certainly had plenty ditch our congregation for the local “community” church. As a preacher who is anything but vigorous and courageous, I gain comfort from one who once wrote that he “resolved to know nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified” because he “came in weakness with great fear and trembling” (1 Corinthians 2:2-3). I guess I just fear God too much to tweet damnation over presidents.


39 thoughts on “Methodism’s secret crush on Mark Driscoll

  1. Im actually in the process of moving to the south this weekend so I will thoughtfully respond back to this soon when Im free. God bless you Morgan.

  2. Morgan,

    The scripture you refer to prohibits women speaking clearly in the context of the general assembly within the church. That includes, but is not limited to, preaching. See my quotes below – both guidelines for women appear under subject titles for general assemblies of the church body. This forum is not a church, so I may communicate freely here. As I said before, if you rebuke, please do so with scripture – and dont harm your own credibility by recklessly misapplying it. Also, readers may be confused or misled by such misapplication of scripture – use some self control to weigh your words for their sake.

    Order in Church Meetings

    26 – 39 (including verse 34)

    34 Let your[d] women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. 35 And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church.

    Instructions on Worship

    1 – 15 (including verse 11)

    11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission.12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.

    I sense that you have some deep doctrinal disagreements with Driscoll, which explains why you frequently critisize him in your writing and why my defense of him provokes you. Are you then also equally critical of God for writing such offensive doctrine into His Word?

    • You’re trying to have it both ways. Don’t use the word “context” if you’re not open to a range of possibilities for what context means. The “subject titles” aren’t in the original text. There is no reason to generalize beyond Paul’s specific pastorally contextual advice to Timothy at all. He’s very deliberate about distinguishing between what he says and what the Spirit says. This is a case in which he says *I* do not let the women teach. His concern is very much contextual to the sense of propriety in the patriarchal Roman culture of his time. You just want it to be contextual in a way that lets you do what you want and doesn’t allow other women to follow God’s call. I hope that you find your way into a Christian community that doesn’t seek to earn its salvation through faux martyrdom and social dourness.

  3. To Mr Morgan:
    Regarding your message below, I have addressed each numbered point in order below.
    “I think people find Mark attractive because he knows God, and offensive if they dont know God (through the Bible, His Word).” That’s quite an (1) absolute statement that encapsulates the dangerous (2) idolatry of celebrity pastors. The (3) only thing you’ve talked about here is homosexuality. Is this something you’re struggling with personally? If not, why don’t you give an (4) example of some sin from your own life that Pastor Mark has convicted you about? (5) Sounds pretty “I thank you God that I’m not like other men” to me. The Pharisees knew all the jots and tittles of the Torah perfectly. They just didn’t know the heart of God. The fruit that I’ve seen suggests the same about people who are confident saying that anybody who would have anything (6) critical to say about their pastor must not know God. Many will say to Him, “Lord, Lord.”

    1. Firstly, thats not an absolute statement. Note my usage of the words “I think,” this indicates it is my opinion and not meant to be taken as a blanket statement of inherent truth. Please read my message more carefully word for word (I put alot of time and thought into my messages) and you may find it clears up current and future misunderstandings.

    2. Secondly, I dont idolize Mark according to the biblical defination of idolatry. Idolatry is to regard something that is not God as God. I clearly stated in my previous message, “Driscoll is not sinless.” Since he is a sinner he is not God, like all of us. I do not retract my statement that “I think he is one of the most faithful preachers in the world at this time.”

    3. I mentioned several sins besides homosexuality, perhaps you should re-read my previous message. I also rebuked “women pastors” and “hate” and lastly, “anyone who would defend or condone sin in the name of Christ.” These are all scripturally supported rebukes, of course. The applicable scriptures are 1 Timothy (no women pastors), Matthew 5 (Jesus on hate as murder), and Isaiah 5:20 (supporting sin), respectively.

    4. I am indeed a sinner. I have many examples but I will give just one example, that incidently bolsters my point in # 2 above. I can be shallow when it comes to dating, for instance. I would never date someone as unfortunately short as Mark Driscoll, even if God wrote it on the wall like He did in the Bible (Daniel 5). That is sinful on my part.

    5. Im not going to address this because you admitted it “sounds like” Im acting like a pharasee, which suggests you acknowledge this is your opinion – which you have a right to. I welcome biblical rebuke and I have faced much alienation and hardships for upholding scripture, I will not hinder anyone from their “freedom of speech.” Interestingly, you seem to mock the “self-certainty” of some church leaders but perhaps the confidence you observe in Driscoll (among other great pastors like John Piper and Matt Chandler) is what the Bible refers to when it says (Proverbs) “the righteous are bold as lions.” ??? Just food for thought.

    6. Again, I think you need to read my message more carefully. I used the qualifier “I think” liberally indicating it was an opinion with a humble amount of uncertainty. I do think that people who actually know Driscoll’s teaching (and the theology of his church) and still find Driscoll offensive do not know God (through the Bible, His Word). I repeat, I think this because I have scrupulously studied the Bible and I think Driscoll’s teaching upholds the Bible as far as my human abilities have led me to beleive. I was writing rebuke primarily to “Driscoll-haters” because hating is a sin, as Jesus says in the Bible, hating is “murder in the heart.” Contrary to what readers may think, I dont hate anyone and I dont pretend know who is going to hell and who isnt (because that judgement is God’s alone). However, it is my (and our, dear readers) duty as Christians to rebuke sin in truth, like Jesus did. The one thing I would hope is that if a Christian is going to rebuke me then he/she do it with scripture, as I do to others I would hope theyd do unto me.

    • “The one thing I would hope is that if a Christian is going to rebuke me then he/she do it with scripture, as I do to others I would hope they’d do unto me.”

      “I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent.” 1 Timothy 2:12.
      If you really believe this verse is supposed to be applied literally in all times and places, then you should be silent and not presume to teach me. Otherwise, don’t use this verse against women being preachers because Paul doesn’t say anything about preaching.

  4. To Mr Mark Lee:

    1. Regarding women pastors, the Bible says (in 1 Timothy) “Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.” Now, when we disobey the Bible, including but not limited to the scripture above, are we not committing sin? For further reference (the Bible being the final word on the issue) I would reccomend the Mars Hill website for exegisis on this topic.

    I realise it must be frustrating to some (perhaps Mr Lee even) that the argument that anyone who holds this view against women pastors must be sexist is negated because I am in fact a vocal female. A female who also happens to be college-educated, upper middle class, attractive and fit, having many (ethnically, religiously, politically, socio-economically) diverse social circles and close friends, a great resume, from a good stable family, speaking several languages that include Hebrew and Arabic, and being well-travelled having lived overseas almost 2 of my 3 decades lifespan. If this doesnt fit your stereotype of a christian who doesnt support female pastors, I strongly suggest you visit Mars Hill in Seattle (amoung other Acts 29 churches) sometime. There are many of like us. Of course I certainly do not come close to representing the fullness of the wide variety of talented, loving, beautiful, and holy women at Mars Hill.

    2. Regarding my “abomination:” What abomination is it exactily that I have committed in my previous message? Please provide scriptural support, or your arguement has no credibility with me.

    3. Regarding “Mark Driscoll putting himself in the place of a judge over the President’s faith.” Firstly, I would draw your attention to his use of the word “likely,” which is not a statement of absolute judgement and suggests a humble degree of uncertainty. Obviously, all of us, and our leaders, including the President, are sinners. No one denies we are all sinners in need of Christ. To be fair, Driscoll did not say Obama is not a christian, or that Obama is going to hell. It is not explicit, and neither you Mr Lee nor I know Driscoll’s heart. As for his statement that the President “does not beleive” the Bible, I dont actually know on what basis this statement was made – I expressed my educated guess in my statement above. I am conflicted on the nature of judgement in the Christian life, some scriptures indicate we are to “judge like Jesus,” while others forbid judging, others even record the apostle Paul “passing judgement,” and other scriptures indicate judging is lawful under the pre-condition that we remove the plank from my eye. Im reading a book on judgement currently and studying it, because I feel I dont have a solid understanding of the topic at this time. I would suggest however that Driscoll’s theology of judgement is likely different than yours, based on his sermon here: . I dont know what your understanding of biblical judgement is, but it doesnt mean we cannot call sin what it is. Esspecially when we encounter sin within the body of Christ, from the layperson to the President in the global church, it is our loving, blessed duty to rebuke sin and call them to repentence.

    • I hear a lot of spiritual pride there. I’m glad you’ve got a great résumé but when you use it to justify your position in an argument, you show that your works are functioning as your justification. Your lack of humility testifies to someone who has been “exhorted” about other peoples’ sins and not convicted of your own. If you take that passage from 1 Timothy literally, then why are YOU talking? Why do you apply it to women preachers but not to your own behavior? Shouldn’t you be letting your father speak on your behalf if you’re not married?

      I have no problem rebuking others in the body of Christ as you can hear, but using a twitter dis to create a faux martyrdom for yourself in order to create buzz for your latest book is pastoral malpractice. We have to be discerning in how we critique public figures and what we say. The implicit message of saying that a president cannot possibly believe the Bible or know God because of his support for the Democratic political platform is that if you vote Republican, that’s good enough for Jesus. When you post strong messages in the 140 character format on twitter, you are responsible for how they can be misinterpreted. Christianity has become a political tribe rather than a kingdom of disciples because of stunts like this.

      I’ve said many stupid things publicly myself and thankfully others have corrected me. I worry that Pastor Mark is insulated from the feedback he needs by people who say that those who agree with him know God and those who disagree don’t. I know that he fires pastors from his staff for disagreeing with him. Follow Jesus; Im pretty sure that Pastor Mark whatever flaws he has does not want you to make him your messiah.

    • Thanks for your comments, and I would just like suggest a few things.

      1) There are several biblical interpretations to women being silent in the church. You, and Mark Driscoll adhere to one of them. But to be fair, do you really believe woman should be silent in the church. It appears to me that you could add much to a local churches ministry,

      2) I did not say, as you presumed, that you were committing abomination in your post, I said that there are many abominations listed in scripture and that you (and I) have committed them in our lifetime. Eating shellfish, wearing garments of two materials, eating a cheeseburger are a few I can think of right now,

      3) When a mere human (in this case Mark Driscoll) claims to know or thinks that it is likely, that the President does not believe in God or in the Bible, he is setting himself up as a god, knowing the intents of the heart. Even if he did say “likely” he is still bearing false witness and trying influence others to see things his way,

      4) I never questioned you background, intellect, career, or anything else about your personality, I am glad you have achieved all that you have, and have done all you have done. I don’t understand the relevance to this conversation. I don’t even question whether or not you are a Christian.

      Peace to you.
      Mark Lee

  5. I think people find Mark attractive because he knows God, and offensive if they dont know God (through the Bible, His Word). I went to his church for 5 years until I moved to a different region of the country. Ive sampled churches and been planted in churches since Mars Hill, but I still listen to his sermons online and think he is one of the most faithful preachers in the world at this time.

    I beleive that Driscoll’s statement (I dont speak for him, so this is an educated guess) that the President does not beleive the Bible is because the President (amoung other leaders) supports and legalized gay marriage, which is biblically an abomination. My understanding is that some UK-based Methodist churches bless gay marriage. It doesnt surprise me then that the writer of this article doesnt like that Mark pointed out that the President’s hypocrisy of placing his hand on a book that contradicts his policy. Further, it doesnt surprise me that any Methodist hates on Driscoll because he also doesnt support women pastors, which many Methodist churches do. I also dont support women pastors like the Methodists do, because the Bible says its sin. People who dont like the Bible wont like most of what Mark says. I have read the Bible over 3 times in the last four years and I dont see any abominations in Driscoll’s words, though I see some in the Methodist church stance. I say this with all humility, Driscoll isnt sinless but he EXHORTS EXHORTS EXHORTS his listeners to scrutinize their Bibles for their own edification! He does not want God’s people to be misled by wicked theology, so he encourages us (and you too dear readers!) to educate ourselves with scripture.

    I think its envy that speaks forth in this article, from the author and many Driscoll haters.
    I am a highly educated 30 yo never married woman, and I praise Mark Driscoll and his church. The Bible says we must not praise ourselves, but let others do it – and so I now praise Driscoll and I rebuke the author of this article for defending anyone (leader or layperson) who would slander Christ by condoning sins like gay marriage in His name. I pray our leaders would be blessed with repentence and truth, so that they might rule wisely with understanding and the knowledge of God.

    • “I think people find Mark attractive because he knows God, and offensive if they dont know God (through the Bible, His Word).” That’s quite an absolute statement that encapsulates the dangerous idolatry of celebrity pastors. The only thing you’ve talked about here is homosexuality. Is this something you’re struggling with personally? If not, why don’t you give an example of some sin from your own life that Pastor Mark has convicted you about? Sounds pretty “I thank you God that I’m not like other men” to me. The Pharisees knew all the jots and tittles of the Torah perfectly. They just didn’t know the heart of God. The fruit that I’ve seen suggests the same about people who are confident saying that anybody who would have anything critical to say about their pastor must not know God. Many will say to Him, “Lord, Lord.”

    • Hey Kris, there are a lot of things considered an “abomination” in the Bible. Proverbs 6:16-19 gives seven. So either we look and see that maybe the word is being used in a different way than we do OR you admit you single homosexuality out unfairly.

    • .” I also don”t support women pastors like the Methodists do, because the Bible says its sin”
      Sorry, where does that say IT IS A SIN on the Bible?

      And the Bible is filled with things that are an “abomination” and I am quite sure you, dear writer, are committing something that the Bible says is an abomination..

      And finally, Mark Driscoll slandered Christ by putting himself in the place of a judge over the President’s faith. And you, my sister in Christ, are doing the same thing to the writer of this blog and all others that do not agree with you.

      Peace to you.

      Mark Lee

  6. I’m drawn to the kind of leadership that can actually connect with folks who haven’t been a part of church. I appreciate the ability to articulate faith in a way that makes people say “yeah, I could rearrange my life to be a part of that” I don’t wan’t to be “hard-core” enough to accept Driscoll’s theology. I want to be hard-core (spirit filled, fearless) in loving the left-out, living good news, and moving forward in grace that’s better than I could imagine but also refuses to leave me as I was.

  7. What United Methodists (including the bishop) envy is Driscoll’s congregation — young, multi-ethinic, urban, growing in size.

  8. So sad to see that a UM bishop has drunk the kool-aid. I hope he comes to see what a complete charlatan Driscoll is. He’s also a huge spiritual abuser, as you know from Stuff Christian Culture Likes. Please point that out to the dear bishop. Stuff like this is why I left the UMC long ago.

      • Reformed Church–I was a UM pastor, in fact (didn’t make it past deacon), but am now a progressive layperson on the fringes of organized Christianity, by choice.

          • It would be interesting to determine how many pastors and lay leaders have left the UMC because it it has gone away from Wesley’s 3 Simple Truths. I was in Haiti just after the earthquake with a UMC pastor who had his hand slapped because we responded to a friend of his who is a Haitian baptist. The UMC couldn’t include the members of the baptist church in their statistics…

            Sent from my iPhone

  9. The man is a bigot. He is a salesman, business man, and a typical “evangelical” who has never understood “the woes” directed at just his sort and ilk. I would not cross the street to hear him say “amen”!

    • And the funny thing is, he’s right in a way. Why the hell can’t we just come to terms with the fact that the people who wrote the Bible didn’t have our middle-class aversion to crude language? Paul said the word shit in Greek (skubala) and we translate it as “rubbish.” Google skubala Paul sometime.

      • I discovered that piece of information about two years ago, haha. Needless to say, it rocked my world. Changed my views about language a bit. I’ll have to touch on that sometime.

        And I get what you mean about cynicism. I’m susceptible to falling into that kind of mind set, as well. It’s hard, especially in today’s day and age.

  10. Nailed it! I have no ties to the UMC, but I did love Driscoll’s teaching for a while. I never thought about it in the sense that you mentioned it, though; the exorcism, pigs, cliff, etc. I’m just waking up a bit, but I’m appreciative of your heart, Morgan. You’ve been one of my favorite blogs to have stumbled across over the past year; you’ve also been an incredibly encouraging brother in Christ. Thank you.

    • Thanks for the encouragement. Pray for me that I wouldn’t let cynicism get the better of me. I worry about falling into that when I feel like I’m supposed to call things out that need to be named.

  11. Hopefully this doesn’t go on too long.

    When I began to really feel called into ministry, I was a young, immature Christian (not that I’m much better now, but you get my point. I was a newb). Landing in a Calvinist-Baptist non-denominational church was a big issue for me. I tried to line up what I felt was “just” with the theology I was being fed and it just didn’t work. The others there pointed me to Driscoll, Chandler, Noble and Furtick. I sunk in. I listened to nearly every archived sermon from all 4. I gleaned things from them, but as I began to get more and more in touch with my Wesleyan calling, I began to reject the teaching of these pastors. Each for their own reasons (honestly, I still listen to Matt Chandler occasionally. He seems to honestly love and shepherd his people with the utmost humility and dignity), but as a whole, I’ve begun to listen to Wesleyan teaching. The problem is finding an alternative to these “stars” of Calvinism. Where are the Wesleyan voices that are going to let our theology be known and embraced? We have Adam Hamilton, but he’s a 4 on the national scene if Driscoll is a 10, in name recognition, anyway. I know the UMC has a million problems and reasons for where we are today, but this is one I hope we can fix soon.

    • I agree. And Adam Hamilton doesn’t have fire in his belly the same way Driscoll does. He appeals to a certain constituency, but we need charismatic hubris with better theology (though maybe the charismatic hubris is what corrupts the theology).

  12. I left the UMC for good after they refused me as a local licensed pastor because of my theology. It was the best thing that happened to my ministry. I started a “Gathering” of people who seek to find that of God in everything. Our group includes people from many Christian denominations, some non-Christian believers (Buddhist, Jewish) and several agnostics. We don’t profess to have the “Truth” but we believe we will find it by loving our neighbors. We only meet for worship once a month but we worship together through service at least once a week and we share communion by eating together a couple of times a month.

  13. Well said, Morgan. I think I mentioned to you on Twitter once that I’ve recently transitioned out of an evangelical/missional church planter role into doing some ministry with a local United Methodist church. Your posts/tweets/etc. are helpful to me in navigating that. I especially appreciate this – Driscoll was influential for me at one point in time, and I’ve come to realize just how destructive his perspectives are, from his hard predestination to views on hell to church governance to subordination of women. At any rate, great thoughts that I resonate with 100%. I hope to blog about that infamous tweet in the next few days, as well :).

  14. Some days I simply weep for the crazies.
    Other days I weep for those they hurt.
    Other days I shake my fists at the crazies.
    And some days I prayer for the crazies.
    Some days I have discussions with the crazies.
    Other days I drive my wife crazy trying to talk to the crazies.
    I’d like to add reflecting on the exorcism you speak of to the rotation.

    • I’m just one of the crazies who’s driven crazy by other crazies. But I think it’s God who makes me crazy in this way.

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