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The Unbreakable Mark Driscoll

Seth Dunn

“Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is it?”  John 4:29

M. Knight Shyamalan’s film Unbreakable tells the story of a security guard named David Dunn who possesses, unbeknownst to him, superhuman powers. Through the intercession of an interested party, Dunn learns of his powers which include near indestructibility and the ability to psychically envision the criminal acts committed by others. In the novel, The Dead Zone, by Stephen King, a character named Johnny Smith possesses similar psychic powers that allow him to perceive the wicked acts of others.  The extra sensory powers exhibited by Dunn and Smith are similar to those displayed by members of the Meiks family, characters in the movie Frailty. Adam Meiks and his father have the divinely granted gift of being able to perceive murderous demons that are disguised as human beings.  God has commissioned the Meiks family to sleigh these demons, having provided them with special tools and the protection to do so.  Similar powers, known as Psychometry, are possessed by Michael Curry, a literary character created by fantasy novelist Anne Rice for her MayFair Witches trilogy.   Anne Rice is a figure with which former pastor Mark Driscoll is familiar.   In 2010, Rice, “quit” Christianity[1] eliciting a commentary from Mark Driscoll in the Washington Post.   Similar to Rice, Mark Driscoll is a celebrity Christian who has faced pressure from being in the public eye.  According to Driscoll, the founding pastor of Mars Hill Church, a multi-site megachurch, he has received permission from God Himself to leave the ministry.   Driscoll claims to have received this permission in the form of an audible communication from God.[2]  Driscoll, if he is to be believed, was lucky to receive God’s permission to quit when he did.  Mark Driscoll recently resigned from his church under great internal and external pressure and in light of accusations of plagiarism, bullying, egoism, and other behavior unbecoming of a pastor.   His resignation came after he was forcibly removed from the leadership of the Acts 29 (church-planting) Network, which he cofounded.  In the course of his downfall, Driscoll had begun to display all the drama of and claim the same sort of extraordinary powers possessed by the novel and movie characters above mentioned.  His behavior and the development of his church should serve as a warning sign for those who are currently sitting under the preaching and leadership of multi-site megapastors[3] who have become well know for writing and speaking outside of their own congregational setting.

Towards the end of his ministry at Mars Hill, Driscoll was publishing books available for sale and preaching sermons series based upon the themes of these books.[4]  In effect, he was using the pulpit of his church to promote his books.  He was also using the funds of his church to purchase copies of his book en masse in order to push them up the best-seller lists.   Mars Hill, which began as a single, financially poor Seattle congregation, had grown into a multi-site church brand.  Driscoll followers were everywhere[5].  As his brand grew, Driscoll sought to consolidate power within his organization.  His detractors and those advising him to take caution have accused Driscoll of threatening to ruin them.   In a concerning turn of events, Driscoll began to claim that he could see visions of the sins of others.  Driscoll was claiming the same gifting as the prophet Nathan and Jesus Christ.

Imagine being a professional minister in the employ of Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church.  Driscoll, a charismatic leader of thousands, had claimed in front of his throngs of followers that he had the ability to perceive the (sexual) sins of others and to speak the demons that influenced them.  What if he said he knew your sin?[6]  True or not, what would the masses of his followers believe?  Would you ever be able to earn a living in ministry again?  Would you dare reproach God’s Anointed man, Mark Driscoll? Some did and paid dearly.

Driscoll’s behavior was apparently out of control; he was even accused of going as far as to ask his staffers the preferred sexual positions of their spouses.  Disenchanted protestors started to gather outside of his church.  Amid allegation after allegation, Acts 29 dismissed Driscoll.  Shortly thereafter he was effectively forced to resign from his church.  Thousands of people who viewed Driscoll favorably for years were left disappointed.

This unstable behavior and preaching did not occur all at once.  Driscoll, though his demeanor was always controversial, did not rise to prominence and grow a large church by preaching crazy doctrines and hatching unusual schemes.   He was generally a sound bible teacher who taught sound doctrine.  His theology book, Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe[7] was endorsed by well-respected theologians such as John Frame and Danny Akin.  Driscoll’s downfall occurred after he became a very powerful and influential megachurch pastor.  It was after this time that he began to associate with prosperity preachers such as TD Jakes and Hillsong.  Previous to this association, Driscoll had decried prosperity theology.

It is hard to finish well.

Yet Driscoll is not finished.  He still calls himself a “pastor” on his personal website even though he leads no local church.  Within the week he spoke at the Thrive Conference.  He is still slated to speak for Hillsong in the near future.  Disgraced pastors, like Driscoll and Jimmy Swaggart, refuse to fade gently into the night.  They seem to always have followers, no matter what they do, especially in more charismatic circles.

Driscoll remains unbroken.

Let the life and times and Mark Driscoll serve as warning to you.  When your church or pastor leans charismatic, be concerned.  When your church begins to plant churches but not give up control after a reasonable time, be concerned.  When your pastor begins to claim direct divine revelation so that anyone who disagrees with him disagrees with God, be concerned.  When your pastor becomes a national celebrity rather than a servant of his local sheep, be concerned.  When your pastor rubs elbows with wolves in sheep’s clothing, be concerned.  When your pastor thinks he is unbreakable, be concerned.

Be wary of the warning signs.

The goal of a pastor is to hear from Jesus, “well done good and faithful servant.”  This is the goal for any Christian.  How many Christian celebrity mega pastors will hear those words?

Flee wickedness.  Flee megalomania.  Flee charismania. Watch for their signs and flee them.

[Contributed by Seth Dunn]

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

[1] I use “Christian” in the cultural sense of the term.  Rice is a Roman Catholic.

[2] This may come as little surprise to those familiar with history of Mars Hill.  According to Driscoll, he received an audible communication from God ordering him to found the church.  One might wonder why God, who knows the end from the beginning, didn’t inform Driscoll of the exact length of his service at Mars Hill when he first called him to plant the church.

[3] Perry Noble, Ronnie Floyd, Matt Chandler, Andy Stanley, and Johnny Hunt are notable examples of preachers who pastor multi-site churches.

[4] I personally listened to the podcast of his “Real Marriage” sermon series.  Driscoll co-wrote a book of the same name with his wife, Grace.

[5] I was introduced to the writing of Driscoll by George Wright, Pastor of Cedarcrest Church in Acworth, GA and son of former Southern Baptist Convention President, G. Bryant Wright.

[6] Benny Hinn has done this.  A minister at my church who works in the Christian music industry told me of a time when he visited Benny Hinn’s church to view its administrative procedures.  During a sermon, Hinn told the congregation that he had a message from God about the sin of one of his associate pastors (who were on the stage with him), though he did not identify any of the men specifically.

[7] I own this book and have read it.  As a seminary-trained theologian, I can attest to its soundness.  It was co-written by Gerry Breshears, former president of the Evangelical Theological Society.