Mark Driscoll rises from the ashes in Phoenix (COMMENTARY)

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Mark Driscoll was an influential but edgy pastor within conservative evangelical circles for several years. Photo courtesy of Mars Hill Church

Mark Driscoll was an influential but edgy pastor within conservative evangelical circles for several years. Photo courtesy of Mars Hill Church

(RNS) While one self-involved, authoritarian, crude-talkin’ leader has been making headlines across the country, another one has quietly been coming up with plans to start his own church in Phoenix.

Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle until he resigned in 2014, announced that he was setting up The Trinity Church there on Monday via his Twitter account. (Just before this announcement, he had observed on Twitter that “Real friends are like socks. You might lose them for a while but eventually they show back up.”)

The Trinity Church’s website features lovely images of the sun setting over the Arizona deserts while families play. You can sign up for their newsletter, read up on the staff and leadership, or watch a five-minute video in which Driscoll and his wife Grace discuss planting this new church, named after a church planted by Grace’s parents before she was born. Once you’ve done that, you can read the guidelines that give shape to The Trinity Church:

  • Pray first
  • The pedals on our bike are Bible teaching and relationships
  • Loving relationships are the mark of good theology
  • Fun is fundamental
  • Build people up, don’t beat people up
  • God is our Father and we are a family of multiple generations
  • Children are a blessing
  • We do things with excellence or we don’t do them at all
  • The family that serves together grows closer
  • Nothing beats people meeting Jesus
  • Vision requires provision

Supporting Driscoll in his new endeavor are two other former Mars Hill staffers, Andy Girton and Brandon Andersen. As The Seattle Times pointed out, none of the three men mention their time at Mars Hill in their bios — all of which refer to their experience working in churches — which is a curious omission, because it would be difficult to find an evangelical Christian in the demographic Trinity Church is targeting who had not heard of either Mark Driscoll or Mars Hill.

RELATED STORY: Exclusive: Mark Driscoll’s resignation letter to Mars Hill Church

Driscoll has left a wake of destruction so severe that the entire network of churches he founded had to shutter its doors. He has never taken full responsibility for his abusive tactics, never apologized to many of the individuals who he wronged, and doesn’t appear to have absorbed much of a lesson at all from his failings. But he’s back again, like a whack-a-mole. This is what happens when church leaders don’t take responsibility for their actions, and don’t engage in the kind of counseling they need: They simply pop up somewhere new to wreak the same havoc in a different place.

It is possible that Driscoll has learned from his past mistakes, and that he moves to Phoenix a wiser man. But a slight increase in wisdom isn’t all that is required of him, and he certainly hasn’t shown enough to bow out of church leadership altogether. He should find a new job for a while; one that doesn’t involve leading anyone or taking a paycheck from a church. His family needs to heal. His community needs to heal. Real wisdom in this scenario would involve humility, a total accounting of mistakes and responsibility, repentance, and a lot of unglamorous work. I don’t think he’s ready for that. Sadly, neither is Phoenix.

(Laura Turner is a columnist for RNS)

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  • This is what happens when shrugging off the authority of Scripture becomes the evangelical norm. If anyone were to look, they would find that Driscoll is not eligible for pastorship at this time according to God’s Word. Fortunately for Mr. Driscoll, there will be plenty in Phoenix who are willing to follow him anyway.

  • We have learned more about our universe and how and why it operates in the last 30 or 40 years than in all of previous human history.

    This is why we no longer need to invent imaginary, magical, supernatural ‘gods’ to explain thunder, disease, planetary motion, speciation, chemical reactions, etc.

    Hundreds of religious belief systems have gone down the toilet of history and the remaining ones are circling the bowl as we speak. Intelligent educated people understand this.

    As Neil deGrasse Tyson so elegantly put it, “God is an ever-receding pocket of scientific ignorance that is getting smaller and smaller and smaller as time goes on”.

  • mirele

    As a resident of the Phoenix area, I wish Driscoll would take his show somewhere else. Preferably to a deserted island in the middle of a lake. I’d suggest Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake, but even the critters there don’t deserve to be visited by the likes of Driscoll.

  • David

    Driscoll refused to submit to his Elders when they confronted him with his sin. If anyone had done that under his leadership he would have said they were “disqualified” and would’ve shunned them from fellowship at the church until they repented and submitted themselves to the appropriate spiritual authority.

    He eventually resigned in disgrace but said he and his wife were “released by the Holy Spirit” to not submit to the Elders. Again, if someone else had done that he would’ve called their behavior unrepentant and sinful.

    As things sit now, he has left behind a huge pile of damaged people in the pacific northwest who are still reeling from his abuse. Their spiritual lives are in shambles and will now watch in horror as Mark assumes again a role that he is completely unqualified for.

    To the new group of men who are providing Mark “wise counsel”….you should be ashamed of yourselves for encouraging Mark to re-enter ministry.

  • Maurice Harting

    Why was Mars Hill Elder Board not able to attract a new Pastor after Mark Driscoll left and closed the Church doors?
    To blame Mark Driscoll only is a big mistake, for the Elder Board must be accountable as well here.

    If it is true that Mark Driscoll has moved his personal views of Holy Scripture away from the Reformed perspective towards a more charismatic one that would be a big mistake. However, we need to be careful not to believe anyone without examining the facts.

    I do wish Mark Driscoll and his family all the best and my prayers are with him and his family as he seeks to start a new Church in Phoenix. May God guide Mark in wisdom and knowledge of Himself to the glory of God.

  • Scott Shaver

    Wonder if Neil deGrasse Tyson has changed his views….post mortem?

  • Chris

    This is my primary issue with Driscoll; instead of supporting the local churches he instead rolls into town and sets up his own corporate shop. I don’t know phoenix well, but i suspect there are many local churches that could use a good servants heart supporting them in their ministry. I think that if you aren’t willing to be an usher welcoming people into a church with a smile and a handshake, you probably shouldn’t be a pastor. If you go straight to setting up your own church so you can lead, I suspect your heart is still not in the right place.

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  • Richard

    Kudos to you Laura for covering the resurgence of Mark Driscoll.

    However, I don’t know why you wrote, ” the entire network of churches he founded had to shutter its doors.” Many of the Mars Hill campuses reincorporated under different names and still exist. Did you investigate that?

  • Betsy

    I love your thoughts on being an usher vs jumping right in to setting up a church. Speaks of someone who needs to always be in charge from the get go. Great observation.

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