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Mark Driscoll charged with abusive behavior by 21 former Mars Hill pastors

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

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

(RNS) Twenty-one former Mars Hill Church pastors have filed charges against Seattle megachurch founder Mark Driscoll, saying that he has engaged in a pattern of abusive and intimidating conduct and has not changed.

The charges, lodged with the executive elders of the church, include:

  • “Pastor Mark exhibits lack of self-control by his speech and by verbally assaulting others.”
  • “We believe that the way Pastor Mark leads has created a culture of fear instead of a culture of candor and safety. People are often afraid to ask questions or challenge certain ideas.”
  • “Pastor Mark is verbally abusive to people who challenge him, disagree with him, or question him.”

Mars Hill Church has attracted as many as 14,000 people at 15 locations across five states each Sunday.

“We take these allegations seriously and we are thankful that we have a process in place where allegations will be reviewed by our board and our elders,” the church said in a statement.

Mars Hill also canceled its October Resurgence Conference, which was to feature recently resigned board members Paul Tripp and James MacDonald as speakers.

Driscoll was removed as closing speaker at an October church conference in Dallas and stricken from the speaker list at a series of four Christian “Act Like Men” conferences.

Earlier this month, Driscoll was removed from a church-planting network of more than 500 churches he helped found after a pattern of “ungodly and disqualifying behavior.” One of the most noticeably critical comments came from another prominent evangelical pastor in a story for the New York Times.

“He was really important — in the Internet age, Mark Driscoll definitely built up the evangelical movement enormously,” Timothy Keller, the senior pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, told the Times. “But the brashness and the arrogance and the rudeness in personal relationships — which he himself has confessed repeatedly — was obvious to many from the earliest days, and he has definitely now disillusioned quite a lot of people.”

Driscoll has been an influential but edgy pastor within conservative evangelical circles for several years. He has been provocative, occasionally profane, and has faced allegations of plagiarism and inflating his book sales.

“Mr. Driscoll is rapidly becoming a pariah in the world that once cheered him,” the Times wrote.

Driscoll returns from vacation on Sunday.


About the author

Sarah Pulliam Bailey

Sarah Pulliam Bailey is a national correspondent for RNS, covering how faith intersects with politics, culture and other news. She previously served as online editor for Christianity Today where she remains an editor-at-large.


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  • Mark And Mars Hill are not the only church that behave this way, the senior Pastors of most Mega Churches and ministries are exactly the same, hundreds of staff and former staff suffer from depression and stress syndrome, thousands of wives and children have seems their Dads abused by these men and their families, it’s time to rid the church and the Kingdom of these vile, arrogant, narcissistic men and women who care only about themselves, don’t fear that touch not Gods anointed rubbish, these people like Mark Driscoll and others are far from Gods anointed they use manipulation, I’ve worked and been in meetings with most of them, I had to leave to save myself and my family

  • People today seem to forget that Jesus said many will say to Me Lord,Lord
    and not enter heaven! Many of these “preachers” become very arrogant
    and are more concerned with trying to sell a book and only want to talk
    about abortion or gay marriage so they don’t have to face their own sin.
    Ephesians 5:18 says don’t get drunk and 1 Corinthians 6:10 says that all
    drunkards go to hell. The wine that Jesus made was new wine/diluted and
    the Bible says don’t get drunk on strong wine so people who get drunk
    with/on wine are also wrong! Bible says Repent and believe the Gospel!
    The Repenting part seems to get left out today. We all must Repent!

  • I know very little about Driscoll. He clearly did not empower his elders to hold him accountable. But at the same time there’s a part of me that says, “If you didn’t have the guts to speak up about Driscoll when he was still running the show, just keep your mouth closed now. You were not an abused child — you were complicit in what he was doing.”

  • Acts 21 needs to back off. We all make mistakes. We all mess up. He was asked to step down. And that’s acceptable. However smearing a person until they look like bug on a windshield isn’t. He messed up, we get it. But get off your high horse, acts 21. What goes around comes around.

  • What do you mean “filed charges”? Did he physically abuse these people? Are those who filed charges children? Something is not right here.

  • Wow, one mega-pastor gets accused of abusive behavior and now they “we” are all guilty of the same thing! A little unfair don’t you think?

  • We all grew up with different values… Following Jesus is supposed to unify the His body… but… we get in the way. It’s time to think differently than established religion – read the story of the woman at the well when Jesus told her of a new place of worship – where all will in Spirit and in truth. There is a Church victorious. Love to all, even AM.

  • @Bruce,

    “these people like Mark Driscoll and others are far from Gods anointed”

    1. Like a good Christian you judge harshly: “Avoid Them” (Romans 16:17)

    2. Like a good Christian you SHUN: “Let him who has done this be removed from among you.” (1 Corinthians 1:13)

    3. Like a good Christian you SHAME them: “have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed.” (2 Thessalonian 3:14)

    4. Like a good Christian you DENOUNCE: “If your brother sins…go and tell him his fault” (Matthew 18:15)


    “Bring to me those enemies of mine who would not follow me as their King
    And EXECUTE THEM IN FRONT OF ME.” – JESUS (Luke 19:27)

    Religion is
    an international disaster.

  • @Pastorvinny

    If you preach about Jesus you are spreading immoral philosophies.

    The awful behavior of Mark Driscoll is normal if you believe all bad behavior is okay once Jesus hears how much you (momentarily) regretted it.
    Then you are free to screw up as often you want to.

    Religion is a disease of our culture – we need to abandon it one person at a time.

  • I wonder if Jonathan Merritt thinks these pastors were being too mean and should have “forgiven” Driscoll too?

  • Atheist Max. I don’t care whether you believe of not, but Jesus did not say those words of himself in Luke 19:27. He was quoting a parable in which the master, whom nobody liked, went off to seek riches and came home to utter the words against the people he didn’t like.
    Have your say, but don’t quote from a source you’re not sure about and certainly not when you misquote.
    For the record, the problem with lay people (and certain church leaders) is that they cherry pick bible quotes to suit any viewpoint. Not what it’s about at all.

  • @Me,

    You have chosen a very unlikely interpretation of the Parable of the 10 Minas. It is not only about a master “who was not liked.” It was about lack of obedience. And it was about fear.
    Jesus, of course, IS the nobleman in the story. He IS the one who will return to judge who has best applied his minas to the service of the master.
    The Parable is also about how one should fear the Lord’s wrath if he does not sacrifice enough for God.

    Jesus is the Nobleman who returns to Judge. He is the one who the people rejected, who had high demands:

    “Bring to me those who would not have me as their King and execute them in front of me.” – JESUS (Luke 19:27)

  • @Norm Martin,

    Brother Norm,

    “I’ve attempted to explain the same verse to Bro Max but to no avail.”

    I won’t quit unless you will:

    Luke 19:11
    The Parable of the Ten Minas
    11 While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once. 12 He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. 13 So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas.[a] ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’

    14 “But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’
    15 “He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it.

    16 “The first one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned ten more.’
    17 “‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’

    18 “The second came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned five more.’
    19 “His master answered, ‘You take charge of five cities.’

    20 “Then another servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. 21 I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’
    22 “His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? 23 Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’

    24 “Then he said to those standing by, ‘Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.’
    25 “‘Sir,’ they said, ‘he already has ten!’

    26 “He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 27 But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and execute them in front of me.’”


    1. The servant who was fearful (but not obedient) is punished for his honesty and called ‘wicked’.
    2. The same (wicked) servant is punished for not dedicating the Nobleman’s cash to the SERVICE of the Nobleman.
    3. The same (wicked) servant is punished with execution. His paltry life is of no use to anyone and his Mina is handed to someone who has shown Obedience along with Fear.
    4. The Execution is carried out (this is important) by the ‘good’ servants who were obedient!

    Be fearful but OBEDIENT with your gifts from God. Drop the word ‘servant,’ we are talking about slaves here.
    Put them in service to the Lord. God will deny you everything if you don’t return them and ‘with interest’. It is a severe command to do the Lord’s will as you will be measured exclusively by your own adherence to this injunction.
    ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant!

    This despicable parable is a not so veiled attempt by Jesus
    to speak about himself to his disciples.
    This parable is used by the Church to describe what JESUS WILL DO when he returns at the End of Times to judge at the RAPTURE. The Parousia.

    “Execute them in front of ME.” – JESUS

    Means God will instruct his good servants to execute
    the bad servants who did not produce exclusively “for the Lord”.

    A profoundly immoral lesson. A profoundly despicable parable.

    “Execute them” – JESUS

  • What kind of bible is that from? Never heard of that one. Christ said His kingdom is not of this world.

  • Christianity has done much more good than you realize.

    Christianity gave rights to women and children, started hospice and hospitals for all people who suffer, bishops asked their congregations to lay down their lives during times of plagues, believers risking their own lives to go out on the streets and nurse sick people and bury their dead. Christianity started education for all people, was the first to start universities….Mexico was the center of learning for the New World, not America, and it had universities with indigenous Indian professors teaching there, as well as giving women and girls a right to an education America did not give until hundreds of years later. Christian schools in America today provide an education that elevates and delivers inner city children to enter universities and support them their beginning years there after high school.

    You are brainwashed from the Far Left who control public schools as well as colleges and universities…religion, good religion that is binding one to God transcends someone to in time serve society. Church history verifies it and is the foundation of humanizing Western Civilization.

    You need to get educated and get out of the mindset you were put in. Feel bad for people like you so many of you do not know the truth of real religion.

  • @Kathleen,

    People have done good mostly despite Christianity.
    Not because of it.

    Jesus said “be a slave” – Humanitarians said no.
    Jesus said “obey the laws of Yahweh” – Humanitarians said no.
    Jesus said to “kill unruly children” – Humanitarians said no.
    Jesus said “execute my enemies” – Humanitarians said no.
    Jesus preached Leviticus; “Kill Homosexuals” – Humanitarians said no.
    Jesus preached Hell – Humanitarians said no.

    The Laws of Yahweh
    “If men get into a fight with one another, and the wife of one intervenes to rescue her husband from the grip of his opponent by reaching out and seizing his genitals, you shall cut off her hand; show no pity.” – (DEUT. 25:11)
    Cut off your wife’s hand?
    JESUS AGREES with every single law of Yahweh (JOHN 1:17) (Mark 10:19)

    What good can come from cutting off your wife’s hand?

  • @Kathleen,

    “What kind of bible is that from?”
    King James Version

    ” Never heard of that one.”
    Priests lie about the bible.

    “Christ said His kingdom is not of this world.”
    Except for the execution bit.
    What does it even mean to say; “not of this world”?
    Ask one of the 500 million people in history of THIS WORLD who have been killed because of Jesus’ direct instructions.

    Christianity is a huge misunderstanding – Jesus is just another jerk from history.

  • That is not what the universal Church of its 2000 year history uses. We follow the Septuagint interpretation, Our Lord’s bible whose books were compiled 200 years before Christ in Egypt at request of Emperor Ptolemy.

    This interpretation anticipated the coming of the Messiah, the man of sorrows, this interpretation used by the apostles and St. Paul, the LXX version…used up to this day.

  • Did you ever have a decent Scripture instructor?? Sounds like a bible that was made in someone’s basement.

    Heaven and hell are states of being…where you are continue on after death.

    Recall Christ’s words about the Last Judgment’…’I was hungry and you did not feed Me, I was naked and you did not clothe Me, I was thirsty and you gave Me nothing to drink, I was in prison and you did not visit Me….’

    Your neighbor is Christ present to you. How you treat your neighbor is likewise received by Our Lord.

    Anyway, do yourself a big favor and disconnect from religion forums because you are hurting nobody but yourself.

    Christ said it is love of God and neighbor that fulfills the Law. You are mixing up laws and practices from the most ancient times when the Jews were spiritual children and just as primitive as anyone else…some don’t change from that part of the world and you can see them on TV doing bad stuff claiming they are wearing the veil of religion.

    It is the Breaking of the Bread that opens up the meaning of the Word….and Christ’s work in us is evident in how humane we are to other people…I actually liked some of your earlier analogies….

    Yes, hang it up and give yourself a break.

  • @Kathleen,

    “How you treat your neighbor is likewise received by Our Lord.”

    That cannot be true.
    This is what the disciples said:

    “But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone …if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.” (1 Corinthians 5:11)

    “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting” (2 John 1:10)

    “Avoid Them” (Romans 16:17)

    “For whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.” (2 John 1:11)

    “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault…” (Matthew 18:15)

    “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.” (Titus 3:9-11)

    “Let him who has done this be removed from among you.” (1 Corinthians 1:13)

    “have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed.”
    (2 Thessalonian 3:14)

    “Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.”
    (2 Thessalonians 3:6)

    “If anyone does not love the Lord, let that person be cursed!
    (1 Corinthians 16:22)

    What does this have to do with treating neighbors with kindness?
    I only see harsh judgement

    I’m sorry you think Christianity is loving. It isn’t.

    And Mark Driscoll
    Like so many other preachers
    have shown that they are psychologically conflicted and intellectually poisoned by this awful, primitive philosophy.

  • Psalm 141:5 “Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head.”

    As a sinful man I’ve been ‘broken’ many times. Each time God has used it to advance my understanding of Him. God’s will is being done with Mark. This rebuke is not coming from the world. He is being held accountable in a Godly manner. Let’s just pray to God that He shows Mark great mercy and that He change Mark’s heart. A lot of us that are born again have gone through this – just not in such a visible manner.

  • It’s clear Atheist Max hates Christianity and will use twisted logic and flowery rhetoric until he’s blue in the face. Stop giving him a platform folks. If you don’t agree with Christianity Max, fine. But stop harassing and belittling other folks. Why is it so many atheists feel the need to belittle those who have faith? God saved my life when no one else could offer any help. And I love him to pieces. No diatribe from you will make me (or others who believe) change our minds, so why are you wasting your breath here? It’s such troll-like behaviour… Seriously now, be more tolerant and use correct hermeneutics and exegesis next time you try to state your point of view regarding a certain scriptural text. Also, don’t even bother replying to this as I’ve had enough of reading you.

  • ‘REPENT’

    To say you are sorry
    for something you did not do
    to offend a thing
    which you cannot know, see or hear
    who insists will not be appeased
    To His satisfaction anyway
    For reasons you do not, and cannot know.

    This is a wholesale destruction
    of the meaning, integrity and moral imperative
    of saying, “I am sorry.”

    To destroy so much decency
    with one word
    Is profoundly evil

  • ME-seriously, you are going to address an atheist with the confession “I don’t care if you believe or not”. The core of all of this is that NONE are bearing the fruit of love which is the mind and heart and way of Christ. We must take a deep look at ourselves and examine the fruit of our lives. Do we believe in knowledge only, or in the way we love?
    I have been most guilty and know the deception and challenge well.

  • This is a sad day for Christians.

    The money changers in the Temple and Pharisees of the Bible would be happy about Pastor Mark being removed from the church. I believe Pastor Mark’s words and actions are acceptable in the sight of the Lord. And no one is perfect. Jesus said, “Let those without sin cast the first stone.” Well, those casting stones at Pastor Mark are NOT without sin.

    Jesus was quick to criticize wrong doers. If you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen. We attack each other and demonize one of our best. This is a sad day for Christians.

  • To atheist max,
    Jesus’ second coming is not for salvation but for judgement. Those who did not believe in him will be judge and punish which include execution specially for his subjects who hated him and don’t want him to be their king (including atheist). He will seperate the sheep and the goats, the tares and the wheat. This will be done by his angels on the judgement day.
    Jesus being our King has the authority to command his good and faithful servants to bring those who hated him and kill them in front of Jesus on that day, that is the second death.

    P.S. To understand the holy scriptures you need to be a believer first and a true disciple of Christ because they are spiritually discerned and not by our own personal understanding.

  • Sir, you know nothing about the bible. You’re quoted a parable. I know you don’t know anything about the bible because of this. I was an atheist until 5 years ago. I understand why you misquoted the bible and I understand why you think religion is a disease. The fact is, your hate is the disease of this world. You probably think your open minded and tolerant… Your not. You denounced Bruce and every verse you used, you pulled completely out of context.

  • I checked out your website sir…. I hate being offensive but your website is laughable…. The very first proof you talk about is prayer. You’re completely against God so it would be impossible for you to pray with a sincere heart. There is absolutely no way you could trick and all knowing God. Are you so arrogant and ignorant that you really think you could possibly pray with complete sincerity? The God you believe in is not the God of the bible and you do believe in a god. Otherwise you wouldn’t argue about the God I believe in or the God that others believe in. You have a god that you have made up and believe in, and you argue about with others. Your so lost in your own pride and logical fallacies, you probably are getting mad at what I’m saying and not actually examining your own intentions and actions… You cannot sincerely pray to a God you sincerely hate, that is logically ignorant.

    To repent means to turn from. If you don’t turn from a sin, saying sorry means nothing. I was an atheist, yet I can give you accounts of instant answered prayers and eyewitnesses to verify them.

    In Richard Dawkins book “The Blind Watchmaker”, on the very first page, he said “biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose”…. He contradicts himself and his view on the very first page.

    You remind me of Dr. Dawkins

  • atheist Max, you sure know your scripture. But you do know what a parable is, don’t you? Because your quote from Luke is from part of a parable . . .

  • This cracks me up. He based his whole theology on a bully philosophy—a kind of REAL MEN NEED TO MAN UP attitude and bullied people from the pulpit. So now these 21 are upset just because he turned that machismo bullying on them…but that is what he was about ALL along. Any church member or elder or human that could chuckle along as he preached about going OT on an elder with a different view or “breaking his nose” should KNOW what they signed up for when they paid their tithes or cashed their paychecks. They built this monstrosity by supporting his abusive world view that he stupidly LABELED as the real tough guy Jesus from the start. They helped create his bully pulpit- so they aren’t any more victims than anyone else. As leaders in that toxic system- they were just the bully enablers –taking care of themselves until he turned on them.

  • Seriously, Atheist Max is just trolling the comments. I’ve marked all of his stuff as abuse because he’s not even staying on topic. STOP FEEDING THE TROLL!!

  • Seriously, Atheist Max is just trolling the comments. I’ve marked all of his stuff as abuse because he’s not even staying on topic. STOP FEEDING THE TROLL!!

  • where do I report our Pastor for abusive and bad behavior for a pastor. He has also physically shoved one of our members because he was angry. Thank You

  • There is always good purpose for a pastor’s abusive ways. Our pastor, Victor Kim, long time pastor of Remnant presbytertian church has long been known for his abusive tone. It turned out that Victor kim was having a 10 affair. He used his aggressive ways to coerce these adulterous relationships. Now that facts are coming out, he lived a double life, with many women and exploiting church finances. Sold church property to family members without the congregation knowing. You are probably thinking… why didn’t anyone say anything or do anything and how can he be in ministry for 25 years and no one knows about it…. well it’s because we asians don’t like confrontation. You have predators like him who take advantage of soft, and non-confrontational asians. The tragedy compounds when asians don’t speak out against this type of predator. Many believe that this pastor is actually a sociopath. Lying, manipulation, doing anything to hide who they are… totally sociopothy behavior…

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