Beliefs Opinion

Mark Driscoll rising from the ashes in Phoenix


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, Arizona. Mark Driscoll, former pastor of Mars Hill in Seattle, made this announcement 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 5-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 emoji-laden guidelines that give shape to The Trinity Church:



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 head of either Mark Driscoll or Mars Hill.

READ: 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 their 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.

About the author

Laura Turner

Laura Turner is a writer and editor living in San Francisco. In addition to being a regular contributor to Christianity Today’s “Her.meneutics” blog, she has also written for publications such as Books & Culture and The Bold Italic. She is interested in the intersection of church and culture.


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  • You’ll notice in their FAQ they state that membership will be “spiritual” membership – in other words, not legal membership. This is how Mars Hill operated as well – only a select few were actually legal members. It’s the same recipe for lack of accountability and abuse we saw in Seattle.

    Fool me once…

  • Church “members” are members in name only. The same clever word-crafting that characterized the misleading and fraudulent statements cranked out by his leadership at the Seattle mega-church he abandoned, is already evident in his new venture. The corporation documents filed with the state only list Driscoll and his handpicked cronies as members. He will never submit himself or be accountable to the members of the church. It is anathema to him. Beware of this sly wolf in sheep’s clothing.

  • Gotta love how Christians … especially clerical types … never manage to actually express any remorse for anything they’ve ever done wrong. They’re always quick with excuses for why they did what they did, or for why their wrongdoing wasn’t actually wrong. And they stage comebacks as though nothing had ever happened, they’re still the greatest things since sliced bread, hallelujah!

    Just goes to show how horrifically putrid their “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven” is. I can smell the stench of it from here, and I don’t even live in the same part of the country as Driscoll.

    But there’s a reason they always get away with this crap: Other Christians happily allow them to! They yammer on and on about God’s forgiveness and isn’t it wonderful and yada yada yada. They have no idea how utterly stupid they look, nor do they comprehend the evil they’re tacitly approving of by letting it happen.

    It simply must stop. And Christians themselves are going to have to…

  • This is the story of any musician, football star or media personality after they’ve achieved rock-star status. It’s no surprise that this is becoming a familiar pattern in the highly profitable commercial big-box evangelical show biz as well. All moral failure are merely temporary setbacks in the PR game. Any good publicist would advise them to just lay low for awhile and then quietly seek out another venue and set of enablers to whom they can peddle their newest bigger-than-life dream. The forgiveness message is just the attractive, scaled-down vehicle. Contrast this with the kinds of full life-transformation that happens to those finding and sharing Christ behind bars in prisons all across the country, with the humility of their confinement.

    Driscoll and his ilk are giving the Christian brand a bad name, as more and more people observe these boom-and-bust cycles of high-dollar preachers who see the people in the pews–as sheep to be shorn!

  • I believe Laura really nailed it! This guy hasn’t had nearly enough time to mature and re-purpose his gifts with a 1st person Christian message–he’s merely leveraging easy forgiveness to his own benefit. Once a “rock-star” it’s extremely hard for one’s ego to get “right-sized” with anything like himillity, penance and the embrace of a servant’s role in perhaps another venue, where one truly learns the depths of God’s Grace. Failing that, they default to manipulating people and messages for their own rapid rise to rock-star status again!

    The Gospel of Christ doesn’t need new commercialized packaging and preaching in Phoenix nearly as much as it needs to be lived and practiced Monday–Saturday by those who claim it. There are plenty of big-box super-churches in Phoenix. Driscoll’s simply wanting to “get back in the game.” It’s a manifestation of the male (notice how none of these super-church super-pastors are FEMALE?!)-ego’s competitiveness and “winning” by…

  • “Whac-A-Mole” is a trademark and should be written exactly as its trademark dictates. Can you please change your misreference to it? It would be like the Washington Post calling you “Laura Turner of Religious News Service.”

  • Excellent piece, unfortunately…when Mr. Driscoll resigned from Mars Hill, he should have also resigned himself to the fact that he should step down from pastoral/teaching ministry on a permanent basis. He has disqualified himself based on Titus 1:7, that’s the biblical qualification for church leadership in ministry. Mark has several godly men who are prominent pastors in his sphere….I would hope this is the counsel they would give him before he goes full speed ahead with starting an Arizona version of the Mars Hill debacle. God loves Mark and restoration is hoped for……but not to ministry.