"We who are associated with the so-called reformed evangelical movement, whether because we want to be or because others just make the connection, now look as corrupt and worldly as the despicable televangelists of a previous generation."
Did you seen Mark Driscoll's tweet earlier today? He posted this:
How do you define your identity? Pay attention to what you count: Weight? Money? Facebook friends? GPA? Net worth?
Not surprisingly, someone quickly replied: "books sold?" Update 3/12- Please forgive us for leaving out this screen shot.
When the Driscolls' book Real Marriage made The New York Times best seller list, Mark Driscoll likely never imagined the barrage of negative publicity that would follow just a couple years later. Interestingly, Real Marriage has never made the L.A. Times bestseller list…
For two years Mark Driscoll was lauded far and wide as a best selling author — e.g. listen to the opening remarks in this video, which includes the following description:
Pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel, Robbie Symons chats with New York Times Bestseller Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church on location. A deep conversation about the spiritual landscape of North America and what we can do to shine in such times.
Clearly, Driscoll is not what he presented himself to be, and we are left wondering what kind of psychological gymnastics one must do to pretend that he is an acclaimed author.
We must ask the question: What kind of man buys his way onto the NYT best seller list and then acts like he earned his way there, secretly knowing that it's not true? Did Driscoll feel just a tinge of guilt before the big reveal? And more importantly, is this the sign of a deep character flaw?
Just five years ago, Dee and I knew very little about Mark Driscoll. During the summer of 2008 my daughter was required to read his book Radical Reformission because she was on the leadership team for her college ministry. The following February, Driscoll came to our area, speaking at the SEBTS 20/20 Collegiate Conference (along with C.J. Mahaney) and to my daughter's college ministry group. I was NOT impressed with his 'Naked and Unashamed' schtick.
Not long after that Driscoll came under fire for his sexually explicit contextualization of the Song of Solomon at a church in Scotland. It was the first time we realized that Driscoll's controversial material has a tendency to disappear…
So much has changed in the last five years (since Driscoll came onto our radar screen). He has gained much notoriety, but we are fairly certain he's not happy about the attention he has been getting of late. The internet (which just turned 25 today!) is abuzz with news and opinions about Mark Driscoll.
The Atlantic just published an article by Ruth Graham entitled Can Mega Churches Deal with Mega Money in a Christian Way?
Here is an important excerpt:
A church spokesman told Smith that Mars Hill invests in marketing because it wants to reach a large audience, and “we want to tell lots of people about Jesus by every means available.” But that defense didn’t stick for long. On Friday, the church posted a statement on its website calling its work with ResultSource an “unwise” one-time error, and emphasizing that all profits from Driscoll’s book sales have always gone to the church. By Saturday, the church had edited Driscoll’s online biography to remove a description of Real Marriage as a “No. 1 New York Times best-selling” book. (Mars Hill declined to answer questions for this story.)
Even before the ResultSource controversy, Driscoll was one of the most divisive figures in contemporary evangelicalism. Just within the last few months, he has been accused by other Christians of plagiarism, of failing to give credit to his research assistants, and of pressuring departing staff members to sign onerous non-disclosure agreements. With a dissent-averse leadership style, he is faced with a growing community of disgruntled ex-members and -leaders. (I spoke with four of them for this story, and have talked to others in the past.)
Graham then explains that the seven-man board that determines salaries and appoints elders includes two executive elders who are close allies, along with Driscoll himself. She goes on to explain that there may be more serious issues in the days ahead. (see below)
Mars Hill does not publicly report Driscoll’s annual salary. In a current climate of acrimony and scrutiny, that number could become a matter of controversy, depending on how high it is.
(Mars Hill’s most recent annual report lists $12,515,894 in spending on personnel, but does not provide a breakdown of individual salaries. The church has been a member of the the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, a respected accreditation agency, since 2012. The ECFA’s president, Dan Busby, sent me a statement confirming the church’s good standing in light of the fact that it terminated the ResultSource contract before applying for ECFA membership; Busby called participation in schemes such as ResultSource's “unethical and deceptive.”)
Kyle Firstenberg, who served as a salaried executive pastor at the church's Orange County site until 2012, told me that Mars Hill’s finances are “not anything close to transparent.”
Carl Trueman, a professor at Westminster Seminary has just weighted in with a post entitled: Celebrity Pastors A Retrospective. While we wish he would call out individuals specifically, there can be no doubt to whom he is referring. Trueman writes:
…here is the rub: If there are people out there who still believe that there is such a thing as reformed evangelicalism as a trans-denominational movement, if they believe that this movement will play a key role in the future of the church, and if they believe that they are important leaders in this movement, then they need to speak directly, clearly, and firmly to precisely these issues. You cannot be a leader without leading publicly on the major issues and major personalities of the day who impact your movement and your chosen constituency. It is not enough to say 'That person is no longer one of us' when you helped to create a culture in which accountability is not transparent and where your public silence encouraged the big names to think they could do what they wanted and not be held publicly to account. That is where today's problems started.
That accountability question has always been the Achilles' Heel of the evangelical parachurch movement. Now that there are huge sums of money involved, that question is far more pressing and yet far more complicated than ever before. We who are associated with the so-called reformed evangelical movement, whether because we want to be or because others just make the connection, now look as corrupt and worldly as the despicable televangelists of a previous generation.
The longer the Neo-Cals remain tight-lipped about the controversies surrounding Mark Driscoll, the more we believe they will hurt their cause. We agree with Carl Trueman's contention that 'you cannot be a leader without leading publicly'. So far the silence coming from the Calvinista crowd has been deafening. It's time for the leaders of the Neo-Cal movement to issue proclamations regarding these serious issues involving Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill.
Driscoll doesn't hold back from criticizing Joel Osteen (which he did last fall).
Come on guys, MAN UP! It's time for a chorus of voices to speak out about Mark Driscoll's unbiblical and unethical practices.
Lydia's Corner: Jeremiah 37:1-38:28 1 Timothy 6:1-21 Psalm 89:38-52 Proverbs 25:28