"You lead a great movement as a brother, you will lead a greater one as a father, your later years will surpass your younger."
Mark Driscoll and Joshua Harris Interview Francis Chan (Screen Shot)
Not long after we rang in the New Year in 2009 and several months before launching TWW, the Deebs learned about a newfangled conference to be held in Chicago. It was The Gospel Coalition's first ever National Conference. We took special notice of several speakers slated to address attendees, namely Mark Driscoll, Joshua Harris and C.J. Mahaney (among others). The conference theme was Entrusted with the Gospel. It is certainly worth noting that these three men have served as Council Members for The Gospel Coalition, but because of "issues" in their ministries, all three have stepped down.
During our almost seven years of blogging, we have discussed our concerns with a church-planting network that beginning in 2002 was called "Sovereign Grace Ministries" (now going by the name "Sovereign Grace Churches"). The flagship church in that organization was Covenant Life Church (CLC), located in Gaithersburg, Maryland. C.J. Mahaney had served as CLC's senior pastor for 27 years. In 2004 he turned over the reigns to his hand-picked successor, Joshua Harris, who was 29 years old.
Harris had penned I Kissed Dating Goodbye around the time he agreed to move from his family's home in Oregon to Maryland, specifically the Mahaney residence. This is where his mentoring by C.J. began. Joshua met a young lady (Shannon) in the CLC congregation whom he married. In recent years, CLC has withdrawn from the SGM 'family of churches', and then in February 2015, Joshua Harris announced to congregants at CLC that he was stepping down as senior pastor. Christianity Today broke the news in an article entitled Why Joshua Harris Kissed His Megachurch Goodbye. It begins with these words…
At 40 years old, Joshua Harris has already pastored a megachurch for a decade and authored six books, including the bestselling I Kissed Dating Goodbye. Now, he wants to go to college.
“I have lived a sort of backwards life. Without meaning to, I have experienced life out of the normal order and sequence of events,” Harris told attendees at Covenant Life Church (CLC) in Gaithersburg, Maryland, on Sunday, January 25. “I haven’t completed any post-graduate study. I don’t even have an undergraduate degree. In fact, I have never attended a formal school full-time in my life.” [Full statement]
The Washington Post also featured an article on Joshua Harris' decision to leave the pastorate at CLC. The title – Pastor Joshua Harris, an evangelical outlier, heads to mainstream seminary – provided a glimmer of hope that Harris will grow beyond the narrow boundaries of Calvinista churchianity when he pursues a seminary degree at Regent College. Perhaps the Post article provides a clue as to why Harris decided to leave CLC and seek a formal seminary education. It states:
Covenant Life was the flagship congregation of Sovereign Grace, a cluster of churches founded in the 1980s by a former hard-core partier named C.J. Mahaney. The church’s theology is charismatic and imagines God as disciplinarian and man as needing oversight. Followers called Mahaney “apostle,” and critics said he behaved like a cult leader.
Building criticism from other evangelicals over Mahaney’s leadership style and the sex abuse allegations brought national controversy to Sovereign Grace, which in 2011, Harris preached, was “being publicly spanked . . . humiliated and being brought low.” He removed the Gaithersburg church from Sovereign Grace the next year, but the sex abuse allegations and criticism about the way pastors had treated victims continued at Covenant Life.
All of this led Harris, he said, to reconsider his own journey and whether formal education might help him.
We covered this development in a post entitled Joshua Harris Announces His Departure from Covenant Life Church.
Not long ago Harris wrote an article that appeared in the Leadership Journal entitled: The 40-Year-Old Seminarian. In it he writes:
When I shared my decision with the church, I said that I think Jesus still calls people to drop their nets and follow him. Yes, even pastors.
One member of my church asked, "How can you be sure you're hearing from God and not just having a mid-life crisis?" I gave a polished, religious-sounding answer that no one remembered. But what I wanted to say was, "Who says those two things are mutually exclusive?"
I think I am having a mid-life crisis and I am hearing from God. If the way you're living isn't healthy—isn't expanding your soul and deepening your love for God and fellow-humans—then a crisis that awakens you to your need for change is a good thing. It's a God thing. And that's my experience.
God used personal loss, disillusionment with former mentors [emphasis mine] and myself, my own mistakes as a leader, and questions about my approach to doing church to smack me in the face. God got my attention.
Now that he has a semester of formal seminary education at Regent College under his belt, it would be fascinating to see whether Joshua Harris has rejected some of the informal theological training he received from C.J. Mahaney and other Neo-Cals. It will be interesting to follow-up on Harris once he completes his studies.
And then there's Mark Driscoll, who was propelled into the Calvinista spotlight by leaders like John Piper, who back in 2006 invited him to speak at the Desiring God conference and promoted him as a leader to be emulated. Here is what Piper had to say about his good friend. (WARNING: There are some graphic words from Driscoll's books in the video).
Perhaps you are wondering whether John Piper has any regrets about promoting Mark Driscoll. Here is a portion of his response:
First, no regret. John Piper has no regret for befriending Mark Driscoll, going to Mark Driscoll’s church and speaking at his events, or having him come to the Desiring God conference. I do not regret that. My regret is that I was not a more effective friend. Mark knew he had flaws. He knows he has flaws. And I knew he had flaws. He knew that I knew he had flaws. There were flaws of leadership attitude, flaws of unsavory language that I think is just wrong for Christians to use, flaws of exegetical errors, say, in regard to the Song of Solomon. I wrote a long critique of his use of the Song of Solomon. I wrote him personally about these. But I always hoped that in those cases the relationship with me and with others would be redemptive and helpful. He certainly gave me more time and counsel than I deserved. I remember him sitting in my dining room, spending a long time with me and Noel, giving us good counsel about the last chapter of our ministry, and then going home and producing a long paper for me and to give guidance to me and the elders. He didn’t have to do that. I didn’t even ask him to do it. So there was a mutuality about this and I felt loved by Mark and I wanted to love him in return. I still do hope for the best in Mark’s life and ministry. So, no, I don’t regret it.
You can read the six lessons Piper has learned here.
Just this week news broke that Mark Driscoll is starting a new church where he and his family currently reside – Phoenix. The Seattle Post Intelligencer reported the following two days ago:
Former Mars Hill Church senior pastor Mark Driscoll has filed incorporation papers in Phoenix for a new entity called The Trinity Church in Arizona, 14 months after he resigned his Seattle pulpit and just under a year after Mars Hill ceased to exist.
The new entity will be a “Bible-based Christian church” with Driscoll and two other directors, each giving the address of Mark Driscoll Ministries in Phoenix. Driscoll and his family moved to the “Valley of the Sun” last summer.
“Mark Driscoll appears to have a new project in Phoenix: The recently incorporated church will be a Bible-based Christian church without members,” said Warren Throckmorton, a Pennsylvania college professor who followed the Mars Hill Church meltdown for the Patheos.
We are grateful to Warren Throckmorton for persistently following the Driscoll debacle and his attempt to rise from the ashes. No wonder Mark Driscoll and family moved to Phoenix! Throckmorton includes some important information about Driscoll's latest endeavor in his post linked above. (See below)
The next big thing appears to be just around the corner.
Mark Driscoll is listed as a director of recently registered The Trinity Church in Phoenix, along with Randall Taylor and Jimmy Evans. The address is the same UPS store listed as the Mark Driscoll Ministries address (the church has a different box number):
Mark Driscoll Ministries
21001 North Tatum Blvd Ste 1630-527
Phoenix, AZ 85050
Click here for the Articles of Incorporation. According to the incorporation document, The Trinity Church will be a “Bible based Christian Church.” To these gentlemen, “Bible based” may not mean congregational. According to the articles of incorporation, there won’t be any members.
The same attorney, Steven Goodspeed, who incorporated Mark Driscoll Ministries, also incorporated The Trinity Church in Arizona at the end of November. Goodspeed also handled the sale of The Resurgence assets to Driscoll.
Remember the Gateway Conference held last fall by Robert Morris and gang? It was purportedly the first time that Mark Driscoll took the stage since leaving Mars Hill Church. Driscoll said he was looking for 'some wise counsel'. Well, it looks like he might have found some sort of counseling there. 😉
According to this post by Warren Throckmorton, an attendee at the Gateway Conference tweeted that Jimmy Evans doled out a prophecy to Driscoll (who was standing in the front row). Here is a screen shot of that prophecy along with an accompanying photo featuring Evans (on stage) and Driscoll (standing in the audience).
How can the prophecy be correct when Mark Driscoll threw so many under the bus during his failed attempt at ministry? It just goes to prove that Jimmy Evans ain't no prophet!
Getting back to The Gospel Coalition, they featured a video interview between Mark Driscoll, Joshua Harris, and Francis Chan several years ago. In it, Driscoll and Harris show concern for the church Chan chose to leave behind (but in good hands). Makes us wonder how much concern Mark Driscoll and Joshua Harris had for the congregations they left behind. Take a look…
No doubt there will be much more to report on in the New Year regarding Driscoll and his "new tribe". We will also do our best to keep up with Joshua Harris and the strides he is making at Regent College in Vancouver.