Apologizing Mark Driscoll…


Mark Driscoll has apologized.

Mark Driscoll has apologized before.

That said, I’m thrilled he’s issued an open apology to the members of his congregation. Like many have said, that’s a promising sign.

Or is it simply par for the course? This is Mark Driscoll we’re talking about, the preacher whose morphed into a myriad of shapes and ideas over the years, from “Emergent” to “Neo-reformed” to Calvinist Charizmatic to Rick Warren evangelical… and every transition has brought a new circle of friends, a new approach, a clean slate… 

But maybe this time is different…

What are the chances that he actually wrote this apology?

According to his apology, Mark’s taking a break from Facebook and Twitter, which are probably good choices. He writes:  “I don’t see how I can be both a celebrity and a pastor, and so I am happy to give up the former so that I can focus on the latter.” That decision showcases wisdom on Mark’s part.

But Mark’s taken “public breaks” before, back in 2012 when he stepped down from the Acts 29 Network and The Gospel Coalition. Is this new break really “wisdom” at play or is it simply smart marketing, considering the last 6 months have been a public relations nightmare?

I echo what many—perhaps the majority of folks—are saying: It’s refreshing to read Mark’s honesty in this recent apology. 

But let’s be honest… in Mark’s world—an environment that has cultivated hurts, abuses, and wrongs among a plethora of people—an open apology is really quite easy, perhaps even typical. For a somebody whose narcissism has caused a laundry list of pains and heartbreaks in other people’s lives, an open apology might just be an attempt to push a “reset” button as opposed to owning his ministry sins.

But as a Christian, I believe in grace. I believe in second and third and fourth chances. And I want to believe in those things for Mark, too. Because Jesus asks us to forgive. And I believe that Jesus is all about resurrection.

But Mark hasn’t hurt me personally, so who cares what kind “grace” I’m able to muster up? However, I’ve talked to and heard from a long list of those Mark has hurt. Apart from this open apology, has Mark given any of them a “first chance” at making peace? What about “Amy”, the woman whose body that “angry prophet Mark” said was filled up with sexual demons (spirits that he cast out)—has he given her a chance to speak her peace? Has he made an attempt to call Andrew and apologize for creating a church environment that became known for handing out discipline contracts as opposed to grace? Has he attempted to reach out to the numerous men who served for years at Mars Hill and then, upon challenging Mark’s ideas, theologies, or actions were fired, dismissed, or forced to resign? Showing earthly grace to Mark starts with those he’s hurt, right?

Mark’s apology seems sincere. His words, though perhaps chosen carefully, are heartfelt and filled with passion. He seems to truly mean them.

But bold statements about personal brokenness are easy to digest when you haven’t been affected personally,  when you’re not one of the many regular people (whose stories rarely get heard because they’re not celebrities) who have been abused and/or hurt by Mark’s ministry tactics. Where’s their grace?

In his apology, Mark confesses: “In my worst moments, I was angry in a sinful way… as I’ve expressed in several sermons, I needed to mature as a leader.”

But Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill has been around since 1996. That’s a long time, a long time that has affected thousands upon thousands of people. At what point, does “maturing” mean it’s time to step down as a pastor or that it’s time to take a lengthy sabbatical?

Mark writes that, “in the last year or two, I have been deeply convicted by God that my angry-young-prophet days are over, to be replaced by a helpful, Bible-teaching spiritual father…”

But either way, prophet or father, Mark’s still in charge, still allowed to affect people’s spirituality. Shouldn’t the fact that Mark has showcased an ongoing habit of abusing souls, intentional or otherwise, cause us to receive this apology only if combined with a resignation? Or do we really not believe that people’s souls are worth protecting?

I want to believe Mark’s words represent true change.

I’m tempted to believe Mark’s words are little more than a rebranding campaign, another new beginning to a three-four year season in the ministry of Mark Driscoll…

Are his words sincere?

Or do his words represent the end of one Mark ministry cycle and the beginning of a new ministry cycle?

I believe in grace.

But is grace is not black and white. No, grace is often gray. So rather than apologizing Mark Driscoll’s second, third, or whatever chance….

I’m gonna pray for him.

I don’t trust Mark Driscoll.

And trust that God will bring clarity…

And in Mark’s case, God does bring clarity… every three to four years.

Read Mark’s full apology here.




  1. clscholes says

    I like how you post the multiple personalities that we all seem to embody when we hear or read an apology from a well known leader.  My thought as I read the apology was to wonder how many people I have hurt (intentionally or unintentionally), and how they must think about me when I apologize.  A great reminder that no matter how sincere (or not), apologizing is rarely ever taken at face value.  But then again, that isn’t the point of apologizing.

  2. NathanB_Smith says

    I’m holding the phone on this one. This could be posturing as easily as it could be a real recognition of wrongs done and change needed. There is no evidence that it can’t be a ploy – even if it’s genuine – those who are the best at abusing their power are also the best at using apologies to extend their power when they know they’ve worn their reputation a little too thin. 

    So, again, it could be genuine but also be a move to graduate into the next phase of success for his ministry platform. The bottom line has always been to give the masses what they want at one level or another for this guy. Recently the masses needed an apology because the criticisms were beginning to gain momentum and so anyone with a brain would know that it was time to change the game up. 

    What was next on the list to keep things going – a public apology and a quasi-sabbatical. Not a surprise by any means and it’s just too typical of the kind of leadership that he’s employed since his beginning. I’m actually surprised that there are so many people who have bought into his next step given all the religious leaders who have done pretty much the same thing. They do this when they knew the jig is up and they’re beginning to become the ire of too many influential people who could ruin their influence and cause irreparable damage to their brand reputation. Basically, if he wants his influence to keep growing at the rate it has been, this had to be his next move, genuine or not. Time will tell.

  3. pthalomarie says

    NathanB_Smith  Except the apology wasn’t intended for the masses.  Note the disclaimer at the end of it:

    “This communication is for the exclusive use on the Mars Hill Church version of The City, and contains proprietary, confidential or privileged information intended for a limited audience. Any disclosure, use, copying, dissemination, or distribution is strictly prohibited.”

    He’s still the same fascist trying to scare his congregation into obeying him.

  4. says

    We don’t know Pastor Driscoll’s heart or motivation. However, what happens if God hears this as a prayer and takes Driscoll at his word? He may not know what is in store for him.
    Driscoll may have done the equivalent of praying for patience. We need to be patient and be generous with our prayers.

  5. BrianDrinkwine says

    I really appreciate Matthew’s inner dialogue in this post. It not only showcases his creativity as a writer, but it says in words what many of us are feeling: mixed emotions. I have written a blog post that I would appreciate everyone’s perspective on. It offers my thoughts on this whole situation and hopefully, can help us as we navigate such a precarious situation with Driscoll. You can read my post here: http://tinyurl.com/ppyb8g6

  6. khv says

    Amen to everything you wrote as it reflects my personal experience w/Mark and Acts 29 and someone needs to bring some rational balanced thought to this thing, so thanks. He should step down. Period. It’d be like a Catholic priest admitting his years of child molesting and saying that he is going to change, but then, he stays in his role as a priest. Same thing here. Exactly the same thing. It has nothing to do with unforgiveness, but everything to do with doing
    what’s right and stepping away from an unhealthy situation. Saying sorry
    in an email doesn’t negate all the hurt and damage that’s been caused
    in so many ways. Actions have consequences and I think he needs to take a
    back seat for awhile or…just get out of the car for good. I hope he
    really does change but he’s come forward with this AFTER he got
    “caught”, which is easy, expected, and just damage control.
    seen Mark do this type of thing a few times before but it hasn’t seemed
    to help. He’s keeping his job, role, status, etc. Not much is really
    changing. He’s still at the top of the pyramid, still teaches, counsels,
    and basically runs the show. I think he should resign. How many times have we seen this in America? Creflo Dollar b***h-slapped his daughter but that got a pass somehow. Celebrity pastors get away with abuse and will continue to until the church stops functioning like a business. This just
    seems like damage control for Mark with a few minor changes but doesn’t make up
    for the hurt and abuse that this man has perpetuated. How many times
    should someone be able to beat the sheep and say “sorry,” and just go on
    and keep doing it and saying sorry again when he gets caught?
    described someone who wishes to function as an elder writing that he,
    “…must be above reproach …sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable,
    hospitable… not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome…Moreover, he
    must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into
    disgrace, into a snare of the devil.” (1 Timothy 3:1-7). This is just
    not Mark. It just isn’t. He needs to do the honorable thing and step
    know we all mess up, screw up, and need grace but when it’s been going
    on for 22 years and the same man continues to live in such a way that he
    doesn’t measure up to what Paul wrote to Timothy, and he STAYS in his
    role…something is wrong. It’s a perpetuation of abuse if he stays in
    his role. I hope he changes and pray he does, but saying sorry doesn’t
    make everything magically okay. Time will tell I guess.

  7. MarcoFunk says

    Interesting to note how your blog ends with the italicized words rather than the regular font; with words of apprehension, rather than words that assume the best of our fellow brother in Christ; with words of sarcasm, rather than hope. I pray that the last lines God will write on your life will be of the regular font.

  8. stephrex1 says

    find articles like this… irritating. I’m not the biggest Driscoll
    fan, but I think you have little insight into the life of a
    well known pastor whose every waking moment is now under scrutiny. You essentially accuse Driscoll of apologizing
    too much? How else is a strong leader supposed to mature and grow in
    grace without public repentance for their sin and apology for their
    failures? What if you confessed publicly when you sinned? Would that mean your repentance was insincere,
    simply because of the frequency of your apology (because, being human, it would be often)? Not to mention the
    arrogance of obviously not being well-acquainted with the ins
    and outs of occupational ministry, and then proposing some sort of call as to when a
    pastor should step down for taking too long to mature, especially since
    there has been no gross moral failure.
    sincere human pastor has imperfectly shepherded the flock given to him
    to varying degrees and hurt those under him, either directly or
    passively. It takes a mature leader to own and not hide those failures. Jesus is not surprised by this and has a plan for all to grow even
    through the immaturity and mistreatment of those who lead us. The
    beauty of incarnational leadership is this: that a leader leads from a
    place of humility and is not pretending to have reached some sort of
    piety higher than those that he leads. In my limited interaction with
    Driscoll’s ministry, it seems to me that he tries to embrace this, and I
    think it to be admirable.
    You are pulling some emotional strings by
    giving a few out-of-context snapshots of people who have been hurt by
    Driscoll in this article. Though not surprising, it’s manipulative and IMO not fruitful
    for the body of Christ at all.

  9. CDill says

    Not much
    of a writer or blog responder, but here I go…. I have been offended by Mark
    Driscoll and blessed by his words. I understand the perspective of this
    negative writing.  However, in respect to those authors of the Bible that abused
     power and hurt many people, if God
    removed them from His work, what word would we have from God?   What lives
    would be left untouched?  Maybe that is an unfair question, maybe not.
    Mark says something stupid, we should correct it in love while understanding we
    are stupid too….when he apologizes we should receive it 70 x 7.  One
    could construct an “enabling” argument against this but it would not
    be an argument created from studying the life of Jesus.  It would better
     fit the attitude of the older brother in the prodigal son.  
    So when
    is enough enough to justify getting rid of a hypocrite? I really don’t know.
    Matthew 18:15 is a guide line if you are in Mark’s church and he sinned against
    you personally …Corinthians 5 says “expel the immoral brother” but
    we could argue if that applies here.  My desire is to be more like David
    (who severely abused his power too) and say, “far be it from me to kill
    the Lord’s anointed”.  No matter how
    bad Saul got, David was unwilling to cast a stone to hurt him.
    many of you are suggesting would beg us to create a new law that dictates
    people’s worthiness of leadership.   Timothy gives us a rubric, but Mark
    is being held to that standard by the elders which he answers too.  
    Possibly this is where his apologies come from.    Don’t be blind to
    a genuine anointing that has led many to repentance in Christ under Mark’s
    leadership.  For what it is worth, I believe Mark genuinely wants to
    submit to Jesus and become like Him in his sufferings, but like the rest of us,
    still deals with the flesh. 
    thought, when you hear two voices in your head as wonderfully depicted  the article above, will you listen and act to
    grace or cynicism?  Who would you rather be known as?

  10. khv says

    CDill How many times should a shepherd beat the sheep in his flock and say sorry after he does it each time before it’s time to find a new shepherd?

  11. khv says

    stephrex1 So I guess we throw Paul’s qualifications for eldership out the window eh? Paul was being WAY to harsh in his letters to Timothy describing the qualifications for eldership..

  12. stephrex1 says

    khv stephrex1The truth is, most of those qualifications for eldership in 1 Timothy 3 are subjective and would need to be examined as such (i.e. a potential elder has a binge-eating episode and consumes a whole tray of brownies in one sitting… is he disqualified from eldership for not being self-controlled?). The question is NOT whether Driscoll has sinned, it is whether he has committed sin that disqualifies him from ministry.

    You obviously feel and believe that he has, and I realize there is nothing I can do to change your mind.
    My opinion about it doesn’t matter, but I would caution you this: It’s easy to misjudge people and misinterpret Scripture when you are hurting. It is wise to keep in mind that “in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Matt. 7:2).
    I am sorry for the ways you’ve been hurt, and I’m sure Jesus is grieved over them as well, and He has a plan to restore you and make all things new. He is so good at doing that. 🙂

  13. says

    There is a difference between an apology and repentance. The latter will be evidenced by a change in behaviour. The former is next to useless to those who’ve been abused.

  14. CDill says

    BSLID   Maybe it is fair for us to think about these things because we may have a “Mark Driscoll” in our life and so I understand the thought.   However, I think that is the wrong question for us “observers”.
    I also question the analogy. It is too simple.  You are really asking how many apologies do we accept from our leaders before we kick t hem out.  Much more complicated, lots of knowledge and wisdom is needed.

  15. BSLID says

    CDill BSLIDWell do you think Driscoll is well thought of by outsiders, self-controlled, and respectable? Have you seen this zinger he wrote in his sex book?:
    “For the husband, the male prostate can only be accessed through the
    anus. It is called the “male G-spot” as it is reportedly a source of
    great pleasure when stroked by such things as a wife’s finger.”
    ― Mark Driscoll, Real Marriage: The Truth about Sex, Friendship & Life Together
    Sounds respectable to me. This guy is out of control and has zero accountability. I’m not an observer, I’ve been in the mix. I’ve seen it and him behind closed doors. Not pretty. Time to step aside.

  16. NathanB_Smith says

    pthalomarie NathanB_Smith  I hear you on the intention of the apology. Nonetheless, he knew it would be leaked. His sermons are for his local church, but his tech team intentionally posts the most controversial clips to youtube. After realizing that, I wondered, why don’t they post substantive pastoral clips in place of the controversial clips? The answer came back – page views and influence. I know that’s a guess, but I’m guessing I’m not too far off. This stuff was going to get out and he knew it. He never had any intention of keeping it private otherwise, he would have had a private meeting where he talked to the membership of his church in front of them. Churches do that all the time when there is something important that needs to be discussed and not disclosed, shared or transmitted. There was never any intention that this would remain private, regardless of the words on the screen.

  17. LynnKalinosky says

    So…  He did away with the Church Discipline system?  I can’t tell from the apology letter.  I just read about Andrew.    Those poor kids were violated.  And this particular abuse is just like any other abuse, particularly domestic – it’s cyclical, and it’s systemic.  You found a pattern.  Good eye.

  18. says

    BrianDrinkwine  I believe many people are questioning Driscoll’s repentance, and this can only be proved by his actions. When people apologise that is good, but their words only have any substance if there is a subsequent change in behaviour. As they say, talk is cheap.

  19. BrianDrinkwine says

    Living Liminal BrianDrinkwine  Yeah, that seems to be exactly what people are doing. Unfortunately Jesus was very clear about how we are to respond to someone’s apology. “Seventy times seven” was specifically referring to this type of situation, when a person keeps screwing up, keeps apologizing, and the only response we can call biblical is the sort of response that forgives. Period. Anything less is holding onto toxicity.

  20. says

    BrianDrinkwine Living Liminal  Regarding the 70×7, if you look at Luke 17:3 it says, “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; AND IF THEY REPENT, forgive them.” (Emphasis mine)

    And that is what people are needing to know. Is there actually real repentance here?

  21. BrianDrinkwine says

    Living Liminal BrianDrinkwine  What we have here is not WONDERING if there is repentance. There is always a chance that a person’s apology lacks true repentance. If Jesus was giving us license to hold out on forgiveness until we were “sure,” we could potentially turn the abuse around on a person by withholding total forgiveness for days, months, or even years, all so that we, in our subjective chair, can have our way and give our personal pass to a person. No, we are not God. We don’t have that right. 

    Driscoll has expressed words of remorse. He has claimed responsibility for his actions. Even his elders have spoken highly and have said his lifestyle and actions reflect repentance. Yet we are still sitting around saying we won’t fully give in until WE know FOR SURE. Well, guess what, that will never happen. We WON’T know and we’ll always be harboring bitterness as long as we can’t take their word for it, especially since most of us aren’t close enough to know for ourselves anyway.

    No, this definitely isn’t just wondering if he has repented. Rather, we are deliberately looking at him with skepticism and believing the worst, when we have an opportunity to spur him on toward love and good deeds. We definitely can’t do that, though, if all he hears from us is criticism.

    It’s sad. Just sad.

  22. BrianDrinkwine says

    Living Liminal BrianDrinkwine  Another thing, too, is that the word we use for “repent” in Luke 17:3, is “metanoia,” which literally means “to change one’s mind.” It is not speaking to total transformation or a complete change in action. Rather, it’s speaking to intention. In the context of that passage, there’s nothing we see that suggests that it’s anything more than its original meaning. We can translate that as “repent” and then lord it over a person by demanding that they prove themselves, or we can take Jesus’ command at face value and do what he says. It’s our choice in the end.

  23. DebbieNewman says

    I have been following this situation from afar, so I don’t have a dog in this fight. However, I believe that the ideas of repentance and forgiveness do not negate the natural consequences of harmful behavior. If Driscoll has continually done harm against his congregation and elders, lied, plagerized, etc, he should deal with the natural consequences of his poor behavior. Of course he can be forgiven, but this is a separate issue from how he can humble himself to the people he has harmed and make restoration. I think this is a much bigger process than just sending a letter to his congregation. A thief can be sincerely sorry for his stealing, but he still has to face the consequences of his bad decision (jail, community service etc.). What a great witness it would be for Driscoll to step down and do the work he needs to do towards restoration!

  24. helena feumba says

    Looking at Mark and looking at cult leaders he looks to me very much like a potential cult leader, I believe their church is on the verge constantly of becoming a cult, the focus of their church is controlling people using a cult like system not being led by Christ. I wouldn’t go so far as to say they are totally a cult but they tick many of the boxes of control systems as described by Robert Lifton, Steven Hassan and others. My advice would be for him to leave leadership totally because I don’t think he can trust himself not to become a cult leader, I don’t think he has the power to resist Satanic influence as his history is full of abuses. He should be removed from leadership forever just in case he becomes a destructive cult leader for his and their safety. 

    On youtube there is an excellent video describing “how a good church becomes cult” their whole covenant system is very cultic and unique.

  25. helena feumba says

    DebbieNewman  It is becoming more and more common in certain churches that leaders can get away with anything and just fake repentance to regain control, there have been people who were proven with evidence that did fake miracles and yet they are still on TBN with ministries, Pastors who abused their daughters even and are still making millions of dollars from their flocks. I think many leaders are addicted to power and control and do what they need to do to keep on taking the drug of Narcissism, sadly since many churches are unaccountable and easily charmed by narcissists this problem is only going to get worse.

  26. helena feumba says

    CDill  This is exactly what Jesus talked about, on the outside they look great but on the inside wickedness happens. I do agree, I was conned to join a cult because of their outward appearance and powerful message, yet like the Pharisees on the inside hidden from the outside is pure evil. It does deceive many, it deceived me.

  27. BrendtWayneWaters says

    MPT, kudos to you for (tacitly) admitting that you are wrestling with this. Most of those who have spoken out are on the side of the italics and are absolutely positive that they are right. I guess you’re recognizing that surety ain’t all it’s cracked up to be comes from the fundamentalism that God saved you from.

  28. BSLID says

    “For the husband, the male prostate can only be accessed through the
    anus. It is called the “male G-spot” as it is reportedly a source of
    great pleasure when stroked by such things as a wife’s finger.”
    ― Mark Driscoll, Real Marriage: The Truth about Sex, Friendship & Life Together

  29. BrendtWayneWaters says

    BSLID  For those of you wondering what a non sequitur is, BSLID has provided a prime example.

  30. lynne0652 says

    Has Mark addressed the New York Times best seller list controversy yet?  Has he had anything to say about it?


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