Matthew R. Perry

Why I Wish I Could Recommend Mark Driscoll to My People — But Just Can’t

In Church Life, Emerging Church, For Preachers/Pastors on September 6, 2006 at 4:16 pm

markdriscoll.JPGI have a healthy respect for Mark Driscoll. Really, I do — title not withstanding. Mark serves as the founder of Mars Hill Church (1996), the Paradox Theater, the Acts 29 Network, and the Resurgence Missional Theology Cooperative. He founded Mars Hill with the desire to have a conservative, orthodox, Bible-preaching church right in the hub of Seattle — not exactly a conservative hotbed. Yet, 10 years and two books later, his church exceeds over 3,000 in attendance.

I am not going to attempt to review his ministry or his books. Many other capable individuals have reviewed his work and their links are at the end of this blog entry. My comments are more personal in nature. What do I mean?

Once of the acid tests for me when I listen to a preacher or speaker is this: could I in good conscience recommend this particular preacher/speaker to my people here at Boone’s Creek? Yet, there are some who may have outstanding content and great theological prowess who couch these truths in such a way that would certainly be offensive to the average Christian.

Let me define “offensive.” There is a difference between preaching the pure truth of the Word of God and having the scandal of the cross and the double- edged sword of the Word of God offending in a good, godly and appropriate manner that leads to repentance and restoration.

Then there’s “offensive” in ways that are inappropriate. The use of hurtful jokes and the use of vulgar, crass, and distasteful language in order to make a point or to “relate” to the audience. This I believe is out-of-place for the pastor and minister and will be a stumbling block to many Christians.
Driscoll is a theological beast — his sermons are filled with such good theology and good practical content that he goes very much against the conventional wisdom of church growth experts who say, “The liberal Seattle crowd cannot handle theology, especially conservative theology — and what is more, even Reformed theology.” Mark is not shy about what the Scriptures say, even if it debunks what the culture in Seattle holds to.

He is also a church growth guru in the sense of his results. In his newest book, Confessions of a Reformation Rev, Driscoll’s chapters are divided up to correspond to the stages of growth the church has experienced in 10 years (hint: it’s over 4,000 attendees right now). Plus, his Acts 29 Network Church Planting ministry is making some serious in-roads into difficult-to-reach places in our country.

The man is a force to be reckoned with. And his honesty about the trials and tribs of ministry endear many (myself included) to his struggles — although mine and Driscoll’s settings couldn’t be further apart in culture and style.
Thus, my dilemma.

For instance, Mark right now is going through 1 Corinthians. It is an absolutely excellent study, especially the one on Paying Your Pastor. Yet, in this example, he uses an illustration on how he explained what the ministry was like to these young Bible college guys who were wanting his advice. His response (and I’ll tailor it a bit) was that it was the equivalent of having a defensive lineman knee you in the groin area. As if that was not inappropriate enough, he used a very high schoolish depiction more appropriate to a locker room than a pulpit. But the rest of the sermon was so good! My frustration lay in the fact that if I wanted to pass that sermon along to my Finance Committee or Personnel Committee, I couldn’t do it because it mixed in juvenile comedy with deep theological meat.

That’s why I cannot recommend Mark Driscoll to my average church member because they would possibly find themselves so distracted by his comedy in making theological truth more digestable that they would miss the main content of his messages. And with the language he tends to use to ‘connect,’ I find myself slightly embarrassed telling others that this guy has something to offer.

What Can I Recommend:

This Desiring God Conference video on Cultural Values and the Preaching of Repentance must be digested by every church leader and member. He basically says, “We as the church are who we are — and we shouldn’t apologize for that.” Amen!


Book Reviews: The Radical Reformission & Confessions of a Reformission Rev by Mike McKinley, 9 Marks

Confessions of a Reformission Rev: A Review by Tim Challies

Radical Reformission: A Review by Tim Challies

A Theo-doping Scandal (A Humorous Tribute to Driscoll) by Challies

Review: Mark Driscoll’s Confessions of a Reformission Rev by Steve McCoy (Reformissionary)

  1. Good post. I especially appreciatte your criteria for passing on recommendations – could you in good conscience recommend someone or something to your churh body.

    While I have not listened to or read much from Driscoll I agree with you. May have some good stuff in the middle but the wrapping is not so attractive.

  2. My problem is not with his language. It’s with his attitude. He can be very arrogant at times in his delivery… not very becoming of a christian.

    Then again, so do I.

  3. […] Thabiti Anyabwile in his excellent Pure Church blog wrote an excellent article about Mark Driscoll entitled “Everybody Has An Opinion About Mark Driscoll.”  As you all may remember, I had my own opinion about Driscoll in an earlier blog entry. […]

  4. […] community where his speaking style really chimes with the people.  I wrote about him previously (here) and mentioned he is someone that I wish I could recommend to my people here at Boone’s […]

  5. Dude, my thoughts exactly. Seriously, you just nailed every concern I have with driscoll, and without leaving your audience hanging, you gave them direction to a better source.

    I have been reading your articles. We share some visions and convictions. Thanks for your hard work!


  6. […] good grief! I want to like this guy… I want to promote his ministry to my people but just can’t … I want to even be an admirer and supporter of his hip, cool, trendy, shocking style of […]

  7. It was sad to see this post as I was searching around the net. I respect Matt Perry insofar as he is a believer bought by the blood of Jesus but do not admire the tone or content of this post. I just don’t understand why he would need to publicly condemn (or, as he says “not recommend”) a guy he hardly knows and, as far as I know, has not spoken to about his feelings. Yes, Mark is a national figure. But the last I checked, he was a believer grafted into the same tree as Mr. Perry and deserves not to be insulted on a national forum before contacting him personally. Does Mr. Perry know how Mark would respond to this article? If not, it should not be posted.

    I can’t help but wonder if the Christian world should somehow ban blogs. They give far too much power to those who probably shouldn’t have it. Christian bloggers too often follow the world’s example in critique and not Jesus’ example in love. Perhaps Mr. Perry will be moved enough to remove this post and apologize. I hope so.

  8. Ryan:

    I appreciate your post and appreciate all feedback received. Like Mark, I understand that anything that is put out online is subject to this type of feedback/critique. Keep in mind, I moderate all comments — meaning, they have to receive my approval before I post them. I posted this because I would like to respond to this.

    Please notice that I did give Mark his due kudos in what he brings to the Kingdom — I pray you did read that part. But just because he is a believer does not mean that he is above critique. You critiqued me, though a fellow believer — that’s just part of the process.

    But Mark Driscoll is a national figure — and the whole point of the post is that I wish I could recommend him. But when someone who calls themselves a believer is violating proper and biblical boundaries of language with sophomoric references as well as out and out profanity, how could I in good conscience pass that along to my folks? I want to — really I do, but I just can’t.

    The tone of my post was not condemnation, per se, but regret. You are permitted to have your opinion on this matter. But keep in mind — I am only commenting on what Mark Driscoll presents, not Mark Driscoll the man. And again, I complemented him profoundly and even recommended to everyone a very good video of his.

    As far as ‘banning blogs’ — really? Give far too much power? Really? So Jesus’ example was never to critique anyone? Did he not do the same to Simon Peter, the Pharisees, and others who violated mandates of Scripture as those who represented the things of God? Jesus’ example was to lovingly point this out so they would see the error of their ways and repent. That was my aim. I regret that this did not come across to you.

  9. Each of us are entitled to an opinion, and I don’t mind that you stated yours. Not all pastors are meant for every kind of individual. Mark certainly reaches a ‘grittier’ audience, which I think is great. But I do think a recommendation could be given based on the audience. Such that if you are thick skinned and tough enough to take it, his sermons will do wonders for you. The easily offended should go elsewhere. Really as simple as that.

  10. Good point, Kyle. But don’t you think the Scriptures give a standard convention to what is proper and appropriate for the language of the man of God (see Ephesians 4:29)? The whole point of the post was to say why I liked Driscoll and wished I could give his sermons to my people — and I made it sound like my audience was the final arbiter of what is in good taste and what is not. Is this the only way Driscoll can communicate to his audience? It’s not just about a cultural taboo… this seems to be a far deeper issue.

  11. To use Ephesians 4:29, we need to understand what Paul means when he says ‘unwholesome talk’. There are some clues in the letter. In Eph 4:25 we are told not to lie. Eph. 5:6 would seem to indicate to stay away from false teaching. Eph 4:31 Paul talks about slander. Eph 5:4 he seems to steer us away from dirty words. I don’t think any of that fits Driscoll. I do agree with Paul’s theme of building each other up. However, that is not always the best approach depending on the situation of the individual.

    I have a number of buddies with whom God is currently using me. If I was able to get them into church, Driscoll would be more likely to reach them on their level than 99% of what is available.

  12. I think the question to ask is, would Jesus during his earthly ministry feel the need to use such coarse language? I just question the need to continually pepper his preaching of God’s holy Word with such words like ‘friggin’, ‘dang,’ and even use the real thing.

    It looks as if, though, he has repented of such use of language and demeanor. I’ll be posting on this posthaste.

  13. Well, I think it’s fair to say that Mark Driscoll would probably not do well preaching in say, Kentucky. But I think in Seattle, or the NYC Metro where I live… he speaks pretty effectively.

  14. Does the Bible give a clear list of profane, vulgar, coarse words? if it does i looked over it… was previously mentioned, Pastor Mark is reaching a rough crowd-people need to understand this and to say you could not recommend Driscoll to people seems weird looking at your complements of the man… are some people gonna be offended, yeah, so tell ’em not to listen to him but im offended when i have to sit in church with my Bible, a thesaurus,a dictionary and Strong’s concordance to understand what the preacher is saying, i mean c’mon, break it down hear…… Driscoll has good meat and knows how to make it chewable-he is very listener friendly, you say he doesn’t have to use “such words like friggin and dang…” well he does one of the better jobs at really reaching people at their level and as opposed to turning them off with a “holier than thou” air about him (not saying you do but many preachers are have that), you may say well thats not the point, well even if you disagree with him I think its quite obvious that God has blessed his ministry….

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