For months now, I’ve been wanting to write something about the Mark Driscoll saga, but I’ve never quite found the words.

I wanted to argue that some of the charges of plagiarism were overblown, but I didn’t want to come off as blindly defending one of my “tribe.”

I wanted to explain why using ResultSource to game the New York Times bestseller list seemed like a permissible marketing practice to me, but I didn’t want to defend something that Driscoll, himself, had since disavowed.

I wanted to shame those dredging up decade-old anonymous message board posts (that had since been repented of) as disqualifying Driscoll from ministry, but I didn’t want to whitewash what were sinfully intemperate statements.

I wanted to question who had appointed Warren Throckmorton as the Grand Inquisitor into Driscoll’s malfeasance, but I didn’t want to come off as defensively attacking the messenger heralding Driscoll’s downfall.

I wanted to chide the Acts 29 leadership team for removing Driscoll under a “totality of the circumstances” test borrowed from Supreme Court jurisprudence and not found within scripture or church confession, but I didn’t want to speak for fear that I was unaware of some truly damning action that justified their decision.

But then I read a description of his actions that crystallized the issue for me.

Before he was deposed, Driscoll had a reputation internally for acting like a tyrant. He regularly belittled people, swore at them, and pressured them until they reached their breaking point. In the pursuit of greatness he cast aside politeness and empathy. His verbal abuse never stopped. From one reported about a half-hour “public humiliation” Driscoll doled out on his staff:

“Can anyone tell me what this initiative was supposed to do?” Having received a satisfactory answer, he continued, “So why the f–k doesn’t it do that?”

“You’ve tarnished Mars Hill’s reputation,” he told them. “You should hate each other for having let each other down.”

One journalist describes Driscolls’ rough treatment of underlings:

He would praise and inspire them, often in very creative ways, but he would also resort to intimidating, goading, berating, belittling, and even humiliating them… When he was Bad Mark, he didn’t seem to care about the severe damage he caused to egos or emotions… suddenly and unexpectedly, he would look at something they were working on say that it “sucked,” it was “shit.”

We all knew that Driscoll was nicknamed the cussing pastor, but these behaviors are truly reprehensible. His abuse needed to be stopped.

Just one thing, though, before we rush to judgment. Those lines were not written about Driscoll. Those are the abusive workplace patterns of Steve Jobs.

Leading Like Jobs

Mark Driscoll is not the first chief executive who has been known for dressing down his subordinates. Steve Jobs didn’t allow personal niceties or corporate inertia to prevent him from focusing on turning out the best possible product on schedule. He would upbraid partner companies for falling behind schedule. He offered to hire people with abrasive faint praise like, “Everything you’ve ever done in your life is shit so why don’t you come work for me.” He fired people on the spot in front of their teams for failure to get a program up to snuff.

While Steve Jobs is certainly nobody’s idea of a model of Christian virtue, he did some really big deal things. And his documented jerkiness was not so much a flaw that hindered his talent, but actually part of what made him so exceptional. We may not like some of his methods, but let him who is without an iPhone cast the first stone.

And while Jobs is an extreme case, his personality traits are typical of many chief executives. Swearing has often marked great leaders. I understand General Patton had a bit of a blue streak. Of Packer coach Vince Lombardi, rival coach Hank Stram said, “I couldn’t believe that one man could yell and scream and spout so much profanity.” Jobs’ single-minded devotion to a clear vision is also common among the most successful executives. It is not for nothing that we say that a camel is a horse designed by a committee. An individual mind pursuing a distinct vision is often necessary to obtain success.

But even if there is some trait linking Driscoll, Jobs, Patton, and Lombardi, should we as Christians embrace that characteristic as a virtue? Or are these so-called great men lacking something essential in Christian charity and must therefore be denounced?

Leading Like Paul

Paul is the obvious biblical personality that we must consider to answer this question. Paul was loud, brash, argumentative, and oppositional. He spoke so boldly that he inspired folks to try to kill him not once (Acts 9:29), not twice (Acts 14:19), but at least four times (Acts 21:31, 23:12). He “raised havoc” as an anti-Christian and his subsequent Christian ministry was certainly not some tropical cruise. Luke records that, basically, the only time the church was at peace was when “the brothers.. sent [Paul] off to Tarsus” (Acts 9:30-31).

And Paul’s decidedly un-mellow character was not reserved only for those outside the church. He famously opposed Peter to his face (Gal. 2:11) and split with Barnabas over staffing issues (Acts 15:39). He also used some pretty intemperate language both against those outside the church (Acts 13:9-11) and against those stirring up trouble within the body (Gal. 5:12).

From these episodes, I’m not sure we can say that Paul’s leadership style was Jobs-like or Lombardi-esque, but I believe it is fair to say that Paul was a dynamic personality who tenaciously advanced his agenda and was willing to give offense to those around him. His assertively confrontational leadership was not a bug, but a feature. For example, Luke records that his cursing of Elymas the Sorcerer was a Spirit-filled act.

But if Paul’s leadership was not exactly cuddly, does that mean that every assertive leader is operating within biblical morality? Of course not. Napoleon and Hitler were also known for their single-minded focus and their withering attacks on their subordinates. I’m not up on my Genghis Khan or Attila the Hun, but I’m pretty sure you’ll find this trait in most folks who conquer continents.

Leading Like Lombardi

Which puts us where, exactly, on the appropriateness of Driscoll’s behavior? Somewhere on the continuum between a Christian saint and a genocidal megalomaniac, I think. In order to distinguish between the bad and the good, I think one simple factor makes all the difference: Love.

Here’s Packers’ lineman Jerry Kramer on the character of his coach:

I loved Vince. Sure, I had hated him at times during training camp and I had hated him at times during the season, but I knew how much he had done for us, and I knew how much he cared about us. He is a beautiful man, and the proof is that no one who ever played for him speaks of him afterward with anything but respect and admiration and affection. His whippings, his cussings, and his driving all fade; his good qualities endure.

A leader can be a task-master. He can be stern. He can demand more from his subordinates than they believe possible. He can inspire hatred in the moment. Yet, if he adds to this discipline the sincere desire for his charges to succeed, then his efforts will not be as a resounding gong. Instead, once everything else passes away, his love will remain. At least that’s what the guy who wrote the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians thought.

I don’t know Driscoll and I’m not privy to any insider details of the situation, but I do know what he said when he stepped aside last month:

While I’m still young, I suspect when I’m old I’ll be known for many things—some good, and some not so good. But I hope that the longer God leaves me on this earth, the more I’ll be known for one thing—that I loved Jesus and His Church, the Church He promised the gates of Hell would not prevail against. I may be an author, a speaker, and a thought-provoker; but in the deepest recesses of my heart, I’m a local church pastor, and that’s what I want to give the rest of my life for.

In my opinion, that’s not just a line. This is what Driscoll has been claiming as his motivation since I first started listening to his podcasts a decade ago. Maybe he’s a self-deceived, self-aggrandizing charlatan with narcissistic personality disorder, but if that were the case it would manifest in a string of unloving actions. At this point and from this distance, I do not see a pattern of behavior that makes me unable to believe the best about Driscoll. Instead, I see a leader whose love for Christ and the church comes wrapped in a rather feather-ruffling package.

And that sounds a lot like that guy who wrote First Corinthians.

Posted by Keith Miller

Keith Miller is an Assistant Solicitor General in the Federalism Unit of the Arizona Attorney General's Office. He is married and has four children. You can follow him on Twitter.

  • Randy

    if firing elders to consolidate his power doesn’t do it for you (along with recorded statements about piling up bodies behind the Mars Hill bus because they didn’t get with his program, or trying to win radio arguments by bragging that “my church is bigger than your church”), I guess you’ll never be convinced. Did you even read Dustin Kensrue’s statement? Do you have no respect for two dozen Mars Hill pastors and former pastors who have said Driscoll is unqualified for ministry? They are the men who he picked to work with and they say the Biblical standards (recorded by the guy who wrote 1 Corinthians) disqualify Driscoll. That should be enough to convince you.

  • When you are called out by a national newspaper for bad behavior and poor treatment of your staff and friends and those that you are instructed to shepherd by scripture, then you are not actually doing the job of pastor. You might be a manager or CEO of an organization, but pastor is a specific role and included in that role is actually caring for people, not abusing them.

    Do I think that this has been handled well by everyone, of course not. Some of the charges are petty and some of the pilling on is inappropriate. But if we can’t use a ‘totality of circumstances’ argument but even those outside the church can see that the totality of circumstances means that he is unqualified to lead, then what would it take for him to be removed?

    Qualification for ministry has to be more than ‘has not had an affair.’ If that is the only thing that disqualifies a person from ministry then we are certainly deserve the church we get.

  • Tom

    This could only be written by someone who hasn’t bothered to actually spend time researching all that has gone on at Mars Hill. Or maybe the author is being sarcastic?

  • Nathanael

    So, in what world is it biblical to use a CEO as the model for a pastor? There are some fairly specific qualifications for elders in 1 Timothy and Titus and they don’t look much like Steve Jobs. Also, Paul has some choice words for those who go branding the gospel (are you of Paul or of Apollos).

    • Keith Miller

      Your first question is a very good one, Nathanael. One of the interesting theological discussions that has riffed off of the Driscoll situation is whether Evangelical polity is inherently wrapped up in a cult of celebrity and is, as such, sub-biblical. E.g., http://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2014/03/mark-driscolls-problems-and-ours .

      I think answering that question in full would require an additional full-length post, but my short answer is I that the CEO model is a type of church government with strengths and weaknesses. Just like all the others.

      • Keith Russell

        . . . except that the CEO model directly violates the scriptures in Mark 10:42-45 and 1 Peter 5:3.

        • Nathanael

          1 Timothy 3

          1 The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the
          office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an
          overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a
          drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all
          dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s
          church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

          Titus 1

          5 This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you—6 if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. 7 For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, 8 but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. 9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

          1 Peter 5

          1 So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.

          Mark 10

          42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

          • Nathanael

            Also, can you explain how making pastors and elders at Mars Hill sign a non-compete agreement fits with 1 Corinthians 3:3-8? In case you’ve forgotten, here is the passage in full:

            3 for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy
            and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? 4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?

            5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you
            believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor.

          • Keith Miller

            I do not defend the non-competes. As I understand the issues, I believe that non-compete clauses are a misapplication of business principles into the church government arena. I believe Mars Hill and other churches using this tool should abandon the practice.

  • Jesse Light

    The real danger to the church is not the Mark Driscolls, it’s the people like the author of this post who excuse, defend, and promote them (and even favorably compare them with the Apostle Paul!). Without willing followers, the megalomaniacs would have no power. Without apologists, they would not be able to get away with their abuse and fleecing of the flock. These kinds of articles are so disturbing.

  • From Kramer’s statement about Lombardi:

    “He is a beautiful man, and the proof is that no one who ever played for him speaks of him afterward with anything but respect and admiration and affection.”

    If the proof is in the pudding, so to speak, then your own article argues against what you’re trying to claim: Driscoll has left a wake of broken lives. At the highest levels of leadership.

    That doesn’t look like Paul at all. For all his *ahem* assertiveness, Paul didn’t leave bodies in his wake.

  • Keith Russell

    Your favorable comparison of Mark Driscoll with CEOs is exactly the reason he is not qualified to be a pastor. Jesus said:

    Mark 10:42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.
    43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,
    44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.
    45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

    Peter told us:

    1 Peter 5:2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;
    3 Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.

    Mark Driscoll may have made a great CEO, but he is a terrible under-shepherd.

    • Nathanael

      I think you might also appreciate John Calvin’s comments on 1 Peter 5:1-4:

      “In exhorting pastors to their duty, he points out especially three vices which are
      found to prevail much, even sloth, desire of gain, and lust for power. In
      opposition to the first vice he sets alacrity or a willing attention; to the
      second, liberality; to the third, moderation and meekness, by which they are to
      keep themselves in their own rank or station.”

      “He then says that pastors ought not to exercise care over the flock of the Lord, as far
      only as they are constrained; for they who seek to do no more than what
      constraint compels them, do their work formally and negligently. Hence he would
      have them to do willingly what they do, as those who are really devoted to
      their work. To correct avarice, he bids them to perform their office with a
      ready mind; for whosoever has not this end in view, to spend himself and his
      labor disinterestedly and gladly in behalf of the Church, is not a minister of
      Christ, but a slave to his own stomach and his purse. The third vice which he
      condemns is a lust for exercising power or dominion. But it may be asked, what
      kind of power does he mean? This, as it seems to me, may be gathered from the
      opposite clause, in which he bids them to be examples to the flock. It is the
      same as though he had said that they are to preside for this end, to be eminent
      in holiness, which cannot be, except they humbly subject themselves and their
      life to the same common rule. What stands opposed to this virtue is tyrannical
      pride, when the pastor exempts himself from all subjection, and tyrannizes over
      the Church. It was for this that Ezekiel condemned the false prophets, that is,
      that they ruled cruelly and tyrannically. (Ezekiel 34:4.) Christ also condemned
      the Pharisees, because they laid intolerable burdens on the shoulders of the
      people which they would not touch, no, not with a finger. (Matthew 23:4.) This
      imperious rigor, then, which ungodly pastors exercise over the Church, cannot
      be corrected, except their authority be restrained, so that they may rule in
      such a way as to afford an example of a godly life.”

  • Former Elder

    As a recent former Elder of MH let me just say you are very wrong and don’t know what you are talking about.

    As you said in your opening, the temptation for those in the blogosphere to write something about Mark over that last couple months has been strong, you should’ve resisted.

    You don’t know – nor do you need to – all the damage done by Mark and Sutton over the years. But if you did I promise you would take down this post immediately.

    • Keith Miller

      May I inquire as to why you joined his ministry in the first place?

      • Former Elder

        It was a long time ago when things were different. Plus more is seen as one rises in leadership. The people of mh are some of the best in the world. It was a joy to love and shepherd them.

        We don’t know each either Keith but trust me, you are talking harmfully about things you just don’t know about. Men like Dustin Kensrue and the 9 who wrote that letter know much more than you.

        Respectfully, you really should’ve resisted the urge to write about the “Driscoll Saga” there are many abused and hurt people because of all this. Many who have left the church, suffer from PTSD, are in therapy, and have been greviously sinned against. You are a lawyer so I’m sure you will understand that the details do matter, you seem to be willing to brush that aside here and still want to render a verdict. Truly, this is very harmful and has been the sad response of many in the evangelical world.

        • Demetrius Lumpkin

          I agree, we don’t know what went on behind closed doors. We are only working off the tidbits from media coverage; I don’t have much confidence in that. Have you signed a contract of nondisclosure? Because as far as I have had time to research, Driscoll has many character flaws and has made many boneheaded mistakes but his preaching is doctrinally solid. He is not a false teacher according to his own admission of belief in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ Jesus. But all the hype about his behavior makes me question whether or not he is above reproach as a Shephard. But none of this seems to amount to PTSD. Life is war, life in ministry is front line action.

          As a Marine, I know one false or ignorant step, or lack thereof, can mean death to personnel and/or a mission. As a minister I know that ministry is even more vulnerable. I also have an intimate understanding of ALL forms of abuse (without even including the occupational hazard), PTSD, TBI, and many other acronyms that the word of God is more than a match for! So please, if you are not bound by your word, enlighten us so that we are able to discuss this very public matter as something other than rumor and conjecture.

          • Luke Breuer

            Because as far as I have had time to research, Driscoll has many character flaws and has made many boneheaded mistakes but his preaching is doctrinally solid.

            I suggest taking a gander at 2 Tim 3:1–5. Remember that people largely understand words by the actions of those who use them. Teach the right doctrine but act badly, and the bad behavior will be seen as what that doctrine teaches. There is evidence this is happening in public schools; see the recent Forbes article, You Are Asking The Wrong Questions About Education Technology, especially the bit around “betray the intended rhetoric”. By the grace of God this doesn’t always happen completely, but it can be insidious.

            My interpretation of Romans 2:24, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you”, is that describes those who claim to be obedient to God, without actually being so. This causes a fracture between word and deed, which leads to the destruction of language. In Yoram Hazony’s The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture, he talks about the the Hebrew word dabar (he transliterates it davar), and how the ancient Hebrews were looking for true words: words which matched up to things. The word davar is actually ambiguous, as to whether it means ‘word’ or ‘thing’.

          • Demetrius Lumpkin

            There are none who are above reproach! Not every elder is a one women man (singles, widowers who remarry, women…). Not all of them control their households as described. These are descriptive of an ideal not a prescriptive requirement and refer not only to the pastor but elders in general.

            Has Mark committed adultery? I don’t believe so. Has Mark committed murder? Umm, I don’t think so. Yet David did both of these things and never lost his anointing or God’s favor. In fact, Davids line leads to Jesus! Sometimes behavior and belief don’t line up. We are humans and if everyone’s life was under a microscope, noone would be qualified. Yet God chooses imperfect beings for his perfect work. In his providence it will be accomplished no matter how badly we may act.

          • Luke Breuer

            What you can say can all be true, and yet this be said about us Jews-by-faith:

            For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” (Rom 2:24)

            One way to understand ‘blasphemed’ is that lies have been told about God, that his name—who he is—is misunderstood to be that which it is most definitely not.

            God most definitely works through earthen vessels—2 Cor 4:7–12 is awesome on this matter. But that doesn’t excuse/mitigate anything and everything. Importantly, you have singled out sins of the flesh, sins easy to see and understand. Sins of the spirit—like lust for power—take much more mature judgment, and have much more insidious consequences which can easily spread to thousands and tens of thousands of people, infecting them with it without their knowledge. I would be careful about how you establish precedences of sin. But that is just I.

          • Demetrius Lumpkin

            Romans 2:1 ESV

            Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.

  • Frank Turk

    Link Bait. Nice work.

  • Andy

    “And that sounds a lot like that guy who wrote First Corinthians.”

    That is an outrageous assertion on many levels.

  • Toby Kurth

    I have been wondering a lot lately about why it seems that the qualifications for elders listed in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 are not driving any of these conversations. I wonder how much of that has to do with the influence of the business world on the church. Why, after all, would you think about removing a CEO was getting results? There are a lot of great leadership lessons that the church should learn from the business world, but there are critical ways in which leadership in the church is radically different as well. Character is supposed to be central.

    • Keith Miller

      Of course we should start with the qualifications for elders. Absolutely. But our interpretation of those qualifications cannot mean that Paul himself was disqualified from ministry, right?

      • Nathanael

        Doesn’t using a rather impressionistic reconstruction of Paul’s character to undercut the clear teaching of 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1, 1 Peter 5, and Mark 10 on biblical leadership seem hermeneutically suspect?

  • Aaron

    way off. We’re flattening out the distinctions of Paul being harsh with a sorcerer and with those denying the Gospel. . and Driscoll being harsh wtih those who were just doing their jobs. It’s not ok. Also, Paul was direct with Christians surrounding theological issues, while Driscoll was going after people on methodological and workplace issues. These are not the same things. Paul’s temper and anger were towards Gospel issues. Driscoll’s are not.

    • Demetrius Lumpkin

      By Driscoll’s own confession, any work place issues are Gospel centered. His subordinates (other elders) are part of the leadership team, thus are held to the same standard he is alleged to be guilty of breaking. Therefore, when they don’t perform as y should they to are rakedver the coals; but not on a Internationl level like Driscoll. When the pastor OR other elders fail in their duties it is a loss/delay, on man’s part, in the furtherance of the Gospel.

    • Demetrius Lumpkin

      Acts 15:37-38 ESV

      “Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work.”

      I can only image the author is suggesting this type of interaction between Driscoll and the other elders. Methodological and workplace issues directly affect unity, and therefore effectiveness in ministry; whether the issue is from Driscoll or the other elders.

  • jakemeador

    So it seems like there are two separate conversations happening here:

    The first is about Mark Driscoll, which I am not in any position to comment on since I have no knowledge of what’s actually going on at Mars Hill. (That said, I am inclined to trust the testimony of the many pastors that have come forward as well as the words of Paul Tripp quoted in that pastor’s letter.) Anyway, this isn’t really a profitable conversation b/c for most of us there is no way of knowing the truth and what needs to be happening now is entirely up to the local church. (And there *should* be a denomination involved but there isn’t because crappy American evangelical ecclesiology. Sigh.)

    The second issue is an important one though–which is how we expect leaders to behave themselves and relate to those underneath them. I honestly wish you had spent more time talking about Paul and less about Lombardi, Jobs, etc. b/c I think the CEO mentality behind Driscoll’s ministry is the biggest problem. (Did you see Doug Wilson’s post about it? He got that point exactly right, IMO.) But if we can set that point aside because CEO leadership styles aren’t really relevant (the pastor isn’t a CEO, the church isn’t a business) and instead ask about brusqueness in a pastor, then I think we’re on the right track.

    As you noted, Paul could be very brash and, at times, even rude. He’s far from the only person in church history with those characteristics. (Martin Luther comes to mind…) So if our standard of leadership is “niceness,” it would seem we’re at odds with the testimony of scripture re: Paul. (And Jesus, John the Baptist, Elijah, Elisha, Amos, Machaiah, and a bunch of other OT prophets for that matter, all of whom could be very blunt and harsh.)

    That said, it seems like there’s a few important points to make regarding such leaders in the church:

    a) This isn’t a constant rudeness or untargeted harshness. The prophets go after the kings *hard* but they also can be very tender to others that they meet. I don’t recall which book it’s in, but the words about not breaking the bruised reed seem important here.

    b) The rudeness exists within a context. It’s not undisciplined, in other words. There’s a very specific thing the speaker is attempting to accomplish through his rudeness.

    c) In regards to pastors specifically, we need to remember that one of the requirements for eldership in scripture is that the person not be domineering. So if the rudeness is being used to bully or intimidate people into behaving in a desired way, that isn’t what is happening when Christ or Paul is being rude. Put another way, harsh speech in scripture is not simply a power play used to gain control over other people.

    d) There’s a danger in being too comfortable with this form of communication, because regular use of such harsh speech can make one undisciplined. There *are* times when harsh speech is appropriate, but such times are rather limited. Harshness cannot be the normal mode of communication for the Christian. But when we use harsh speech as regularly as Luther or Driscoll, to take only two examples, it tends to become the primary mode of communication. So we get Luther doing completely insane things like exploding in fury at Martin Bucer calling him an antichrist because of their disagreement about eucharistic presence. By any reasonable standard, Bucer was one of Luther’s closest allies, but Luther had become so carried away by his rhetoric and personality and so undisciplined in his language that he began using the harsh language he rightly used to attack fiends like Tetzel to address friends like Bucer.

    • Keith Miller

      Jake, I wish I had remembered Luther. He’s a great example of the rude-yet-used-by-God paradigm.

      I used the Jobs and Lombardi examples because they came to mind (and my lovely bride has been reading the Jobs biography). I’m open to being persuaded that church leadership is not analogous to leadership in other spheres, but I’m not yet ready to concede that point.

      • jakemeador

        Hmm. Is it OK if I start by asking how you see them as being similar and how you see them as being different?

        (I assume you aren’t going to want to draw a one-to-one correlation between pastor and CEO, but would instead say there’s enough overlap that the comparison is still useful. Is that accurate?)

        • Keith Miller

          That’s correct. Leadership has common characteristics even though pastoring is not fathering, coaching, or business leadership. Shepherding of actual sheep is analogous, too. It’s not 1-to-1 but there will be patterns that bridge these different leadership contexts.

          • jakemeador

            OK, that was half of my question. ;)

            So where do the differences show up? How does being a pastor change how you lead compared to a football coach or CEO?

  • jakemeador

    One other thing–have you read Wilson’s “Serrated Edge”? It seems relevant to this discussion.

  • Danny Murphy

    You were writing about Mark Driscoll and then wrote, “But then I read a description of his actions that crystallized the issue for me.”

    Then come several quotes, followed by this. “Just one thing, though, before we rush to judgment. Those lines were not written about
    Driscoll. Those are the abusive workplace patterns of Steve Jobs.”

    A link leads to a story about Jobs. However, when the text says “his” it could only be referring to Driscoll. Cute. You call that gracious conversation? I call it dishonesty.

  • Well if I simply look at the last quote of Mark Driscoll, I would say the man was MILES from his own heart and what he wants to be known for, so his “repentant” action is to leave the local church and head off to California where he can surf…you are white-washing selfishness here, there is no remorse for the “church” only remorse for what he is known for…play it through the lens of family for a minute…”In the end i want to be known as a father that loved my kids and was there for them…” so my next action will be to abandon them and find a good wave or a community closer to my liking. The church Mark is supposed to love is made up of little people, people who trusted this man to be gentle and Christ-like, you seem to want to glorify “tough-love” kind of leadership, I get it but you are wrong, none of the models of leadership you have posited find substance in the New testament, I figured as a christian author you would be aware of this…repentance means to “change your thinking/metanoa” Mark has not changed ANY of his thinking, all he did was act sorry for getting caught or reaching such a level of opposition that he had to take action… and your post is just the kind of thing that reinforces the problem…repentance would have Mark humbly serving the church he is supposed to love and that would mean taking responsibility for his own mess and sticking around to clean it up…as it is, he gets to bug out and leaders like you defend it…shame.

    • Demetrius Lumpkin

      I agree, Mark should hang in there and let everything blow over and humbly return to his position a wiser man, preacher, and pastor. I don’t think anyone but the Lord can read Driscoll’s mind so we have no place saying his mind is not changed or being transformed. Just like forgiveness, we can only assume by a person’s deeds; and that’s not 100% accurate either.

  • Mrs.G

    To recap:

    You can be an abusive d**k, ’cause. . . . ’cause. . . Jesus!

  • Tim OK

    Sometimes I really like this blog. It’s sophisticated, rigorous, and theologically robust. It’s conservative (sometimes too much IMO, but I like that) and makes no apologies for it. It sticks to its convictions, and I do my best to understand those convictions.

    Then I read a post like this and think, ‘why bother?’ There are too many holes in this logic to point out. This is just drivel. Its arguments are ridiculous and shallow. It hurts my brain to read this hollow, flawed, diluted reasoning. I don’t want to be associated with this type of ridiculous defense of indefensible things.

    I’m just glad it wasn’t Matthew Lee Anderson or some of the other authors I respect. I’ll do my best to avoid Keith from now on.

  • Box Elder

    Perhaps the ‘bio’ should have stopped after the fifth word.

    • Keith Miller

      Ha!

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  • Colene Lewis

    When I first read Radical Reformission many years ago I knew I would never go to Mars Hill because Driscoll was too crude and coarse for my tastes. I must admit that I am in the “mature” age bracket. BUT I could see how Driscoll could be ministering to the young generation in Seattle.
    I appreciate Mr. Millers piece. While I do not live in the Pacific Northwest, and so perhaps am missing much information (which Mr. Miller also seems to concede), it seems that his insights are thoughtful and reasoned. To some of us in the hinterlands Driscoll seems to being publicly crucified because he is not a “nice man.” Mr. Miller’s assertion that Paul and other effective leaders were not necessarily “nice men” seems to be an interesting, thoughtful concept.

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  • Wasn’t Paul older than Mark during his “heyday”?

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  • koine2002

    Your analysis of Paul is conjecture and is not clear from the scriptures. Here is what is clearly Biblical:

    So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. -the Apostle Peter in 1 Peter 5. We also see there that (if you know Greek): elder is bishop is pastor.

    The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. -the Apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 3

    This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. -the Apostle Paul in Titus 1

  • koine2002

    Additionally, excusing such leadership in the name of results is equally unacceptable. The means to an end are only valid if those means meet that end as well. For example, if your end is to honor God, the means you engage in to meet that end must also honor God.

  • Caleb

    Stick to being an attorney, Keith. You are no theologian, cultural critic, or historian.

  • Scott Welch

    You compared Driscoll to Steve Jobs and Vince Lombardi. Fabulous.

    Will there be a follow-up article comparing Driscoll to the Apostle’s requirements for under-shephards, or should my disappointment start now?

  • RobD

    I think the better comparison is to Ray Rice. It’s no secret that evangelicalism is on the slide. Its attendance numbers are falling, and it has few adherents among those under 40. On top of that, scholar after scholar is abandoning the evangelical ship for Catholicism or Orthodoxy. To keep the old folks giving, the movement needs to convince them that it’s making inroads among the younger generation. Enter, Mark Driscoll.

    Just as the NFL covered for Rice, Evangelicalism Inc. covered for Driscoll. The movement covered for him because it needed to demonstrate that people still cared about revivalistic Protestantism. Of course, evangelical leaders always knew the truth; it just wasn’t in their financial interest to admit it. But now that Driscoll’s true colors have shown, those sitting in fancy boardrooms in Wheaton and Colorado Springs can’t get away from him fast enough.

  • BlueHeron

    This is one of the saddest things I’ve read on a Christian site in quite some time. I know that American Christians don’t really believe that pride is a sin. It may seem to be that way in the Bible, but that can’t seriously be the case now, here, when we know that the most important people in society are the winners, the leaders, the champions, the people who get things done, the ones who show everybody who’s boss. Every example cited here is a winner, not a mere leader. And all of them won according to American society’s standards: they got the prize, they made the big money. Nowhere in this essay is there a hint that walking with God might be something other than winning, something other than the path to glory, the ticket to success. You can be a Christian and hurt others, humiliate them, degrade yourself with cruelty and despise the weak. It doesn’t matter, because your model isn’t Christ, the Man of Sorrows, the one who weeps with the mourners and blesses the meek. it’s a CEO.
    That people constantly cite the example of an angry Jesus overturning tables is a bleak reminder of the limit of our view — as if the author of the universe needed to break furniture to awe us. How small God has become, and how hard to see behind all this great leadership.

  • Dave Evens

    I suppose I kind of see your point. “Everyone always agrees with me” is a poor testimony. However, “I throw the annoying f****** sheep under a bus” is also somewhat sub-Biblical.

    On “leadership”, I think the recent discussion over at http://thinktheology.co.uk/blog/article/does_our_emphasis_on_leadership_come_from_the_bible on leadership is instructive. The take home message seemed to be that the metaphors the Scriptures use for those with authority are more useful than the generic Western “leadership”.

    Also, I think it’s contingent on you to demonstrate any similarities between CEOs and pastors rather than on anyone else to show the differences. CEOs have been around for only 100 years and work in a capitalist system that seems on the face of the antithesis of Biblical church structure.

    • Keith Miller

      That’s a great convo I hadn’t yet seen. Thanks for the heads up.

      I don’t want to flatten out leadership at all, it is a component function that is executed by different authorities in different ways.

      But what are the similarities?

      1. Both need to communicate to their organization. A pastor who doesn’t preach to and listen to his congregation is not actually pastoring. Same thing with a CEO. Unless he’s giving instructions to his employees and monitoring how they are performing, he’s not actually the Chief Executive.

      2. Both are responsible for the performance of their organization. A pastor must give account to God for the spiritual health of his people and a CEO is the one responsible for whether or not the enterprise is profitable.

      3. Both are responsible to plan for the future and set the direction of the organization. Pastors decide what and how they will teach the flock and CEOs decide what business opportunities will be pursued. That’s why both of them are accountable for the results: they have their hand on the wheel.

      I’m sure there are more, but these were the first similarities that came to mind.

  • Joe Wisnieski

    So, the Apostle Paul was a lot like Steve Jobs, et al, and Mark Driscoll is a lot like Steve Jobs, therefore Driscoll is qualified to be a pastor and pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

    I can’t remember the last time I’ve read such a tortured piece of logic based upon an entirely false premise. You’ve done something truly amazing. You have gone to the extreme measure of slandering the Apostle Paul in your effort to whitewash Driscoll’s behavior.

    • Keith Miller

      NEWSFLASH: Steve Jobs is NOT a good example for a leader in the Church.

      I completely agree. If Driscoll’s character is truly more Steve Jobs than Martin Luther, then he should be removed from his authority at Mars Hill.

  • A Amos Love

    Kieth

    You quote Driscoll as saying…
    “but in the deepest recesses of my heart, I’m a local church pastor,”

    But, In the Bible…
    Can you find “local church” mentioned? By Jesus, or one of “His Disciples?”
    Who gets to define “local church?” And how it operates? If it is NOT in the Bible?

    And, In the Bible, can you name one “Disciple of Jesus?”
    Who called themself “pastor/leader/reverend?”
    Who had the “Title/Position” “pastor/leader/reverend?”
    Who was “Hired or Fired” as a “pastor/leader/reverend?”

    What did His Disciples know, 2000 years ago?

    That those who take the “Title/Postion” “pastor/leader/reverend?”
    Miss today?

    Seems the only one I can find, in the Bible…
    Referred to as Shepherd, and Leader, and Reverend, IS…

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

    And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
    them also I must bring, and they shall “hear My voice; “
    and there shall be “ONE” fold, and “ONE” shepherd.
    John 10:16

    If not now? – When?

    One Voice – One Fold – One Shepherd – One Leader

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

    • Demetrius Lumpkin

      Ephesians 4:11-12 ESV

      And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…

    • A Amos Love

      Demetrius Lumpkin

      Wow – L QQ Ks like we are in agreement. ;-)
      Because, you, Demetrius, can NOT name one “Disciple of Jesus.”
      Who called them self “pastor/leader/reverend.”
      Who had the “Title/Position” “pastor/leader/reverend.”
      Who was “Hired or Fired” as a “pastor/leader/reverend.”
      From the Bible.

      And neither can I. ;-)

      Jer 50:6
      “My people” hath been “lost sheep:”
      **THEIR shepherds** have caused them to *go astray,*

      1 Pet 2:25
      For ye were as *sheep going astray;*
      BUT are now returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.

      I’m Blest… I’ve returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of my soul…

      {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

    • A Amos Love

      Demetrius Lumpkin

      And, Thanks for quoting Eph 4:11-12.

      Was wondering…
      How many “Apostles” and “Prophets” do you know?
      How many “Apostles” and “Prophets” are recognised where you fellowship?

    • A Amos Love

      And Demetrius

      Is it possible, in your 501 (c) 3, non-profit, Tax Deductible, Religious Corporations, that the IRS calls church? The folks who call them self, and have the “Title/Position” pastor/leader/reverend, the folks you pay, to shepherd, to lead, are taking the Name of the Lord thy God? And taking that Name in Vain?

      Ex 20:7 KJV

      Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

      Is it possible? His Disciples? Did NOT want to take? The Name of the Lord thy God? In Vain? And that is why? NOT one of His Disciples called them self Shepherd? Or Leader? Or Reverend?

      Seems, in the Bible, the only “ONE” who called Himself, had the “Title,” or, was referred to as Shepherd/Leader/Reverend… IS…

      {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

  • MWorrell

    This is so off base, I don’t even know where to start. First, you are assuming that Steve Jobs “did some really big deal things” in part because he was verbally abusive and had no respect for personal boundaries, not despite that fact. That’s the WORLD’S take on Steve Jobs, not a godly assessment. Second, what on earth does that have to do with ministry? The Bible contains, in full, the prescribed character of godly ministry. Where we part ways from that, we have parted ways with God.

  • I kept waiting for the catch, because it would have been effective. The sound of a record scratching and all that…..

    But in all seriousness. I love you guys and what you do. But this piece is so far beneath you all, intellectually and especially biblically. And only because the Apostle Paul has his eyes and heart fixed on better things is he not infuriated that you utterly eisegete to death his ministry and demeanor. Good grief.

  • Full disclosure here…I am not a Driscoll cheerleader, only a guy who has read a few of his books and listened to about three-and-a-half of his sermons. But as a pastor I’m well aware of the magnetic effect this man has had on young believers all around me. They eat up his preaching like fine chocolates.

    Now all this stuff starts coming out–the bullying, character flaws, etc. and it really makes me wonder how a guy can make such awesome contributions worldwide and yet be saddled with unbearably offensive traits.

    What’s my spiritual takeaway? I’m one of those pastors out there nobody has ever heard of. I never yell at people, don’t swear, don’t drink, and I don’t like cage fighting or beer. And the grand total of folks I have spiritually affected is probably not even one-fourth the size of the MHC maintenance staff.

    I understand the thought of “Your strengths are your weaknesses” etc., but it’s all a bit disillusioning to me, a man who, however imperfectly, trusts faithfulness, character, and spirituality to win the day.

    The church at large and especially the Christian marketplace seem to reward and recognize personalities more than anything else. This is not a veiled accusation of any sort to the other posters, nor another Molotov cocktail intended for Driscoll. I’d really like to hear your thoughts on why things are the way they are.

    Grace and peace, everybody

    http://www.bareknuckle.org

  • Casabeca

    This piece would have finished strong if you had asked the guys Driscoll formerly “coached” if they felt loved by him.
    Love does not tear down a brother’s ministry brick by brick, nor press non compete clauses.
    No bully is Christlike, ever, ever , ever.

  • stan schmunk

    Anyone who ever saw Driscoll take and answer a question on the Lord’s evacuation system knows he’s just a potty-mouth dressed in black to draw attention to himself and NOT to Christ.

  • HailGabe

    It’s impossible to write something like you have without getting torched, but I agree with the spirit of your premise. People have a whitewashed idea of the Scripture. Driscoll is as rough as they come, but there are 2 sides to every story, and he’s been contrite, while being laser-focused on his mission. The Christian response to this issue has looked so, so bad from the outside.