Pastor Provocateur

I recently read CT’s article on Pastor Mark Driscoll (see Sept 07 issue). It was a pretty well written article by Collin Hansen. Mark Driscoll is a well known pastor in part because he has a church of 6000 people in Seattle, WA. Let me say up front that there is nothing wrong with having a huge church but it does not make someone a great pastor or preacher either.

Mark Driscoll is a controversial pastor/preacher for many reasons. Let me suggest a few: 1. He is Reformed in his theology but still missional in his methodology. Better said, he is Emergent and Reformed. 2. He uses bathroom humor and vulgar language in his sermons. 3. He is a committed Complementarian, meaning he has a Biblical understanding of manhood and womanhood. 4. His friends include John Piper on one hand and Brian Mclaren on the other hand.

If you want to hear Mark’s own thoughts on the Emerging church movement go to Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s webpage for a recent lecture he gave on this very topic. Mark divides the movement into 3 streams. To make things easy to understand he divides the movement into a left wing (liberal stream), a middle of the road group, and a right wing stream (which he includes himself in). Think Brian Mclaren (left), Dan Kimbell (middle), Mark Driscoll (right).

Let me share with you some of the things i really like about Mark Driscoll. I appreciate Mark Driscoll’s passion for evangelism. I appreciate Mark Driscoll’s desire to preach the Word in Scripture dress (expository preaching). I appreciate Mark Driscoll’s commitment to Biblical manhood and womanhood. I appreciate Driscoll’s commitment to Reformed theology. I appreciate Driscoll’s commitment to the local Church. I appreciate Driscoll’s commitment to mentoring young men for the pastorate. I appreciate Driscoll’s honesty and his vulnerability.

Let me share with you some of the things that concern me about Mark Driscoll. His foul mouth and bathroom humor (especially when preaching) are totally out of place. I could list a number of Biblical proof texts to support this assertion but i think for the average Christian that reads Christian blogs that need not be done. It is obvious (at least to me) that a man of God preaching the holy Word of God should guard his mouth. Chris Rock combined with John Piper does not equal a great preacher. I find it interesting in certain sermons/lectures Driscoll prays for this very thing (that God would protect his lips from speaking anything that would displeasing to Him) and then later goes on to talk about sex in a crude manner or is vulgar, etc, etc. I pray Mark Driscoll matures in this area because I think it’s a big deal (see 1 Tim 3/James 3). I would imagine many of Mark’s disciples are following his example in this area and I don’t think that’s a good trend.

I sometimes wonder if Mark Driscoll does this gig because he KNOWS that’s what sets him apart from the typical Reformed pastor? The “cussing Pastor” attracts many headlines and people in large part because of the controversies surrounding him. Now people who are smart marketers are taught in business school that they only thing worse than BAD PRESS is NO PRESS. I pray that Mark Driscoll is not intentionally or unintentionally doing this. Of course the C.T. article noted, “That’s what you get from a pastor who learned how to preach by watching comedian Chris Rock.”
Moving on…Driscoll also has a mystical/Charismatic bent which is probably why he is more popular with men like John Piper and C.J. Mahaney (godly men who are Reformed and Charismatic). I am concerned about this bent because i think it can lead to many potentially dangerous things/decisions/etc. Mark claims he “heard from God” about marrying his current wife and about starting a church and becoming a pastor, etc. Much more could and should be said under this point but for time sake let’s press on.

I am also concerned about Mark’s desire to remain close to guys like Brian McLaren and Doug Pagitt. Here’s the million dollar question: How much is Mark really influencing men like this and how much are these men influencing him? From what I’ve read of Doug and Brian they do not embrace the Biblical gospel and thus as “teachers of the Word of God” they are very dangerous to Christian community. The book of Galatians and 1-3 John talk a lot about how Christians are to interact with false teachers. Now If Mark remains close to these men for the purpose of evangelism that’s a different story…Still these close relationships cause some concerns.

Tony Jones of the Emergent Village said of Mark, “He is uncommonly intelligent. He is uncommonly articulate and humorous. He could have been a stand-up comedian. He could have been a great actor probably.” I believe their is a proper place for humor and for comedy. Jesus is never recorded in the gospels to have laughed but i think we have to be careful about drawing too many implications from that reality. We can learn alot about the way Jesus preached and the way Jesus lived though. Sometimes great intelligence, humor, and personality can lead one away from the Biblical ideal when it comes to preaching. Expository preaching is really not that difficult though it typically is very laborious…Preach the text, illustrate the text, apply the text and live the text with all passion and clarity. The purpose of the pulpit is not to entertain but to edify. The purpose of the pulpit is not to tickle people’s ears but to point people to Jesus Christ.

Driscoll claims he learned much from Ed Stetzer (a missiologist)… Driscoll has turned the phrase living missional into a household phrase (well almost). John MacArthur recently praised Pastor Driscoll for his commitment to biblical soteriology though he offered the following concerns, “The lifestyle he models–especially his easygoing familiarity with all this world’s filthy fads–practically guarantees that his disciples will make little progress toward authentic sanctification.” Driscoll responds with the following argument: One needs to distinguish between missionaries who study culture and fundamentalists who try to avoid culture.

Friends I’m by no means a cultural fundamentalist. I watch some TV, read some blogs, surf the net, go to some movies, try and keep up with some of fashion of the day, etc, etc. I think we need to understand our culture without becoming like it (in areas where it is unholy). Mark Driscoll will watch programs like the MTV music awards show and then quote from it during a sermon or lecture. If you don’t think that’s an issue consider the words of Dr. Rick Holland, “A leader’s liberty is a follower’s license.”

Some will argue that a pastor needs to do things like this in order to understand and communicate with his (Seattle based) culture. One of the problems in ministry today is that many pastors (youth pastors in particular) know MTV better than they know the book of Hebrews. The Bible says, Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. It also says, “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”

Another problem is that shows like the O.C. and Desperate Housewives may help us to better understand our culture (and in some instances even our audience) but the very things that appeal to unbelievers (the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life) appeal to our sinful desires as well. That is why i am really concerned for men like the XXX pastors; the guys who go around to porn conventions in what appears to be an honest attempt to preach the gospel to porn stars and producers. Now some may argue here that Jesus Christ was able to spend time with prostitutes so don’t judge other people…The Apostle Paul said he beat his body and made it his slave lest he fall and become permanently disqualified. That is my great fear for those of us who are not “cultural fundamentalists.” Let none of us (esp. we pastors) abuse our Christian liberties and thus provide more occasions for our sinful desires. Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely. Let’s not be unwise when it comes to understanding and reaching the lost! Let us be known by our love for Jesus Christ not that we know all the characters on shows like South Park. Let our lives by marked by a unwavering commitment to personal holiness. We pastors need to chew on the wise words of Dr. Rick Holland who said, “A leader’s liberty is a followers license.”

If you want to imitate someone who gets this relationship between the Christian and culture right listen to SBTS President Al Mohler. I wish Driscoll would imitate Mohler’s example in his desire to be relevant and missional. Dr. Mohler gave an excellent lecture on this very topic at the 2006 Together for the Gospel Conference. Much more could be said here but for now i must sign off

9 responses to this post.

  1. To his praise, Pastor Driscoll is doing a lot of things right, but his approach is really wrong just by using common sense. Although he has some well articulated arguments, you still have the feeling inside that something is out of place here…

    Its akin to when you were a kid and other kids would try to convince you in something you knew was wrong intuitively, but got “talked” into thinking it was “okay.”

  2. Posted by Simon on October 10, 2007 at 6:55 pm

    Have you shared these concerns with Mark Driscoll? Just wondering if these are true and genuine concerns in which much prayer is employed or whether safe criticisms while preaching to the choir?

  3. Simon,

    If i am ever featured in a Christianity Today article and if i ever write a number of books and if i choose to have a public blog and if I decide to speak/teach/preach at national venues THEN critiques come with the terrority. No one should agree to any of things listed above if they don’t want a public ministry. When you have a public/national ministry you open yourself up to public scrutiny. I tried to mantain a loving tone in my post above and not to make any unfair accusations…It is not helpful to say Driscoll is a false teacher because he dialogues with McLaren, etc, etc.

    Even as a unknown pastor my sermons are public domain and my blog is public domain meaning i expect criticism.

    If i say something in a sermon and then post it on our church website in my opinion it changes the dynamics of things. The same thing is true if i ever publish a book, etc.

    The question is whether or not my criticisms are valid…

    I appreciate your email and as such I will make sure to email this post to Mark Driscoll.

    In Christ,

  4. Posted by Dean Olive on October 10, 2007 at 7:23 pm

    Thanks, Caleb, for the review on Driscoll. May the warning be heeded by all in the ministry.

    I appreciate your quotation of Holland’s words, “A leader’s liberty is a followers licence.” That gives pause for reflection! I’m sticking that one away in my mind. Having read your article, I have also re-read 1 Cor. 8 with profit today.

  5. Dean,

    I remember the blessing i received when I heard you preach at the National FIRE conference earlier this year. Thanks for your note.


  6. Posted by Matt Rose on October 10, 2007 at 9:22 pm


    You are right, Driscoll is a controversial figure and will continue to be for at least another ten years. I am part of an Acts 29, but that does not mean I embrace everything Driscoll does or stands for. However, I will say two things in his defense:

    1. After listening to a lot of his preaching, I think he has grown in the way he communicates as far as cussing and vulgarity is concerned. Listen to some of his early sermons on the Mars Hill website. Then listen to some of his more recent sermons. I think you will notice the difference. I think his friendship with Piper and Mahaney has helped him in this area. I struggle with other things when I preach, so I am content to see God’s grace working in his life.

    2. His continued friendship with MacLaren et. al I think has to do with his past as an original member of the Emergent movement. If you listen to any of his recent conference addresses then you will hear that he comes down pretty hard on these guys. There are many Evangelical scholars who are friends/engage with open theists. What is the difference?

    Here are my two concerns with Driscoll:

    1. Having observed the Acts 29 Network, I think there exists within it a certain arrogance as to the “right way” to plant a church, which inevitably looks a lot like Mars Hill. The church I am a founding member of does not look like Mars Hill in every way, but I think pressure is exerted to “be like Driscoll”, even when it may not be helpful in that context.

    2. Driscoll’s preaching, while expository and lengthy, ultimately boils down to about 20 minutes in the text and 35 minutes of funny stories, illustrations, statistics and promotion of Driscoll books, etc. While all of things may have their place in the context of a sermon (even book recommendations for the congregation), I think that there is no substitute for pure, unadulterated exposition of Scripture. Mark Dever is a good example of this for me.

    Anyway, take these comments for what they are worth, which is very little.

  7. Posted by CalebKolstad on October 11, 2007 at 5:43 pm


    Thanks for your thoughts. You are much closer to the network than I am and your insights were helpful.


  8. Posted by Hayden on October 12, 2007 at 8:21 am


    Thanks for the balance in your article. I listened to Mark Driscoll preach at SEBTS and was encouraged, so I downloaded a series he did last year called “Vintage Jesus”. I am only in the second one, but see some of what you illustrated.

    I tried to bring up some of the things that Driscoll was ‘doing well’ in my opinion on another website and was basically accused of being an ’emergent sympathizer’ for it. Then I was challenged to ‘make sure I was walkin’ right.

    Anyway, Mark Driscoll is a lightning rod, no doubt. I know that he is passionately trying to preach the truth in one of the most liberal cities in the country. I appreciate his honesty, passion, and willingness to be in uncomfortable positions so that those who are deemed ‘untouchables’ by the ‘culturally fundamental’ will hear the Gospel.

    I hope that as a part of the Acts 29 network he starts to push a more expositional model of preaching. Some of the guys listed on the conference schedule concern me.

    Hope all is going well for your wife and family. Hope to see ya soon.


  9. Posted by CalebKolstad on October 12, 2007 at 5:46 pm


    Thanks for the comments. I hope you and your family are doing well in MI. Driscoll is a lightening rod and pray he’s one to the glory of God. :)

    Everything i criticized him for can be changed if he so desires…Whether or not he really is trying to clean up his language in his sermons idk.

    I agree a more expositional model is best…I think for some people with no formal training and perhaps those with no original language studies this seems overwhelming.


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