It looks like former Mars Hill Church pastor Mark Driscoll is gearing up for a comeback.
Is Mark Driscoll planning a comeback? The signs seem to be pointed that way.
The former Mars Hill Church pastor, who resigned in October amid allegations of plagiarism, misogyny and emotional abusiveness, leading to the collapse of a megachurch that once counted 13,000 members in five states, has been making a series of public appearances around the country. He plans two this summer in Sydney, Australia, and London.
The appearances are sparking speculation that Driscoll is bent on returning to the pulpit — an idea that found resonance on the stage of Mill Creek’s Gold Creek Community Church on May 17. “I know you’re probably not going to stay in the area,” Gold Creek Founding Pastor Dan Kellogg told Driscoll after a fulsome introduction that included a hug. “You’re going to go somewhere and start a church.”
Driscoll, clad in his characteristic bluejeans but evincing less swagger than in the days when he called the U.S. a “pussified nation” and his critics a pile of “dead bodies” in the making, didn’t confirm the hunch. “I’m still in the middle of it,” he said in a speech that lasted nearly an hour. “OK, Lord, what’s next? What do you have for us? What are we doing? Where are we going? I don’t know.”
Yet his appearance was enough to spark a protest by a dozen former Mars Hill members, who voiced concern that Driscoll has neither acknowledged wrongdoing nor sought reconciliation with those they believe he has harmed.
“Mark is unrepentant,” says Brian Jacobsen, a protest organizer and a former Mars Hill deacon. Should Driscoll try to get a new church off the ground, Jacobsen adds, there would be an “awful lot of people who would oppose him in any way they could.”
In the meantime, Jacobsen and onetime fellow congregants are threatening a lawsuit as they seek a full accounting of alleged financial impropriety at Mars Hill. Others are asking what, if anything, the evangelical community has learned from Driscoll’s spectacular rise and fall (and possible rise again).
“Made himself the victim”
Driscoll’s public re-emergence came just days after he resigned from Mars Hill. Delivering remarks at the Gateway Conference, put on by a Texas megachurch, he declared himself in a “season of healing up, praying and asking the Lord Jesus through wise counsel to show me any blind spots where I can grow.”
Rather than dwell on his blind spots, though, he recounted the difficulties he, his wife and his five kids, ages 9 to 17, have been through. They include, he said, death threats, the discovery of rusty nails on his driveway, the need to move three times “for safety issues,” a family camp-out in the backyard that ended with rocks being thrown at his kids and stalking by a TV-news helicopter that spooked his then 8-year-old, who wanted to know whether the military jacket he was wearing was bulletproof.
The audience gave Driscoll a standing ovation, and he went on to repeat the anecdotes to a sympathetic crowd at the Thrive Leadership Conference in early May, held by a megachurch in California.
The speeches, which quickly went up on YouTube, played less well in Seattle. “He’s made himself the victim,” says longtime critic and onetime Mars Hill deacon Rob Smith, who expresses skepticism about whether Driscoll’s harrowing tales are true. (What is certain is that late last week, a Swiss-chalet inspired, Snohomish County estate recently owned by a trust controlled by Driscoll and his wife — now belonging to a different trust registered to a woman believed to be the pastor’s sister — was put on the market for $1.6 million.)
In any case, Smith says, Driscoll should focus on “the hundreds of families who have been shunned” by Mars Hill after questioning or criticizing Driscoll.
Driscoll could not be reached for comment. “Pastor Mark is currently unavailable for speaking requests and media inquiries,” reads an email from Mark Driscoll Ministries, which maintains a website sporadically updated with event listings and online teachings.
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