An upcoming evangelical conference in South Carolina with its theme, “The Most Excellent Way to Lead,” has as a marquee speaker … Mark Driscoll, high-profile senior pastor at the Seattle-based Mars Hill Church, which imploded last year and ceased to exist on New Year’s Day.
“Do you want to leave a legacy by the impact of your leadership?” asks a promotion for the conference, to be held in early March and hosted by Pastor Perry Noble at the New Spring Church, a megachurch in Anderson, South Carolina.
A blurb on Driscoll’s website explains: “This event is uniquely designed for leaders who want their teams and their organizations to succeed beyond their expectations.”
But the implosion of Mars Hill revolved around Driscoll’s leadership, and growing dissent and departure by members of his team.
A group of 21 former elders and pastors brought charges that centered on Driscoll’s personal conduct toward his flock and closest associates. Nine pastors signed a letter critical of the culture of the church, and one by one were laid off or left. Former members picketed the Mars Hill Church in Bellevue one hot summer Sunday.
An investigation by the church’s board of overseers found that Driscoll was “guilty of arrogance, responding to conflict with a quick temper and harsh speech, and leading the staff in a domineering manner.” Driscoll resigned as senior pastor on Oct. 15, 2014, and Mars Hill Church announced its dissolution two weeks later.
Starting in 1996, Driscoll built Mars Hill into a megachurch that once numbered 15 “campuses” in five states, with 13,000 worshipers listening to rock music and fundamentalist preaching that emphasized a man’s role as ruler of the family castle and the evils of homosexuality. Clad in blue jeans, Driscoll had a particular talent for drawing young men and young families to the pews.
But his conduct caused tremors that blew through the evangelical world.
The Acts29 network, a church-planting network that Driscoll co-founded, expelled both the Mars Hill pastor and his church. Its directors sent Driscoll a letter urging that he take a prolonged leave from ministry and seek assistance. Major evangelical conferences scrubbed Driscoll from their agendas. Mars Hill canceled its own Resurgence Conference.
Yet, Driscoll resurfaced even as Mars Hill went out of business and its congregations fought to survive on their own.
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