It would be easy to pile on right now. You know…
- The guy is full of himself.
- The guy’s language is crude and offensive.
- The guy can’t control his tongue.
- The guy is a bully.
- The guy is a misogynist.
- The guy is a homophobe.
- The guy is a loose cannon.
- The guy has a theology of “masculinity” that is Philistine.
- The guy needs other leaders to hold him accountable.
To be honest, I can’t say those things. I don’t know the man, and it’s really not my call anyway. One could make a pretty good case for many of those evaluative statements based on Driscoll’s sermons and interviews and writings. But I’m not going to do that.
I will be honest and say I don’t get Driscoll and I don’t understand his appeal. First of all, the whole megachurch thing remains incomprehensible to me, for all the reasons I’ve stated here the last two years, and for more reasons I haven’t put into words yet. In addition, the persona Mark Driscoll projects is not one I admire either. His dress and demeanor, the attitude he gives off, and the constant references he makes to himself and his church do not attract me. I’ve watched and read his sermons and I see some depth of content there, but the communication style is so casual and vulgar that I can’t stand to listen for long. He represents one extreme form of that broader evangelical circus I have decided to abandon, albeit a more conservative and doctrinally-oriented form. He does not speak to me.
But he is not trying to reach me.
Bottom-line, Driscoll represents the restless and reformed version of the church growth movement. He is seeker-oriented and his ecclesiology is missional through and through. He has a target audience in Seattle (and elsewhere now) and he believes that a combination of conservative reformed baptist doctrine and radical cultural identification is the way to go to evangelize his community and build the church. In particular, he has a personal passion to reach certain kinds of people, and it is this aspect of his ministry that has sometimes led him into controversy, especially with regard to his style and issues such as “masculinity.” Because, at least according to his own words, Mars Hill Church has a priority of reaching men for Christ.
It may be a “chicken and egg” thing, but I wonder which came first for Mark Driscoll—his passion to reach men, especially young men (the hardest demographic to incorporate into a church family), or his strong complementarian theology. However it went down, he has consistently offered a potent blend of patriarchal teaching and practical confrontation of men to come to Christ and practice a robust faith.
After the jump, I have reproduced parts of a sermon he gave from Proverbs on the subject of “Men and Masculinity.” You will see that this issue is personal for Mark Driscoll. It grows out of his own experiences. He thinks the church has dropped the ball when it comes to reaching men and building ministries in which they will participate. He also looks around his community and sees a lot of men who are not taking proper responsibility for their lives, their work, their relationships, and their walk with Christ. This stirs his heart and informs his approach to ministry.
“For me, this is – this is a very important issue. I was raised in south Seattle, in the ghetto, behind the Déjà vu, next to the airport. Okay? If you’ve been there, you can repent and don’t go there anymore. But, for the rest of you, if you don’t know where it’s at, that’s fine. It’s – it’s an interesting neighborhood. Gang- banging, drive-by’s, drugs, prostitution, the green river killer was there, the whole thing. One of the local elementary schools would have to go out on Monday and take the used condoms and the syringes off the playground before the kids came. And so, I was the oldest of five kids. And I grew-up in a blue-collar, hard-working, union family. My dad’s name is Joe, and he hangs drywall. Okay?
“We – we didn’t watch Will and Grace and think it was funny. We didn’t – we were – we were a very masculine home. Okay? And I had two sisters and two brothers. My brothers’ names are: Mike and Matt. So, it’s Mike, and Mark, and Matt, and Melanie, and Michelle. That’s our family. I don’t know how that happened, but apparently we got stuck right in the middle of the alphabet. And in my neighborhood, my dad hung drywall every day to provide for the family. If you’ve ever hung drywall, it’s work; it’s significant work. To the point where, a few years ago, my dad broke his back hanging drywall and had to give-up drywall, because he literally severed his back. And my dad, when I was little, I remember him telling me, “This is a rough neighborhood. You look out for your brothers. You look out for your sisters. If I’m gone, you take care of the family.” And you had to in my neighborhood.
“…And one my biggest fears in high school was becoming a Christian, because I thought immediately I would have to become very feminine. ‘Cause all the guys I knew who were Christians were just very – very soft, very tender, very sort of weak guys….
“…When I came to Christ in college, reading the Bible, and realized the gospel, and I went looking for a church; and a few of the first churches I went to were just completely uncomfortable. It was like walking into Victoria’s Secret. The décor, at first, it’s like fuchsia and baby blue, and there’s pink, and it’s just like, “What in the world has happened here?” And then the songs are very emotive, and it’s like love songs to Jesus, like we’re on a prom together or something. And I didn’t get that at all, ‘cause that made me feel real odd. And then – and then the guy preaches, and he’s crying and all this stuff, and trying to appeal to my emotions. And I was just like, “This didn’t work.” So, I kept looking for a church. So, I found a church where the guy got up and he said, “This week I was out bow-hunting.” He used that as an illustration. So, I became a member of that church. True story. I didn’t have any theological convictions, but if a guy killed things then I – he could be my pastor.
“And then we moved back to Seattle, my wife and I did, after we got married in college. And we were looking for a church. Couldn’t find a church. Finally ended-up at a good Bible-teaching church with a guy, Hutch, over at Antioch that, you know, he’s a line-backer and played football; and he carries a gun; and he has dogs; and he lives in the woods and he kills things. So, I was like, “This will work.” So, we went there. And I never consciously put this all together until fairly recently; that the average church has primarily older people, small children, and women.
“…And we have to get into this issue of masculinity, ‘cause of all cities in the country ours is one of the most confused; completely confused. No idea. What’s a man? What’s a man created for? What’s a man to do? 1 Corinthians 11 says, “A man is the glory of God.” Well, we don’t think of men that way. Either we want them nice and soft and compliant, or they’re thugs and they’re dangerous, and we need to defend ourselves against them. That’s the image of men.
“…What I want at Mars Hill is men. I’m gonna say it as clean, as plain as I can. Did I say I don’t want women and children? That’s not what I said. But women and children with men who abandon or abuse or avoid, that’s not nice for women. Ask a single mother how nice it was that the man abandoned his obligations. Ask a woman who’s getting beaten by her husband how much she would like someone to be stronger than him, and to give him the truth? See, I think the nicest thing we can do for women, the nicest thing we can do for children, is to make sure that the men are like Christ; in a good way; in a loving, dying, serving way. Pouring themselves out. That’s why I get frustrated when I see churches that have enormous children’s ministries, and enormous women’s ministries, and no men.
• Mark Driscoll, Sermon: Proverbs—Part 5: Men and Masculinity, Oct. 28, 2001
This is not an apology for Mark Driscoll or Mars Hill Church. I have already stated that I have little sympathy with their ethos or approach. I’m simply trying to understand why this issue of “masculinity” is so important to someone like Driscoll, why he emphasizes it so much, and why he sometimes says things on the subject that make so many of us cringe. It doesn’t mean I agree with him, support his approach, or want to identify with him in any way. I’m just interested in discussing this in a way that doesn’t involve knee-jerk reactions or getting caught up in mud-slinging.
So here are some of my questions:
- Does the testimony above give you any different perspective on Driscoll’s approach to masculinity and the church?
- Does he have a point about the “feminization” of the church? Are church organizations, buildings, programs, ministries, worship styles, preaching styles, etc., focused more toward women and children than they should be?
- Has the church been ignoring men and failing to call them to repentance for sins of immaturity, immorality, and irresponsibility?
- What examples can you give of churches and ministries that are reaching men without resorting to strict complementarian theology, “Warrior Jesus” depictions, or “Wild at Heart” emphases that are (it seems to me) out of balance in the other direction?
- Can one be an egalitarian, not stress “macho” Christianity, practice the historic liturgy and ministries of the church, and still have an effective ministry among all kinds of men?
I expect this may be a lively discussion.
Comments that merely reflect the spirit of the list at the beginning of the post will be deleted.