25 November 2013

The Mark Driscoll Experience

by Frank Turk

Do you know how I expected to spend my weekend?  Moving furniture around my house and watching WAY too much Doctor Who.  That's all I wanted -- maybe a nice visit with our prospective new Family pastor at church, a decent morning of worship on Sunday, and a couple of walks with my dog.

Instead, due entirely to my own fault, I am writing blog posts.

What I am actually trying to do is to show some solidarity and good will to a long-time friend of this blog, Janet Mefferd.  Janet is a radio host out of Dallas, and has been a fan of fellow Pyro Dan Phillips, for years. Up until Friday, Janet was a well-respected broadcast personality -- but then she had the audacity to be less than submissive toward Mark Driscoll on her radio show.  We can all guess how that went.

Anyway, I intended to do one blog post about that interview, but that turned into quite a ride -- and may have been unreadable in one sitting.  You can imagine how long it was to say that here.  So here's the agenda for today:

YESTERDAY, I gave credit where credit is due to Steve Cha, who provided the raw video which is featured below in today's post.

THIS POST TODAY is about that video vis a vis the other account floating around the internet, which happens to be Pastor Mark's account.

THE NEXT POST will be about Janet's interview with Mark because she has received a good deal of flack for it -- and most of that criticism  is, frankly, worthy of the dung heap.  More on that next time.

In a very muddled and expansive mess of a post, Driscoll attempted to do ... well, something.  Was he trying to be nice to John MacArthur? Helpful? Inviting? Collegial? Or self-serving and obsequious? It's hard to tell because while it starts, "Dear Pastor John MacArthur," is has a pretty long (about a third of the letter by word count) excursus on how he was bullied in the parking lot by security.  One wonders how Chris Rosebrough's treatment at ER2 missed his notice.

As always with Pastor Mark, it's a gripping tale in which he is the hero:

As you may have heard, I dropped by your recent Strange Fire conference. I happened to be in the area speaking at an Act Like Men conference in Long Beach. I intentionally came during a break so as not to interrupt the sessions, and I met some great people. I got to pray with a number of great young leaders in your seminary who also podcast my sermons. Out of respect for you, I said nothing unkind about you or your ministry to anyone on my visit.

Your pastoral staff was very gracious and hospitable. I met your executive pastor, Michael Mahoney, who offered me water, asked if I needed anything while signing books, and was very gracious. I also met Austin Duncan, your college pastor who hung out for my entire visit and was very enjoyable.

The volunteers on your security team, most of them seminary students, were also very kind. They helped me park and enter the event, and some came by for a photo or a free book and brought great practical questions about their future ministry and how they could serve Jesus most effectively.

Everyone I asked who is attending your seminary said they chose your school because they wanted to learn to preach the Bible. As a Bible preacher, I rejoice in that. I actually considered attending your school myself after I finished my undergraduate work, but I was newly married and could not afford any seminary at the time. Some years later, I was thankfully able to get my master’s from Western Seminary.

The only difficult moments on my visit came during my interactions not with your pastoral staff, but with a few of the apparently staff security personnel. I had been handing out advance copies of my new book for free; the pastoral staff said I was welcome on campus. They were kind, and some of them even asked for photos and books, which I gave them and signed with a pen I borrowed from your son, Mark. He kindly lent it to me, we visited, and he too was very kind, very welcoming, and very gracious.

However, there were two security guards who seemed to operate in a manner inconsistent with the permission I received from the pastoral staff. These two men took turns approaching me as I was talking with and praying for people, and things got confusing.

Security said I could not hand the books out, so I stopped. But people started helping themselves to the books that remained in the box, so security said the books had to be removed. One of the security guards said if I did not remove the books, he would “have to take it to the next level.” I asked him what that meant, curious, as his tone was different than the pastoral staff I had encountered. He admitted he did not know what the next level was. The other security guard then approached, saying the books had to be removed. He told me that they were taking them to put them in a Mustang, which they apparently thought was my vehicle. I did not know what Mustang they were referring to. In any case, it was obvious that my gift books were being removed.

It was at this point that I told the security guard that, since they were going to confiscate the books anyway, they could just keep them as a gift from me. Apparently, someone recorded the final words of this conversation on video, but nothing of the prior conversations that led up to it.

As Bible teachers, we both know that people often arrive at the wrong conclusion when they extract a line out of an ongoing discussion, ignoring the context, and then wrongly impugn someone’s character. I am guessing the security team and pastoral team were not entirely rowing in the same direction, and that security thought they were just doing their job.

Mistakes happen. I understand. And since no one owes me anything, I am grateful I got to hang out for a bit and meet some of the pastoral staff and your son. I would’ve been glad to have met you as well.

Maybe that can still happen?

Quite an account, yes?  You would think that there was nearly a street fight the way he tells it.  The reason he has to say anything about it, of course, is because this is how he summarized it on Twitter:

Right?  I mean: the story we find ourselves in here started with Driscoll's tweet on 18 October that GCC security took his books, and it's paired with a photo of a fellow who, frankly, looks like security.  To that end, I'm sure it's right of Mark to let everybody know that, in spite of rough treatment, he's OK -- in fact, in spite of rough treatment, he's actually coming back with a kind and brotherly spirit.

Which is a great story -- if any of it is true.

If only we had a way to check the story.  If only we had ... Steve Cha's video.

Now, a few caveats:

[1] Yes: Steve's video is only 4 minutes, and Driscoll was on the campus about 30-45 minutes, so this is at-best a 10% sample of the whole visit.

[2] Yes, some of the audio isn't great.

But I think these 4 minutes of video do tell us something.  Let's watch:

Now: so what?  What's that video tell us?  Mostly, it tells us that the Mark Driscoll Experience at the GCC campus was, to say the least, cordial.  Even his interaction with Mr. Tom Hatter was almost entirely friendly and uneventful.  But it also tells us when the photo posted on Pastor Driscoll's Instagram/Twitter account happened:

Oh wait -- no, that's a frame from this video with three guys not Tom Hatter called out for reference.  This one is from Driscoll's Instagram:

These photos are snapped within moments of each other, and plainly: this segment of the video shows there's no confiscation going on.  So the Tweet wasn't quite a historical account.  Wouldn't it be great if Driscoll actually said, "I was wrong to say the books were confiscated.  I apologize as I made it sound  like your people were out to get me.  Please forgive me?"  I think it would.

But let's ask ourselves: how about the blog post?  Is the blog post any better than the tweet?

Well, of the 30-45 minutes he was there, we can admit that most of it is missing.  Most was not recorded.  But let's be fair to all parties: the sort of confusion and tense situations Driscoll describes also seems absent.

It could be that the fix was in, and Steve Cha was only recording nice stuff.  It could have been a set-up by the GCC staff, right?  See: that makes sense if somehow they invited Driscoll or intended for him to be there.  But somehow, since Driscoll's tweet is transparently false based on the video evidence, how much stock should we put in his blog post?  "the Next level"?  What is this - an off-broadway production of Roadhouse?

My only purpose in rehearsing this clown show is this: the experience at GCC was for publicity only, and of course Mark played it for the cheap seats.  The phony tweet, the obsequious blog post, the phony invitation to his conference -- all of it entry-level stunts.

After all these, he appears on the Janet Mefferd Show.  As he says, he does Janet a favor.

And that's the subject of the next blog post.


lee n. field said...

"Drama prone"

DJP said...

{After watching the video}

That poor man. How he suffered, at the hand of the brutes in GCC security. That poor, poor man.

{commences pounding head on desk}

Frank Turk said...

I was going to use the word "histrionics" in this post, but Driscoll was headed to the "Act Like Men" conference after this performance, and I didn't want anyone's skin to peel off at the fantastic and pungent irony.

DJP said...

Well, the operative word there clearly was "Act."

Though, even then...

Merrilee Stevenson said...

I don't know if it matters very much, but I'm trying to understand what difference it would have made if the security HAD actually confiscated the books rather than offer to help return them to his car? I can't assume to know what was going on in Driscoll's mind, but common sense would say that anyone who tried to pass out material without permission and proper vetting at an event such as this would EXPECT to have their materials confiscated.

Many of us are familiar with "ask forgiveness, not permission." It seems Driscoll has simplified it to the second half of that motto, and enjoys seeing how others react to it. Usually, the reactions produce opportunities to turn the whole offense around and focus on the weaknesses of those originally offended. And the instigator can just shrug it off with a smirk.

Meanwhile, heads explode.

donsands said...

Mark D seems to not know how to be a pastor; a shepherd of our Lord's sheep.
I could be wrong I guess. It is difficut to nail this guy down. Him being there with his books in the first place makes no sense to me.

If Mark is an immature Christian, and yet thinks he is a mature leader in the Church and the wolrd, then these kinds of posts are needed. Thanks Cnt for giving up Dr. Who.

Read this passage this morn:

"To Titus, my true child in a common faith: . . . avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned."

DJP said...

"shrug it off with a smirk"

I think Merrilee has just captured Driscoll's philosophy of ministry in 6 words.

Frank Turk said...

The Eddie Haskell of pastoral Trouble-making

Mark Hanson said...

"The Mark Driscoll Experience". Right there in the evangelical amusement park between the "Have a Pastoral Argument" booth and the "Touch Not the Lord's Anointed" dunk tank.

Eric said...

For one who rails against "tribalism", Driscoll seems very tribal. Why else show up at Strange Fire? Doesn't that action betray what he is calling for in the book?

threegirldad said...

"Someone needs to check the date for Mark Driscoll's shelf life as a reliable person."
--Frank Turk

Merrilee Stevenson said...

What can I say? I guess I know the type well!

Among the other ironies already mentioned, there's the one when he quotes James 3:1 to Janet Mefford. I think we could all benefit from studying and applying that whole chapter (especially me).

John said...

I admire Driscoll's guts, you know, not staying on his own turf, not hiding behind his twitter account, not hiding behind his blog, confronting his critics,

So Frank and Dan, looking forward to the public debates so the years of work here can be put to the test.

Frank Turk said...

John --

Who is THAT Driscoll? Kevin Driscoll? Bartholomew Driscoll? Surely you don't mean that you're talking about Mark Driscoll?

I'll say it here: I'd be pleased to meet him anywhere publicly -- pay my own way -- and have the conversation about what he thinks is wrong with "my side" of all the disputes. My only conditions:
[1] Time-limited (each side gets equal time)
[2] Moderated (each side is constrained by the same facilitator to #1)
[3] Unedited (what the audience hears is what is recorded for posterity)

I think the model I'd love to see is the one used by Stanford University in the discussion between Gabe Lyons and Bishop Eugene Robinson.

Jerry Wragg said...

I'll just state it plainly: Mark Driscoll may attach himself to the reformed and puritan traditions by parroting their doctrines, but he does not imitate their faith. The heritage of pastors he claims to follow were true shepherds. They were noble, Christlike men who'd never even think of disrupting other proven, godly ministries with self-exalting juvenile antics. And they loved the body of Christ sacrificially, forsaking their own importance and popularity to live holy lives in front of the sheep. Most notably, they were men of attested integrity. Honest men who didn't manipulate, exaggerate, misrepresent, prevaricate, or tell outright falsehoods. That's what made them reformers. God uses men and women like that (Isaiah 66:2)! Real "Samuels" of the faith who loved God's honor and lived His word in holiness. Evangelicals today can fool themselves, believing that God is "doing great things" through popular and controversial leaders, but consistent character, not talk, is the true test. In His mercy, God may use His message to change hearts in spite of a harmful messenger. But make no mistake, stubbornly sinful vessels ultimately get shelved. The Lord may have used Sampson, but he was the most proud and morally weak of Israel's Judges.
Church leadership today is filled with too many Sampson's and not enough Samuel's.

Jay C. said...

Hey @PastorMark-

Fame called. They want their 15 minutes back.

DJP said...

His "Reformed" cover story is interesting, too, given that he's a 4-pointer.

Marla said...

I listened to the Janet M interview over the weekend. When it comes to Mark Driscoll *yawn* -- nothing is ever his fault, and when the facts get to close, he resorts to accusing others of being unChristian, mean(tone, etc.)and not mature.

This playbook has been used so often I am stunned (stunned!) that people can't see through it. Oh well, works for that political party that starts with a D. I guess I shouldn't be stunned there are millions of low-information followers out there. I'm going to refer to him henceforth as "Teflon Mark". Ever try to pin jello to a wall?

Frank Turk said...

Jay has opened up a fantastic part of this which, let's face it, is overlooked in a very fantastic way by everybody thinking about this right now.

I'll say it:
Mark Driscoll is not famous.

Here's how you can test that hypothesis:

Get a clipboard and a sheet of paper and some church clothes on and go down to the mall or the airport. You might get permission to do a survey before you stay accosting people.

When you have permission, start asking people you meet which of the following names do you recognize:

Barack Obama
George W. Bush
George Straight
Johnny Cash
Dave Matthews
Don Omar
The Kardashian family
Neil Gaiman
Gillian Flynn
E. L. James
D. A Carson
John MacArthur
Mark Driscoll

If you have the time, you should run this on about 300 people for a decent sample. 1000 would be fantastic, all the extra effort one can muster.

I suspect that the results will tell you who is and is not famous, and that is exactly the point here.

As Carl Trueman has so spectacularly said this weekend, celebrities are routinely allowed to behave in ways which would not be tolerated in ordinary mortals. But are we really so desperate for our own celebrities that we have to choose men who are, frankly, practically anonymous in our culture at large?

How sad that is.

Rebecca said...

Frank, he's the Eddie Haskel! What a perfect analogy. Someone that married into my family, I secretly referred to as Eddie Haskel. Mr Phony is no longer around. He's in prison. Go figure. I'm surprised that Mark didn't start his letter to John MacArthur as, "Dear Mr Clever. Is Wallace at home?" I thought the same thing as I listened to his syrupy way of talking in the interview. I hate for people to spit, especially ladies. But I must confess, I had to spit a few times while I listened.

Jules said...

Driscoll is a celebrity in his own mind, and after all, that's the only place that counts.

Cathy M. said...

I have no use Mark Driscoll's buffoonery; none at all. However, I listened to the radio show and...
I thought she made her point and proceeded to overkill. Maybe it's my cultural lens, or maybe I'm just plain wrong, (or both) but it made me cringe.

I guess there was no other way to play it. I mean, where could she go after dropping the plagiarism bomb? "Moving on... Pastor, let's discuss the fine merits of your plagiarized work since you'd have us believe it somehow sprays fabreze on your 'integrity.'"

BTW, does anyone know whether his un-cited source intends to pursue Driscoll or his publisher?

Frank Turk said...

Cathy - it's a fair question, and I haven't been able to find a comment by Peter Jones. David C. Cook is his publisher, which is a small dog compared to Tyndale.

Clark Dunlap said...

WOW, lets all jump on the beat up Mark Driscoll bandwagon. I am quite sure that is not what the Pyro team is after here, and I am quite sure that I have no desire to defend a guy who does at times seem disingenuous and that's just a small problem I have with him.
BUT, After listening to the Mefford show, hmmm, not a real good bit of journalism there. I had never heard of her before this and I live in the metroplex. I thought she asked good questions about the Strange Fire "visit" and about the intellectual property issue, but then like a hound dog with a juicy bone she didn't let go. She said, "I don't teach I just interview" (or something close to that) and then she pontificated on his stealing, thieving ways. He said, I will look into it, I will ask Dr. Jones, if I did something wrong I'm sorry I'll try to fix it.
What more did she want? Blood?
Yeah, maybe he forgot about it as soon as the conversation was over but we don't know that do we?
I love when she points out that it is "14 pages without a footnote." Classic! Talk about an argument from silence! 14 pages where you didn't say something I think you should have said!
I wish the complaints I get from my preaching and teaching multiple times every week involved things I DIDN'T SAY instead of the boneheaded things that slip out now and then.
And yes, I know the importance of proper assignment of credit for intellectual property. I get that.
Here's the thing. We can complain about his attention getting stunt. Fine, if you think that's what it was, great. Probably right.
But I love it when folks who have no fame at all, whose own neighbors don't know them. complain about a guy who pastors a mega-church and has over a million folks in the USA who know who he is. Beyond the 500 folks on my Facebook page and another 500 who aren't that's the extent of my fame I'm sure.
Let's complain about things with SUBSTANCE!
I don't really care about whether he thinks he's famous. Whether he thinks he was doing Mefford a favor (he was by the way). I care about a few of the more substantive things he said, that I have a problem hearing a Christian say. But, I have heard him preach a clear, biblical gospel that sounds to me like it comes from a guy who believes it.
I'll tell you this, if I EVER happen to have a book gain popularity in the Christian community, I would think twice about going on the Mefford show now that I know how she treats her "guests."

Rob said...

I hope you weren't watching Doctor who past the 7th Doctor. Otherwise you're just wasting your time with BBC scifi soap opera...

Jerry Wragg said...

Driscoll publically holds Mefferd to a standard of Christian charity toward him in order to deflect her attempt to hold him to a standard of Christian integrity.

This IS the standard maneuver for immature evangelical celebrities caught in their own devices.

Marlene Stewart said...

I think histrionics I appropriate, Frank. Modern medicine has disproved the old wive tale that hysters are the cause of the condition!

Andrew Jones said...

Hey I was in that same courtyard some months ago. I didnt get to meet as many staff as Mark did - maybe I should have handed out some books or something. Actually, I was hoping to meet up with Phil who told me he was in the gym and i didnt know where the gym was - -long story. Anyway, interesting story. And wasn't Dr Who 50th awesome!!!!!!!!!!!

Stephen said...

Frank do you plan on addressing the 60 seconds or so in the video after the books are "confiscated" when a young man asks Mark about TD Jakes? It sounds like Driscoll says that:

1. Jakes and Driscoll are not friends and have not conversed before or after Elephant Room.
2. Driscoll is convinced Jakes is now Trinitarian, Dan's plea for a proper repentance and denial of past published doctrinal statements notwithstanding.
3. Driscoll does not agree with Jakes' prosperity and other beliefs outside of Theology Proper.

That is...something else.

jrbaker said...

On fame: Part of the issue for Driscoll is that here in Seattle he is, much like El Guapo, (in)famous. Mars Hill gets a mention from the local news channels (one in particular) every fortnight or so for some mis-doing, perceived or real. That contributes to his expectation of name recognition (and thereby, apparently, kid glove celebrity status).

Even the worldliest people I work with know how Driscoll is, and comment on his reputation. It's quite sobering for me because it ends up reinforcing a view about the hypocrisy of all Christians.

Frank Turk said...


What did he have to lose by saying that to that young fellow, do you think?

Stephen said...

I don't know what you mean, he clearly has nothing to lose when he talks to lowly men who do not lead churches or corporations of 15,000 members. But I did not expect him to actually admit a disagreement. 4 years ago he thought enough about prosperity theology to call it a pagan idol worship. But in the last 2 years he apparently thinks so little of it so that of perhaps the two most currently famous shills, one is merely "being happy and encouraging" and stuffy Christians need to stop picking on him. Of the other, well we can take him at his word that what sounds like modalism really is trinitarianism, but otherwise Driscoll doesn't need to talk to him again.

But it's Macarthur's conference that needs to be crashed.

rdrift1879 said...

I seriously doubt Peter Jones will take Mark Driscoll to task publicly, though he may agree the book plagiarizes his work. Dr. Jones is quite a fan of Driscoll.

Frank Turk said...

Stephen --

There's really no arguing with a credulous person. That is: I can't convince you to give up gullibility. If, in your view, that's how Driscoll sums up the encounter at the Elephant Room 2 and his view of TD Jakes, and that's what he's willing to say about it, let him say so "for reals" and not just in some off-handed comments when he may or may not know the cameras are running.

Let him say it where and when it counts. What he says to a stranger by accident is as likely to be a casual lie as anything else he said that day.

Frank Turk said...

Clark Dunlap said:

| I love when she points out that it is "14
| pages without a footnote." Classic! Talk
| about an argument from silence! 14
| pages where you didn't say something I
| think you should have said!

Clark: that statement proves you have no idea what’s at stake here, or what's necessary to properly attribute the work of others in print. If I wrote a book (in the fantasy world where that's possible) and I lifted 14 pages from Dan's book "TWTG," it is my duty to tell the reader the parts that are mine and the parts that are Dan's. A single note in the middle of the first page which says, "I heard Dan Phillips say something about this once," and then no further indication of what I borrowed is, in the best possible case, suspect usage.

What's at stake is whether or not Driscoll presented Jones' work as his own. If he did, Janet's approach in this interview is the least of his problems.

Stephen said...

Frank, I give too much credit but that's because I have none of my own. I just thought it was an interesting side comment that betrayed even further his motivations for showing up that day.

John Chester said...

Driscoll would do well to read Tripp's book "Dangerous Calling" which makes the point repeatedly that theological knowledge must never be confused with spiritual maturity.

Unknown said...

When there’s blood in the water . . .
I posted this to Janet Mefford’s Facebook concerning the Driscoll issue:
“Regarding Mark Driscoll, you quoted the scripture “speaking the truth in love”. What was the condition of your heart when you had Mark Driscoll on your show? Yes, perhaps you were speaking the truth, but were you doing it in love? Honestly,
I don’t have a dog in this fight, but it seemed more like an ambush than an interview. You knew ahead of time that you were going to play “gotcha” when you had Mr. Driscoll on, and he was obviously entirely unprepared for this, expecting to address Christian issues that are important to the church. Yes, before you go on about honesty, we AGREE on that, but were you REALLY attempting to “nail him” because, after all, he was on one side of the Strange Fire issue, and you are apparently on the other side. I’m not defending Driscoll’s apparent plagiarism, but don’t you think, that Biblically, before you brought it before the church and the world on your show, you should have brought it up in private between yourself and Mr. Driscoll FIRST, as scripture says, and THEN brought it before the church if he was unresponsive? It seems that you skipped a step here in your eagerness to “correct” or perhaps “condemn” your brother.
So, were you attempting to correct him or condemn him?
I’m the author of an online book (free, I’m not selling anything), http://www.thedarwinpapers.com, with hundreds of footnotes, and I know how easy it might have been to have made that kind of mistake. Don’t you at least think you should have had a three way conference beforehand between yourself, Mr. Driscoll and the third party whom you both apparently know, before pulling this kind of gotcha stunt on your program?
Sorry, but you were so right that you were wrong,”
Scripture says ” All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” 2Tim 3:16-17
I read “for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness”; I don’t see the word condemn anywhere.
“But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.” Galatians 5:15

Frank Turk said...


The only reason your comment made it out of moderation is that the irony of someone who can't even put his (her?) name on a rebuke for the alleged lack of a loving spirit is simply too rich. It's too fantastic.

Thank you for making my day! Thank you for proving (again) that the internet has no sense of self-awareness.

DJP said...

Yeah! THAT could never happen!

< /Skynet >

Frank Turk said...

The rest of you: get your licks in. I'll be out of internet pocket for the next 2-3 days with almost no access, and when I come back I'm closing the comments.