Mark Driscoll’s House of Cards and How My Atheist Brother Was Right All Along


Image courtesy David Hayward

More than 5 years ago I wrote a blog post on Mark Driscoll when he and his Mars Hill Church were at the height of their game.  If you read the post you can see I was a bit of a fan of Pastor Mark at the time (you can also see how much my own journey has changed since then).

What is interesting though is a comment from my brother Andrew who contrasted my “pro-Driscoll” views with a prescient understanding of what was later to come:

I don’t wish bad on the guy (Driscoll), but when anybody spends as much time as he does ripping on other people, saying you have to follow his model, is abrasive because he thinks its funny or makes him macho…. I just keep waiting for the other shoe to fall…. I smell a Swaggert coming on. Those who squawk loudest seem to lay some huge eggs eventually. 

My brother wrote that prophetic thought more than 5 years ago when no one could foresee the turn of events befalling Mars Hill and Pastor Mark.

My point though is not to highlight that downfall in a perverse way.  Indeed certain statements from Driscoll have given me hope that God can redeem this situation.  There is perhaps nothing more I enjoy seeing than forgiveness, redemption, and restoration.

No, the issue I want to raise is why we will continue to see this type of control, manipulation, and abuse in churches as long as there are sheep in those churches willing to be controlled, manipulated, and abused.


The Problem isn’t just Mars Hill

Because of it’s size and reputation Mars Hill gathers a lot of media attention but across Christianity there are thousands of churches with people trapped in similar systems of control and manipulation.

Having been a Christian for 40 years and in ministry leadership for 25 I can’t claim to have seen it all…

…but I’ve seen a lot!

I write this post because I’m tired...

I’m tired of right theology trumping a right heart

I’m tired of the Bible (word of God) which is supposed to point us to Jesus (Word of God) used instead to keep people in bondage and containment

I’m tired of watching anointed and skilled church leaders delude themselves and their flock with their own vision because there is no accountability or friends who can just tell them “no”! 

I’m tired of watching good people burn themselves out fulfilling a man’s (or ministry’s) vision convinced it’s God’s plan

I’m tired of watching those that are burned out being discarded and replaced by newer, and younger, “true Believers”

I’m tired of watching people who are supposed to be “set free in Christ” simply swapping one set of chains for another.

 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free you will be free indeed.

John 8:35,36

So why do people who have been made sons and daughters of God allow themselves to be coerced into ungodly systems that wreck havoc in their own lives, their families, and the world around them?

Well that my friends will take a whole other blog post… stay tuned!


  • good thoughts. it is amazing how power corrupts us most of the time. even at our best, it is so easy to justify small grabs for power. at our worst, this kind of story becomes reality. thanks for taking the time to write these thoughts.

    • Steve

      Thanks for sharing that. I was interested in how Driscoll demonstrated two sides of a persona: humble and gracious vs. angry and dogmatic. I think this happens when the heart is at odds with the theology on some level.

      • Mara

        Absolutely. On so many levels. I think one excellent example is how Mars Hill claims to respect women and yet reduces them to second class citizens in the Kingdom, all the while using scripture to support that oppression. They do this while making themselves believe that they are liberating women to be what they think God calls them to be.

    • Steve

      I love what you did with the pic! Kevin Spacey can’t compare… 🙂

  • Heather

    Ok, so my head might be stuck in the sand a little bit from time to time, so when my friend took me to Mars Hill a few years ago, I really didn’t know much about the church or Mark Driscoll. Upon arriving it was hard to ignore the size of the congregation, and I was a little underwhelmed by the show business behind it all. But I can never forget the uncomfortable feeling I got when a man walked on stage, with what can only be described as a ‘swagger’. I asked my friend who he was, and she replied that he was the pastor – THE Mark Driscoll. And then the moment he opened my mouth, I just could not listen any longer. There was no humility there. I wondered how no one else could see what I did.

    • I went to uni in Queen Anne (SPU) and on three different occasions tried to attend church there (back in the day when I still went to church) because various friends asked me to do so. Three times I went into that place, got creeped the frak out, and ended up walking out in the middle of the sermon because it made me so intensely uncomfortable. It’s not just the swagger and the smugness, but the inherent, overt misogyny, the creepy cult-leader vibe, and the oppressive atmosphere that felt nothing like the Love I was always told church was supposed to engender. I cannot stomach the man, and watching so many friends who used to attend church there flee it like a plague ship over the years assured me my instincts were right. But some people, many many in fact, don’t WANT to see the truth; truth is uncomfortable, and so they let themselves be led and controlled.

  • Jane

    “The Allure of Toxic Leaders” sheds some light on this topic.

  • The Emperor who stands behind the “Bully Pulpit” appears to have a wardrobe malfunction. But very few of his court are willing to tell him.

  • Jen Roach sent me here, which speaks volumes in your favor. Thanks for posting on this. I’m an amateur collector of white male stories that make sense to me. Yours may be one, so I’m bookmarking your webpage…

    • Steve

      Thanks, I appreciate the comment!

  • Jc

    Righteous post

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