I admire and respect Mark Driscoll. I don’t think he is a perfect pastor, nor has he entered the realm of spiritual “hero” or “mentor” in my eyes, but he is a man who loves Jesus and the gospel. His ministry is bearing the fruit of spiritual harvest. But Driscoll is also dodging the fiery-flames of accusation and critique from those both inside and outside the visible church of Jesus. Driscoll is a lightening rod and dishes out almost as much criticism (often dripping with sarcasm) as he receives, both fairly and unfairly.

Tim Challies has posted two helpful articles about Driscoll. The first is a review of Driscoll’s latest book Vintage Jesus. I haven’t yet read the book but I found Challies’ review to be fair and balanced. I also wasn’t surprised at the critique that Driscoll’s use of metaphors, analogies and descriptive phrases may sometimes cross the line into the realm of  indecency. It is one thing to be cultural relevant; it is another to be unnecessarily, and perhaps gratuitously, crude and irreverant.

The second article is a response as to how Driscoll’s critics and supporters should respond to him and his ministry. Here are the high points:

(1) Mark Driscoll is a real guy. “Mark Driscoll may have a larger-than-life personality, but he is still a real guy who not only offends others but is no doubt offended by them. I’m sure his bravado on the stage is matched by times of sober reflection in private. We need to be certain that in our critiques we do not say things that we’d never say to him face-to-face and that we do not treat him as a guy that, since he is so remote from us, is somehow less human than we are.”

(2) Mark Driscoll cares about things that really matter about the gospel, and therefore we should demonstrate grace and patience since he is primarily concerned about the essential matters of the faith. Essentially Challies is pointing out that many of the disagreements and critiques people have of Driscoll relate to secondary matters of the faith, not the issues of primacy related to the gospel, sound doctrine, and the unashamed proclamation of God’s Word. “There is no doubt that people have had difficulty knowing what to do with Driscoll and knowing how to think about him. But [D.A.] Carson said he finds it helpful to look not just at where Driscoll is, but at the trajectory he is on. I took that to mean that if we look at where he has come from and then plot a course by where he is now, we’ll see that he is growing and maturing as a Christian and that he is continually emphasizing better and more biblical theology. We are all works in progress. This is not to say that we should hope that Mark Driscoll grows up to become John MacArthur or R.C. Sproul. Rather, it simply means that it is sometimes wise to look at the wider picture.” 

(3) Mark Driscoll’s ministry appears to be bearing fruit.

If we are to judge Mark Driscoll, his church and its church planting movement by its fruits, we will have to conclude that God is choosing to bless them and to bless them in abundance. Like it or not (and for some reason I think too many ‘discerning’ people don’t like it and refuse to admit it!), God is using this guy for His glory.”

(4) God may be using Mark Driscoll because of his personality and giftedness, or he may be using Driscoll despite of these things. “When it comes to Mark Driscoll, some Christians would say that God uses him despite his use of sometimes-vulgar language while others would say that God uses him because of such cultural relevance. Of course there are others, some of whom seem to fancy themselves the church’s conscience, who would say that Driscoll is not and will not be used by God because of these things, but I’d suggest they are simply ignoring clear evidence to the contrary. The basis for this “because of / despite” distinction will come down to a Christian’s understanding of certain biblical exhortations about language and to a person’s biblically-informed conscience. In either case, we need to acknowledge that Christians differ on certain issues and what is vulgar to one person may not be to another. We need to allow room for conscience to speak where biblically-submitted Christians differ.”

I’m no Driscoll apologist. I think some pastors admire Driscoll simply because they want to be him. He is a man’s man. He’s funny. He is highly intelligent. He isn’t a coward. He loves Jesus. He articulates the gospel well. And his church is bursting at the seams. But he is, as D.A. Carson and Tim Challies rightly observe, simply a flawed human being who is being used by God in spite of his flawed humanity. Driscoll is under a microscope that most of us in the pastorate can relate to but not fully understand. He is in the fish bowl in a way that dwarfs the public exposure of our lives as pastors. We should remember that Driscoll’s ultimate competency, and the fruit of his ministry, comes from and in the gospel. We should pray that Mark Driscoll would be a humble man, above reproach, and that he would watch his life and doctrine closely, because it would greatly taint the glory of the gospel in Seattle and in the West if he were to fall into public sin or behave in a manner unworthy of the gospel. I wonder how many of Driscoll’s critics actually pray for him (which is what the gospel demands what we do). He is a public figure in the Western church, but let us all remember that in our criticims and critiques, love “believes all things” (1Cor 13). As we hide behind our LCD screens hammering away on keyboards, we should speak words meant for the edification of all believers. Sometimes those words come in the form of a rebuke or correction, but we would do well to exercise caution, wisdom and discernment when it becomes necessary that they are said.