This is a post I’ve been wanting to write for sometime since my buddy Chase described the video below to me. Good thing I started my prep work early because now you can’t access the video on its original home!
You see, the video is an interaction between disgraced [link contains graphic quotes] pastor Mark Driscoll of
Seattle’s Mars Hill Church (a man whose ministry I have benefited from), James Macdonald (Founding and Senior Pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel) and Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church of Washington, DC (who I, admittedly, think highly of) created and provided by The Gospel Coalition, one of many organizations with recent cause to distance themselves from all things Driscoll.
In it Driscoll and Macdonald are pitted against Dever on the subject of ecclesiology, specifically the mult-site model versus a single campus approach. At 4:22 in the video, which I happened to download before it was wiped from The Gospel Coalition website and Vimeo, Dever asks a pointed question to Driscoll:
“Are you concerned that [Mars Hills' multi-site strategy] builds people into you particularly?”
The question, if I may be so bold as to offer an exposition, raises the question of whether or not the multi-site model of multiple campuses sharing one broadcast feed of Driscoll’s preaching carries the consequence of creating a dependence on Driscoll that isn’t healthy, in effect producing a cult of personality spread across multiple campuses.
Driscoll’s response is… well… I’ll let you be the judge 1. Here is the transcript:
“No, actually, it does the opposite. I mean, they [the congregants of the church] are more addicted to you. They have to come talk to you, shake your hand, be in the same room with you, get around the Shekhinah glory…” [while Macdonald laughs uproariously].
Momentarily, Macdonald chimes in with his own exposition of Driscoll:
“That’s a pretty huge point. He’s saying its less about him in a church where all he is is the 75% preacher [thankfully Macdonald is there to explain this to Dever, lest Dr. Dever be unable to pick up on such a subtle point].
Later (6:13), Dever asks, “Seriously, what happens when you die?”
Driscoll’s response: “Oh, yeah, it’s going to be far easier than it is for you ‘cuz you’re a pastor-centered model or a mission-centered model…”
You can see the whole thing here:
So, from the perspective of today, how strongly does Driscoll’s (and by extension Macdonald’s) argument stand against Dever’s?
Just to recap, Dever is worried that the multi-site model locates too much focus on the charismatic personality being beamed out to every satellite church, illustrated by the potential danger of a vacuum created by the death of the central charismatic personality.
Driscoll’s counter is that the multi-site model protects against that sort of cult-of-personality danger Dever raises and claims that, in fact, Dever’s traditional model creates the potential for a personality cult to a much greater degree.
At this point in history it is clear that Driscoll’s practice kills his own ability to advocate for the multi-site model against the charge that it is too centered on one individual. He, the fella arguing that Dever’s model is much more dependent on one man, is the guy reportedly telling his inner circle things like:
“You think you’re the Resurgence. But, you’re not the brand. I’m the brand!”
In explaining the “brand” of Mars Hill, “said that the brand of Mars Hill is a man standing in the pulpit with a large heavy bible in his hand. He also said that many things will change at Mars Hill, but one thing will never change: ‘it’s me in the pulpit holding a bible.‘”
Another quote: “All of this [potential changes in the future of Driscoll and Mars Hill's Resurgence organization] is fine, but I need to be driving this thing. I can’t have anyone else driving this thing or else it will go sideways.”
Perhaps the most bizarre, and blatantly contradictory to his position in the video above, comment was said to an elder who asked “whether Mark has considered sharing the pulpit more, and Mark’s response likened sharing the pulpit to sharing his wife (‘no one else sleeps with Grace‘).”
Driscoll, then, clearly failed to practice what he
preached advocated for in the video above. He also, at the time of this video, communicated in a mocking tone (to the guffawing of his co-hort) the absurdity of the idea that exactly what ended up happening in Driscoll’s church was potentially present in Driscoll’s mult-site model.
Without reducing all who practice multi-site models to Driscoll and also avoiding an ad-hominem attack to the question of the health of the multi-site model don’t we have here, in this video combined with the recent fall out with Driscoll, the clearest example of the real-world likelihood that Dever’s concerns are legitimate, if not likely?
It seems that the fall from Olympus experienced by Driscoll gives us a real impetus to examine the consequences of the mult-site model afresh and, in my opinion, give greater credence to the concerns expressed by Mark Dever.
I also have to wonder why the Gospel Coalition pulled all links to this video down. In the screen shot below, taken last night, the first five links are all dead as far as seeing the video, despite the video having been hosted on the Gospel Coalition site since 2010. I know it is fashionable to distance oneself from Driscoll but surely integrity would dictate leaving content up which you have provided for four years even if you added a disclaimer to the pages themselves.
I find that removal of this video by The Gospel Coalition, an organization I value, highly suspect at best. Again, it could be an example of the rush to separate from Driscoll but a more cynical mind may be tempted to think that, in light of the fall of Driscoll and the fresh energy it brings to questions about the model of church he was such a champion for, the Gospel Coalition may not want to risk alienating their constituency, many of whom will continue making use of multi-site methodology.
Anyway, is it too much to hope that in whatever realm high profile pastors commune that Dr. Dever heard something like, “I’m sorry, you were totally right?”
*Update 9/15/14* Noah Braymen posted a link to this video on Facebook via Ben Wright that dates to 3 years ago and is associated with The Gospel Coalition’s Vimeo account. It is still unclear why the older link (which was more commonly available, per the Google results I referenced above) has been taken down and why the pages internal to The Gospel Coalition pages which used the video haven’t been updated – at least at the time of this writing.
- Pay attention to the tone of each individual as they particpate in the conversation. It seems to me one party is clearly more respectful while the other two are much more condescending. Or, you can read Justin Taylor‘s encouragement on his own bizarrely, considering he blogs for The Gospel Coalition, dead post about this video. ↩