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Former Mars Hill Elder Confronts John Lindell for Platforming Mark Driscoll

By Sutton Turner
lindell driscoll
On Wednesday, James River Church Senior Pastor John Lindell (left) preached a sermon urging disgraced preacher Mark Driscoll to repent. (Video screengrab)

Editor’s Note: The following is a letter from former Mars Hill Executive Elder Sutton Turner to James River Church Pastor John Lindell and is republished here with permission. Lindell was one of the first pastors to platform former Mars Hill Pastor Mark Driscoll in 2014, after Driscoll abruptly resigned amid allegations of bullying and arrogance. Lindell has continued to platform Driscoll over the past decade, despite Driscoll’s former elders stating Driscoll is “unfit” for ministry. However, Lindell’s endorsement of Driscoll came to an unceremonious end last month when the two pastors had a very public feud. Turner told The Roys Report (TRR) that Lindell has not responded to his letter. We reached out to Lindell for comment but did not immediately hear back.

April 18, 2024

Pastor John, 

As a former Executive Pastor, Executive Elder, and Board Member of Mars Hill Church, I empathize with what you and your family have gone through this last week. I am sorry. As someone who has witnessed Mark’s duplicity firsthand, I know how traumatic this can be. 

As a pastor, please watch this video after my interview with Julie Roys, remembering the trauma of Mars Hill Church. LINK

Your tax-deductible gift helps our journalists report the truth and hold Christian leaders and organizations accountable. Give a gift of $50 or more to The Roys Report this month, and you will receive a copy of “Ghosted: An American Story” by Nancy French. To donate, haga clic aquí.

Under Matthew 18, I am sending you the below communication: 

I must draw your attention to a grave matter. Despite the elders of Mars Hill Church disqualifying Pastor Mark from ministry in 2014, you provided him with a platform. You have actively aided in his reestablishment since 2015, not considering the harm that Mark Driscoll caused while leading Mars Hill Church. 

In July of 2021, the 41 former elders of Mars Hill provided a statement to warn people (like members of James River and, specifically, Trinity Church) that Mark Driscoll was repeating his behavior of the past. However, you, Jimmy Evans, and Robert Morris ignored that. To my knowledge, the three of you men never reached out to any former elders of Mars Hill, which allowed Mark to use you and your platform to continue to build a church and a ministry that has hurt people. 

During the last ten years, leaders of large ministries (Brian Houston, Carey Nieuwhof, Randy Robison, and Robert Morris) have platformed Mark Driscoll to rebuild his brand and change the factual narrative. escribí about the new narrative. 

In January of 2022, I posted all the transcripts of the investigation of Mark Driscoll conducted by the Elders of Mars Hill Church. This action was forced because pastors of large churches, like James River, ignored what Mark had committed at Mars Hill Church. The investing elders at Mars Hill Church were godly men; many were volunteer elders of our 15 campus locations. In groups of 2 elders, they interviewed over 40 people to get their direct statements before they prayerfully came to their conclusion. 

The elders of Mars Hill found Mark Driscoll disqualified from ministry based on these three things (Document attached): 

· Quick-tempered, including harsh speech. 

· Arrogant 

· Domineering in his leadership of the elders and staff

I no longer revolve around the mega-church world. I empathize with the situation you are currently in. I write to remind you of the pastors and elders of Mars Hill Church, who you ignored, and these men tried to warn other pastors that Mark was not qualified for ministry in 2015. I remind you of the thousands of people in Washington, Oregon, New Mexico, California, and now Arizona that Mark’s unrepentant behavior has hurt more people. Please remember these people who were a part of his churches, who sacrificed for the church, and who carry deep wounds because of it. You can now acknowledge people from your platform and directly apologize to them. 

Sutton Turner

This letter has been reprinted con permiso.

Sutton Turner was Executive Pastor, Executive Elder and Board Member of Mars Hill Church from 2011 to 2014.  He, Mark Driscoll and Dave Bruskas served together leading the church. Sutton has over 30 years of experience leading companies as CEO across US, Qatar and Abu Dhabi, as well as two stints in full-time ministry with Mars Hill and Celebration Church. He is married to Marci Turner of 25+ years and has three kids. They live in College Station, Texas.

The Roys Report has featured Sutton Turner on a two-part podcast regarding Mark Driscoll (click below to listen).

Mars Hill, Mark Driscoll, Sutton Turner

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12 Respuestas

  1. This letter indirectly points out a megachurch issue that smaller churches will need to address. By continuing to platform men like Mark Driscoll, his message and behaviors are being condoned. However, how many small churches are condoning men like Mark Driscoll, John MacArthur, and Brian Houston each week in their church programming? How many small churches perform Hillsong worship music on Sunday morning? How many small churches use megachurch pastor Bible study materials? How many small church members listen to megachurch sermon radio shows during the week? How many small churches take a delegation of members to conferences where megachurch pastors are the headline speakers?

    In this letter that Julie posted in 2020 (https://julieroys.com/guest-post-open-letter-to-julie-roys/), Paul Lundquist very directly shares his thoughts on megachurches and advises readers to find a small church where a “humble, unassuming servant of God preaches.” However, if this small church is platforming the megachurch system via the content consumed by it’s members, at what point does a small church essentially become a de facto megachurch satellite?

    Not platforming known frauds like Driscoll is an obvious step, however if the megachurch system itself isn’t addressed, others like Driscoll will quickly move in to take his place. As Paul Lundquist says, “all multisite megachurches are spiritual Chernobyls. Run away.” In my mind, this includes running away from the materials and content produced by this corrupt system.

  2. Article X (Discipline), Section 3 (Causes of Disciplinary Action), subsection C (Relational/Ethical Misconduct) of the Assemblies of God bylaws states that some of the reasons for a minister to be placed under discipline are:
    (3) A contentious or noncooperative spirit
    (4) An assumption of dictatorial authority over an assembly
    (5) An arbitrary rejection of counsel from district leadership (this could apply to his rejection of his own elders’ discipline)
    (9) Moral or ethical transgression other than sexual misconduct

    Driscoll would be placed under church discipline in the A/G. So why invite him to an event sponsored by an A/G church?

      1. When ministers are dismissed/defrocked, I don’t believe the reasons are made public (we usually only know the reasons if they are revealed through unofficial channels, such as media reports surrounding a scandal).

        I do know of a situation in a local A/G church where the kids’ pastor had gotten full of himself. He was de-platformed for a year to work on his character (he still had a job at the church, helping write kids curriculum, behind the scenes admin work, but no preaching or teaching where he would be in front of a group). His attitude changed, and he has gone on to be a great pastor.

        My point was that you shouldn’t invite a guest speaker who would theoretically be subject to discipline in your own organization, regardless of whether those reasons have been used to take away credentials at any time. And especially if that person skipped out on the discipline/restoration process in a previous church.

  3. Good job Sutton! I hope many others will follow your example. The ministry in the United States is so entrepreneurial it’s easy to think that it’s none of our business. But, we are the body of Christ.

  4. I’ll make this as simple as possible. These celebrity pastors who defended Driscoll in the early days following the Mars Hill meltdown did so because those individuals who were crushed and ruined by Driscoll JUST DIDN’T MATTER. They were not celebrity pastors, they were just little peasant Christians. It’s so interesting that J. Evans told Driscoll to repent for his sin against pastor John Lindell.
    Of course Evans did because Lindell matters. He’s one of the important guys. The important guys club looks after their own. No need for Evans to tell Driscoll to repent for his sin in Seattle. The sheep there were just expendable and collateral damage that sometimes happens when the “annointed” ones are “doing the Lord’s work”.

    1. Re:Billy J. Foote – this was so well said. I really empathize with your sentiments as a survivor of this kind of top-down, narcissistic spiritual abuse. There is certainly a “VIP preachers club”

  5. More evidence that the mega-church celebrity pastor making machinery needs to be shut down. The fruit borne by this phenomenon has been consistently bad.

  6. I don’t get this report, nor do I understand the comments attached.

    Mark Lindell hosted the performance of a sword-swallowing act at a church-related men’s conference.

    The sword swallower performed shirtless and regularly performs at gay venues, which along with the sword-swallowing component tends to give his act a very sexual overtone.

    Mark Driscoll called out the hosting pastor, Lindell, for these reasons, which seem quite relevant; Lindell seemed quite deserving of criticism for this.

    Although Driscoll’s timing was off, what he purportedly said about the act, and its inappropriateness was accurate, yet here he is being condemned for what people perceive as serious character flaws unrelated to his critical comments.

    Shouldn’t we give the man credit for standing up to something that was wrong? Come on, people, get real!

    1. I think this is more in relation to Lindell’s use of his church’s Wednesday night prayer meeting (live streamed on YouTube, with the recording promoted by the church on social media for several days afterward) to make a public call for MD to repent of allegedly trying to sow discord in the Lindell family and “destroy James River Church.” Sutton is basically saying, “Hey, you invited the guy, knowing Driscoll’s past as a loose cannon and someone who runs from correction. Don’t be surprised at the explosion in your living room when you rolled the keg of gunpowder into the house.”

      I still maintain that the past 4 weeks of drama (and countless commentary videos on YouTube) could have been avoided if Lindell, rather than interrupting Mark, had let him finish his comments, then afterward said, “We don’t see eye to eye on this, but I do recognize that the performance may have been offensive to some people here, and it probably wasn’t the wisest move to hire that entertainment for the opening of the conference. We’ll try to be more careful in the future.”

      If that had been done, it would have all blown over in 2-3 days.

    2. Sutton doesn’t appear to be addressing what happened at the conference; he is questioning why James River Church and John Lindell were platforming Mark Driscoll in the first place. If you are unfamiliar with Driscoll’s history, I would invite you to check out the Mark Driscoll link on Julie’s investigations page as well as the podcast “The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill.” https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/podcasts/rise-and-fall-of-mars-hill/

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Your tax-deductible gift helps our journalists report the truth and hold Christian leaders and organizations accountable. Give a gift of $50 or more to The Roys Report this month, and you will receive a copy of “Ghosted: An American Story” by Nancy French.