unfit
Mark Driscoll speaks at The Trinity Church on Sept. 27, 2020. (Source: Video Screengrab)

‘Unfit’: Former Mars Hill Elders Call for Mark Driscoll to Step Down from Pastorate

By Sarah Einselen

Dozens of former Mars Hill Church elders today called for Mark Driscoll to resign, citing “a pattern of sinful actions” making him “presently unfit for serving the church” as a pastor.

In a letter published by Christianity Today, 39 former elders who had worked with Driscoll in the Seattle megachurch’s later years said they believe Driscoll is repeating behaviors at his new Arizona church, The Trinity Church, that ultimately torpedoed his ministry at Mars Hill.

“We are troubled that he continues to be unrepentant despite the fact that these sins have been previously investigated, verified, and brought to his attention by his fellow Elders, prior to his abrupt resignation,” the letter reads.

The Mars Hill board of elders investigated formal charges against Driscoll in 2014 and found evidence of bullying, intimidation, and spiritual abuse. But rather than submit to the elders’ plan for restoration, Driscoll resigned.

“Accordingly, we believe that Mark is presently unfit for serving the church in the office of pastor,” the letter goes on. “Knowing that we have no formal authority in this current matter, we hope that Mark will voluntarily resign his position immediately.

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“We also hope that those who have influence over Mark would encourage him to do so,” the letter adds.

Driscoll launched The Trinity Church in Scottsdale, Arizona, two years after leaving Mars Hill, with support from several high-profile pastors and a governing board of leaders outside the local area.

The former Mars Hill elders, who CT reported represent the majority of those who served Mars Hill between 2011-2014, expressed disappointment with leaders who “provided a ministry endorsement from a distance” rather than taking the accusations against Driscoll seriously.

“This ‘translocal’ advisory structure has allowed Mark to avoid the accountability he needs,” the letter states.

Several former Trinity Church members have recently come forward alleging Driscoll continues to be abusive and controlling.

The former head of Trinity Church security has said Driscoll requires unconditional loyalty and is guarded like royalty. He and another former staffer have said church funds are used in questionable ways, too. And his in-laws and those of another Trinity pastor say the church has ruptured their relationship with their children and grandchildren over perceived disloyalty.

The former Mars Hill elders also released a statement written by the Mars Hill board and delivered to Mars Hill church members at an in-person meeting in 2014. That statement summarized the elders’ findings after investigating accusations against Driscoll.

They found him to be “quick-tempered,” “arrogant” and “domineering,” according to the 2014 statement. They also said the elders would’ve removed him from all church leadership positions until he had come to “a place of repentance and godliness.”

Statement from Former Mars Hill Church Elders

Statement from Former Mars Hill Church Elders

Sarah Einselen is an award-winning writer and editor based in Texas.

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26 thoughts on “‘Unfit’: Former Mars Hill Elders Call for Mark Driscoll to Step Down from Pastorate”

  1. I don’t understand how the people at his new church have been so easily ensnared by him. Did none of them read about the collapse of Mars Hill? Have none of them ever googled the pastor’s name? Have none of them seen anything posted or written anywhere about the past problems that are now repeating themselves? How can they not know?

  2. He has never been the problem. The grifters are never the problem. The sheep that continue to show up and tithe and get fleeced and have no backbone to say to themselves (hey this isn’t a shepherd or teacher, I’m gone) YOU are the problem

    1. Driscoll’s as much of the problem. If he didn’t act badly he’d still be at Mars Hill. I agree, though, that people who fail to exercise caution are equally to blame. It’s not like Driscoll’s a no-name; he’s well known and there is plenty of evidence for his actions.

  3. Robin Wiggins

    People want a king, but that’s not what a congregation’s supposed to be about. The fellowship is supposed to be a body with no part greater than the other, all working together. There is no role of pastor in the New Testament described as the single leader over the fellowship. That head kahuna doesn’t exist and it really hasn’t in the last 2,000 years. Pastor is listed as the fourth of five gifts useful for the church in Ephesians 4, it is not The Leader of the church. I defy anyone to show me where it says or implies that.

    But since people want a king, the Lord allows them to put one over them. Should they be surprised if they get a Saul who throws their young men and women tot he slaughter? Should they be surprised when their king rules over them harshly and with cruelty like the leaders of the gentiles? Nope, it’s what they’re asking for.

    I think one bright side to this is the foolish, blinded people who want those kings tend to find them, and that sort of quarantines them from the true Body of Christ.

    1. Sally Wickland

      Well said! Although I’d point out two negative examples of big kahuna’s over the flock. 3 John 1:9 Diotrephes who loved to have the preeminence among them, and Acts 8:10 Simon the Sorcerer to whom they all gave heed.

    2. Outstanding Robin. I have said this many times and people think I’m crazy. A lot of these mega churches are fiefdoms. The king aka pastor the knights aka the associate pastors and the serfs aka the staff and congregation. And low to the serf that speaks Ill of your knights or king. In the old days by now some of us would have burned at the stake for blasphemy because GOD WILLS IT. The horror stories of our Christianity from around 300 to around 1800 is actually sad and frightening.

  4. Two question interview for prospective pastors and references:

    Are you a humble shepherd?

    How are you one, and how do you stay one?

  5. Jesus is the chief shepherd of the flock. If he doesn’t submit to Him, don’t expect him to submit to others. Don’t hold your breath regarding his resignation. The Lord will deal with it on His timing, in His way, for His glory.

    1. I think the Lord uses His people to call wayward preachers to account, but I do agree that there will be a time when Jesus says, “Enough!” Spoken from one who did not heed the instruction of the Lord and was given years of grace.

  6. Fred Monninots

    This guy was knee deep in questionable antics years ago…and no one called him on it because he was bringing the suckers in.
    Trouble is by the time he gets this far, he then has garnered a cultlike following.

  7. Julie and Sarah, I’m not sure you’re doing the Driscoll story justice. This is multifaceted, but you’re only seeing, “Mark is bad and unfit.” That’s an extreme judgment based on accounts that I’ve read.

    You’re ignoring the bigger picture of what is going on with the former Mars Hill guys. They tried this whole path of “We are the rightful authority of Mars Hill. Mark is bad. It wasn’t his church. We can do this without him.” They tried that. They failed utterly. They closed the doors on one of the most impactful churches in West Coast history. Let that sink in for a minute. They’re the ones who got the keys to the boat and ran it aground.

    The leadership at Mars Hill had over 6 years to right the ship, but they sunk it. Where are the hard questions for them? If Mark was the problem, then why couldn’t they get the church going? How do you think they feel to see Mark doing in well in light of their failure? Frankly, Mark has been rather gracious to not speak out against them in ways that he could during this time.

    It’s true from all accounts that during 2010- 2014 Mark was no peach. And maybe he shouldn’t be a pastor. I don’t think I would want 2014 Mark to be my pastor. I don’t think anyone of us know enough about 2021 Mark to say that, outside of the leadership at his current church. But one thing is certain, a team of bitter, ex-elders pontificating from a thousand miles away and two angry ex-security guards who think Mark is controlling don’t get to make that decision.

    Also, just as an FYI, pastoring on the West coast is extremely different than in the Midwest. The issues of security are like. nothing I’ve seen in the Eastern part of the USA. What might seem crazy to you- the way Mark is protective over his family- is not abnormal in the West. I was at a small church in CA for three years, but I experienced major security issues. My personal safety was something I thought about frequently. My children were put in threatening situations because of my position. We had Law Enforcement at our church at least once a month. We were a church of 300. I can imagine the grief he gets from west coast crazies is extremely challenging for his family. I cannot understate the issue of security out there.

    1. This is the first article we’ve run specifically focused on Mars Hill and what happened in 2014. Most all of our reporting has not focused on what Mark Driscoll is currently doing at The Trinity Church and the allegations of bullying, 24/7 surveillance of disfavored members, rating staff and members’ loyalty to see if they should be shunned or given access to the Driscoll family, no elders or accountability, etc… What’s happening now–even disregarding what happened in 2014–is deeply concerning.

      As for the 2014 former elders of Mars Hill, I can’t speak to what they did in 2014. I was not involved in reporting the Mars Hill story then. However, I have spoken with several of them now. None seem bitter. Instead, they seem alarmed that Driscoll continues to harm sheep.

      1. Paul Tripp said something like, ‘this is the most dysfunctional church I’ve ever seen,’ after being called in to Mars Hill to try and bring Driscoll to repentance and heal the brokenness. I think in the end Driscoll rejected Tripp’s counsel.

    2. As a former member of Mars Hill I just want to point out that the elders who remained after Mark resigned did not fail at all. In deciding to start independent churches from the former MH campuses, they kept things afloat! Many of these churches are still going and from what I’ve heard are doing well. No, not all of them have flourished, but it’s not at all like you’ve characterized it.

      I think it’s dangerous to judge these men as bitter. Even if you know them personally, pointing the finger of accusation of “bitterness” at anyone should never be used the way it has become in many Christian circles today. I’m not sure anyone can ever really know another person’s heart that well, for one thing. And for another, it’s become a weapon that people aim at anyone who dares to speak out against what they see as wrongdoing. “You don’t like what I’m doing? You’re just bitter.” There. Now we don’t have to take them seriously. It’s right up there with the secular version–disgruntled.

      1. Thanks Dawn. Glad to hear some of the churches are doing well! I think the bitterness claim is justified by the documents the elders have released on their own accord. I would also argue that there is more solid evidence to support their bitterness than Driscoll’s lack of fitness.

      2. It helps to hear this clarification — that they didn’t “close Mars Hill”, but (sort of) cut everybody loose to be their own congregations.

    3. I think the “We just don’t know what Driscoll is like today so we shouldn’t say anything” defense falls flat here.

      We have numerous people on record describing what’s going on in Scottsdale as basically the same behaviors as before, but without the accountability structure that got in Driscoll’s way last time. In fact, this polity of this new church, such as it is, seems constructed specifically to avoid anyone holding him accountable for anything.

      All the marks are there. Appointing people who are loyal to you for family reasons to leadership posts. Putting people in your debt with gifts. A culture of surveillance and paranoia. Social credit scores that attempting to identify and shun anyone who might be disloyal before they become a problem.

      Driscoll seems to have learned from his past mistakes, but not in the way you’d hope.

    4. But how many people were going there because of Driscoll?

      Look at Willow Creek post-Hybels. Or a couple of cases from DFW years ago: Robert Tilton and Word of Faith, and Larry Lea and Church on the Rock. One building now houses a Baptist church, the other torn down for an ice rink.

      If people go because of the leader, when he leaves whether on good or bad terms, they leave too. There’s not much a church leadership can do in those circumstances.

    5. Mars Hill failed after Driscoll left because the leadership culture was locked in his manner and theology. Only Driscoll could’ve made that church successful in number—but not in a Biblical and spiritual way. Yes Mars Hill was responsible for making a positive impact on many of its congregants. But too much damage through lack of grace and forgiveness and restoration eventually destroyed all the good at the church did. Church deep rooted in the character of Jesus will always be successor. A church that is rooted in the character, morality and theology of one person rather those of Jesus will fail.

      And by all accounts, Driscoll’s new church is headed for the same end similar to what he caused at Mars Hill. It’s only a matter of time before the Lord ends Driscoll’s self-serving ministry for good.

  8. That photo of Driscoll at the top:

    Half Amos from The Expanse, half DeCaprio’s slaveowner from Django Unchained.

  9. Casual Observer

    With this statement, it’s official that EVERY former pastor/elder at Mars Hill has come out against Mark Driscoll in some way during his 25 year career as a pastor. He literally has NO ONE on his side anymore.

  10. Jeremy Nakasone

    With this, it’s official that every single former elder or pastor has come out against Mark Driscoll over his 25 year career as a pastor. He has no one left on his side, he’s burned all those bridges.

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