High profile pastor Mark Driscoll told his Mars Hill megachurch congregation Sunday that he will take a six weeks leave of absence while church leaders delve into complaints from former members, acccording to an article in today's (Monday, Aug. 25) New York Times newspaper. Driscoll, the founder of the church, has been accused of "spiritual bullying" among other things by 21 former church leaders.
Driscoll, who built the church from scratch to a weekly attendance of 15,000 across 15 campuses in five states, returned from a weeklong vacation to address his flock in a pre-recorded statement. The orator who has attracted people to his church who probably would never attend church anywhere else, was in a conciliatory mood Sunday as he aplogized, saying, "I am very sorry for the times I have been angry, short or insensitive. I am very sorry for anything I have done to distract from our mission by inviting criticism, controversy or negative media attention."
He further said, "Storm clouds seem to be whirling around me more than ever in recent months."
What will the controversial New Calvinist do next?
He announced his immediate plans were to "take a leave of absence for at least six weeks as he decided what to do next and while Mars Hill reviewed complaints against him." His fate with the church he founded in 1996 with wife Grace appears to be hanging in the balance while Mars Hill leaders sift through the complaints from former members which mostly revolve around bullying allegations.
Driscoll, 43, is the son of a union drywaller, who saw his life change when he met wife Grace, the daughter of an evangelical preacher. He said he felt God directed him to marry Grace, teach men and plant churches. He has done this with incredible success by starting the Acts 29 organization which has planted churches across America under his leadership. However, the allegations against him resulted in Acts 29 disassociating itself from the gifted, though controversial pastor.
The name of the organization is based on the book of Acts which has only 28 chapers. It's title indicates it is the next chapter in the growth of the modern day church. Former friends and allies now run the organization which he founded along with Mars Hill Church in Seattle.
Driscoll waxed philosophical during yesterday's presentation, saying, "This is one of the paradoxes of being a pastor in the media age. The same media channels that can be used to carry a sermon to virtually anyone around the globe can also be used by anyone to criticize, attack or slander. However, another part of it is simply my fault, and I will own it, confess it, and move on from it as God continues to redeem me."
Driscoll vaulted into the spotlight of the evangelical world when he crated a giant megachurch in the Pacific Northwest which is supposed to be one of the most secular in the United States. He has carved a niche for himself by drawing countless young men to his church using a formula of rock music, blunt discussions concerning sex and sin, and an emphasis on masculinity.
Will Driscoll's incredible success in attracting a new segment of the population in secular Seattle be enough to overcome the complaints of spiritual bullying? In six weeks we will know better the future of Mark Driscoll and whether it includes the church he founded.
Renowned preacher John Piper has tweeted recently that people should pray for Driscoll during this difficult season. Piper has supported Driscoll. While he has criticized Driscoll's "Song of Solomon" sermon delivered in Scotland, he has served as a mentor to the gifted orator and generally supported his right to continue in the pulpit of the church he started.
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