Mark Driscoll, founder of Mars Hill mega church in Seattle, was voted as one of the 25 most influential preachers in the United States, in a 2010 poll taken by Preaching magazine. Although he has become one of the most controversial preachers in America, his sermon podcast frequently is number one in iTunes's Religion and Spirituality and his online audience has hit the 15 million mark annually.
Driscoll, as founding pastor in 1996, has led the church to great growth as it had a reported 6,568 members by November, 2013. An estimated 14,000 people attended the 15 locations across five states in the United States at one point in time.
Driscoll, who is the author of more than 15 books, and who has also written for CNN and The Washington Post, has also done columns for the Seattle Times. He founded Resurgence and was the co-founder of the Acts 29 Network which has started more than 400 churches in the United States and in 13 other countries.
Pastor Mark, as he is referred to on his website, started Mars Hill at age 25 with wife Grace at their home in Seattle as a Bible study group. Mars Hill was recognized at the third fastest growing and 28th largest church in the nation by Outreach Magazine.
Classified as a New Calvinism (Evangelical) Christian, Driscoll was born October 11, 1970. He has also been described as "hip yet hard-line." Born in Grand Forks, North Dakota, and raised in a Roman Catholic home, he is the oldest of five children and the son of a union drywaller. It was in high school that he met future wife Grace Martin, daughter of evangelical pastor Gib Martin.
The year 1989 was a transitional one for him as he graduated from Highline High School in Burien Washington. He served as student body president, editor of the school newspaper, captain of the baseball team and was voted "most likely to succeed." He met the criteria of a leader by anyone's standards. Then, at age 19 as a college freshman he converted to evangelical Christianity.
Driscoll recalled that, "God spoke to me....He told me to marry Grace, preach the Bible, train men, and plant churches....I began preparing to devote my life to obey God's call for me." The future leader of Mars Hill went on to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications from Washington State University with a minor in philosophy. He further earned a Master of Arts degree in exegetical theology from Western Seminary.
Driscoll's style is original. He said that while it is influenced by comedians like Chris Rock, others have described him as pacing the stage in sneakers and jeans while espousing Calvinism. His amalgam of influences has led to criticisms from both conservatives and liberals even as his influence as soared to unparalleled heights not only in Northwest United States, but also around the world. Conservatives have referred to him as "the cussing pastor". They don't approve of his distressed jeans and liking of indie rock. On the other hand, liberals criticize his hellfire theology and insistence that women should submit to their husbands.
He has cited among his influences Augustine, John Calvin, Martin Luther, Jonathan Edwards and Charles Spurgeon.
In the 1990s, Driscoll was connected to the emerging church movement. He described it as a "loosely connnected movement of primarily young pastors who are glad to see the end of modernity and are seeking to function as missionaries who bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to emerging and postmodern cultures. The emerging church welcomes the tension of holding in one closed hand the unchanging truth of evangelical Christian theology (Jude 3) and holding in one open hand the many cultural ways of showing and speaking Christian truth as a missionary to America (l Cor 9:19-23)."
However, he later modified his opinion of the movement, saying, "In the mid-1990s I was part of what is now known as the emerging church and spent some time traveling the country to speak on the emerging church in the emerging culture on a team put together by Leadership Network called the Young Leader Network. But, I eventually had to distance myself from the emergent stream of the network....."
He then criticized certain aspects of the movement including some of the leaders questioning God's sovereignty over and knowledge of the future, denial of the substitutionary atonement at the Cross, a low view of Scripture and denial of hell "which is one hell of a mistake."
Driscoll has expressed the opinion that Christianity has been "feminized" in modern America. In a 2006 interview with Desiring God, he said, "The problem with the church today, it's just a bunch of nice, soft, tender, 'chickified' church boys. Sixty percent of Christians are chicks, and the forty percent that are dudes are still sort of chicks....The whole architecture and the whole aesthetic of church buildings and services is really feminine."
Driscoll will never be accused of being a boring preacher. Whether a person disagrees or agrees with his theology and/or his style, no one can say he hasn't been a major influence on churches in the United States.
Before the last Super Bowl involving the Seattle Seawhawks and Denver Broncos he interviewed four of the players. All four said knowing Jesus Christ was more important than winning the Super Bowl. His knack for sensing the pulse of most Americans' interests has enabled him to reach many people who ordinarily might not have been reached.
While he has been the subject of criticism in recent days by some former members of his Mars Hill family, there is no doubt Mark Driscoll has left his signature on the modern pulpit in America. He has clearly accomplished his stated goals of planting churches, training men and teaching the Bible. Not to mention marrying his beautiful wife Grace.
He was voted as the 17th most influential preacher in the U.S. in the 2010 poll of Preaching magazine.
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