My first introduction to Mark Driscoll was his book Radical Reformission. I enjoyed it and was challenged by it. So I wrote him a letter telling him that I appreciated the stand he took for biblical truth and the clear way he communicated the gospel. We exchanged a few emails and had a phone conversation. When I told him I was planning to attend his Resurgence conference in the spring of 2006, he was kind enough to invite me to speak. That was my first trip to Mars Hill Church in Seattle. While I was there I got to meet a group of Acts 29 pastors at Mark's house. These were gospel-centered, mission-minded men who were passionate about building local churches and reaching lost people. They reminded me of the pastors I know and love from our Sovereign Grace family of churches (the main difference being that Acts 29 guys dress a lot better.)
Since that trip, my interaction with Mark has been limited. Mostly I pray for him, listen to online sermons when I get a chance, cheer him on from a distance and ask the Holy Spirit to protect him from saying something that will launch WWIII. In the past year I've had the chance to hear him preach in person at two very different conferences. At one he was alongside John Piper, David Wells and D.A. Carson. At the other he was in a lineup with Ed Young, Jr., T.D. Jakes and Craig Groeschel. Few guys run in such diverse circles. But Mark pulls it off, all the while staying true to the message and his own unique brand of smash-mouth exposition.
In the past year or so I've been encouraged to see a friendship develop between Mark and C.J. Mahaney. I've benefited so much from C.J.'s investment in me; I knew only good things could come from their interaction with each other. So this past week when I heard that Mark had preached on humility during his series in Philippians and referenced C.J.'s influence, I wanted to hear it for myself. I wasn't surprised by the kind words Mark had for C.J. but what caught me off guard was the very humble and specific confession that Mark made to his church.
Justin Taylor has posted a full transcript of his opening remarks and I've posted a video clip of his comments at the end of this post. But here's a portion of what Mark shared that I found very compelling:
I believe that humility is the great omission and failure in my eleven years of preaching. I believe that this is my greatest oversight both in my example and in my instruction.Mark goes on to talk about the influence his example has had on his church and the way that C.J.'s friendship has touched his life. Much is already being written about Mark's words in the blogosphere, and I'm sure much more will be added in the days to come. All I'd like to point out—and this is obvious but I think worth saying—is that what he did in this confession is no easy thing. He didn't just write a blog post, he spoke these words before his church. And he did it at multiple services. And he did it knowing that his words would heard by critics and used by rabid bloggers to attack good and true things he's said in the past. It wasn't easy because he took responsibility, he didn't pass blame. And he acknowledged that his example has influenced others. It's not easy to acknowledge mistakes and sin to people you're trying to lead. But that's what Mark did. And I'm sure that those who follow him at Mars Hill only respect him more because of it.
I therefore do not claim to be humble. I do not claim to have been humble. I am convicted of my pride, and I am a man who is by God's grace pursuing humility.
So in many ways this is a sermon that I'm preaching at myself, this is a sermon you are welcomed to listen in on as I preach to myself.
But I truly believe that were there one thing I could do over in the history of Mars Hill it would be in my attitude and in my actions and in my words to not only emphasize sound doctrine, encourage in strength and commitment and conviction but, to add in addition to that, humility as a virtue.
And so I'll start by asking your forgiveness and sincerely acknowledging that this has been a great failure.
Mark Driscoll is good at a lot of things. I take notes from his example in a number of areas. He's good at leading. He's good at casting vision. He's good at taking a bold stand. He's good at challenging men to be men. He's good at preaching clear, biblical, culturally relevant sermons.
But what this latest sermon confirms for me is probably the most encouraging trait that I've observed in his life: Mark Driscoll is good at repenting. There are few skills more important for a follower of Christ to possess. Few things more vital in the pursuit of humility.
Two passages from God's word come to mind when I watch this clip from Mark's sermon. Proverbs 13:20 says, "Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise". Mark has chosen a wise companion, and I can think of no better instructor in learning to walk humbly, than my friend C.J. Mahaney. And James 4:6 says, "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble." I believe the work that the Holy Spirit is doing in Mark's heart will only lead to more grace and more influence.
I thank God that he saved Mark Driscoll and called him to preach the gospel. I praise God for the work he's used him to accomplish in the building of Mars Hill. And I thank God he's helping him to grow in humility so that God's spirit can do even more in and through him in the years to come.