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Former Mars Hill Church Pastor Mark Driscoll Opens Up About Painful Toll On His Children

( [email protected] ) Oct 24, 2014 08:03 PM EDT

Mars Hill Founding Pastor Mark Driscoll
Pastor Mark Driscoll was the former pastor of Mars Hill Church.

Pastor Mark Driscoll, who submitted his resignation letter last Tuesday to Seattle-based megachurch Mars Hill, the church that he founded 18 years ago, spoke publicly for the first time since he took around two months off from the pulpit on Monday (Oct. 20) at a leadership and worship conference in Dallas, Texas.

Speaking of "a rough season for the family," Driscoll shared how he has "cried a lot lately" for feeling remorseful about his mistakes, but also seeing his family living under fears and anxieties caused by "death threats, physical assaults," and constant media bombardment.

"We've moved three times for safety issues, people arrested at our home ... address posted online," said Driscoll, father of three boys and two girls, ages 8 to 17. "More recently, it has gotten very severe." He said he discovered rusty nails left all over the driveway, woke up from camping out in their backyard with his sons in a tent to "huge rocks about the size of baseball" flying at them, causing them to flee inside the house for cover and safety.

A few days later a helicopter from the press flew over their head and tried to flush them out to get a story. That night, his eight-year-old son came to him, wearing a military jacket and loading up his Aerosoft rifle, and asked if the jacket was bullet-proof.

"I just looked at him and started crying, and I asked him, 'Why is that, buddy?'"

"He says, 'Well, it's bad guys in the helicopter coming to shoot the family, right?'"

"He didn't have any concept of media coverage. He thought it was bad guys coming to shoot our family, and he was going to defend his sister," said Driscoll.

His son is now finally able to sleep in his bed again, but Driscoll lamented that "it's been a while to get him to do that with night terrors."

"I just want to come here to sing, to pray, to learn, to grow, to repent, to heal, and God has surrounded me with some great pastors and friends," he said. "And if I could just say anything is that every pastor needs a pastor. And you pastors, your family needs you there to be their pastors."

Robert Morris, pastor of Gateway Church near Dallas, said Driscoll requested to come to the conference as an attendee. "That was big of him to just come and be ministered to," he said, adding that Driscoll had spoken with him the night before his resignation.

"We could crucify him, but since someone's already been crucified for him," Morris said with his voice slowly fading. "It's very sad that in the church, we're the only army that shoots at our wounded. And I'd like you to stop it."

Related: Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill May Recover 'If They Take Time to Heal,' Says Church Succession Expert 

In July, Driscoll, who has been accused of plagiarism, bullying and an unhealthy ego, has apologized for mishandling the dismissal of several of the church's formal staff. Subsequently, he was dismissed from church-planting Acts 29 Network, which he co-founded, and his books pulled from LifeWay's 180 Christian bookstores across the states.

In August, he confessed and repented specifically to "past pride, anger and a domineering spirit" and requested to take a minimum of six week leave of absence from the while the Mars Hill Board of Accountability make formal review of charges made against him by various people.

In his resignation letter first obtained by Religion News Service, Driscoll explained that it is evident that his personality and leadership style were "proven to be divisive within the Mars Hill context." However, he does not want to become a source that causes further detraction from the church's mission to lead people to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, concluding that it would be best for his family's health and for Mars Hill family to separate after "seeking the face and will of God, and seeking godly counsel from men and women across the country."

Mars Hill Board of Overseers released a statement on Oct. 15, a day after they received Driscoll's resignation letter, confirming the charges of "arrogance, responding to conflict with quick temper and harsh speech, and leading the staff and elders in a domineering manner."

The board also affirmed that their church's founding pastor has "never been charged with any immorality, illegality or heresy," and stated that some of the accusations made "to be altogether unfair or untrue." They do not believe him to be disqualified from pastoral ministry, which Driscoll and his wife, Grace, expressed their gratitude for this assurance.

Mars Hill Church Pastor Mark Driscoll
(Photo: Mars Hill Church)

In his letter, Driscoll wrote that "recent months have proven unhealthy for our family - even physically unsafe at times - and we believe the time has now come for the elders to choose new pastoral leadership for Mars Hill."

In addition to conveying his voluntarily resignation, Driscoll said he hopes "to convey to the wonderful members of the Mars Hill family how deeply my family and I love them, thank them, and point them to their Senior Pastor Jesus Christ who has always been only good to us."

Morris said he was talking with Driscoll the night before he resigned from the church that he has pastored for 18 years. He said he preached for about 10-12 years, 50 weeks a year, sometimes six services a weekend.

"I'm glad that he's saying, 'Help me do it differently and better,'" he said.