In a rare public appearance, former Mars Hill pastor Mark Driscoll recently spoke at a leadership conference where he opened up about the toll taken on his family over the past several months and how he is relying on the Holy Spirit to help him forgive those who have wronged him.
Speaking at the annual Thrive Conference held at California's Bayside megachurch on Friday, Driscoll referred to Matthew 26:31, in which Jesus quotes Zechariah, saying "I will strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered."
"I don't want to take this opportunity to talk about me--I want spend this time to serve you," he told attendees, emphasizing that he wanted to speak specifically to "struck shepherds."
Driscoll first highlighted the immense toll taken on his family by the last year's events, which included his resignation from Mars Hill following allegations of plagiarism, bullying, and an unhealthy ego.The pastor explained that he, his wife, and his five children became the targets of protests and continual media coverage, forcing them to move three times. At one point, their driveway was blocked by reporters wanting an interview and a helicopter flew over the house, causing his eight-year-old son to believe that they were about to be attacked by "bad guys."
"I didn't sleep...I was emotionally wrecked," Driscoll said, explaining that one morning, angry protesters began throwing rocks at his home.
Driscoll revealed that in October, God told him to resign from Mars Hill. After he did so, the pastor said he and his wife felt "released" from their duties. During his time away from the ministry, Driscoll said he did an in-depth, "six-month study" on the subject on forgiveness.
"When sin happens, someone has to pay. Forgiveness is where the offended pays," he said. "As shepherds, we can sometimes preach a message of forgiveness without practicing it."
However, he clarified that he was not claiming to be "entirely a victim," for "sometimes when the shepherd is struck it's because they've punched themselves in the head."
The pastor then prayed that God would "send the Holy Spirit to help us forgive those who have struck us and struck our families".
While many in the audience appeared sympathetic to Driscoll's testimony, others expressed disappointment in his seeming lack of repentance and humility.
Another attendee, Pastor James Miller, later blogged: "Driscoll just gave a long lecture on forgiveness without asking for it... In fact, it seemed like the entire lecture was aimed at his need to forgive those people who had wronged him."
He added: "What lingers after Driscoll's resignation is that he evaded his Board's plan for a disciplinary procedure. He never really reconciled with those whom he had harmed, and after all of his talk of forgiveness, it would have been so simple and so graceful for him to ask for it. Perhaps that was to be the implication that was to be drawn from the whole talk - that Driscoll now needs forgiveness too. But the weight of the graphic imagery of the abuse of his family left us with the undoubted impression that Driscoll was a victim who now needed to forgive those who had wronged him."
However, Miller noted, "There are few communicators like him, and in the right place, with humility and supervision, he could live a life of effective ministry for Jesus."
The subsequent fallout from the implosion of Driscoll's leadership and ministry at Mars Hall eventually led to the church's closure, with its satellite campuses closing, merging with other churches or becoming stand-alone congregations. However, Patheos blogger Warren Throckmorton has revealed that Driscoll may be planning to plant a new church in Phoenix, Arizona.