Mark Driscoll, who resigned from his position as senior pastor of the Seattle-based Mars Hill Church in October amid controversy regarding his leadership style, will reportedly deliver a sermon at James River Church on Sunday. However, some fear the embattled pastor's return to ministry may be too soon.
According to the Seattle pi, James River is an Assemblies of God church led by pastors John and Debbie Lindell near Springfield, Missouri.The megachurch hosts upwards of 9,000 worshippers each Sunday and once attracted 17,000 people in a record breaking Easter Sunday service.
Driscoll's upcoming appearance at James River comes on the heels of his emergence at Gold Creek Community Church north of Seattle, where he revealed he is attempting to recover from the events of the past year, including his dismissal from the Acts 29 church-planting network, which he co-founded, and the removal of his books from LifeWay's 180 Christian bookstores across the states
"I'm still in the middle of it. Lord, what do you have for me?" said Driscoll to congregations at Gold Creek.
Driscoll is also scheduled to make an appearance at the annual Hillsong Conferences in Sydney, Australia, and London, England, where he will be interviewed by the church's lead pastor Brian Houston.
While some in the Christian community have applauded Driscoll's decision to return to ministry, others, including former Mars Hill deacon Brian Jacobsen, believe it's too soon.
"Mark is unrepentant," Jacobsen told The Seattle Times. "Should Driscoll try to get a new church off the ground," he said, there would be an "awful lot of people who would oppose him in any way they could."
Jacobsen has joined with other former Mars Hill members in threatening a lawsuit seeking a full accounting of alleged financial impropriety at the church, alleging that money collected from congregants was redirected to buy thousands of copies of Driscoll's book, Real Marriage, in order to give it placement on The New York Times best-seller list.
Jacobsen emphasized that he hopes to see Driscoll go through a period of restoration and accountability that would finally provide answers to where the money that passed through Mars Hill has gone.
Rose Madrid-Swetman, lead pastor of the small Vineyard Community Church in Shoreline, also expressed fears that Driscoll may not be prepared for a ministry return, telling the Seattle Times, "It is astounding to me that they would overlook this," she said, referencing "the very credible people" who have spoken out against Driscoll.
Driscoll's resignation from Mars Hill, a church he planted in 1996 that grew to a 15,000-member congregation, came after he took a six-week leave of absence from preaching and leading.
His resignation came amid allegations of plagiarism, misappropriation of funds and an unhealthy ego.
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.