Mark Driscoll apologises for being 'angry young prophet'

Mark Driscoll says he is reaching out to all those he has hurt, and wants to now focus on his family and immediate church community.

Megapastor Mark Driscoll has responded to a recent wave of criticism with a statement that contends "my angry young prophet days are over".

With conservative teachings on the roles of men and women in particular, Driscoll is well known for being a loud voice in many hot-button issue debates.

He leads Mars Hill Church in Seattle, which attracts around 14,000 people to its services each week, and is one of the fasted growing churches in America.

He has recently faced criticism, however, for using underhand tactics to ensure his book 'Real Marriage' – co-written with his wife Grace – made it onto bestseller lists.

Published in December 2011, the book was ranked #1 on the New York Times hardcover advice bestseller list on 22 January 2012. It emerged recently that the church had used ResultSource Inc to market the book.  The company was paid over $200,000 to buy the book in bulk, the result being to manipulate sales figures.

This has caused significant outrage and has bought Driscoll's integrity as an author and church leader under question.

Mars Hill responded quickly to this report with a statement reading, "While not uncommon or illegal, this unwise strategy is not one we had used before or since, and not one we will use again," and Driscoll has now spoken personally on the matter, with a letter sent out to members of his congregation in which he apologises for his actions and other recent controversies.

"I will do my best to clarify a few things without, I hope, being angry or defensive," he writes, before noting that the words '#1 bestseller' will be removed from all future publications of his book.

He discusses "the crushing weight of responsibility" he has felt as a leader over the past few years, saying he has been "overwhelmed" and "frustrated at my shortcomings".

"In my worst moments, I was angry in a sinful way. For those occasions, I am sorry. As I've expressed in several sermons, I needed to mature as a leader, and we needed to mature as a church."

He also apologises to those his teachings have "hurt": 

"In the last year or two, I have been deeply convicted by God that my angry young prophet days are over, to be replaced by a helpful, Bible-teaching spiritual father.

"I understand that people who saw or experienced my sin during this season are hurt and in some cases have not yet come to a place of peace or resolution. I have been burdened by this for the past year and have had private meetings one at a time to learn from, apologise to, and reconcile with people.

"Many of those meetings were among the most encouraging moments in my time at our church. Sadly, not all of those relationships are yet mended, but I am praying that God is gracious to get us to that place of grace. Now that others have come forward, my desire is to have similar meetings with those who are willing."

Going forward, Driscoll has committed to taking a step back from social media in order to "reset" his life. He labels it as an unwanted distraction, while also announcing that he will cut back on travelling and writing in the next year to make more time for his family and church community.

"Personally, I find this all relieving. The pressure and pace has increased every year since I started in 1996. I don't want to be burned out or angry, and I want to become more like Jesus every year. I want to teach the Bible, love well, and run at a pace to finish my race many decades from now," he writes.

Driscoll finishes by asking for prayer, and expressing his desire to build real family at Mars Hill. He signs the letter "with the Father's affection – Pastor Mark Driscoll".

The letter has been received well by the Christian community.  Although it was intended only for members of Mars Hill Seattle, a user uploaded the full document to Reddit.

John Mark Comer of Bridgetown Church in Portland tweeted, "Proud of Driscoll for this much needed move", while Scot Mcknight, theologian and professor at Northern Seminary in Illinois added: "Mark Driscoll gets a handshake from me for this."

Ray Ortland, lead pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville Tennessee, has also praised Driscoll's humility in a blog for the Gospel Coalition, writing: "He owned up. And that's amazing."

"When a Christian man repents, two things immediately kick in for everyone else around him. One, we may look for changes. Things should be different from now on. Not perfectly, but visibly. Two, we should cheer for him as he grows and sees things in a new way and makes adjustments," Ortland writes.

"But let's understand what just happened. His repentance just pulled the rug out from underneath all the Driscoll-haters out there. He shifted the moral burden to them. Not that that was his purpose. But it was an outcome."