Divisions emerge over Mark Driscoll's new church

Mark Driscoll

The saga of Mars Hill and its aftermath is continuing to generate division in the evangelical Christian community as sharp differences emerged in response to Mark Driscoll's decision to plant a new church.

Perry Noble, pastor of New Spring Church, has spoken warmly about Driscoll's return to ministry in a video on his Facebook page.

Addressing questions around whether Driscoll should be starting a new church, he cites passages by St Paul from Timothy and Acts: "I'm going to choose to believe in Pastor Mark and Grace as they set out on this endeavour to plant a church." He says he supports them 100 per cent; Driscoll might have hurt people but so has everyone. He has "learned from it" and has "ministry left in him", Noble adds.

"Christians are the only army in the world that shoot their wounded," he continues. "Here's a man who messed up, made some mistakes, admitted it." Now Driscoll is "starting over," Noble says. Christians should stop judging each other and instead pay attention to the billions of people who do not know Jesus. He says he cannot wait to have Driscoll and his wife at his leadership conference and concluded: "The best is yet to come."

How I personally feel about Mark Driscoll starting a new church.

Posted by Perry Noble on Tuesday, 2 February 2016

However, former Mars Hill Church elder Dave Kraft wrote in response: "Perry, I appreciate your heart in all of this, but do wish you had done your homework and exercised due diligence by finding out what really happened at MHC! I'm afraid you are in the dark about the truth of what transpired and why The Acts 29 network, Paul Tripp and 30 former elders believe that Mark Driscoll disqualified himself and needs to make some things right before stepping back into pastoral ministry! I appreciate your ministry, read your books and value your leadership wisdom."

Warren Throckmorton, a psychology professor at Pennsylvania's Grove City College and long-time expert blogger on the story at Patheos, commented: "It seems as though Perry Noble cares more about Driscoll's return to ministry than the people who lost their confidence in church. Noble's concern is clearly for Driscoll but I hear nothing about the people in Seattle who have desired all along to hear from Driscoll and makes things right."

Throckmorton concludes: "What is amazing about real Christianity is that reconciliation is still possible. Based on my conversations with former Mars Hill Church members and leaders, it isn't too late for everyone to heal up together."

Driscoll had announced on Twitter the launch of his new church.

The new church will be in Phoenix, Arizona, and comes less than two years after he resigned from Mars Hill in October 2014. Four male pastors will provide "wise counsel". They include Larry Osborne, a former member of the board of advisers at Mars Hill, as well as Randal Taylor, Jimmy Evans and Robert Morris. Taylor, Evans and Morris also sit on the church's legal governing board, or board of directors.

The church's website contains a list of other church leaders praying for Driscoll's new venture, and these supporters include Noble.

Mars Hill in Seattle disbanded following Driscoll's resignation as accusations of bullying, plagiarism, emotional abuse and manipulation mounted against him. "He took over a year off from local pastoral ministry to learn, repent, grow, heal, and meet with many people involved,"  the website states.

Laura Turner, writing for Religion News Service, says: "Driscoll has left a wake of destruction so severe that the entire network of churches he founded had to shutter its doors. He has never taken full responsibility for his abusive tactics, never apologized to many of the individuals who he wronged, and doesn't appear to have absorbed much of a lesson at all from his failings."

She adds: "It is possible that Driscoll has learned from his past mistakes, and that he moves to Phoenix a wiser man. But a slight increase in wisdom isn't all that is required of him, and he certainly hasn't shown enough to bow out of church leadership altogether. He should find a new job for a while; one that doesn't involve leading anyone or taking a paycheck from a church."