Mark Driscoll: "Victim" of CEO Church Theology

For those of you who are unaware, Mark Driscoll is the outspoken and controversial founding pastor of "Mars Hill Church" in Seattle, Washington, which in 2013 boasted an average weekly attendance of over 12,000 people, with 15 locations in over 5 states.

As many are aware, Driscoll has voluntarily taken a leave-of-absence while the elders of his church investigate allegations of pastoral misconduct and abuse. Driscoll was recently removed from another ministry, "Acts 29," a church planting organization that he founded, over similar accusations that he now faces in his church.

Driscoll has recently admitted to some deep character flaws that he's had over the years as pastor. Some of which seem to form the basis of the current scandal associated with him and his church. In recent comments he's made publicly, he states that these actions merely represent a younger less mature Mark Driscoll of years gone-by. Many pastors, both past and present at Mars Hill, seem to think otherwise. In the coming weeks, we'll learn what happens as a result of these investigations.

The real problem with Driscoll, in my mind, isn't so much his specific character flaws or sinful actions.

Rather, it is the mindset and theology of which Driscoll and many pastors have long operated under. In the last few decades, this mindset has reached something of a climax. And like a bubble that has been stretched to its breaking point, I believe we are at the point in history where something bigger is about to burst in the church.  I believe we'll see things like this play out more and more.

It may be strange to hear, but I truly believe that Mark Driscoll in many ways is a victim of the CEO mentality that long ago crept into pastoral ministry.

That's not to say his character problems aren't genuine character problems that need to be fixed. Indeed, they are. A bad ministry model isn't merely to blame here.

However, I believe at it's heart that Mark Driscoll's recent "fall" isn't just a simple character issue that can be addressed with a little confession, repentance, and time-off from ministry. Rather, the challenges he faces in regard to his character has grown directly out of a broken leadership model that permeates the American church, and can be found in churches both big and small.

Unless we address this broken ministry model, the church will only be able to superficially address the problems related to pastors such as Mark Driscoll and others. As a result, no real healing and restoration will ultimately be able to take place, and the church will continue to limp on.

The CEO mentality ultimately makes it almost impossible to speak into a pastors' life.

Why?  Because he's on the top of a giant pyramid, and nobody can truly call him into account, or freely speak into his life, for he has nobody in the church that is his equal.  The structure of which he is a part of insulates himself from the body of Christ at large, and even from other pastors within the church.  As the CEO of a church, Mark Driscoll and others have no people in the church that they can consider their brothers.

And like many other men who sit on top of somebody else, people in his position tend to dominate everybody underneath them.  It's just something that happens, and even the godliest of men have the inability to resist doing so.  God never wanted men to be kings for a reason.  The only man God wanted to be a king He hung on a cross.

As a result of this broken ministry model, if another genuinely concerned pastor speaks up about something they object to their pastor doing, that person opens themselves to grave risk in regard to their job security.  For such is the equivalent of calling out your boss at work, and that usually doesn't tend to work out very well in most professions.  Pastoral ministry is no exception.

Thus, there is little surprise that over the years there has been a very high turnover rate of pastors at places like Mars Hill Church. And this is because some people have dared to speak out, only to find out in doing so, they placed a bad bet, and discovered such behavior wasn't allowed.

As a result of all this culture that dominates the American church, the character flaws and sinful attitudes Mark Driscoll possessed have grown like a snowball rolling down hill. Instead of somebody being able to lovingly speak into Driscoll's life and address the sinful attitudes that were developing, his sins have grown entirely unchecked for years.

And because of the CEO mentality that Driscoll has presumed in his ministry, he has created a platform in which his sins have been magnified beyond the sphere of the local church, and knowledge of them spreads across much of the world.

Instead of being a CEO, had Mark Driscoll merely been one of hundreds of pastors who oversaw the life of Mars Hill Church, you and I would've never heard of the scandal that has rocked his church of late.  It wouldn't have become a story that the local newspaper in Seattle would be able to cover, let alone all the other outlets in which this has become a topic of discussion.

But, because Driscoll operated under a model of ministry that made him a superstar CEO in the church world, his sins have been broadcast across the globe, and brought untold reproach on his life and ministry as a direct result.  He is no longer above reproach, and is not well thought of by very many people.  By all accounts of Biblical reasoning, he appears no longer Biblically qualified to be engaged in pastoral ministry.

Such I find to be a very sad thing.  And it is a sad thing that could've been altogether avoided had Mark Driscoll operated under a very different model of ministry.

It is my contention that God did not call Mark Driscoll to be the CEO of a church. Nor has he called any other pastor to be one.  And the sooner we get that, the better off we will all be.

Rather, God has called pastors to be humble men of local reputation, who have the glorious opportunity to simply share their lives with others, and teach mankind what it means to believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and what it looks like to follow Him in their everyday lives.

But many have seen the calling to pastor as something other than this. They see it as an opportunity to do "something big," and to enlist as many people as possible to help them implement their personal long-term goals and visions, and to create giant larger-than-life organizations.

Many pastors today say that God is the inspiration behind their drive, platform, vision, and aspirations. But I have this sneaky suspicion that God has birthed none of it. I feel like these big things are something a little more American born and bred, and did not enter this world with Jesus Christ in a manger.

The apostles didn't build media empires or churches with a unique branding to them.  They didn't set themselves up as CEO's.  Rather, quietly labored among others, simply aiming to share the life they had in Christ with whoever would allow it.  In the process they planted churches that were usually very small, and once established, they quickly handed the leadership of those churches over the the people who composed their new venture.

They left very few things for us to remember them by.  We mostly have a collection of stories and the occasional letter from a couple of them.  Largely, their works and names have long been swallowed up by history, as they were relatively unknown by most people in their day, and have remained such even to the present.

The apostles were cautious men that fought against anybody who might make a celebrity out of them.  They refused to be elevated above anybody else, and preferred to serve instead of lead.  They had but one goal, and that was to make the name of Jesus Christ known to those who never knew it before. They had no interest in drawing men unto themselves. They only had an interest in drawing men to Christ.

(Note:  The purpose of this article is not to shine a light on the specific misconduct of pastor Mark Driscoll or bring undo attention to him. Rather, I am writing this article in hopes that I can shine a light on a greater problem I believe I see in the church, and that problem is much greater than one man. It is a problem the church has struggled with for quite some time.)


  1. Good word, Jimmy. I have a friend who once attended a large pastors' conference. They discussed many issues pastors face-- pastor burnout being one of the main ones. Upon returning from the conference, my friend mentioned to me that there was one thing they didn't address: the question of whether or not one pastor overseeing a church is even God's will in the first place.

    1. Too often we are guilty of asking all the wrong questions!

  2. I agree with you about the CEO model. But I think there is a bigger picture that it is contained within. And that is the "local church as a business model." I have a business degree. One thing I noticed a long time ago is that business ($$$) has a very different bottom line then Jesus. Jesus Himself said that you cannot serve both God and Mammon. You are going to love one and despise the other. According to his own words if you love the business bottom line then you hate God. So by bringing the business model in with all of its trappings, including church business meetings and a board patterned not after anything scriptural but after successful businesses, you are also bringing in a conflict of bottom lines that the local church cannot get away from. I see this business model of doing church as a perverted model that does not, indeed cannot, bring about increased godliness in the church members. This model puts an unnecessary barrier between Christ and his church members. That model did not exist in the church that Christ started with his disciples.

    1. I agree with you. While I think that there will always be a business element to the church (money is involved after all), I think we would do well to distance ourselves from business mindsets. Instead of seeing the gospel, ministry, and the church as a product to be marketed and sold, we need to have a change on mindset that looks at the church more of a close family unit. In doing such, the likes of Driscoll would have a very hard time finding a place to flourish.

  3. Stunned that one the one hand you can write this, which rings like pure truth, and on the other, attend a church presided over by one of the handful of people in the world perhaps more rapacious, more selfish, more controlling and more given to pure narcissism and greed than Mr. Driscoll himself. Please, for your own sake, get out.

    1. I recently left Elevation Church and now attend a much smaller church that isn't run by a goofball celebrity. :-)