Mark Driscoll Posts an Open Letter of Apology

The ongoing saga of pastor Mark Driscoll's public image has been the source of headlines. The frequently controversial leader of Seattle's Mars Hill church has been accused of everything from plagiarism to gaming his way onto the New York Times Bestseller list. There have been troubling stories from inside the church, and a few tweets that might be described, at best, as "ill-advised" have made the rounds.

Sunday, Driscoll posted an open letter of apology in Mars Hills' online social network The City, saying he has been "deeply convicted by God that my angry-young-prophet days are over" and acknowledging "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." Driscoll also outlined plans for a new team of pastors to hold him accountable.

It's worth noting that Driscoll issued a similar apology back in 2007.

Here is the letter in its entirety:

Dear Mars Hill Church,

Thank you.

I have received a great deal of love and encouragement from you for more than 17 years. I genuinely appreciate every person who prays for my family and me. Also, I continue to find great joy in teaching the Bible every week to people I have grown to love with a father’s affection.

For those of you who have been around for a while, it is amazing for us to see all that Jesus has done. People often ask if our church today resembles what I had originally planned. Not even close. The smallest location of a Mars Hill Church is bigger than what my total vision was for the whole church when we started.

As the church grew over the years, it was clear that both the church and I were unhealthy in some ways, despite some wonderful people and amazing things that the Holy Spirit was doing in and through them. For years, I felt a joy in teaching the Bible and love for the people, but frankly was overwhelmed on how to organize and lead all that was happening. I felt the crushing weight of responsibility but did not know what to do, and I lacked the abilities to figure it out. I was frustrated at my shortcomings, but needed help from people who were more experienced and mature. 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.

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. Those closest to me have said they recognize a deep change, which has been encouraging because I hope to continually be sanctified by God’s grace. 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, apologize 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.

In the past few years, we have also made significant improvements to how we are governed and organized as a church. This has been difficult, but long overdue. The Board of Advisors and Accountability is a great blessing to us all, as they combine wise counsel and strong oversight during this process. I have been a pastor for a long time, but have not had a close pastor since college. I now rejoice that God has been gracious to give me pastors for accountability and wise counsel. Through their counsel to confess my own sin, while not being distracted by the shortcomings of others, the Holy Spirit is making me a better man and pastor, which I pray helps us to become a better church. This is the truest and strongest pastoral love and accountability that I have ever had and I thank the Lord for it. Pastor Dave and Pastor Sutton have also joined me as Executive Elders. They have been very helpful in getting my team and me to the most unified, loving, and healthy place we have ever been. I really love our church, and I see where it was unhealthy, where it has gotten healthier, and where we can continue in that path. I am very encouraged by where we are and where we are going.

However, this process has required a lot of changes, and admittedly we did not handle all of these changes equally well. We are fully aware of and grieved by ways we could have done better with a more effective process and more patience, starting with me. I am deeply grieved and even depressed by the pain we have caused. Many have chosen to air their concerns online, and I apologize for any burden this may have brought on you, and I will do my best to clarify a few things without, I hope, being angry or defensive.

First, a marketing company called ResultSource was used in conjunction with the book Real Marriage, which was released in January 2012. My understanding of the ResultSource marketing strategy was to maximize book sales, so that we could reach more people with the message and help grow our church. In retrospect, I no longer see it that way. Instead, I now see it as manipulating a book sales reporting system, which is wrong. I am sorry that I used this strategy, and will never use it again. I have also asked my publisher to not use the “#1 New York Times bestseller” status in future publications, and am working to remove this from past publications as well.

Second, in recent years, some have used the language of “celebrity pastor” to describe me and some other Christian leaders. In my experience, celebrity pastors eventually get enough speaking and writing opportunities outside the church that their focus on the church is compromised, until eventually they decide to leave and go do other things. Without judging any of those who have done this, let me be clear that my desires are exactly the opposite. I want to be under pastoral authority, in community, and a Bible-teaching pastor who grows as a loving spiritual father at home and in our church home for years to come. I don’t see how I can be both a celebrity and a pastor, and so I am happy to give up the former so that I can focus on the latter.

When I was a new Christian at the age of 19, God spoke to me and told me to do four things. Today, I see that calling as: Love Grace and our family, Preach the Bible Train leaders (especially men), Plant churches. Other things may be good, but I do not have the time or energy for them right now. My family and our church family need me focused and energized, and that is my deep desire. Therefore, I will be spending my energies growing in Christ-like character by grace, staying connected to Grace and our kids, loving and serving Mars Hill Church which continues to grow, teaching the Bible, and serving Christian leaders through such things as blogs and podcasts at Resurgence. Starting this fall, I will also be teaching at Corban University and Western Seminary in Bellevue to invest in young leaders. For a season, I want to pull back from many things in order for us to focus on the most important things: glorifying Jesus by making disciples and planting churches as a healthy, loving, and unified church, with our hands on the Bible and our eyes on Jesus.

To reset my life, I will not be on social media for at least the remainder of the year. The distractions it can cause for my family and our church family are not fruitful or helpful at this time. At the end of the year, I will consider if and when to reappear on social media, and I will seek the counsel of my pastors on this matter. In the meantime, Mars Hill and Resurgence will continue to post blogs, sermons, and podcasts on my social media accounts, but otherwise I’m going offline.

I will also be doing much less travel and speaking in the next season. In recent years, I have cut back significantly, but I will now cut back even more. I have cancelled some speaking events, and I am still determining the best course of action for a few that I’ve committed to, as they are evangelistic opportunities to invite people to salvation in Jesus Christ, which is something I care about deeply. I will be doing very few media interviews, if any. Also, I’m communicating with my publisher to determine how to meet my existing obligations and have a much less intense writing schedule.

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. My health is actually in the best place it has been in recent years. I have a skilled and unified team that loves you and can handle more responsibility, if I can free up the time and energy to love them and invest in them. Grace and the kids are doing very well, and my family is still my joy and priority. This year we will have three of our five kids as teenagers, and our oldest will be a senior preparing for college. I don’t want to miss this season, as these are years I can never get back. If I am going to err, I want it to be on the side of guarding too much time and energy for family and church family rather than not enough.

To be clear, these are decisions I have come to with our Senior Pastor Jesus Christ. I believe this is what He is asking of me, and so I want to obey Him. The first person I discussed this with was our first, and still best, church member, Grace. Her loving agreement and wise counsel only confirmed this wonderful opportunity to reset some aspects of our life. I want to publicly thank her, as it was 26 years ago this week that we had our first date. She is the greatest friend and biggest blessing in my life after Jesus. When we recently discussed this plan to reset our life together, late at night on the couch, she started crying tears of joy. She did not know how to make our life more sustainable, and did not want to discourage me, but had been praying that God would reveal to me a way to reset our life. Her prayer was answered, and for that we are both relieved at what a sustainable, joyful, and fruitful future could be. As an anniversary present, I want to give her more of her best friend.

I have also submitted these decisions to the Board of Advisors and Accountability. They have approved of this direction and are 100 percent supportive of these changes. It’s a wonderful thing to have true accountability and not be an independent decision maker regarding my ministry and, most importantly, our church.

Lastly, if God would lead you to pray for me, the Scripture he has impressed upon me this past year or two is 1 Corinthians 4:15: “For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” As I get older, I am seeking to increasingly love our people as I do my own children in order for our church to be a great family, because of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

With the Father’s affection,

–Pastor Mark Driscoll


Debbie Sneddon


Debbie Sneddon commented…

This just breaks my heart, period. I have read several posts that weigh in on Mark Driscoll. I have learned from this man's sermons. He may have been brutal in the beginning but so was Paul, truth without love is brutal. Lifeway dropping his books? Really? I see so many with stones in their hands, accountability , yes, for this time I am dropping mine, all I have to give God is empty hands anyway. Obedience comes out of love, the more I realize He loves me, the more I believe Him & follow His ways. God please heal Mark & his family, send them people who truly will uplift & counsel them in Your name, Amen.

Adam Robinson


Adam Robinson commented…

People forget that Pastors are just people.
We are sinners because we sin. We sin because we are sinners.

We are all sinners. We all fall short every day. We screw up daily.
Regardless of what he does, we must forgive, forget and love him. He is our brother in Christ.
While he needs to be held accountable, he needs to be forgiven and loved.

Lisa Mathieson


Lisa Mathieson commented…

Yes Pastors are just people and they sin and fall short all the time. One thing we must remember and they are Jesus words...when he was speaking to Peter about him denying Him...He told him I have prayed for you that your faith my not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers. Jesus didnt tell Peter after you deny me go and take a year or two off to pay for your mistakes....He told him as soon as you have turned to continue on and strengthen his brothers. Too often in the church today we think we have the right to tell another brother or sister they have to do what WE think is right or wrong in the eyes of God. We need to shut up and just pray for the person. Mark if you ever do read blessed my brother and keep doing just as Jesus would.



Edgar commented…

He that began a good work in you is faithful and able to complete it unto the day of His return.

He is also the one who is able to keep you from falling

He will perfect all that concerns you sir.

Kara Johnson


Kara Johnson commented…

it disturbs me to see the response of people. People standing with the devil throwing rocks at a brother. The funny thing is no one is saying anything he has done was ok. He's not even saying that! SO to all those angry IT WAS WRONG! Yes, this we are all in agreement with. But Paul didn't tell peter you clearly are not cut out for ministry so you need to leave when he yelled at him in Galatians. Peter was being legalistic, racist and misleading jewish christians and hurting the gentile christian people causing them to be full of doubts and pulling them away from the gospel. He wasn't banished even though this was an ongoing issue. I have seen some of the most hypocritical behavior. People blogging, bashing and venting their anger over Mark's anger. Using snarky churchy speech and claiming everything they did was righteous or in love is insane. Ive learned the way to tell you're in sin is when you think your ever 100% innocent. There is always a better way we could have said something, or reacted better. Something we did not do perfectly and can improve upon. We are saved, not perfect. "he who thinks he is anything when he is not , deceives himself." I see a man who needs help and support and clearly needs leadership to come in. Not to take over, but be there to help and counsel and keep accountability. We are to chastise and support each other. Love each other, forgive each other. Jesus didn't say to forgive unless its a leader or the person hurt people. Thats part of sin. We sin and it hurts people. Leadership does need to be held to a higher standard, but that doesn't mean we forgive and show grace any less. We can't become legalists because when a paster fails more people are hurt. God is a sovereign God and He has always used the fallen men and women of this world to work through. We need to love each other and seek restoration and repentance. We grieve for Mark and his family and the struggles Mars Hill has and will continue to work through. We pray for wisdom that they will know how to act, structure themselves and a growing thriving organization. And we pray for those who were hurt by the mistakes and sins felt from leadership, whether known or not, that God will heal them and rejoice that" all things work together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose." They will get over it (not to be callous, but as a person who has gone through every form of abuse, massive financial, marital and emotional struggles basically losing everything at some time or another and made about every mistake possible I've come to realize even the depths of the worst sins cannot be penetrated by the overwhelming power of grace and used to work beautiful things not just in our world but in us. I cherish everything I've learned and gone through even though it seems so unbearably painful. I'm alive, not angry and even reconciled some of the most painful destructive relationships. Anything is possible ) PRAY FOR ONE ANOTHER!

Those of you who are hurt and confused, i pray God will heal you and comfort you and be a reminder that only He is our salvation. Not men. Men fail us (obviously) but God never will. People will eventually fail us and its important we learn how to trust and rely of God not man. God is there for you and He knows your pain,. We , the church family, love you and pray for you. Some of us are by you others are with you in spirit. Its not easy to forgive, but let the gospel of grace full you. That no matter how bad people are to you that God sees. Let God heal you and keep you soft. He will use this for good in your life. Love your enemies and i pray you ll come to a place of forgiveness. You will be made strong so that mans failures cannot shake your faith no matter how deep they cut.

For those who are angry i pray God will work out your frustrations and you will grow deeper in Him. That you will take comfort that God is the judge of people and he sees your pain. Also, that we can let go when people wrong us no matter how unfair show them grace and forgive. If we got what we deserved we would be in hell, but while we were yet sinners He loved us. He suffered and died to redeem us. He is there in our suffering. If God never gives up on us, never stops loving us and never denies us grace, how much more should we , who are sinners, always extend our loving hands to our brothers and sisters no matter how many times they fail us. Always be ready for forgive and embrace them, regardless of how they react.
Always putting them above us and our hurts.

And to those who failed and under fire standing by while others tear you down. I pray will feel to loving hand of God and know the family of God loves you. We all sin and fall short and I pray you will know that God will redeem you. He is our Judge and He has set you aside as His own. He forgives so while the world condemns and tears you down, know you are loved. Take comfort that Jesus knows your pain and He is with you in your suffering and that failures are apart of the sinners live. Learn, do not become bitter. Smile and lift your eyes for you are the sons and daughters of the living God. heirs. Our mistakes and failures, while wrong, cannot destroy the work of the Kingdom. God is sovereign. Repent, rejoice and press on! "This too shall pass" You'll be better for it in the end.

The longer we linger and bicker and fight, the more we focus on anger and justice rather than loving grace, the more we fall theological arguments choosing sides and forget how to love and support

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