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Mark Driscoll The Trinity Church

Is The Mark Driscoll Comeback Real? Elijah Sermon Series Review

Mark Driscoll remains one of the most polarizing figures in Evangelicalism. The fall of Mars Hill became the subject of the podcast by Christianity Today who used these events as a thinly veiled attack on patriarchy. Yet Mars Hill, in actuality, is more of a story about the failures of the multicampus megachurch model and trying to preach orthodoxy and orthopraxis in an extremely liberal area. Mark Driscoll was a jerk and even publicly repented of his sins. Yet there is no evidence that the other elders there were any better. And thus, the system collapsed after Driscoll resigned. And while using church funds to astroturf a book may seem unethical, it’s not embezzling as someone else had to sign off on that and execute the order. Additionally, a fiduciary, let alone missional, justification can be given for the expenditure. As years have gone by Mark Driscoll has started a new church, The Trinity Church, in Scottsdale, Arizona. Many would say that he is permanently disqualified, although I am unconvinced being a jerk is permanently disqualifying, and we’ve largely only heard one side of the story.

Mark Driscoll remains incredibly unpopular with two camps: theological liberals like Christianity Today and hardcore cessationists, like many allies in discernment ministry. This is fascinating, as a discernment reporter who came about after Mars Hill. When I hear Driscoll in interviews, he gives exceedingly good commentary on the church, he acknowledges past mistakes, and he’s willing to go places no other celebrity pastor is going. Additionally, when you look at church history, there are a lot of Early Church Fathers and Reformers with far more checkered records than Driscoll, but we do not dismiss them. So, as practicing discernment in Scripture is labeled as testing the spirits (1 John 4:1), I set out to see whether the resurgence of Mark Driscoll is legitimate or not.

Mark Driscoll has gone viral for his series on Elijah, which has been used to showcase his Real Faith Ministry outlet. The series is titled “Elijah: New Days, Old Demons.” And this is a twelve sermon series to see if the comeback is real or not. The series contains some of Driscoll’s most watched sermons ever and produced several viral clips.

Ground Rules

Just like with our discernment verdicts, secondary issues are not a basis for labeling people false teachers. Neither are they fair ways to judge a sermon. Or at least, theological hot takes are not a basis for discounting a sermon. I listen to plenty of sermons where pastors give theological hot takes I do not agree with, and in the interest of equal weights an measures, this same standard will be applied to Driscoll. Mark Driscoll has multiple segments across multiple sermons explaining why he believes cessationism is wrong. Additionally, he is also dispensational in his teaching. I thought the final sermon in the series, titled “When Will Elijah Return to Earth for His End Times Ministry,” would be completely dispensational but it wasn’t, thank God.

The Good

Mark Driscoll explains that both Ahab and Jezebel were under the demonic influence, referring to the spirit of Jezebel in Revelation 2:20. He teaches that the Jezebel spirit is domineering and sensual. He teaches that the Ahab spirit is passive and tolerant, in other words emasculated. He does a good job at pointing to these manifestations in modern day.

Mark Driscoll does an exceedingly good job at relating the story of Elijah to Jesus and the New Testament. Admittedly, the story of Elijah is not the hardest text to find Jesus in, it was nonetheless well done.

The last sermon in the series made a prescient point about pastoral succession. He discussed how it was wrong for senior pastors to be retired and have a search committee without them on it. Driscoll applies Elijah and Elisha to how churches handle retirement and ultimately replacement.

The first and fifth sermons are the best, which seems to be the popular consensus as they also have the most views.

The Concerns

The biggest concern with the series came in the sermon titled “What Causes and Cures Spiritual Depression?” Mark Driscoll applies our modern understanding of depression to the text. It’s conjecture to say that Elijah had depression, as it is to apply any mental illness to the text. And the reason this sermon stood out as a particularly weak sermon is that mental health is an industry that largely exists to create more lifetime customers. Taking their narratives and reading them into Scripture is a red flag. It must be noted that Mark Driscoll is far from the only pastor that buys into the Freudian/APA propaganda.

Additionally, I wonder whether Driscoll’s comments along the lines of “government sucks” are used as cheap applause lines. This concern is unique to Driscoll. Driscoll also claims he wrote the book that the sermons series is based on in one day which seems dubious, but I don’t have the word count of the book or at least the initial draft of the manuscript.

Conclusions

Driscoll also makes an argument about Elijah mocking the prophets of Baal, an argument that I wrote in my upcoming book as well. Interestingly, this interpretation suddenly became controversial when the video clip went viral because Driscoll made the argument. But perhaps that’s the issue and that’s what God is up to here. Mark Driscoll is saying things that conventional pastors are not.

Driscoll has some bravado, specifically with his comedic delivery, but he is not the egomaniac that is Rick Warren. Having never listened to a Mark Driscoll sermon before, I was surprised by the amount of meat in a sermon series dressed in megachurch pageantry.

False teachers get worse over time and believers get better because the reprobate decays while the elect is sanctified. I have a hard time believing that the evidence shows that Mark Driscoll is getting worse over time, and this sermon series is evident of that.

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