(Photo: Resuregence Conference 2013)
Megachurch pastor Mark Driscoll recently apologized via an internal letter to his congregation for using a marketing company that promoted his book Real Marriage through what he now sees as a manipulative method to help place the book on top of the New York Times best seller list.
"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," Driscoll stated in the letter. "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."
Earlier this month, after a report that the Seattle-based Mars Hill Church he pastors paid a promotional company $210,000 three years ago to make sure that Real Marriage, co-written by Driscoll's wife, Grace, made the New York Times best-seller list, the church released a "Note From Our Board of Advisors and Accountability." In addition to describing a shift in the way decisions made by the church administration are reviewed, the Board addressed the book promotion controversy.
However, the more personal letter from Driscoll, 43, was released on Mars Hill Church's internal social network on Sunday after the controversy did not seem to subside last week. In the letter, he also wrote that his "angry-young-prophet days are over" and that he seeks to replace them with a model that looks more like "a helpful, Bible-teaching spiritual father."
He admitted that 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," he writes. "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."
Driscoll said that he would be taking an indefinite hiatus off of social media, including Twitter and Facebook. He also stated that he would be traveling and speaking less, and that he would be talking to his publisher about how to take care of his existing obligations.
Janet Mefferd, who hosts a daily radio show on Salem Radio Network Host and who initially confronted Driscoll in November on claims that he plagiarized portions of his books, told The Christian Post she was not satisfied with his statement and called it "PR spin" and "mushy church talk that really fooled nobody who has followed his ministry closely."
"If he were really repentant, he would have fully copped to everything, including serial plagiarism, and he would have stepped down from his ministry all together," Mefferd told CP. "That's what a truly repentant man would have had done."
The radio show host added that Driscoll avoided mentioning allegations that he had plagiarized parts of his books and sermons, although his website made it clear that anyone who used his material had to properly cite his work.
"He spent a lot of time in the letter talking about how he and the church did things wrong. It was a 'we situation' instead of fully taking responsibility himself," continued Mefferd. "I think one notable place is where he said 'I find all of this relieving.' Well, I don't believe this has been relieving for him at all. I believe this has been a PR nightmare."
Mefferd also blasted Driscoll's news that he will be teaching at Corban University and Western Seminary in the fall.
"Who in the world would put this man in a position of teaching at a seminary or a college? Somebody who is a known, unrepentant plagiarizer? Who would do that? Why would a Christian seminary hire him? That's beyond belief to me," said Mefford.
Driscoll's letter to his congregation has been published in whole and in parts on various media sites. However, Mars Hill Communications Director Justin Dean told CP that a letter from Driscoll "was posted to our internal network as a private family communication" and he could not confirm whether each instance of the private letter posted online is accurate or not. "At this time we have chosen not to publicly release the letter," Dean stated.
In the letter published online, Driscoll also rejected the "celebrity pastor" label that some have used to describe the Seattle pastor.
"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," he noted. "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."
Christian Post reporter Alex Murashko contributed to this article.