There is a crisis in the church planting community. Many pastors have a horrible marriage and families are falling apart, said Mark Driscoll of Seattle megachurch Mars Hill on Thursday.
Not one to mince his words, Driscoll spoke explicitly of how the wives of church planters are at least as likely to betray the marriage covenant as their husbands. But Driscoll blames the husbands for the broken families. He blasted pastors for neglecting their wives and children and treating them as free staff rather than someone they should love and serve.
"I know thousands of pastors … maybe tens of thousands at this point," said Driscoll at the Church Planter Acts 29 National Boot Camp in Seattle. "Very rarely do I get to know a pastor and his wife well and find a marriage that if he was married to my daughter I wouldn't assault him."
For many church planters, the ministry has become an idol and a measure of their personal righteousness, said Driscoll, a prominent leader in the church planting movement. Although church planters say they are working for God, for some, it is really for their own glory, he contended, because if it was really for God then the pastors would do it biblically.
The Seattle pastor shared real stories of wives of church planters who committed emotional or physical adultery, of a church planter who committed suicide, and another who was found to have pornography on his computer, leading to a crisis in his young church plant.
"We don't need more church planters, we need more godly men," said Driscoll. "If we have more godly men, some of them will be church planters."
Driscoll spoke on the last day of the church planter conference hosted by Mars Hill. The conference, organized by the Acts 29 Church Planting Network, focuses on the vision of church planting, the calling of the planter, the mandate to multiply churches and the theological foundation for Gospel-centered church planting.
Mars Hill is part of the Acts 29 Network, which is made up of churches in the United States that want to see God move again through believers going out and plant churches like in the book of Acts.
Throughout his talk on Thursday, Driscoll rebuked fellow church planters for neglecting their wives and children thinking that once the ministry is settled they will go back to take care of their family. But the Seattle pastor said that never happens.
"If that guy's house is a joke why would we give him God's house?" Driscoll questioned. "If that guy's family is a joke, why would we give him the family of God? If that guy cannot evangelize his own kids, then why in the world would we pay him full time to do mission? If that guy cannot encourage and cause his own wife to flourish, why in the world would we give him a congregation?"
He noted that many people spewing anti-Christian ideologies are disgruntled children of the church with fathers who did not properly raise them.
"If you were married to my daughter, would I be pleased with you? Your wife is God's daughter. God has given you one of his daughters. [To]some of you – to use the metaphor extended – [He has given] his grandbabies," Driscoll said. "Is He pleased with how you are treating his daughter and grandbabies?"
After sharply reprimanding church planters, Driscoll gently invited his wife, Gracie, to the stage. The two then revealed they had made many of the same mistakes that Driscoll had just condemned during their early years of church planting in Seattle. But they were able to turn their marriage around after many years of neglect.
"We will not use your family to plant a church," Driscoll said. "We will not allow you to use your family to plant a church. You don't use your family, you love your family and serve your family like Christ does the church."
Mars Hill has at least 10 campuses throughout Washington state and in Albuquerque, N.M. The church has some 24 services each weekend among its multiple campuses.