Pastor Mark Driscoll of Seattle-based Mars Hill Church has taken an apologetic tone recently, even during Sunday sermons, while the most recent controversy surrounding the normally unashamedly brash Christian leader entails criticism of the way his book, Real Marriage, was marketed.
"I love you (the church) very much and I want to do the best job that I can, and I'm devastated when I don't," said Driscoll during a sermon about the power of "the tongue." "Jesus gave His best and you deserve the best."
On Friday, after a report that Mars Hill 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.
"In 2011, outside counsel advised our marketing team to use Result Source to market the Real Marriage book and attain placement on the New York Times Bestseller list," the Board's statement read. "While not uncommon or illegal, this unwise strategy is not one we had used before or since, and not one we will use again. The true cost of this endeavor was much less than what has been reported, and to be clear, all of the books purchased through this campaign have been given away or sold through normal channels.
"All monies from the sale of Pastor Mark's books at Mars Hill bookstores have always gone to the church and Pastor Mark did not profit from the Real Marriage books sold either at the church or through the Result Source marketing campaign."
The Board noted that a recent article (WORLD, Unreal sales for Driscoll's Real Marriage), incorrectly reported that Pastor Sutton Turner was the general manager, not the executive pastor or executive elder, at the time he signed with the referenced agreement with Result Source. "In the time since this campaign we have established a new Executive Elder team, new Board of Advisors and Accountability, as well as a new marketing team," the Board stated.
Driscoll himself has not publicly addressed the book's marketing. However, The Christian Post was forwarded a video clip showing the introduction to his recent sermon in which he addressed his career as a whole in regards to how he has changed over the years.
"When we started Mars Hill I was more like an angry young prophet," he said. "Very loud, very intense, and honestly had a lot of anger. As I'm getting older, what the Holy Spirit is really convicting me of, especially in the last year, is that I need to be more like a spiritual father. My tone needs to be fatherly, more like with a son or a daughter. Which means you can say hard things, but you say them in helpful and appropriate ways."
He explained that he was "not the man that I was, and I'm still not the man that I want to be but I'm still continuing in that process by God's grace."
"The things I regret the most in the 18 years I've been teaching at Mars Hill is when I said the wrong thing, I said it to the wrong people, or I said it with the wrong tone," he said. "This section of the Bible, hands down in the Book of James, is the most convicting for me."
He added, "Before I teach you anything, I've got some things to learn. James says we shouldn't just seek to be teachers, because there comes some responsibility with teaching. I love being able to teach the Bible at Mars Hill."
Pastor Tim Smith, who is the lead pastor at Mars Hill Church Portland and has been on staff in one capacity or another at Mars Hill Church for more than 14 years, told CP via email that when he started in 1999, Mars Hill was a young church plant of a few years and had a couple hundred people.
"I have seen most of the growth, conflict and controversy, having been through all but the earliest chapters of the church," Smith said. "Almost everything about the church has gone through many changes over the years, myself included. Two things that have not changed in this time are: Pastor Mark's commitment to the Bible in the home and church, and his commitment to introduce others to whom the Bible reveals, Jesus!
"Pastor Mark's commitment to the Scripture and making Jesus known have changed my life and the lives of so many others," he continued. "He is not a perfect man but he is constantly growing and changing to be more like Jesus. We have sinned against each other and repented. We have struggled in our marriages and families and become better husbands and fathers. We both started off as very volatile young men eager to prove themselves through what we could accomplish. By God's grace I have seen Mark grow in both of these areas, particularly in recent years, and that has challenged me to do the same. I have seen Mark grow as a husband, father, leader and pastor consistently and if that were not the case I simply would not still be at Mars Hill after all these years. No one has had more of an impact on me as a husband, father, leader, pastor and follower of Jesus than Mark. He's very, very far from perfect but God has used him powerfully in my life and so many others."