Mark Driscoll: The Greatest Preacher of our Time
As I sat in the dimly lit auditorium I looked around me and I was struck with the unusualness of the situation I found myself in. The auditorium was full of thousands of men. Not men in the sense of mankind but men in the sense of males. The average age of these men couldn’t be much higher than 30 as many of the faces I saw were that of teenagers. Surrounding me was several dozen of these teenagers who had come along with me from my hometown. I had done nothing to recruit for this event other than inviting a few guys and I watched it spread from there. No posters, no guilt trips, no endless reminders, just a few text messages.
So what had they all come for? One might expect it to be a massive sporting event or music festival but it was neither. What it was was an entire day of preaching, including the preaching of a fiery young pastor from Seattle. As he walked onto the stage, carrying with him a large chain wrapped around one hand, I watched as he immediately commanded the attention of every man in the building. Even the most easily distracted of students in my group put his phone away and for the next hour I did not see any head turn away from the man at the front of the room. Driscoll was speaking, which meant everyone was listening.
For that hour, his only resource was his Bible and his only illustration was that chain around his hand but it is a sermon I will never forget. The chain represented the legacy that God is calling every man to leave for the future generations of his family. Will you be a strong link in your families chain, or will the chain break with you? At the end he called upon the “weak links” to stand up and spoke directly to them. He spoke not with anger or malice, but with deep conviction and seriousness. There was a force behind his words that refused to let the hearer ignore them. I watched as a man in front of me began weeping and his son stood up beside him and embraced him.
The truth is a hard thing to come by, especially as one looking in from the outside and so we may never know what did or didn’t happen at Mars Hill Church. However I do not intend to attack or defend the actions of either Mark Driscoll nor Mars Hill Church in this posting but rather I want to give a tribute to whom I consider to be the greatest preacher of our time.
First and foremost Driscoll has always been a preacher of the Word, a herald of Jesus. It was his preaching that gained him international fame and it was his preaching that formed a hugely successful megachurch in one of America’s most secular cities. Through his clear exposition of the Bible, the Spirit of truth was poured out on millions. The words of the Bible, like the words of one who preaches it faithfully, are not always nice but they are true.
The first time I heard about the passionate young Driscoll was when I was about 18 and a friend of mine from summer camp insisted that I listen to a CD he had of Driscoll’s preaching. We sat in his car and I listen as I heard the Gospel preached in a way I did not know was possible. To be honest, until that point basically every sermon I had ever heard seemed dull, boring and irrelevant to my life. This is not to say that my perceptions were true but that is what my teenage mind had come to think of preaching. But Mark Driscoll was different. Even at 18 I would hang on his every word for his entire hour long sermons. He spoke with such conviction, such passion and such force that it was clear that nothing was more real to him nor more important to him than God and His Word.
Any church leader can tell you that young men are the least likely people whom you will find warming the seats of a church, let alone being involved in any meaningful way. Yet Mars Hill was bursting with them and in every evangelical church, camp, Bible school, youth group, Bible study group, etc. that I have been to, I meet young men whose lives have been transformed through the preaching ministry of Mark Driscoll. Not chauvinistic power trippers but Godly men, boyfriends and husbands who have responded to Driscolls call to self-sacrificially lead those they love to Jesus. He did not do this with flashy media, hip bands, great kids programs or any of the other things that churches try to use to attract people but rather he opened the Bible and preached for an hour or more and thousands came to listen and millions more tuned in online. The big buildings, the bands, the programming, and the school all came later and was all secondary to Driscolls primary passion; preaching. He was, as he always liked to remind listeners, just a nobody trying to tell everybody about somebody.
It is painful to speak truth. It is even more painful to speak the truth in love. If one does not love another, speaking truth to them comes at no personal cost. However, the deeper the love, the more painful the speaking of truth becomes since the greater the risk of anger, resentment, rejection and even separation from that loved one. I believe Driscoll deeply loves the people of Mars Hill and of the city that he served with his entire being for 18 years. As one who has called only one community and only one church home for my entire life, I know this same love. I know too the pain it causes to speak truth into the lives of those you love knowing that some will hate you for it. Driscoll preached love, real love, the kind of love which can get you crucified.
The gift of teaching and preaching, especially of the prophetic type that Driscoll excels at, is not an easy gift to use well and it is a gift which can come at great cost to the one who is given it. Prophets have always been hated. However, as any disciple of Christ knows, the stakes are far too high not to act, not to speak up, not to preach even when no one wants to listen.
How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? -Romans 10:14
Driscoll abused his gifts and position at times, of this I am sure most would agree, but our world desperately needs his gifts. My prayer is that God would do a work in him through this dark time and then restore him to a position where the world can once again hear from the greatest preacher of our time. We love you Mark.