Mark Driscoll’s approach to preaching

MARK DRISCOLL My FACEBOOK post of 13 August 2014

In early January 2009 a lady who had been given some preaching tapes of Pastor Mark Driscoll by a young relative contacted me. This lady, whilst acknowledging that there was some commendable content on the tapes, was nevertheless uneasy about some aspects of both the preaching style and content of Mark Driscoll and she wanted to know my views on him.

Mark Driscoll first came to my attention when I was researching and preparing my talk on what is loosely termed ‘The Emerging Church’. Unlike many of the perceived leaders of this grouping [people like Brian McLaren and Rob Bell] who are unwilling to stand up and proclaim ‘thus saith the Lord’, Mark Driscoll does defend and declare many of the crucial doctrines revealed in God’s Word so he has in the past classed himself as “swimming in the theologically conservative stream of the Emerging Church’.

However he is also willing to adopt some of the methodology associated with those viewed as less ‘theologically conservative’ when it comes to the issue of worship and Roger Oakland in his book entitled ‘Faith Undone’ writes on page 65 –

‘Stimulating images that provide spiritual experiences are an essential element of the emerging church. While many are bewildered why churches are darkening their sanctuaries and setting up prayer stations with candles, incense, and icons, promoters of the emerging church movement say they know exactly what they are doing. Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Fellowship [Seattle] explains – “Everything in the service needs to preach – architecture, lighting, songs, prayers, fellowship, the smell – it all preaches. All five senses must be engaged to experience God”.’

This assertion by Mark Driscoll flies in the face of Hebrews 11:1 that states “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” and is contrary to Romans 10:17 where Paul writes “So then faith cometh by hearing and hearing [literally – “the receiving of a message” – Vines Expository Dictionary] by the word of God”. It is through verbal/oral preaching, that does not bypass but addresses our mind and intellect, that Christian faith is established and built up and not through sensory perception.

Pastor John MacArthur has written ‘True faith is not based on empirical [experience-based] evidence but on divine assurance and is a gift of God’

Cecil – apologies but I’ve misplaced my original source reference for this but similar views by Pastor MacArthur can be located on and on another occasion he similarly stated ‘Divine wisdom can’t be empirically deduced… It comes only as a gift God gives when His Spirit reveals His Word to individuals’. ]

Mark Driscoll has also referred to himself as “theologically conservative and culturally liberal” and it was really this “culturally liberal” aspect that had worried the lady who contacted me. She was uneasy and disturbed by some of the worldly expressions and sentiments expressed by Mark Driscoll on the tapes.

In the research for my ‘Emerging’ talk I came across a relevant article on and the following extracts refer to information I have just shared on Mark Driscoll and also highlight other disturbing ‘worldly views’ expressed by him –

‘Missouri Baptists had their first significant encounter with the “Emerging Church” in December 2005 when former Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Executive Director David Clippard recommended a $200,000 loan to a new church plant in St. Louis, called The Journey…By the July 2006 board meeting, the then MBC President Ralph Sawyer requested that the board’s church plant workgroup investigate and report on mounting concerns regarding alcohol use among some church plants…By the 2006 annual meeting of the Convention, Clippard declared in his executive director’s address that the Journey’s pastor, Darrin Patrick, was a modern-day Caleb and portrayed The Journey as a church plant model…by the December 2006 Executive Board meeting…it was discovered that there were significant alcohol-related issues and that The Journey had a bar-room ministry in a St. Louis micro brewery for nearly two years called “Theology at the Bottleworks”… But the issues surrounding The Journey were much more significant than just a bar-room ministry. It was also discovered that Patrick serves as vice president of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network, a group of young, Emerging Church planters that plant likeminded churches across the United States, many of which are Southern Baptists, and a growing number of which are young Missouri Baptists…The founder and president of Acts 29 is Mark Driscoll, named by Christianity Today as one of the most influential young preachers in America, with over a million downloads of his sermons each year. Also known by his peers as “Mark the cussing pastor,” Driscoll pastors Mars Hill Church in Seattle, which he planted in 1996. Stating that, “I myself swim in the theologically conservative stream of the Emerging Church,” Driscoll claims to be “theologically conservative and culturally liberal.” Regarding the use of alcohol, Driscoll writes: “My Bible study convicted me of my sin of abstinence from alcohol,” at which time he “repented” and immediately began to drink alcohol. Driscoll’s church website notes that the church has “beer-brewing lessons whenever a large group of [Mars Hill] men get together.” This would be in keeping with Driscoll’s view of Jesus, who, according to Driscoll, began His public ministry at a wedding, where He “kicks things off as a bartender.”  This past New Year’s Eve, Driscoll’s church hosted what they called a “Red Hot New Year’s Eve Bash,” which included a “champagne bar” in the church (ID’s were required for drinkers) and “bonus points” were offered for those whose attire was “RED hot.” Driscoll is also founder of the Paradox Theater, a ministry of Mars Hill Church, which in its first few years, hosted about 650 secular rock concerts for underage kids in Seattle…Another concern about Acts 29 churches like The Journey is their “film night” ministries where secular R-rated movies are viewed and then discussed. At the Journey, four of the five most recent films that could be documented were R-rated. According to Driscoll, his church also has a film and theology event that shows “an occasional unedited R-rated movie.” Driscoll also writes that some of his “sermons on sex were R-rated,” and notes that he gives “warnings to parents and sometimes saw whole visiting youth groups walk out blushing halfway through the sermon.”

Apart from his dangerous views on alcohol Mark Driscoll was also identified as being clearly “culturally liberal” in his ‘preaching’ approach to the issue of sex and related matters. This link quotes a secular newspaper article written about Mark Driscoll and here are some extracts [Cecil – I am conscious that these extracts include language that God’s people would undoubtedly prefer not to be confronted with but for the sake of correctly addressing the concerns about ‘Mark Driscoll’s approach to preaching’ I do feel it is necessary to present the relevant “evidence”] –

‘The following is quoted from an article in the New York Times Magazine. It is titled, Who Would Jesus Smack Down? Mark Driscoll’s sermons are mostly too racy to post on GodTube, the evangelical Christian “family friendly” video-posting Web site. With titles like “Biblical Oral Sex” and “Pleasuring Your Spouse,” his clips do not stand a chance against the site’s content filters. No matter: YouTube is where Driscoll, the pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, would rather be. Unsuspecting sinners who type in popular keywords may suddenly find themselves face to face with a husky-voiced preacher in a black skateboarder’s jacket and skull T-shirt. An “Under 17 Requires Adult Permission” warning flashes before the video cuts to evening services at Mars Hill, where an anonymous audience member has just text-messaged a question to the screen onstage: “Pastor Mark, is masturbation a valid form of birth control?” Driscoll doesn’t miss a beat: “I had one guy quote Ecclesiastes 9:10, which says, ‘Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.’ ” The audience bursts out laughing. Next Pastor Mark is warning them about lust and exalting the confines of marriage, one hand jammed in his jeans pocket while the other waves his Bible. Even the skeptical viewer must admit that whatever Driscoll’s opinion of certain recreational activities, he has the coolest style and foulest mouth of any preacher you’ve ever seen… Driscoll represents a movement to revamp the style and substance of evangelicalism. With his taste for vintage baseball caps and omnipresence on Facebook and iTunes, Driscoll, who is 38, is on the cutting edge of American pop culture. Driscoll disdains the prohibitions of traditional evangelical Christianity. Taboos on alcohol, smoking, swearing and violent movies have done much to shape American Protestant culture… the Bible tells him that to seek salvation by self-righteous clean living is to behave like a Pharisee’ [Cecil – I believe Mark Driscoll is here misrepresenting the biblically based views of many Christians – genuine believers know that ‘clean living’ will never save anyone but they also know that those whom God has truly saved should subsequently exhibit ‘clean living’ – Paul stated in Acts 26:17-20 how he had been commissioned by God to go to the gentiles to “open their eyes…to turn them from darkness to light and from the power of Satan” so that they should “repent and turn to God and DO WORKS MEET (as befitting or as becoming) FOR REPENTANCE” – they should exhibit clear evidence of having truly been converted – this echoes John the Baptist’s words to those coming forward for baptism in Luke 3:7-8 and of course baptism is for those already saved]

By way of response to Mark Driscoll’s use of sexually explicit language I want first to turn to a recent article on this topic by Pastor John MacArthur that currently can be viewed on

and herewith are what I consider to be some relevant extracts –


Grunge Christianity?
Counterculture’s Death-Spiral and the Vulgarization of the Gospel by John MacArthur

One of the favourite topics on the evangelical agenda these days is how the church should “engage the culture.” Do Christians need to imitate the boorish aspects of a quickly-decaying civilization in order to remain “relevant”? Some evidently think so…Mark Driscoll is one of the best-known representatives of that kind of thinking. He is a very effective communicator–a bright, witty, clever, funny, insightful, crude, profane, deliberately shocking, in-your-face kind of guy. His soteriology (doctrine of salvation) is exactly right, but that only makes his infatuation with the vulgar aspects of contemporary society more disturbing…I don’t know what Driscoll’s language is like in private conversation, but I listened to several of his sermons. To be fair, he didn’t use the sort of four-letter expletives most people think of as cuss words–nothing that might get bleeped on broadcast television these days. Still, it would certainly be accurate to describe both his vocabulary and his subject matter at times as tasteless, indecent, crude, and utterly inappropriate for a minister of Christ. In every message I listened to, at least once he veered into territory that ought to be clearly marked off limits for the pulpit. Some of the things Driscoll talks freely and frequently about involve words and subject matter I would prefer not even to mention in public [Cecil – the New York Times article gives ample examples of these], so I am not going to quote or describe the objectionable parts…The point I want to make is not about Driscoll’s language per se, but about the underlying philosophy that assumes following society down the Romans 1 path [Cecil – where God gives sinners over to indulge in their sinful, decadent excesses] is a valid way to “engage the culture.” It’s possible to be overexposed to our culture’s dark side. I don’t think anyone can survive full immersion in today’s entertainments and remain spiritually healthy…We could learn from the example of Paul, who engaged the philosophers on Mars Hill [Cecil – how apt but also ironic as this is the name of Mark Driscoll’s church in Seattle]. But far from embracing their culture, he was repulsed by it. Acts 17:16 says, “while Paul waited for [Silas and Timothy] at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols”…Even Jesus’ high priestly prayer [see John 17:14-16] included a thorough description of the Christian’s proper relationship with and attitude toward the world…Whenever Jesus spoke of believers being in the world, He stated that if we are faithful, the world will be a place of hostility and persecution, not a zone of comfort. He also invariably followed that theme with a plea for our sanctification[see John 17:17-19]… I frankly wonder how any Christian who takes the Bible at face value could ever think that in order to be “culturally relevant” Christians should participate in society’s growing infatuation with vulgarity.  

Next I want to quote a telling passage from pages 41-42 of John MacArthur’s book ‘The Truth War’ that seems to speak to this issue of being ‘culturally liberal’ –

‘The Nicolaitans were a dangerous sect and they may well have been the very “wolves” Paul cautioned against in the famous prophetic warning of Acts 20…there is a considerable amount of evidence that Nicolaitanism was indeed bred and incubated by men who had achieved stature as leaders in the church. Apparently when the Nicolaitans were rejected in Ephesus they went to a nearby church plant at Pergamos where they gained a following in that church. Christ’s message to Pergamos in Revelation 2:12-17 is almost entirely given to rebuke, because the church had embraced “those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans (v 15). What was the doctrine? It is described in verse 14 as a kind of radical licentiousness “thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols and to commit fornication”. They were using Christian liberty as a cloak for vice and an opportunity for the flesh [Galatians 5:13; 1st Peter 2:16] (Cecil – going back to Mark Driscoll’s own admission that ‘his church also has a film and theology event that shows “an occasional unedited R-rated movie’ is he not conscious of the Lord’s statement in Matthew 5:28 “I say unto you that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” and is he oblivious to the fact that by staging such an event he is opening the door to the committing of just such sin by those in attendance?) This was evidently the very same kind of error the epistle of Jude was written to address because Jude refers [v 4] to the false teachers he opposed as “ungodly men turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness” [lewdness] and he says [v 11] they “ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward”. Licentious behaviour and greed were key characteristics of all forms of Gnosticism. That was a deadly brand of false religion that flourished in the second century and often infiltrated the church, masquerading as Christianity”. 

In conclusion I want to draw attention to what Paul wrote to the believers in Ephesus and Philippi on how they were to behave in the midst of their prevailing ‘culture’.

To those in Ephesus Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:1 “Be ye therefore followers [Cecil – According to Vines this means literally – ‘become imitators’] of God, as dear children” and in verses 3-4 he writes “But fornication and all uncleanness…let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness nor foolish jesting which are not fitting [Cecil – surely this is a severe rebuke of the incident reported in the New York Times article that evoked an outburst of audience laughter]. Paul goes on to issue this warning in verses 6-8 “Let no man deceive you with vain [Cecil – literally  ‘empty’] words…Be not ye therefore partakers with them. For ye were once darkness [Cecil – unregenerate and dying in your sins] but now are ye light in the Lord; walk as children of light”. Then in verses 11-12 Paul gives guidelines to believers as to how to interact with the pervading immoral ‘culture’ that surrounds God’s children “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness but rather reprove them. FOR IT IS A SHAME EVEN TO SPEAK OF THOSE THINGS WHICH ARE DONE OF THEM IN SECRET”.

Finally, to the believers in Philippi, Paul gave this closing exhortation in Philippians 4:8 “Finally brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, WHATEVER THINGS ARE PURE [John MacArthur study notes – “That which is morally clean and undefiled”],whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; IF THERE BE ANY VIRTUE [Cecil – According to Vines –  ‘moral excellence’], and if there be any praise, THINK [Cecil – According to Vines – ‘make those things the subjects of your thoughtful consideration] ON THESE THINGS”.

Matthew Henry summarises his commentary on these verses by saying ‘It gives a great force to what we say to others when we can appeal to what they have seen in us”. In contrast to those wise words it would appear that Mark Driscoll is saying to ‘others’ – “I can be just like you” instead of saying to them “you should be like me”.

In a sermon I heard preached some months ago the minister gave two challenging quotes – the first was attributed to the godly Scottish minister Robert Murray McCheyne [1813-1843] – Mr McCheyne apparently once commented ‘My peoples’ greatest need is my personal holiness’. The second was attributed to Richard Baxter [1615-1691] a Puritan who apparently once said ‘Too many men are ministers before they know how to be Christians’. Could these be statements for Mark Driscoll to ‘ponder in his heart’?

I think Mark Driscoll and those who accept his ‘approach to preaching’ should above all take time to reflect on these words of Scripture “And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” [Romans 12:2] “what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness?” [2nd Corinthians 6:14] “friendship of the world is enmity with God” [James 4:4].

Cecil Andrews – ‘Take Heed’ Ministries – 16th January 2009