Dear Mark Driscoll

There is no more polarizing figure in the church today than Mark Driscoll. Period. Because he is such a lightning rod for controversy, there have been probably millions of blog posts written about him. Some defending him. Some demonizing him. He’s either loved, or hated. 

This post is neither of those. 

I went through a period in my life where I was huge supporter of Driscoll and his ministry. I bought books, downloaded podcasts, and drove to Seattle on a couple of occasions to visit Mars Hill and hear him teach. 

I’ve come to the point, however, where I am no longer a supporter. Not that I don’t support Mars Hill, or what God is doing there. I can’t support Mark. For a number of different reasons, I find him to be sensationalist, sometimes childish, and needlessly abrasive, and often abusive. 

As I was going through my library a month or so ago, I came across several of his books. I debated selling them, or donating them to Goodwill. For a brief moment in time, I contemplated starting a fire with them (I didn’t.) As I was talking to my wife about what I should do with them, she had an idea that struck me. 

“Why don’t you send them back to him with a letter explaining why?” 

So that’s exactly what I’m doing. The following letter will be placed in a box and sent back to Mars Hill Church. I don’t expect a response. I don’t expect to ever hear from anyone there. I’m doing this because I feel like it’s the best way to get these books off my shelf. 

Please understand that my intention is not to demonize Mark. There’s a lot of his teaching I agree with. But there is more of it that enrages me. I’m simply trying to communicate. I have friends who are actively involved with Mars Hill. Our church has partnered with Mars Hill Portland and there are fantastic people there. God is moving and doing fantastic things. I’m simply clearing my chest. 

 

Dear Pastor Mark,

You don’t know me. We’ve never met. I’ve attended your church several times while in Seattle. I’ve bought and read a number of your books. I’ve downloaded more podcasts than I can count. We agree on a lot of things. I think God has done some incredible things through your ministry there at Mars Hill. There’s no telling how many people have come to Jesus since Mars Hill was founded. I believe you love Jesus, and I’m proud to call you a brother.

That being said, you will find enclosed copies of three of your books: Religion Saves, Death by Love, & Doctrine. 

Over the last couple of years, I’ve began to notice some things coming from various avenues (Twitter, YouTube, etc) that have caused me to decide to distance myself from your teachings. 

When you tell your congregation that God hates some of them, you’ve lost me. 

When you boil the gospel down to “Jesus died. Love him or end up in Hell,” you’ve lost me. 

When you demonize stay-at-home dads, saying that they would come under church discipline at Mars Hill, you’ve lost me. 

When the only way Jesus can look is like a UFC fighter, come to slaughter people, you’ve lost me. 

Again, I’m not wanting to discount what God is doing at Mars Hill. I believe he’s moving. I believe he uses imperfect people like you and I. God is bigger than you and I. I would simply pray that you would more carefully consider the way you choose your words, They carry great weight, and though they have spoken truth, I’ve also witnessed them bringing great destruction and immense hurt. 

Please take these books and do whatever you see fit with them. Put them back into circulation at Mars Hill. Recycle them. Whatever you would like to do with them. I simply cannot have them in my home any longer. To have them is an endorsement of you and your teachings and I simply cannot. 

I hope you understand. 

Sincerely,
Stephen Carter

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When We Were On Fire: A Review

Moment of confession: I haven’t done a “book review” since college. This is not because I haven’t read anything worth reviewing since then, but simply because when I read a book with the intention of reviewing, I’m generally unable to fully engage with and enjoy what I’m reading.

This all changed when I read “When We Were On Fire.”

I first stumbled across Addie Zierman on twitter. To be honest, I’m not even really sure how we connected, but at some point, I began following her, she followed back, etc. etc. 

Addie’s blog is raw, honest, and transparent, so pre-ordering her book was a no-brainer.

To be honest, I’m not even sure how to review Addie’s book. My copy is highlighted, dog-eared, and the margins are filled with notes and my own utterings of, “Yes, So True, Amazing.” Those of us that grew up in the ‘90’s subculture all went through what we liked to call our “on fire” phase. What that looked like for each of us was different, but it was transformative, and for us, meaningful. It meant something different for everyone, and this is simply one person’s story, but I found so much of my own story present here.

So instead of trying to put into words what Addie’s book meant to me, I thought I’d highlight a few of my favorite passages.

“And here is my secret: I wanted this. I wanted to the empty courtyard, the chance to be a solitary figure at the pole. To be the only one bold enough, brave enough, passionate enough to stand in the rain for Jesus.” (Pg 5)

“You did not touch the missionary’s artifacts that day. Was it just about the unfamiliar snake scales that you feared? Or did you avoid touching the skin because you knew you would be marked for it – the  missionary life? That God would ask you to go, and you would have to listen, or you could end up punished, Jonah-style, in the belly of some whale?  Did you pray in those fearful folding-chair moments?  Beg God not to make you a missionary?” (Pg 17)

“ ‘Now that Christ is in my life, I have purpose and I have a friend who will never leave me. I know that I will never have to be lonely again.’ You don’t realize that you are lying to them, at least about the lonely part. You don’t realize that you’re lying to yourself.” (Pg 46)

“How could they know that it had taken only two girls to welcome me into the evangelical world all those years ago in junior high? That just easily, two girls could push me away from it.” (Pg 105)

“This is another thing about depression: it seems to exist somewhere outside of language, and I cannot wrangle it. I can’t seem to wrestle it into a manageable size using the thing I have always been able to use: words. I reach into the great cloud of unnamed feelings, but no matter how I try, I can’t find the one true thing.” (Pg 159)

“You find the small slivers of light, and you hunker down in them. You hole up in the still warmth of this kind of beauty and you wait, knowing that the beams will get wider and wider every day. Knowing that one day, you will wake into the full power of the sun, and you will finally be warm.” (Pg 181)

“Your life AFTER Christ is not static or an end result. You are not suspended in grace above the fray of life. You are looking at God through a kaleidoscope. Your life moves, and the beads shift, and something new emerges…you are in motion, in transit, in flux. You will be sad. You will be happy. You will love and doubt and cry and rage, and all of it matters. You are human, and you are beloved, and this is what it is to be Alive.” (Pg 229)

I could go on and on. I’m already looking forward to reading it again. Finishing it felt like getting up from coffee with an old friend, not wanting to part. I didn’t want to leave. It meant so much to me, how could I possibly explain it’s significance to anyone else?

After gushing on twitter endlessly, I connected with Addie, and she’s agreed to let me give away a copy.  

All you have to do to enter is leave a comment below with your email address. I’ll pick a winner on Friday 11/1.

All this to say, buy her book. Buy two copies and give one away. Buy ten copies and give them all away. 

Finally, make sure to follow Addie on twitter (@addiezierman) and read her blog at www.addiezierman.com

 

Grace,
Stephen