”“It’s never the wrong time to do the right thing,” said Mark Driscoll in an interview with him and his wife, Grace, shown at Hillsong Conference in Sydney in 2015.
The pre-recorded interview with the controversial pastor, conducted by Brian Houston, touched upon the history of Mark and Grace Driscoll’s ministry at mega-church Mars Hill in Seattle, and tracked through the turbulence and pain of ministry failure that led to Mark stepping down from leading the church amidst intense criticism about his bullying leadership style.
The interview received a standing ovation from the Hillsong Conference crowd at its conclusion.
Driscoll was slated to be a headline speaker at this year’s Hillsong Conference. After he stepped down from ministry, he was no longer featured as a speaker on Hillsong’s podium, but was instead invited by Hillsong to be interviewed on stage with Brian Houston in Sydney and London.
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In June, a petition was started on change.org to stop Driscoll from appearing at Hillsong Conference. ABC’s Lateline ran reports highlighting some of Driscoll’s more controversial statements deemed demeaning to women and questioning why Hillsong would invite someone who had been forced to step down from leadership, to speak at such an influential meeting as Hillsong Conference.
Concerned that the 30 minutes allotted to the Driscoll interview were overshadowing the whole 5-day program of the conference, Brian Houston released a statement saying it had been agreed between him and Driscoll that Driscoll would no longer travel to Australia to attend he conference.
But today, the first full day of the Hillsong Conference, Houston showed a pre-recorded interview, made during his visit to the US last month.
“I think for the pastors and leaders here today there’s a lot to be learned from watching this interview, in terms of our own lives and the way we conduct ourselves. I hope it’ll be helpful for everyone. There’s certainly a level of interest. But I’ll leave this to you to come up with your own conclusions,” said Houston.
Houston asked the Driscolls about how they came to faith, how they met and married, and the journey towards starting Mars Hill Church in Seattle, growing it from a Bible study in their home at the age of 25 to the mega church it was at its peak.
“I made a lot of mistakes… and one of them was going too fast.”
Houston acknowledged that it’s been a very hard year for the Driscolls and their family. “How are you both doing?”
“Thank you for asking,” said Grace Driscoll. “It has been a hard year. But we’ve seen God’s faithfulness in the trial, and we’re thankful for that.”
They spoke of their children and the difficulties for them. In an emotional and candid interview, Driscoll wiped away tears while talking about the difficulties for his children as they cope with the big changes of not being part of the church they grew up in, and his desire that they are not bitter towards anyone about those changes, including bitterness against him for “my own sins and faults.”
“My character was not caught up with my gifting. I did start too young. I wouldn’t look at any 25 year old now and say, yes, do what I did.”
“I made a lot of mistakes… and one of them was going too fast. There’s the Lord’s calling, but also the Lord’s timing. I should have waited longer. I should have been under godly, spiritual authority, under a senior pastor. My character was not caught up with my gifting. I did start too young. I wouldn’t look at any 25 year old now and say, yes, do what I did.”
“The truth is, everyone’s made mistakes,” Brian tells the Driscolls. “Some obviously much bigger mistakes with much more difficult outcomes than others. I don’t think you’re alone in that. But obviously there’s been a huge fall out from your mistakes.”
Houston asked how Driscoll feels about being labeled “toxic” by some in the Christian community. Driscoll said in this “difficult season” he has had a number of wise, older and godly pastors helping him through.
“One said to me, ‘Put down the binoculars and pick up the mirror. Stop looking at what everyone else is saying, and look at yourself.’ That’s been the focus for me … I think that there’s no way for me to say that I have always acted with grace or with appropriateness. There has been anger.”
“I pray that whatever the Lord has for me in the future, that I will draw people and not drive people. And that my empathy level will increase.”
“Combativeness made up a large part of my ministry leadership … Taking this time off and reflecting on that, I see that and I regret that. I hope that in the future I can be a pastor who draws people and not drives people.”
Would the word ‘bully’ have been an accurate description of Driscoll’s ministry, Houston asked. “I think for sure, on occasions, yeah,” said Driscoll.
Driscoll acknowledged that “combativeness made up a large part of my ministry leadership … Taking this time off and reflecting on that, I see that and I regret that. I hope that in the future I can be a pastor who draws people and not drives people.”
He apologised to Houston and Hillsong for the controversy in the lead up to the Conference surrounding Driscoll’s involvement, calling the opportunity to speak “an act of grace.”
“I apologise that you were put in that position. That was my doing. I hope there’s a way in the future to be a person of peace and not a point of division. I appreciate this opportunity to make an effort at that.”