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26 June, 2007 / theexpositor

Phil Johnson on the ministry of Mark Driscoll

Source-Pyromaniacs, 10/25/06

driscoll_suit.jpgdriscoll_suit.jpg“I thought in the interests of balance, after hearing that sermon by (Rob)Bell, I ought to listen to a sermon from the “conservative” side of the Emerging movement. So I listened to this one by Mark Driscoll. I wish I hadn’t. Driscoll’s smutty language and preoccupation with all things lowbrow are inappropriate, unbecoming, and dishonoring to Christ. I completely agree that many Christians fail to appreciate the true humanity of Jesus. But it’s not necessary to get vulgar in order to communicate the truth about His humanity.

This is the first time I have ever posted anything critical of Driscoll. I have appreciated his defense of the atonement and his willingness to confront the neo-liberalism of other Emerging leaders honestly. But I don’t think his perpetually coarse language in the pulpit and his apparent preoccupation with off-color terms and ribald subject matter are merely minor flaws in an otherwise healthy ministry. It is a serious shortcoming.

No, it’s actually worse than that, because it blatantly violates the clear principle of Ephesians 5:3-4. It is shameful (v. 12) and therefore a reproach. It’s characteristic of the old man and one of the fleshly behaviors we are expressly commanded to put aside (Colossians 3:8). Scripture even seems to indicate that unwholesome language signals an impure mind (Matthew 12:34). And yet this seems to be a deliberate, calculated, and persistent practice of Driscoll’s. It is practically the chief trademark of his style.

That’s troubling, and even more troubling when I see young Christians and older believers who ought to know better mimicking the practice. If this is the direction even the very best Emerging-style ministry is headed, it’s not a trend any Christian ought to find encouraging, much less one we should follow.




  1. Mike / Jun 26 2007 17 21


    Are these your thoughts on Mark as well, or just Phil Johnsons?

  2. Shane Trammel / Jun 26 2007 17 30

    The online source is almost 8 months old. Is it possible Mark’s language has changed some during this time?


  3. Anthony Trussoni / Jun 26 2007 19 57

    I am a rabidly conservative Evangelical studying to be a pastor at a small Bible College in Georgia. I appreciate various ministries of yours as well as others of this type, however I find your attack on Mark Driscoll to be at best legalistic, at worst hypocritical. Driscoll certainly uses questionable language in his sermons and his embracing of some alcohol is not bad, but may be dangerous. You have pointed out the obvious, yet you fail to present the fact that Driscoll has indeed apologized for these very actions and some of what he says is only taken as inappropriate in certain cultures. This man is a repentant sinner just like all of us believers in Christ and if that very fact dismisses his ministry in entirety then who are we to preach? I don’t like the Emerging Church in any way, yet it appears that even Driscoll’s connection with this liquid group is only in terminology, thus far from being a fault.

  4. Kevin / Jun 26 2007 20 15

    THANK YOU!!!!
    Finally, someone has the Biblically-centered and clear-mindedness (and the platform) to openly rebuke this minister. Profanity is not something that should be lightly handled (and even excused) by a minister of and to the glorious body of Christ Jesus.
    Thank you, Mr. Johnson. I was hoping there would eventually be someone, other than Campy, with some blogging weight to denounce this man instead of saying, “No, his language and means are not the best, but what a relevant ministry.” Whatever. What is it that makes him relevant to his audience? What is it that keeps the majority of his audience? Is it the beauty of the gifts of the Spirit perfectly represented in Christ Jesus or is it his “flowery” language?
    Ephesians 4.29 states that we should let no unwholesome word proceed from our mouth but only that which is good and edifying for the building up of the body of Christ.

    Thank you again. Your post is refreshing in a seemingly evangelical head-in-the-sand culture when it comes to this issue.

  5. totaltransformation / Jun 27 2007 15 14

    What did he say?

  6. Morris Brooks / Jun 30 2007 5 24

    I watched a recent video of him and his language was coarse, but, hey, it’s cool and hip to push the envelope. Too many are too worried about being cool, hip, and progressive, with the worst thing they could be called being “old school.” Too many of the progressive preachers think that the power is in their words so they must “punch them up” for them to have effect, much like the music (not worship) leaders who feel that the volume has to be turned way up so the service will have “energy.” They ignore, if they ever knew, the promise God made in Jeremiah 1:12 to stand over his word to perform it. They think it is up to them, not up to the Lord.

    We are to cut it straight, preach it faithfully, and be patient as we trust God to do what only He can do..change hearts.

  7. Mike / Jun 30 2007 14 11

    Just a few notes on this piece. This is a article by Phil Johnson and represent certian views by Phil Johnson the ministry of Mark Driscoll. While I agree with the premise of Dr. Johnson’s assessment, I am not ready to throw Mark Driscoll out with the bath water. I share the concerns concerning Mark’s language, presentation and some of what I have heard concerning methodology. I am contiuning to learn and hope very much to travel to Seattle in August to learn more first-hand. If anyone reading this would like to help with the financial need to travel and stay in Seattle for four days, it would be greatly appreciated. More to come……

  8. Gareth Barry / Nov 26 2008 7 49

    Come on you censorious Pharisee…lighten up

    Driscoll is a faithful herald of the gospel…take a glass of exlax and loosen up

  9. Albert Hernandez / Feb 7 2009 13 10

    I read Tim Chailles section titled “How do you solve a problem like Mark Driscoll?” It was post on Feb. 20, 2008. I was wondering what is your take on it. I heard the Q&A on John Piper’s conference of ’08 that included Piper, Driscoll and Sinclair Ferguson. Driscoll saw his need to repent of his past words and felt deeply convicted about this. Driscoll made comments that Piper and Mahaney have been confronting him and trying to help him in growing in grace. I do agree that Driscoll has gone far at times and will continue to pray from him. I appreciate Piper and C.J. Mahaney, D.A. Carson in speaking into his life. Thank you for your blogs. Looking forward for the Shepherd’s Conference ’09. I’ll be praying for you all serving in the conference. Thank you for your service to the body of Christ.


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