Déjà vu: Mark Driscoll accused of leadership abuse at new church
Written by The Ministry of Jesus Christ on July 28, 2021
Six years after publicly apologizing for leadership failures that led to the dissolution of his Seattle-based Mars Hill Church in 2015, prominent megachurch leader Mark Driscoll is now facing similar allegations from former followers at The Trinity Church in Scottsdale, Arizona, which he founded in 2016.
The latest claims against Driscoll are highlighted on a website called deardriscoll.com, which accuse him of “immoral, unethical, and unbiblical actions.”
Chad Freese, who said he attended the church for almost three years and served on Driscoll’s security team for eight months, revealed in an open letter to The Trinity Church leader updated earlier this month how he resigned after witnessing the abuses that went on behind the scenes under Driscoll’s watch. Freese was director of security at the church for seven weeks.
“I served on the security team for eight months. I served as the Director of Security for only seven weeks (Feb 27th – Apr 18th, 2021) until I resigned due to the pastor’s immoral, unethical, and unbiblical actions,” Freese wrote.
“I did not see these issues until I became part of the inner circle where I attended meetings and participated in ‘top-secret conversations.’ I acknowledge I was complicit in executing the duties of my position. I did not get fired, nor was I kicked out of the church as others have been. I could not continue down the same path as the ‘leadership’ of the church, as that is not who I am, nor who God called us to be.”
Freese offered a firsthand account of how Driscoll, for instance, allegedly made it clear that his church was a family business where no decision was made without his approval.
“In another security meeting, you told the team that you are the ‘Head Coach,’ and no decisions are made without your guidance and ultimate approval. You told the team if they did not like that, they could find another team,” Freese alleged.
“You went on to say the church is structured on your family’s values and the security team is to support what you and your family believe. How about what God’s values are and supporting what the Bible says? This struck a nerve with many because you have referenced the church as a family business on numerous occasions. Your social media managers even attempted to mock the situation on Facebook and then edited it later. Was that also your decision, or just immaturity on your social media manager’s part?”
The former head of Trinity Church’s security claimed that Driscoll’s “incredibly young crew of pastors” also “lack discernment and professionalism on a deep level” and suggests Driscoll isn’t guiding them in the way a senior pastor should.
“They slander, gossip, and curse church congregants and volunteers,” Freese wrote. “Your pastors consistently overreact and have even harassed people and kicked them off the property for crazy reasons, such as complimenting someone’s shoes and a lady’s name.”
Driscoll’s team was contacted by The christian Post for comment on the allegations, but a response remains pending.
Freese suggested that Driscoll leads with such an iron fist, many of his subordinates walk on eggshells around him. The former security head who retired from the Marine Corps in 2018 recalled how tense things got during his first meeting with Driscoll on Wednesday, March 10, as the new director of Trinity Church’s security.
“I was barely a minute or two into the briefing when you interrupted me to give me an overview of your background as a Pastor. You proceeded to talk endlessly about yourself,” Freese wrote before painting a picture of a distrustful and paranoid Driscoll stemming from his experience at Mars Hill.
“You also shared some things about what you and your family went through at Mars Hill. You shared with me that many people turned on you, and even your head of security had ‘crossed you,'” Freese continued. “You then proceeded to talk about the incident that occurred that morning with a lady yelling at Grace [Driscoll’s wife]. You began to curse and slander the men on your staff, even saying, ‘I don’t trust any of the men on my staff, and I mean any of them.'”
The perceived threat to Driscoll’s wife, Freese said, led to demand from the pastor that all the men on his staff show up for a “threat assessment,” which he interpreted as a training session despite being repeatedly told the assessment wasn’t a training session.
Freese said the assessment only required his attendance along with that of Campus Pastor Brandon Andersen, who has served with the Driscolls for more than a decade.
“You persisted and made it known once more that you did not trust any of the men on your entire staff. You turned to Brandon, pointing at him, and exclaimed, ‘It is your f***ing problem, and you will f***ing fix it.’ I could see the anger in Brandon’s face as his skin turned bright red and his eyes wide open. How is this behavior Godly or pastoral? How are you effectively leading your men with a loving, fatherly approach, as you claim?” Freese asked.
He further claims that Driscoll has very little oversight to check his abusive behaviors due to his use of a team of “translocal” overseers. Freese said that the group of overseers includes Jimmy Evans, Robert Morris and Larry Osborne, who it remains unclear are still connected The Trinity Church.
The three christian leaders were not immediately available for comment when their teams were contacted by CP Wednesday.
Morris’ Gateway Church said he was away on sabbatical. Evans’ team at MarriageToday said they weren’t sure he would comment. No one at North Coast Church, where Osborne serves as teaching pastor and elder, was available for comment when contacted by CP.
Freese argued that Driscoll’s “translocal” overseers are complicit in the state of his leadership.
“One of your overseers, Jimmy Evans, spoke about Church Governance at The Trinity Church. He said some remarkable things about how translocal governance doesn’t work,” Freese argued. “How can your overseers execute the duties required when they are translocal? How can anyone in the church, especially staff, raise concern when the elders are not accessible and your pastors, including you, have a decorated history in mistreating people in egregious ways, including immediately kicking people out of the church for simply bringing up a serious concern? Your overseers are complicit by allowing this behavior to happen while they remain inaccessible.”
A group of 39 elders who served with Driscoll during his final years at Mars Hill recently called on him to remove himself from ministry because he is “unfit” to serve as a pastor.
“We are troubled that he continues to be unrepentant despite the fact that these sins have been previously investigated, verified, and brought to his attention by his fellow Elders, prior to his abrupt resignation” from Mars Hill, the former elders wrote in a statement released to Christianity Today Monday. “Accordingly, we believe that Mark is presently unfit for serving the church in the office of pastor.”
In a tearful video interview with Hillsong Church’s Brian Houston in July 2015, Driscoll said God told him and his wife to resign from Mars Hill because a trap had been set for him.
In the nearly hour-long interview, Driscoll addressed issues like domineering leadership style, pride, anger, his views on the role of women in the church and longtime online comments.
Driscoll, who founded Mars Hill at the age of 25, admitted to making mistakes in his leadership of the church and said he was “devastated” over the people he hurt during his time at Mars Hill.
“I’ve made a lot of mistakes, and one of them was going too fast. There’s the Lord’s calling and then there’s the Lord’s timing,” he said in the 2015 interview. “And I should have waited longer; I should have been under godly spiritual authority — for Grace and I to be under a godly couple that was senior pastor, so that we can learn and grow. My character was not caught up with my gifting and I did start too young.”
“I believe God called us to start the church and He was very gracious to us, but had I to do that over again, I would not look at a 25-year-old and say, ‘Do what I did.'”
Driscoll explained at the time that after his exit from Mars Hill, he and his wife spent a lot of time with older, more experienced spiritual leaders and saw many ways in which he could improve the way he did ministry.
“I hope whatever the Lord has for me in the future is that I will draw people and not drive people. My empathy level will increase,” said Driscoll, who developed a reputation for being a bully.
He said that reputation was a by-product of his driven personality and was learning to manage it with help.
“I think for sure on occasion, yeah. I think on occasion, strong leaders, there’s a line. You’re wanting to advance a mission and everybody to be aligned with that, and there are other times where there’s a lack of grace or empathy,” Driscoll said. “One of the things that has been really helpful in this season for me is godly older families have opened their lives to us. … There’s a more parental leadership style.”
Driscoll told Houston that if he had to do it all over again, he would have focused more on the people’s emotional health in his ministry and said that his lack of empathy was also due to unresolved issues in his own life.
“I would have paid more attention to emotional health and well-being and any bitterness in my own soul so that there wasn’t anger or hurt or defensiveness that was driving some of my motivation,” said Driscoll.
In 2015, Driscoll also revealed how he and his family had moved to Phoenix, Arizona, after reconciling with some former leaders at Mars Hill.
“After meeting with many former church leaders for reconciliation and closure in Seattle, our family is in the midst of a new adventure as we have moved to the Phoenix area,” he said.
Driscoll’s new adventure in Scottsdale isn’t going so well, Freese claims because he has fallen back to his old ways.
“What I see missing from Trinity’s leadership is the value of relationships. You talk endlessly on stage about how you are driven by results. However, the concern is the lack of true pastoring and shepherding God’s people. The relational aspect is lacking, even with those working directly for you. I have witnessed you and your staff slander and put down people within the church, even those serving closest to you, then act friendly to their faces,” Freese wrote in his letter.
“There is a lot of talking about people, but not to people. How is this relational? How is this loving? How is this Christ-like? Why did you mention in January that Trinity is no longer a relational church, but the Pastors and staff need to focus on the relationships with those who donate a certain amount of money, at a minimum remembering their names and saying hi to them?”