Driscoll, the LU Kerfuffle & Failure to Communicate

“What we’ve got here is (a) failure to communicate.”  These words, first spoken by American character actor Strother Martin in the 1967 Paul Newman film, Cool Hand Luke, might best describe the two (or more) sides in the curious case of Ergun Caner. (Ergun Caner Defenders: Failure to Communicate)

Less than two years after I first wrote that post, Liberty University once again finds itself as a leading actor in another drama. Like the earlier story, the current show also has a star who always receives top billing: Mark Driscoll, the controversial pastor of Seattle’s Mars Hill Church.

Funnily enough, this drama also involves a “failure to communicate.” It’s amazing how otherwise intelligent people seem to lack basic reading comprehension skills, thus causing them to misfire in their written communications. Usually these “misfires” are unintentional. However, sometimes after reading the communications in question, the only conclusion that one can make is that one of the parties appears to be intentionally misfiring.

From the inept, poorly written response from LU’s General Counsel (here) to Peter Lumpkins’ initial reporting of a Trustees’ vote (here) to the Clintonesque public announcement posted on the University’s website (here), the misfires keep coming. However, not to be outdone, the star of this drama, Mark Driscoll, has finally weighed in on what he calls “The Kerfuffle.” And, after reading Pastor Driscoll’s response (here), it’s apparent that he also badly misfires.

But, to give him the benefit of the doubt, perhaps he was poorly briefed about “The Kerfuffle” by his community relations manager:

“So, I asked our community relations manager, who gets to enjoy reading blogs about me while eating breakfast every day (it’s amazing he holds anything down), to give me a summary of this kerfuffle.” (An Official Response to The Kerfuffle at Liberty University)

Much like fellow megachurch pastor Ed Young, Jr.’s “Pastor Fashion” website, I really do not know if this was meant to be parody or whether, in fact, Driscoll/Mars Hill actually employs a community relations manager that Mark Driscoll (or the church) pays to read blogs about himself and report back his findings. Assuming this is not some sort of joke, then this unnamed community relations manager does not appear to have a basic grasp of the English language. That, in itself, is problematic, given that this would seem to be a prerequisite for his job.

Based on the “summary of this kerfuffle” that the community relations manager gave to Driscoll, the leader of Mars Hill made this astute observation:

“The trouble started with a Southern Baptist blogger . . . yes, you should have seen that one coming.”

Actually, the trouble started when Liberty University invited Mark Driscoll to speak to their students on campus and to hold a “Real Marriage” Conference, but I digress. Beyond that obvious misfire, what does Pastor Driscoll mean when he specifically describes the blogger in question as “a Southern Baptist” and then comments, “yes, you should have seen that one coming”? Is the problem with Southern Baptists who are bloggers or just bloggers in general? Well, given that he cannot control all bloggers, including some formerly associated with Mars Hill, I think the answer is self-evident. However, if he was concerned about bloggers in general, then I don’t understand why he wanted to make sure his readers knew that it was a Southern Baptist blogger who was causing all these problems.

Mark Driscoll’s misfire on where the trouble started is rather minor compared to his major misfire of misrepresenting the number of sources that Mr. Lumpkins used for his story. For someone who boasts about having “a degree from Washington State’s Edward R. Murrow College of Communication and (who) worked professionally as a journalist,” I’m not sure that Driscoll got his money’s worth at his alma mater. If he did, then he would be able to read and comprehend that Mr. Lumpkins had more than one source for his initial post. As Lumpkins wrote:

Sources say trustees took a vote, and the vote was unanimous indicating that Mark Driscoll is not welcome at Liberty University.” (emphasis added)

I don’t know what basic grammar standards are being taught in Seattle, but most places understand that “sources” is plural, which means that there is more than one source. However, Mark Driscoll, not once, but four times, uses the singular “source” in an apparently mocking (and clearly wrong) way to try to discredit Mr. Lumpkins’ reporting:

 Now, to be fair, the blogger quoted an anonymous “source.”

This particular blogger’s anonymous “source” says . . .

The source said that two motions were presented and voted on.

Despite the rock-solid credibility of the blogger’s anonymous “source,”  . . .

Perhaps Mr. Driscoll was misinformed by his community relations manager. Of course, the buck is supposed to stop at the leader’s desk. In any event, the old maxim is clearly in play: “If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth.” In this case, no matter how many times that Mark Driscoll or others repeat it, Peter Lumpkins had multiple sources for his reporting, including a subsequent source — a longtime Trustee — who, unsolicited, confirmed the substance of the reporting that was based on the original anonymous sourceS. There is indeed a “failure to communicate,” but that failure begins and ends in Seattle and Lynchburg!


8 comments for “Driscoll, the LU Kerfuffle & Failure to Communicate

  1. April 17, 2012 at 11:29 AM

    Hi Howell,

    Mars Hill really does have a community relations manager. His name is Justin Dean.

    • April 17, 2012 at 2:01 PM


      Thanks for the info. I was being somewhat facetious when I said I didn’t know if Mars Hill really had a community relations manager. I figured that they did, but I did find it somewhat humorous (although that’s probably not the right word) that this person — Justin Dean — would spend his time reading blogs for posts about Mark Driscoll and then reporting back to Driscoll what he finds. That someone gets paid to do this does raise some interesting questions in and of itself. Perhaps that’s a post for another day. I appreciate you taking the time to read and to leave your comment. God bless,


  2. Lydia
    April 17, 2012 at 4:12 PM

    “Much like fellow megachurch pastor Ed Young, Jr.’s “Pastor Fashion” website, I really do not know if this was meant to be parody or whether, in fact, Driscoll/Mars Hill actually employs a community relations manager that Mark Driscoll (or the church) pays to read blogs about himself and report back his findings. ”

    It is no joke. Most mega church leadership I was involved with had people doing this everyday with all media outlets. It is part of what I call the cult of personality that has become what some call Christendom.

    • April 17, 2012 at 5:23 PM


      I didn’t really think it was a joke. I was being somewhat tongue-in-cheek because this kind of thing lends itself to being facetious. I think you have answered the questions that I told Sophia that I thought this type of thing raised. Your explanation is exactly what I was already thinking 🙂 Thanks and God bless,


  3. Lydia
    April 17, 2012 at 4:21 PM

    “However, if he was concerned about bloggers in general, then I don’t understand why he wanted to make sure his readers knew that it was a Southern Baptist blogger who was causing all these problems.”

    hmm. Wonder if this is connected in any way to the underhanded process to change our name into a “nickname”. Some important celebs do not like the “SBC” but don’t mind Acts 29 church planters taking the SBC members money. It is sort of like, “we think you are stupid but keep giving us money”.

    I am going to speculate for a moment. My guess is that some SBC leaders (and others) leaned on Mark and Scott Thomas to step down from Acts 29 (not the board) until the whole Petry revelation blew over and get them through the convention. After all, he had just recently announced he had to come back and get things in line. Then a month later he is leaving?

  4. Milton Robins
    April 18, 2012 at 8:49 AM

    Admittedly, I was a bit alarmed by the cavalier tone in Driscoll’s response. Perhaps even more alarming is how seemingly oblivious he is about the legitimate concerns circulating the Internet right now surrounding controversial quotations from his book.

    And what is with this biting sarcasm in his response? Not only is sarcasm generally inadvisable in online communication (sarcasm is difficult to detect in an online context), but it comes across as extremely callous.

    This response amounts to a wasteland of missed opportunities (or what you termed, pastor, as “misfires”), because instead of crafting a nuanced, informed response that addresses some of the sincere concerns people have about the ideas in his book, he decides to use his response as an occasion to arrogantly rib his critics.

    Mr. Driscoll, this is unacceptable. What is needed is a substantive, biblical response to the concerns that others have raised about your book. This latest response to what you deem a “kerfuffle” is remarkably petty.

  5. April 19, 2012 at 10:32 AM

    Admittedly, I have a “Google Alert” set up that sends me an email daily if my name shows up in a new result of a Google search. It did alert me to someone reposting my blog posts elsewhere–but I’ve never used it to hunt down critics. Honestly, my main critics are face-to-face. I don’t have to find them, they find me.

    • April 19, 2012 at 1:08 PM


      As both Sophia and Lydia affirmed, megachurches like Mars Hill do have paid staff who apparently “monitor” the internet for both positive and negative articles. I suppose autonomous churches can spend “their” money as they see fit, but I do find it odd that they would spend money to keep tabs of what people are saying about a pastor on the web. Maybe a little too bit of cult of personality for me. I will have to try the Google Alert thing, though. And I can definitely relate to most of our critics knowing where to find us 🙂 Thanks and God bless,


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