Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler, and The Village Church Scandal

Today, I am making connections on influence and pastoral teaching. I am hoping to expose how a domineering and controlling pastoral teaching on divorce can infect a whole network of churches if not checked. I am going to talk about how a teaching by ex-Pastor Mark Driscoll appears suspiciously alive and active in The Village Church Scandal.

To those who are unaware of The Mars Hill Church saga and how the wheels came off that bus (after it had run over too many bodies), I will simply point to a statement about that church culture as overseen by one of its founding pastors, Mark Driscoll (who is teaching in the above video).

Dr. Paul Tripp stated, “This is without a doubt, the most abusive, coercive ministry culture I’ve ever been involved with.”

Ex-Pastor Mark Driscoll help found the Acts 29 Network of which Matt Chandler is currently president, and Driscoll was later removed from the network due to sin issues regarding his domineering ways. Also, Ex-Pastor Mark Driscoll resigned his position from Mars Hill Church instead of going through a restoration process to address said domineering issues.

More connections between Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler, and The Village Church:

As further background, I was in attendance at an Acts 29 Church Planting Boot Camp at Mars Hill Church in 2009 where I remembered Matt Chandler talking with envy about how Mark Driscoll could get away with insulting his audience in a sermon with his audience thanking him. Chandler gushed how he personally could not get away with such a style. It was clear in such a statement that Chandler admired Driscoll. He wished he could emulate him, or at least, that is what he said. My point in sharing this anecdote about Matt Chandler is to suggest Driscoll likely had an influence on Chandler and The Village Church by extension. It makes the following apparent connection on their marriage/divorce theology less surprising being aware of that.

Watch 3:45 to 4:15 in the above YouTube sermon clip with Mark Driscoll speaking. And read the following statement:

“January 21: Another phone conversation in which Karen is told that TVC is her final authority.

Karen told Elder Matt Younger that she had counseled with trusted Christian friends and counselors and was thinking through her decisions with  careful thought and prayer. He told her that she could not  trust herself or any other counsel except that of TVC which was her spiritual authority. He said that they were the only voice at the table. He claimed that they were there to hold her hand and tell her what to do.”

-From The Wartburg Watch‘s timeline about The Village Church handling of the Karen Hinkley (formerly Root)

Do you see the connection between disgraced Pastor Mark Driscoll’s teaching on divorce and how Pastor Matt Younger handled the Karen?

I do.

The pastoral “care” for which Driscoll advocates following adultery discovery is simply mandated by TVC leadership for Karen. And they insist this care must come from TVC leaders alone.*

I watched this clip of teaching from Driscoll a while ago. However, it came back to me as I was reading through the documents regarding how Karen was treated by TVC leadership. I do not know if TVC came to these positions on their own or adopted them as fiat for members following a Driscoll teaching influence. It does not really matter.

I have a problem with both Driscoll’s teaching in the clip and how TVC embodied it–in my opinion–with Karen. It is too controlling. It gives pastors too much power to decide whether or not one gets or stays married. At best, a pastor ought to wisely advise their congregation and not make major life choices for them. And let’s make no mistake: Such teaching crosses the line of advising to deciding.


Adults make decisions. Children have decisions made for them.

Karen is not a child.

A faithful spouse is not a child.

Nor is a faithful spouse insane. They do not need to be “committed” to a bunch of paternalistic, authoritarian pastors who will decide if/when they will let the faithful spouse out of the “asylum.” Faithful spouses need friends who will grieve with them over the losses and support them in feeling less crazy empowering them to make their own choices as submitted ultimately to the Holy Spirit alone.

The paternalistic, authoritarian behavior must stop! As an evangelical pastor myself, it is frustrating to watch how a prominent evangelical pastor can fall in large part due to domineering abuses only to see another church in his former church network engaging in similar behavior.

Will anyone learn?**

How many more sheep will be found bruised and battered under the bus before the shepherds stop punching the gas pedal forward and over?

Call it “church covenant enforcement” or “church discipline” or “pastoral care in a marriage crisis.” I do not care. It is controlling. It is domineering. And it is far from godly (e.g. I Peter 5:3).

At least, that is my take.





* I would add that Karen Hinkley did not come to her decision hastily or immediately as she states in her response to the TVC membership letter (see here). She sought out the counsel of other godly, Christian people in making her decision. However, she did not give the TVC leadership decision-making authority for her concerning her marriage. So, it is not about making a wise decision with outside input; this is more about TVC leadership being angry for not having control over her marriage annulling decision as I read the documents and exchanges.

**A glimmer of hope has been seen on that number as this was posting. TVC and Matt Chandler have issued an apology of sorts. See Matthew Paul Turner’s blog post (here).

16 thoughts on “Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler, and The Village Church Scandal”

  1. Kudos to you DM for speaking truth to power in the church, much like Paul to the Church of Corinth. I would add to your statement that adulterers also are not insane or children. Adultery is not simply taking a cookie from the jar after being told not to. In my instance, the cookie and the jar was someone else’s husband and marriage that my ex wife helped herself to. Methodically, intentionally, stealthily. I would encourage anyone seeking pastoral marriage and/or divorce counseling, to seek it from a pastor trained, certified or educated in such, or supplement it with a counselor who is, and make your own decision as ultimately, it’s yours to live with.

    1. Thanks, Deacon B, for your kind words. I would generally agree with your points. Especially, I agree with making it YOUR OWN decision as you say at the end.

      However, education isn’t everything. If the pastor has been through a divorce himself/herself, I would hope they would have better firsthand education than what goes in MC world. My ex has a Master degree in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT); so, I would not just trust even a specialized advanced degree, IMO.

  2. This is ALL so foreign to me. Church membership will never drive my decisions. I have come to see that church membership is big time in the U.S. The concept that elders and pastors get to direct and advise me…..never going to happen. Ever! My attendance at church is my signature for membership. I realize this is cultural, and because of this, I cannot get my head around the idea that any church “group” would feel they had a right to decide my life’s directions. Wow….just ….WOW! No wonder the Evangelicals are coming in for such generalized criticism. This story just adds to the perception……

    1. Janet I am of the same mind. I was born into a culture and denomination where “man worship” is quite common and accepted. I remember my former pastor during individual counseling post separation/pre- divorce, encouraged me to stay as there were two couples who’d divorced and remarried within the congregation, and remained there. While I can’t confirm these remarriages resulted from adultery between them, I advised my pastor that was not an option. He then agreed he couldn’t do that either. I later found out after leaving that during the following year that my ex remained, and remained in leadership, another member began an affair, openly posting pics of her and her partner on Facebook. What Paul warned about the Leaven rings true.

  3. This kind of leadership w Driscoll and Chandler, and many more, is exactly why Jesus came…these leaders are nothing but oppressors and abusers, and Jesus had a lot to say to leaders like that.

  4. I agree Lyndie. I think if I could ask Jesus one question, it would be why he lets the shepherds continue to abuse the sheep. I just don’t understand it. I think perhaps the exposure we’re now seeing is him doing just that. While the exposure looks like its quite the opposite, sometimes when you’re cleaning, rebuilding, remodeling, things look worse before they look better, at least I certainly hope thats the case. I sometimes feel the church has broken my heart far more than my ex wife….

  5. Unfortunately, overbearing immature pastors who fake humility (unlike Driscoll who refuses to fake humility)are the norm in my 40 years attending Evangelical churches.

    In fact, these pastors are more dangerous because they wear sheep’s clothing. Over half of my friends report that their wives have lied to pastors or staff while in marital counseling. My friends walk haplessly into these traps set by wives anxious to gain power and manipulation in their relationships. Immature pastors lap up slander, gossip and innuendo are are often equally hapless as the victims (husbands).

    My wife has accused me of physical abuse to three separate pastors who were all quick to recommend divorce and that I be put out of the church, (one threatened me with violence and I won’t use the filthy threats he used that would have made Mark Driscoll blush). When they found out that she was the one who had the habit of punching me in the head during an argument and that my supposed abuse was pushing her away or blocking the subsequent blows, these pastors all changed their tunes.

    What if my wife had not admitted to lying in all three cases? All three pastors had talked with others about my all edged a use before I was able to get the truth out! I asked them to undue any damage from their gossip but only know of one that openly confessed his wrongdoing.

    How are these men able to equip us to be ambassadors of Jesus?

    It is our fault that we follow these clowns and let ourselves be duped.

  6. IT broke my heart when my daughter in law served my son with divorce papers. They were married for six years and had 2 precious children. When he remarried about 2 years later he took on 3 more children and they had twins together. They are both very happy and have been married for 12 years but that marriage has not come without problems. God is the one who will judge this situation. I have given this to God in prayer. I try to love all those involved. As a Christian Parent, I have accepted that this is what God is calling me to do. Divorce affecfs parents of the couple also..

  7. While I appreciate your concern for the church and its leaders, the arguments you make regarding the connections between Chandler and Driscoll are speculative, not concrete. Thus, I don’t think you can “expose how a domineering and controlling pastoral teaching on divorce can infect a whole network of churches if not checked” when your evidence cannot possibly make concrete connections between two distinct situations. I think you need to be very careful — even in the comfort of your own blog — on the accusations you make about other believers, especially when you are not directly involved with the issues at hand. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.

    1. Indeed, “God will bring every deed into judgment.” How will you fare by supporting spiritually abusive teachings and systems like you just did by making this last comment on my blog? I, for one, am more than comfortable to stand by my words in this post and stand against such spiritually abusive teachings/practices.

  8. Trying to preserve for His glory a marriage made in His glory unifying two of His children through the recommendation of forgiveness and support of the spouse (til death do we part) is hardly abusive. However, we all are human and none of us Jesus… we forgive where we can but He forgives all.

    1. When adultery has taken place, Scripture has spoken that death HAS parted them per the Law (e.g. Deut. 22:22). Divorce is a mercy to the adulterous spouse. Even Jesus gave a spouse who has been violated thus–via sexual immorality–the permission to divorce. To manipulate a faithful spouse or add to Jesus’ permission in the name of God IS abusive. I stand by my labeling it as such.

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