Mark Driscoll, John Piper, and a Problem in Evangelicalism and its Lack of Churchmanship

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Mark Driscoll has relaunched his former website as You might think he was changing the name because he is no longer a pastor. If you do, you’re wrong. Apparently, Mark Driscoll is still promoting the idea of people referring and addressing him as “Pastor Mark.” In a post dated 12/20/14, the web page says,

This website was built in response to requests from people wanting access to Pastor Mark Driscoll’s past and future Bible teaching. This is the only official resource from Pastor Mark Driscoll, and will soon be the exclusive home for content from Pastor Mark and his family.

Mark Driscoll is not a pastor. He is not recognized by any biblical church as one of their pastors and therefore biblically, he is not at this time a pastor. I’m not in this post arguing whether or not he is biblically qualified to be a pastor. Whatever one thinks about that, the point is that no local gospel-preaching church recognizes him as such and so he shouldn’t promote that title. I hope he reconsiders this as he learns whatever our Lord Jesus is hopefully teaching him in this season of his life.

To be a pastor is to be one recognized by a local church as having pastoral responsibilities to the local church, responsibilities defined in the New Testament. This is where evangelicalism as a movement is inadequate. At it’s best it’s a movement of those who are united by their belief in the gospel and in the final authority of the Scriptures. It isn’t meant to take the place of the local church of a denomination of churches. I praise God for evangelical unity and its blessings. But when one has a weak or poorly thought out ecclesiology, they do things like recognize others as pastors or call themselves pastors when they are not.

Benjamin Merkle (@Benmerklehelpfully writes at

if the above analysis is correct, then to rightfully be a “pastor” (or deacon) is to be “ordained” in the sense of being publicly installed into that office. The idea of separating the title from the public act of commissioning is not found in the Bible. Elders are not appointed to an office after they become elders. But by becoming elders, they are appointed to office.

In a recent “Ask Pastor John” podcast episode at Desiring God, John commented on the fact that the church’s official recognition of his title “Pastor Emeritus” legitimizes his continuing to be addressed as “Pastor John” (go to 8:28-8:38). The implication is that if a church does not recognize a man as one of their pastors then the individual shouldn’t assume the title of pastor.

Why take the time to write about this? Am I mad at Driscoll? No. I love the brother and thank God for the grace I received through Mark. Do I have opinions on his qualifications and all the hoopla surrounding his resignation? Who doesn’t? The point I wanted to make here is that we need to be more thoughtful about churchmanship in Evangelicalism. It’s important to be a member of a church. And it’s important for men who call themselves “pastor” to actually be pastoring a church. Even then we shouldn’t rush to a title (cf. Matt 23:8). Pastoring is a weighty responsibility (Hebrews 13:17) and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Neither should assuming the title.

About pjtibayan

P. J. loves Jesus Christ and lives to share life and share Jesus together with Bethany Baptist Church of Bellflower primarily to Southeast Los Angeles County. P. J. has been pastoring since 2002 and earned a doctorate in biblical theology from Southern Seminary (D.Min.). He blogs regularly at
This entry was posted in 9Marks, Baptist Theology and Practice, Christian Tradition, church, church health, church polity, Evangelicalism. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Mark Driscoll, John Piper, and a Problem in Evangelicalism and its Lack of Churchmanship

  1. Aeric Estep says:

    Thanks for the blog. I have been thinking through the title of “Pastor” and I have been realizing that it is really an American title that we put back into Scripture. The only real reference to it in Scripture is Eph 4:11, often translated shepherds.

    I see the biblical importance of the terms and offices of deacon and elder, with the proper qualifications and responsibilities listed in scripture. However, the American church has taken the term “pastor” and filled it with all the importance and responsibility as if it was a biblical office.

    In Eph 4, we see the long list of helpers for the church that equip people for the work of ministry. It seems to me the church in view here is the universal body of Christ. With this in mind there are many who can teach, equip, pastor, and shepherd us for the work of ministry. I think specifically of seminary teachers, or mentors that help us understand how to serve Jesus. These people do not need to be ordained or set apart by a specific local church, but all work together for the equipping of the saints.

    If he were taking the title of elder I would have a bigger concern as he would indeed be taking on an office that is one set apart by the local church and it’s people. But I think it can be legitimate to be a forlorn pastor in search of ministry, waiting for it, or willing to keep available your past ministry for the sake of equipping the saints for the work of ministry.

    I hope this is not seen as mean-spirited. I have been pondering the significance of the term “pastor” as of late and thought I would include you in the pondering.

    A Pondering Brother,


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