Pastor Dude's Mega-Church Draws Crowds

Preaching

At first glance, Mark Driscoll seems like a typical Seattle, Wash., "hipster" dad, from the biker boots to the shades to his calling his 3-year-old "dude."

But nothing about Mark Driscoll is typical -- and neither is the church he presides over.

Driscoll, 38, is the pastor and figurehead of Seattle's Mars Hill Church. The church, founded by Driscoll in 1996, is now nearly 8,000 strong and among the fastest-growing in America.

Most of his parishioners call him "Pastor Mark" but, Driscoll said, "You can call me Pastor Dude if you want."

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Whatever you call him, Driscoll is the "indy rock star" of the evangelicals. His flock is a colorful bunch in their Sunday best: torn jeans, tattoos and 20-something avant-garde fashion statements. They're not just there for the dress code; they come to hear sermons with an edge.

"You're being saved, you're being born again," Driscoll shouted in one sermon. "Like a mother in the travails of childbirth. It hurts, you're screaming, you're bleeding, you're weeping, you're crying, it feels like you can't go on."

And Driscoll takes on topics that would make the Pope blush.

"On the subject of masturbation, I will say this," he preached. "The Bible doesn't say anything. I had one guy quote Ecclesiastes 9:10: whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might."

Driscoll admits his preaching can sometimes be summed up with two words: sex and Jesus.

"I like both ... for the record," he said. "Sex with my wife. And I dig Jesus. Absolutely."

Driscoll's blog posts on the church Web site include a variety of often graphic topics but he doesn't think there's too much sex in the Mars Hill Church and is adamant that premarital sex is a sin.

"I think that married people should have free and frequent sex," he said. "That's what I think. And we encourage our people to get married and enjoy one another."

Jesus Was a Rebel

Driscoll has five children and works most days from home to help raise them. His wife Grace was his high-school sweetheart and today she finds herself in the sometimes difficult position of being married to a pastor who likes to talk about sex.

"We did have some discussions, just talking about how far we want to go, what all we want to say," she said, adding that she's no longer embarrassed sharing those intimate details.

"I used to be more private about that sort of thing. I know we have a lot of young couples that need to work through that stuff. So if we can be of help to people, that's great. Otherwise, we don't need to talk about it," she added, laughing.

Driscoll does have some critics who accuse him of lowering the moral standard in his ministry.

"I preach for a living," he said. "If you don't have a critic, then you probably aren't saying anything."

And then there are the things he has to say about Jesus -- Jesus according to Pastor Mark.

Driscoll calls the mainstream church's portrayal of Jesus "a hippie-Christ. A neutered and limp-wristed popular sky fairy of popular culture that would never talk about sin or send anyone to hell."

According to Driscoll, Jesus was an outcast who didn't play by the rules.

"Jesus is typically portrayed as very effeminate guy, kind of long, flowing hair wearing a dress, always smiling, [making] pithy Zen statements that read like fortune cookies at a Chinese restaurant," he said. "And the truth is that he was a construction worker. He was very controversial and got murdered."

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