So Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, narrowly avoided a protest yesterday from the People Against Fundamentalism. I won’t get into all the gory details (sorry, poor Monday morning journalism at work), but they basically considered Driscoll’s comments in reaction to the Ted Haggard scandal to be misogynistic and planned to protest Mars Hill Church yesterday. Driscoll tried to clarify what he said the first time around, but his critics considered it a non-apology.
After some soul searching and looking to others for wisdom, Driscoll met face to face with some of the organizers of the protest and hashed out some of their issues. Some changes were made and the protest was called off. The organizers even showed up at Mars Hill on Sunday anyway, just to make sure everyone heard that the protest had been called off (20-25 people did show up to protest, so it’s a good thing they came to turn people away).
You can debate Driscoll’s comments and the reaction of the People Against Fundamentalism all you want, but what I think is interesting is the public relations lessons. Driscoll mentioned three things that brought him joy throughout this trial:
- First, Driscoll learned from the example of Billy Graham and Charles Spurgeon and how they dealt with criticism. Graham especially had the habit of turning his critics into coaches and learning from them.
- Second, Driscoll talked with Carolyn Haggard, the neice of Ted Haggard, and learned a few things about media relations, which Carolyn handles for Ted’s former church. Because of her, Driscoll decided his church needs someone to handle media relations.
- Third, Driscoll was contacted by the organizers of the protest to sit down and talk. Their tone was kind so he accepted (there’s a lesson for protestors), and the open and honest discussion defused the situation.
Nobody wants to come to church on Sunday morning (or whenever you have church) and find a line of protestors. A church of all places should find a way to dialogue with their critics and avoid that kind of attack. You may not convince the protestors to put down their signs and come into church, but perhaps you can come closer to understanding one another and agree not to attack each other.
Update: For the full-blown journalism angle you can check out the Seattle Times or the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. You can check out Travis Johnson’s post if you want to talk about why Driscoll’s critics acted improperly, but we’re more interested in how a church should respond, regardless of how proper or improper the critics are.