Mark Driscoll has a knack for drawing crowds—and dividing them. The brash pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle has more than his share of fans and critics. But we weren't interested in his latest controversy or faux pas. Leadership Journal's Drew Dyck talked to Driscoll about coping with busyness and burnout. What emerged was a picture of an introverted family man with a blue-collar work ethic and a heart for the local church.
Early in your ministry, you suffered a bad case of burnout. What happened?
When we planted the church, I didn't get paid by the congregation for about three years. We were broke as a joke. We were meeting just at night in the cheapest room we could find. By the time I got paid by the church, we had two kids. So I was doing side jobs and some outside speaking to bring in money. Nothing big, just a college retreat here and there, trying to make ends meet. Then as the church started to grow, quite frankly, I didn't know how to run an organization. And the next thing you know, we got a building given to us, and we start adding some staff. But I was the only pastor until we had 800 people.
With 800 people and you were doing all the pastoral work?
I did all the preaching, all the premarital preparation, all the counseling, all the hospital visits. I had a few other leaders who were volunteers, but I was the only pastor on staff. Later we got a building that seated a lot more, and we had another surge where we grew about a thousand people a year. And a lot of those people were new Christians. It takes 10 minutes to see somebody become a Christian, but 10 years to see them become a viable leader. And so you've got this leadership vacuum.
I come from a blue collar background. My dad was a drywaller. One grandpa was a diesel mechanic. The other grandpa was a red potato farmer. So we don't have a lot of organizational experience. But we can work hard. So I just worked. Put my head down, worked seven days a week. I preached, gosh, 48 or 50 Sundays a year, five or six times a Sunday, an hour or more per sermon. And I traveled to speak, to make ends meet, because I was still supplementing my income. I didn't even have a full-time assistant until we hit 6,000. And by then my wife and I had five kids.
It was go, go, go, and at some point my body just couldn't go anymore. I once had an old car and the ignition would get stuck. You'd have to literally pop the hood and disconnect the battery to make it stop. I was like that car. I couldn't shut down. I couldn't sleep. I'd fall asleep for an hour, wake up, and then be up all night. I'd be exhausted but unable to sleep. I had adrenal fatigue.
What finally happened?
First I went to a conventional doctor, who told me I needed blood pressure meds, heartburn medicine, sleep medicine, anxiety medicine. I'm like, Man, I'm in my 30s. That's a lot of medicine! So I went and found a naturopathic doctor, who said, "You need to quit your job and find a different vocation."
I said, "Well, Jesus said to do this, so that's not really an option." So I found another naturopathic doctor. He gave me supplements, vitamins, minerals, IV treatments for adrenal support, and custom tailored vitamins. He put me on a regimen for wellness and recovery. His approach was to naturally rebuild the body, to not just treat the symptoms. He told me, "You've got to work really hard to change your lifestyle and your organization, everything."