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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 ...

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From Issue:Ministry Health, January 2014 | Posted: January 1, 2014

Also in this Issue: January 2014

Healthy Pastor, Healthy Church

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When my personal deterioration changed direction, so did our congregation.
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Pete Briscoe on pursuing spiritual, relational, and physical vigor.
Invisible Matters

Invisible Matters

Spiritual heart disease is that slow, invisible illness that, unchecked, results in a leader's demise.
The Widowmaker Repents

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After decades of dysfunction, one church publicly confessed its mistreatment of former ministers.

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Displaying 1–5 of 6 comments

Pastor Brian Channel

January 30, 2014  9:21am

Getting healthy? Seriously?

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christopher Laird

January 29, 2014  3:11am

Yeah, I remember back in the day (what was that, 15-20 years ago?) when I experienced burn-out, temptation, ministry challenges . . . but that was then and now, well . . . Now I'm simply an inspiration to others, a model of success. In short, now I AM A WINNER!

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January 28, 2014  10:49pm

I agree with fellow Pastor Gray. There is also a time and place to deal with accusations, as well as a Biblical mandate as to how we deal with them. Making statements without context along with name calling, are not helpful ways to deal with each other. The Apostle Paul wrote that he was the greatest of all sinners. Perhaps we can all step back and consider the personal implications of sin and salvation in regard to our own lives. Brother Driscoll has elders to whom he is accountable... just saying.

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Bob Brissette

January 28, 2014  7:43pm

what ever happened to page 4?

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George Gray

January 28, 2014  4:53pm

I think that "Crab Grass, who wrote the first response" should be more open in his article. He, is blunt & graphic. Should he not, at the very least, use his own name when he writes about such toxic info? If what he wrote is true, then there are a lot of damaging accusations here and these are directed against a fellow Pastor. (My assumption is that Crab Grass is a pastor?) Perhaps his approach is not the way in which to deal with the sensitive issues involved. Crab Grass seems to me to be angry about a lot of things against Driscoll.

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