The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill is captivating the Christian podcast world. It chronicles the ministry of Pastor Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church in Seattle. Mars Hill’s explosive growth sparked one of the largest church planting movements in American history. Driscoll was a voice for a new generation of church leaders at the turn of the millennium.
The podcast uncovers all the issues under the energy of the movement. Money, celebrity, scandal, and power. Driscoll’s stated goal was a church of 50,000 people and a media platform reaching millions. He was (and is) a brash, controversial personality. In 2014 he left the church under a myriad of accusations from abusive behavior to plagiarism. Mars Hill dissolved shortly after.
The church is not immunized against the lust for celebrity. We prize the platform. “Build a brand. Get noticed. Reach the masses.” We all want to be admired, to be liked, to be someone.
My counselor is “retired.” He is the former director of his counseling agency, but maintains a part time caseload of clients. Last week he told me, “I have never been busier in my whole career. And I’m retired!”
He shared how unique this present moment is. “No one alive has been through this before. In my career I witnessed Vietnam, the Civil Rights movement, 9/11, and the 2008 economic crash. But this is different. I’ve never seen as much anxiety in nearly 50 years of work.”
Sometimes ministry is like firing a cannon. You stand at a distance, choose targets, and fire strategic shots. But sometimes, ministry is like a knife fight in a crowd. Things get serious. There is a continuous onslaught of threats and challenges that require physical, emotional, and spiritual energy. It’s hand-to-hand combat.
Lifeway Research conducted a national poll on belief in the resurrection of Jesus, and published the results last week. They found that 66% of U.S. adults agree that Jesus physically rose from the dead. This is twice the number of Americans who attend church on a weekly basis. So what does this mean?
Something Jesus said puzzled me. From the cross, he gave John to take care of his widowed mother, Mary. "Woman, behold, your son . . . behold, your mother" (John 19:26-27). Here's the mystery: Why didn’t Jesus call on his biological siblings to take care of Mom? This was the conventional custom. As the oldest son, Jesus bore the responsibility to care for his mother. Upon his death, his siblings ought to have taken that role. He did have other siblings. We know of his brother James who became a leader in the early church. Why couldn’t James take care of Mary?
On Wednesday, January 6th, 2021, I saw a flag charging the Capital steps. It had two names on it. The name of our Savior and the name of our president. I was angry. Not for political reasons, but for theological reasons. Why?
This is an email sent to my congregation in St. Louis, MO. It is an attempt to provide pastoral guidance and perspective to our congregation when so many people are frustrated, angry, and confused. With my colleagues, Pastor Bobby Walston and Pastor Paul Dickerson, we desire for our people to follow Christ faithfully in days of uncertainty.
In a contentious election week, your pastors desire to share a response to some common statements we hear. Our heart is for you. Our desire is for you to walk faithfully in Christ, without fear or despair. Our role is not to advocate for a political system. We are pastors. Our calling is higher, to guide you in the ways of God that you might walk faithfully in service to him.
In his 1981 book Megatrends, John Naisbitt taught that the more “high tech” a society is, the more “high touch” it must become. 40 years later, this is truer than ever. As I look at ministry in the trenches, I see “high touch” as the most critical ministry skill today.
After the death of George Floyd, there were an abundance of statements on racism and justice. For better or worse, I was hesitant to add to the list of "statements." Instead, I invested time in one-on-one conversations. Scores of them. Two of those conversations were with the brothers pictured above, Pastors Gerard Bolling and John Schmidtke.
In those conversations, I learned something: my assumptions were off. Assumptions about what people thought about racism. Assumptions about what they expected from the church. It prompted me to make a clear statement to our congregation. In retrospect, I should have done it sooner. But this is a long road and demands more than a single statement. Here’s a letter I sent to my church a this week. It's start.
I was doing some video recording in our church building last night. The building was eerily empty. It will be quiet on Easter as well. Is it really Holy Week if no one gathers?
I believe this will be the most authentic Easter in your lifetime.