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.
Early in my ministry, I was eager for help as I planted a new church. I attended an Acts 29 Boot Camp in Seattle in 2007. I was the only Lutheran, and the only one not wearing distressed jeans. Driscoll was there. I was captivated by his confidence and clarity. He took the Bible seriously and proclaimed the gospel boldly. It didn't hurt that he was hip and preached like a stand-up comic. I admit an aspiration toward his brand of ministry, an aspiration I’m embarrassed by today.
The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill is not about Mark Driscoll. It’s about us. We were shown the model of “One to a million.” One dynamic leader playing the part of a hero reaching the masses. Who doesn’t want to be a hero? And, for God!
Today, I’m convinced it’s not “One to a million,” but “A million to one” - a crowd of ordinary, everyday Christians each carrying the gospel to one person. It's better to have a million undercover disciples of Jesus than one celebrity pastor. This way is less sexy, but more biblical. It is less dependent on personality and more dependent on personal relationship.
“A million to one.” It sounds like a long shot, but God tends to prefer those odds. The impossible situation brings him glory when he proves himself the singular hero of the story. Jesus likens the Kingdom of God to humble seed and soil, not Twitter and YouTube. He talks about leaven, not loud leaders. The picture is the “poor in spirit,” the meek and merciful, not the fog machine and lights on the stage.
“A million to one.” Let’s be counted among the millions who inconspicuously advance the Kingdom of God. It’s best if no one remembers our name, save the Good Shepherd. If no one notices except our Lord, we’ve succeeded. May it be said of us, “We don’t remember who spoke the word, but how precious was the gospel they shared with us!”