The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill
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!”
11/16/2021 10:19:17 am
I always enjoy hearing / reading your thoughts, Jeff! Jon and I saw Driscoll preach when we were in Seattle about 15 years ago and the one thing I remember is that he had body guards stationed at each side of the stage where he preached. It definitely didn’t sit well with me and was a red flag. Of course, there could be a good reason to have body guards for pastors in some other context, but in this case it definitely was an indicator (in retrospect) of Driscolls ability to incite, aggravate, stir up people all for his personal gain. Thanks, Jeff, for not being a pastor who would aim to outshine Christ himself! Keep on keeping on!
11/17/2021 06:44:49 am
Thanks, Michelle. I don't have bodyguards yet. :)
11/17/2021 05:33:55 am
Thank you for your insight, Jeff. The tiny, faithful and always struggling church would characterize my life experience. This gives me hope and confidence in “still small voices” and the impact of simple, loving lives lived in community.
11/17/2021 06:44:03 am
True words, Michael. There is something to the unassuming small church that is powerful.
11/17/2021 09:27:25 am
Pastor Jeff. You have a gift. Thank you for boldly proclaiming The truth, raw and real. Thank you for sharing your personal faith walk and for stretching our church towards The Great Commission. I pray that God keeps you strong and continues to use you mightily, and in even greater ways. Blessings
11/13/2022 09:41:04 am
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