Ep. 353 Response to The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, Episode 1

Ep. 353 Response to The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, Episode 1

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Shows Main Idea – Christianity Today (CT) put together a multi-episode podcast series that chronicles the story of Mars Hill Church (MH) led by Mark Driscoll. The church was planted in 1996 and dissolved in 2014. At its height, they had 15,000+ attendees/members from fifteen campuses. CT has produced this podcast series for the encouragement and admonition of the body of Christ. I will review each episode, not repeating the information in the podcasts, but hoping to put forth insights that we can apply to our lives and church cultures. This podcast reviews episode one.

Life Over Coffee · Ep. 353 The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, Ep. 1, Response

Show Notes

You may want to read:

Episode One: Who Killed Mars Hill?

My aim in working through these episodes is to help folks think through the church they attend, the leadership culture of their church, and, potentially, identify things that might not be apparent. I will not provide a “Monday morning play-by-play” critique. I hope you will gain personal insight through this review, as well as applications to your teachers and the church you attend.

Should You Listen

  1. I don’t know.
  2. If you lean toward gossip and “National Enquirer” type information, it would be better to take that hour to pray and read your Bible.
  3. If you have gone through a horrific church experience and have not worked through the residual effects, it might not be good to listen.
  4. If things like the demise of MH are not triggering to you and you want to pick up insights on how to serve your leaders more effectively, these episodes might benefit you.
  5. If your primary desire is to examine the log in your eye, there will be a lot here to challenge you. Your humility will open the way for God’s empowering favor to impact you.

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Presuposstional Truth

  • CT is a social justice, woke-leaning organization. Their doctrinal positions differ from Scripture, influencing their journalism and commentary about Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill, e.g., husband/wife hierarchy, complementarianism, and Reformed Theology.
  • The podcast is light on Scripture. It’s storytelling that does not lean into the authority of Scripture.
  • If you’re interested in storytelling, it’s a compelling story. It might be wise to pass on this podcast series if you tend toward tabloid news without biblical discernment or personal application.

Presuppositional Truth

A Leader’s Template

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil (1 Timothy 3:1-7).

Problematic Leadership Culture

  • Cursing
  • Harshness
  • Isolation
  • Limited accountability of the leaders
  • An authority structure that does not “feel” right
  • Rubber Stampers: those who refuse to confront the leader
  • A discontinuity between the leader’s modeling of the gospel and the expectations the leader places on others. When you see it, you must ask God for the courage to speak into it. Perhaps you cannot bring change, but you must not remain silent, i.e., SGM pastor.

Pointing to Pragmatism

According to Christianity Today, the living contradiction between the folks who attended Mars Hill was “stunning life-change and stunning pain,” a critical statement about what was alluring about Mars Hill. They were pointing to pragmatism: folks were getting results, which was more compelling than the need to draw attention to the abuses. When results blind us to objective abuses, we’re not far from the precipice. In the case of MH, the focus heavily tilted toward men leading and wives submitting and being counter to the culture of the day.

Applauding Outsiders

Those who promoted Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill, who were not part of MH, applauded what was happening based on the messages they heard, plus other external indicators, e.g., church growth, sermon downloads, and leadership charisma.

Direct Video Messages

Who killed Mars Hill?

  • Mark Driscoll?
  • Those who defended and insulated him?
  • Those on the inside who brought him down?
  • The outside voices who thought MH was too liberal or too conservative?
  • The pot-stirrers on social media?
  • What about us? Why do we keep doing this? Something attracts us; we buy-in, and then we watch it fall. I do not entirely agree with this last point.

CT says we all brought MH down, i.e., The Murder on the Orient Express. I can’t entirely agree with this point. The fall of Mars Hill was not my fault and probably not yours.

  • For example, when a church puts forth a leader, i.e., pastor, worship, Sunday school leader, etc., the church people trust the leaders who put forth these people. A significant aspect of being part of a local church is submitting to the church leaders, as you should.
  • For example, when we hire a person for our ministry, our supporters trust that we have done due diligence because they believe in us, and it’s not possible for them to vet a person like us. Our community trusts us to operate this ministry with the highest integrity.

Though we are not responsible for the Mars Hill debacle, we must not turn off our discernment. Go back to the 1 Timothy 3:1-7 template. We charitably observe the behavior of our leaders to make sure their lives line up with 1 Timothy 3:1-7. If we see how their lives are not in line with what it means to be a leader, we are responsible for calling attention to it in biblically appropriate ways. I listened to Mark Driscoll because I could not avoid him, but I stopped after hearing enough of his thoughts, mannerisms, and style.

Call to Action

  1. How does pragmatism influence how you think about your church? Does pragmatism tempt you to hide apparent flaws with your leaders?
  2. What about your blind spots? If you’re “all in” on your local church with no critique, you probably have a blind spot.
  3. Will you take the time to compare your church leader to 1 Timothy 3:1-7? If the leader does not ring true, will you reach out to a competent and courageous friend that you can share your perspectives?

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