Ep. 358 Response to The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, Episode 6

Ep. 358 Response to The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, Episode 6

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Shows Main Idea – This sixth edition of Christianity Today’s podcast series, The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, discusses the brand and how to promote yourself to become somebody. Then Mike Cosper shared how Mark Driscoll associated himself with the gospel community to spread his fame globally. Mark had a talented team who knew how to build an analytically savvy, algorithmic cyber-preacher. And once they established his fame in the stratosphere, the Christian celebrities and organizations would not ignore him.

Life Over Coffee · Ep. 358 Response to The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, Episode 6

Show Notes

You may want to read:

Episode Six: The Brand

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.

Too Early, Too Soon

Mark Driscoll was in his twenties when he led the Mars Hill church plant in Seattle, WA. Later, in this episode, Mike Cosper will interview Josh Harris, another youngster others promoted too early, too soon. I remember my pastoral epistles class in the ’80s, where my professor talked about Timothy’s young age. He added that a person should not lead a church until he was in his mid-thirties. He was not making a mandate but a suggestion. There was wisdom in his words.

The problem in our technological culture is that everybody has a voice, whether it’s Facebook, weblog, website, or a ministry. There are virtually no gatekeepers, and many of us are not humble or wise enough to ask others to evaluate our talks, blogs, or comments on social media. We know stuff, but many are not appropriately suspicious of that knowledge.

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God (James 1:19).


Speaking too quickly and too harshly is part of the problem, but there is a deeper insidiousness with those who want to promote their brands. It’s selfish ambition. If your aim is to become somebody, you will compromise who you are, how God made you, and what He has called you to do. Selfish-ambition is a glory-sucking path that obscures God while elevating the person. It’s counter to John 3:30: “He [God] must increase, and I must decrease.”

Being more enamored with results, likes, follows, and applause than developing into the unique individual God intended cannot end well for anyone. The allurement of fame has subsided over the years as God is teaching me that I cannot be anyone but myself. I have to be me whether folks are interested or not. It is worthy of your time to wrangle with the temptation to “be somebody” other than who God wants you to become.

Wounded Theology

Part of brand building is your base. Mike framed this part of the story as daddy wounds—those craving souls looking for a father. He spoke to Diane Langberg, who said we all want a relationship with our Father, but we can’t see Him, so we take the one in front of us.

There is a truth in what Mike and Diane were saying, though they rolled it up into a bunch of psychobabble jargon that places the focus on the hurting soul rather than the redeeming Lord. I do not deny the hurting soul’s truth claims; we’re all damaged goods, sitting on the lower shelf of the grocery store. But when folks talk about wounds, they are almost always talking about themselves, i.e., what others have done to me.

There is another way to frame the problem. Rather than being problem-centered—”what someone did to me,” it is better to be God-centered—”what is Christ doing in you?” When you center your problems on the Lord, you look to Him for answers and a path forward. When you make disappointments about yourself, you will look for man-centered answers. Wounded theology ties into self-esteem and sounds like the following.

Someone Wounded Me

  • My daddy was a mean person; I will find a replacement in Mark Driscoll.
  • I’m divorced and lonely; I will find another spouse.
  • My parents were unkind people; I will find love somewhere else.

Alternatively, Someone Wounded Christ

  • Do you focus more on what has happened to you or what has happened to Christ because of you?
  • Are you more controlled by what others did to you or what the Father is doing to you through Christ?
  • Are your circumstances shaping you into the image of the Savior?

Fallen Stars

Of course, Mike Cosper conflates what went wrong with Mark Driscoll and Reformed Theology. Mike seamlessly weaves the corruption of Sovereign Grace Churches, the hubris and abuse of Mark Driscoll, and Josh Harris’ denial of the faith with Reformed Teaching. The unsuspecting or unlearned Christian could easily conclude that part of the problem with these people and organizations was their theology.

During Mike’s Reformed tangent, he briefly interviewed Josh Harris. Mike called him a “casualty of the Christian celebrity phenomenon.” By framing Josh’s downfall this way, it makes Josh sound like a victim; he was not. He was an active participant in the fall of Sovereign Grace, the cover-up of abuse, and a determination to build his brand, which he continues to do in the secular world. Josh has never changed, and he is not a victim. Pride comes before a fall, not victimization.

Josh reveals a “tell” in this episode as he describes to Mike Cosper what happened in the early days. Josh reflected on Louie Giglio of the Passion Conference fame and said, “I want to do that too.” Josh has always had an eye on the prize, which was his fame. Perhaps he was blind to it because of his immaturity, but selfish ambition was there. With nobody putting a governor on his ambition or holding him accountable, he rode his version of the Driscoll wave that eventually led to a similar inglorious wipeout.

Mea Culpa

Mike continued to talk about this collection of stars in the new reformed movement, i.e., Mohler, Mahaney, Dever, Duncan, etc., and how they formed the Together for the Gospel conferences. I was at this first meeting at the Galt Hotel. Sovereign Grace decided to forego its pastor’s conference that year, choosing instead to attend Together for the Gospel.

During this part of the episode, Collin Hansen talked about the flack he received from promoting Mark Driscoll, unlike John MacArthur who was against Mark being part of Together for the Gospel. Regardless of what you think about John, he saw the problems and did not refrain from sharing his concerns about what should have been evident to everyone else. Collin said some of the issues were evident, but

It would be interesting to go back in retrospect and consider what were all the different warning signs that we missed, that I missed.

True! He is speaking to his lack of discernment, or lack of courage, or another agenda that pushed the obvious aside, or his desire to grow a brand, e.g., Christianity Today or The Gospel Coalition. Why can’t these folks admit their mistakes (or sins)? If you want to help us, move from storytelling to guiding us into seeing these things, standing for truth, doing the right thing, and separating ourselves from group-think?

Just Not Right

When you hang with a person with problems, aren’t you able to discern that something is not right? You might not be able to label what you sense, but you definitely perceive it. John MacArthur was like this, and he has no better advantage than the rest of us. We read the Bible, walk in the Spirit, and enjoy Christianity’s benefits like discernment, wisdom, and understanding.

When I was part of Sovereign Grace, it was evident that something was wrong, though I could not identify it initially. Eventually, it was no longer possible to ignore all the sinful evidence, locally and extra-locally. But if you’re caught up in something more glorious to you than the fidelity of God’s Word, you will remain blind to the damage that is happening in front of you.

It’s not wrong to ask questions about your suspicions. It is inappropriate to self-censor, grieve or quench the Spirit as the evidence is mounting before your eyes. I’m not suggesting you could change things, but you cannot be quiet about what you observe. Perhaps you’re mistaken. Maybe you must separate yourself from the person, church, or organization.

Call to Action

  1. Have you ever discerned something is wrong when everything and everyone around you does not?
  2. Is your default to self-censor, letting others stand up for things? What does it say about you when you step back when you should be speaking up?
  3. Is there something on your radar today that you believe is wrong? What will you do about it?

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