At one point, Mark Driscoll was the most influential pastor in my life. He preached in a refreshing way that cared more about a living audience than dead pastors. I admired his evaluation about the emergent church movement. As a guy coming out of a small, and very conservative denomination, his Spirit-filled boldness challenged my view that the church is always meant to get smaller and less important in the world.
At one point, I even tried to talk my wife into moving to Seattle and joining Mars Hill. It was her discernment at the time of our deepest loneliness that kept us from making what I now know would have been a mistake. It would have been a mistake because my understanding of how God interacts with people is very different than what Mars Hill taught. It would have been a mistake because the more I listen to Mark’s teaching the more differences arose.
Those differences and others, eventually put more distance between my ministry and my one-time pastoral idol. Slowly but surely I went from soaking up every sermon; to watching once in a while; to not watching. Finally, I began warning my church members about some of the things that I thought Mark and Mars Hill didn’t do well.
Where at one point the idea of meeting Mark was a boyish dream, later I decided not to join Acts 29, and I lamented with many others the dangers of what I perceived as masculine leadership gone of the rails.
I’ll try to give Mark the grace that I hope my parishioners give me on a regular basis. My sins are different than Mark’s, but my heart is no less deceptive, my motives not any less mixed.
Yet, if Paul could praise the proclamation of Christ even when done out of sinful motives, so can I.
But even more than Mark. I’m not happy about the damaged that has been inflicted upon the people of Mars Hill. I think far too many of us were enraptured with the tabloid-esque train wreck of the leadership, and we forgot that there were thousands of Christ’s people in the middle of the evangelical world’s version of a celebrity break up.
I’m in no way trying to downplay the insensitivity that moved at times through this church, or in any way trying to ignore the wounds suffered by many people connected to Mars Hill.
Sure maybe some members and leaders saw Mars Hill as a “Multisite Empire,” but I’m sure many more saw it as their church. The place where they were loved, challenged, and spurred onto deeper faith and obedience. When a leader resigns in shame, and a church falls apart afterward, it’s not a win for investigative bloggers, or for more traditional models or church, it’s a win for our enemy. If anyone read feels so inclined I’d encourage them to read the fourth chapter of the Book of James, especially verses one through twelve.
As the dust settles around Mars Hill, and as they prepare to become several local independent churches, I’m going to be praying for those folks. I’ll be praying that there is no bitterness; praying that those young believers know that the excess they felt is true of sinful people, but not of our Lord, praying that God’s grace might win out over our judgement. No one should be happy for the pain and heartache that is swirling around anyone at Mars Hills. I’m sure Jesus isn’t.