It's Always Something at Mars Hill Church
Author: Mark Driscoll
POSTED ON: 09.19.06
October 1, 2006 is the ten-year anniversary of the church that I had the privilege of founding in Seattle when I was twenty-five years old. We started as a Bible study about the size of an average Mormon family. Over the years, God has been gracious to us in one of America's least Christian cities, where there are more dogs than Christians.
For ten years we have gotten virtually nothing but very positive media coverage. I've worked hard behind the scenes to make sure we were presented as we are and not used for some subversive agenda. To date, we've gotten good press from ABC Television, NPR, Mother Jones magazine, Christianity Today, and others.
In the past week we got our first two negative pieces beyond the usual rants of bloggerdom. The first is a book called The Sinner's Guide to the Evangelical Right by Robert Lanham, who was Baptist and is now an atheist as far as I can tell. It's a funny book with some funny cartoons on everyone from Rick Warren as the evangelical Jimmy Buffett to a guide for Christian haircuts that is hilarious. The cover actually has Jerry Falwell, George Bush, Pat Robertson, James Dobson (I think), and Ted Haggard posing like the Reservoir Dogs, which was pretty clever.
He sent me a copy and I was chuckling until I saw that I am the postscript! It's a cartoon of me with a bigger gut than I actually have and my shirt tucked in (blasphemous), holding up a pitchfork guitar as the Devil disguised as a rock star. The rest of the chapter laments the fact that the future of Christianity may be like me and Mars Hill. Apparently, I am Rob Bell's evil doppelganger, which I guess is true, but deciding which one of us is in fact the evil one would depend on whether you are a theological liberal or conservative.
The second is the recently released book called Righteous: Dispatches from the Evangelical Youth Movement by Lauren Sandler. She came out to Seattle some years ago and did a feature on us for Mother Jones magazine. She was nice and did a rather positive piece. Her latest book is saddening because she was welcomed into Mars Hill and treated well, as she states clearly. However, she sees everything in our world as a condemnation on hers. As such, she is the one who is righteous in her own eyes-lamenting that people don't think and vote and live like her. It pains me a great deal to see our great women leaders and deacons like Judy and Sarah take shots in the story, but it was inevitable. Poor Sarah, we are told, has essentially ruined her life by adopting two African-American kids to be their mom because now she has less time to read Gloria Steinem.
I'm not recommending the book, but the chapter on us is online for free and, like the old adage says, you get what you pay for.
For the record, I do believe men and women were both made equal as God's image-bearers and, though different, maintain equality. I also believe that marriage is a good thing and that children are a blessing. I am not politically active, and neither is our church, which probably splits down the middle between Democrats, Republicans, and a smattering of independent types longing for a third party. On the big issues, we hold a literal biblical position.
To be honest, it's all getting a bit surreal lately with who is calling to be friends and who is criticizing what we believe and what we are doing. God has showed up and we feel like a kite in a hurricane, strained beyond our limits at times, trying to serve Jesus as best we can by the grace He provides.
Since a lot of folks have an opinion about Mars Hill from the outside, I thought that it would be clarifying to provide a quick glimpse of what is going on inside Mars Hill right now. Many of our staff became Christians in the church, were married in the church, and birthed their children in the church. Our staff is now maybe seventy people (I'm actually not exactly sure) and we are busier than ever. Right now construction is underway on an office campus for us to actually have enough space for people to work. We hope to enter into that space in October around our tenth anniversary. Our video campus in North Seattle is less than a year old and has packed out its building, which means we are adding a second service in a few weeks. That will require live-streaming video of the sermon and the tech gurus are fast at work trying to figure out how to make it work.
We are also renovating a 50,000-square-foot, 1,000-seat church in West Seattle that was given to us. We hoped to launch a new campus there on our tenth anniversary, but things are sadly not moving as quickly as we would like. So, last week we signed a rental contract to use Chief Sealth High School one mile away from our building as an interim meeting space. We have two weeks to pull off all the logistics (parking, sound, light, video, kids, etc.) to have our first service there September 24. We are praying for six to eight hundred people to kick it off. When we pull it all off, we'll be at seven services in three parts of the city with me preaching live four times and via video three times.
The next issue facing us is what to do when the current services at our Seattle (Ballard) campus overflow, likely by November. Right now we have a few seats at the 9 a.m. service, none at the 11 a.m., a few at the 5 p.m., and nearly none at the 7 p.m. Plus, we have grown by 1,200 people there each of the last three years.
Things are getting complicated, to say the least. To cover some of the real estate debt, we're also asking our people to give over $1 million in a single day in a few weeks, which is a big stretch since many are young and most are still single.
Meanwhile, we are training ten new pastor candidates to bolster our existing fifteen. We have a few dozen deacons (male and female) and are training nearly fifty new deacons to help lead the church. We're pushing to increase our home community groups to more than two hundred around the region this fall. We're also going from one to three nights and locations for midweek classes and programming around the city. In addition, over one hundred couples are getting married every year and hundreds of babies are being born. Just baptizing the new Christians is getting complicated and we recently did more than sixty in one day.
We are still giving 10 percent of our money to help lead the Acts 29 Church Planting Network. I'm still writing a lot, including a book titled Death by Love on the subject of the cross that is nearing completion. [emphasis added] This week we did a free training about preaching for nearly a hundred pastors in our area and the guys ate a lot of meat for lunch. We captured my lecture on preaching and will vodcast it in chunks here on this site free of charge, as always, before too long. We've also upgraded our cameras to high-def so that the free stuff we do give away through Resurgence and Mars Hill will be as high quality as possible in an effort to help equip as many people around the world as possible on our dime.
We're also moving as fast as we can to increase our ability to do biblical counseling. Our recovery groups for drugs, alcohol, and sexual addiction are maxed out and growing all the time. Perhaps our most encouraging ministry is happening with our Grace Groups for people who have been sexually abused. This is an epidemic in our church and the number of folks who have been molested and/or raped is almost overwhelming. Hundreds have been helped or are getting help and hundreds more need help from the sin that has been committed against them. Many of the most affected are dear friends and it has been quite a heavy-hearted journey to hear that the people I love as a pastor and friend have been so horrendously violated before coming to our church.
I know a lot of people, especially idealists with blogs and small churches, think they know what we should teach and what we should do. All I can say is that we are working hard and trying to figure it out, but to be honest, it's not an easy task. We're all a bit tired, humbled, and honored that Jesus would use us.
More than ever, I really love Mars Hill. There is no desire in me to do anything but what I'm doing with the people I'm doing it with. I often tell my people that I am giving them my life and intend to preach my own funeral and then climb into my coffin and shut the lid to go see Jesus. The work is hard, we are stretched beyond our limits right now, and I'm actually home sick with the flu after some really long work days lately along with the other elders and deacons. But, deep down I'm really happy. I have seen my kids born in Mars Hill, seen the lives of everyone in my family changed by Mars Hill, and seen myself been transformed by my brothers and sisters in Mars Hill. Not to denigrate any other church, but this is a special place and I'm honored and humbled to be here. And I'm having a lot of fun.
It does sadden me when I see cheap shots taken at our people because, in some ways, they are just getting some of the stray bullets that missed me. I'm sure we'll be here again soon and before long it will seem more normal. I guess I've been taking hits for so long that I'm more accustomed to it. This is one glimpse into the tough and sometimes darker side of the job that I wish I could shield my people from. In some ways, I must confess that I do bring it on myself because at times I do cross lines and I have not learned the art of subtlety.
We're not a perfect people and this is not a perfect church led by perfect men. But we worship the perfect Jesus and He promises to make everything perfect in its time. These seasons are the means by which He sanctifies us to be more like Him if we lean into them with gladness and trust that God is loving and works out all things for our good and His glory.
In conclusion, if anyone wants to pray for us in this crazy season, please do. I would especially appreciate the prayers of our critics because some of their criticisms may in fact be accurate and we are straining to keep up with the wildfire that God has set ablaze in our midst. After ten years we have certainly not figured it all out. But we are sure having a lot of fun together with Jesus and every day is quite an adventure.
Death By Love got published in 2008 and turned out to be co-authored with Gerry Breshears. It's conceivable Driscoll had a working title that may or may not have been the same book that was published with Breshears as co-author years later. In any event, in the midst of 2006 it has been established that mark Driscoll was familiar with and recommended Dan Allender's The Wounded Heart. There's room to debate whether everyone would agree that Death By Love may have been the first instance in which Driscoll made use of Allender's ideas without giving any citation at all.
If the book Death By Love had been mostly written by Mark Driscoll as far back as 2006 this could explain why it seemed as though the majority of case studies for each chapter referenced people who seemed to be around in the earlier but not necessarily later years of Mars Hill. By 2006 Driscoll was working on improving things in his marriage and handed off his counseling activity, it seems, to Bent Meyer (if not earlier than 2006 since Bent Meyer has been shown to be playing at least some role in connection to Mars Hill counseling as far back as 2002.
As for other details about Death By Love.