Saturday, April 14, 2012

Laura DePuy: Breasts as Personality Traits: J. Scott Campbell and the Danger Girls

You read the title, right?  This is a jocular follow-up to my earlier link to a Slate article on all sorts of reasons to not get tattoos.  But by now this post is its own justification.  Laura DePuy has written some wonderfully funny stuff. 

I've hung around complementarians of different stripes over the years and I've had a thought. It does precious little good to bewail cartoony depictions of the appearance of women in comics or in fashion amongst evangelicals if they depict a cartoony portrait of the ideal character a woman should have, eh?  There's cheesecake of a 'worldly type' but there may very well be a more dangerous cheesecake of a 'spiritual' order. If you find this proposal incredible realize that a person can be serious and tongue-in-cheek at the same time. It's true that there is a visual ideal of cheesecake that can inspire or promote eating disorders and a lot of heartache but what could be said, at least, is that if a woman doesn't measure up to an idealized measure of physical beauty she can literally see how she doesn't measure up. But spiritual cheesecake?  Is that less pernicious? 

Or, to play with the categories DePuy shall shortly be shown to introduce, is all cheesecake even the same thing? I'm going to suggest there's a difference between a Proverbs 31 woman and a complementarian's home-schooling fantasy wife. The difference may be seen as the difference between "bad" cheesecake art and "good" cheesecake art and there's no woman better suited to discuss the distinction between these two categories that I've ever come across in my reading about comics than DePuy.  So here you go:

Breasts as Personality Traits
J. Scott Campbell and the Danger Girls
by Laura DePuy

No, really, it's called exactly that and as snarky yet serious commentary about depictions of females in cheesecake (i.e. comics art generally) it's brilliant. Here's a sample.

If I know my Bizarre Breasts readers like I think I do, I'm willing to bet that you'll be wondering where the real BB writer is, and who this pod person is who's replaced her. You see, I'm about to praise the work of a guy whose entire portfolio features female figures with wacky physiques.

I'm talking about J. Scott Campbell, the celebrated penciller of Danger Girl.

That's right. The co-creator of such characters as Abbey Chase, the other globetrotting heroine in hotpants, and Sydney Savage, who makes Emma Peel look like Gilligan in a black garbage bag. If you're familiar with Jeff's work, you know that his art is extremely stylized, practically cartoonish, and that his females' physiques are distorted, with cinched waists and painted-on clothes. What in the world would I have to say that's positive about such (waggles fingers in quotation mark sign) "blatantly exploitative" artwork?

What I'd say is the same thing I'd say about Bill Ward's erotic art, or the art of Coop: the exaggeration works because the form has an underlying structure that functions believably, and is appropriate to the character. [emphasis added]


There's more but since I know lots of Christians are likely to read this blog who have conscience issues I should consider there's obviously going to be discussions of drawings of boobs.  So don't read the rest of DePuy's very funny and insightful commentary on cheesecake if you're in that place.  Of course here's hoping that by putting DePuy's title in my post title I've told you all you needed to know before even reading to this paragraph! For the rest of you, enjoy, it's pretty funny!

And what I've bolded from DePuy's essay gets at something I'd like you to think about regarding not merely cheesecake of the "worldly" type but cheesecake of the "christian" type.

Tattoos are OVER!!!


While there is no longer any compelling reason to get a tattoo, there are several reasons not to:

Tempus fugit. Sitting around for hours while some dude enlivens your back with lotus blossoms, ghouls, and moonbeams is a colossal waste of time. You could be learning to tap dance or play the accordion.
Money fugit, too. Most tat artists charge about $150 per hour. A full sleeve can take 40 hours. Bingo! $6,000, plus another $6,000 for laser removal when you hit late middle age and it’s gone all crepey and is no longer recognizable as a dragon but looks more like a squashed squirrel. You went from being the girl with the dragon tattoo to the old hag with the squashed-squirrel tattoo, and it only cost you $12K and hours of agony.
Wilkommen, bienvenue Hep C. There seems to be no limit to the horrid medical conditions which are associated with tats. Aside from all the usual blood-born suspects, new research suggests that certain inks do horrid things to your lymph nodes.
Pain. Even the hardened psychopathic death row inmates on Lock-Up—because I am not wasting time in tat parlors, I am able to watch endless episodes of this incredible MSNBC docu-series about life in America’s prisons—admit that it hurts. Among the tattoo-related highlights on this must-see show: two blokes who tattoo the whites of each other’s eyes and, even more shockingly, some dude who proudly flaunts the word FRESNO across his throat in gothic script.


Though I have many reasons for remaining untatted, the principal one is the irrevocable nature of the whole enterprise. A pal refers to them as “permanent bell-bottoms.” This brilliant observation inspired me to seek out an impermanent solution. Et voila! I bought an Ed Hardy T-shirt, thereby combining sun-protection with an on-trend presentation of tats.

At the end of the day I can take it off and throw it in the laundry basket. Try doing that with your hide, Mr. Beckham.

A word of caution: Many people have an irrational horror of Ed Hardy. Though Ed Hardy designs are authentic—Ed was a real person, a California artist who is credited with integrating the Asian aesthetic into Western tats in the last century—they are most often associated with inebriated, herpes-riddled reality-show contestants who loll about in hot tubs. [emphasis so very added!] To wear an Ed Hardy T-shirt will, as a result, expose you to the disdain of fashion insiders: “Been nice knowing you,” said designer Prabal Gurung when I ran into him in a restaurant while wearing my Ed Hardy. “You’re kidding, right?” said designer Joseph Altuzarra, upon spying my new garment.

Never gotten a tattoo and don't really plan to get one.  Way back when I was on something called a Theology Response Team the question of whether Christians could get tattoos came up.  I never felt like fielding that one because it seemed like a waste of time.  I'm not a huge advocate for tattoos.  "All things are lawful" but not all things are beneficial might be the nice way of putting things.  Spending thousands or tens of thousands of dollars to turn yourself into a walking breathing sample of a Spiderman comic book drawn by Steve Dithko or Gil Kane is not my thing. 

You could just, you know, collect comics.  A graphic designer and artist still get paid that way and if you're going to invest money in drawings of characters with the proportions of mudflap girls you might as well back J. Scott Campbell.  What on earth was I just talking about?  I was reminiscing about an ingenius series at Sequential Tart that was often written by Laura DePuy.  In fact linking to some of her insightful commentary merits a whole separate post.

iMonk: More Connected and Never Lonelier

I could comment in a normal way but instead will reproduce a little poem I wrote back in October 2010

Connection to everyone
is connection to no one;
The measure of loneliness
is that you're laughing alone.

From Law to Grace: Mark Driscoll's mesmerizing hold on LU & Evangelicalism
I don’t get it. More to the point, I don’t get him. Mark Driscoll, that is. I simply do not understand the Seattle pastor’s mesmerizing hold over large swaths of conservative Evangelicals, including many Southern Baptists, both young and old. In the last few years, Driscoll’s influence has continued to expand, both through the church he pastors, Mars Hill, and through the Reformed church planting network he founded, Acts 29. Driscoll also served as President of Acts 29 until he unexpectedly announced his resignation just nine days after a former Mars Hill elder, Paul Petry, and his wife, Jonna, went public with explosive and credible allegations of spiritual abuse at Mars Hill. Some might chalk that up to one big coincidence, but as one who believes in the sovereignty of God over all things, I don’t really believe in coincidences, luck, or happenstance.

I would say that the appeal of Driscoll and the appeal of Mars Hill might be the appeal of the new but they're going to hit twenty years in a few more years.  That's "new" as religious movements go but not new in terms of what new indie rock is getting street cred.   As I've written before I think the appeal of the New Calvinist movement is more sociological than doctrinal.  Most of these young guys drawn into the movement don't even know what the distinction between natural or federal headship is, still less what the significance either of those terms might have in discussing generational imputation.  Let me rephrase that, guys who are under 30 won't know or care about that stuff unless they're trying to fast track to being super-Calvinists. 

These younger guys will, however, care very much that if they're going to embrace Christianity they want to embrace a Christianity in which it's okay to drink, smoke and get laid. As my on-line associate Fearsome Tycoon has put it way more young people forsake the Christian faith because they want to drink, smoke and get laid than obsess about various points of Genesis 1-2 and evolution.  Now I've met former Christians who did give up the faith over that, mind you, but for the average young person the wanting to drink, smoke, and get laid part often precedes the other, which helps to explain why wanting what you want retroactively in some cases.

I'm going to guess that despite how "Reformed" Mars Hill leaders say they are; no matter how much they talk about sovereignty; that any criticism of MH is going to be perceived as attacks from the Enemy. The prooftexts will be Hebrews 13 or something from one of the epistles.  Don't bother consulting the narrative literature except as a typology for a re-org or building project, right? 

The idea that God can Himself, let alone dispatch Satan to entice David to take a census to lead to the deaths of tens of thousands is not where church leaders want to camp out.  Now to remove subtext from earlier blog entries, I could grant for sake of discussion God told Driscoll to plant a church and marry Grace and all that, but that won't mean God couldn't have put a literally deadly idea into the head of a divinely appointed leader.

2 Samuel 24
Again the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “Go and take a census of Israel and Judah.”  So the king said to Joab and the army commanders with him, “Go throughout the tribes of Israel from Dan to Beersheba and enroll the fighting men, so that I may know how many there are.”  But Joab replied to the king, “May the LORD your God multiply the troops a hundred times over, and may the eyes of my lord the king see it. But why does my lord the king want to do such a thing?”

The king’s word, however, overruled Joab and the army commanders; so they left the presence of the king to enroll the fighting men of Israel.

After crossing the Jordan, they camped near Aroer, south of the town in the gorge, and then went through Gad and on to Jazer. They went to Gilead and the region of Tahtim Hodshi, and on to Dan Jaan and around toward Sidon. Then they went toward the fortress of Tyre and all the towns of the Hivites and Canaanites. Finally, they went on to Beersheba in the Negev of Judah.
After they had gone through the entire land, they came back to Jerusalem at the end of nine months and twenty days.

Joab reported the number of the fighting men to the king: In Israel there were eight hundred thousand able-bodied men who could handle a sword, and in Judah five hundred thousand.

David was conscience-stricken after he had counted the fighting men, and he said to the LORD, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. Now, LORD, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing.”

Before David got up the next morning, the word of the LORD had come to Gad the prophet, David’s seer: 12 “Go and tell David, ‘This is what the LORD says: I am giving you three options. Choose one of them for me to carry out against you.’”

So Gad went to David and said to him, “Shall there come on you three years of famine in your land? Or three months of fleeing from your enemies while they pursue you? Or three days of plague in your land? Now then, think it over and decide how I should answer the one who sent me.”
David said to Gad, “I am in deep distress. Let us fall into the hands of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but do not let me fall into human hands.”

So the LORD sent a plague on Israel from that morning until the end of the time designated, and seventy thousand of the people from Dan to Beersheba died.  When the angel stretched out his hand to destroy Jerusalem, the LORD relented concerning the disaster and said to the angel who was afflicting the people, “Enough! Withdraw your hand.” The angel of the LORD was then at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.

When David saw the angel who was striking down the people, he said to the LORD, “I have sinned; I, the shepherd, have done wrong. These are but sheep. What have they done? Let your hand fall on me and my family.”

On that day Gad went to David and said to him, “Go up and build an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.”  So David went up, as the LORD had commanded through Gad.  When Araunah looked and saw the king and his officials coming toward him, he went out and bowed down before the king with his face to the ground.

Araunah said, “Why has my lord the king come to his servant?”

“To buy your threshing floor,” David answered, “so I can build an altar to the LORD, that the plague on the people may be stopped.”

Araunah said to David, “Let my lord the king take whatever he wishes and offer it up. Here are oxen for the burnt offering, and here are threshing sledges and ox yokes for the wood.  Your Majesty, Araunah gives all this to the king.” Araunah also said to him, “May the LORD your God accept you.”

But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”

So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen and paid fifty shekels of silver for them.  David built an altar to the LORD there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then the LORD answered his prayer in behalf of the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped.
How do we know this was a bad situation?  Joab comes off as the nice, thoughtful, careful good guy!  No, really, that's a big deal. I want you to notice something here.  Lots of people remember Nathan for being willing to confront David about his abuse of kingly office.  Yes, yes, we know.  Who didn't confront David about this abuse?  Gad the seer, David's prophet. Now I know some people have asked "Who will be a Nathan?" It's not necessarily an enviable job because if we follow that analogy all the way home it means that if there needs to be a Nathan there's already a Gad the seer, David's personal prophet, who has said nothing the whole time.  But Gad the seer isn't silent once the census happens.  Of course we're told at the outset God Himself incited David to take the census that would eventually lead to 70,000 deaths.  Why?  Because the Lord was angry with Israel.

Remember folks, just because God personally appoints a leader to lead God's people and do all sorts of cool things doesn't mean God won't also at some point incite that leader to do something horribly wrong that leads to the deaths of 70,000 of God's people because He was angry with them.  You don't know if that is or isn't happening with certainty but if it were to happen would the right thing to do be going along and saying you're supposed to obey the leader no matter what?  Joab objected to what he was told to do but he was a loyal soldier and did it.  And what happened?  70,000 people died that's what happened.  God's will was not going to be thwarted. 

I mean, God would never, ever allow a popular leader who says he was personally appointed to lead among God's people by God's own voice to do something as stupid as taking a census, right? But depending on where you're at pastors have a theology about church leadership that presupposes that if God told you to have a certain job you can't possibly be a Saul and it's even less possible that you could be a David who gets incited by God to take a census that costs the lives of tens of thousands of people.  What might a modern day churchly equivalent be?  Well, to borrow a phrase from Phoenix Preacher here, make your own application.

North of Purgatory: Response to Rise and Fall of Mars Hill
North of Purgatory

Sunday, November 25, 2007
Response To- The Rise and Fall of Mark Driscoll (Mars Hill Church)
I attend Mars Hill Church in Seattle. Lately, God has been pleased to bring us into a great season of pruning, judgment and learning. I thank God for this time because though these events in themselves are dark and difficult God will use them for his glory. I love Pastors Paul and Bent and pray that both will be fully reconciled with Mars Hill and the elders. I pray that repentance will be granted wherever it is needed and that all involved will show the necessary humility. That being said I think it is very sad that a current member of Mars Hill has created a blog called, "The Rise and Fall of Mark Driscoll (Mars Hill Church)".

I am not commenting on his content of his complaints but rather on his tactic of taking public what needs to be familial (at least among the members of MH if not just with the elders).

I take this approach because I firmly believe that regardless of any merit in his complaints he has no Biblical justification for what he is doing. Joe (the fake name of this member) seems passionate for the Word of God and for the people of God. For this I applaud him. However, this passion seems to have left out a passion for the difficult submission that that same Word calls us to. Hebrews 13 gives an unqualified call to submit to our elders. Obviously we cannot obey even an elders command to disobey the Bible but so far Joe has not complained that an elder has made such a request of him. As a current member Joe is called to submit to particular elders (those at Mars Hill). Joe doesn't have to go to Mars Hill so he could be faithful by leaving and joining a church where he can submit but he should not and cannot continue his blog against Mars Hill. Please read Hebrews 13:17 for yourself and determine if Joe is acting righteously. I see no qualifications about the obedience called for in that verse and no justification for Joe's outright rebellion.

I believe that the call for obedience is specifically for men like Joe (and often myself) who are likely to often be troubled by the actions of leaders. When we agree with everything this is not the time that we are obeying. If I give my wife $200 and tell her to go to Nordstrom's and buy some new clothes she can hardly say she is obeying me. However, when I tell her we must do something that is very difficult for her and she outright does not want to do (an example might be moving to a new city) now she is truly showing obedience. The recent events at Mars Hill have been difficult for many and I personally have had to learn obedience at a new level. For this I am thankful and I would invite Joe to humble himself and to follow Hebrews 13:17 even if it just out of respect for God. There is a great blessing in "saluting the uniform" and then trusting God to bring about the just resolution we long to see. I do not know Joe and though I do not necessarily agree with him I sympathize with any man who sees what he believes is injustice and wants to respond. I believe Joe does have an avenue to respond and that is to speak with the elders and other leaders at the church with his concerns. Until he does that I believe he is on the same side of rebellion and arrogance he accuses the elders of being on.

Posted by Hedgey at 4:14 PM

I'm going to skip the two vast tracts of text quoted from John Owen by Varvos because they are, in my opinion, time wasters.  Moving on.

 this is corrie =) said...
How do you feel about this issue today ? Now that Paul has come forward and exposed the bullying that went on as well as the unbiblical shunning that the congregation took part in ? I am curious to hear your thoughts.

March 22, 2012 3:37 PM 

 Hedgey said...
I feel horrible about the situation and believe Paul's side of the story more than any other. If anything he has been consistent throughout- the other side has not been. That is about all I want to say online but if you really want to dialogue about it feel free to email me at and I can go into more detail.

March 22, 2012 3:44 PM 

That Mars Hill's side of the story has not been consistent it to put things nicely. I've referred to this entry second rather than first because Hedgey's comments show he's had a change of heart some four and a half years later.  

North of Purgatory: Response to Rise and Fall of Mark Driscoll

There are times when a story can only be attested by fragments and allusions.

The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill
posted by Jonah Spangenthal-Lee on November 30 at 10:03 AM

It appears that the internal dissent at the Mars Hill Church—brought on by the recent firing of two pastors—has prompted a few irate members to take to the blogosphere.
While Mars Hill’s members-only site is still on lockdown, Hillers (Hillees? Martians?) are popping up on The Rise and Fall of Mark Driscoll for lively discussions about Jesus, Driscoll and Chris Rock.
Posts to the blog are a bit infrequent, but it’s worth a look. I’m sure you can get someone to engage you in the comments, if you’re so inclined.
The blog has either been removed or suspended or something, probably as of a very long time ago. For those who do not trust The Stranger to reliably cover things at Mars Hill there's another witness to the existence of the blog by way of a short blog dedicated to responding to some of the content at the now defunct blog.

Over at Joe's anti Mars Hill website-
Joe has responded to my Hebrews 13:17 appeal to him. Here is my response (this will probably be my last as I fear Joe is not up for an extended rational dialogue).

Hedgey said...
Joe, you said:
"As for the Hebrews 13:17 command, you seem to think that we should obey without the latter part of the command being kept? "for they are keeping watch over your souls," Are they watching over our souls? They are certainly preaching over them, and making sure we are in line. But firing the people that are watching over our souls kinda voids the command, i think."

Not to be rude but your exegesis of this verse needs some work. Your exegesis of my comments is spot on though- even if these men were not watching over our souls even then I still believe God has called members of that local body to submit to those elders.

Also, where does it say firing people who watch over our souls voids the command to obey the other elders? That being said I am not happy that Bent and Paul have been fired but I do know that I a God given duty to respond in a mature Christian manner to things that I do not personally like.

Additionally, Hebrews 13 itself does not leave as an option the idea that elders do not watch over our souls. The verse states a contrary fact- elders watch over our souls. Now we can debate whether they watch well or watch poorly but this is not my point here. You make an "if this then this" statement where the Word of God does not. It does not say you are excused from obedience simply because you don't "think" the elders are watching over our souls. Your ego centered feelings do not change the inescapable truth that the elders of Mars Hill are watching over our souls. That they are is evident and proven by the Word of God even if it is not evident in your experience.

And hypothetically even if they were not watching over our souls (which would make the Word of God untrue in what it plainly states) this does not remove the command that God has placed on you. I will admit submitting to leaders is a challenging thing for many people- including myself (especially recently) but since I love and wish to obey God I will submit to the elders he has placed over me as long as doing so does not cause me to sin or violate my own conscience. If it came down to them asking me to sin or to violate my own conscience I would approach them with this fact and if there was no resolution I would leave peacefully and pray for them while trusting God to deal with them. This is what I encourage you to do. Remove the plank from your own eye by shutting down this site and seek resolution with the elders. If it is not forthcoming please invite a faithful brother to go with you and confront them again. [emphasis added] If you still find no resolution I would encourage you to pray about what God would have you do- whether to remain in humble disagreement or leave to find elders you can submit to.

Finally, God's call to submit is not a quid pro quo. To put it simply God has called you to submit to the elders whether or not you think they are watching over your soul just as my wife must submit to me whether or not I love her as Christ loves the church and I must love her in that way regardless of whether she is submitting to me or not. If I do not love her in that manner then I am in great sin and must repent or face the judgment of God but even this does not give her free pass to rebel against me. [emphasis added]

Joe I pray that you would rethink the path you have chosen and be reconciled to Mars Hill in a manner worthy of Christ. Even if you feel these elders are acting horribly and unbiblical it gives you no right to act similarly- it only makes you guilty of the same sin you accuse them of. [emphasis added] I also pray that you would join me in praying that all involved would show a similar humility and repent of all the sin that has gone on these last few months and that we would see everyone involved restored and fully reconciled.
November 26, 2007 9:47 PM
Posted by Hedgey at 9:47 PM

Just to be clear died a long time ago. But this is not all there is to the blog Hedgey used to write at.  There's a bit more. 

Practical Theology for Women: A (Somewhat) Scholarly Analysis of Genesis 3:16

Most important in my view, the interpretation of Gen. 3:16 by some complementarians that the woman will desire against her husband to dominate him is a very recent development in church history. I am certainly open to correction on this, but as best as I can tell, Susan Foh in 1975 was the first to formalize the idea in the Westminster Theological Journal in a response to, you guessed it, feminism.

Although this is something for which a great big collective "duh" should be the answer we know that a lot of people won't go into the history of academic and pseudo-academic trends.

According to Foh herself, her presentation in 1975 that first introduced the currently accepted complementarian interpretation of Genesis 3:16's “your desire will be for your husband” as a “desire against your husband to dominate him” is a RE-examination and RE-consideration of the Biblical view of women. I am Reformed and generally hang with Reformed conservatives. It strikes me as odd that such a new view keeps popping up in modern writing among those who are known for loving their church fathers and church history.

Also according to Foh, she presented her new view of Genesis 3:16 as a response to feminism. It's important to note that the term feminism does not represent a monolithic movement. Carolyn McCulley has some helpful information of the various waves of feminism in her book,
Radical Womanhood. If you examine the history of feminism, Foh wasn't reacting against the broad, general idea of feminism though she uses the broad term. Frankly, I'm grateful for the 1st wave of feminism in particular, and you should be too [Wenatchee The Hatchet:  Amen!!], for it helped women get the right to vote, the right to inherit land, the ability to go to college, property rights, and so forth. It was God's common grace at work. In her article, Foh was reacting specifically to the 2nd wave of feminism (the 3rd wave of feminism is thought to have begun in the 90's, so it wasn't an issue yet). So 3 millennia after Genesis 3:16 was written, there appears on the blip of human history a movement for women's rights in the 1960's that seems to justify a new interpretation of the curse. Really, folks, changing our interpretation of Scripture for a reason that surfaced in the last 0.08% of human history should trouble conservative theologians. [emphasis original]
Ironically a variety of readings attempting to counteract "feminism" sail right past a core concern that would resonate with ... feminism.

A straightforward reading such as Vos', Keil's, and Delitzsch's, requires no theological backflips. The woman's root problem is that, even though child birth is painful and the man rules her, she still has a morbid craving for him, looking to him in completely unhealthy ways that do not reflect her status as image bearer of God. The woman wants something from the man that he was never intended to provide her, that he even on his best day is not equipped to provide. He becomes her idol.
A woman should not need a man to give her life meaning.  Too many complementarians pay lipservice to this idea when what they want is for the man to be the mediator between the woman and Christ. The problem is two-fold, that men want this kind of weird job and there are women who want them to have it. Should a complementarian dispute this let me point out that Wendy is as complementarian as just about anybody and to borrow a catchphrase from a certain local preacher, "it's biblical" to point out that too many women idealize marriage and idolize it (as do plenty of guys).

Speaking of which ...

Authoritarian pastors unchecked by their peers and accountability structures who hold to Foh's views have contributed to feminism in the church as much as anything. Holding on to Foh's views on Genesis 3:16 sets a tone of suspicion of women when we talk about gender issues in the church, and that tone is not helpful.    
In case you didn't scroll over the link, it's to the Alsups review of Real Marriage.

Wendy's done a nice job covering how some people trying to make a case against feminism decided they had to start mounting a case against a set of ideas that, as Wendy put it, comprise 0.08 of the whole of human history. Personally I'd put that percentage somewhere closer to 0.0024 percent of human history but it depends on what points of reference we're using or how far back we identify nascent feminism in Western society.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Sutton Turner explains: We serve the King, not a Sheikh--a short overview on kingly gifts at MH

Sutton Turner recently wrote:

Before I got hired at Mars Hill, I spent a few years in Qatar and the U.A.E. working for Middle Eastern royalty. These were billion-dollar businesses with thousands of employees. Money was no object. We could ring up the charges, rack up personal expenses, and the Sheikh just kept filling the account. It was awesome.

Working for a church, my salary is no longer what it used to be, nor is my job. I’m analyzing $4.90 lattes and scrutinizing nearly every dollar that goes out the door to ensure that our staff stewards the church’s resources well. It gets tedious at times, but the little stuff matters to me, because it matters to Jesus.

So how much did renting Ephesus go for? 

We could plant hundreds of churches. We could see thousands more people meet Jesus. We could see cities transformed by the gospel. As a collective body of believers, God has given us the money we need. The question is, what will we do with it?

So Turner is asking "What will we do with it?" after stating that Mars Hill as a church has been given (by God) the money it needs to see cities transformed by the gospel.  He trusts the money is there to do whatever the executive elders seem to have in mind?  What do they have in mind?

Well ...

The next big stage of growth may be a process in which churches are invited to ask to join Mars Hill and get assimilated. It may not merely depend on what Mars Hill members decide to give but who volunteers to hand over their church to the Mars Hill executive elders. Once that happens there's no assurance anyone at the church will keep their jobs.  For those who have kept track of these things Mark Driscoll's been part of Q School events in 2011:

If you do volunteer to give your church to Mars Hill there may already be a few guys picked out from the Q School scene who may be given a chance to run whichever church their giftings are determined to fit.   Of course you may get to keep your job, after all.  If you're preaching fits the 16 keys Driscoll considers necessary for preaching a sermon you might get to keep your job, otherwise they probably have enough people that made it through the Q School to replace you..

Now for a sampling of Sutton Turner tweets since the 9/6/2011 announcements:!/suttonturner/status/181434228536385536
Dustin Kensrue @DMKensrue leading worship today @MarsHillBel @ Mars Hill Church - Bellevue Campus
10:37 AM - 18 Mar 2012
If he becomes the worship pastor at Bellevue I won't be the least bit surprised.!/suttonturner/status/175812696657240064
A Call for Reconciliation | Mars Hill Church @marshill
9:19 PM - 2 Mar 2012

I think I wrote quite a bit about that call already. No further comment there.!/suttonturner/status/147317319847251968

Last night great capture of @PastorMark Real Marriage series Chap 3 & 4. We have 2,000 churches signed up to use the materials.
6:09 AM - 15 Dec 2011
2,000 churches using the Real Marriage materials is a lot.!/suttonturner/status/132938183469043712
Recruiting a CFO and Operations Director/COO positions at Mars Hill Church.
2:51 PM - 5 Nov 2011

Note that the link referred to in this one is obviously dead:
No real mystery why.!/suttonturner/status/122320508472655873
Headn 2 Orange County find a building to plant our @MarsHillOC church
7:40 AM - 7 Oct 2011!/suttonturner/status/119819386600161280
Are you in the business world today & feel called to serve the Church? COO type position now posted @MarsHill.
10:02 AM - 30 Sep 2011
Of course the above link for the director of operations link is dead, too.!/suttonturner/status/113828160654684160
Mars Hill Church | Sutton Turner Testimony
9:15 PM - 13 Sep 2011, by the way, is super-duper dead. This would appear to have been the earliest public testimony Turner shared and we know this because he mentions it in his Twitter feed but the link itself from 9/12/2011 is deader than an army of darkness.  The November 23, 2011 testimony after Turner was installed is still available, though.

In fact it includes the Turner testimony where it's just Turner and Clem, which you can also find here:
The video is timestamped at Vimeo as Monday September 12, 2011 7:54 PM EST

Right out the gate Clem says: "So I want you to meet somebody, who is a friend of mine and he's an attender here. And, uh, this past week, uh, Pastor Mark mentioned him in a letter to the congregation." Which letter?  This one:


My proposal to the Board of Directors (BOD) is that Pastor Jamie Munson remain an elder at Mars Hill Church Ballard. Following a sabbatical through the end of the year to enjoy his family, rest up, and finish writing a book, he will rejoin us as an unpaid board member at the highest legal level of Mars Hill Church. In God’s providence, the same day that Pastor Jamie made this decision, one of our unpaid BOD members had to resign due to escalating demands at his place of employment. So, while this man will remain an elder at his local Mars Hill Church, it opened a seat on the BOD for an unpaid elder, which Pastor Jamie fills perfectly. We need many more unpaid elders and Pastor Jamie helps us to raise the profile of that service. The plan is simply that Pastor Jamie will remain an elder at Mars Hill indefinitely. He has clearly communicated his desire to stay at Mars Hill and serve as an elder and we welcome this. So, Pastor Jamie is still Pastor Jamie. Also, the door to employment is always open to Pastor Jamie. It has been clearly communicated to him by myself personally and by his performance review team collectively that should he ever change his mind, we would welcome him back on staff at Mars Hill Church. Our bylaws require that our Executive Elder (EE) team have at least three members. Pastor Dave Bruskas and I remain on the EE. Thankfully, Pastor Dave and his family recently moved to Seattle after leading Mars Hill Albuquerque. His leadership, wisdom, and experience come at just the right time and we praise God he is on the team. In God’s providence, the sermon he preached at Mars Hill Ballard will air this Sunday at all our other churches, helping you to get to know him better. To fill Pastor Jamie’s vacancy on the EE, I am recommending that the BOD vote for Pastor Scott Thomas to join the EE for at least the foreseeable future. Pastor Scott has served faithfully for many years as an elder at Mars Hill, is among our most trained and seasoned leaders, is already a BOD member, and has served previously for many years as an EE member while also leading Acts 29. Pastor Dave and I both believe Pastor Scott is the best choice for this role in this season. Pastor Scott has been very clear in his love and commitment to Mars Hill and has said he will gladly serve wherever he is needed, which we deeply appreciate. Administratively, Pastor Jamie was our senior "king" and his departure requires very competent leadership to cover his many responsibilities. Thankfully, Pastor Jamie was a great leader and humble man. He surrounded himself with great people. This allows us to not have the kind of crisis that could otherwise ensue. Pastor Dave and I agree that Sutton Turner should function as our highest-ranking "king." Sutton is new to staff, but not to ministry. He is a former executive pastor of a large church. Educationally, he is a graduate of Texas A&M, the SMU Cox School of Business, and Harvard Business School. Professionally, he has recently served as the CEO of a company that has nearly 1,600 employees. Prior to that he served as the CEO of another company that under his leadership grew from 0 to 500 employees in the first year. He and his family moved to Seattle sensing a call to serve at Mars Hill, and we believe he is a gift from God to us for our future.

Sorry, folks, that was all one massive paragraph in the original. I guess Scott Thomas was interim lead pastor while the stage was being set for Turner.

Now listen to the prayer Bill Clem starts to pray at 07:35 from the 9/12/2011 video. If you don't feel like doing that, here's a partial transcript of Bill Clem's prayer for Sutton Turner after Turner gave his testimony, again on this 9/12/2011 time-stamped video.

"So, Father, I want to thank you for S. Thank you for his family. I pray that they WOULD find a place here that they can call home. I pray that you would grant us favor in his eyes as he leads and grant him in favor in our hearts as we pray for him and follow his leadership. ... "

So as soon as Munson formally announced he was stepping down Driscoll announced the same day that he and Dave Bruskas had already picked out who would replace Munson? It could seem that way.  Consider, too, what gets said about Turner at his introduction as executive elder:

Pastor Sutton's experience has already been a huge benefit. He has a degree from Harvard Business School, led multibillion-dollar organizations, and even worked as an executive pastor for a number of years at a large church in Texas. More importantly, he is a godly man with a delightful family. By God's grace, Mars Hill Church is in an amazing season of growth. With that comes significantly more complexities, however. We need help and we've been searching for a leader of Sutton's caliber for awhile. God is faithful and brought the right man at the right time. Please pray for Pastor Sutton in his new role.

They've been searching for a leader of Sutton's caliber for awhile? How long was "awhile"? To go by the September 6, 2011 letter Driscoll and Bruskas seemed to have found exactly the right man for the job before Munson even formally announced his resignation.  That was fast.  What does it mean?  Eh, not sure.  Sometimes it's not important to try very hard to interpret, just to provide a document.

POSTSCRIPT: 04/14/2012

Executive Pastor

Mars Hill Church

Nonprofit; 51-200 employees; Religious Institutions industry
April 2011Present (1 year 1 month)Seattle, Washington

Sutton currently serves Mars Hill Church as Executive Elder and Executive Pastor. Mars Hill is a 15,000+ multi-site church with 14 current churches across the states of Washington, California, New Mexico, and Oregon. Mars Hill has planted over 400 churches through its and trains disciples through As Executive Pastor, Sutton oversees all centralized functions for all Mars Hill Churches and Acts 29.


Storyville Coffee Company
Privately Held; 11-50 employees; Food & Beverages industry
January 2012– Present (4 months)Seattle

Executive Pastor, President
Mars Hill Church
Nonprofit; 51-200 employees; Religious Institutions industry
1999– 2011 (12 years)Seattle

That's puzzling, both for Sutton and for Munson.  Sutton Turner's public LinkedIn profile lists him as being an executive elder at Mars Hill since April, 2011? Was Munson always an Executive Elder during those 12 years?  In 1999 he was an intern.

Or at least he was according to this:
Jamie Munson is Lead (Executive) Pastor and President of Mars Hill Church.

Born and raised in the state of Montana, Pastor Jamie came to Mars Hill as a 19-year-old non-Christian, not long after the church began. He met Jesus, got baptized, and after a stint in the corporate world, started a Mars Hill internship in June 1999.

Over the next decade, Jamie became a pastor and continued to take on more leadership responsibility to help shepherd Mars Hill's tremendous growth. Today, Pastor Jamie serves on the Mars Hill's senior leadership team, guiding the growth, strategy, and vision of the church.

Pastor Jamie married his wife, Crystal, in 1999. They have four children: Caleb, Kara, Orin, and Haley. "It is my heart's desire and calling to follow Jesus faithfully," Pastor Jamie writes, "and to help build an army of faithful Christians who love and steward well the relationships and resources that Jesus has blessed them with."

So, uh, the internship wasn't an "executive elder" internship, was it? Now the stories about Munson and Turner seem to make even less sense.  Well, whatever, like I was saying, sometimes there's no point in trying to interpret what you read if you just document what's there. It's not like I can't appreciate the possibility that sometimes a person needs to really, really update and clarify a LinkedIn profile.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones sermons available for free

Warnock declares that MLJ was arguably the greatest preacher ever in the English language.  Don't get me wrong I've really, really enjoyed Studies in the Sermon on the Mount a whole lot. There's a decent chance I will blog about those sermons in the future but ... greatest ever?  I don't think I'd put it that strongly.  There are some pretty amazing John Donne sermons and he was an amazing poet.  For my time and reading Donne is a better poet than Shakespeare, though I understand why a lot of people will disagree. 

Still, MLJ sermons available for free if you sign up and agree to the terms doesn't seem like a bad arrangement. 

by the way, the rest of "The Wounds of Discovery" is now up

I know, I know, it's been a while since I've mentioned anything about Mockingbird stuff.  "The Wounds of Discovery" has been wrapped up for a while and now the last two installments are up.

There's much more I mean to write for this larger series about Batman. As you've probably guessed, Batman: the Agony of Loss and the Madness of Desire isn't even the last word in the DCAU project for Mockingbird.  Parts 5 and 6 in the Batman series have yet to be written. I haven't even touched Justice League yet. I hope you enjoy these last two installments of "The Wounds of Discovery". 

By not it's obvious I plan to have more about BTAS throughout 2012, seeing as it was 20 years ago this year that one of the finest superhero cartoons ever made first went on the air. You won't be shocked if, in future essays on Gotham and its residents, I drop a few observations from Adolf Schlatter, Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, and Roy Baumeister.

Meanwhile, if you're interested, the complete Parts 1-4 of Batman: the Agony of Loss and the Madness of Desire can be read at the following links:

For folks into chamber music be on the look out for Chamber Music Week 2.  I admit I dont' knwo when I'm tackling that but I want to get to a song cycle by Castelnuovo-Tedesco for soprano and guitar and quartets including guitar by Ferdinand Rebay.  I might even finally get to writing about Koshkin's Sonata for flute and guitar a little.  Or not.  We'll see.  I've still got things about Baumeister's work on violence and evil I'd like to get to but that may just get sublimated into an essay about Harley Quinn. ;-)

Linked via Jim West: Der Spiegel discusses Samaritan Temple,1518,827144,00.html,1518,827144-2,00.html

That there were competing Jewish and Samaritan ideas about the proper place to worship seems to come up in Jesus' conversation with the Samaritan woman in John 4, if memory serves. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Tough Text Thursday @ Pastor Mark TV stumps for a stupid vow

... Now, I do believe there are times that God leads us to take oaths for various reasons. For example, when kicking off the Real Marriage sermon series at Mars Hill Church, I challenged the husbands in the room to stand up and take a vow that they would lead their family well. I then asked each of them to pray over his wife, to serve her Communion, and to worship together holding hands.

Just to be clear, he just told us there are times when God lets people to take oaths.  Since people still make wedding vows and nobody usually puts up a fuss about that we can grant that Jesus' teaching on divorce does not necessarily mean Jesus taught nobody should ever marry or avoid making a vow to the Lord. But obviously I'm setting aside Driscoll's reference to NT scholars who responsibly investigate the context and text now that I've mentioned that.  That's not really a point to belabor.

No, the point to consider is that having established a modicum of backing for the idea that sometimes vows are okay to make (let's remember Paul makes a vow in Acts 18, which means it's impossible to interpret even Paul's understanding of what he may have heard about Jesus' teaching on vows in a purely literalistic way) Mark Driscoll moves on.  Driscoll, without missing a beat, jumps straight into how he challenged men to take a vow.  Which vow? He meant this remarkably idiotic vow:

Yes, I realize the phrasing "remarkably idiotic" is pretty intense but it is pretty intensely justified and, arguably, a gentle way of making my point given the passive voice of the vow throughout and its the breath-takingly foolish final clause.  That final clause is (drumroll):

"And my grandchildren will worship the same God as me because my children will worship the same God as me."

So Driscoll has found a way to take the words of Jesus, consider what a few scholars said about Jesus' teaching on vows, and then rounded things off with generalizations about men and cowards and vows. I don't see how any man in his right mind can jump from Jesus' teaching about vows to Driscoll's vow from Real Marriage without skipping over the following passages:

Proverbs 27:1
Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth

James 4:13-16
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”  Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.  Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”  As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.

Ecclessiastes 5:2-7
Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart    to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.

A dream comes when there are many cares, and many words mark the speech of a fool.

When you make a vow to God, do not delay to fulfill it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow.  It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it.  Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the temple messenger, “My vow was a mistake.” Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands?  Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore fear God.

Matthew 5:33-37 (NIV)

“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’  But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne;  or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King.  And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black.  All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. [for another translation that renders "evil one" see the NKJV).

Keep that in mind, Jesus taught that the wrong kind of vows were not just vows to not be made, they were also utterance that came "from evil" or "from the evil one".  Just in case we're not clear on "the evil one" there's five books by Jeffrey Burton Russell on the devil you can read at your leisure.

Now it's perfectly fine to pray that the Lord will bless you with believing children and grandchildren, though it surely helps if you're already married when you pray such things. But to vow something when you cannot turn one hair black or white that involves the hearts and minds of people a generation removed from you is so patently stupid it bears repeating, such a vow is patently stupid even if by some magical technicality Driscoll and others would say this feeble-minded vow somehow does not constitute a form of boasting.

The self-referential justification of a stupid vow by saying it's the kind of vow Jesus wasn't teaching against does not make the vow any less assinine for prooftexting the words of Jesus without reference to Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, or James.  As Driscoll might put it, seeing as James was, like, Jesus' brother you'd think that the kid brother/apostolic author of a book of the Bible would trump Driscoll's application.

If Driscoll wants to have a Tough Text Tuesday that's actually about a tough text or two I suggest the story of Jephthah (Judges 11) cross-referenced with Hebrews 11. Quaintly enough that story involves a warrior dude who's also a daddy making a big vow to God that ends with him sacrificing his only child, his daughter.  It even says the spirit of God came on him and he made the vow. I'd also suggest the lying spirit who visited the prophets of Ahab, or the Levite's concubine, or the prophet who died after dining with another prophet, or the time where David took a census (alternately described as spurred by God Himself or by Satan in Samuel and Chronicles), or Josiah's death in battle.

Another option is actually exegeting the Light-bearer and prince of Tyre passages from Isaiah and Ezekiel in some setting other than the tossed off citations from the 2008 spiritual warfare presentation. If both are considered references to Satan how is it that in their original literary and historical references Babylon (light bearer in Isaiah) is going to be the one to destroy Tyre and its royals in Ezekiel? The Tyre passage in Ezekiel is particularly tough if you consider that the seige ended in a kind of truce and annexation of Tyre into Babylon rather than complete destruction.

Or how about Jude's citations of 1 Enoch or the account of Moses' burial? I know Driscoll listed Richard Bauckham's Jude/2 Peter monograph so I can be pretty certain Driscoll has access to a commentary dealing with Jude's prodigous use of apocryphal literature.  The commentary, by the way, is a fun and informative read.

Maybe Driscoll could explain how Christians field the reference to a prophecy in a work that never made it into any but the Ethiopian and Eritreaen Orthodox canons? Maybe Driscoll can't do better on his Tough Text series for finding actually tough texts and he's catching softballs gently lobbed his way by himself.  Or maybe he can do better and deal with some actually tough texts, not just texts that conveniently prooftext points he could make (and has been making) without any reference to a biblical passage at all.

Ed Stetzer covers six signs of dysfunctional churches

HT to Internet Monk and Phoenix Preacher.

Summarized list of six signs of being in an unhealthy Christian organization:

1. The church or organizational culture does not value those serving, just those leading and the function of the organization.

2. The leader is the only one who is allowed to think.

3. The organization or church thinks everyone else is wrong and only they are right.

4. People rationalize that the good they are experiencing is worth the abuse they are receiving.

5. People often know of the glaring character problems of the leader, but no one can speak truth to power.

6. Many times, the leader gets a pass for the fruit of his/her leadership because of some overwhelming characteristic: preaching ability, intelligence, ability to woo others, or more.

In part 2 Stetzer mentions the following:

Being at a place that "makes a difference" sounds good, but if you end up with a confused spiritual life or broken family, it is just not worth the price. You do not want to be a "great place" and have a broken life because you have become warped by the culture around you.

That is indeed what happens. You can often see the impact on those close to the leader. An unhealthy Christian organization tends to have two things going on at the top of the organizations:
  1. First, many of the best leaders leave (and the leader finds a way to spin their departure).
  2. Second, the leaders that stay take on the unhealthy characteristics of the organization, becoming part of the problem (even though they often bemoan the attributes of the leader). In a sense, we reproduce who we are-- creating "mini-me" personalities of the leader.
As I haven't been and don't plan to be in a church leadership position the advice Stetzer has for those who, against all odds, feel led to stay isn't really something I'm going to summarize or remark on.

seeing as I blogged about extrapolating from incomplete data ...

There are multiple levels at which this joke works.  Rather than explain any of these levels I will merely let you extrapolate them.

a proverb about real estate

An estate acquired in haste at the outset will not be blessed in the end.

Proverbs 20:21

Wired: The Age of Insight

... In fact, if you look around, it is amazing how much of our view of the mind follows outlines of Freud’s thinking. We now know that conscious mentation is the tip of the iceberg, very much as Freud argued. We are now clearly aware of the importance of instinctual strivings. We have localized them to the hypothalamus, and to the amygdala. We know that sexual strivings are present in childhood. We realize that when we convert unconscious to conscious mental processes, a sort of broadcasting function goes on. We are aware of superego functions at a biological level, moral values that are built into our brains.

Proverbers 20:5

The purposes of a man's heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out.

a short proposal about musical form

All musical forms are essentially exercises in associative memory. Hindemith touched on this in A Composer's World and it's a fairly simple but important observation.  The challenge of developing a musical form is that you can discuss the notes and what the notes do but not what they will mean to someone else. The associative memory and real-time mental construction and perception of a musical moment in the listener's mind may not necessarily ever match what you spent days, months or years working on at your compsoing desk.  This is why what one person may hear as a musical moment that is profound, subtle, and arresting will be heard by another person as insipid, insulting, and inane. As composers wielding the power of associative memory as a way to create musical forms and narratives go it would be hard to top Richard Wagner and, in an observation that comes as absolutely no surprise at all, Wagner and his music evoke wildly divergent reactions depending on what people know about his life and music as a cumulative story.

Reboot Christianity: Jesus' parable of the Mustard Seed

what, exactly, are pastors and teachers supposed to do?

Ephesians 4: 11-15

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers,  to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.  Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.

Some twenty years ago I heard a brief but memorable discussion of what Ephesians 4:11-15 discusses about Christian leadership by a Pentecostal youth pastor.  Yes, you read that right, a Pentecostal youth pastor. 

He explained that the purpose of the pastor and the teacher is to equip Christ's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up. He put it this way, and I paraphrase quite broadly:

My job as a pastor is to teach you how to understand the Bible so you can follow Jesus yourself, so that you will know how to interpret the Bible and not be swayed by false teachers, so that you will do the work of being the body of Christ.  The big misconception people in the church have is that pastors do the work of the ministry.  Pastors do the work of the ministry but that work is that we pastors should equip you to do good works to build up the church.  Our ministry is to train you so that you can be ministers of Christ to anyone around you.  A pastor who thinks his job is to do the good works himself is crazy and not reading the Bible correctly.

Again, I very broadly paraprase a message this Pentecostal youth pastor hammered at for years.  I can say that in my case that message stuck. Sometimes equipping the saints means instruction.  Sometimes equipping the saints means encouragement or exhortation.  Sometimes equipping the saints means stepping aside to let someone get something done or take some advice from someone who knows what they're talking about. Sometimes equipping the saints means a pastor or teacher should be honest enough to hear a question and then honestly say, "I don't have an answer for that question but let me go study the Scriptures to see what I can find out."

Those good works do not necessarily always mean inviting people to your church so they can hear the pastor preach and become a disciple of Jesus.  Yeah, there's that, too, obviously, but not every member of the body fulfills the same purpose and not everyone has the same gift.  I used to kick myself for not being that door-to-door end times witness guy.  I don't have that issue now.  I outgrew "wretched urgency" around the time I realized that forty years of Hal Lindsey style end-times freak outs had still not lead to Armageddon and yet snake oil salesman in each decade managed to announce that through careful Bible prophecy study they have worked out that the book of Revelations was referring to something new that could be fulfilled in just a few years.  A great way to part people with their money is to pull that stunt.  If you can't hack it as a science-fiction or horror writer you can run on the fumes of problematic applications of dispensationalist/futurist eschatology. Before you comment, yeah, I know there are more responsible exponents of dispensationalism. I don't agree with it but I do realize that not all dispensationalists are cast from the Hal Lindsey mold. 

But at the same time, grant me this point, that the year in and year out freak-outs about how this or that thing indicates the Mark of the Beast keeps changing.  Twenty years ago the Beast was going to be the European Common Market and some Syrian was going to be the Antichrist.  Now that a black Democrat is in the Oval Office, curiously, the new End Times timeline has been reworked to reflect new fears about what will potentially destroy America. How does this kind of endless, paranoid prediction racket equip the saints to do anything other than give vent to racial, political, ethnic, religious, economic, and social prejudices that, were they following the teachings of Christ, they might be called to repent of in maybe a couple of areas in their lives?

I've seen a lot of Christians scour the scriptures to find out when the Tribulation is happening and fearing being stuck in that time.  Whoever is meant for the sword will meet the sword, you know.  There's also those words from Jesus saying "In this world you will face tribulation but take heart, I have overcome the world." American Christians, honestly, sometimes seem more apt to experience tribulation at the hands of each other than actual persecution from the world. How this manages to equip the saints is hard to discern.

Scotteriology: Worship Band in Hand

Having some trouble finding the full rock band backup necessary to help people "enter in" to worship?  Naturally, there's an app for that now.

I just hope that the set list options do not include "Water Color Ponies".  I had my fill of middle-aged guys croaking their way through "Water Color Ponies" as offering music in Pentecostal churches twenty years ago.

Ladies and gentleman, in Band in Hand we clearly have the Omnichord of the 21st century.

blogging and the halo effect

As heuristics go one of the ones we use to get through the day has the handy moniker, "the halo effect".  Daniel Kahneman in Thinking Fast and Slow describes this as a process of identifying exaggerated emotional coherence. We extrapolate from incomplete data and build massive narratives on a few details observed from a short interaction.

Kahneman describes simply but vividly how this propensity to impute to the whole from selections led him to some disturbing discoveries about his teaching and grading approach. He related how he would grade papers in the usual way--he would start grading a single test by going from start to finish.  He began to question whether this was truly assessing the answers of his students.  He changed up his approach. Instead of grading each test student by student he chose to grade each test question by question. He began to realize that a student who aced the first question on the test might immediately crash and burn on the second question.  He came to realize he'd been grading based on the halo effect, a realization that deeply troubled him.

Kahneman described how he was distraught and bewildered by the results his new approach to grading his students' tests showed him.  But he also concluded that this was good for him. It compelled him to rethink how to grade tests. He has, for those who have read him, come up with the shorthand of System 1 and System 2.  System 1 forms immediate impressions, guesstimates and generally is remarkably accurate.  System 2 is the formally analytical set of cognitive processes, to simplify things a bit, and while System 2 can definitely analyze things it is frequently tempted to go with whatever sensible, coherent explanation System 1 will come up with.  Decorrelating error, as Kahneman puts it, is foundational to making more accurate assessments in testing.

The halo effect can be offset by group observation but, famously, group observation itself can be marred by the halo effect. It's easy for bloggers and self-styled iconoclasts to claim that the sheeple are easily influenced.  Yes, but so are self-styled iconoclasts and bloggers (including those bloggers who complain about bloggers). The halo effect permits a grossly simplistic assessment of whole categories of other people and comprehensive praise or blame is imputed through the most tangential of associations. 

Kahneman notes in Thinking Fast and Slow that even unbiased witnesses can still bias other witnesses.  Is the halo effect so powerful that even unbiased witnesses can actually bias each other?  Yep. But how? Kahneman explains a simple boardroom procedure--if people are asked to raise their hands to make a corporate decision compliance is almost physiologically guaranteed due to herd patterns.  By contrast, a secret ballot and individually writing out thoughts before a key decision drastically reduce the impact of a halo effect in a corporate boardroom decision. What Kahneman literally spells out is: "The standard practice of open discussion gives too much weight to the opinions of those who speak early and assertively, causing others to line up behind them." (Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman, page 85)

So what might a real world application of this look like?  Well, here's at least a possible case study:

Scott Thomas wrote to Paul Petry: "The elders will submit their vote by show of hands."
This show of hands was going to be, as Jamie Munson put it "a final and binding decision."

"It was unanimously decided ... ." shows us that a show of hands was a show of all hands.  Not too surprising why Petry asked if the vote was going to be by way of secret ballot, is it?  As Daniel Kahneman puts it in Thinking Fast and Slow the "wisdom of crowds" only works if there is no pervasive bias or steering. The trouble is that even knowing about cognitive biases does not mean you transcend them. Knowledge does not always bring with it the power to overcome elements of yourself. Sometimes knowledge merely provides a label for a bad habit of thought you can't shake.

Kahneman describes a great failure in how our minds work which is to simply say that our brains easily take the path of least resistance so that what you see is all there is. The halo effect has its way.  But the halo effect works in both directions and can lead to conspiratorial mind games in which not only the best is assumed on the basis of a small snapshot, the worst can be assumed as well.

Kahneman explains that the shortcut seeking habits of the human mind are such that if only one side is presented the human brain will favor that one-sided presentation even if a person is fully capable of imagining another perspective.  Why?  Kahneman explains that this is because humans prefer a narrative with emotional coherence over a pile of emotionally, intellectually, or morally ambiguous details. Kahneman takes a great deal of time (his whole book) to explain that this rapid ability to assess and react is normally the most amazing part of how our brains help us deal with the world around us. 

The trouble, of course, is that there are critical moments where the cognitive shortcuts that let us swiftly assess and react can terribly mislead us. We become overconfident in the coherence of the narrative we have created, often a narrative we have created reflexively before we have even analyzed what the nature of the narrative is.  It then becomes the narrative we live by whether or not it is actually true. We are often oblivious to the reality that how a subject gets framed will influence how we think about things.  Journalists and people who are interview subjects understand what leading questions are yet many people will not.  What the leading question clarifies is the reality that how a question is even asked can bring with it a bias or shape a bias in the response of the recipient.

Still another problem is what Kahneman describes as a "base-rate neglect".  He uses the example of a set of character traits many associate with librarians that can also be true of farmers, yet most people will credit someone with these traits as a librarian even though there are far more farmers. This can be applied, with some care, to the realm of blogging.  For instance, I may see some anonymous joe remarking how such and such bloggers must have a low view of pastors and the pastoral office to criticize this or that pastor.  That can be taken as a base-rate neglect. Want to know who else can be brutally dismissive of pastors? Pastors. If we were to look at the statistics of who actually identifies as secular, liberal or atheist and compared those numbers to those who describe themselves as religious and serious about their faith the atheists won't provide the bigger number.  But a base-rate neglect might inspire a person to presume that anyone who speaks up against pastors must have some issue with spiritual authority when that isn't even remotely the case.

Conversely, people committed to the idea that they must be hold-outs against spiritual abuse may exercise the same sweeping assessments of those they criticize. The halo effect works in both directions, and the temptation to exaggerate the emotional coherence of an entire group of people remains with us even if we know this is a bias we are liable to be tempted to.  When I was at Mars Hill the halo effect was the whole reason the courtship idiocy had any traction.  The right guys had the right halo effect around them at the right time and it didn't matter that reality pointed in another direction, most people wanted to believe in the exaggerated emotional coherence the courtship fad provided about the church culture and the individuals who stumped for it. A culture of complicity and duplicity didn't just burst forth in 2007 with firings, it was nascent within other self-congratulatory pious fraud fads in the culture before that point. 

Yet if these things are true how is it you or I may soldier on with a grossly simplified assessment of something that we know is grossly simplified?  Well, I suppose to explore that we'd have to discuss the sunk cost fallacy.  We get to points where even if we know things are not as we originally surmised we've committed too much of ourselves to the enterprise to back out of it now. The positives still outweight the negatives enough to soldier on.  It would cost too much emotionally and socially to actually concede I may have simplified or misrepresented things a bit because I don't want to concede the point that I was ignorant, let alone potentially willfully misunderstanding things to score a point.

Or if I were a dad I might not feel comfortable conceding I was blindsided by a young guy who won the heart of my daughter until five years after he's married her because if I let on I had no idea what was going on it would make me look ignorant and out of control and, well, I can't have that now, can I? I get that but to me it's the same process of self-defending simplification and evasion I've seen in how people defend or attack certain churches on the basis of the assessment of a single person.

Now of course groupthink in a boardroom setting with brainstorming and a show of hands will reduce rather than promote creativity; it will play to the biggest and loudest mouths who speak first because people are that way, even the people who claim otherwise because those people, often, are the big loud mouths who speak first and steer the conversation in the board room.  In many of these cases the sunk cost fallacy kicks in and we've got this impulse to keep things as simple as we've made them out to be because we've already invested too much time, feeling, and effort into building something from that assessment.  If it happens to be a house of cards, well, we'll just have to glue the cards together.

There's a pretty good chance, no matter how confidently you think you've put things together, that the reality is not quite as simple as what you've been making it. I know this won't stop you from saying it's that simple anyway. As I was saying earlier, knowing what a cognitive bias is doesn't stop you from working within it.  Just because I know what a cognitive bias is doesn't mean I'm not effected by them.  If there's something to be said for the old proverb "iron sharpens iron" it may be that the ancients were no less aware than we are that there are times when you can't see outside your prejudices and that the only person who can is, very simply, someone who isn't you.

The halo effect to damn or praise is not just something that happens in the mind of other people.  It happens in my head and it happens in yours. Don't kid yourself about whether or not you have biases. You have them. Only fools and liars will even suggest otherwise about themselves, probably to steer a conversation where they want it to go. What you can attempt to do is find out whether your biases are keeping you from discovering facts or are leading you to judgments that can't withstand further investigation.

City of God: Mark Driscoll, Roman Catholic

There’s that old Jesuit quote that goes something like “give me the boy until he is seven and I will give you the man.” I’m not sure that it holds in all cases but in some fascinating instances a person might depart from the content of the teachings of their youth only to retain the forms in some mutated way. Some people point to Kant as an example since he rejected Pietism, but came up with an ethical system that seems to be a sort of continuation of Pietism by other means.

Now Driscoll is no Immanuel Kant (I think fans of either would strongly agree with that), but has a similar thing happened with Driscoll? It’s easy to forget that Driscoll was raised a Roman Catholic – and not just in the sense that that’s the box his parents checked off on the census, he was an altar boy and everything. It struck me first when looking at the way Mars Hill expresses concepts like church discipline can seem very, um, Catholic. The requirement of a comprehensive confession, the threat of excommunication, the role of a small group leader as a sort of confessor. All of what seemed kind of obtuse to many Protestants is just how things seem to go in Catholicism.

Dan continues a little further and concludes with the following:

Driscoll, whatever the church bylaws might say, is the unchallenged head of a de facto denomination that is ordered in a hierarchical fashion, demands strict adherence to its particular teaching of Christian doctrine and controls its members through a process of confession and discipline. Sounds like a bad caricature of Rome.

As another proverb puts it, you can take the boy out of the country but you can't take the country out of the boy.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Dan misreads a title at City of God yet comes up with a great comment anyway

Dan misread the nature of the title of a post by Andrew over at City of God blog.  But it doesn't matter because Dan's comment was worth it and spot on anyway. :)

Down with Comic Sans and Papyrus fonts!

Is your church interested in becoming a part of Mars Hill?

We regularly receive requests from churches interested in becoming a part of Mars Hill. So, I thought it would be helpful to give some of the most common answers to questions people typically pose:

1. Becoming a Mars Hill is not for everyone. The Holy Spirit has different callings for each church, and we rejoice in any and every church that loves and serves people for Jesus. Mars Hill doesn’t work for everyone, and we’re the first to acknowledge that. But, depending on the calling and context, it does work for some.

Francis Schaeffer used to point out that one of the problems with evangelicals in the 20th century is that they would say "Jesus is the answer" without ever going to the trouble of asking, "So if Jesus is the answer what is the question?" If this is the first answer the question might be "Can our church join Mars Hill?" The calling and context apparently matter a lot and I guess we'll get to see more of what that entails as we go.

2. Statistically, the majority of churches are plateaued and declining. Over 3,500 churches die and close every year. We want to see as many churches open and people meet Jesus as possible.

In other words if you're one of those churches that has hit a plateau or is declining don't apply. You're not wanted. 

No, wait, you'd be perfect for a brand rejuvenation. The deader your church (and the more debt-free and valuable your real estate) the more perfect you are! Dying churches should totally consider joining Mars Hill so long as they can give the executive elders gifts of real estate.  If there happen to be people in there, well, okay, whatever.  The main thing is that you consider giving them the real estate, preferably in some primo location (like Doxa was in West Seattle). That way you don't have to try selling the property of your dying church as a 501(c)3 and deal with all those rules.  If you just gift it to Mars Hill, on the other hand, everybody wins.  Well, that's if they like your location and you don't have piles of financial liabilities, anyway.

3. We have some success, by God’s grace, adopting in an existing church and transitioning it to a Mars Hill church. In New Mexico, we’ve seen a church go from a few hundred to over 1,000 worshipers in a few years—primarily by conversion growth. In West Seattle, we saw a church go from under 200 to as high as 1,000. In Sammamish, east of Seattle, we saw church go from under 200 to around 800 in a matter of months. This is not all transfer growth. Fully 1,392 people were baptized at Mars Hill last year, and every one of our 14 churches across four states is seeing people meet Jesus regularly.

About West Seattle, go back and read these:

Yes, Mars Hill assimilated Dox into the fold.  Bill Clem still has a job at Mars Hill. James Noriega does not.  Note "this is not all transfer growth" tells us something important, that at least some of it was transfer growth.  As the cliche puts it, methinks the lady doth protest too much. In an entry asking "Is your church interested in becoming a part of Mars Hill?" the topic by definition must be predicated on what?  That's right, transfer growth for Mars Hill.

4. We’ve found some fantastic people and leaders in churches we’ve adopted. Bill Clem, the lead pastor at our largest Mars Hill church, joined us when we adopted his small church plant. One of our three executive elders, Dave Bruskas, joined us when we adopted his church of a few hundred in New Mexico. We’ve also picked up some amazingly gifted and generous Christians who have made our mission to preach Jesus’ gospel more strongly than ever. We love to develop and deploy leaders, and there are many people sitting in churches who could be equipped and unleashed for major ministry impact.

Clem still has a job.  Noriega?  He was appointed to co-lead the Redemption Groups and where is he now?  Whatever happened to Rick Melson?  Keep in mind, too, that you might lose your job and get it later.  That's how it went for Dick McKinley and Gary Shavey.  Sometimes you'll lose your job and get it back, other times you'll lose your job and not get it back. For a few years running Mars Hill was laying people off left and right due to budget shortfalls.  That may be less likely to happen now but don't count on it.  I've had friends get hired on to Mars Hill within the last few years who were laid off months after the date of hire.  Mars Hill ministry is not for those who cherish job security above all else. I know some dedicated guys over there and ten years at Mars Hill in ministry does not necessarily mean ten continuous years employed at the same job.  A word of advice there, be willing to be super-flexible and also not rock the boat or even look like you're moving on the boat too quickly.

5.Most pastors are bogged down in the details of the website, finances, human resources, real estate negotiations, technology, and the like. Pastors go into ministry to serve Jesus by reaching and training people, but the administrative work of ministry buries them and keeps them from working with people as much as they desire. A church like Mars Hill that can do the administrative work centrally can help to free up the local pastor and leaders to focus on reaching people, caring for people, training leaders, and getting from meetings to mission.

This would seem to be a relatively small slice of the pie. "Most" would be a sample of, what? How often does Driscoll work with normal rank and file church members these days?  Didn't Jared Wilson, sympathetically blogging as far back as 2008, note with some dismay that Driscoll has set up Mars Hill so that he effectively doesn't have to deal with anybody except his select staff, and that about two days a week?  Now Driscoll's all air-war all the time and the campus pastors have been the ones to actually invest in the lives of real people.  If you're already doing that to some degree then you wouldn't need to apply. Really.

6. We don’t pretend this is easy. Most churches don’t want to change what they’re doing, but instead only want changed results. To become a Mars Hill church requires that a congregation legally becomes part of our church family, as it would be imprudent to inherit all the costs and legal liabilities blindly. Not every person in your leadership will keep their current role. Not every paid staff member will keep their job. Not every person in your current church will be supportive and stay. Not every ministry you are doing will continue. And you will have live preaching only some of the time and be part of something much bigger than just you.

Read this as, "We will lay off or fire the people who don't pull their weight.  Legally becoming part of the church means you enter into a system where the bylaws favor a denominational/multi-site system and there's no stated limit on what the pastors can do in church discipline.  As Andrewgate in early 2012 also illustrates, you're looking at a church without a competent set of procedures and precedents for church discipline.  You're also looking at the church that fired Paul Petry in 2007 for, among other things, suggesting that a lack of an appeals process for members under church discipline was a problem.

You're looking at joining a church that had Scott Thomas as executive elder, a man who was comfortable lying to church members using Acts 29 resources about where the "conciliatory process" was for Petry and Meyer days before he, as leader of the EIT, pushed through the legitimacy of charges leveled by Lead Pastor Jamie Munson that Petry and Meyer needed to be fired.

If you read through all that and consider that James Noriega was promoted to co-leading Redemption Groups and summarily vanished without comment or observation from the elder listings in late 2011; if you consider that Scott Thomas only weeks ago felt "released from leading Acts 29" after his role as executive elder in the kangaroo court against Petry and Meyer was documented on record; and if you don't mind your church, by definition, being part of transfer growth assimilation into Mars Hill then, by all means, apply. 

7. There are a lot of upsides. Churches that join will get a fresh start, a greater church family, resources, and by God’s grace, a proven track record with an established and growing church with ministry specialists who can help establish local elders, deacons, Community Groups, Redemption Groups, biblical counseling, children’s ministry, marriage ministry, and more to train and unleash people for meaningful and fruitful ministry. Many of these leaders are already in the churches that join Mars Hill, and we simply want to help find and train them to do more by God’s grace.

You can become part of a megachurch in a recession or depression that rents the city of Ephesus for a day to do some epic film-making.  You can join the church where Mark Driscoll personally launched the Covenant singles ministry that to this day is ... well, that ministry died a few years ago but I've still got that brochure where Mark outlined that modern day dating is basically prostitution. 

You can have Redemption Groups, just don't ask what happened to James Noriega. You can be part of a church that publicly told us they let go some staff for "overstepping spiritual authority" without defining what on earth that means or how long that pattern of "overstepping spiritual authority" went on (months? years?). You can get biblical counseling from people whose credentials in counseling are, well, somewhere.  Or you could skip Mars Hill and use something like the materisl from How People Change, which Mars Hill hosted back around 2006.  But they'll never need to host those folks ever again now that the Redemption Groups content has been developed.

So, if your church is interested in joining the Mars Hill family, this is a good time to contact us. In so doing, you are not obligated to anything—this is just opening up the door for discussion.

You're not obligated to anything until you join.  This is just opening up the door for discussion.  When you join there's no going back. If you want to sacrifice everything you've spent years in ministry laboring toward so Mark Driscoll can publicly take credit for the amazing season of growth then, okay, go for it. But as the Gospel Coalition's Don Carson put it earlier this year success in ministry is not measured strictly by numbers but also by spiritual fruit. 

IF you don't have a big, growing church but the spiritual fruit of your church members is healthy, if they are helping the poor, finding work for the underemployed, and assisting families in need then keep doing that.  Don't join Mars Hill.  They won't help you accomplish the mission of Christ if you're already doing these things.  Don't sacrifice actually accomplishing the mission of Christ and the cultivation of the fruit of the Spirit for being assimilated into Mars Hill.  If it's all about Jesus then the numbers are not critical in the end.  A former Lead Pastor like Jamie Munson can claim that you should gun for church growth despite the recession and despite it not being a good idea.

2) The opposite of growth is death.
The living grow; the dying do not. A church need not add to its numbers in astronomical proportions, but if nobody is showing up, chances are nobody is meeting Jesus, which is the whole point. Also, spiritual growth is inextricably linked to numerical growth (though it’s not always an exponential relationship); if people are truly growing in their faith, they will give, they will serve, they will invite their friends, they will tell people about Jesus, they will live on mission—all of which leads to some level of numerical growth as God works through his people.

If the opposite of growth is death what was going on when 1,000 members left Mars Hill in early 2008 in the wake of the pastoral firings of 2007; the news about the 50th street property not being used for what was outlined in the capital campaign of 2005; the new bylaws getting voted through and being required for membership renewal; or the elder decision to "cancel out" all memberships?
Why, if Munson's right and spiritual growth is inextricably linked to numerical growth what was going on when Mars Hill decided to "cancel out" all members?  It looks like the elders decided to kill their own church to see who was really committed to the mission.  It wasn't about increased doctrinal concern.  In fact early 2008 was when Driscoll lied about the nature and content of the Targum Neofiti as discussed by Scott Bailey and Robert Cargill

In fact Christian Brady discussed the problem with Driscoll's hadnling of the Targum Neofiti even earlier than Cargill or Bailey and Brady happens to be a Spurgeon fan.  So while Driscoll might have assured Justin Taylor in 2010 the bar for doctrine had been raised it was during 2008 Driscoll committed a gaffe so egregious no less than three OT scholars made a point of documenting what can only be explained as either scholarly imcompetence at best or, at worst, outright deceit. Not being one to traffic in false dichotomies if I don't have to I suppose a combination of both scholarly imcompetence and deceit is possible.

If you go over and read all of Joyful Exiles (and you should if you're going to even consider joining Mars Hill church) you'll notice there's a political genius at work.  Driscoll has said he's more prophet than politician but he's an adept church politician.  Driscoll famously preached that there were some men even in the leadership of the church where if he weren't going to end up on CNN he'd go Old Testament on them.  Instead he fired two men. 

Munson was then tasked with articulating the charges against Meyer and Petry.  One of those charges was that the Lead Pastor was not being respected.  Munson articulated charges that indicated he felt he wasn't trusted or respected.  Put a mini-Mark early convert to Driscoll's preaching on the top and a young guy with no real world business experience at the top and older men who have actual professional experience outside the church world might, understandably, have doubts about Munson's abilities, particularly since Driscoll credited Munson with finding the 50th street property that turned out to be a bit of a boondoggle.

Munson issued the charges and sent them to every elder at Mars Hill:

If Munson issued the charges Scott Thomas was tasked with making sure the charges stuck.  Mars Hill elders were informed by Munson in the above letter that Thomas was running the EIT. Thomas made sure the charges stuck.  Thomas was also willing to tell a member that the "conciliatory process" was completed days before he made sure the charges became grounds for firing Petry and Meyer. Munson, meanwhile, seemed to never follow up on his statement that he'd urge Petry and Meyer to resign rather than go through the formal firing process.  Instead, it seems, Munson made a point of making charges for why the men should be fired. 

Curiously, the nepotism charge seems especially odd since it would seem that a kind of spiritually nepotitistic cronyism was possibly how Munson got the Lead Pastor job to begin with.  What WERE his qualifications ot be lead pastor, again?  He was never a great Bible teacher and he his being on the Ballard chamber of commerce hardly made him a fine example of business acumen.  No offense, Ballard's fine and all, but in the nepotism charge against Meyer Munson never seems to have put together that he was the pot's appointed leader-friend calling the kettle black.

Now months before bloggers and journalists wrote about Andrew Mars Hill cut loose some staff for overstepping spiritual authority.  If you're a pastor and you're thinking of having your church join you better ask what "overstepping spiritual authority" actually entailed.  You might want to ask point blank why pastors like James Noriega aren't employed at Mars Hill any longer.  How did a guy go from co-leading the Redemption Groups to vanishing into thin air? Has Mars Hill addressed some of communication competency issues that led to Andrew being able to go public with his story to Matthew Paul Turner?  Go read the bylaws carefully for Mars Hill, ask for them, and ask yourself whether or not what you may be told you're getting out of a deal with Mars Hill is really worth the human cost that will come with it. Driscoll's already explained that you can't expect everyone will keep their jobs or that ministries will survive the process of assimilation. 

Ask what happened to Rick Melson.  Rick who?  Exactly. Ask what happened to Lief Moi.  If they won't answer I would discreetly suggest you not join.  Driscoll promises you nothing and in return you may lose your job, your ministry, your public reputation, and financial stability in exchange for Driscoll getting to share about God's grace growing the church in amazing new ways.  He's assuring you now that it's not all transfer growth but even the idea of transfer growth is not going to get mentioned in annual reports if new campuses open up in the next fifteen months. 

That Driscoll is assuring people not all the increase in numbers has been from transfer growth is a red flag.  If the growth is based on something besides transfer growth the question shouldn't even come up, should it?  Yet even as far back as about 2005 I had the impression that most Mars Hill growth was transfer growth.  In a church/denomination as big as Mars Hill there will be never-before converts. I don't doubt that but if these converts are people who show up to Easter events and spontaneously decide to get baptised be cautious.  They could be responding to Jesus and God can use anything, but they could also be responding to a dog and pony show and an altar call, too.  This does not have to be a strictly binary assessment.

Driscoll saying now is a great time to contact Mars Hill.  Yep, he's withdrawn from the Gospel Coalition after announcing that Jakes is one of us and letting it be known that he's open to learning from people outside his tribe.  He's appointed Matt Chandler to run Acts 29 and this the week after Petry went on record about the firing he went through in 2007.  Although Driscoll said he wanted to invest more and not less time in Acts 29 back in February 2012 now things are just so busy with Jesus growing Mars Hill he's gotta step back and manage the growth.  What growth?  Well, four new campuses.  Sammamish is a fairly new assimilation Driscoll has just shared about lately. I trust we all get that assimilating an existing church is, by definition, transfer growth.  If you agree to this deal then you're agreeing to let your assimilation and transfer growth be credited at some point as though these were lives reached for Jesus by Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill.  In comic book nerd land this could be interpreted as "work for hire".

How do we know for sure that this isn't the ecclesiological equivalent of Amway?  If your church is growing without Mars Hill you can surely trust it can grow without Mars Hill.  Isn't unlimited growth even during a recessionary period indicative of consumerism or unrealistic expectations out in the real world where people do real work?  If former Lead Pastor at Mars Hill Jamie Munson could seriously say that spiritual growth will be reflected in numerical growth is this a church you really want to join?  Did membership equalling discipleship work out for Andrew? 

If nothing else learn from Andrew's mistakes and read absolutely everything you can get your hands on BEFORE you sign any dotted lines.  Find out why half of Mars Hill didn't renew back in early 2008.  If you're a pastor and your church is doing okay or if its growing consider staying where you are.  You don't need to make a move that could ultimately sacrifice your ministry on the altar of a Martian pursuit of numeric growth.  Sacrificing your ministry and your flock so that transfer growth can be presented as Jesus growing Mars Hill doesn't seem like a good trade to me.  If you're an unknown pastor with a growing, successful church where people love the Lord and people are meeting Christ already then you shouldn't aspire to be more like Mark Driscoll's ministry or Mars Hill, he should be aspiring to be more like you.  If it's really all about Jesus then Driscoll's invitation to join Mars Hill is a waste of time.  Christ will build up His church just fine without Driscoll, won't He?

Driscoll is inviting churches to assimilate into Mars Hill just after he's withdrawn the Gospel Coalition and has moved himself to a less obvious spot on the Acts 29 board.  He's got less formal power officially but plenty of informal power.  If he's still on the Acts 29 board he's still in the position to call the shots. Chandler will answer to him and not the other way around. He's got more power and influence now than before.  If you hadn't heard about 14 churches have pulled out of Acts 29 since news about Mars Hill came up this year, well, now you know.

If it's all about Jesus then Driscoll can appreciate the words of John the Baptist who said of Christ, "He must become greater and greater while I must become less and less."  Accepting Driscoll's invitation to you to ask if you can join Mars Hill doesn't look quite like that, at least not to me. You don't really want to risk giving your flock that God has called you to love, protect and serve over to Mark Driscoll so that the subsequent transfer growth can be touted in next year's annual report as Mars Hill, the miracle of God, who is growing Mars Hill, do you? That's not a nobody trying to tell everybody about Somebody on the jumbo screens, pastor, that's you.  Your present identity in Christ is Driscoll's catchphrase. You actually are what Driscoll pretends he is. Don't trade that out for a "maybe" job at Mars Hill if you're already sharing Christ with people and loving the people where you already are.