Saturday, April 02, 2016

at TCI Wedgeworth gets back to his differences with Leithart on "fall" narratives and the arts--a geography of genius and genius as a social verdict--(i.e. you have to solve a problem others wanted solved)

For folks who would understandably not know or care, Leithart wrote a few pieces on why Protestants can't write.  The case was not exactly persuasive at the time.  Over at The Calvinist International Steve Wedgeworth started writing a rebuttal and in that process pointed out that there's a popular idiom in arts criticism that can be thought of as a "Fall" narrative.  I plan to get around to this some more in the future with respect to Francis Schaeffer, who's famous trilogy I think needs to be critiqued as being a legend of white Anglo-Saxon Protestant decline that plays too readily and sloppily into culture war politicking of the sort that we should set off to the side.  But let's get to Wedgworth:
So back in February, Peter Leithart responded to my response on his essay on Protestants and writing. I meant to respond again, but never did. It’s probably good though, because the conversation needs to be bigger than just any one article– and certainly bigger than personalities. I really did think his original essay shined a light on intellectual problems that have beset a very large group of thinkers. His response in February provides another occasion to zoom out and talk about them, and the main issue that I’d like to talk about is the concept of the “Fall” narrative.

The “Fall” narrative precedes the “Road Not Taken” one that Mark Lilla pointed out. Before you can imagine the alternative possibilities, you have to first firmly believe that a great historical disaster has occurred. The wrong “road” was taken, and many of the great possibilities have thus been lost. Now don’t get me wrong. Everybody does this. For the pagan perennialist sorts, the great fall was when Judea-Christian religion conquered the great world-wide “oneness” of ancestral-traditional religions. For certain arch-Protestants, the fall happened when “Greek” thought invaded the “Hebraic” early Christian Church. For anabaptist-ish folks, the fall happened when Constantine took over the church. For classic Lutherans, it was with the Babylonian Captivity of the Church under the Papacy. For postmodern-paleoconservatives everything is Scotus’ fault. For “Old School” Presbyterians, we can blame Finney. Schaeffer blamed the Renaissance. Conservatives blame Marx or the Civil War or Truman or FDR. For some of us at TCI, it’s all Van Til’s fault (see, I can be self-critical!). Whatever the application, the “Fall” narrative is pretty common.

Was it Peter Hitchens?  The one who quipped "I don't think we need to go back to the past. I just think we chose the wrong future"? 
The eloquence of that quip, of course, is that it's precisely the sentiment of the left and the right who believe that thanks to whatever happened in the last twenty odd years (or more) that's the problem!

Now whether or not we agree Protestants can't write, Wedgeworth's brought up a question along the way, which has to do with a "geography of genius".
 ... [from the NPR piece]When Eric Weiner sat down to write his new book he had to tackle a big question first: How do you define genius?
"That's not as easy as it sounds," he tells NPR's Rachel Martin. "I have a slightly unusual definition ... that a genius is someone we all agree on is a genius. It's a social verdict."

... I think if you go by what I call the "fashionista theory" of genius ... this idea that genius is a consensus, almost like fashion is a consensus — there's no good fashion or bad fashion, there's just what's fashionable ... you have to say that Steve Jobs is a genius because a lot of us, perhaps a majority, think that he was a genius. You know, we get the geniuses that we want and that we deserve. And this is what we care about; we care about technology.

Think about it: why are there no classical composers the likes of the Beethoven and Mozart out there today? There are very good ones, but we don’t think that there’s a Beethoven or a Mozart. It’s not that the talent pool is dried up or there’s been some weird genetic fluke that’s diminished the talent pool. It’s because if you’re a young, ambitious person, you’re more likely to head to Silicon Valley than to Vienna to study classical music. …

During Mozart’s time, in Vienna, 18th century, he had an extremely receptive audience, he had a demanding audience, and his audience was almost a co-genius with him. We tend to think that the genius produces this magnificence. And we, the audience, just passively receive it. I don’t think it works that way. Mozart was acutely aware of his audience and the demands that they had. And the audience appreciated his music, demanded better music from him — if more of us were like that today, vis-à-vis classical music, I think we would have more Mozarts.

[from Wedgeworth] ... The main reason we don’t have “great culture” is that we don’t have a market for it. Most folks simply aren’t that interested in it, and there’s not much money to be made. They put their time into STEM education, sports, and entertainment.

So if we run briefly with the idea that genius is a social verdict; that the distinction between an eccentric crank and a recognized genius is a matter of whether or not that person solved a problem that other people thought was worth solving; then that can be an important precursor to the question of, if we even agree Protestants can't write, why they should/would be any good at writing.  It could be there are plenty of Protestants who can write well, by whatever definition Leithart wanted to use, but that the Christian publishing industry has no incentives or interests in actually publishing those authors.  Given the scope of the plagiarism scandal that was associated with Mark Driscoll ... this proposal seems to hold a couple of gallons of water, to be blunt about it. Ditto for Rachel Held Evans.  If these have been stars in the popular Christian writerly firmament to the right and left maybe that proves Leithart's point.  But then Doug Wilson felt obliged to retract one of his books not so long ago.  Maybe the problem is that after centuries of so many productive writers we're stuck recognizing how awkwardly second-hand all our ideas are, the world over, and that the better of us are just the ones who footnote this intellectual debt more accurately and meticulously upfront in the first editions.

But let's play some more with the possibility that genius is a social verdict and that it's bestowed on the basis of problem-solving.  Submarines as tools for war were made as far back as the 1700s and yet the explosion of submarine production came with the 20th century.  Sometimes an innovation can lay dormant for a few centuries until an iteration of it becomes practical enough to be worth using.  It's not that submarines didn't exist for centuries, it's that the demand for them exploded once there was a set of interlocking innovations in their construction and a tactical/strategic need for them in the context of the Great War on out.

We've just seen the formal end of a twenty year period that was the era, if you will, of Mars Hill Church.  What has been lost in all the writing about Mark Driscoll's public persona is that the early success of Mars Hill involved the other co-founding pastors.  Justin Dean could talk with guys this year about how Mars Hill was this evangelical right-wing church that somehow thrived in Seattle but that's a misunderstanding of the sum of the history.  Mike Gunn was not exactly a red state voter.  I had a number of articulate and convinced progressives as friends during my time at Mars Hill.  It makes better copy and summary judgment to say Mars Hill was just all around right wing but that's not an especially honest or thorough history for those who want to go beyond the bromides of partisan polemics. Considering the era of Mars Hill has only lately come to an end we should be cautious about attempts to distill 20 years of regional history into just a few pithy paragraphs, or a few pages in a magazine being some summation of what has happened.  That said, it is useful to look at what was once Mars Hill as solving more than one problem for more than one constituency.

Mars Hill managed to solve a problem within the Seattle area from the 1990s.  Its leaders found aw ay to bring back the all ages music scene in a way that compensated for some policy changes in the city that made all ages venues practically impossible to sustain. If all Mars Hill had ever been about was brand mongering for right wing causes it could never have grown the way it did within the Seattle city limits, could it?  There had to be a few other things going on along the way.  Driscoll's pulpit persona was not taking over the sum of Mars Hill pulpit activity until around 2002 ish.  That left half a decade of time in which Gunn and Moi had prominent roles within the nascent Mars Hill.  If Mars Hill had not played a role in solving the problem of a lack of all ages music options in Seattle could Mark Driscoll's jocular claim that he was to the right of Pat Buchanan have led the new Mars Hill to get anything done? 

Which is not to say that Mark Driscoll's a genius, even if some people would say he is.   This is just proposing that the social verdict that Mark Driscoll was a poster boy for the young, restless and Reformed was bestowed after he'd sorta gotten around to branding himself as Reformed (even though he wasn't in the earliest years of Mars Hill) after Mars Hill had established itself locally as a church community interested in the arts. 

Wedgeworth made a point along the way of his rebuttal to Leithart that is worth mentioning in tangential connection to Mars Hill as a musical culture.
...An incredibly obvious point, but one that is nearly always left out in the intellectual circles named above, is that the most significant outlet for “poetry” in our day is not in university English departments, literary magazines, or even Bohemian villages. It is Hip Hop. If a young person in love with rhyme and verse wants to use their skills in the most competitive and influential arena today, they learn to rap. While rap has its own thickly layered history and culture, the emergence of Christian Rappers has been one of the more noteworthy talking points of the last several years, and there are those who would argue that the most important “Christian Rappers” today are Reformed Evangelicals of the low-church variety. If our categories for “great poetry” do not include a significant place for these kinds of artists, then that reveals the hidden parameters of the aesthetic conversion, and it shows the limitations of many Christians’ socio-political imagination.

For those who are committed to ideas that Mars Hill somehow failed because of an insufficient commitment to the regulative principle (yes, I've actually seen that in the Reformed blog scene), that kind of posturing comes across less as a plausible application of the regulative principle than an eagerness to maintain boundaries.  There are plenty of Christians who would not recognize hip hop as a legitimate musical idiom.  It's not my favorite, I'll admit that much, but if you look at the history of 17th century opera as it evolved into the 18th century it's not like fans of the old Renaissance style were in a rush to call recitative musical.  It seemed unmusical at the time to advocates for the older styles.  At the risk of pointing out something perhaps too obvious, Hamilton constitutes a fusion of hip hop with Broadway and the rave reviews left and right for it might suggest that a low/low fusion of artistic styles is considered okay.  It can even be considered brilliant. 

But what about a Leithart who says Protestants can't write?  What kind of high or low is implied in that complaint?  Wedgeworth's comment quoted above is that for anyone interested in traditional English language poetics there are not many chances to play with that in a collegiate scene where the poetry teachers will push you to start into free verse and abandoning conventional forms as soon as possible.  But hip hop?  You can do whatever rhyming you like, even if there are those who would say the rhymes are forced and artificial.  Sure, just like many rhymes seem forced and artificial in the poetry of those poets whose work didn't make it into the literary canon because centuries of scholars came to a consensus about that stuff, maybe? 

 Now "if" Leithart's case hinges on a surmise that a lack of high churchly sacramentalism accounts for why Protestants can't write (and I doubt, really, that's where he's been going or where we "should" go) the problem behind all this may be trying to solve a problem within a coterie of cultural warrior activity that does not reflect the problems that others want to solve.  Academics talking about artistic canons seem to have a different set of interests than practical musicians do.  Kyle Gann's complaint, if taken as emblematic, has been that political and gender studies have so taken over academic musicology that talking about what the music actually does has been set aside so that actual composers have to get around to discussing the craft.  It can certainly feel as if that's what's happened when I can't find a single monograph that discusses the evolution of sonata form in 19th century guitar literature but no end of discourses on performance details of the usual Sor and Giuliani sonatas.

To go by the success of Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton, it would seem that while academics provide a profusion of commentaries on "problematic" elements in various artistic/scholastic canons that at a popular level what practicing/practical musicians have been aspiring toward, and the musical heroes who get lionized upon their passing seem to have been known for, is a successful fusion.  Wedgeworth has raised the question of whether Christians interested in innovating in the arts might not be drawn to idioms and forms that are not even recognized as art by critical/arts establishments and that's a substantial concern.  Even if it turns out that Andrew Stanton's a Christian how many people would dismiss his entire cinematic catalog on the basis of his having made animated films?  If cartoons are taken as not being real art then it wouldn't matter how inventive or groundbreaking or finely crafted Stanton's films are.  If Christians who do any pioneering work are working in idioms that a Peter Leithart would not even grant qualifies as "real" art to begin with then we're back to what I linked to earlier this year from Noah Berlatsky's end of the pool about how the mainstream can abject a whole range of artistic activity by deciding it's not even worth discussing to begin with and defined out of discussion as art by the negation entailed in refusing to take note of it.

But to swing back to Taruskin's observation, in his sprawling Oxford history of western music, if we're looking at fusions of low/low and high/high then critics are (to speak a bit too broadly) okay with that.  What critics are not necessarily cool with in historical terms is a high/low fusion.  Hip hop and Broadway?  Yeah, sure, great.  Jazz and classical?  Sweet.  Jazz and rock?  Ooh ... well ... not all critics were happy when Miles Davis started experimenting with that.  Superhero films that aspire to address questions about the human condition?  Eh ...

So long as the fusion involves idioms that are strictly on the high or low divide of cultural criticism nobody complains.  Kyle Gann has complained that fans of pop music regard their idioms as sacred.  People identified as classical composers of some stripe or another aren't supposed to be appropriating the vocabulary or instrumentation of pop music.  Sure, and when pop stars try writing string quartets or oratorios those often get grimly regarded by the establishment of critics on the other side, too. 

When something is regarded as a work of art that "works" and experiments with a fusion, it's generally come from someone or a team of people who are regarded as demonstrating a competence in and a respect for the idioms being subjected to fusion.  My gut reaction, which won't necessarily be yours, is that Miles Davis' jazz/rock fusion experiments worked because he had regard for the viability of the idioms he and his band were working to fuse.

To the extent that Christians are conspicuous by an absence in the arts (and this could be across the board, not just a Protestant thing) it could be because church traditions tend to be pretty rigid and also because if we've had a few generations of worship wars in the United States the fights were over what was considered legitimately or acceptable art to begin with.  While over the last half century Christians in the West have seemed to battle over what styles could be considered "legitimate" artists have been experimenting with fusions. The punchline in South Park's "Christian Rock Hard" was that if you're too busy just catching up to what was Top 40 material in the last twenty years you're making lame knock-off music.  Does this mean Arvo Part isn't popular?  Heh, of course not, but what Part was doing was experimenting with where "forward" to go next in light of serialism and other avant garde idioms in his time and place.  Messiaen was Catholic and Stravinsky Russian Orthodox and both composers experimented with stuff that was at the vanguard of musical innovation.  They were both eclectic and played with fusions. 

One of my objections to Francis Schaeffer's legend of WASP decline  in his trilogy is that he focused so much on the fragmentation he lost track of the aspirations of fusion.  Christian debates on style and substance in the arts may be a reflection of this--we may have had a history of debating which pop style is acceptable for long enough that by the time we assimilate it the style has become passe, while practical musicians of every stripe have been exploring fusions or the styles critical and scholarly establishments within Christian and non-Christian circles debate legitimacies. Of course when I first read the trilogy in my teens I was impressed Schaeffer could write about so many kinds of art and literature.  Now that I'm middle-aged I'm slightly less impressed.  His work still has some value if we can take what he did, build on it, and in some cases reject a number of his conclusions. If Schaeffer's obsession was fragmentation there was another author, contemporary to him, who proposed that a path for artists was fusion but we've discussed Meyer plenty earlier.

I'm going to float this idea as a former member of Mars Hill that before it became an empire obsessed with branding Driscoll's intellectual property as if that were the mission of the church and its Christian community, Mars Hill was able to play a short role in being an evangelical enclave in which a wide range of artists were able to discuss, debate, compete and collaborate on the arts with a view toward trying out as many styles as possible.  In contrast to a narrative of fragmentation inherent in Schaeffer's trilogy, Mars Hill, for a short time perhaps, was a community in which Christian artists could debate and explore the possibilities of artistic fusion, not as an explicit style but as a historical disposition within the traditions of the arts.  Well, maybe I'm only speaking for me there. 

This is going to be lost on non-artists and non-musicians who might only want to examine Mars Hill in terms of right wing/left wing bromides.  If you were to try to look at what Mars Hill members were interested in doing within the arts you might find that it was a bit more varied than that.  While the era of Mars Hill has ended I'm interested in hearing what the other musicians I met in my time at Mars Hill are interested in doing, what they're going for.  If you or I were to struggle to find a way to describe what we were aiming for my take (limited though it is) would be that Mars Hill musicians were perhaps inspired by experimenting with fusion.  It doesn't mean we exactly innovated, it might just mean that we accidentally jumped on to the bandwagon that some musicians have been drawn to in the last fifty years, of finding ways to synthesize styles that different groups have wanted to treat as separate and sacrosanct.

It might be Christians as a group in the United States have not excelled in the arts because within the critical/scholarly establishments we've had a bunch of people debating what is legitimately art to begin with (often with unconcealed battles of liturgical application at stake), while beyond the confines of those establishments in the "secular" scene we've had generations of musicians, religious and otherwise, experimenting with the kinds of idiomatic fusions that, as the guitarist composer Leo Brouwer put it decades ago, academics tend to not even want to recognize to begin with. 

rifts and fractures left and right

Being in Seattle has been unavoidably instructive on how there are fractures within the "left".  There's the mainstream Democratic apparatus and then there's fans of Sanders.  While it's been newsworthy how Trump has ascended as a popular symbol in spite of a lack of institutional ties to the GOP mainstream Sanders is in many respects the mirror to that.  They could both be described as populist agitators in Jacques Ellul's general lexicon (Trump, obviously, far more readily).  What fans of Sanders and Trump may be forced to discover is the political machinery of the two party system may ensure that neither a Sanders nor a Trump ends up being the candidate on the ballot. 

Over at Slate there's been a parade of authors willing to remark that Sanders' fans resort to misogynistic remarks or that Sanders has no realistic way to pay for all the stuff he promises.

Clinton has been praised for not having Imposter Syndrome, which is why she offends so many people:

Bernie Sanders is successful this election cycle because he's not a woman

Although ... it remains to be seen what "success" looks like should Sanders not ultimately secure the nomination.  If Clinton could lose a nomination to Obama in 2008 Sanders could fail to secure the nomination this year.  Brand recognition is not the same as viability within the two party machines.

In one of the more memorable cases of a film critic transforming a truly cosmetic detail about a recent blockbuster into an occasion for political commentary, The New Yorker's Richard Brody has built quite a discourse on how Superman's eyes glow red and Batman's eyes glow blue and how this is emblematic of the Republican and Democratic parties.


Snyder parses the difference between the two superheroes with an inspired pair of special effects. Both Superman and Batman have eyes that glow with supernatural powers; Superman’s are red, Batman’s are blue. In effect, Superman is the Republican superhero, Batman the Democratic one. The classic distinction between the right and the left is that the right represents the uninhibited force of natural power, while the left represents a check on natural power in the name of an idea. Batman embodies that check—and, because he himself isn’t up to a mano a mano with Superman, he needs allies.
The movie’s one great line comes in the final showdown, when Superman tells Batman, “If I wanted it, you’d be dead already.” (It’s a “Godfather” riff.) The line announces the rules of the game: Superman is stronger than Batman, but his one great vulnerability renders him more tragically destructible than Batman’s multivariable modalities of death. It also explains, in one phrase, the entire plot and its implications: Superman may be able to kill Batman at will, but Batman, in order to combat Superman effectively, has to have help. He has to make an alliance, even an unwitting one, with other forces, which, in the event, turn out to be the forces of evil, at the command of Lex Luthor.
It’s a salacious political charge to suggest that the Democratic left is inclined to dubious and unwitting alliances with evildoers in order to oppose unwarranted authority at home. The notion has no relationship to contemporary politics (despite some Republicans’ claims of that sort). It’s a powerful metaphor, though, all the more so because Snyder realizes it in hectic images. Even at his most pedestrian or bombastic, Snyder makes a far more engaging film than Christopher Nolan (an executive producer of “Batman v Superman”) ever did—because Nolan presumes to know and to show, whereas Snyder wants to see. Even his slender philosophical world seems like he’s discovering it, not delivering it.
“Batman v Superman,” especially in an election year, foresees woe to those who want superheroes at all. The movie suggests that there’d be much less of an urge to find a superhero—or to magnify demagogues who pretend to be one—if politicians merely did their jobs competently and sensitively. (The movie presents the long-dithering antics of politicians mainly through the actions of Senator June Finch, played by Holly Hunter, whose awakening comes too late.)
That's quite a feat of just running along on an assumption that red glow/blue glow can be taken to mean red state/blue state.  If mainstream film critics are held in contempt by comics fans for "not getting it", Richard Brody may have provided a useful case study.  Richard Brody insisted last year that Michael Bay has and gives more fun than George Miller ... although precisely how Richard Brody had more fun watching Transformers: Age of Extinction than Mad Max: Fury Road isn't something I'm interested in trying to understand.  It's sort of like how I'm not sure I can get why he denounced the "propaganda" of Inside Out and then turned around and praised Spike Lee's Chirac.  Well, I've got a theory, and the theory is that a critic can choose to regard something as "art" to the extent to which it's just enough of a blank slate that he or she can impose his/her own ideological/political/moral/intellectual concerns onto the observed film.  If this isn't possible then it's "propaganda". If this is the case then there's a potential category of film critics whose love or hatred of different sorts of films has to do with whether or not they can read themselves on to the films.  But ...
well, in a way that could connect to the fractures within the left and right that are evident in this election cycle.  Whether it's a Clinton/Sanders fracture or a insert name here/Trump fracture the ideologically committed progressives and reactionaries can't read themselves within the confines of the mainstream political machinery.  Recently at Slate there was a commentary on Susan Sarandon's opinions ... for those who already read about them:

The problems with Sarandon’s position go beyond its tolerance for human sacrifice. There’s also the gormless unreality of her idea of revolution. Does she mean a political revolution, like the one Sanders has proposed? Because the major barrier to such a revolution is not a populace that needs to suffer more in order to reach Sarandon’s superlative level of wokeness. It is the structural obstacles to democracy systematically erected by Republicans and Republican-appointed judges: the widespread erosion of voting rights, the unlimited flood of money into politics unleashed by the Supreme Court, and the epic gerrymandering following the 2010 census that makes it nearly impossible for Democrats to win back the House, even if they win a majority of votes. These things will get worse, not better, in any Republican administration, making the possibility of a peaceful electoral revolution all the more remote.

But maybe that’s not the sort of revolution Sarandon has in mind? Maybe she actually longs for the kind where things “really explode”? If so, one wonders who she thinks is going to fight this revolution. It’s certainly possible that a Trump presidency could lead to violent political conflict. If it comes to that, however, my money is on the side with all the gun fetishists, not subscribers to Jacobin.
It's not too difficult to see that Slate authors tend  to land on the side of Clinton in a contest between Clinton and Sanders these days.  I'm reaching a point where, given the role of the United States as a more or less uncontested political, economic and military power that that fits the description of Babylon in Revelation 17-18. If you ever wonder who the Antichrist may be the answer is this--who are YOU voting for?  That's your answer.  We've exported enough of  our industrial base and shifted the nature of our agricultural base that those jobs aren't exactly coming back.  Insisting on free college seems pointless. 
Even if we didn't have generations of grade inflation, ignoring the problem that institutional educational paradigms have come under criticism for stacking the deck against non-whites hasn't been addressed.  Even if college were free stop and think about what that could practically entail inside of a couple generations, it will basically mean we're doubling the length of high school and anyone who stops at high school will be like today's high school drop out.  There's no compelling reason that free college won't disproportionally and unfairly favor whites from socio-economic strata who probably least need it.   If we're concerned about the plight of the working class let's talk about ways to revitalize the unskilled labor market. 

Thursday, March 31, 2016

From Mark Driscoll's A Call to Resurgence: "When a guy shrinks his church, leaves his church, and is no longer participating in any church, the last thing we should consider him is an expert on anything related to the church."

Fellow music nerds, this is where you cue up the sludgy guitars playing riffs in the Phrygian mode!  Astonishingly this video is still up (as Bane would say, "For now").

1:35ish The average person doesn't do anything until they're really ticked off. You gotta get to a certain point where you're just frustrated, you're annoyed by it, it's gotten under your skin, you're a little sick of it, you can't do it anymore and something needs to change and then all of a sudden you move to action. That's the point of the book.

We're on our way to a church that was part of Christendom's civil religion. It was all about good works and not very much about good news . That church died and in God's grace we obtained it just a few years ago, and I want you to see tonight what happens after the funeral. There is, in fact, a future as where people who were not worshipping Jesus, tons of young people are meeting Him, and you're gonna meet some of them tonight.    
That slow-motion shot of Driscoll walking up to the campus (if you watched the video) ... was which campus?

The former U-District campus, which Cross and Crown recently bought from Mars Hill, a deal sealed earlier this month.

So, there's still a church there with connections to Mars Hill.  But there's an irony at work here in that the campus was the site in a promotional video for ...

A Call to Resurgence
Resurgence (November 5, 2013)
ISBN-10: 1414383622
ISBN-13: 978-1414383620

This used to be connected to Tyndale.
Copyright (c) 2013 by On Mission, LLC and Mark Driscoll.
Published in association with Yates & Yates, LLP
ISBN 978-1-4143-8362-0
ISBN 978-1-4143-8948-6

What's the irony, you ask?

A Call to Resurgence, page 192
Sure, Driscoll managed to lead in a way that ultimately shrunk Mars Hill; then he left Mars Hill; then Mars Hill announced formal dissolution and just a few weeks ago the corporation formerly known as Mars Hill Church died ... but Driscoll's still considered some kind of authority on things related to the church? 
After all, he was talking with Perry Noble at a conference not so long ago.
There's something else ... ten years ago Mark Driscoll published a book in which it kind of seemed like he was almost celebrating the demise of what has been called Christendom.  It meant a decline of merely nominalist Christianity and could be a sign that only those who were really committed would stay the course.  Did anybody read ...

Confessions of a Reformission Rev
Mark Driscoll, Zondervan 2006
ISBN-13: 978-0-310-27016-4
Because it seemed ten years ago Mark Driscoll was talking about how Christendom was dead and that meant there was room for the Emerging church movement to grow.
By the time of A Call to Resurgence Driscoll's tune had changed slightly.
A Call to Resurgence
page 12

Due to the ongoing existence of American civil religion, many evangelicals are oblivious to the fact that Christendom is dead and real Christianity is in serious decline. Those in the United States may have a general sense that Christianity is struggling in Europe, but many remain fairly optimistic about our "one nation under God." As long as we see Christmas trees on government property, as long as The Bible miniseries gets good ratings, and as long as we hear public figures talk about "faith", many believers naively assume that real Christianity is alive and well and respected by the majority of our people.

Brace yourself. It's an illusion.
Because absolutely nobody prior to 2013, not even Mark Driscoll himself, ever suggested that whatever Christendom might have been, was in decline? 
And here we are in 2016 and there is no Mars Hill Church.  Ten years ago the close of Confessions featured talk of how Mars Hill was reloading the squirt gun and was gonna charge the gates of Hell.
A Call to Resurgence, promoted to the soundtrack of sludgy Phrygian guitar riffs in a video where Mark Driscoll talked about Mars Hill amidst saying there WAS a future after the funeral ... well, where's Mars Hill?
That was just a couple of days before the one year anniversary of the publication of A Call to Resurgence.
If Perry Noble took Mark Driscoll's own axioms to be truly be axiomatic ... .

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

over at Mark Driscoll's site, the new and improved "One Body, Many Parts", a 2006 sermon that's available in 2016 but one third the length it was a decade ago.
One Body, Many Parts
Pastor Mark Driscoll
1 Corinthians 12:12-26
July 30, 2006

If you stream it at Mark Driscoll's site the sermon is 27:07

If you download it from here ...
it's 1:10:56

That's one of the more amazing size reductions for a Driscoll sermon I've come across.  Why was so much cut?  Well, one possibility is that this was a sermon that, more than most others, dealt with a lot of stuff specific to Mars Hill and to Mars Hill's acquisition of real estate.

It's fascinating, really, because the epic level of excising this sermon was subjected to raises a question about how much Mark Driscoll pads his sermons.  If you cut out the bragging/updating about real estate and local personalities; if you cut out the jokes and anecdotal observations; if you boil everything down to what he says is in the biblical text and what he says about the biblical text (he who's talked of his degree in exegetical theology) it's possible that a whopping two thirds of a Mark Driscoll sermon is just not necessary for preaching the Bible.

If you'd like to read a really long excerpt from what that sermon used to include, and don't want to listen to a decade-old Mark Driscoll sermon to find out how much got cut ... it just so happens here at Wenatchee The Hatchet we've got that old sermon transcript.  This is mostly just the old stuff that referred to the nuts and bolts of real estate issues at what was Mars Hill back in 2006.
One Body, Many Parts
Pastor Mark Driscoll
1 Corinthians 12:12-26
July 30, 2006
it's 1:10:56
So let me tell you what this looks like at Mars Hill and what this means. I’ll catch you up to speed. I was 19 years of age, in college, didn’t know Jesus.The Holy Spirit came, make me a Christian, changed everything, told me to start Mars Hill Church. Got married in college, moved back, worked in college ministry for a year and-a-half. Most of you know the story. It’s in the book, Confessions, you can pick it up on your way out, but, but the thing was, God said start a church in Seattle. And so I met with some pastors. I’m like, “Okay, I’m 25. God called me to start a church in Seattle.” They all said, “Do not do that.” Seattle is un-churched. It’s very liberal. There’s like one republican, but he’s trying to move, you know? And, and everybody is young, and are all committed to punk rock and anarchy, so good luck gettin’ ‘em organized. You know, there never gonna go for an org chart and, and they’re all broke and they’re all college students and singles and homeless. They’re not gonna give you any money. And there all moving all the time. They don’t own their homes so you’re – it’s gonna be shooting a moving target. There’s no Bible college, seminary or bookstore of any weight our size in the city because no one’s ever gotten there. It’s the least churched city in America. Run for your life. You know? And I was like, “Okay, but Jesus said to go, so we’re gonna do it.”

So we started a Bible study in our rental home, my wife and I did, in Wallingford and it started very small, about the size of a Mormon family. There’s like 10, 12 people. Not a big deal out of the shoe and just started teaching the Bible and praying at the age of 25 that God’d get this thing some traction
and we’d get somewhere. It outgrew our little home, we moved into a youth room at a church, moved into their main room, and in the fall of 1996 – the first week of October – week officially launched Mars Hill Church on Sunday evening. And you know what, over the years, we’ve had all kinds of trials and trauma and drama and we’ve moved a bunch of times and it’s a crazy story. You can read it. But here’s where we’re at. In the most unlikely, peculiar place in all of America.

We moved into this building, here in Ballard, at our Ballard campus, three years ago. We were a church of about 11 or 1,200. We’re now the church of 4 to 5000, depending upon the week. We’ve quadrupled in three years, in the least likely place in America. The church planting graveyard, where I know a list, personally, of over 30 people that have tried to start a church here and failed. And millions of dollars have been attempted to start these churches and nothing has worked. And what is just shocking to me is to recent reports came out. One said that we’re the 22nd most influential church in America. That’s out of over 400,000. Another one said we're the 15th fastest growing church in the nation. That’s out of 400,000 churches, okay? And we’re the only church in Washington and Oregon, on either of those lists, and those are the two the least churched states in the United States of America.

Kay, and some of you say, “What are you, bragging?” No, we’re blessed. We’re totally blessed. I feel like a kite in a hurricane. Just like every other kite, I just got a hurricane. It’s a cool ride. It’s a little crazy, but it’s a cool ride. God, the Holy Spirit apparently loves a lotta people in Seattle, is working on their heart, destroying a lot of people to Jesus, and is working through the people of Mars Hill in a way that I would use the word – and I don’t think I ever have – of miracle. I don’t throw that work around. I’m not one of those guys and TV, with white pants and a wife who looked like she lost a
paintball gun war, but I believe – I believe that we’re kinda living a miracle. That’s what I believe, right? That’s kinda what I believe. And that God keeps blessing. So what has happened is, we started asking the question, “Well, whereas this thing going and what are we gonna do now,” because this
year we went to five services in this building and quite frankly, it almost killed me and the staff. We’re doing 8:30, 10:30, 12:30, 5:00 and 7:00 and by this service, I wasn’t even a Christian, I was saying crazy stuff. And so I apologize but you know, it was like, “Well, we gotta figure something out. I mean, this is crazy.”

So what we did is we purchased a building that came up for sale a block away and we told you we needed $3 million and a bank loan to renovate that space, go to 1000 seats, open it up, and do  services here and there and I’d walk between the two. We’re still waiting on the permits for that building. We do now own it. We’re in permit purgatory, just waiting for the permit – and waiting for some time now. And in the meantime, we said, “Well, we gotta do something to alleviate this growing, you know, number of people in Ballard. It’s very hard to get into. Let’s try a video service as an experiment in Shoreline.” Crista Ministry approached us. Very gracious people. The interim president of the time was a member of Mars Hill, said, “We’ve got about a 400-seat room. We’ve got a full daycare for kid space, lots of parking. You can have it on Sundays for free.” We can afford that.

So, we took it and we did some renovation – sound, light, video, chairs, paint – about $100,000.00. Carpet – got it all dialed in and we videotaped the morning service and then drove it up to Shoreline and played it on a screen. The musicians were live, everything else was live, and it worked. Actually, the service grew, very quickly, and right now, they’re running over 400 people on Sunday morning. It’s packed out. Last week alone, they checked in 16 new families with multiple kids, into the kids ministry. It’s bursting at the seams. We gotta go to two services in Shoreline. We’re like, “That’s gonna work. That’s gonna work.” Indeed gets around the biggest problem, which is I’m not omnipresent. [take heart reader, this was before 2008's "I see things"] I can’t be everywhere and the – and some of you will say, “Well, what about our other options? We don’t like this technological option.” Well here are our options: all right, our first option is, we say Mars Hill’s full. We put a big sign out that says, “Sorry, we’re full. The Mormon Tabernacle’s got seats. Go there. Get your underwear. Good luck.” We’re not gonna do that. You know, Plan B is that we get a huge room, four, five thousands seats, which I’m not averse to, and if you have one, gimme a call, but you know, we get this big room and we pull everybody together. But then we’re not reaching the whole city, everybody’s coming in.

The other problem is that the city and the county have outlawed large churches in the City of Seattle, so what we’d have to do to bring the love of Jesus to the city is first sue them, which seems like a weird place to begin. We want to talk about the love of Jesus. You’ve been subpoenaed. You know, I mean, that’s just a weird place to begin. And so, I mean, that’s probably not the best way to go and it – what we would have to do is sue, change the zoning. If we wanted, we’d have to buy a very large piece of land, and then we would have to get permits and we’d have to build a building that would be a couple hundred thousand square feet to get four – three, four, five thousand seats. We’re looking at, at this point, I’d probably six to eight years out and probably about $60 million. Which we don’t have, no one will lend it to us. I looked under all the couch cushions in the church, and it’s just not there.

So, that wasn’t a good plan and what we would have to do then, is say, “Well, we can’t grow for six or eight years. Nobody else can meet Jesus. Nobody else can worship Jesus. That’s it. We’ll see you again in a decade.” Which is not a good plan. Seven this technological capacity came in. We said, “You know what, we could try that. We could try that.” And it worked very, very well in Shoreline. And because it’s worked so well, we actually, as an elder team here, pastors – there’s 15 of us and a number in the process – we redid our constitution and bylaws. It took six months. It’s not the sexy part of the church, which it’s the parts they keeps you out of jail, so it’s very important. We redid our bylaws. There’s an executive team of elders – six men plus myself – we’ve been meeting an incredible number of hours to reengineer and rearchitect the whole church in preparation for our tenth anniversary this fall, saying, “How can we reach as many people as possible, still have a friendly relationship with the city. Work around the zoning requirements. Do it within budget. Do it on timeline and allow Mars Hill to go from a church of four to five thousand to a church of eight to ten thousand. Double, without having to spend $60 million and here’s the plan. Here’s the plan.

I start with Jesus’s quote – this is in your handout as well. “I will build my church,” and that’s Jesus – I love the fact that he says that – and he has been doing a great job at his job. So the next one. Here is Ballard. Here’s Ballard. This is what happens when you have tech guys with cameras. You’re like, “We could walk around.” “All right, fine.” Everybody’s – everybody’s gonna get seasick, but that’s cool.” So there’s Mars Hill Ballard, where you’re sitting tonight. Thirteen hundred seats, 4,000 square feet. We will continue to use this building, but there are a few problems with this building. One, we could use more seats, which is shocking, because we keep growing. Two, parking around here has gotten very, very tight. Today is sockeye salmon day and you’ll notice that there are trucks with trailers that are taking all the parking that we usually steal in the neighborhood, ‘cause all the guys are out fishing, which makes no sense because they get up at 5:00 in the morning to go fishing and they have fish at the store. So I don’t understand what this is all about. You get – whenever you wake up, you could just go get one. You know, I don’t understand.

So, the parking around here is really bad today, and one of the lots we usually use is being repaved, so we can use it. Additionally, just behind me, if you’ve seen that little Beirut lot, just to the south of us. Have you seen that thing? It’s all rocks, man. I mean, it’s a good place to have a war. And it’s just a totally bummed out lot, but here’s what their building there. A Trader Joe’s, a 24 Hour Fitness, looking at restaurants, coffee shops, because what’s coming into this area is condos. Hip, a young, cool, urban development as Fremont and Ballard come together, the industrial area is being transformed. What that means is, we’re gonna lose all the street parking that we’d been utilizing and we need to become self sufficient with their own parking, otherwise this building’s gonna be relatively obsolete for our use. So, that leads me to the next point.

There is the building a block away. We purchased it a year ago. It was heading into foreclosure. We purchased it for under market value. It has increased in value since that time, and this is just some interior and exterior shots of the space, and our plan was to turn that into a large room to see maybe 800 to 1,000 people. And so, what we have instead decided to do, first, we’re going to keep that building – and it’s been great – ‘cause according to King 5 television, they had a report that said that 98105, which is this zip code, is one of the five fastest, increasing valued zip codes in the State of Washington. Since we bought that building, as it was going to foreclosure, we already have gained a million dollars in equity in that building. We have no intention of getting rid of it, but here’s what we do want to do with it. We want to knock half the building down and just turn it into parking to
increase our parking capacity. Secondly, the other half of the building – we don’t feel that we have to use right now because of some other things that have come available that we’re gonna tell you about – but we’re gonna keep it. We’ll rent it out with the hopes that a tenant will pay most of our
mortgage. We can keep it then, and then if we ever do wanna build on it, we can develop it and do whatever we want with it but we feel it’s important right now to watch and see what happens with this neighborhood, particularly what happens to parking, and then make a determination down the road as to best use.

And the reason that we don’t need to develop it as we had thought is because of some other things have come available. Among those is Shoreline and these are some shots from the Shoreline campus and where we are meeting at Christa Ministries, at Shermer Auditorium. Four hundred seats, plus a full daycare. It’s amazing kid space. Huge gym for the kids to run around in. Lots of parking. They’re letting us use that on Sunday and now this fall for beginning, for midweek programming for nothing. It’s free. We don’t even pay for janitorial, we don’t even pay for utilities. It is a savings of over $100,000.00 a year. We can be there for two more years. It’s a savings of 200 plus thousand dollars. We love Christa. We’re very, very grateful for their kindness to us. Eventually, we will need to purchase a permanent site for our Shoreline. We’ll need to get them a permanent purchase campus, ‘cause we can only be there for two years. I mean, wouldn’t it be great if somebody let you how the house for two years for free? I mean that’s a very kind gift, so we are actively looking for another place to buy.

In the meantime, we also picked up another miracle. This is West Seattle. This is on 35th at the top of the hill in West Seattle as you head toward White Center. I grew up in this neighborhood. This is a church building that is an absolute miracle. I’ll tell you the story on this space. I tried to launch Mars Hill Church in that building ten years ago, and we were rejected, and I’ve always wanted to be in there since. And what happened was, is we were growing. I went to Pastor Bill Clem, who was leaving that congregation. He planted it for Acts 29 Church Planning Network, him and James Noriega, who is the other elder there and I said, “We’re maxed out. You got a fat building, 50,000 square feet, 1,000 seats.:” It’s a bigger building and the one you’re sitting in right now. I said, “Is there any way we to use it?” They said, “Well, we wanna reach as many people in West Seattle as possible. How about if we give it to you and work together?” we prayed about it for a second and said, “Yes.” That is a $5 million gift. That is a $5 million gift, right? And I don’t know if you’ve been tracking the real estate market, people aren’t giving away a lotta real estate right now in Seattle and so we have – we’ve taken Pastor James and Pastor Bill on staff at Mars Hill. We have taken their members through the Gospel Class and they’re now members of Mars Hill. They’ve been meeting as a core group over there. As we speak, there is $1.5 million of construction going on at the West Seattle campus, with the intention of opening in October in time for our ten year anniversary, and we want to expand over to West Seattle as well. We were thinking, “Well, we can borrow $8 million from the bank. We can spend $3 million and for $11 million, we can open up a 40,000 square foot location.” Well, we can now open more square feet for $1.5 million. So obviously, you take that opportunity.

The two cool aspects of this particular campus is one, is already zoned as a church, so we don’t need to fight use permits. We don’t have to bring it up to code. We can just walk in and use it immediately and it saves us, literally, a few years of permitting. Secondly, the log that it is on his only zoned for
15,000 square feet of building and it already has 50,000 square feet, and because as grandfathered in, we could use it all. We could never build this building today as it exists. And the cool thing with this building, a very Godly church that loved the Bible – started this church, built it, their denomination went liberal, dropped the doctrine of the inerrancy or perfection of Scripture and this building went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and was the test case for who owns the church building, the congregation or the denomination. [well, maybe not exactly "all the way to the Supreme Court as in the Court chose to hear the case, unless "certiorari denied" still counts] The congregation lost and these people actually bought their own building back, because they refused to drop the authority of Scripture as their value. And so, there were some Godly older saints who paid for this building twice. It then went into decline but there is still a core of these people, like in their 70s and 80s, that are now members of Mars Hill. Grandmas tithing, waiting for us all to show up and fill that thing up again, and they’re praying us in. It’s a really cool God story and what God has done is pretty amazing.

And we’re now in Wedgwood. We bought a building last week. If you missed it, here’s Wedgwood. Wedgwood is just north of the university village, okay? If you haven’t got the point, we’re in a real estate acquisition phase as a church. We’re doing – we call it facility evangelism. We’re winning buildings for Jesus all over the city and I’m on the lookout for struggling, dead, dying churches. We’re like – and they’re calling us, saying, “Could we plug in?” “Yes, let’s talk about that. We love Jesus and real estate.” So, this is a building in Wedgewood. Now here’s what happened. We did not have sufficient office space for our staff. You take all the interns, deacons, elders, pastors, synonymous – it’s about 70 people, full-time and part-time. We have them in 4,000 square feet of office space. Some of you say, “That’s a big house.” Yeah, for a family of five, but if your wife was pregnant with 68 kids, that would not be enough, right? So, what happens is if you come here during the week, sitting in the chairs in the main room are interns on laptops with cell phones ‘cause this is their office during the week. So pick up your coffee cup on the way out. Don’t mess up their office.

So what we decided was, we need to appoint campus pastors at each location. And each of the campus pastors will be overseeing what’s going on at their campus. There will be stuff that is officing at each campus, and now will have an office campus where about half of the staff will be to run the website, the podcasts, the vodcasts, printed materials, organize community groups, spread out the counseling and everything can be in one location. So, this building – let me tell the story on this – mishap and really quick. It’s 18,000 square feet with about a – almost a hundred parking places on site. Is already zoned as a church, so we could use it immediately and we have good friends in the Southern Baptist Convention and one of their regional leaders came in met with me – he’s an old friend – said, “I heard you need space. We love you. What could we do to help.” He’s a really great guy, loves Jesus. I said, “We need an office building, big, zoned for our use. We needed immediately because we gotta get it ready for our ten year anniversary this fall. We don’t have all the cash up front. We’re tight on cash, so I need a friendly deal, can you do it?” Here’s what he said, “I have this building. It values and $2.5 million. I’ll sell it to you for $2 million.” That’s a half a million dollar savings. Right there’s a good deal. That’s 20 percent off the

And I said, “Well, we can’t pay for it all up front.” He said, “Here’s what I’ll do. You put $800,000.00 down and I’ll give you three years, no interest, no payments.” That’s over $300,000.00 savings. In three years, you get the financing for the $1.2 million and the question then is, well, what if, perchance, we can’t get the financing. He said, “I’ll carry the note at a 6 percent interest.” On a commercial property. That’s million dollar deal. Between the equity we gain in three years, what we save on principle and interest, and the $500,000.00 off of the purchase price, that’s a million dollar deal. In our 50th building, we have made a million dollars in a year. In West Seattle, we just picked up a five million dollar gift. It’s been a very busy but very cool summer.

And that leads me to where we are. This changes everything. One body, many parts. Right? These are all the parts and here’s what it’s gonna look like, because we all worked together. One, where multi-campus. We now own roughly $20 million of real estate, $3 million of sound, light, video, computers and assets, with the total debt of $12 million. That is for the purchase and renovation of these projects. To get them not completed, but certainly functional. Some of you will freak out and say, “But that’s $12 million dollars debt.” Actually, for a church of our size, that’s fairly reasonable. The banks are willing, and have lent us, that amount of money. And here’s the thing I would tell you. Look at it this way – if somebody came to you and said, “I am going to sell a real estate portfolio to you for 60 cents on the dollar,” you should take a deal. That’s where we’re at. We just got all these properties and we have 60 percent debt but we have 40 percent equity in our total collective real estate. And we have now moved from just using this 40,000 square foot building and the 20,000 at Shermer, we’ve added the 20,000 that we will continue to own next door, 50,000 in West Seattle and almost 20,000 square feet in Wedgewood. Additionally. Much as multi-campus, multimedium.

Here’s how it’s gonna go. Here at Ballard, the 9:00 AM, the 11:00 AM and the 5:00 PM in the 7:00 PM will continue to exist but I will not be here at the 11:00 AM service. Okay, I won’t be here. There will be a video of me. Will video the 9:00 AM in high def. A screen will come down. They’ll Photoshop me, make me highly attractive, so it’ll be, it’ll be even better than live. I’ll be tall and slim and handsome, it’ll be amazing and they’ll be live – everything will be the same, except for a I’ll just be on a video. And for those of you that are here, half of you are in the back of the room watching probably on a video anyway. So – and at Shoreline, were gonna go to two services, 9:15 and 11:15 and it’ll be live streaming and we’ll take the sermon and we’ll pipe it through the Internet up to Shoreline and they can essentially TiVo it and hit play whenever they’re ready to go, ‘cause they’re bursting at the seams, need to go to two services. That all allow them to grow to 800. And then I will drive, instead of doing the 11:00 here, I’ll drive over to West Seattle. My goal is to matriculate about 600 of you with me, plus 100 children – that’s the number that we’ve identified from West and South Seattle that are coming to Ballard – to take you with me to that 1,000 seat room and take Mars Hill to West Seattle really in a big way, starting in October, for our ten year anniversary, and to start to fill up that 1,000 seat room, which’ll make us the biggest church in all of West Seattle from day one. And that will leave more seats here at the 11:00, so that our visitors and guest who hit that service, because it is our biggest, can continue to come. Here’s our services. I mean this is crazy. 9:00, 9:15, 10:30, 11:00, 11:15, 5:00 and 7:00. Three via video, four live, three parts of the city all working together. 

Additionally, one part, when body, rather, many parts. Multi-midweek. We’ve only been doing midway classes, junior high, high school, young marrieds, pre-marrieds, counseling, those kind of things, on Wednesday nights in Ballard. But starting this fall, up at Christa, there will be programming, classes and such for all age groups in Shoreline, beginning in October, at Christa. In Ballard, Wednesday nights, as always, beginning in October and in January, midweek programming, classes and such, beginning in January. What you to see – we’re going for as much of the city as we possibly can. We want to have – we have community groups scattered all over the region. You can go to a Bible study just about anywhere. Now, you can go to church and a lot of different areas. You can go to mid week and a lot of different areas. So, if you live in one area, work in one area, if you relocate, move, sell your home, go somewhere else, were probably gonna be there. We’re going with a Starbucks method, right? Starbucks is everywhere. Like I went – you know, if you go to the Starbucks and you say, “Hey, can I go to the bathroom?” They give you the key, you go in the Starbucks, there’s another Starbucks. It’s crazy. They open new Starbucks in the bathrooms of old Starbucks, that’s the way they do it.

So those are thought, if we’re gonna, if we’re gonna try and reach as much of Seattle as we can, we just spread this thing all over the place. We go everywhere, it’s totally viral, we penetrate neighborhoods, we take a preexisting buildings that are zoned for our use and we, we roll in good churches and we help them to do a better job. We continue to plant churches. Over 100 have been planted. Ten percent of our dollars are still going to church planting. One body, many parts. Kinds of things, tons of things going on. Here’s the big ask. First thing, pray. Pray like crazy. Pray like you mean it. Pray like a Pentecostal. But your hand in the air, say, “Jesus,” say “Holy ghost.” Yell a little bit. Say words like, “Claim it in Jesus’ name.” Do that, okay? Y’all gotta be praying this in. Seriously. I mean, I’m ready to truck in some Pentecostals just to teach us, right? You guys gotta stop praying like white bread indie rockers. You gotta start praying like charismatics, okay? Both of the charismatics are excited about that. Will get into that next week, too, because we are charismatics. And so you gotta pray. Pray for wisdom. Pray for dollars. Pray for timelines. You know, the reason we gave you this booklet, you can read through it and say, “Okay, these are a lot of things to be praying for.” We  definitely need to pray this all in.

Secondly, serve, right? Everybody’s gotta get out of the stands and get on the field and suit up. It’s game time, if you’re a Christian, man, we got stuff for you to do. Become a member, get plugged in, help us find a meaningful place for you to serve. Right now, we’re working on almost 20,000 square feet in Wedgewood, 50,000 square feet in West Seattle. We’re doing demo, we’re doing painting, we’re doing construction and we need you to come out and volunteer and help, right? You say, “Well I don’t have any skills.” If you’re just an angry man, we’ll give you a hammer, you call it demo, it’s a ministry for Jesus, go break things, you’ll feel better, okay? If you can paint. If you could take out the trash. If you have any skills whatsoever, we can put you to work, it’ll save a lotta money and a lotta time to help us get these buildings ready to go for our ten year anniversary and we need everybody to do their part, whether it’s working in kids ministry, community groups – we need all hands on deck. If we take this church from four or five to eight or ten thousand, that means that we can’t have any spectators. Everybody’s gonna suit up for game day.

And lastly, on October 1, 2006, our ten year anniversary, we’re asking that the entire day’s offering would be given to these projects and that you would give $1.2 million in a day. Not Canadian money. That’s like 27 bucks. American dollars. $1.2 million American dollars. And here’s what we’re gonna do. What we told you was, when we got that other building, that we needed $3 million from you and we needed the loan from the bank to get that space done. We’re not asking for any more dollars than what we asked for a year ago. All we’re doing is taking those dollars and like fishes and loaves, hand it to Jesus. We are multiplying them. So we’re gonna do that building and West Seattle and Wedgwood and be looking for a space for Shoreline. All right, so rather than just doing 40,000 square feet, were doing more than 100,000 square feet. As what we’re looking at doing. And so what we’re trying to be, is good stewards. And I know some of you may be critical and you may say, “But I gave that money toward real estate.” It will still go toward real estate. It will just be multiplied. Now, out of that three million that we’ve asked for, we’ve received 1.8 million. Actually, about half of that has come from a handful of very generous people. Some other people have done what they can. We want you to start thinking, praying, saving, and saying, “Okay, the body is many parts, what is my part? What am I supposed to be praying in? What am I supposed to be doing to serve to make this happen? And financially, what am I supposed to be giving to contribute? What is my part?” and I’m gonna be excited on our tenth anniversary if we blow out a million dollar Sunday, knock all this out. Some of you then ask, “Well, is this it? Are we done?” Of course not. This is what we’re doing this summer. You know, it’s gonna be something else. I assure you of that. Now, I don’t know what it is. As the Holy Spirit leads and Jesus opens an opportunity, we’re a church that is happy to hit the brakes, turn on a dime, and go somewhere else if there’s more people to get saved.

And lastly, some of you will say, “So what is it all about the numbers?” Of course it is. The number of people who worship Jesus. We want that number to go up, right? There’s a book of our Bible called Numbers. It’s a perfectly good word, you know? And if – what we’re saying is, if four or five thousand people are worshiping Jesus, that’s good. But if eight or ten thousand worship Jesus, that’s better. We would like more people to be able to go to church, more people to hear about Jesus, more people to participate in the community of Mars Hill. We’d like to go into more neighborhoods. We’d like to take over more real estate. We would like to see Jesus change more lives. We would like to see the Holy Spirit enter into and transform more people, by the thousands.

I’m 35, been doing this almost 10 years, got about 40 years to go, depending upon what I do with red meat and, and my diet, but in 40 years, what could we get done? We’re not done. We’re nowhere near done. To me, what’s cool is we get a chance to sort of relaunch the church at our ten year anniversary and just scatter it all through the city and take all the opportunities that Jesus would give, work around the zoning issues, work around the real estate costs, work around a complicating variables to reach as many people as possible so that more people love, meet, worship, serve, and are changed by Jesus to go as far and as fast and as hard as we can in the least churched city in America, where no one would’ve expected this but apparently the Holy Spirit has got a big job for us to participate in – and what a great honor in it is to be a part of it. It’s super humbling. My wife asked me last night, she said, “So are you freaked out?” No, it kinda freaks me out that I’m not freaked out. But I’m not freaked out. I’m sleeping good. I feel good. I believe this is exactly what God wants is to do. The elders are in total, unanimous agreement. We’re in total harmony on this. I mean, we’re getting free and reduced real estate. We’re going to take it and roll and go and if everybody does their part, everything will be fine. Even for $1.2 million. If every adult brought $300, we’d be done. Let me break it down to the number of people. It’s not that big of a deal, so don’t freak out.

If you’re new to Mars Hill, this happens all the time. It’s been going on for ten years. We just have more zeros, but it’s the same stuff. Is just the same thing. And things change, but Jesus is still God. The Bible’s still true. We’re still a church family and we are just trying to love and serve the city as large and as well as we can, as quickly as we are able. I’m pretty excited. I’m having a good time. So here is where we land, the bottom line. Some of you are here, you’re saying, “Why tell me this?” Because we want to be honest. We went to make a budget this year. We called the other large churches in our state. We said, “What’s your budget?” they said, “We won’t tell you.” What? “We don’t disclose that.” Well at Mars Hill, we do. We tell you what we’re doing. We tell you what it’s going to cost. You tell you when we change our plans because we want to have integrity and we want to just be honest with you.  ...

That was then but, even then, it's strange how in Driscoll's lengthy account so little was made of Mike Gunn and Lief Moi as co-founders.  And not much about being sent out by Antioch Bible Church.  Not much about help from David Nicholas, in there.

So what happened to that real estate?  West Seattle became Trinity West and bought back their own building last yearMars Hill Ballard got bought by another church that's painted it sea foam green color of some kindMars Hill's corporate offices were a case of deed in lieu of foreclosure and forfeiture of contract

As of March 2016 there isn't even a corporate holding tank that could be called Mars Hill.  Perhaps now that that corporation formerly known as Mars Hill Church no longer exists, could Sutton Turner paint the town red with numbers connected to Global allocations?  He mentioned last year that he wanted to share some numbers but got some threats from lawyers on behalf of Mars Hill. 

Meanwhile, the lesson for the evening may well be that as Driscoll's old sermons from a decade ago keep coming back up pay attention, if you can, to whether they come back two thirds shorter and consider whether this is a sign of just how much padding with stories about himself and his life and times he's crammed into sermons people might want to say is just solid Bible preaching.


What people who weren't at Mars Hill from the earlier period won't realize about this sermon is that Christians Gone Wild was probably the first sermon series since the start of Mars Hill were Driscoll began recycling in earnest.  There was kind of a phase where he was redoing stuff he'd done before.  He used to say he'd only revisit material if he felt he chunked it the first time around so ... it made sense he'd revisit Ecclesiastes.  But with 1 Corinthians it didn't seem he'd changed enough in his basic interpretation of the texts to warrant a wholesale recycling of the book as the basis for as eries.  But considering how many services he was insisting on preaching and how NO ONE else was given the pulpit ... it retroactively makes a certain amount of sense that he'd fall back on an earlier series.  The church had had enough turn over since 2000 that it was like preaching the book "new"

The 2007 Ruth series was in many respects recycling stuff from 2005 Driscoll did at a singles ministry event kick-of event. In hindsight, that time would have been better spent reading a Jane Austen novel.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Justin Dean interview with Carey Nieuwhof on the decline of Mars Hil and how they just didn't quite get the media ... revisiting Mark Driscoll's 2012 accounts of his and Grace's media acumen
Justin Dean on how some people are generally critical of megachurches

... When people have that general criticism of, "Oh, you're big" ... it's like, wait, you're criticizing us because we're reaching more people than you? I don't get that. What is your goal? To stay small? How is that biblical? I think every church's goal should be to reach as many people as possible. That is actually the commandment that we all each, individually have. ...

Now that the era of Mars Hill Church as a corporation has apparently become formally over, it's worth noting that even earlier this month Justin Dean was talking about how some folks criticize megachurches for being big, and rhetorically asked if the mission of those critical of megachurches was to stay small.

Well, Jesus mentioned something about a narrow and straight way, and how many are called but few are chosen. These could be held in tension with a commission to go make disciples among all the nations. 

But what's apparent in the rambling interview Justin Dean gave is that he's still thinking not like someone who's been in any pastoral ministry but as someone who has been saturated in mass marketing.  When he talks in terms of the goal being to reach as many people as possible that could be construed as part of evangelism, yes, but it's also part of market saturation. 

And when I left Mars Hill and stopped attending in later 2008 and was able to share my concerns with my local campus pastor I tried to explain very clearly what my concern was about Mars Hill's commitment to growth was.  It was a fiscal concern.  I was concerned that the rate at which Mars Hill was assimilating campuses and expanding could mean that Mars Hill was adding operational expenses and liabilities faster than it might be able to cultivate a stable and healthy donor base and that if ever the meteoric growth stopped, to say nothing of an actual numeric decline, the entire enterprise could become so fiscally insolvent as to lead to the death of Mars Hill at an institutional level.  That was what I shared back around 2008 or 2009.

And here we are, with Dean in mid-March 2016 talking about how Mars Hill did some good things but didn't understand the media and got waylaid by the media.  Dean has kept coming back to this idea that somehow the people at Mars Hill didn't get the media.  But how plausible is that claim?  Now it might be possible to assume for the sake of conversation that Justin Dean himself may have misunderstood something, perhaps it could be suggested simply by Mars Hill's public reputation declining precipitously from later 2011 to its decline that perhaps this showed us that Justin Dean could have done better at public relations and media management.

But Dean can't exactly speak with any authority for Mark Driscoll, can he?  What did Driscoll have to say about himself in 2012 at what was arguably the peak of his time at Mars Hill?
A Blog Post for the Brits
by: Pastor Mark Driscoll on Jan 12, 2012 in Current Events

I have a degree in communications from one of the top programs in the United States. So does my wife, Grace. We are used to reporters with agendas and selective editing of long interviews. [emphasis added] Running into reporters with agendas and being selectively edited so that you are presented as someone that is perhaps not entirely accurate is the risk one takes when trying to get their message out through the media.
An Official Response to The Kerfuffle At Liberty University
Pastor Mark Driscoll
Apr 16, 2012

... I have a degree from Washington State’s Edward R. Murrow College of Communication and worked professionally as a journalist [emphasis added], and I can assure you that The Kerfuffle is a very serious matter to be taken with the utmost sobriety and propriety. In fact, one anonymous “source” I spoke to said that Watergate pales in comparison.

The key is have one primary content creator, other supportive content creators, and (to as much as possible) have some sort of unified theming through as many platforms as possible to multiply and embed the message. You need fresh content but you don't need fresh message. That make sense?  You need fresh content but you don't need, it's not like one huge earth-shattering idea every single day. People can't handle that much, right? ...

What's the big idea I'm sending out right now?  Identity. One big idea and it's a hook and then all the other ideas hang off that big hook. So for the whole 16-week sermon series there's one big hook called identity. All the social media, all the blogs, all the community groups everything's hanging on the hook. And then it's even consistent. So you walk in and you see "I am a saint" and, all of a sudden, the theming is consistent in the building. And so it's just, every medium, how do we communicate this message? And so for 16 weeks it will a concentrated content message on identity in Christ. But then once we're done with the series, let's say somebody gets saved in two years and walks in all of that content's available. [emphasis added]
This would be worth noting even if we didn't have access to a marketing plan proposed by the Driscolls for promoting Real Marriage.

So maybe we could just make a guess that Justin Dean didn't know how to handle media on behalf of Mars Hill but Dean may have only been able to speak for himself.  Driscoll kept assuring folks publicly in a variety of ways what a smooth operator and shrewd person he was about media and the press. 

Justin Dean mentioned in the mid-March interview having some regrets about the way one of Mark Driscoll's books got promoted.  Yes ... well, really when large churches get criticized for things like a pastor re-organizing everything about the life of a church around a book that's being promoted rather than, oh, a book of the gloriously public domain Bible that might be cause for concern. 

Let's remember that Justin Dean explained to Slate that that Andrew Lamb disciplinary situation was because of some communication problems.  Justin Dean's overarching narrative about things at Mars Hill was to plead incompetence, more or less.  And yet that's not how Driscoll himself presented the way either he as an individual or Mars Hill in general worked in relationship to media.

And the thing is that by about 2010 a majority of people who called Mars Hill home were watching a sermon on video that was edited from the previous week.  Maybe some people thought it was live or something and didn't think to ask but Driscoll had functionally become a TV preacher behind the scenes whether members at Mars Hill knew it or not.  A church capable of that technical and media feat across three states for years on end doesn't sound like a church that didn't understand media.

Perhaps Justin Dean doesn't understand and doesn't want to understand that what Mars Hill leadership did was sacrifice the welfare of the church on the altar of Mark Driscoll's celebrity.  There was no need for Mark and Grace Driscoll to have written a book on marriage to begin with, first o fall.  The Christian book market is arguably glutted with books new and old.  Did Mark pitch that friendship wasn't discussed in books dealing with marriage?  Okay ... but it was only at Mars Hill I first heard the term "friend zone" used with dread by dudes.  Even as stupid a riff in Real Marriage of FRIEND with benefits seemed to suggest that the Driscolls skimmed the shallows on friendship.  But, at any rate, it's not like C. S. Lewis' The Four Loves has gone out of print, has it? It's not like you can't get Richard Baxter's The Christian Directory cheaply. 

Yet the Driscolls decided to put a book together and then to promote it through the church.  Dean has reiterated the real cost of the promotional project was less than what the press reported but he hasn't explained why it was cheaper than what was reported.  If it was cheaper than $210,000 because everybody in the community groups was told to buy the book to promote the book then that meant the entire church was told to invest in a book by buying it all in a small window, and as has been discussed here before, the pre-sales were urged to be channeled into Mars Hill and Acts 29 so that they could count toward the NYT bestseller list.  Justin Dean is welcome to believe what he wants but it seems impossible to believe that Mars Hill "didn't understand the media" if it had the infrastructural capacity and the express will to rig the New York Times bestseller lsit to begin with, with a bit of help from Result Source.  You can't rig the way ane stablished outlet in the traditional media responds to a product you're promoting if you don't understand how media works and don't know anyone who knows how to game things in your favor, can you? 

While Justin Dean's welcome to share if he thinks Mars Hill leadership somehow didn't understand media or how it works, the fact that the leadership of Mars Hill admitted to contracting with Result Source to rig the New York Times bestseller list on behalf of Real Marriage makes that general story seem ... somewhat implausible.