For background go here.
When I was a youth pastor in Mississippi, I discovered Mark Driscoll. Funny and straightforward, he was a youth pastor’s dream come true. So after listening to a sermon or two and reading a book about the beginnings of Mars Hill, I decided to expose my students to him. We – about 10 students and myself – went through Vintage Jesus together. They loved it. And even after I left, Mark Driscoll continued to be partaken of.
Next I was at a church in Wichita, Kansas. There, I worked with Middle School students all the way through College and Singles. I introduced those college students and singles to Driscoll and Acts 29. I even took 3 college students with me to an A29 boot-camp up in Seattle. While in “the ICT” I started what became a successful ministry for this age group in downtown Wichita. DCF met in the back of a coffee shop and grew and grew and grew. Before I left to move back home to Birmingham to plant (but then join an A29 plant), I handed DCF over to an Acts 29 planter - a guy I admire and respect.
Pastors of the church I attend now – a PCA church, mind you – often post articles from The Resurgence website.
Five congregations over a five year period, all under the influence of the major players in this story.
So my personal story is riddled with anecdotes illustrating in stark relief the influence of Mars Hill and Acts 29. But let’s face it, many of you have felt and seen the influence far more than I have. I have hardly listened to any of Driscoll’s sermons. And though I’ve read and recommended his books, I remember so little of them and have read nothing since the first few chapters of that one with all the graphic sexual images in it…no, no, not the new sex book.
In my life he was more of a resource, for many more, he was a distant mentor.
Last week, when I posted the story of Paul Petry on my blog, I was asked a really good question -
Would we care about this so much if it happened in a small church hardly anyone knew or cared about?
It’s a really good question. But I’m not sure we can answer it with a “yes” or “no.”
There is a reason we know the story of Paul Petry. It’s not merely because we so-called watchbloggers like to drudge up dirt on the big dogs. Mark Driscoll and the leaders of Mars Hill chose the easy path of notoriety at every turn. They have never balked at the opportunity to publicize their achievements and offerings. They are known because they wanted to be known.
They are celebrities because they wanted it.
And the celebrity status puts them in the position of being known more than the small out of the way churches. Therefore, we care more simply about what is happening at Mars Hill because they are on our radar and the small backwoods church is not. Now it’s true, that small backwoods may experience instances of abuse of authority causing a stir having cataclysmic effects on our culture in the near future. But we can only deal with what we know. And the known is where we can be sure of influence over the evangelical culture.
Let me also answer the question another way- no, I would not care as much about the small out of the way church as much as I do the Mars Hill abuse. Why? Because I have personally seen what the abuse coming out of Mars Hill looks like. (You know what’s funny? Over the past week I’ve been accused of taking this too personally and caring too much about the goings on of a church thousands of miles away. People are funny.)
The influence is daunting – one of the most popular podcasts, 14 campuses in 4 states where Driscoll is either preaching live or being shown on a large video screen, the very popular Resurgence website designed to serve and influence leaders, Re:Lit is a publishing group with a volue on the NYT bestselling list, and Acts 29 is a network of 400 churches and growing worldwide.
Shouldn’t our concern about the abuse of authority be in proportion to the influence such men have?
Rob Bell put out a video about a book that had yet to be published and the New Calvinists went all MMA on him. Why would they go after him before anyone had read the book? They worried if they did not say anything, his book might be a negative influence on their flock/readers/greater evangelical world.
I mean, don’t you think what’s good for the (once) pastor of Mars Hill in Michigan is also good for the pastor of Mars Hill in Seattle?