Don’t call your church Mars Hill…

Curiouser and curiouser. Is it just me or is Mark Driscoll on a fast track to laughing stock status. First. He decided he had the gift of discernment.

A special gift that meant we should listen when he slammed video games as stupid, Avatar as Satanic (clips/soundbites from sermons that Mars Hill chose to release as clips/soundbites), and effeminate worship leaders as a scourge on our churches…

Then he started telling us about his semi-pornographic visions – the TV in his head – that helps him see the deep, dark, and sinful leaders of those he counsels (a sermon on the Mars Hill website). I won’t embed the YouTube video because it’s awful (but he again claims the “real gift of discernment”). Lately he’s been getting a bit Westboro Baptist and telling people that God hates them (a clip from a sermon Mars Hill chose to release as a clip/soundbite – but that they later pulled)…

The point of the parenthetic statements is that these are deliberate decisions being made as part of Driscoll’s online branding. As part of Mars Hill’s branding. They’re not being pulled from context by critics, but rather by the organisation themselves.

Somebody is doing an awful job of brand strategy at Mars Hill. From a gospel perspective. Because now the church has decided to send cease and desist letters to other churches named Mars Hill – in this case Mars Hill Sacramento, California – when they’ve all pulled the name from the Bible (Paul’s Areopagus Address – the Areopagus takes its name from Mars Hill). This obviously has nothing to do with Mars Hill’s expansion plans, where they’ve already announced a Mars Hill campus in Orange County, California.

Enforcing one’s copyright rights at the expense of the gospel isn’t likely to win you any friends – especially if you’re the big guy in the playground and you’re going after the littler guy (it goes the other way if a big guy tries to steal a little guy’s identity).

It’s sad. Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll had such potential to be a real asset for the church more broadly, but something about their model is far to tied up in ego and the idea that they’re the ones doing everything right. There’s a lot they do right – but sooner or later that’s not just going to be easy to ignore because of the bad stuff, we’re going to be forced to ignore the good stuff because the rest is so bad.

UPDATE: Mars Hill has attempted to clarify the situation a little bit.

“When cases like this arise in the business world, it’s customary for a law office to send a notice asking the other organization to adjust their branding to differentiate it. This is commonly referred to as a cease and desist letter. On September 27, 2011, our legal counsel sent such a letter to these three Mars Hill churches requesting that they change their logo and name. In hindsight, we realize now that the way we went about raising our concerns, while acceptable in the business world, is not the way we should deal with fellow Christians. On Friday we spoke with the pastor of Mars Hill in Sacramento to apologize for the way we went about this. We had a very productive conversation and look forward to continuing that conversation in the days and weeks ahead.”

UPDATE 2: One of the pastors at one of the other Mars Hills has responded to the response.

The author

Nathan runs St Eutychus. He loves Jesus. His wife. His daughter. His son. His other daughter. His dog. Coffee. And the Internet. He is the campus pastor at Creek Road South Bank, a graduate of Queensland Theological College (M. Div) and the Queensland University of Technology (B. Journ). He spent a significant portion of his pre-ministry-as-a-full-time-job life working in Public Relations, and now loves promoting Jesus in Brisbane and online. He can't believe how great it is that people pay him to talk and think about Jesus.

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