Mars Hill

Preaching Idol: How not to fill the vacancy on your mega church preaching roster…

Curiouser, and curiouser. Things are going further down the rabbit hole at Mars Hill. Mark Driscoll is having a holiday, and to figure out who will preach when he’s not, Mars Hill is holding “Q” School. Because it would be horrible to have each campus have a different preacher… you know… somebody there in the flesh.

Via Mars Hill’s Flickr

“Tuesday, November 15th from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., we’ll be hosting our first ever Preaching Qualifying School (Q School) at Mars Hill Ballard. This event will be a pressure-cooker preaching competition a la American Idol between 3 Mars Hill elders with the prize of being part of our preaching rotation to fill the pulpit on weeks Pastor Mark is out of the pulpit. “

Via the Facebook Event Page

It might be a joke, but if it’s a joke, it’s bad. It’s like the Pressy Church’s trials for license, but put on show, for everybody to watch, and it’s a meritocracy. They’re judging preachers by who the “best” is, and 1 Corinthians 1 says no.

10I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephasa”; still another, “I follow Christ.”… 17For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

It seems to me that filling that sort of gap in the preaching schedule should be done behind closed doors, and shouldn’t be done by pitting brothers in Christ against one another, whatever the “spirit” of the event is… turning it into some bad rip off of a reality TV show cheapens the pulpit, and cheapens the ministry of the losers.

Here’s some more on the day, from Driscoll’s blog… which contains some gems on preaching, and highlights just how bizarre Driscoll’s ministry is becoming – in many ways he’s a great model for how to engage with culture and point people to Jesus. But…

“Only three men will preach this round, but there will be other rounds forthcoming. This round’s contestants will be Pastor Thomas Hurst of Mars Hill Bellevue, Pastor Scott Mitchell of Mars Hill Everett, and Pastor AJ Hamilton of Mars Hill Albuquerque. They will have 30 minutes each with a shot clock and buzzer. They can bring only a Bible with them on stage.

This will be fun…for some of us. For our Mars Hill version of American Idol for preachers, I’ll play the part of Simon Cowell, minus the deep v-neck and British accent. Joining me on the judging panel will be Dr. Justin Holcomb who runs Resurgence, Pastor Scott Thomas who runs Acts 29, and Pastor Dave Bruskas, the executive elder who oversees all our churches. “

So you can only preach from a Bible? That’s guaranteed to produce some pretty tightly thought out oratory.

Some of Driscoll imposing himself on the process (the other 14 tips are pretty good), these ones are mostly good…

“Look like someone who has it together from clothes to haircut to overall presentation. You don’t need to be a model, but you should look presentable. If you have bed-head, your fly open, keep losing your place in your notes, your shoe is untied, your mic battery dies, and you say, “Um,” a lot because you’re unprepared, I may feel sorry for you but I’m not following you because you don’t seem to have a clue where you are going.”

I understand where he’s going with that one – our presentation shouldn’t be a stumbling block… but untied shoes? Seriously?

And of course, Driscoll’s Discern-o-meter will be the difference between a pass and a fail… he’s looking for preachers who have the X Factor. Who have “it”…

“It” is the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in you and through you. I’m looking to see if you have it. I can’t explain it, but I know it when I see it.”

How about “it” just be what was “it” for Paul…

20Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength…

1When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.a 2For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. 4My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power5so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.

A song with a story: It Is Well…

Last Sunday I was on the Atherton Tablelands for this year’s round of my Trials for License. A process that people who want to become ministers in my denomination are forced to endure (thus the name) during their candidacy. It was fun. The Tablelands are a nice part of the world. I spoke at the Youthgroup up there about using Facebook for Jesus, and did a couple of different sermons (one in the morning, one at night).

My morning sermon was on Psalm 122. A song of ascent. A song about the security God’s city offers his people in the OT, and I talked about how Jesus changes the idea of security and “God’s place” in the New Testament, especially in John 4 (talking to the Samaritan woman about where to “worship”) and John 14 (talking to the disciples about not being afraid because they have the Spirit).

I talked about what it means to not fear, and to put your trust in God for security in a fallen and broken world. And I talked about Horatio Spafford as an example… Horatio wrote my favourite church song of all time, a song that does stir me emotionally, mostly because I know this story, and as I sing it I marvel at his ability to write these words when he did.

Mars Hill put together (or at least uploaded) this little snap shot of the story behind the song.

Amazingly powerful stuff.

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.

Westboro v Mars Hill Church

Interesting times. Our favourite loopies (Westboro Baptist) have announced their intentions to picket Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill Church. How would you respond to such a threat? The sad thing is the media like to run stories on Westboro. I think this is especially likely because this appears to be two sheep fighting, rather than a sheep and a wooly wolf. So choosing a response is important, and an opportunity to articulate the differences and how different approaches to Christian belief are a matter of articulating a consistent message with the Bible, rather than a matter of choosing your own particular interpretation.

Here’s what the Westboro Baptists have said is their reason for targeting Mars Hill.

“WBC says the reason they’ll be at Mars Hill Church is, “To picket the false prophet and blind lemmings at Mars Hill Whore House where they teach the lies that God love [sic] everyone and Jesus died for the sins of all of mankind. You have caused the people to trust in lies to their destruction, and to your damnation. Shame on you for calling yourself the Mars Hill Church! False advertising doesn’t come close! Paul would turn over in his grave at your God-hating, Christ-rejecting lies! You have a form of godliness, but you deny the power thereof…WBC will speak the truth to you in love—as God defines ‘love’. We will tell you that, in fact, there is a standard God has set in this earth that He commands you obey. Your disobedient sin is taking you to hell, and you must repent and mourn for your sins. God does not love everyone—in fact, He hates the majority of mankind, and has purposed to send them to hell when they die. You would know these things if you would pick up a Bible and actually READ THE WORDS!””

Team Driscoll* is responding by offering Team Phelps some donuts.

Which is a brilliant display of grace and a stunning contrast between the two. Despite my reservations about some of what Driscoll does, the man is a smart engager

*”I’m on Team Driscoll” t-shirts would be an interesting product to produce, because the modern angry young contempervant church planter/fanboy is the Christian equivalent of a twi-hard. That’s a market. Right there. 10% my way please…

Someone at Mars Hill doesn’t hate video games

This is pretty funny.

There’s this old school universal cheat code from the days of the NES called the Konami Code.

up up down down left right left right B A Enter

Go to Mars Hill’s website and enter it – just hit the combo of keys above on your keyboard + enter – and you find an “Easter Egg.” Somebody there knows more about gaming culture than they’re letting on, because the code takes you to Driscoll’s ill-conceived rant about video games, posted and discussed here the other day.

H/T ChurchCrunch

New Testament 102: What’s going on at the Areopagus (part two)

So Paul’s speech at the Areopagus is an opportunity to introduce a new Gdo to Athens. The God. And it’s not an opportunity he lets slip. He grasps wit with both hands and uses it as a chance to preach the gospel, and in doing so he demonstrates more than a passing familiarity with the philosophy and practices of those he engages with. Bruce says he did this because he had found common ground between inconsistencies in Stoic and Epicurean thought and practice, and similarities between their doctrines and the Old Testament.

“He [Paul] was not borrowing his theology from the philosophical schools for pragmatic purposes.”

Bruce sees his speech before the Areopagus (as do I, as a pretty masterful piece of apologetics, for an article to that effect rather than my notes on his lecture on apologetics see Introducing Athens to God: Paul’s failed apologetic in Acts 17? (PDF), J.D Charles agrees in this article Engaging the (Neo)Pagan Mind: Paul’s Encounter with Athenian Culture as a Model for Cultural Apologetics (PDF)). Other scholars think it’s an apologetic model Paul tried and gave up, feeling a bit disillusioned (this view was made popular by a guy named Ramsay in St. Paul the Traveller and the Roman Citizen (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1895)), or that Paul was actually on criminal trial to determine if his teaching was subversive (see this Google Books reference from Stanley Porter). I think Bruce’s reading actually makes the most sense, only Porter’s criminal trial theory explains the presence in the narrative of Acts, the idea that Paul gave up this sort of apologetic falls over a bit when you observe Paul’s continued engagement with Greek philosophy (see his quote from Epimendes in Acts 17:28 and his other Cretans quote in Titus and the Epimenedes Paradox), and Roman law and culture in his subsequent trials. Plus the narrative of Acts 17 reports converts (so it’s hardly a failure). Some suggest Paul’s resolving to know nothing but Christ (1 Corinthians 2:2) was Paul’s general approach to apologetics and not one particular to Corinth in the light of their issues with idolising gospel preachers as though they were first century orators.

Paul’s Apologetic Method (and the introduction of new Gods)

Paul opens with observations about the culture, and at the same time, points out that the God he is talking about is not a new God, but an Old God…

22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.

Then he addresses specific questions the Areopagus sought to answer regarding new gods

24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.

He begins to look at what divine honours might be appropriate or required for such a God (what do you give the God who has everything?).

26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.

Then he demonstrates his familiarity with their culture and thinking

28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

This verse actually contains a quote from Epimendes and another from a Aratus, a Stoic philosopher.

Then he again turns to the question of temples and statues

29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill.

And finally, he turns back to the question of what God requires from converts and the proof of God’s epiphany (in this case Jesus and the Resurrection, the gospel he had been preaching)

30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”

Bruce suggests Paul makes five affirmations about the knowable God – that he made the world, determined the boundaries of the nations, that he can be sought through general revelation, that idols don’t represent him since we are his offspring, and that all people are called to turn to him or face judgment.

The Stoics, in De Natura Deorum had a sequence to be met in the presentation of new gods: first: prove God exists, second: explain their nature, third: show that the world is governed by them, fourth: show that they care for mankind.

Bruce says:

“The summary in Acts 17 assumes their belief in God‘s existences and His role as the creator of the world who is Lord of heaven and earth, (v. 24a). It affirms He gives life and all things to all his creation, (v. 25b). His providential care is intrinsically bound up with the needs of all mankind, (v. 26). Paul developed his theme on the nature of the known God thus.”

Paul also tackles issues of divine providence, from Bruce:

…in the Athenian speech there are important resonances with the Stoic view of providence. This may well have been Paul‘s most important bridge with that segment of his audience. Balbus sets out what he sees as the Stoic thesis that the world is ruled by divine providence…of the gods‘, only familiarity blinds us to nature‘s marvels.‘ For him providential government of the world can be inferred firstly, from divine wisdom and power,  secondly, from the nature of the world, thirdly from a detailed review of the wonders of nature,  and fourthly from the care of man.

Also, Bruce points out that Paul’s use of the singular “God” rather than “gods” was right down the alley of the Stoics and Epicureans – and elements of his speech to the Areopagus directly attack their understanding of theology.

The Stoics and Epicureans would have had no difficulty with the use of the singular ‘god’, for in one sentence they used the singular and plural interchangeably. For example, Diogenes Laertius speaks of ‘worshippers of god’ as those who ‘have acquaintance with the rites of the gods’ and who know ‘how to serve the gods’.

Much of Paul’s argument also plays on tensions between Stoic and Epicurean thought, in the same way that his argument before the Pharisees and the Sadducees played on tensions between those two groups.

Epicureans believed that God was living, immortal, and blessed – terminology Paul often uses to describe God in his letters. The Epicureans would have found common ground on that point, and further on the point that God could be discovered (and that an unknown God could be made known) because they believed God was knowable and clear to all. They also, importantly, dismissed the idea of God(s) living in temples – they didn’t like anything that looked like superstition, and both agreed that God had no need for human resources.

But the notion of an afterlife was completely foreign to Epicurus (the founder of the Epicureans) who said:

“Death is nothing to us; for the body, when it has been resolved into its elements, has no feeling and that which has no feelings is nothing to us”

Which is probably why the crowd reacted like they did when Paul mentioned the resurrection (in much the same way that the Sadducees reacted in his audience with the Jews).

Bruce thinks Paul was actually calling the Stoics and Epicureans out on social compromise on their philosophies – and offering a better way.

“The Stoic self-contradiction, as Plutarch pointed out, was that they  attend the mysteries in the temples, go up to the Acropolis, do reverence to statues, and place wreaths upon the shrines, though these were the works of builders and mechanics”

Epicurus himself had believed that popular piety was not correct—‘For the utterances of the multitude about the gods are not true preconceptions but false assumptions,‘

Some final thoughts from Bruce:

“Stoicism and Epicureanism in the imperial period had to endorse religious pluralism if they were to maintain their following, given participation in the imperial cult as one of the ways of affirming their loyalty to the empire.”

“No dialogue can be called  Christian‘ that does not possess the five elements expressed in Acts 17. So Paul‘s sermon in Athens was highly pleasing to Almighty God and these essential elements are to be repeated if we are to win the hearts and the minds of our contemporaries who need to believe the gospel.”

J.D Charles agrees (though he spends his time pondering the philosophical nature of Athens):

“Summing up Paul’s rhetorical strategy in Athens, we may note that the Apostle was knowledgeable, dialectical, well-read, relevant, and rhetorically skillful. What particularly strikes the reader is his ability to accommodate himself to the knowledge-base of most Athenians. Viewing Paul’s encounter with Athenian culture as such, we may conclude that his ministry was not a “failure.” Nor is it necessary to assume that his not-too-distant reflections about the power of the cross, recorded in 1 Corinthians 1–2, were penned with a wrong apologetic model (i.e., Athens) in mind.
To the contrary, a more accurate assessment of Paul’s ministry in Athens may be summed up by his own testimony to the Corinthians: “I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more. To the Jews I became a Jew … ; to those without the law, I became like those without the law … I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (1 Cor 9:19–22).”

New Testament 102: What’s going on at the Areopagus (Part One)

There are some moments when you sit in a lecture with our principal Bruce Winter and you just go “aha.” For me, one of these moments came when he was talking about Acts 17, Paul’s speech at the Areopagus. The New Testament is clearly a product of its time and culture. Reading a little bit of Greek philosophy (which for some reason I was last week – actually, it was for a Church History essay) you see how the ideas of Christianity interacted with the ideas of the surrounding culture (and not just in church fathers like Augustine and Clement, but also in the New Testament). Paul is clearly conversant with Greek philosophy – he interacts with, and cites, Stoic and Epicurean ideas while he’s in the marketplace, and later while standing in front of the Areopagus on, or beneath, Mars Hill.

Paul in the Marketplace (Agora)

Garland’s Introducing New Gods suggests that Athens was of vital importance for the introduction of new gods into Greek culture. Gods introduced in Athens would become trendy throughout the region. He suggests the marketplace was the best place to introduce new gods to Athens, because it was the public square. It was the Facebook of the first century. Luke makes a similar statement in Acts 17.

16Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was(AA) provoked within him as he saw that the city was(AB) full of idols. 17So(AC) he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. 18Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said,(AD) “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities“—because(AE) he was preaching(AF) Jesus and the resurrection. 19And they took him and brought him to(AG) the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this(AH) new teaching is that you are presenting? 20For you bring some(AI) strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” 21Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.

Paul’s presence in the marketplace piques the interest of the Areopagus – a gathering of the city’s political leaders. Aristotle said the Areopagus was a place for serious discussions (and nothing silly). Athenian politics seems to have been split between the Council of 600, the Areopagus, and the Boule (a representative council of the Demos (citizens)). Each had different roles to play in governing and different responsibilities in the social, economic, religious, and political spheres. The marketplace was the heart of the city. The Bouleterion (the place where the Boule met) was in the middle of the marketplace, and Bruce argues that it is likely the Areopagus actually met there rather than on the rather uncomfortable rocky outcrop Mars Hill (for my reflections from Mars Hill see this post). Garland suggests anybody looking to bring a new God onto the Greek scene could start in no better place than the Agora:

“A convenient forum in which to advertise the benefits of a new god and hence to drum up popular support would have been a public meeting place such as the Agora, the civic, administrative and commercial heart of the city and a popular venue for all those who wished to exchange ideas.”

In his article On Introducing Gods to Athens: An Alternative Reading of Acts 17:18-20 (PDF), Bruce adopts Garland’s research into how new gods were introduced into Athenian culture, and texts about the role of the Areopagus in consecrating and introducing the Imperial Gods into Athens (he follows a guy named Geagan who wrote a book called The Athenian Constitution After Sulla) to conclude that one of the responsibilities of the Areopagus (alongside the Demos and the Council of 600 (it seems, as I’m trying to cobble together a few views, that the Areopagus set the agenda for the Demos and functioned as Athen’s Boule)) was to introduce new gods into the Greek Pantheon (a view supported by ancient literature – including Aeschylus’ Eumenides (see this work by Kauppi), and that Paul was invited before the Areopagus so they could consider adopting his God, and that such an introduction needed to cover certain areas of concern.

Bruce, following Garland (and to an extent the work of a guy named Barnes who established the role of the Areopagus) says these criterion were:

  1. Had there really been an epiphany of the divinity?
  2. Was official recognition to be given?
  3. What divine honours and statues would be appropriate?
  4. When would the annual official feast day be?

Bruce, following Garland, suggests those introducing a god also had to buy consecrated land to build a temple, build an altar for sacrifices and host an annual feast day, he argues that Paul’s presentation before the Areopagus specifically addresses these points. He shows that the Lukan account is laced with terminology to suggest this reading, for example, when the Athenians suggest Paul is a “herald of foreign divinities” the Greek word is the same used for one who introduces new Gods into the Pantheon (it’s also the word used for the priests of the Imperial Cult).

Aristotle on the Areopagus

I’m finding all sorts of fun quotes playing around with primary sources. Here’s a quote from Aristotle’s Rhetoric about use of emotion in court proceedings – with a mention of the Areopagus, the council Paul appeared before in Athens in Acts 17:

“The arousing of prejudice, pity, anger, and similar emotions has nothing to do with the essential facts, but is merely a personal appeal to the man who is judging the case. Consequently if the rules for trials which are now laid down some states — especially in well-governed states — were applied everywhere, such people would have nothing to say. All men, no doubt, think that the laws should prescribe such rules, but some, as in the court of Areopagus, give practical effect to their thoughts and forbid talk about non-essentials. This is sound law and custom. It is not right to pervert the judge by moving him to anger or envy or pity — one might as well warp a carpenter’s rule before using it.”

Here’s a picture of Mars Hill.

Image Credit: Me, from our trip to Greece

Now the ever reputable Professor B. Winter tells us (that is, his students) that the Areopagus:

a) did not actually meet on top of Mars Hill (speculative – based largely on its current shape and size (who knows how big it was 2,000 years ago), and the number of people in the Areopagus.
and b) had a function to perform as the gatekeepers for the gods of Greece, the Areopagus basically had a set of rules to govern what gods could and couldn’t be accepted into Greece, and Paul’s presentation in Acts 17 is said to meet those parameters…

It’s interesting that they had a reputation for only talking about essentials, from hundreds of years before Paul, and yet the members of the Areopagus invited him to speak.

“19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this(AH) new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.”

It’s also funny how Luke’s view of the Athenians, and possibly, by context and extension, the Areopagus, differs from Aristotle’s:

21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.”

You gotta love this city…

The Whitlams were on to something. I don’t think they were thinking about ministry when they wrote Love This City. But I think it’s a great idea for churches. It’s Biblical too (see Jeremiah 29).

This is one thing I think the Mars Hill/Acts 29 movement does really well. And when they speak about it, I listen.

So check out this post. Four ways to know your city.

Here’s one way:

“Ask your neighbors and fellow citizens lots of questions. Don’t interrogate them but show sincere, intentional interest in them and the information they possess. Anecdotal information about your city and fellow citizens is unbeatable.
Ask them the What, How, and Why questions: What do you think is broken in our neighborhood or city? What gets you excited about life? What do you think should be done about economic decline in our city? Anything you would like to change about your neighborhood?
Are you fulfilled in what you are doing in life? Why do you drive across town to do X? Why do you dislike traditional Christianity?”

The last question is based on a startling assumption. Maybe they don’t dislike traditional Christianity.

Help Haiti by joining your church?

Mars Hill Church has been doing some big stuff to help churches in Haiti recover from the earthquake. Mark Driscoll flew there to get a first hand perspective and the event has significantly altered the preaching schedule for Mars Hill according to lead pastor Jamie Munson’s blog.

Here’s Mark Driscoll’s sermon on Haiti.

Obviously Mars Hill and the leadership team there have been deeply affected by the situation – but their blog on the subject came up with what I think is a fairly odd application. If you’re at Mars Hill and you’ve been affected by the Haiti situation you should:

  • Start giving to the church.
  • Quit living on your own and join a community group.
  • Pursue church membership and align formally with your church family.
  • Confess to your community group about lack of giving or participation in Jesus’ mission.
  • Consider financial coaching: get help building a budget so that you can align your finances with right priorities.

That doesn’t sound right to me. To be fair the church has given incredibly generously to aid Haiti. But I’m not sure how these points relate. How does becoming a member help Haiti?

While I’m on the subject of Mars Hill – here’s an interesting little video from Mark Driscoll about why they use video. I like that even in a video about methodology Driscoll clearly presents the gospel, and our responsibility in the light of it.

More Driscoll

I’ve just about had enough talking about Mark Driscoll for a while – so I’m sure you have too. But his latest post on his own blog is all about Mars Hill’s first interstate church plant – that will be a video campus and prompt changes to the Mars Hill video strategy. Only one campus will be getting his talks live – everyone else will get them a week later.

Here’s what Driscoll says about the video campuses – which is interesting. There’s no doubt his intentions for the expansion are for many people to be reached – but I still feel like that would be best achieved using real people.

In conclusion, I doubt our people will care much. The evidence shows that every one of our video campuses has higher membership, higher Community Group participation, and higher financial giving than the Ballard Campus where I preach live. Those people who comprise our video campuses tend to be most devoted to living sacrificially on mission as the church. Those who come to hear me preach in Ballard are a mix of lost people, committed servants, and Christian consumers who need to get on mission.

Since our video campuses are excelling at living missionally by bringing the gospel to neighborhoods around and now beyond Seattle, we are excited to be changing the sermon delivery method in order to allow more campuses to exist as quickly, cheaply, and effectively as possible.

Told you so…

Some people, like the Hives, hate to say “I told you so”, but not me.

So now that Mars Hill has announced a plan to take over the whole world with video campuses I’m going to say it. I told you so. This is a bad model. And while I love Mark Driscoll for his teaching and gifts – and listen to his podcasts – the idea of broadcasting yourself to 50,000 people around the world sends shivers down my spine. When is enough growth enough? Mars Hill seems to have a scattergun approach to ministry ideas – shooting at every target they can possibly see.

It truly takes a phenomenal ego to think you should be broadcast to churches all over the planet 40 times a year. So much for finding 900 preachers for Jesus – what they really want is 900 AV men for Jesus.

In some ways, a local campus functions much like an independent church, with its own staff, elder team, and programs. A campus pastor leads the effort as the visible presence from the pulpit (preaching roughly ten Sundays every year) and as the authority for all campus matters.
The campus model allows people to participate in the ministry of Mars Hill Church and benefit from Pastor Mark’s teaching and other resources, while at the same time experiencing many of the benefits of a smaller church, such as intimate community, neighborhood ties, and proximity.
Also, the campus model allows pastors and local leaders to do ministry and spread the gospel without having to deal with the many administrative tasks—managing HR and budgets, building websites and databases—that hinder many churches. It also provides a way for smaller, dying churches to reinvigorate their local ministry by joining the mission of Mars Hill.

Your thoughts?

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