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28/09/2006

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That is certainly a very unfortunate testimony. There are times when we all have to grit our teeth even to do things we're 100% convinced by, but to live a lifestyle that you absolutely hate and be so obviously miserable all the time is a sad state of affairs.
I have to say she sounds as though she may be suffering from a touch of PND, and I do hope she is really supported.

ugh - that article makes me shudder...

I think you bring up some valid concerns and questions we should ask about any leader. However, I have followed (that is, kept up with) Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill since my college days in Seattle. I've listened to every one of his sermons and can tell you the following in response to your concerns:
1) He is obviously charismatic and a large part of the growth of Mars Hill can be attributed to Mark's personality. But he has quite explicitly preached in sermons that the church members / attenders are not to indentify themselves as followers of Mark, but followers of Jesus. They are consistently encouraged to read and study widely and not just rely on what Mark says.
2) I see many critics accusing Mars Hill of trying to be a cool church and very little emphasis on being cool coming from the church. They are simply doing their best to engage the culture they are ministering to. Hudson Taylor wasn't trying to be cool when he dressed like the Chinese.
3) Mark and Mars Hill do place particular emphasis on certain doctrines when they come up in the text being preached, and no one can be perfectly balanced. But I have not seen any one doctrine emphasized above or to the exclusion of the Gospel. Everything that is taught at Mars Hill points back to Jesus.
4) Mark serves on a team of elders that have the ability to fire him at any time for cause. In addition, I recently heard in a sermon that his position as lead elder is up for a vote every two years. Mark has said and done things that his elder team and/or friends have asked him to correct or apologize for, and he has done so publicly.
5) Mark is straightforward about what he believes but there's room for debate at Mars Hill (and I would argue in the Church as a whole) to discuss non-essentials. People that attend the church hold very different political/social views and have varying stances on everything from creation vs. evolution to which Bible translation is the best. But I would ask the question: why does someone have to be apologetic about holding to a view that necessarily makes another view false? Also - why would you believe something if you're not convinced it was right? Granted, that can be said in a loving way.
6) I'm not sure what you mean by "participation and community governance..." If that means every person gets a vote on the color of the carpet, there's not much I can say in response - that's not what Mars Hill is about. But, if it means every person having the opportunity to serve and participate as they are led and qualified then that is what you can find there.
7) Mark and the elders at Mars Hill are some of the most transparent and self critical church leaders I have ever known. I have heard Mark call himself a pharisee, confess to sleeping with his girlfriend (now wife) prior to becoming a Christian, admit to being a jerk on occasion, not being very good with people, and describe an instance of being sexually tempted etc... One Sunday when I was attending he actually said that he had just been a jerk to his wife that morning and ended the sermon by saying that he needed to set things straight with her... Sounds like a healthy amount of self critical reflection to me.

As to the comments Lauren Sandler made about Judy Abolafya in her book, you can see Judy's response on Salon.com. The bottom line is that she was misquoted and misrepresented so Lauren could push her agenda.

Jim, thanks for your comments, they are appreciated... I only respond to the mass of stuff out there; that of the commentators, Driscoll himself (see my previous post and previous on-line statements)... interesting that my previous post brought responses (e-mail not comments) from others with involvement saying that they couldn't say it publically but "here here" and other folk in Seattle who I know.

On the question of cool... I am again responding to Driscolls own words (cool calivinists etc.) As for you point 7, admition is only a step in then right direction, I'm afraid some of the things Driscoll has said on-line do not fill me with confidence! And as for whether the journalist was twisting the facts, whether people were misprepresented... I guess you 'pays your money'... some may say that they would say that wouldn't they once they read the article... a person would not want to be seen as the 'evidence' against their own community would they?

One question for you, are there other people who preach? What about the church plants, who preaches there?

Mark - I agree with you that, if Judy had said the things that she is quoted as saying, she might be motivated to deny them publically to save face etc... It comes down to a she said/she said debate and there's probably not any way to resolve that. But you can verify whether or not the other things Sandler says in reference to Mars Hill are true by looking into the church a little more. Look at their doctrinal statement, talk to other members, listen to the sermons and lectures on their website.

Regarding being cool - Your concern was that they are addicted to a superficial aesthetic, correct? I don't think they are. They may in fact be "cool." (which means something much different in New York, LA, Dallas, London etc...) But I would say that it is a result of their missional philosophy, not a direct effort just to appear cool. I believe that Mark's reference to cool calvinists is simply a nickname for people with a reformed theology that don't necessarily fit the reformed stereotype - he calls them Calvinists with boxers.

In answer to your question - there are other people that preach on occassion. I would say maybe 10% of the time. Leif Moi, another founding elder, is great. I don't know if you can say Mars Hill plants churches directly as much as they support church planters through financing and training via a network, of which Mars Hill is a big part of. For the most part each church plant has their own team of elders with one or two guys that are gifted in teaching and carry that role.

It's hard for me to let stand your concern that Mark shows a lack of honesty and self reflection. But, I'm aware of how he can come across in some contexts and admit to cringing occassionally when I think of how people with certain views are bound to interpret his comments. I'd just say give him a chance. Take his comments in the entire context of his ministry and listen to what he has to say. At least you'd be a more informed critic even if you still disagree with him.

God Bless,

jim

Cheers Jim, point(s) taken. in my defence the bullet ponts are not direct criticisms of Mark (the honesty thing was def not directed at Mark... the self-criticism one refers to both... TBH there does not appear to be much in the way of critical reflection, vulnerability or humility in the things I have read by Mark), they were general observations from both stories for all communities. In terms of listening you are correct, TBH sermons are sermons, I know I have been a Preacher, practising and preaching are different things, what he and others say outside of the more structured/targeted Sermon is more interesting to me and say more about the instincts and reality of the speaker/community... I have read a fair number of comments/articles on line and have spoken to several people (not intentionally... they have e-mailed me or I have bumped into them in other places) involved or past members of Mars Hill churches... and I have read the Mars Hill Web Site.

"I believe that Mark's reference to cool calvinists is simply a nickname for people with a reformed theology that don't necessarily fit the reformed stereotype - he calls them Calvinists with boxers."... so what is exactly different? It sounds awfully like presentation to me, dressing up the same old system in 'hip gear' to make it look more culturally relevant, but not critiquing the system itself to see how much of it was built on the originating culture (rationalism, platonism, ecclesiasticism etc.) ... as for Missional... TBH everything I have read says to me Mars Hill is a Church with a Mission (Do they really talk about repopulating the city with Christians???)... very different in my book to being Missional (a la Bosch, Newbiggin etc.)

I admit that I asked the question about preaching because what you said is what I expected... still, I am amazed in some ways that a Church of that size does not have more gifted/called preachers... why so far in is the preaching of one person so significant (interesting that the other person you mention is also a Founder!) this seems to me to mitigate against being Missional (indigenous leadership etc) or even truly participatory.. yes I am aware that others do all sorts of things, but looking at the churchmanship of Mars Hill, I am asuming that the focus of the service is The Word and that is reserved for the few/founders... as a counterpoint in another Seattle church, COTA the first job of a new leader is to identify their succsesor and nurture them... no one every 'owns' a role, they are either being mentored into the role, or mentoring the next person into it.

Pax

Jim - I'm interested in the point about elders - being one myself! Some years ago while we were in a church with an eldership exactly as you describe, a preposterous and unsubstantiated allegation was made in our direction. Our experience was that the eldership team simply gathered round the leader without question...

As with most things, the foundations and principles may be faultless, but it is the implementation that counts. For example it is all well and good having a position reviewed every two years, but the very charismatic leader usually leads in a way that makes them indispensible and prevents others from growing into the kind of stature that would make them a potential replacement. It is interesting to note that a good number of the church groupings in England that formed during the Charismatic renewal of the late 70' and early 80's are now struggling because of a lack of succession - the network fades with the founding father.

Mark - I think it's an interesting point of discussion - what it means to be missional. I would say that Mars Hill could be both a Church with a Mission and be a Missional Church. Whether that's a discredit to the church depends on your definition of those terms. If you haven't read it yet, you could probably get a good idea of what Mark and Mars Hill's mean by Missional in Mark's book - Reformissionary. It's not exactley an academic treatise but does provide a lot of anecdotes that flesh out how they engage the culture of Seattle.

I have actually heard Mark talk about repopulating the city of Seattle with Christians - but it was mostly tongue in cheek. Seattle (and my city of Portland, OR) is a city that simply does not value children - this can be seen in the education system, the birth rate, and many anecdotes of general annoyance or open hostility towards families. Humorously, Mark has pointed out that if trends continue, the Christians will outnumber the non-christians because the non-christians just aren't having as many kids. As a counter to this, Mars Hill openly promotes the blessings of a family, has a great children's ministry and encourages marriage. (I can assure you, there's no Mormonesque emphasis on having 12 kids each) But if there's any emphasis on repopulating the city with Christians it's repopulation through conversion, not breeding.

One last point on leadership and I promise I'll shut up. I have considered on occasion what would happen to Mars Hill if Mark were to somehow leave the church (death, disqualification, new opportunity etc...) I don't think the church would handle it well initially. From what I can tell, the elders at Mars Hill have made the decision to allow Mark to be the most public face of the church simply because he is the most effective communicator. But I really doubt this decision was made without recognizing the risk JEM mentions. Mars Hill has many capable teachers who use their gifts in their school of theology, recovery groups, home communities etc... Those leaders are the reason attenders become members and members stay members (although Mark might "get them in the door".) It's not Mark's preaching or personality that causes people to commit to being in that community. If Mark were to step down, these other capable, visible (although not to the general public) leaders would step in and carry on. It's not a perfect set up and carries some risk but I don't think it's fatally flawed.

Thanks for the discussion. Peace.

jim

Jim,
Many thanks for your continued contributions... they are very helpful! I apprectiate your thoughts and answers... I haven't read the whole of the book, but I have read excerpts... TBH Driscoll doesn't do a lot to endear himself to folk involved in the ECC, and the "appearence" of MHC seems to be diametrically opposed to the vision of Missional Community that we and many others are exploring (small (growing thro' reproduction (I don't mean biologically ;)not replication), missional, inclusive, participatory, non-heirarchical, community not individual leadership)... It certainly doesn't help that he paints himself as a reformed (in both senses of the word!) Emerging Church Leader... becoming fuel for the fundamentalists. Obviously I would not agree with much of his core theology (I guess I'm way more Arminian than I am Calvinist... though I'm not defining myself by Arminianism)... but that isn't particularly my issue with the things he says. What he wants from the ECC (see 9Marks) seems to be simply more Mark Driscolls and has little or nothing to do with the ECC at all... and TBH I have only ever met people who have left MHC... all with similar concerns to the ones I identified.

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