Some Random Thoughts on Mars Hill

Introduction

Since Mike Cosper has seen no reason to cease flogging the Mars Hill horse. I suppose there is no reason for me to not follow suit, mostly for my own amusement. Therefore, in no particular order…

One: Is it possible that Driscoll and his critics were/are speaking past each other due to word choice? Driscoll was famously enraged about abuse, most so in marriage. And what gets constantly brought up was that he was abusive to his staff and the church. The critics, from both inside and outside Mars Hill, saw this as a toxic masculine cycle where Driscoll used the threat of violence to stop violence. But that is bunk. Violence is not always a sin, it can be just and right. The problem is that the critics have a very broad spectrum of what constitutes abuse.* It would seem Driscoll had a very narrow one. Especially considering his view that men should be strong and resilient. My surmise is that a man coming to Driscoll saying Mark had been abusive, would be received very poorly because that in Driscoll’s mind is a huge accusation. Then when that abuse is explained as that man had his feelings hurt. Driscoll would not respond well because the problem is that guy, who just accused him of something awful and then whined about his feelings. Perhaps if the guy just walked up and said something along the lines of, “Mark with all due respect, what you just said was a dick move.” Maybe, maybe that is the kind of clarity Driscoll would have at least understood.

Two: A good amount of Driscoll’s critics that appeared on the Rise and Fall podcast were married couples who, at a minimum rejected complementarianism if not the faith all together. The obvious conclusion was that this was Driscoll’s fault. However, it should be kept in mind that people change. And in a city like Seattle people change quickly. Christians change through sanctification, they move from one degree of glory to another till they see Christ, they conform to his image. Non christians drift aimlessly or ping form one thing to another. often with great enthusiasm. For a while Mars hill was cool, it went against the grain in a city that prided itself as being counter cultural. And what was more counter to the culture of Seattle than Mark Driscoll? One zip people are there, and seem all in, but then the shine wears off and zip they are out again, and rather than consider that the problem was in them, they blame where they just came from and grow bitter. Or to put it another way, they went out from among believers because they were not genuine believers. This is not a new problem for churches, there was one difference between Mars Hill and the average Evangelical Church. Which leads to…

Three: Mars Hill practiced church discipline. Yes Mark was a little too gung-ho about it. And they didn’t always seem to have the best practices in place. But it still seems like their worst examples were not actually church discipline. They were called that, but they were something else entirely, and that should be addressed. Distinctions do matter. But when moved aside Mars Hill never seemed to fail to call the cops when necessary, they seemed to uphold high Biblical standards, they seemed to push for repentance and reconciliation, by-in-large. There biggest discipline scandal seems to be having make some weak guys uncomfortably aware of their softness. As opposed to the broad lay of the evangelical land today where pastors seem more worried about the self diagnosed trauma of cowardly men. Honestly I would rather a Driscoll tell me straight up where he thinks I am wrong and need to man up than to lick my wounds for me. It just seems a bit like when my cats groom each other, it’s weird. Driscoll cleaned house, not well, but he did it. I would rather see churches cleaning house with some errors than let the festering cancer of un repentant sinners pushing churches away from the gospel because they never loved or believed it in the first place.

Four: Again though where were the men? It is brought up in the podcast that Mark needed older, wiser, men around him. And he kicked against that, he is responsible ultimately. At the same time though there were elders in the church that now want to be seen as heroes or victims, who are claiming that they were to star struck by Mark to see what was going on. This reeks of Monday morning quarterbacking. What has happened between now and then that suddenly makes them possess so much spine. I think it is that Driscoll is weaker, and more distant from them. I think they were soft then, and they are soft now. Is it beyond the realm of possibility that a big amount of the failure of Mars Hill was the fault of cowardly men who failed in their respective responsibilities? It seems only two (Bent Meyer and Paul Petry) actually did what Driscoll preached men should do. And honestly, it would appear, they have manfully dealt with the fall out of that show of bravery. It does not seem to me that there are any others in leadership that can claim a heroic mantle or victim title. Did Mars Hill fall because the support beams were sub par and weak?

Conclusion

It is pretty obvious that Mars Hill was great at branding, and Driscoll was not really qualified to be a pastor not at the beginning and not now. Things that early on were seen as as features did turn out to be a box of roaches. All that said I am still having a hard time reconciling the public disasters of Mars Hill, with the slow motion train wrecks happening in churches all over the place with “qualified” pastors with all their credentials in a row. A church imploding spectacularly is no better than one that is decaying slowly, both are failures, one just got there quicker. And the other had the time and opportunity to throw rocks with one hand and pat themselves on the back with the other. Just because the story of a church slowly drifting to the left and into apostasy is not entertaining to watch does not mean it is better. I can’t help but wonder if Jesus will have more compassion on Mars Hill that went out with a bang, than the ones that softly, gently, and slowly slip into the outer darkness. 

*There is also the phrase “victim blaming” which parts of this article might be accused of being. I reject that because how you define victim matters. The category has become too broad and too often self declared. There were people who were hurt at Mars Hill. But what I am talking about are those who had responsibilities, and self determination. This is America after all. No one forced anyone to go to Mars Hill, work for Mars Hill, or stay at Mars Hill. At some point personal responsibility does come in. Victim blaming makes it sound as though everyone was a mindless automaton that suddenly gained sentience and didn’t like what was happening. 

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