The Problem with Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Seattle (Unintentionally building a environment of dependancy)

When I was a teenager I was a big rough  kid… I boxed since I was four and as someone who excelled in athletics, I was tougher than the average bear.  I remember going down to the local park, or beach where we’d all drink way to much and get into trouble. One of the things that would inevitably happen was “strolling for trouble”. Here’s how that works, you’ve probably seen it or maybe even been a part of it. Generally a couple little guys (with big chips on there shoulders) would lead the group walking off ahead of myself and generally another big guy or two… They would inevitably cause some sort of trouble and a confrontation would arise. Thats when we would show up. Things rarely came to blows, but it was always a exercise in might makes right & bigger is better. I don’t know why we did it, I guess it made the big guys feel valued and needed while the little guys felt empowered and respected, maybe part of something bigger than themselves, with a sense of being tough by association. The worldly problem with this is, they never actually learned to fight, their strength was by association alone. Their only skill was to rely on someone else’s ability…

I’m beginning to wonder if there are too many Christians strutting around waiting for Mark Driscoll to come to the rescue. Here is what I mean. I currently  work as a college pastor in the greater Seattle area, and despite the cultural disdain for Christianity and living in Mars Hill territory, I am in the midst of developing a thriving college ministry… I will be honest though, I belong a very small minority of churches  that even try to do college ministry in this town.

You would think churches in the area would look at Mars Hill and think Wow! look at the difference they are making, I’m jumping in with both feet and we are going to join the battle (To their credit their a number of churches pursuing the younger generation, Quest ChurchCity ChurchEastlake, and Overlake). However even the churches that are pursuing this generation have almost all succumbed to the Big show, attractional model, and have all but abandoned having any sort of missional campus presence.

I have to admit, I think one the biggest reasons why is because we all live in the shadow of Mars Hill… Mark Driscoll has become the Q-tip, the Jello, the name brand association of what a pastor should look and sound like in the puget sound…He created the model, not a model for ministry. Now I will be the first to admit Mark has done way, way more good than bad. As a matter of fact one of the most influential sermons I have ever heard was taught by Mark, It was at a regional conference that Mark put on where he taught through through Nehemiah, I still use that outline for all my ministry development. That being said, when I’m on campus, everyone just wants to bring the big show to campus, most of the college kids I interact with on a daily basis are like why share Jesus, we just need Mark.

Those of us that are out there in ministry need to be willing to break out of this reliance  on Mark Driscoll to come in a clean up the City and our Colleges, He can’t do it alone… and he shouldn’t have to, we need to learn to fight on our own. We may not have the stature or the size but we serve the same God. To the college students out there, you are ambassadors or Christ, be strong and courageous, start living on mission you don’t need a large elaborate ministry with an amazing speaker to change your world, you just need to be a willing vessel.

And before you all dog me out for putting down Mars Hill or Mark Driscoll, I’m not. Mark is the first person to tell you pastors to find your own voice, to do your own cultural exegesis, to not try to be a Mark Driscoll or an Andy Stanley or whoever else. And Mark is the first to kick his own congregation in the gut to get them to move, unfortunately there are still way to many people out there that just want to watch the effects of the gospel, as opposed to being part of the gospel story.


14 thoughts on “The Problem with Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Seattle (Unintentionally building a environment of dependancy)

  1. Doug,

    These are some interesting thoughts. I believe there is a lot of tension between the asset Mark Driscoll / Mars Hill is to the evangelical community and young men and women not abdicating their responsibility to lead as God has directed them individually. We must embrace God’s vision for the church as universal, local, and developed in the heart of men and women he calls to plant and grow the church. Really, we can’t become co-dependent upon high profile ministries but we can learn a lot from them and use them as a wonderful resource.

    I believe the scriptures teach us to be unified under the same mind, heart, and purpose found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. And we also are distinct adding to the body in very important individualistic ways. So Doug, I agree we must keep the vision in front of our young adults to serve in the way God has created them to serve. It may look a lot differently then “Mars Hill”. Young peoples purpose is to seek “it” out. To obey, to experience what Jesus said, “Greater things you will do” (John 14:12)…


  2. So doug, I understand your criticism, but I think your criticism should be leveled more at the people. Mark is pretty explicit about the centrality of Jesus in all of this. I guess it’s partly Mars Hill’s fault for letting people see Mark as an icon, but it’s human nature to make inspiring people into an icon. Antioch is full of Hutchites and you yourself are growing (probably unintentionally) a small but dedicated group of Doug Murphy followers.

    Do you then tell people, “Don’t look up to me?” Or rather, how do you direct them to get off their backsides and work themselves rather than rely on you?

    In the end, few people change, few people share Christ, few people actually practice their beliefs. If you find a solution to that, please let me know.

    Aside from that, I like your article. It has some very valid points. I also love how you shake things up.

  3. Vimal I have learned so much from Mark on Keeping Christ the center he is amazing, The tough part and I don’t know the answer really is as you said how do you keep people from to closely connecting the message from the messanger. And yes 90% of the responsibility lies squarely on the hearers being at fault here… I really only used the title as the pull… There are so many haters out there I was hoping they would see this as being more of an issue with them than with Mark or Mars Hill….

  4. Well to be fair, just as there are Mark-ites, Hutch-ites…there are also Doug-ites. I KNOW there are so many people there are out there that follow you around but choose not to make a difference even though its part of your every message. The point being, it doesnt matter how much you drill a message of being gospel-spreading christians into people, people choose to follow dynamic leaders but the majority of the listeners are simply L-A-Z-Y.
    I havent been much to Mars Hill, so i dont know how much they should be called out on anything, but I do know there are SO many people who have gotten excited about their faith through Mark. , please, lets dog on the Christians who treat riveting sermons like a binky, sucking on it and enjoying it, but not using it for any real purpose.

    I know you used your title as a hook, but I really dont know how much good an abrasive title like that does. I think it puts people off more than gets them thinking about the fruit they are producing.

  5. Doug,
    To often, people tend to “follow” pastors and their teachings first as opposed to following The Lord first and His teachings in the bible. This, I see, is a flaw of the “mega” or “super” churches in America. While the church leadership may be focused and have their hearts in the right place wanting only to teach God’s word, the people are more into the “church” as a place in itself. Granted there are a few mega churches in the country that are more into how many seats we can fill and not focusing on God first that tend to give large congregations a bad name.
    I will cite a couple of churches I think are doing good work, but have people that put to much emphasis on “the church”.
    Good Shepherd Community Church in Boring,OR would be considered a mega church. Each weekend over 6000 people walk through the doors. It was formerly pastored by Stu Weber who is a best selling author and a spiritual leader in the military community. This church, however, does everything in its power to not emphasize the church itself. They are very careful about not having everything be about the church, but about worshiping and following God. They downplay their role and make God first. There are people in the church that are busybodies that had complaints about Pastor Stu. So, as not to embroil a split or big to do, Pastor Stu stepped down so the church could continue its work in the community.
    Dayspring Fellowship in Keizer, OR is a larger church with over a thousand in attendance every week. They did endure a split a few years back over a bunch of busybodies and pastoral issues. The current leadership under Larry Grine I think is doing a good job at putting God first and teaching His word. I think, however, it could downplay “Dayspring” a little more though.
    In summation to my rambling, I think where there are large groups of people together, there will always be the few that are focused on the wrong thing. It sounds like Mark Driscoll has his heart in the right place, but there are people that want to follow him and not God.

    We should always put Jesus first, others second and yourself last. That is JOY.
    Hope this all makes sense.

  6. Doug
    Nicely put article. I’ve been wondering how to separate the message that the mega-famous pastors preach (which is often excellent, Jesus focussed and theologically solid) iwth the tendency to make them into rock stars whose opinions of books, speakers and movements are listened to like papal decrees.
    I really like Driscoll’s preaching, but at times I have to step back and see that I still need to be growing in Jesus myself and not rely on some vicarious relationship with God.

    The bigger problem I have with the multi site church is that I think it would be harder to truly feel a part of a congregation when you get the sermon streamed in. It would exaggerate the feeling I get about worship services being a concert by tagging on a movie.

    All the best.

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  9. I realize this is a few years old, but just came across it this morning while doing some research (great thoughts in the above essay, btw), but it was with interest I saw mention made in the comments of Stu Weber. I do have to say, I’m glad the man finally stepped down. My wife and I attended GSCC for a number of years, and although I’m pretty sure we were not part of the group mentioned, as we left when I began attending seminary about a decade before that, we certainly tried ourselves on numerous occasions charitably to address the problems being ignored by the leadership.

    Stu basically brought a syncretism of military/patriotic worship into the life of the church to the point where it was mentioned sometimes more than Christ on any given Sunday. He was, on the surface, a soft spoken and well-composed leader, but underlying that was a quite aggressive and heavy handed demeanor, and he was one who would not allow himself to be crossed. I don’t think he ever successfully switched out his identity of an active duty officer for that of a pastor, which was a great disservice to the gospel, in my opinion (as one who has now served as a minister of the gospel since 2004). There were largely unchecked issues of financial mismanagement, sexual infidelity among junior (and some senior) leadership, and people were often placed into leadership through a “good ole boy” network of family and friends, rather than by biblical qualification. I could go on, but there is no need. I’m just glad to see (although the above poster may disagree, and be a supporter of Stu), that enough people brought pressure to bear without being run out of the church (as some were) to the point of him stepping down.

    Ideally though, and that for which my wife and I had hoped, would have been a change of heart and methodology on his part, not requiring him to step down, but rather to make a public acknowledgement that things were askew in the house of God and with his own philosophy of ministry, and were going to be fixed by prayer, accountability, and God’s grace. But Stu had struggles, I believe, with being a very proud man who tightly guarded his image, and I’m sure he could never have brought himself to admit something like that. I still had his former secretary, a few years back, attempting to find out my next assignment within the special operations community so that he could try and derail it almost a decade after we confronted him on some of those issues! I mean, come one! Are we now acting like pagan politicians here? I guess I should add that such behavior came as a response to me attempting to give him a call and reconcile with him one last time, but whereas I desired to pursue a spirit of Christian good will, I was met with the same defensiveness and conniving spirit that caused us to leave that congregation in the first place.

    Here’s hoping for a more Christ-centered and genuinely pastoral direction for GSCC in 2014. God bless.

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