Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll

Since my interests in many ways lie in the model of ministry exemplified by Driscoll and Mars Hill, I have had many informal conversations about what I think/know about these topics. Since many of the guys I know have fundamentalist baggage, I thought it might be helpful to post a first hand perspective of Mars Hill from someone with a similar background. I came across this comment in the comment section on MacArthur's post on "grunge christianity" a while back thanks to Jones' link. I since emailed Jonathan and asked if he'd mind if I posted the comment in full on my blog. I appreciate his willingness...you can check out his blog here. Below is his "comment" in full.

Starting off, I’ll openly admit I’m a member at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, where Mark Driscoll is my teaching pastor. I grew up in strict fundamentalism, attending high school at Maranatha Baptist Academy in Watertown, Wisconsin, and taking both my undergraduate and graduate degrees at Bob Jone University in Greenville, South Carolina. I have attended many forms of theologically and culturally conservative churches. I am an armchair theologian at best. I have read quite a few of these comments but did not read all of them, so my apologies if someone else has already addressed this.
The point of Pastor MacArthur’s article seems to be the certainty of sinful results in a life or ministry dedicated to “cultural relativism.” Pastor Mark’s style is offered as the primary example. Whether or not Pastor MacArthur’s article is correct in its overarching theme or not is not my place to say. But I do wish to tell you what I’ve seen and learned since coming to Seattle and joining the work at Mars Hill.
1) Conversions. Mars Hill is one of the most unusual churches I’ve attended. I have never before been involved anywhere where I have seen this number of committed, growing new believers. Twice a year or so, we’ll have major baptismal services, often at one of the beaches around Seattle, wherein fifty to one hundred new, adult converts publically declare their commitment to Jesus. I want emphasize that these are nearly all adults. Prior to coming to Mars Hill when I was 27, I can recall one baptismal service at one church wherein a majority of the converts (seven) were adults.
2) Growth/Sanctification. These new believers do not stay stagnant, nor do they typically leave Mars Hill as they mature spiritually. Seattle is a damaged town. It seems nearly everyone has been or is currently abused, addicted, abandoned, hurt, etc. This is a sad place. What I see happening at church, especially through the small groups I’ve been involved with, is a tremendous amount of change, not by simple personal resolution and determination to be more holy, but by the work of the Holy Spirit. (I have no other explanation for it.) Addicts admit their struggles, reject their idols, love Jesus, share the gospel, and become positive members of society. Fathers and husbands take responsibility for the sin and trouble they’ve wrought in their own lives and in their families and then work for change. People turn from every kind of sexual impurity to live in the light and love of Jesus, no longer abusing others or themselves. For the people of Mars Hill, holiness and sanctification is not just a change of thinking but a change of how one lives one’s life. That doesn’t mean any of us are perfect. Do we participate in a variety of things that my own church background and family’s traditions would consider sinful? Yes, we do. (Being human is not sinful. God has made each of us to enjoy different aspects of his creation and thank him for them.) However, everyone I know at the church is careful not to lead another believer into sin, even if that “sin” is just a conscience issue. We take responsibility to help our brothers and sisters. Do we participate in anything that Scripture plainly forbids? No, we do not. Again, we are also careful to help our fellow believers avoid temptations in their own lives and willingly give up our freedoms for the sake of God’s children. If one of our number does violate Christ’s commands, we confront him or her and help that person walk in repentance and humility. If that person continues in sin, we will deal (and have dealt) with him/her in the way Scripture commands.
For us, sanctification is not an issue of external change. It is the growth of Christ in each of us as we continually submit our lives and actions to him. As he changes us, we begin to see changes in each other, not necessarily in dress or stylistic preferences, but in how we relate to God and one another.
3) Love. Never before have I been at a church wherein the people were willing to consistently expose their own sin and evil and offer the undeserved kindness and love of Jesus to one another. While we may appear to be “come as you are,” we are not “stay as you are.” We are committed to Jesus and desire over anything else to reveal him to our fellow believers, our neighbors, and even our enemies through attitudes and acts of love. Love is creative and takes understanding of the one you are trying to love. As I tell my friends in my small groups, we do not love someone in order to make him become a believer. We love those God has put into our lives whether or not they ever become believers. We love one another as Christ loved the church. This is the work of God in a believer. This is an undeniable gift of his presence.
Please note that I am not saying that results or outcomes determine the appropriateness of a particular methodology. Nor am I an official voice of Mars Hill Church. I am not even a small group leader. I’m just a regular member who loves his church family and wants to share the wonderful things Jesus is doing in Seattle, despite our stumbles and foibles. We aren’t perfect and likely never will be. However, we do appreciate your prayers as we seek to share Jesus with our city.
Thanks for listening, and all the best as you share Jesus with the people where you live!

108 comments:

Pitchford said...

Thanks for posting this -- it's encouraging to hear of God's work in a different milieu. I'm still trying to get rid of "fundamental baggage," so reading testimonies like this is always helpful.

fitzage said...

I see in my current pastor a desire for this kind of ministry. We're still struggling as church leaders with how to lead the church in this direction.

It makes me want to move to Seattle so I can see it in action, and be involved. But I know that more places than Seattle need this kind of church, so I hope I can help my church along the path.

Nate Mihelis said...

Fitzy,

They do church planting "boot camps" all across the nation. You ought to check out the website and see if there's one in your neck of the woods.

Bob said...

Just for fun I checked my Bob Jones Vintage (yearbook)....I always keep it near my pillow at night....and sure enough Jonathan was there when I was. We probably sang "Souls for Jesus" together in our preacherboy class. Yikes. I just finished Driscoll's Confessions a few weeks ago and loved it. Nate, how did you get in touch with Jonathan?

Nate Mihelis said...

I found his blog off of the comment section on MacArthur's blog and got his email off of his blog.

Confessions does rock; it's a big part of why I'm reconsidering church planting so seriously.

revolution said...

gotta love bob jones university!


Not.


REVOLUTION

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