Mark Driscoll and the Mars Hill Church: The Rise and Fall of an Empire

mark-driscollEarlier this year when Mark Driscoll and the Mars Hill Church were suggested as a resource to be used by a group that I happened to be a part of, I pointed out to the group leader that we might want to consider other sources.  I was told that we should not let personal issues in the life of Mark Driscoll prevent us from using him and his church as a resource for ministry. Fast forward a few months, and what we find is Mark Driscoll being investigated for alleged misconduct, which eventually led to his resignation.  Now, according to Christianity Today, the Mars Hill Church, which was established in 1996 and grew to 15 satellite sites across five states, will be dismantling by the new year and selling all their properties. What went wrong?  Why the rise and fall of Mark Driscoll and the Mars Hill Church?  I’m sure we can all come up with a number of reasons for this fall.  But I want to suggest the following. While not questioning the salvation of the thousands of attendees that made up what is the Mars Hill Church, I believe the foundation of the church proved to be Mark Driscoll: with the rise of Driscoll, Mars Hill rose, and with his fall, Mars Hill fell.  It’s that simple. Which brings us to the wise counsel of the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 1-4: do not rally around this personality and that personality.

So then, no more boasting about human leaders! All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.  (3:21-23)

Paul says that church leaders are only servants through whom sinners come to believe in Christ, “so neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow” (3:7). I pray that others will learn from the rise and fall of Mark Driscoll and the Mars Hill Church.

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6 Responses to Mark Driscoll and the Mars Hill Church: The Rise and Fall of an Empire

  1. nwroadrat says:

    Just to be clear, dismantling doesn’t mean closing and going away. All locations will become independent, merge or could close. Their choice. I kind of like this because where people had a second family form, they now have an option to keep that together and “rebrand.” While people may predict gloom, I see some good things coming out of this.

  2. Simon says:

    This is a really sad story for all. I agree completely with TC about the nature of the problem. Mars Hill was about Driscoll. Could the same be said about other non-denominational mega churches such as MacArthur’s? I think probably yes. What makes Driscoll ‘ s case more egregious is that his personal misconduct and failings were so apparent. Additionally, which is even more startling to me, is that the Reformed community appear to have washed their hands of him and Mars Hill completely – particularly after he was portrayed as the darling of the young restless and Reformed. I would imagine that this is devastating to both Driscoll and the members of Mars Hill. So pertinent pastoral issues now come to the fore.

    The other question that must be asked is why did it take so long for people to see thus and act upon it? Obviously this an accountability thing. There are no formal authorities that cover the entire Reformed Parachurch movement. In the end, one of the Parachurch organizations associated with him suddenly and public ally castigated him. This has the clear intention to signal to others that Driscoll is no longer kosher. This quite a brutal way to deal with things. No one comes out of this looking good in my opinion.

    My advice would be to stay away from mega churches. If you’re not going to be Orthodox, then at least stick with an established denominational church. No frills attached. Just consistent and faithful worship.

    • Jon Hughes says:

      Simon,

      If the Reformed community have washed their hands of him, as you suggest may be the case, then it’s completely spineless on their part. You’re right, no one comes out of this looking good.

  3. TC Robinson says:

    NWR,
    Let’s pray that good comes from all this. But Mars Hill as we know it is no more.

    Simon,
    Your point about established denominations stand. Churches that are built around personalities are definitely unhealthy. Perhaps we can tossed MacArthur’s in as well.

  4. Jon Hughes says:

    I’ve just read a piece from the wife of an elder who was fired from Mars Hill, and she honestly believes that if Driscoll had possessed the ecclesiastical authority, he would have had her husband burned at the stake. Sounds over-the-top until we think of John Calvin, doesn’t it?

    Could there be a link between exclusivist-predestinarian theologies and this kind of behaviour? If people dare to question you, or challenge your authority, and you’ve been ‘called’ by God, then all sorts of harsh actions can be justified toward those who stand in your way.

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