If you have never heard of Mars Hill Church or Pastor Mark Driscoll, do yourself a favor and close out of my blog, open iTunes, search “Mars Hill Church,” and listen to any one of the number of sermons they have uploaded via video or audio.
Mars Hill is not doing anything that churches like North Point, LifeChurch.tv, or Elevation Church have not done before, but there is different sense about the Mars Hill movement. It stems from Pastor Mark.
The reason I say this is because there is a visible difference between presentation and communication from what Mars Hill does on a weekly basis to what churches like North Point, LifeChurch.tv, and Elevation do on a weekly basis. I am not saying that one is better than the other, there is just a different vision each church has been given. Some churches have been given the vision to reach the unchurched or those far from God. While you can make a convincing argument that, as Christians, we should want to share the Good News with everyone who does not believe, I think that it goes a step further than just making converts: it is about making disciples.
That is what sets Mars Hill apart from the rest of the mega-multisite-churches today.
Mark Driscoll is passionate about one thing: Jesus. You will hear it in any sermon that you choose. The name of Jesus repeated over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over again. To the point where you have to wonder sometimes, does he really have a point other than Jesus? The answer is this: no.
Mark Driscoll–and Mars Hill for that matter–is not concerned with peoples comfortability in church. They do not cater to their ever whim or tickle their ears with easy teaching. Just look at the sermons he has preached over the past year and a half. Mars Hill is journeying through the book of Luke, which they are only halfway done with. Driscoll has said more than once that the reason they chose to do this was it does not allow him the liberty to pick and choose topics to preach on. The Bible keeps him honest even if it causes him to preach through difficult passages that may be pew thinners. He has no problem yelling at people and pointing out the sin in the Body or being brought to the verge of tears with love and compassion for the same Body (see end of Heaven and Hell). As I have heard Driscoll say on numerous occasions: soft words produce hard people; hard words produce soft people.
The group Pastor Mark challenges the most is men, more specifically young men. God has given him a heart to reach out and defibrillate the lifeless hearts culture has replaced inside this next generation of men, because if we can win back the hearts of men, we win back the hearts of a generation. And with the most recent sermon preached at Mars Hill, there is an understanding that the battle for men’s–and women’s–hearts and souls is starting at a younger and younger age. Gone are the days where church is the “safe environment” to bring kids so that they will turn out to be good, moralistic adults. It is no longer a free day-care service once a week. It should be the training ground for a new core of Christians being equipped to take the world for Jesus. That is the vision Pastor Mark is casting for the revamp of the Kids program at Mars Hill.
Driscoll, alongside Gerry Breshears, recently published a systematic theology–which is the required reading to become a member of Mars Hill, by the way–called Doctrine. This is the book that the new children’s lessons will be based off of, a 464-page book with 700+ footnotes.
Granted, the stories, themes, and ideas will be age appropriate, but the idea of theology being taught to children as young as two years old is incredible to me. I was first introduced to the idea of teaching the hardcore truths of the Bible at a young age by a speaker at a high school retreat who said his kindergarten age son could recite different catechisms and statements of faith, of which I knew none. He said this was the curriculum being taught to the children at his church in Louisiana. I was blown away, but as I grow up I realize that is the approach we must take if want to raise Christian children who stand firm in their beliefs in a world wavering in its own.
Pastor Mark (or other Mars Hill pastors, staff, friends, or members), I just want to encourage you by saying: keep on pushing forward. I am blessed by the ministry you have created by the grace of God even though you are 2,700 miles away. While my tiny voice and influence in the Christian blogosphere is minimal at best, I just want to let you know that I am a whole-hearted supporter in the vision God has given you and hope to partner with you one day in it. You and your church are always in my prayers. I cannot wait to see what else God does through Mars Hill. Thank you for your obedience to God, reliance on Jesus, and attentiveness to the Holy Spirit. You and your people are an inspiration to many in your neighborhood, on the other side of the country, and around the world.
Thank you, Pastor Mark.