If we close out The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill having only been entertained, feeling confirmed in our correctness, excused in our evangelistic apathy, or justified in our critical and overly suspicious spirit toward other churches and leaders, we will have missed a God-given opportunity to follow the apostle Paul’s instruction in 1 Corinthians 10:12: If you think you are standing firm, take heed lest you fall.
As The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, a podcast that tells the story of the rapid rise and fall of pastor Mark Driscoll and the influence of his church in Seattle, draws to a close, evangelicals who love the church and care about the future will take away lessons related to leadership, both good and bad, and implement measures designed to prevent abuses in the future.
In previous columns, we considered the potential spiritual effect of this podcast on the souls of those listening, the place of “father hunger” in the rise of the Reformed movement (a dynamic at work in Driscoll’s “How dare you!” sermon), and the need to respond to the abuse of authority with good authority, not the abdication of pastoral responsibility.
Today, we wrap up this series by considering one of the unintended consequences this podcast could have, unless we commit to listening with care and wisdom. We may become instantly suspicious of another ministry model.
The “Real” Problem . . . Out There
Some listeners to The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill might assume the real problem is the megachurch, as if the size of a congregation and the “celebrity” status that anoints the pastor is the root of all kinds of evil. The problem is the “attractional church” with its focus on numerical growth. Once a church grows too big and successful, we should expect all sorts of shenanigans behind the scenes. Surely something nefarious must be going on for a church to gain this kind of traction.
Raising an eyebrow toward churches that follow a different ministry model is not a new phenomenon. Many large-church pastors privately sneer at the small church without a full array of programs, or quietly judge the small-church pastor who just doesn’t have “what it takes” to influence the power brokers in the congregation and “make things happen.”