By Brandon Lemons
Over the past month, I have been listening to a fascinating and insightful podcast called “The Rise & Fall of Mars Hill.” This podcast, which is produced by Christianity Today, focuses on Mars Hill Church in Seattle. For more than a decade, Mars Hill was one of the fastest growing and most influential churches in America. It had many satellite campuses and launched a large church-planting network. Its pastor, Mark Driscoll, was a featured speaker at countless conferences, authored several popular books, and had videos all over the internet. Then, in 2014, Mars Hill Church imploded after Mark Driscoll resigned. In its wake, Mars Hill left a trail of confusion and spiritual trauma, along with many lessons about fame, power, and ministry.
I have recommended this podcast to a number of friends who are in ministry, including Friedens’ staff. However, before writing this article, I was debating internally whether it’s worth it to share this with Friedens’ congregation. Would anyone care about some church out in Seattle and a pastor they may never have heard of? How beneficial is it for people who aren’t pastors to hear so many negative critiques of an influential church and even of evangelicalism in America? Do the topics in this podcast really apply to people who aren’t in ministry?
After considering these questions, I decided it really is good to share this podcast with the Friedens Family. I believe it’s important for everday Christians to be aware of broader trends in Christianity. I think the podcast does an excellent job of providing historical background and analysis of why the evangelical church in America is the way it is, and also where it came from in the 1960s and 1970s, especially with the rise of megachurches and internet-fueled ministry. “The Rise & Fall of Mars Hill” does a great job of highlighting the importance of the character of a church’s leaders and pastors, because if a person’s ministry platform outpaces their personal character, it’s a recipe for disaster. Unfortunately, there have been many high-profile problems among big-name megachurch pastors in recent years, and this podcast does a commendable job of helping us understand the dynamics that can support unhealthy (and healthy) ministry.
If you are interested in growing in your understanding of recent church history in America and dynamics that are still playing out today in churches across the country, I encourage you to check out this podcast. It is an ongoing series, so episodes are still being produced. I have learned a lot, and I think you will, too.