Category Archives: Current Events

Mark Driscoll’s ‘Mars Hill Church’ Threatening Legal Action Against Other Churches of the Same Name?

Every now and then I read something and have an ‘are you kidding me?!?!’ moment. This morning was one of those times.

Most of you have heard of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. Mars Hill Church Seattle has been one of the fastest growing churches in the United States consistently for a few years now. Their growth has mainly been driven by the preaching, teaching, and organizational gifts of the charismatic pastor Mark Driscoll.

Mark is a very polarizing figure. I happen to like him, though I admit he does or says things that often make me slap my forehead. Additionally, since I’m neither Reformed nor Calvinistic and believe the proper response in giving one’s life to Christ is believer’s baptism, it is likely he would question whether I’m his brother in Christ or not.

Anyway, today I heard news that Mars Hill Seattle is allegedly threatening legal action against another church of the same name in Sacramento.

Here’s an excerpt from the blog post announcing this:

I don’t know how many churches in America are called Mars Hill. I do know three of them; I have been assured there are many more. As far as I know, most of these churches have no connection with each other. Some of them belong to denominations, and some do not. The only ones who seem to be organically connected are those which have been “daughtered” off one of the other churches. But this short article is about the three Mars Hill churches I do know about.

The first of these to be started was Mars Hill Seattle, pastored by Mark Driscoll. He founded the church in 1996 and to this day it is one of the fastest growing churches in America and certainly one of the largest in Seattle. I am not exaggerating when I observe that Pastor Mark Driscoll has become one of the most controversial pastors in America. He regularly makes statements concerning the books, sermons and beliefs of other Christians. Many people consider his views on family, family life and procreation to be ultraconservative.

The second Mars Hill was founded in 1999 in the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan by Rob Bell. Pastor Rob Bell is known for his books and videos and is perhaps just as controversial as Mark Driscoll, though often for much different reasons. His latest book, “Love Wins” presents a much different view on hell than most other Evangelicals. I do not know if Driscoll and Bell know each other personally (I suspect they do), but I doubt there is much appreciation of one man for the other. Let’s agree to say they do not line up with each other doctrinally.

The third Mars Hill I know seems caught in the middle. It is pastored in Sacramento, California by a friend of mine, Scott Hagan. Scott planted another church years ago in the Sacramento area, then moved to pastor a mega-church in Michigan and is now back leading at Mars Hill in Sactown. I have Pastor Scott’s permission to share what I am going to write next. Several weeks ago, Scott and his Sacramento congregation received a “Cease and Desist” order which came from the Seattle Mars Hill Church.  They were told that the Seattle Mars Hill had copyrighted the name “Mars Hill” and they demanded that the California Mars Hill churches stop using the name and any logos with similar lettering.

I was flabbergasted. First, I could not believe that a church would try and copyright the name of their church. I suppose if you wanted to make some money on the side, you could lease the name out to others. (My friend Ken thought it would be smart to copyright the name “First Baptist” and stick franchise stickers on the name and concept…I applaud his entrepreneurial spirit). But to outright disallow others from using a name that is found in the Bible because you want a monicker and label that only recognizes YOU seems the very epitome of pride and arrogance.

Second, that a church would take legal action to require other churches to comply violates both the letter and the spirit of the Word of God. The Bible is explicit when we are told not to take other believers to court when the issues regard spiritual matters. The naming of a church is certainly a spiritual matter and it is hard to see how someone could theologically skirt around this.

Readers might be interested to know that Mark has preached on 1 Corinthians 6. Assuming the blog post cited above is true, and after reading the transcript of Mark’s sermon, I wonder if 1) he knew letter was being sent out, and 2) if he was aware of it, did he forget what he’d learned previously in teaching 1 Corinthians 6?

Literally thousands of churches in the United States alone have ‘Mars Hill’ in the name. Just do a search on Google – Mars Hill Church, Mars Hill Presbyterian, Mars Hill Baptist, Mars Hill Church of Christ, Mars Hill Pentecostal, etc., etc. – the list goes on and on.

To the folks allegedly pushing this from Mars Hill Seattle: other churches sharing the name ‘Mars Hill’ is neither a sin nor a crime. What biblical right do you have to threaten legal action or even request arbitration between yourselves and other churches unaffiliated with you for sharing it? It’s a name found in the New Testament for goodness sakes.

How does this action serve the gospel? How does this action reflect on Jesus and the church?

It is a cultural norm for businesses and corporations to copyright names and sue others who violate those copyrights, but come on – this is the church.

I know Mars Hill Seattle is a huge operation. If this letter was really sent, I’m going to assume it was blunder made by someone who didn’t know any better who acted outside of the authority of the church leadership. I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt.

But if my assumption is wrong and this was a move endorsed by the church leadership, you ought to be ashamed and need cease this behavior.

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Wasting Your Life?

So I’ve been having thoughts that I’m positive are unpopular.

I read a book a few years ago by everybody’s favorite Calvinist (or not), John Piper. The book is provocatively titled Don’t Waste Your Life.

Piper’s premise in Don’t Waste Your Life is simple – all of us were created in the image of God and bought by Jesus’ blood to bring glory to God. You’re either a Christ-follower, or God is calling you to be one. Those who accept that calling will live lives that glorify God, and those who don’t will waste their lives chasing after things that don’t ultimately matter.

Words etched into a plaque that hung above his mother’s kitchen sink when he was young shaped his thinking from an early age:

Only one life,
‘Twill soon be past.
Only what’s done,
For Christ will last.

So here’s what I’ve been pondering: when Christ-followers inhabit the New Heaven and New Earth, what will we reminisce about?

Will our thoughts be dominated by past headlines? Will we reminisce about the deeds and policies of former politicians, kings, and princes? Will we debate which technological advancements played the greatest role is shaping past society?

Or could it be the only things we will judge worthy of remembrance were those things done in the name of Jesus Christ? Could it be that those are the only things that will, in an ultimate sense, have a lasting impact?

I like Apple products. I appreciate being able to reap the benefits of the technological revolution spawned by the inventions of a brilliant mind. I am a fan of creativity, and believe it to be a characteristic of God infused in a humanity created in His image.

But will any great inventor’s inventions, in themselves, amount to a hill of beans in eternity?

Will we reminisce about them in the New Heaven and New Earth?

Or did the architect behind Apple Computers, despite his great impact on everyday life, waste his own?

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Fox News Headline Fail

So I just logged on to Facebook and saw where a friend of mine posted this:

That headline linked to a ridiculous story written by Fox News journalist Todd Starnes regarding Campus Crusade for Christ’s recent name change to Cru.

Why is it a ridiculous story? Because those running Cru did not change the name because of baggage associated with the name ‘Christ’ – they changed it because of baggage associated with the word ‘Crusade’.  Read all about it here and here.

I’m noticing a pattern here. When the folks at Fox News stick their noses in church business, they tend to blow it.

Nothing to see here, folks. Move on.

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