Over the past several months my heart has broken as I watched the demise of one of America’s largest multi-site churches, Mars Hill
Admittedly, I don’t know a lot about Mars Hill or their senior pastor, Mark Driscoll. I have only heard occasional soundbites over the last 15 years as their church grew from a handful meeting in a home to over 13,000 spread across 15 campuses. The fall of this mega-church and their high profile pastor is tragic. (you can read about it here)
Even more tragic is the collateral damage that has been done to the bride of Christ and her reputation among the lost.
As in any failure, there are lessons to be learned and several which I believe relate directly to my own church and leadership.
LESSONS FROM MARS HILL
1. The foundation of the church is the person of Jesus not the personality of a pastor.
Ephesians 1:22 firmly establishes who the real star of the church is. Our ministries must make clear that Jesus is the only irreplaceable personality in the church. All other positions are there merely to assist the work of the Master. One way we do this at ORBC is by using multiple teaching pastors. This demonstrates that although we are led by one senior pastor, he does not hold a corner on the market of anointing or leadership.
2. The function of the church is to make disciples not multiply dependents.
As we intentionally work to multiply locations, it is important that we view our role as equipping new works, not franchising new dependents. Our multi-site model allows for significant empowerment at our local campuses. We want to create a legacy of healthy, vibrant churches that have been given the tools to become successful disciple-making centers for their respective cities.
3. The fabric of the church is character not charisma.
We’ve spent thousands of dollars and hours in our recent staff searches. We’ve told every candidate that we’ve interviewed that our approach to the staff search is not to just fill a spot, but to find a spouse. That means we are taking the time to look carefully at each candidate’s calling, love for God, and personal integrity. Our multi-site model depends on godly leadership on each campus. We believe everything rises and falls on leadership and with leaders CHARACTER trumps CHARISMA every time.
4.The future of the church is determined by depth not breadth.
When we initially announced our DREAM to expand to 10 campuses running 10,000 in 10 years, we made two mistakes. First, we placed too much emphasis on the numbers themselves. 10x10x10 is a great goal and we are still using that as our template for the future, but we hold all of our goals loosely in the hands of our God. Our vision is about people, not buildings or sites. Our goal is to impact families with the life-changing love of Jesus Christ. We must never lose sight of that.
Second, we must never let the plan determine our pace. We will do all that we can to advance our vision, but we must never feel we should hurry God up. That plan didn’t work well for Saul (1 Sam 13). We make our plans but God determines our pace. Slow and steady beats rapid and reckless every time.
We probably won’t hit 10,000 in 10 years (2020), but that’s okay with me. I’d rather leave a legacy of 3 or 4 strong church campuses with godly leadership than 10 churches that are destined to crumble faster than they were built.
Please say a prayer for Mark Driscoll, his family, and the thousands of people who were impacted by Mars Hill.
Please pray for the ORBC leadership to stay focused as we seek to expand God’s kingdom for God’s glory.