Lessons from Mars Hill
I don’t know how many of you Have been following what is happening at one of our local megachurches, Mars Hill, but I thought it was worth reflecting of in the context of our Church and it’s history.
For those of you who are super confused right now, several months ago, Mark Driscoll, the dynamic pastor of Mars Hill, was accused of several administrative failings – including yelling at staff members and mishandling of finances. He was asked to step down but instead chose to go on a temporary leave. In the meantime, donations are down so much that the church has had to close 2 of its satellite locations and delay the opening if a third. And then this week the news reported that a Senior Elder (a member of the church administration) had stepped down.
In short, Mars Hill is in a bit of a tailspin. In reality, due to some not great, but certainly not scandalous, accusations against its pastor.
That made me pause and think for a minute. Because as a Catholic, I am part of a Church that has stood for almost 2000 years. and no one will every argue that we have a spotless history. We have had Popes commit terrible sins, we were part of one of the biggest misguided “Holy Wars” in all of history and were killing people in the name of the faith without justification (I am, of course, referring to the Crusades). And our modern history is not all that much better – look at the priest scandal that rocked our Church in recent years.
But with all that history – here we are, 1.2 billion strong. So what makes us so different from Mars Hill? I believe the answer lies in who we are at our very core and on whom we rely for guidance and direction.
The beauty of the Catholic Church is that we recognize that we are a holy institution run by fallible humans. What dates that mean? It I means that we know that we cannot rely on our own wisdom, our old own strength, or our own truth to guide the mission, life and direction of the Church. We are cognizant that, as humans, we can and will fail – a lot – and that if that is the foundation on which we are building our kingdom, than that kingdom is bound to fall eventually.
So instead we rely on the Holy Spirit to guide us. We seek God’s wisdom, God’s strength, and God’s Truth to lead the Church – knowing that through Him, all things are possible, and without Him, nothing is. And in doing so, we are raising up a Kingdom that points not to any earthly person or institution, but rather to the eternal Being and heaven itself. And that is the only kingdom that will stand forever.
Now, I want to be clear here – I am in no way trying to say that Mars Hill Church is not Christian or that Jesus is not present there or in the hearts and minds of the congregation members and Mark Driscoll.
Rather, what I am saying is that what we see happening there should point us towards e strength of our universal and apostolic Church. Mars Hill is a church founded by one mortal man based largely of his ideology and theology – so it should not be surprising that, at least to some degree, the congregation become disciples of Mark Driscoll, instead of fully disciples of Jesus Christ. And it should not be too surprising that when that figure fell, the church he founded began following close behind.
As Catholics, we have almost 2000 years of history, Tradition, and wisdom from which to build upon. We have the insights of the doctors of the church and countless other ancient and modern theologians. And of course, we have Sacred Scripture, which, while we are free and encouraged to read and interpret how God is speaking to us on our own, we entrust the “final word” not to a single mortal man or woman, but rather to a succession of men that ties us back to Peter, and ultimately therefore, Jesus, Himself.
I believe that is why our Church has survived for so many years and through so much adversity – both big and small. We do not lean on the wisdom, personailty, or interpretation of any single human to hold our community together. We lean on the immovable and unchanged, God of the Universe and the countless men and women he has inspired to lead us through the centuries.