Last Sunday was an interesting one.
I visited two churches while in Seattle for the weekend.
First, I visited one of the fourteen Mars Hill locations. We sang some good songs, and watched a sermon via video recording from Mark Driscoll. Having seen Mark speak at Catalyst, I have to say he’s more engaging in person, but the video was very well produced.
Later that night, I visited St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. The sanctuary is one of the most magnificent rooms I’ve ever occupied. It’s square shape, wooden beams, great columns and glass panels at the front vaguely reminded me of how I imagine Solomon’s temple looked. I was there to hear a choir of monks singing.
Two churches which could not be more different. And their differences didn’t stop with style. If you were the kind of person who gambled, which church would you bet on still being here in a hundred years?
Old School Contemporary
Mars Hill has a lot going for it. You could not find a more contemporary feeling church, with it’s worship music, it’s ultra-modern facility and its use of technology. They have fourteen franchises, er campuses, and we were told it takes two-thousand man hours each week to keep the Mars Hill machine running.
And they have Mark. Mark, Mark, Mark. Mark Driscoll in a lot of ways strikes me as the polar opposite of the church he runs. He’s old school. When it comes to theology or contemporary social issues, he’s unabashedly, hard-headedly conservative. And he makes no apologies. The sermon he was giving was about the dangers of apostasy (backsliding) and how tolerating sin leads to the death of churches.
And yes, he did mention adultery, fornication, and homosexuality as three biggies when it comes to apostasy. You probably already know he’s very outspoken about all three of those. And he’s preaching in a city that loves all three of those things.
Contrast that to St. Marks. If you have never visited an Episcopal service, you should at least once in your life. It’s full of pagentry and drama. They really know how to create the feeling of God’s presence.
What was unusual about St. Mark’s that night were all of the young people. And they weren’t just sitting quietly in the pews. They were scattered around the communion table, where the priests do their work. They were laying on the floor, on pillows, on their backs, wherever they found a comfy spot.
The church was also decorated with very long banners, streaming across the ceiling, all converging at the highest point of the room. They came in every color of the rainbow. I was impressed…for a few minutes.
Then I remembered…
Just before the monks sang, the church was holding a gay and lesbian “mixer.” I wondered how many of these young people were leftover from that. The streamers across the ceiling were no longer just colorful cloth. They were every color of the rainbow. If you had asked Mark Driscoll, this church was completely apostate, and in danger of collapse.
Who Will God Strike Down First?
So, if I lived in Seattle, would I become a member of either church?
Yes, I want gays to come to church. But how far does a church have to go to be welcoming to everyone? How high do we have to fly the rainbow flag? I’ve seen pastors wearing rainbow colored robes, and they weren’t playing the part of Joseph. When you fly rainbow streamers over the cross at the front of the sanctuary, what is the focus? When all you do is affirm, affirm, affirm, are people ever going to be able to focus on what God is saying to them? I didn’t see any heterosexual banners to welcome me.
On the other hand, I could choose a conservative but undoubtedly strong church like Mars Hill. But there’s no doubt that Mars Hill is the Mark Driscoll Show. He’s a great communicator and leader. But there’s no way he knows the spiritual needs of the people. You might even be able to argue that he’s not really a pastor. People complain in big churches when their pastors are unapproachable. Now multiply that by fifteen. The man is not even physically present. But he’s present in digital form. And he’s present in written form in the bookstore (which carried all of his books and not much else.) It is unthinkable to conceive of Mars Hill without Mark Driscoll.
Now, which one is more idolatrous, apostate, heretical and in danger of collapse? The cult of homosexuality…or the cult of personality?