Mars Hill Church, planted and led by Pastor Mark Driscoll is one of the most influential mega-churches churches in the United States. They are the 43rd largest AND the 43rd fastest growing church in the USA. In my opinion, numbers only matter because they are potentially an indication of Holy Spirit actively changing lives and of Jesus’ name being known / multiplied in the nations.
Mars Hill is much more than a “big church”; they are a church that preaches the Gospel soundly, passionately, unapologetically, loudly, and devoutly. They also provide many many many many many (many many!) teaching and training resources to believers, non-believers, ministry leaders, and other churches.
Mars Hill recently launched a sermon series “God’s Story, Our Witness” (I really like that sermon series title!) by releasing a video that tells the story of Mars Hill from the beginning to today (the video located at the bottom of this post). The leaders and servants at Mars Hill Church were horribly and wonderful ill-equipped by all accounts. They would never have been capable of what’s been accomplished if not for the power of the Holy Spirit. That’s why I call it a God Story! Praise God for their obedience.
While it is no secret I am a fan of Driscoll’s direct, “intellectual”, and fervent teaching… The purpose of this “God Story” is NOT to extol Driscoll… but to praise God for the beautiful collision of the transforming power of the Holy Spirit with submitted, faithful, hard working disciples. As Christians, we should celebrate, learn from, be thankful for, be inspired by, and be driven to action by God’s work through and in other believers.
God’s Audible Instructions & Where They Are Today
To give an overview of this story, I’ll tell you the beginning / commission and where they are today. After being a high achieving, moral atheist… Pastor Mark gave his life to Christ while he was in college. When he was 19 years old, God audibly spoke to him and instructed him to do 4 specific things. Below is that list and the current status of God’s instructions 20 years later.
- Marry Grace (his then girlfriend)
Today, they have been married for many years and have 5 kids. They recently wrote and released a book, Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, and Life Together, together.
- Preach the Bible
Today, Mars Hill Church offers over 30 weekly services in 4 states to over 12,000 people. In 2011, over 10 MILLION sermons were accessed from Mars Hill Church’s website!
- Train Men / Leaders
Today, The Resurgence is the most highly trafficked ministry leadership blog on the internet and offers TONS of free and primo resources to leaders.
- Plant Churches
Today, The Acts 29 Church Planting Network has planted 400+ churches, with a combined attendance of 175,00, and maintains a 98% success rate.
He is also either a founder and leader for the following organizations, all of which fit into a the directives above… Who knows what else Mars Hill, Driscoll, and all the other leaders / pastors are involved with!
- Churches Helping Churches – “Churches Helping Churches is a global partnership of church communities who seek to rebuild other churches in the wake of a catastrophic natural disaster.”
- Re:Lit – A publishing a media ministry that’s branch of the Resurgence and works closely with Crossway Books. Note: I’ve read a few of the books published through RE:LIT… they are incredibly challenging and inspired.
- Re:Train – A missional training center and also a branch of the Resurgence.
- Re:Sound – The 3rd branch of the Resurgence that focuses on worship.
Several Highlights from the Mars Hill Story
I’m not going to tell you the full story because I could not do it justice… watch the video! However, below are a few highlights from it:
- Driscoll worked as a college pastor intern at Antioch Bible Church… the college ministry was called “Zoo Crew” (because they met at the Woodland Park Zoo) … haha!
- They once temporarily stole a soundboard from Antioch Bible Church because they had no other way of managing sound!
- After audibly hearing the voice of God at 19… when asked what God’s “sounded like”, Driscoll responded: “Well, he sounded like he was in charge, that’s for sure.”
- They lost their host building multiple times in the beginning. Once, they lost their building the same week their only computer (with the church’s only database) was stolen… so they had no way of notifying hundreds of people that they were moving .
- For a few years, Pastor mark was preaching 7 times each Sunday in 3 locations, and each sermon is typically 1-2 hours long.
- Their first Men’s “Conference” was quite compelling…
- Regarding the intensity and exhaustion of planting and growing Mars Hill, Driscoll said: “I was probably depressed for a decade. If God had not spoken to me to do this… there is NO way I could have done it.
- Mars Hill has been a pioneer since their early days. They were one of the firsts to have a website, offer sermons online for free, and create locally shepherded multi-site churches.
Driscoll on God’s Grace & Innovation
Pastor Mark offered an extremely powerful insight about God’s grace, their decisions and the result of not having an abundance of financial resources
“If you have money, you don’t have to innovate; you just purchase … I mean, one thing you’ll continually be able to theme and thread together in the story of God’s grace at Mars Hill Church is that things would go very, very wrong, very bad, and then it would force a season of creativity and innovation and commitment and toughness. And then the church would do things differently than other churches, and then the church would grow.
The worst seasons ended up becoming the most innovative. Out of sheer necessity, when you’re flat broke and on the brink of ceasing to exist, all of a sudden, in the grace of God, the Holy Spirit brings to you some creative people or some ideas or resources to do things in a way that other people, perhaps, haven’t done to that point. And then all of a sudden it works, and it opens up a whole new way of doing ministry, church planting, Internet use, sermon delivery, media, all of that.“
Driscoll Thought “God, do you hate me?” & The Right Questions
Below is a short, honest, and raw excerpt from the experience of planting and growing a church:
“So many years down the road, it’s like, yeah, it was awesome. Praise God, it was worth it, but in the middle of it it’s just like, “God, do you hate me?” And I mean, I remember literally having multiple conversations over the course of the decade with God. It’s like, “Okay, I know you’re sovereign. I just don’t know if you’re any good. I know you’re in charge, but I just don’t know if you’re nice. It seems like you hate me because this is horrible. Why would you do this to somebody and make them go through this?” And that was, I don’t know, ten to twelve years.
You know, I should’ve—the question I should’ve asked was, “God, how are you trying to change me?” Because, obviously, I had a lot to learn and repent of and grow, and I don’t believe that God does evil, but I believe he uses evil to do good. And he put me in a hard situation because I was pretty stubborn and tough and difficult. I still can be and often am, sadly.
And so, yeah, I should’ve asked questions like, “All right God, what am I supposed to learn? How am I supposed to change? What do you need me to do?” I should’ve asked questions like that instead. And sadly, I was asking God questions instead of asking me questions.”
Pastor Tim Smith: No Church Model “Works”… The Gospel Works
“Here’s the deal. No model works in itself. What works is preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. And where that is done faithfully and powerfully, God draws people to hear it and be changed by it. And I think the model is a lot less important than that heart of proclaiming the truth and the glory of Jesus. And that’s what he said because he said he builds his church. It’s not all on us.
Certainly we work hard, and certainly we want to steward his blessing and the grace that he’s given to us in every way possible, but what makes this thing happen is God. He’s the author and the sustainer, and we point to him. We want people to know him. And as that happens, by some crazy fluke of his grace, people show up and are changed by it. And for us to try to take credit for that in the middle of it would be arrogant and a complete deception on our part.”
Watch “God’s Work, Our Witness”
Click here for streaming and downloadable video and audio at Mars Hill’s website.
God, please continue to grow, change, and transform me to glorify you and preach the Good News with my mouth and actions.