Franchise Player?

Mark Driscoll revealed today that Mars Hill Church is going to open an out-of-state campus in a different time zone as part of the church’s strategy to grow to 100 campuses globally. Driscoll’s preaching will no longer be satellite-fed in real-time; rather, sermons at the Ballard campus will be captured on video and mailed out on DVD to the other campuses, to be shown the following week. Media will not be uploaded for podcast/vodcast until after it’s been seen/heard at all MHC campuses.

What do you guys think about this development? I guarantee it will stir some lively in-house discussions within Acts 29. On the one hand, if you had to choose between a non-gospel-preaching church or a Mars Hill campus, wouldn’t you choose the latter? The model will undoubtedly work, because Driscoll is one of the most gifted and engaging preachers in the world right now (and an all-around faithful, enjoyable, godly man). So if a Mars Hill campus strategy allows for the spread of the gospel and the reaching of more people for Jesus, it’s hard to argue against.

On the other hand, there are some potential drawbacks.

  1. Does this lead toward a “franchise” model of church?
  2. Does this work against contextualizing the gospel – especially in preaching – to a particular city-culture? What makes Driscoll so great is that he knows his context. He preaches to Seattle. But Seattle is not the same as Dallas or London or Omaha.
  3. Does this become a substitute for church planting? Let’s take a hypothetical city-center and compare the cost and risk of a) dropping a Mars Hill campus there vs. b) raising up a properly gifted and qualified lead planter who will gather gospel missionaries and form the nucleus of a new church plant. A) wins, hands-down. It costs less, it’s less risky, and it’s WAY easier to find a qualified campus pastor than a qualified church planter. Plus, when it comes to quality preaching, Driscoll beats out almost every church planter. Does the ease of reproducing a successful formula work against raising up faithful church planters who will give their lives to shape a faithful gospel witness within a city?
  4. Does this work against training men to preach? You only learn to preach by preaching. But if I have the choice between suffering under the preaching of a young church planter who’s just learning vs. sitting under one of the world’s best (and still having a local campus pastor to do the hands-on, people-focused work), the latter seems more desirable. This new model, if accepted broadly, would seem to move the church at large in the direction of outsourcing our preaching to a handful of very gifted men, essentially removing preaching from the average pastor’s job description. (Maybe that’s a long-shot scenario, but it does seem like an implication of this model.)



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  1. This is one of the most challenging aspects of Acts 29 to me right now. Or is it just a MHC thing? To me that part of this is confusing in and of itself, what is A29 and what is MHC. But putting that aside, I think their model is wise to a point because they are capitalizing on Driscoll’s celebrity. A brand-new strategy will be needed if Driscoll gets struck by lightning or hit by a truck. I would add to your questions, Bob, whether this is truly a Christ-centered and gospel-centered approach? It seems intrinsically wed to one man, which to me seems to run counter to my understanding of what church and gospel are. And this is coming from me, a huge and unrepentant fan of Mark Driscoll.

  2. I don’t think I like this. I think there are benefits, many of which you mentioned. But at the end of the day, I know it would make me feel distant from my leaders. I understand that as church planters, our pastors have a lot going on. And I do not expect to hang out with the pastors on a regular basis. But even the live feed would seem like the pastors are disengaged from the body. What I love about Coram Deo’s preaching is that you guys know your audience and what its specific spiritual needs are. I honestly don’t know if better preaching is an acceptable substitute for being involved in the people’s lives that you preach to. (Not to say that solid relationships can make up for lousy preaching.) It is hard for me to appreciate this method…I don’t think it would work for Omaha, maybe it will for the tech-savvy northwesterners.

    I can appreciate Driscoll’s goal of bringing solid preaching and the Gospel to as many people as possible, and I can appreciate that he is trying to think of creative and efficient ways to do it. But, for me, it boils down to this: would you rather have a cheeseburger from McDonalds or one from Goldbergs? The former is easy, efficient, and can be good. But the latter is sooo much better.

  3. Honestly, I don’t like the idea at all. He already makes his sermons available, and a lot of guys I know have benefited from that, but it is not a substitute for a local preacher who knows the local culture and the specific needs of a church community. If I just want good general teaching, I can get that by reading. It’s more efficient that way.

    I don’t like that it seems to set MD up as a reformed hipster pope.
    I think it encourages a consumer/audience culture within the church.
    I think it is bad for Mark’s ego.
    It seems like a fad that will blow up then collapse on itself leaving a lot of people looking foolish. Like Jon said, what happens if MD isn’t in the picture.

    So many reasons to hate this. Perhaps the worst thing it has already done is introduced yet another professional sports metaphor. “franchise” (at least I hope it is a sports metaphor, because comparing church to a fast-food chain is even more distasteful.)

  4. What are the long term implications of this strategy? Even if Driscoll preaches until he’s 95, what will keep MHC and these potential franchises going for the benefit of those who will be following Jesus after the current crop of popular preachers is gone? At least local church planting stands a chance of developing solid, local preachers with a relational, long-term commitment to certain peoples and places. The question it brings to my mind is this: Is MHC and Acts 29 just trying to carry the baton for the next 50 years before the movement flames out like so many others before it, or is it aiming to be force for the gospel for the generations to come? My initial impression is that this a very, very shortsighted strategy for mass “church evangelism.”

    That said, I reacted very strongly against local multi-site churches, but further investigation of Driscoll’s teaching on the issue has changed my mind somewhat. We’ll see.


  5. Before the debates/conversations go on, I think it is wise to reflect on the following verses…

    “Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed.Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail.” –
    Acts 5:16-18

    “On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and talked abusively against what Paul was saying.” – Acts 13:44-45

    I think that before anyone criticizes Driscoll or Mars Hill, they should reflect on their own hearts to see if there is any Pharisaic jealousy. You might have a “yeast of the Pharisee” infection that Jesus told us would flare up.

    I echo Bob’s concerns about not wanting these MH campuses to be substitutes for great church plants and to hinder in any way the development of preaching of local pastors. However, I’m not certain that the 100 Mars Hill campuses will affect those things.

    Some thoughts…

    1) Limiting the Spirit: God is using Mark in a huge way. We all know that. So, why should they limit or localize his influence in any way? Why shouldn’t MH ride the wave of the Spirit here so that thousands of more can be saved?

    2) Celebrity criticism: Yes, there are Christian celebrities and some of them are idols to many people. Where should the blame go? On the people who are idolizing the popular leader or the leader who is just doing what God wants him to do? Do you think Paul should have kept his ministry more local because he might have become a celebrity or because he might have been tempted by pride? The Spirit will do what the Spirit wants to do. Spreading the gospel to thousands of people might just be more of a priority than my celeb-idolatry problem.

    3) Hindering Preaching and Planting: As a Calvinist, I honestly think that if a dude is called by God to be a church planter God will rise him up and get er’ done. I don’t think that a called church planter with a big teaching/preaching gift will sign up to be a Mars Hill campus pastor. They will go elsewhere. So, we shouldn’t rule out the possibility that Mars Hill will plant 100 campuses and in addition, the guys are feeling the itch to be church planters will also go and plant more churches. The result: More people worshiping Jesus. As a bonus, perhaps the new Mars Hill campuses will surface new dudes who will go out and plant a church of their own.

    In light of my limited wisdom and 20-something arrogance, I don’t claim to have the answer here. But, I hope that this added some value to the conversation.

  6. PS:

    1) I don’t like formulas. What I’m not saying is that if Mars Hill strategy works, that everyone should do it. In fact, I think it would tragic if other churches tried the same thing. Missiology should be Spirit-driven (case by case scenario), not a formula.

    2) When Driscoll dies, there will no doubt be a huge implications. But I still don’t buy into the idea that this 100 campus idea should be prevented because “he might die”. Many campuses “could be” shut down right away if something were to happen to Driscoll, but does that negate the influence that he will have from now till then? Should Charles H. Spurgeon have kept his church under 500 (instead of 5,000) while he was alive for fear that he might die – therefore minimizing the problems that “might” come about?

  7. Largely, my thoughts on this model are positive and I will give some reasons why:

    1) Ephesians 4:6 – An enhanced awareness in the sovereignty of God. God is not surprised by this nor will he be surprised by its success or failure.
    2) Hebrews 13:17 – I think Mark Driscoll knows he is going to have to give an account of this and discernment tells me that he (and the elders at Mars Hill) was probably faithful to the process (prayer, fasting, council, research, biblical study, and the like)
    3) Pretty much all of Romans 12 – Could Pastor Mark faithfully serve the roll of teacher so that others could serve in those equal, yet distinct roles such as serving, encouraging, leading, ect (vs. 7)? They certainly are conforming to the pattern of the world either (vs 2). And it appears to be full of zeal (vs 11) and hope (vs 12).

    I can understand and empathize with peoples reservations but in my mind, the positives outweigh the negatives…

  8. Please excuse my spelling error in my previous post. It was suppose to say:

    “They certainly are NOT conforming to the pattern of the world either (vs 2).”

    Sorry about that I thought that needed clarification.

  9. Throughout the history of the church, God has often used the celebrity and popularity of certain men to bring the gospel to the masses. In the early church, letters written by famous Christian leaders to specific congregations (i.e. Paul’s letters, Ignatius’ letters, Clement’s letters, etc.) were copied and passed along to congregations all over the Roman Empire, where they were then read on Sunday mornings. In a sense, they were the original “tape delay” sermons. Even though the letters were often very specific to the problems of the church that they were written to, they were still useful for believers everywhere.

    In America in the mid 18th century, George Whitfield was more well-known and popular than any other person, even George Washington (who had gained fame as a general in the French and Indian War). Thousands of people would come to hear him preach everywhere he went, not necessarily because they wanted to hear the gospel, but rather because he was a great speaker and orator. God used his celebrity and fame to plant the seeds that led to the first Great Awakening.

    Obviously, Driscoll preaching a sermon every Sunday and then sending it to 100 others churches is not an exact parallel to letters written by early Christians, some of which were inspired Scripture. But the point is that just because Driscoll is not living in a particular city doesn’t mean he won’t have something useful to say to people in that city. It will be the job of the campus pastors to be in the lives of their people, addressing specific issues in different ways than preaching a sermon on Sunday.

    Having said that, there is obvious danger to this plan. First of all, it will place a great burden on Mark Driscoll. He openly admits to struggling with pride and ego, and he will need to humbly submit to the guidance of other mature Christian leaders around him (something which he seems to be very willing to do, as far as I can tell).

    Second, there is the danger of people buying wholeheartedly into the “Mars Hill” brand, but not into Jesus. I think it’s human nature to identify ourselves with certain labels and brands that are easily seen and visible. That’s why I have five Boston Celtics t-shirts, and why I spend an extra twenty dollars to buy the “Jordan” brand of basketball shoes. We do the same thing with our faith. That’s why the “Purpose-Driven” brand is so popular, or why hip, trendy Calvinists love to buy “Jonathan Edwards is my homeboy” t-shirts. It’s easy to identify ourselves by the things we consume; But the way of Jesus is to identify ourselves by who we are and how we live, and that’s a much tougher thing to do. Hopefully, people don’t equate going to a Mars Hill Church campus, listening to Mark’s sermons and buying all of his books with being a disciple of Jesus.

  10. I really don’t like the idea, but I can’t exactly fault Driscoll for doing it. There is certainly a void of gospel-centered leaders, and he’s simply filling that void. I would hope that this move would spur pastors to “man up” and take charge of their congregations/plant churches in their own communities so that Mark could devote more time to his congregation.

    To answer Bob’s questions:
    1) I do think it leads to a franchise model, because everyone is just working from the same “recipe” if you will, which eliminates the need for creativity and responsibility within that particular church. I think it limits the potential leaders there. If they aren’t ready to actually lead yet, I can appreciate the guidance they’ll get from Driscoll, but in some ways it just encourages complacency and essentially makes them babysitters for the congregation.

    2) Similarly related, some franchises don’t work in certain parts of the country, you know? Fried chicken is probably more popular in the South. Driscoll talks so much about Seattle being unique as a largely unchurched community, so that postmodern vibe isn’t the case everywhere.

    3/4) I understand that it’s good to learn from the best, but I thought that’s what those Acts 29 bootcamps were for. If you could guarantee that this plan would strictly be a short-term thing, like a jump-start to help launch the church, that’s fine. However, I think human nature is much lazier and apt to take advantage of not having to do anything.

  11. I have no problem with the idea – as Hannah said at the conference all these methodologies are man made and destined to fail. Ride them as far as you can and get off. That said, I do see some areas of concern:

    1) The Driscoll fanboys will no longer be able to excuse his sometimes over the top preaching methods by claiming he is simply speaking in a way that is effective with his pagan Seattle audience. By the time he gets to 100 he will be preaching to some very un-Seattle like audiences. What audience will he target in his sermon?

    2) For all the talk of being missional, this is classic attractional ministry. Driscoll is the attraction and he’s going to leverage his popularity to start 100 new venues. Good for him. But it’s not missional.

    3) Bob’s point #4: Stunning and so on the mark. Driscoll has made such a huge contribution to the church with his call for men to stand up, step up, and lead. This strategy seems to move in the opposite direction telling the young pastor to sit down, be quiet, hand out hugs to those who need them, and leave the preaching to the superstar. Why not invest your resources in training thousands of young preachers to preach? Provide Boot Camp like training, coaching, and regular feedback.

  12. My first reaction is that of repulsion. But I’m also learning that I personally can’t trust my initial reactions. I also don’t like the idea of a mega-church but I have no good scriptural anti-mega-church support and God seems to be using Mars Hill and Driscoll quite a bit. After a tiny bit more thought, I think this could go either way in the end. It seems to me that if Driscoll is consistently depending on the Holy Spirit’s leading and if what he does is not in opposition to scripture, then why not do it? There are certainly some very valid concerns that have been well listed here and I’m sure Driscoll and the rest of the elders at Mars Hill have thought them over as well.

    As far as Bob’s points 3 and 4, I think those are possible dangers, however as good as Driscoll is, he’s not THAT good. I’m sure there will be plenty of people in these “franchised” cities that will prefer Burger King over McDonalds. 🙂

  13. I’m pretty uncomfortable with this. What do you think Driscoll’s logic is? I’m sure he’s thought this through, so I’m curious what his rationale is.

    I agree that seems to be counter-productive to planting. What makes this more complex is that Driscoll does a ton in support of planting (heck, the church I’m a member of now is a granddaughter church of Mars Hill). I wonder how he sees two streams interacting.

  14. Well, I actually contacted MHC about starting a campus and seeing what would be involved, etc. . . .

    Bottom line, multi-campus ministry is here to stay (my current church in Boulder has a site 20 miles away). So, although I agree with all the concerns mentioned,. . . . it’s a bit late to be expressing some of these concerns because Mars Hill has already started other campuses.

    Even though they’ve been close to Seattle, there are also other A29 PLANTS close to Seattle that could be “undermined” by a Driscoll campus. So, this dynamic is not new.

    Bottom line, Driscoll has promised to continue planting churches and continuing to plant campuses for MHC, they’ve committed to both. I guess we’ll have to trust MHC and A29 that they won’t plant a campus that would interfere with a church plant and vice versa.


    ps. Incidently, I don’t find the multi-site format to be any more/less dangerous regarding “franchising” than many other church plants/networks/denominations that have had similar strategies in the past.

  15. I am reading through Corinthians right now, and the telechurch issue seems to be similar to the leadership differences the Corinthians were going through in their relationship to Paul and Apollos. Our present situation is a little different in that we are not openly quarreling like the Corinthians were, but even so, I thought I’d apply some of what Paul said to our situation.

    I want to preface with an agreement with Nathan over God’s sovereign control, specifically in how that makes this interesting and not that frightening. In ch. 1 and 2, Paul emphasized that the Spirit is foremost in our faith’s development, even in the spread of the gospel (see also 2 Tim 2:12). I think that this mindset may account for the reason he was so seemingly undisturbed by the differences in leadership in talked about in ch. 3: He was so mellow about giving Apollos control. “What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.” (3:5-6) I realize that speaking generally like that doesn’t resolve the telechurch differences, but considering Paul’s response made me check how much stock I was putting in a method rather than the Spirit. In other words, it isn’t going to be ruining my night (that one’s for you Micah). Paul said that he laid the foundation of Jesus Christ, so “let each one take care how he builds upon it” because it’ll get tested by fire on that Day (3:10-15).

    For the questions Bob asked, I mostly looked to chapter 4, which has the heading “The Ministry of the Apostles” in my Bible. I only found more questions for Bob’s first 2 questions. I realize how ministry then and now is a big issue, and it probably requires a more thorough look at scripture, but I thought I’d still post some of these observations, despite how I may be pitching a a big, fat homerun to somebody more capable on the subject. That’s okay with me.

    1. on the franchise bit:

    Didn’t Paul have a franchise model of the church? From 4:15-17 you have one method for many churches. Timothy went to Corinth, I suppose, to sort out the particulars of contextualization, but wasn’t he there as a representative of a centralized ministry?

    “For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me. That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church.” (4:15-17)

    2. on contextualization:

    Are we over-stressing the importance of contextualizing the gospel? The Corinthian’s were making too much of the differences between them, that much is clear. Perhaps that has some application when considering how important contextualization is in our modern church plants. Isn’t the gospel itself the binding agent?

    “I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (4:6-7)

    e beast

  16. An element that I think has been almost entirely missing from the discussion so far is the role of accessibility to the preacher. Can it be faithfully deduced from 1 Tim. 3 that “above reproach” and all its outworkings must be fleshed out in real life? In other words, beyond the contextualization of the message to the specific culture, doesn’t the actual presence and life of the teacher/preacher have a significant place in ministry? Does anybody else see a huge drawback to a local congregation in their teaching pastor being someone who lives across the country? To me this is a huge issue that has been generally left out of any discussions of mega-church, multi-site, etc.

  17. Jon, you raise an interesting point. I wonder though, who it is that is to judge whether or not an elder is above reproach? Is it the congregation’s job or is it the other elders who serve with the man in question? I’m not sure that the requirement is that everyone in the congregation should have sufficient access to the elder’s life to have personal evidence of the elder being above reproach.

  18. My intention was to ask the question, not make an assertion. You somewhat pose a false choice, which is that either the elders see an elder above reproach or every single member of the congregation. I would posit that in the situation MHC is entering into, it is possible that no one in the congregation at the new location would truly have any idea whether the preacher was living above reproach and that flies in the face of my understanding of the New Testament. I recognize my understanding may be flawed, and am open to correction.

    The incarnational ministry of that man’s testimony will also be missing from the distant congregation, although there is precedent here perhaps in someone like Paul in his interaction with the churches. My counterpoint is that Paul’s letters did not replace preaching. Perhaps MHC has a plan for Driscoll or whoever else preaches to “make the rounds” in some form or another during the year.

    At the very least this is a challenge not anticipated directly in the New Testament, an opportunity caused by technology. I personally am not anxious to join a gathering where the preaching leadership can be debilitated by a failure of the power grid.

  19. Jon and Travis,

    MHC makes you come out and be “assessed” much like a church planter would be, and perhaps even take some training/classes before you would get to launch a campus. (although much less strenuous than a planter’s assessment I would think).

    So, the “accountability” regarding Driscoll would come from guys who are approved by MHC and are “vouching” for Driscoll because MHC essentially sent them out to launch the campus.

    That doesn’t remove all the questions you have, but I don’t think Driscoll and/or MHC is as “disconnected” from the campuses as you guys may be implying (let me know if I’m mis-representing you there).


  20. o If preaching is a “product” from a man not accessible to a local gathering, with the caveat that an elder in that local church has “vouched” for that preacher, why not get your “product” from the very best scholar-pastor or pastor-scholar out there today? (i.e., make D. A. Carson or John Piper the Sunday gathering teacher of every American church.)

    o Is interaction with the gathering while preaching not of key importance? (If you throw a shoe at Bob the next time he is preaching, you will get a real live reaction. You can shoot a grenade launcher at the screen and Driscoll won’t know the difference. Tell me this doesn’t rub your missional/incarnational/Bible/human bones the wrong way.)

    o Are elders accountable to the congregation in any form? If there is a biblical mandate at any level for this type of accountability, does that affect this conversation?

  21. At what point does the congregation itself begin to stand on its own feet? Who appoints the local elders? What if the local elders feel led to appoint a speaker from within? What happens with regional peculiarities? Things in my backyard are very different from where MHC sits. What happens if their is a national or international “event” that needs to be addressed? Does the distant congregation have to wait a whole week to be addressed?

    I just read “Franchising McChurch” and I have all kinds of new questions. Anyone else picked this one up yet?

  22. Well, I can only speak from observing a Northpoint church (Atlanta) campus here in Colorado.

    I think you guys are devaluing the role of campus pastor a little bit (that might be too strong a word, but. . . at any rate. . . not thinking enough of his role).

    There are announcements to be made, spiritual responses to be led, . . teaching (10 times a year), the sacraments administered, planning the gathered worship, speaking into small group/kids/S.S. curriculum, etc. . . .

    Basically, “regional peculiarities” and events that need addressing are not neglected because you can take time to talk about all of those things in your service and/or small groups.

    Northpoint is totally off the grid as it relates to time, they are sending sermon series’ that were preached months ago. So, the fact that MHC is sending them out one week late is not problematic for me.

    Basically, campuses are letting MHC dictate the preaching/theology/topics of their large group gatherings, . . . All other elder functions are still enacted by the campus pastors/elders (and, yes Mark D. would be one of the de-facto elders of their campus, as he is in Seattle. . . the teaching elder) There is plenty of bandwidth to address local things when needed.


  23. “My intention was to ask the question, not make an assertion. You somewhat pose a false choice, which is that either the elders see an elder above reproach or every single member of the congregation. I would posit that in the situation MHC is entering into, it is possible that no one in the congregation at the new location would truly have any idea whether the preacher was living above reproach and that flies in the face of my understanding of the New Testament. I recognize my understanding may be flawed, and am open to correction.”

    I get ya. I’m just saying I don’t necessarily think that it’s the congregation’s job to decide whether or not the elders are above reproach. I’m not saying that the congregation should be excluded from that, just that to expect to know your pastor well enough to judge for yourself is a little bit much IMO. True, these campuses may not ever see Driscoll in person, I just don’t see that as as big of a problem as you have made it out to be. Besides, how many of us who attend or are members of Coram Deo know Bob and Will well enough to really know if they are above reproach? You need to depend on the plurality of elders among other things to be sure the elder in question is a qualified elder. I think Driscoll has good men around him to besure he is still qualified.

  24. for those of you that think this is a good idea, i’m curious: how would your reaction be if a megachurch, such as willow creek (thats one right?), did this? would you have a similar reaction to the one you have now?

    to me, this seems like it goes against some of the principles of acts 29, namely:

    “We believe that our local churches must be faithful to the continually changing context of the culture(s) in which they minister.”

    i don’t care whether or not he is qualified. he could be the greatest man since jesus, and i would still think its a bad strategic decision. it seems like this, if carried out to the extent they are planning, is taking american christianity in a horrible direction. the kind of direction that will give us a major hangover, leaving many christians on the defensive in years to come.

  25. Hey Roomie,

    Not agreeing or disagreeing with you, but you can’t make the statement…

    “it seems like this, if carried out to the extent they are planning, is taking american christianity in a horrible direction. the kind of direction that will give us a major hangover, leaving many christians on the defensive in years to come.”

    ….without giving us a little explanation as to why you think that. Otherwise it doesn’t really further the discussion any.


  26. Churches have been doing stuff like this for years. A few examples I know about:

    Back in the early 80s, in Virginia Beach, Rock Church (a large Pentecostal/Charismatic church) began broadcasting sermons by satellite to “satellite churches” all across the country, with pastor and bishop of all Rock Churches, John Giminez.

    Woodmen Valley Chapel, our church in Colorado Springs, planted a satelitte church ten years ago and it continues to thrive. They have a praise team at the church plant that plays along with the on-screen team from the mother church. WVC are planning for a second such church plant.

    Some people who were disgruntled with the first church plant started another church, which has 500 people! Man, how the Lord gets anything done, with just US tow ork with.

    Willowcreek Community Church has four other campuses, with Bill Hybels preaching live by screen. I know one of the pastors, Marcus Bieschke. He is a great pastor/teacher type and is called to that growing ministry.

    And right here in Omaha, Christ Community Church has a second campus, in a school building in Bellevue, with Pastor Mark Ashton preaching by screen. CCC has a vision of planting many more such kinds of churches. Pastor Mark came from Willowcreek, so has lots of WCC experience.

    I just read all your posts and agree with a lot of what you guys said. It bugs me to look at a screen and not even be able to greet the pastor.

    But when we are in an unreached city like Omaha or Seattle, I think we’ve got to be flexible. After all, it’s not about us!

    May the Word of God greatly increase. May people come to Christ. Heaven and hell are the bottom line.

    May we all catch the vision and become real missionaries, blooming where we’re planted.

  27. Frock,

    you’re absolutely right. that was quite unfair. first, i should have prefaced it by saying something like, “I fear that…” Because truthfully its an opinion in an area in which i have almost no expertise, and it is likely that i will be wrong in the future. I hope i am.

    Now to explain what was going through my head:

    I think that a lot of people find christianity quite unpalatable and many would say they have been “burned by the church” – christians and non-christians alike. much of this, i suppose, has to do with the sin of actual christians or maybe the hard realities of the gospel. but i think some of it also has to do with the brand of christianity that is being offered. i think many who are not in the church see what churches are doing today as irrelevant and kind of silly. i am just wondering if this isn’t just a new version of the same trend in christianity of going big (but this time going big in a fractionated way that obscures its enormity) and each person getting exactly what he wants out of a church on his own terms. is this a band-aid fix to the hard realities of church planting (sort of getting at bob’s question #3)? i recently took care of a guy that had a bone infection that had been smoldering for 20 years, kept at bay by oral antibiotics. these antibiotics had no hope of curing him just limiting the spread. what he needed was surgery to get rid of the infected bone and intravenous antibiotics but he/we had no access to either (this was in another country). so we gave him oral antibiotics and changed his wound dressing (he had pus leaking from his skin), knowing that what we were doing was a drop in the bucket. i perceive that this 100 satellites thing may be more like the oral antibiotics.

    i think those who are making the decision to move forward with this may rightly look at this as taking advantage of technology and the celebrity of mark driscoll for the purpose of expanding the kingdom of god. that could be absolutely correct and i think there is certainly truth in that. but i think we should also consider the alternate possibility that we may emerge 100 churches later with people having a new reason to dismiss christianity an absurdity, because it seems to me that people that aren’t christians often don’t reject true christianity but rather the caricature that that is presented in pop culture. 100 churches would almost make this the dominant form of christianity, especially if more big churches latch onto this as i suppose would be the case. and i find 100 churches globally, watching a taped sermon, to be kind of a silly goal, and i suspect that i may not be alone. further, i wonder if this huge satellite thing will be unpalatable for many in a decade or so (side note: if you haven’t noticed, this is really the premise of my argument, so if people do not in the future think its absurd then this line of thought will certainly collapse upon itself).

    let me now offer concessions and caveats:
    – this is only a thought of what could be. it is not even necessarily my opinion, but only to raise the question. for how can we anticipate and plan for that which we have not considered?

    – i don’t think that satellite campuses are bad (or silly as i previously called them) in general, just the goal of 100. on the contrary i think satellite campuses can have a lot of value. i merely think they ought to be more of a temporary strategy until new leaders can be raised, but they don’t appear to be a good long-term permanent strategy. what i am saying, therefore, is open to correction if, indeed, these churches are not meant to permanently exist as satellites. at some point, i would hope that they would be weaned from the DVD.

    – my comment wasn’t meant to rouse discussion, because i probably won’t even defend it with any vigor it because it is quite rudimentary. this is simply my initial reaction, and thats all it can be because its outside of my expertise. additionally, its built on a limited breadth of experience, which is that i know myself and i have interacted with people in omaha. it is more than possible, that i am incorrectly extrapolating my experience.

    hope that helps frock


  28. There is some really good debating going on here! I’m sorry I was traveling and missed out on most of it. My thoughts will echo what some of the people have written before and hopefully provide some good new insight.

    Many things concerned me as I read the original post by Bob and through some of the entries…then I remembered the God I serve, the God who is. I understand the fears about celebrity status, but lets not forget why God moves, “For my own sake, for my own sake I do it. How should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another” (Isa 48:1). Mark knows this and God works like this. In all of Discroll’s stuff I have read, it seems abundantly clear that He is on a mission for God’s glory and speaking out for his name’s sake. If he wasn’t…nothing would be happening at Mars Hill.

    In terms of contextualizing the Gospel(question 2), I think that would NOT be his strong point. For one reason, I don’t live in Seattle and most everything he writes/preaches still speaks to me. And secondly, his true strengths are boldly preaching the Gospel, exalting Jesus, and proclaiming a biblical worldview.

    Most of us aspiring Men need to be careful that we are not prideful concerning this. Strategic moves need critiquing and careful planning but kingdom expansion calls for great rejoicing. Not all of us will or can be like Driscoll. We should strive to learn from him and in someways imitate him as he does Jesus(1 Cor 11:1) but we need to recognize that we are unique new creations in Christ, each with unique callings. His ministry is clearly biblical but that does not mean each of the men on this blog will or should dream of ministry that is identical to his. “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same spirit” (1 Cor 12:1).

    Also, I would not see this move by MHC as something Bob, Will, Justin, or Kendal need to worry about with concern to their current or future jobs. There is just too much to be done, which needs to be done by men like ya’ll and cannot be done by Mark Driscoll. Mark Driscoll should plan for a church of 300,000-1,000,000 people if that is what the Holy Spirit has put on his heart. Yeah it is a tough call but like somebody previously said, leaders must “keep watch over [the] souls” of the people GOD gives to their ministry, “as those who will have to give an account” (Heb 13:17). I think Mark knows the reality of this verse. Regardless, there is still gonna be more for need for quality leaders than 100 MHC sites could ever fill.

    Most of us men just don’t have the incredibly sound, fixed biblical worldview that Driscoll has been given through humility, repentence, reliance on Christ, being continuously entrenched in the Word and reading thousands upon thousands of great theology books. It seems clear to me that he has learned and continually seeks to learn in order to ground himself in good theology. But, even more so, I think he knows and I pray by God’s grace that he holds firm to the truth that the most precious and excellent knowledge he has been given was “received through a revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal 1:12). He is not close to the servant the Apostle Paul was, so comparisons are in some ways crazy, but he is firmly fixed on a Gospel worldview and has the zeal to proclaim it to all.

    One of my only concerns, if I were to compare his ministry with Paul’s, is that Timothy and Titus figures don’t seem as present as I would like them to be. But Discroll is still young and at the beginning of his ministry so maybe they will appear in the future.

    One more note on what some would call celebrity but I will call godly ambition or zeal. Driscoll’s fervor reminds me of Jonathan Edward’s 63rd Resolution:
    “On the supposition, that there never was to be but one individual in the world, at any one time, who was properly a complete Christian, in all respects of a right stamp, having Christianity always shining in its true lustre, and appearing excellent and lovely, from whatever part and under whatever character viewed: Resolved, To act just as I would do, if I strove with all my might to be that one, who should live in my time.”

    When I first read this, I thought “how prideful is that!!” but then in reflecting on the other 69 Resolutions Edwards made and exploring how solid biblically, theologically and philosophically JE was… I pray God would raise up men who are humble enough to take on this Resolution with all the might God’s grace has given them. Perhaps, Driscoll is one such man.

  29. I have mixed feelings about this. While I do really enjoy listening to Driscoll preach, I do not think this is a good substitute for a full-time pastor of a church. I think it could be a valuable way to start new church plants that could perhaps be taken over later by a local pastor. Maybe this could be valuable if there were not a good gospel-centered church reaching a certain community of believers.

    However, I was very upset when I found out that the Acts 29 church in Albuquerque (my home town) is going to switch over to being a Mars Hill campus. I suppose I do not know all of the reasons behind this transition, but I do know that it has been an established Acts 29 church for many years and has seen significant growth over the years. I do not agree with replacing a local church with a church franchise. And as Micah said, Driscoll’s sermons are already available online, why replace local teaching with a resource that is already available? I know that this idea would bother me much less if it were meeting a new need or reaching out to an area that did not already have a local Acts 29 church…

    I also really dislike the idea of watching a pastor on a screen every Sunday morning. It definitely loses personal connection to the sermons and pastor.

    That being said, Driscoll is traveling to Albuquerque to preach in 3 weeks, coinciding with my visit home. It will be interesting to hear him preach in person and see if he is going to address any of these questions that have been raised.

  30. Trent, You basically dismissed the whole conversation on the basis of your perception of Driscoll’s superior worldview, connection to the Spirit, and fervor. It’s very nice stuff and warms my heart as a Driscoll fan, but do your “points” about Mark interact with this conversation or basically dismiss it as invalid?

  31. Caitlin: Dave Bruskas (pastor of City on a Hill Church in Albequerque) is a good and gifted man, and while I don’t know all the specifics of this transition, I do believe that Dave would not be leading the church this way if it was not wise. Dave is a man I respect and admire… and I would follow his leadership anyday. I’m willing to trust what God is doing there. I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts after you head back to ABQ.

    Jon, actually I think Trent is raising some good points. You’re right that they’re not a ‘trump card’ in the whole argument, but they do deserve some consideration. Those who only know Driscoll from afar tend to see him as arrogant, headstrong, and contentious. (That was my first impression as well). But actually I think it’s fair to ask whether he might simply be the Jonathan Edwards or George Whitefield of our time – a guy with a crazy anointing and gifting from God to do some larger-than-life stuff. I’ve been to Mark’s house, drank beers in his living room, played with his kids… and I know him to be a man of great character and integrity with a somewhat strange and freaky sense of discernment. For that reason I do think some of Trent’s observations matter in this discussion. You or I might snap under the weight of celebrity… I do honestly think Mark could care less as long as he creates momentum for the progress of the gospel. As I look at men (Luther, Whitefield, Edwards, etc) that God has tended to use in massively influential ways, they all tend to be guys who care very little what people think, but still have a large vision for what they want to see God do.

    That doesn’t, however, erase some of the more substantive strategic and theological concerns that have been raised thus far.

    Those of you that are waiting for me to “weigh in…” you’ll have to keep waiting. I’m enjoying the conversation.

  32. Trent (and Bob),
    I am not trying to dismiss your point, just felt that you used it to brush aside the whole conversation up to that point. Not trying to put words in your mouth, would like to hear your thoughts in response to others here. There is a difficult challenge here in the sense that we are trying to answer at least two questions: how might God use MD in this historical context, and how does God’s use of MD interact with church norms? MD is kind of like a high for the church. The high is great while it lasts, and may his ministry last for many years. But what about when the church comes off the high? Does the plan fall apart or does the name of Jesus continue strong and sweet in the midst of our culture?

  33. What happened when the church came off the “high” of Athanasius or Luther or Spurgeon or Edwards? The church went on, the mission of God moved forward, albeit not in the same way. I don’t think you always evaluate these things based on “could we sustain the exact same thing with a different person.” The answer is: no. But that doesn’t mean God is not doing something worth capitalizing on. The movement of the kingdom tends to happen in fits and starts, two steps forward, one step back, often based on God’s raising up of particular leaders (see the books of Joshua, Judges, 1/2 Samuel, 1/2 Kings). We are blessed to live at a time in (American) history when God has been pleased to raise up men like Keller and Piper and Driscoll and Chandler and others, and I take that to mean He might be doing something to bring about gospel renewal and revival.

    Again, I don’t think the “Driscoll is a gifted guy” argument seals the deal for the prudence of an MHC campus strategy. But it must be a factor in the equation.

  34. Right, and I’m not saying MHC will shut down if something happens to Mark, just that a strategy such as this might look different without Mark Driscoll.

  35. I hav benefited from reading this blog. It’s informative, and while it has answered some questions it has also raised others. I am a current member of City on a Hill in Albuquerque. I was at first not excited at the announcement but willing to follow. I have had great trust in Pastor Dave’s teaching and leading.
    I had two immediate questions: What does COAH get out of this? and what is the financial relationship? The next question that came quickly was why, why take a growing church, seemingly on mission, and become something else?
    The answer to the second question troubles me. It seems that Mars Hill will get 50% of our giving, returning to us what ‘we need’ for mission or ‘community projects”.
    The answer to the first question is that we, COAH, will get some fantastic support materials and training from MHC?
    I am right now reserving a decision based on guidance from the Holy Spirit.
    This whole process puzzles and concerns me, so I will post more as I find it appropriate and timely.

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