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.
- Does this lead toward a “franchise” model of church?
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.)